I’ve been back from my vacation for a few days. When I try to think of the words to describe it, my mind doesn’t draw a blank, it is flooded with images and emotions. None of it was what I expected. When I first decided I needed some time away from my usual daily grind, I made a point of not planning beyond the basic necessities: the means to eat, sleep, travel, and buy stuff. What else does a body need, anyway? I wanted randomness, I wanted to go where whim took me. Most importantly, I wanted to go where no one knew me.
There’s something very comforting in floating anonymously through crowds, hanging out with people you’ve just met who know nothing about you but your first name. You can, for a little while, be among those who have no more opinion of you than their first impressions. For me, that’s a relief. I’m proud of who I am, and within certain constraints, I don’t change myself or act differently out of fear of what people will think. That doesn’t mean it’s easy–holding your head up almost never is. Every once in a while, though, I want to be someone else–not be a different person, but maybe be treated like a different person. Someone normal, someone who isn’t seen as such a freaky, geeky, perverted oddball. Don’t get me wrong, I like these things in myself. What I don’t like is having to constantly deal with idiots and their oddball behavior around me: the looks, the disdain, the anger and fear. All that, over the fact that I’m different, and worse than that, I’m a weirdo who has somehow managed to insinuate herself into their society. Sometimes it pisses me off, and I get tired of being angry. I needed a break from it, and yes, from my friends of like mind, too. As wonderful as they are, they still have their own perceptions of me. True or not, I wanted to get away from it all. So I did.
As I was typing, this post grew longer and longer, and I had barely started. More had happened in the space of a few days than I had at first thought. So this is what I’m going to do: one post for each day, more or less. Ready? Deep breath. Let’s begin.
December 22nd, I took one of the highways north, through the mountains. I wasn’t familiar with the roads through Angeles Crest, but I figured I could always turn around if any were closed. As I drove, I wondered if I should be celebrating the solstice as I had been doing since I became a Taoist. I had resolved to skip all of the celebrations this year, but still, I wondered if it meant so little to me that I could cast it off as “too much trouble”. Turning it over in my mind, I decided it was too late now; the day was almost over and besides, I wasn’t in a position to do so anyway. By the time I turned around and headed back, it’d be after midnight. Even if I had a clue as to what I should do or how I should celebrate, I wouldn’t make my destination in time. I supposed I could pull over and meditate, but sitting alone by the side of a dark road–with my eyes closed, no less–didn’t really appeal to me. Forget it, I told myself. You missed your chance, girl. Get over it. I sighed, resigned.
Then synchronicity struck.
My tire blew, and I pulled over into the lee of the road. I got out to take a look, debating my options: call for roadside assistance or use my spare tire on the steep, winding roads. Hearing footsteps noisily stomping over leaves off among the trees nearly scared the hell out of me. The glare from my headlights illuminated a couple as they walked out of the shadows and, rather than attacking me with rusty axes, offered some help. I explained my dilemma to them; I couldn’t find my phone, and I really didn’t want to trust the dinky spare tire on the inclines. The girl, Paula, suggested I use her phone and wait with them at their campsite. I’d no idea you could camp off the side of the road, and wasn’t too sure these two weren’t disguised trolls trying to lure me under their bridge for a snack, but I decided to go hang out with them anyway. I scrawled a note and left it on my dashboard, then followed them into the shadows under the trees. Their campsite wasn’t far, maybe less than a hundred yards from the main road, and right alongside a smaller track. I noticed a van and a jeep, no tents, but quite a few people. I counted a full dozen of them altogether, strangely relieved that there were more than just the two I’d met. I sighed with relief; they were real people. As it turned out, they weren’t trolls. They were witches.
This wasn’t the first time I’d spent a solstice with Wiccans, but it was the first time I’d stumbled upon them during one of their more private celebrations. They were all couples around my age, late twenties, early thirties, and all the women were surprisingly pretty. I felt somewhat uncomfortable being a third wheel, or in this case being the thirteenth. I wondered if that was a bad omen, and if it was for me or them. I didn’t want to ruin their evening if they were going to do any rites, so when they asked me to stay, I told them so. I’d call for a tow and go back to my car.
“You were meant to be here,” laughed Joe, who’d found me on the roadside, Paula’s boyfriend. “Thirteen is very good.” The others murmured agreement, some laughing along with him. I was a little confused, having the vague idea that the number thirteen was anathema to Wiccans. Seeing my puzzlement, one of the women explained, “Thirteen is sacred to us. You’re welcome here for that, too.” Reassured, I decided to stay the night with them.
With no intention of celebrating the winter solstice this year, the moment I decided I really did want to and regretted not being able to, I was given the opportunity. I was given more than that: new friends who understood that I had needed this, and who wanted me to be with them. I participated in one of their prayers and they with mine, simple prayers to the Earth that we alike held sacred. The number thirteen will always be special to me because of that night.
That’s the thing about synchronicity: you get what you want when you need it.