have never witnessed an event quite like Wesak, the
annual gathering of metaphysical seekers and teachers in
Mount Shasta, California. The mountain called Mount
Shasta has long been a magnet for every kind of mystic
and believer, from native American shamans and
traditional Buddhists to inter-dimensional communicants
and UFO advocates (see my story, Shedding
Light on the Mountain). This year Wesak
was held at College of the Siskiyou's in the neighboring
town of Weed. I didn't attend the procession of speakers
and musical performances inside the auditorium, which
cost $300 for a weekend pass and seemed geared towards
the many prosperous-looking out-of-town patrons. I just
went to people-watch and peruse the outdoor vendors'
booths with their amazing assortment of guru goodies.
a beautiful May Day it was! The sky was clear and blue,
the sun warm and friendly - a perfect day to get out and
catch a glimpse of the myriad ways to tune into the
universe, open your chakras, massage the soul, commune
with wise spirits and loving angels, be healed by
everything from magnets & crystals to aroma therapy
& didgeridoos, and generally have a good old new age
is actually a traditional Buddhist holiday, but the Wesak
festival in Mount Shasta bears little resemblance to the
religious original, which is not a new age thing at all. It
seems the local promoters have taken considerable liberties with
someone else's holiday. Be that as it may, this Wesak was
an addendum to the lectures, music and vendor booths in the main
area, an amateur Mount Shasta troupe organized a naturist-pagan
celebration of the rites of spring in an adjacent field.
What fun it was! There were humorous skits and dances,
and mock ceremonies honoring the ancient holiday called Beltane.
According to local authority Jane Seeley,
"Beltane has roots in Irish and Scottish
Celtic culture. The rites of spring are meant to promote the
union between men & women, to bless the fields with
fertility, and to bring forth the summer growing season."
two-hour sideshow was held inside a large, multi-faceted,
dome-shaped pipe & canvas structure and outside on a green
grass lawn, across the parking lot from the main Wesak lectures
and booths. It featured Camelot-style dancing and costumes
and lots of references to the "sacred feminine," a
concept explored in the best selling novel, "The Da Vinci
Code," which I just happened to be reading at the time.
Beltane, this one at least, advocates that man and woman - all
men and all women - should have sexual intercourse on the 1st of
May to honor their complimentary aspects in this world, and also
because it's fun. Paganism does seem to have its merits.
I took way
too many photographs. If one picture is indeed worth a thousand
words, or even several hundred, then here is a veritable book
about Wesak and Beltane as celebrated in Mount Shasta - the
arts, the crafts, the people, and some of the far out belief
systems that make this gathering so unique. As usual, click on
each thumbnail to see the full-size photo:
a more somber note, most of you know that my best canine
friend, La Rosa Española
de Sevilla, died five years ago shortly after I
moved to Rhode Island. At that time I had her cremated.
I then saved her ashes with the intention of eventually
scattering them on Mount Shasta.
sailed halfway around the world with me, but the year we lived
in Mount Shasta was, I believe, the happiest time of her 8-year
life. Being a terrier, as in terra firma, she naturally
preferred the land to the sea. She especially loved being out in
the forest, running free and chasing chipmunks and squirrels
(even though she never actually caught any).
of our favorite places to hang out was an area of the
mountain known as Sand Flats, and one particular spot
there is where I wanted to say my final farewell. The
forest is still snowbound up there this early in the
season and Sand Flats is some distance in from the road,
but last Sunday I decided if I was going to fulfill my
vow to scatter Rosa's ashes on Mount Shasta it was now
So I drove
up the mountain, strapped on hiking boots and a day pack into
which I placed the tin box containing Rosa's ashes, and made the
trek in from Everett Memorial Highway, the main road, which runs
halfway up the mountain.
feet I found the snow gradually melting in the mid-day spring
warmth. It's still a meter deep and the surface is mushy. Hiking
over soft snow is like walking on sand, especially going uphill.
Each step requires a double effort as your foot sinks in a
couple of inches rather than springing forward. It was slow
The spot I
had chosen for Rosa, a promontory affording a spectacular view
north and east, is actually well into the forest beyond Sand
Flats and it took me a good hour to reach it. I might not have
found it at all - the snow blurred landmarks I was trying to
recall from 6 years ago - but part of the way I was able to
follow a buried trail marked by blue diamonds on tree trunks
spaced every hundred yards or so. The trail didn't actually lead
to the promontory, but it got me close enough that I eventually
found my destination.
make too big a ceremony of the scattering. While I was hiking in
I recalled some of the countless ways in which Rosa brightened
my life and everyone else's she encountered. When I arrived at
the promontory I spent a little quiet time and then scattered
the ashes in two ways: first into the air, to be carried out
over the forest she loved, and then around the base of a
grouping of trees so that she might nourish and maybe merge with
them in some small way. That's about it. Here is what the place
that day, I joined my friend Jane for a drive up to
beautiful Castle Lake in the Castle Crags Wilderness
area. We hiked around to the far side and I snapped this
picture of the ice and snow melting on the lake's
surface. Down in the valley the town of Mount Shasta had
already leaped into spring, but each mountain follows at
its own pace.
old friend I got to see again while I was in Mount
Shasta was Bill Lochmeyer, who originally came to Mount
Shasta from Cody, Wyoming. Bill's a cowboy who owns a
fine Western art gallery in town. He's also a musician
and singer, and we used to perform together as Captain
Tor & Cody Bill.
between all this exciting stuff I finally figured out
how to work the big awning on my RV, and I've even had a
little time to read & relax.
Leaving Mount Shasta on Route 97
Mount Shasta early on Wednesday morning, el Cinco de Mayo,
nearly a month after arriving. (RV mileage = 56,928). I was
feeling cleaner, leaner and refreshed. Driving roughly north, I
stuck to scenic secondary highways. In no time I was in Oregon
and that night, already most of the way through the state, I
camped alongside a clear mountain lake and had it all to myself.
The next day I passed Mount Hood and spend some hours in Hood
River, a neat town on the Columbia River, picking up a few
things I needed.
that afternoon I drove over a frighteningly narrow
bridge across the Columbia River into Washington state
and have since made my way north to my present campsite
in the Wenatchee Mountains, about 50 miles north of
Mount Rainier as the eagle flies. I'm now traversing the
Cascade Mountain Range from east to west and ought to be
on the Pacific coast shortly. There I plan to visit an
old sailing buddy of mine on Orcas Island in the San
Juan's before moving on into British Columbia. I'll keep
Next Entry: 05/20/04