Saturday, June 30, 2007

Strangers in the Night

11:45 pm 6-29-2007

In my tent, reading the Gathering information. This is my tenth or eleventh Gathering (my first was 1983, Slippery Rock), so I know the routine pretty well. And I am on the planning (and now oversight) committee, so I felt pretty well-informed about what is going to happen this week. But then something strange happened.

Usually, as I remember, there are three afternoon periods of activities, usually 75 minutes long with 15 minutes pass time in between. Usually something like 1-2:15, 2:2:30 – 3:45, and 4 – 5:15. I remember this because last year we asked for and got two afternoon slots for shape note singing, and that was part of the success. We sang from 2:30 til 5 or 5:15, and that was a good long time to draw in enough people to give it critical mass. It was awesome, actually.

But this year it changed. There are activities scheduled at 1:30, and the next at 3:15, and the next at 4:30. One very long session and then two short ones. And shape note singing is scheduled at 3:15. This is odd and I don’t understand. We can certainly continue to sing past 4:30, I presume, but there’s no indication when the third session is supposed to end, and supper starts at 5. . . . It looks to me as if we’re losing an hour of afternoon singing, but we’ll have to see. Remember the poem about Sacred Harp singers from the music clerk at past Gatherings:

Shape Note/Sacred Harp.
They need to stand in a square and have good live sound.
They like a space with lots of resonance, not drapes and carpet,
where they can be loud.
If they don't like where you put them, they'll find their own space
and leave you a note.
They are very self sufficient.
They do not need a piano.

Note to self: Do not pitch your tent near a campground bathhouse that keeps its lights on all night. I thought it’d be nice, especially for the two thirteen year old girls who will be joining me tomorrow, to be near the bathroom. And it is, of course. Except I didn’t remember that it is kept illuminated all night. So there’s a nice yellow glow at the head-end of my tent and it’s 11 pm.

A few minutes ago, I was dozing off and heard voices. “Is this it?” “It looks a little small.” “There’s the REI logo.” “Is there anyone in it?” “Should we ask?”

“Excuse me, is there anyone in this tent?”


“Are you Paul?”


“Are waiting for a wife?”

I thought a moment. “Yes.”

“Well, she’s looking for you.”

I was obviously confused. Or some one was.

“I don’t understand.”

“There’s a woman here whose husband, Paul, pitched their tent and she can’t find him. She says it has an REI log on it.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t think she’s looking for me; my wife isn’t coming until tomorrow.”

“OK. Sorry to disturb you.”

Then they left. Not long afterwards, though, I felt someone’s eyes looking in through the little triangular window in the rain tarp. I opened my eyes, and even without my glasses on I could recognize a face peering in at me.

“Yes?” I said.

“Oh hi. Is this Paul?”

A subtle pattern emerges. “Yes. Who is this?”

“This is Becky.” Finally, a recognizable fact. A Friend from my Yearly Meeting. “Oh, hi, Becky. This is Paul L.”

“Hi, Paul. I’m looking for my husband. He set up the tent and my meeting went on longer than I thought and now I can’t find him.”

“Sorry.” Then I added, “The other tent is empty; it’s for my daughter and her friend who will arrive tomorrow. You’re welcome to stay there if you can’t find your Paul.”

“That’s OK. I have a blanket in the car and I can stay there. Sweet dreams.”

Sure. So that’s why I’m sitting up in my tent, typing on my iBook, instead of sleeping.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Perhaps it's just a sign of my sacred harp geekiness, but I just assumed we'd be singing until 5:15. what's dinner when you can be singing instead?!