Ashes to Ashes, Part 2
What to say about Short Mountain? It's probably best to direct you to Jeremy's faerie spirituality page and then perhaps refer you to Gregory Aide's webpage on Short Mountain and radical faeries in general. It has been, suffice it to say, our spiritual home since venturing there the first time in the summer of 1998, at the invitation of our former roommate, Eden.
So there was really no question regarding where Jeremy's ashes would go. Half to the cemetery in Huntsville, Utah, on the other side of Ben Lomond from Ogden, where Jeremy's Grandma Helen and Great-Grandma Bess and so many others are laid to rest. Half to the memory garden at Short Mountain and from the very beginning I knew I'd want to go there with Eden and the kids for this year's fall gathering.
I was dreading it, of course, even more so than going to Dallas to split the ashes up. Short Mountain is such a quintessentially Jeremy place, not to mention a Richard and Jeremy place, that I couldn't bear the thought of being there without him. I moped for days before going.
I arrived in Atlanta Thursday afternoon and immediately went to Eden's and Coy's house in Roswell. Eden had told me via instant messenger a few days previously that he had found a place not far from his house that sold (and made? imported?) Japanese stonework. I had decided I wanted a stone lantern for the memory garden. The place -- I still don't know it's name -- had just about everything you could imagine, from ten foot pagodas to Fou dogs to lucky cats to fountains to a wonderful sculpture of a hardboiled egg with the yolk removed. The selection of lanterns was very nice, too, and I quickly decided upon a three foot upright one, a base and a carved rectilinear lantern, and a square cap comprised of four triangles coming to a point. How many years will carved granite last? Longer any of us, I'm certain...
As soon as we had the lantern, I knew I would be OK. We went to Sevananda, the natural foods store, to find herbs for the ritual Eden was preparing, then off to Janet's to pick up the kids and go to dinner with friends.
The trip to Tennessee the next day was uneventful, a pleasant opportunity for the four of us -- who hadn't seen each other since after Jeremy's last memorial service in Atlanta -- to catch up with one another. Our first stop was at the land Eden is buying with his friends Keith and Sylvan, a 60-acre tract in a gentle valley between two ridges, a pair of the Mother's encircling arms, just a couple of miles from the faerie sanctuary. We explored the house Keith and Sylvan are building, looked at the spot Eden wants to build his house on, then headed to the sanctuary.
We stopped first at the barn, dropping off our camping gear and taking out the Stone Lantern. Sister Mish was there with the EZ Go, a little golf cart thingy he uses to get around the land, and he and Eden took the lantern to the memory garden, laying the pieces on the bench that sits in the middle. They came back, we took the rented Montero Sport (fun car, awful seats) off to the new parking lot (a good 45 minute hike from the barn), then introduced David and Emily to the land.
They were rather agog. At the people, at the kitchen, at the food ("no meat!"), at the general lack of electricity and entertainment appliances. We had given them a good prepping before we arrived, so they weren't surprised or shocked by anything, as far as I could tell, and for the most part they seemed to settle in quite well.
We ended up staying at Keith and Sylvan's house at the sanctuary. They're woodworkers and their octogonal house is a thing of beauty, the wood glowing with their love and attention to detail. (Of course, maybe I'm a little biased, thankful as I was that I wouldn't be sharing a tent with David and Emily.)
That night was the first official night of the Fall Gathering, so there was a fire and drumming. I was did what I always did there, and danced au naturel, counting on the fire and my high personal R-factor to keep me warm. It was a bit more, perhaps, than Emily wanted, so she headed back to Keith and Sylvan's to work on Edens' macrame project. David, on the other hand, hung out, and chatted with the cute boys who were no doubt wondering how this very handsome and VERY young fellow had landed in their midst.
The next day I got up and went down to the memory garden to figure out where to put Jeremy's lantern. Eden and I had talked over a couple of places but it was dark by the time we'd gotten down there the previous evening and I wanted to see it in the daylight.
I needn't have bothered. Someone, I don't know who (the shade of Jeremy, for all I know), had found the perfect spot for it. The garden is basically a clearing at the end of a ridge, a rough oval with an informal entryway, a bench made of native stones lined up perfectly with the entrance, an off-center altar of candles and trinkets, and a large collection of stones, carved and decorated and otherwise modified to memorialize faeries who have gone on.
The lantern was placed a few feet outside the circle of stones, next to but apart from a pine, in direct alignment with the stone bench and the entryway to the circle. A blue candle was leaning against it, waiting.
Did I mention that Short Mountain is a magickal place?
After brunch it was time for heart circle. As I explained to David and Emily and many others, heart circle is 50 or 60 people gathered around the huge quilt that is spread out on the grassy knoll between the barn and the Maypole, under the huge black walnut tree. During gathering, a short heart circle is about an hour long, a long one might be four or five or six hours long.
This one looked as though it was going to be a shorter one, until it was my turn to take the talisman. I told them in advance that mine was going to be a long talking. I told them the Jeremy story, the two of us coming together, our lives together, what Short Mountain meant to us, the days of woe that came in July. I must have talked for about an hour, not an unusual thing in the context of a heart circle at Short Mountain. I had David and Emily close the whole time, Eden on the quilt in front of me alternately crying and laughing. It needed telling, and I needed to do the telling, although I'm sure I strained the patience of one or two people who have seen more death than I can imagine and who daily have reason to be amazed that they're still alive.
That evening I went back to Keith and Sylvan's and slept and slept, whether it was tiredness or emotional exhaustion or sunburn I don't know. Eden came to tell me that our friends David and Eduardo had arrived and still I slept. I caught up with them around the campfire about 10:30 and an hour later about a dozen of us trooped down to the Medicine Wheel to begin Eden's ritual for Jeremy.
I grew up an agnostic, y'know, and I only came to religion (Presbyterianism) and spirituality (faeriedom) as an adult. I don't get excited about form and content, I don't have the need that Eden and others have to make it just so. To me what's important is that it IS important to someone, to anyone, to everyone. If you strip the bark of form and content away you get to the real wood, which is the need to connect with something transcendent.
In that night, in that place, Eden did that for us.
I spread Jeremy's ashes around the circle of stones, we set the lighted candle in the lantern, and after everything was over, I went back, alone, and sat (it was kind of spooky) on the bench, in the darkness, focused on the light of the lantern, holding the wooden box that had held his ashes, for a long, long time.
I don't know when I'll go back to Short Mountain. For a while I thought I might never so so after this last visit. Once I was there, I realized it's home in a way that not many other places are for me.
I'll be back.
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