Yesterday was the 29th annual Beltane on the Beach at Popham Beach here in Maine. It is our yearly gathering of a few hundred pagans to celebrate Spring and dance around the maypoles on the beach. Each year that I’ve attended it is always striking just how much change has occurred – in the landscape, in the community and within myself.
Beach erosion is amazing to witness. The relentless movement of the tides, the unstoppable storms and the steady winds along the coast of Maine keep the sands shifting. The land itself losing ground each season to the ever encroaching sea. Our dance has moved up and down the beach from year to year as we seek dry sands to plant our Maypoles. Someday there will be no beach there to dance upon. The echoes of our passing will be drown beneath the cold salt water.
Each year I look forward to seeing the greater pagan tribe, to catching up with familiar faces and sharing our old stories. And yet each year, the faces grow less familiar as our community grows. There are more young people attending, finding their roots in paganism. Some of the pagan children are suddenly pagan men and women. And I wonder, “when did that happen”? Equally striking is the absence of some of our elders who can’t make the journey anymore. The new generation can’t feel their absence. And those of us with a longer history look around hoping to see someone who isn’t there.
And each year I find myself asking, “who am I in this place at this time”? Last year’s difficulties or victories have long since lost their hold on me. I look in the mirrors all around me, those of us who have been walking this path for a lifetime, and I see the wrinkles and grey hair. I am not alone. And while the dance has continued, I find my relationship to it has changed. I see my sense of the land has shifted as the sands have shifted. I find the song of my own soul has modulated, old harmonies falling off as new harmonies and discordance have come into the music that is my life.
Some day I will be one those who can no longer make the journey. All of us share this same commonality. As I said, the echoes of our passing will be drown out by the sound of crashing waves. And that is beautiful and fitting.
The Wheel turns and change is the only constant. Such is the nature of Nature. Such is the truth of relationship. We have nothing to hold to but the moment. And yet, we can find certainty within the change. We have our traditions. We have our gods and the inspiration they share with us as we commune. We have each other and the beauty we craft along the way. And that is no small thing.