So, just by chance, a couple of weeks ago, I accompanied my partner Laney to the annual conference of The Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. A few months ago, Laney had gotten a (surprise, last-minute) email from a colleague about how the conference was still accepting applications for workshops and presentations… and would she be interested?
Well, yeah. Of course she was interested. It was a conference of several hundred women, all gathering to talk about women… and mythology. Laney’s an incredible drum circle leader and ceremonialist, and we both thought her work would fit just perfectly into the program. Lots of academics sharing papers and discussing their areas of study… and surely there were some women in the midst who could go for an “extra-intellectual” activity (“extra” as in, “outside the immediate purview” of intellectualism — not uber-intellectual).
Anyway, we scrambled a bit, put together a write-up of what she’d offer, then we crossed our fingers and — voila — before long, we heard she’d been accepted.
Then came the coordination activities. And the logistics. And making sure that the drum ceremony would not drown out the goings-on in adjacent rooms. And lining up help to get the room setup, because it’s a conference, after all, and there is a schedule to adhere to. We got pretty much everything sorted.
Or so we thought. Turns out, the original schedule we mapped out just wasn’t going to work. More juggling. More adjustments.
Anyway, long story short, everything turned out great, because I managed to get a day off work (paid vacation days are a thing of beauty), so I could help her load in and load out on Friday afternoon. Drums, drums, and more drums — including the “mother drum” which is a large “community” drum, about 3 feet wide and nearly 2 feet tall, and comfortably sits 5 people around it. It takes a special sort of maneuvering to get where it needs to go, and I’ve had years of practice, so off I went to drive Laney there, catch up on my reading, then help with the ceremony, load out, and ferry us home.
My plan all along was to help with logistics, and then take the hours that I wasn’t at the conference just for some of my own work. I had some reading to catch up on. I had some writing to do. I hadn’t paid the money to join in, and it wasn’t cheap, so I figured I could just linger in the halls, curled up with a book in a spare armchair.
And I did a fair amount of that. At least, as much as I could, considering that I kept seeing old friends I hadn’t seen for a number of years, and of course we wanted to catch up. Of course! It was great to see people again, and a bit surprising — although it shouldn’t have been, considering that I have a bunch of friends who are into women and mythology.
I guess I just had a fairly narrow view of who would be at the conference. Lesson learned.
And as it turned out, I had a fairly narrow view of how much I would be interested in the conference. I mean, yes, I’ve been fascinated by mythology in general (and women in mythology, in specific) for just about all my life. But for some reason, I didn’t think I’d really find it that interesting. Looking at the program, it was chock-full of some heavy-duty scholarship… far beyond the scope of my own interest and involvement. Maybe I figured that if I didn’t have all the degree letters after my name, I somehow wouldn’t qualify to attend, let alone participate in any of the discussions.
A funny thing happened, though, just from hanging around the fringes of the conference. As it turns out, I was interested. And I’ve actually become increasingly interested, over the course of the past couple of weeks. It got me thinking. It got me remembering. And beneath the shiny veneer of a life that’s more about modern technology than ancient mythology, these days, I actually found a glowing coal of interest that has stayed alive — banked in the backwaters of my full spectrum of interests.
And calling that interest — that passion — in mythology “banked” is the perfect metaphor. When you bank a fire, you cover it up with the ashes its produced, keeping it alive and glowing, till you come back to it later. I’ve heard tell that people used to travel with banked coals in a little tree bark container, so they could have fire wherever they were.
As it turns out, I hadn’t lost my interest in mythology and symbolism, as I tended to think while regarding my bookshelves sagging heavily under the weight of myths from vanquished and long-forgotten peoples. I’d just banked it. And it’s still very much alive. It still burns beneath the accumulation of extras from my necessary life, waiting for me to breathe new vigor into it and warm the rest of my everydays.
Myth still matters to me. As does symbolism. It’s never stopped mattering to me, I just got busy doing other things. And now those other things turn out to mean a lot less to me, than mythology always has. Life changes. We change. We shift and find new directions to take. Sometimes life brings us full circle, to remember just what used to light our fire — and still does.
Here’s to life. And all that it offers. Especially our stories.