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Camp Widow East: I sent a note to the sea

We did a ritual at Camp Widow East 2012, for the first time. A secular, all ages, all stages participatory event that was like nothing I'd ever seen. This is after two full days of being among ONLY widowed people, learning, bonding, sharing, belonging. The ritual was late, transcendent, deep and full of surprises, an expression of love shared.

Here's how it worked: Everyone received a glass heart, a piece of rice paper, and a short bit of green raffia. At some point during our day we each wrote a message to our late partner on the paper and wrapped up the heart. Spit was better at holding the package together than raffia, but whatever. (Love always binds.) All day Saturday we thought about it, or held on to it, written.

Saturday night was a banquet, a super fancy meal with a crazy photo booth where we all took on new identities and some (many) felt like dancing with their new friends. I wrote my note nearly at the last minute:

  • I forgive you and I forgive myself.
1999. Notice glow necklaces.

This meant a lot because I wrote a similar note in 1999, when Gavin had a traumatic near-death event in our kitchen. I went to Burning Man that year and sent that note into the fire.

That was a big one, too. We could have broken up that year. Somehow, that year, "we" survived.

Now it's just me.

Last week, at Camp Widow East, late at night, in our fancy clothes, we all walked out, a bit uncertain, onto the short boardwalk ... yes, we left our shoes. There was a drizzle of rain, and, as we approached the shoreline, salt spray. We were each handed a glow necklace so that "no one would get lost." (Not the most confidence inspiring message when we are shoeless...)

In clusters, hand in hand, one at a time, in gaggles and lines, 100 widowed people walked into the edge of the foam, or deeper, and sent off our heart-message-raffia packets. Our words, our hearts. I've never understood so much about the word "release" till the moment before mine left my hand.

Some of us jumped in, or fell (@Chris_NC took a bet and ruined a perfectly good necktie). Nearly everyone was crying or smiling huge smiles. We watched, re-clustered, and gave genuine hugs, deep ones, raising each other up or
regrounding as we each needed. There were a few words... we thanked each other for being part of the amazing day. Exhausted and fulfilled, we said whatever we needed to say, silently, alone, and together. Our sequins, glow necklaces, wet ankles sparkled in the moonlight.

Then we found our shoes and regathered, party hairdo's damped down, smiling and refreshed, outside the tired ballroom, plotting one last party or too tired, perhaps to share any more, or taking what was almost the last picture of the weekend.  

It was gorgeous and we were all emptied out and yet very very full. This was what makes a good ritual and we need so many more of those in our lives after loss. How much of our time do we spend sharing via computer? What kind of "secrets" are we really telling in our blogs? The ocean can't read. We need to be alone together sometimes. We needed this. I was proud to be part of it and happy (and surprised) to participate with all my, yes!, heart.

Facebook, you can't beat the sea. 


* I shot 30 minutes of video but I don't know if anything came out because the camera owner is in Turkey till this weekend ...

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Comment by Soaring Spirits on May 4, 2012 at 1:17pm

Thanks, Carolynne! I love the photos you took of us together... I look almost as alive and joyous as you do!


Comment by rodsgurl09 on May 3, 2012 at 5:46pm

I love this post. You've said it so eloquently (as always!) and it really brings back that night. What an amazing experience! The moment my hand released that letter (as I screamed out over the crashing waves, "I love you, Rodney!!!"), really WAS a release of sorts. I felt, for the moment, EXHILARATED. There I was, surrounded by people I was only just meeting but genuinely loved, sharing such an empowering, intimate was surreal. I am honored to have shared it with all of you. xo

Comment by Soaring Spirits on May 3, 2012 at 9:49am

It was pretty awesome!! Hope you can join us at a future event!

Comment by kimkirt (KK) on May 3, 2012 at 5:24am

How beautiful, gave me goosebumps to read this. Thank you so much for sharing what you all did. HUGS!

Comment by twinsmum on May 2, 2012 at 9:45pm

sounds fantastic!

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