We celebrate Sandhill’s 21st annual mayday party – a combination of our anniversary (34th this year) and the seasonal celebration of spring (in pagan traditions, it is a cross-quarter day, known as Beltane – halfway between spring equinox and summer solstice). It is a great time to gather with friends to celebrate the reawakening of nature: the season when leaves on trees are half grown, the grass is lush green, fruit trees blossom, and wildflowers & mushrooms appear in the woods. Our spirits are ready to frolic after winter hibernation. Spring in the midwest this year is being wet and cool and today is no exception – at least the rain holds off until night time. There are about 50 of us and about half of our guests are from neighboring communities Dancing Rabbit & Red Earth Farms.
It is an afternoon & evening party. After lunch, most of us “dress up”; ideas of dressing up vary widely – colorful clothes, men wearing skirts, face painting, nail polish, flower wreaths, etc. We put out various drinks: homemade root beer, beer, & wine. People arrive and we hang out – visiting and gossiping. Gigi leads the young folks on a treasure hunt – they have a great time and they hit the root beer when it’s over.
The main event is the maypole dance; folks prepared the ribbons and attached them to the pole the day before. we gather at the site and participants grab a ribbon. Apple walks us thru the basic pattern: every other person goes clockwise, and the others counter-clockwise and alternate inside and outside of the next person you meet – thus weaving the ribbons on the pole. A few folks play music and the rest of us dance and weave the ribbons around the pole. I have no idea how or where this tradition began – but it’s a lovely one. After the maypole, we go for a dip in the pond and for most of us, it’s the first one this season. ooooh! it’s chilly!
Time to eat! First, we gather in a large circle and hold hands – to enjoy the feeling of being joined together in a common lifestyle and to celebrate playing together. There are a few announcements, we sing a song, and people introduce the food that they brought. Let’s eat! Most sit in small groups – which are constantly shifting with folks joining, getting more food, and moving on.
Now it’s time for the contra dance. We had planned to do it in our orchard – but it has begun to rain lightly – so we decide to change venue and move to the hayloft of one of our barns. The loft is accessible only by a steep ladder on the wall of the barn – but it is an ideal dance floor. The musicians strike up a tune, several folks call the dances and WHEE! away we go! Everyone who danced reported having a great time.
About the time the dance ended (8 pm?), some folks head down to the sweat lodge. Laird spent some time repairing the sweat lodge in the previous few days and has been tending a fire by the lodge – down by one of our ponds – most of the day. The fire is an open pit to heat up chunks of metal which are then transferred into a pit in the middle of the sweat lodge. After everyone (it holds 8-10) is inside, water is poured over the hot metal to create steam and gradually induce sweating. The idea is to sweat a lot to get rid of the body’s toxins. The sweat lodge in an integral part of many traditions – native Americans, northern Europeans, etc. Our sweats are not particularly ceremonial; however, we do like to chant inside the lodge – partially, so that folks won’t just “chatter” about everyday things and to focus the energy of the group.