Tales from the Road – Here be GATORS!

It probably seems like a crazy idea to go to Florida for a long weekend, but that is what we did. Hopping on a plane at 9.30 on Wednesday morning we flew to Chicago, then on to Orlando where we were met by the lovely Ashley, one of the crew for the Samhain Florida Pagan Gathering. We arrived at the campsite in the dark, but I couldn’t help but notice the ‘Beware of the Bears’ sign as we drove in. We were shown our cabin which we were sharing with the author M R Sellars and his lovely wife, took some dinner, then headed straight to bed as the jet lag just caught up with us.

When we got up the next morning (after waking up at around 5am wondering where I was, remembering, then going back to sleep – something that’s happened quite a bit this year) we opened the door to the cabin and took in the sight that greeted us. The venue was beside a big lake, and on this morning it was so still as to be mirror-like in its splendour.

After breakfast we took a walk around the site, and down to the lakeside where we saw the Warning Alligators sign – not a sign I’ve ever seen at our UK Pagan festivals! We spent Thursday meeting up with new friends and old, and chilled under the Florida sunshine.

Friday was different. A chill wind had blown in and the lake was no longer its mirrored self. We held a poetry workshop by the windblown lakeshore, and then in the afternoon I led an Ogam workshop, also somewhat colder, but both a delight to lead. Then I began to prepare for my evening’s concert. The venue was perfect, and Paul, the sound engineer was a delight to work with. In no time I had the sound I liked.

Now, I have to say that I don’t like waiting to play. Once I’m ready I just cannot wait to get on with it. But before long people arrived and I was ready to start. I took the stage, and, said “Hello!”….. and every light in the entire venue went out. I was in pitch darkness. I thought it was part of the show, and other lights would come on, but they didn’t. So there was nothng else to do but to play a bit with the situation. I got really close to the mic and in a deep voice that boomed out of the darkness I said. “Welcome to the Underworld, did you think it would look different?” Some giggles from the audience in the blackness, then a few turned on torches to light me up. I could see a few people rushing around at the back of the venue, and thought I’d better start – I could just see with the audiences’ torchlight. So I opened with Song of Awen, and during the song the lights came back on, and the show continued. What had happened was a lady with a mobility scooter had plugged her vehicle in outside the venue, couldn’t see a charging light, so flicked the switch above the plug, and in doing so she turned off all of the lights in the venue. She was so apologetic afterwards, but it really wasn’t a problem – things like that often give me the opportunity to play the fool a bit more, and certainly keep me on my toes. We all had a wonderful evening together, as did those who came along for the encore concert on Saturday lunchtime.

There were times when I was sitting with friends, and I felt the Sun on my skin, so I just soaked it up. I knew that it would be the last time I felt that warmth until maybe April of May 2012, and those of you who know me will know I am a true Sun worshipper, and miss the light and heat deeply. Sharing the campsite with beautiful red-cap cranes was quite an experience, and I marvelled at the aerial acrobatics of the black wing and turkey vultures, but I almost cried when the bald eagle flew overhead.

But soon it was Sunday, and so early in the morning we left with our friends and headed to a Cracker Barrell before being dropped back at the airport.

We had the most wonderful time at the Florida Pagan Gathering. The organisers, the other headliners, and the visitors were so lovely, and I just know it won’t be our last visit there. Thanks to everyone who made our trip, the workshops, and the concerts, so enjoyable. Oh, and thanks for all the mead too!!

6 Comments

  1. David Olday Jr November 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    It was wonderful seeing you and experiencing your music first hand. Glad you enjoyed it and hurry back to Florida soon.

  2. Kevin Rowan-Drewitt November 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a fantastic weekend! Europe, Australia, USA – You are a true international pagan superstar now!!!

  3. John Willmott November 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    That Gator sign is indeed genuine. At one time in Florida I was at the Kennedy Space Center in the dark, ucredible festival. nlit car park, got out of my truck, felt a wobble under my feet and I had stood on a resting gator. Did not even see it with the headlamps when i pulled in. I jumped back in the truck double quick and froze. I think part of it was to check I was still a complete human. Grand to see them though.

    The birds, there, yes that’s another thing that’s wonderful. Its funny to sometimes see those cranes walking along the side of the highways.

    Most beautiful are the Florida panthers, quite rare to see. I saw them twice, and once was mooching around the bins in a housing area. Their long tails are amazing.

    Aside from all that, reads like an incredible festival. 🙂

  4. Lori Kalafos November 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    aahhhh….. just the way I remember it…… You sounded FANTASTIC (as usual) and we definitely had a FAB time !! Both Ray & I came away renewed! Sending much Love to our Favorite Bard and Dear Friend… xoxo

  5. Keeper of the Keys November 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    oooOOOo how wonderful, the thought of heat and sunshine….. I think traveling to International Pagan camps is the way to go… *laughs* – though my house is nice and toasty…and looking forward to Yule… and hopefully snow again – from a cold Brit in the North of the UK!

  6. Canu February 21, 2012 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    It was great to have you with us here in Florida for FPG! It was especially grand to see you play live, and to share a slash of malt. Many blessings on your path, and I look forward to your return…

Leave A Comment