Willow, my last surviving original fish, had to be euthanized on Sunday. Beaker, the little red cap in the background, has been rather agitated all week. So today, I got him a new tankmate. She (?) is a Chocolate Oranda, so her name is Coco. So far, they seem to be getting along.
Welcome to the island of misfit candy canes. It's so much harder to make these than it looks on tv.
The behind the scenes tour at Hammond's Candies is humbling. And really really fun. My favorite part was putting about 30 pounds of soft, hot sugar candy onto the puller, and watching it go from coffee colored to white as it was pulled and stretched by three metal arms. Shaping the jacket for the candy canes was fun, standing at a table backed by a row of flames. The actual making of the candy canes - that's hard. The candymaker, who has been there for years, doesn't seem to be doing anything but running his gloved hands over the giant roll of peppermint candy. It somehow becomes a perfect cylinder of twisted red and white, cut to the perfect length, then expertly curved and sent on its way down the belt.
It didn't go that way for us. One misshapen mutant cane after another came from our inexpert hands. It's obviously quite a skill, one that can't be mastered in a 90 minute tour. So we laughed, and tried our best, and left with a stash of funny looking candy. It was great.
And I learned something today. I learned that I've grown a lot over the past couple of years. I have finally reached a point where it's ok to not be perfect before I've learned how to do something. I can try, and fail. Fail quite spectacularly. And it's ok. I don't have a meltdown. I don't beat myself up. I can laugh at myself and at the results of the attempt without calling myself a failure.
It reminded my of my surfing lessons. 3 agonizing lessons of not being able to stand up on the board, and hating myself for it. Feeling like a complete and total failure. For my fourth lesson, I had a different instructor. Jason watched me try a couple of pop-ups on the beach. "Ok, you have really long legs, which makes it really hard to pop-up right. So, how about for today, we forget about standing up. Let's focus on catching the waves, doing knee rides, and having fun. And I'll show you how to start reading the waves as they come in. How about that?" Jason, you had me at 'forget about standing up'. I had a fabulous time. I caught waves all by myself. I rode my board all the way onto the sand. It was two of the best hours of the vacation. All because someone gave me permission to change the goal, which changed how I saw myself. Instead of obsessing on perfection, my focus was on catching and riding the wave. So much easier. So much more fun.
It's not that I don't have standards, or that I don't want to do things well. It's just that I've finally realized that I am not exempt from the learning curve, and that's ok.
Pulling sugar and self-acceptance. Both harder than they look.
I could talk about the Maypole, nearly 30 feet tall and and festooned with nearly a mile of ribbon.
Or the Full Moon ritual featuring Isis, Hathor and Osiris, accompanied by drumming and the haunting vocals of Wendy Rule. Or the wanderers, who showed up with nothing but what they were wearing, trusting that they would be fed and sheltered.
I could talk about the workshops, or the vendors.
I could talk about the unexpected friendliness and sense of community. I could talk about the consternation when people realized that there was no cellphone reception in the valley. I could talk about the sense of coming home that I felt in the midnight sweat lodge. The chagrin of finding out that my air mattress had leaks and was missing a valve cap. The thankfulness that the teepee had a fairly comfortable couch.
I could talk about the peacocks. About the last thing I expected to find at a cattle ranch turned campground. Proud and elegant, they sauntered around the valley, roosted in the trees, peered into tents, and screamed their lovely blue heads off. One legend says that peacocks scream when they see the extreme ugliness of their feet. These peacocks seemed to scream in echo of any loud voice.
"People, please gather in a circle" scream!
"Welcome to Beltania 2009!" scream!
"We call upon the powers of the East" scream!
And so on, thoughout the weekend. Day or night, it made no difference. That haunting, mournful cry resounded through the valley.
On Friday evening, a moth landed on Najah's purse strap. I coaxed it onto my finger, where he sat for about a minute before flying off into the dusk.
On Saturday evening it rained, and a little frog took refuge in our teepee. He seemed rather affronted when we came in, but was quiet and cooperative when Dee scooped him up and put him outside. Saturday was also the night I learned that one can never have enough dry socks, that waterproof boots would have been a good thing to pack, and that nothing dries out in a leaky wooden teepee.
Sunday morning was still drizzly and wet. The cooks slept through their prep time, having been partying along with the rest of us the night before. Sensible people that they were, they made the coffee first.
I packed up my stuff, hugged old and new friends goodbye, and headed back home. The peacocks screamed as I drove through the gate.