Sunday, June 18, 2006

Summer Solstice Party Report

4 p.m – 7 p.m. (actually, more like 8:30 p.m.)
East end of 7th Street

Photo by Georgia Schaich

Dear neighbors,

As usual, with any first-time event, planning for our first Summer Solstice party was filled with “what ifs.” What if nobody comes? What if it rains? What if it’s too hot? What if everybody’s out of town? What if they don’t find out about it? And on and on. Not that we voiced our fears that audibly, but they did simmer sotto voce—at least my mind.

Georgia Schaich and Stefano Conard and their committee are to be congratulated for their meticulous planning—two workshops to make decorations, hand-outs for 250 houses, signs on 20 Green Acre intersections, Jiangmei Wu’s new Green Acres logo on three new banners, and so on and on—they, and we, pulled it off! And we can thank Lady Luck, who had the state of Indiana come and mow the long weeds down on the morning of the very day that Stefano was going to load up his big mower way out in the country and haul it into town; and who scheduled a terrific thunderstorm that didn’t release until exactly the minute we finished cleaning up.

All in all, somewhere between 50 and 60 people came for all or part of the event, including some friends of Green Acres residents and—our fondest wish!—many, many children. And it was hot, as hot and humid as we had hoped it wouldn’t be. But it didn’t seem to matter; trees on the state-owned empty lot at the east end of 7th street provided plenty of shade. Amazingly, nor did it matter that this lot abuts the bypass. Greenery shielded us from its visual impact, and, as for the car noise, one person remarked, “just think of it as the ocean.”

As people walked towards the party area, they were greeted by wonderful music from Rob Turner and two other musicians and by “GANA babies” that lined both sides of the street (merry little critters atop sticks made of old CD’s that glinted in the sun, straggly, multicolored yarn, sprouts of orange curled paper, and other sundry recyclables). As each entered and signed in, he or she was invited to make a wish to string onto the Wishing Tree. “Public? Or private?” We asked, pointing to a large banner type piece of paper or a tiny slip of paper to be rolled and inserted into a tiny bottle. Most people chose a private wish. A few declined altogether, one with the remark, “If I got started I’d never stop!…”

The Center for Sustainable Living had an informational table there presided over by Lucille Bertuccio, Gina Weir and her son Sam. Next door stood the table for the Monroe County Citizen Corps Council, manned by Mark Brostoff and an I.U. intern, Kevin Caress.

Sylvia Von Bruggen stood under the shade of the largest tree with a table full of recycled odds and ends for kids to decorate flags and their bikes. Some of us put ivy garlands in our hair. A ping pong table set up for food began to groan under the weight of cole slaw, potato salad, hot dogs, fixings for “schmores,” fruit, several pies (including one from Green Acres mulberries — edible GANA!), plus drinks and chips. (Some of this food came thanks to our Small and Simple Grant from the city.)

Photo by Georgia Schaich

Stefano had cleared a circle and stacked wood for an open fire, and around 5 p.m. he lit the fire, so that it would reduce to glowing coals by the time we returned from our parade (Val Fernandez stayed back to tend the fire).

And what a parade! Led by children holding the Green Acres logo banners aloft and heralded by Nathan Harman’s incredible, booming marching band and Todd Davison’s clarion trumpet calls, we paraded with flags on foot and with bikes up 7th street to Hillsdale, over to 5th, then looped back to Overhill and 7th. A short haul, but then there were all the children, some of them carried, others wobbly on bikes, still others recalcitrant—so it took awhile.

By the time we returned the Sun was not so hot, and we all took turns with sticks at the fire with our hot dogs. Lots of visiting ensued, friends greeting friends and others meeting for the first time.

As the meal wound down, Georgia asked children to draw names for the door prizes that had been donated by local area businesses, making the five winners surprised and happy. Rob Turner, who received a fire extinguisher (!) as his prize noted in an email later, “First door prize I have ever won!”

As the Sun descended into the west, and while still licking sticky fingers from schmores, we were called to gather around the Wishing Tree. Spontaneously, the group formed a circle and held hands. Ann Kreilkamp talked about the ancient significance of Summer Solstice as a time of manifestation and renewal, where the Sun, the giver of life on our planet, stands still in the sky at its northernmost point, prior to turning back to the south. Summer Solstice as the point of most illumination, the longest day and shortest night. She compared the Wishing Tree and its hanging wishes to our neighborhood which joins earth to sky and supports us all, “no matter how weird we may be!” Then, to the beat of Nathan’s drum and a chant to thank the Earth and the Sun she led us in a spiral dance to the center of the tree, ducking under the branches with their waving public wishes and tinkling tiny private bottled wishes.

Four people had written out the larger, visible, public wishes. We read them aloud:

I wish that…

• “Humans learn to live sustainably and share the earth with other people and other species.”

• “GANA will continue to grow and come alive, and be an amazing prototype of a sustainable community within a sustainable community… A source of inspiration for other communities!”

• “For the interaction of many-a-neighbor through the exchange of fruit and other Green Acres local edibles. May our days be sweet.”

And finally…

• “May all beings be happy and create the causes for HAPPINESS.”

A fitting finale to a great GANA party—which however, didn’t end, but instead continued, people drawing up chairs in a circle to listen to Nathan and his Dad (who have been playing music together since Nathan was ten years old) drum and strum in such total harmony that they seemed like one being.

(By the way, your secret is safe. As the party wound down, all the wishes were cut off the tree and buried in an undisclosed Green Acres location.)

Be merry!

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

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