Sacred Journeys – Off the Grid RetreatKim Elkington September 1, 2003
Everyday Rituals & Celebrations
Every day is magical, but the week of the full moon in August I found particularly metaphoric. I was lucky enough to be floating on my back many times that week — on various lakes — as the full red corn-harvest moon rose with Mars blazing, almost as bright, nearby.
Part of the magic at this time of year is that the gardens are bursting with food, fields with grains, and trees are bearing fruit. It is a time of fecundity that is felt by every living creature, and an important time to stop and breathe it all in and give thanks.
I was certainly grateful to be floating in a northern lake on a night sparkling with moonlight alongside a family of loons 20 feet away who called into the night, so close, I felt like one of their clan. Dragonflies gathered above me by the hundreds, forming columns of swirling movement as high as the naked eye could see. There was a luminous quality in the air and everything around me was enjoying it.
My day had been filled with canoeing and harvesting herbs along the shores of otter lakes, and drying off (after umpteen swims) on hot, smooth, pink and white quartz rocks that met my wet skin like an old friend. I was grateful for this chance to be far from the buzz of electricity, and able to tune into the natural community around me enjoying life under the stars.
As though to share in the deep stillness, the power went off the next day. At that point in time it was so wonderful to realize that 50 million of my closest planetary neighbours were free of the buzzing of electrical wires and appliances we have all grown too dependent on. The streets of Toronto were filled instead with the buzz of people telling stories and sharing melting ice cream in the dark streets. There was a lovely silence in the background allowing it all to happen. For many people who spoke of it afterwards there were three things that most impressed them: the sense of community that resulted from everyone helping each other; the sight of the stars shining above the CN Tower; and the shocking reminder of our utter dependence on electricity. It seemed to be a timely reminder that we can live so much more creatively if we can create the space to do so. Turning off the television and it’s hyped-up violent messages, and discovering that our neighbours actually are lovely people and worth getting to know, is a great way to start!
Interestingly, I spent the following day with folks who had gathered to install straw bales into the walls of a friend’s new home; a home that was going to be off the grid. The frame stood ready for us like a skeleton waiting for neighbours to add flesh and form. This home was going to be solar-powered, while its neighbours’ was solar- and wind-powered. Many of the people helping out were already living off the grid and lacked nothing they felt was important. There was general consensus that electricity creates distractions that take away from being with other people in meaningful ways, i.e. there is time to talk and reflect, and actually hear each other. By turning off the grid they also became more conscientious of their power use, and how ‘things’ that plugged in often consumed as much time as they ‘created’, and it was a matter of identifying their priorities. Computers are a good example. They all agreed that by turning off they tuned in to each other.
The next day I attended the Golden Lake Pow Wow. Here was a tribal gathering of community and friends, where there was almost no electricity in use, and many hundreds of people. The food vendors used barbeques to cook corn and elk burgers while camping stoves boiled water for hot drinks. All that was needed were drums, dancers and a sacred fire. Again, this was a crowd that looked you in the eye, that listened, celebrated, and honoured all that had been gifted in the preceeding year. They had come together to be in community.
As I floated once again on yet another beautiful lake at the end of that day, I marveled at the opportunity to reach out to each other that a blackout provided in a city of isolated souls, and that these are precisely the effects which are desired by those environment-conscious folks who seek a new kind of community, still maintained in many ways by the ancestral guardians of this beautiful land.
As I floated in the dark, the silence floated on forever like a balm on the world, and I relaxed into knowing that under all the noise is a magical world that is, without question, our sacred home beneath the stars.