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Travelogue - 05/08/04                                                                                                                               Links to all Travelogue pages

 

Wesak

I 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. 

And 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 time. 

Wesak 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 certainly entertaining. 

As 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." 

This 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:

              

 

Leaving Rosa

On a more somber note, most of you know that my best canine friend, La Rosa Espaola 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. 

Rosa 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).

One 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 or never. 

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.

At 6,000 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 going.

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.

I didn't 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 looked like: 

      

 

Wrapping It Up

Later 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.
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Another 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.
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In 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.

 

On the Road Again


Leaving Mount Shasta on Route 97

I left 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. 

Late 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 you posted.

Next Entry: 05/20/04

 
 

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