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Rainy Camp

Spiritual Smart Aleck

This past weekend a folk singing retreat called Rainy Camp was held in the foothills of the Cascades, out beyond Maple Valley.

The attendees were mostly people of a certain age – my age, or thereabouts, although there were some younger adults in attendance.

What all these people had in common was a love for group singing, and specifically a love for singing folk songs of all kinds.

There were old lefties and folkies galore, and as my cabin roommate said, Rainy Camp is an opportunity to meet and rub shoulders with a lot of unconventional people.

The camp started right out on Friday night with a big song circle. If you’ve never been in a song circle, it is exactly what it says: people sitting in a circle. You go around the circle giving each person an opportunity to sing a song, or to pass.
Not everyone goes to or stays at the big song circle. Like all music events, this one featured a lot of small groups of people getting together in various rooms and hallways to sing. I ended up in a lounge with three other women to sing Irish music.

A lovely younger woman named Lisa accompanied herself on guitar while she sang a song called, “The Mountains of Mourne.” My husband Rick used to sing that song, and I found myself experiencing a sweet sadness hearing it again. If you want to hear it there are several versions on youtube. None of them, of course, is as good as Rick’s version.
My big surprise was that I couldn’t get my CPAP machine to work after lights out on Friday night.

After fumbling around in the dark making sure everything was plugged in and turned on, I thought the machine had died and sadly turned in and disturbed the other women in the room during the night with my gasping and snoring. I got up Saturday morning exhausted, and complained about my terrible plight at breakfast.

“Go ask Raffi for help,” someone said. “He’ll be able to tinker with it.”

Raffi is the son of one of the retreat organizers, a young man who is about 6’4” with long black hair. He wears a kilt. He was easy to find.

I asked Raffi for help and he cheerfully accompanied me back to the dorm room where I was staying. First thing he did was check to see if the machine was getting any electricity, and it wasn’t. Turns out that the outlet I was using was on the same circuit as one of the light switches, so when people turned off the lights to sleep, the outlet turned off.

Well, rats.

A friend invited me to share her cabin, so I moved my stuff, plugged into a working outlet, and went to bed right after dinner. I missed the Saturday night concert, which was a shame because it’s the big event of the retreat, but I had a much better and safer night’s rest and woke up feeling great on Sunday.

I went to various workshops at the retreat. At the Humorous Songs session, I was asked to sing “The Way of Sex,” a song I wrote about thirty years ago. It’s about, well, sex. It was well received, which was gratifying. I’m afraid that if I am remembered after I’m gone, it will be for that song.

There was a parody song circle that was fun. My favorite parody was of Tom Paxton’s song, “The Last Thing on My Mind.” It was the lament of a person whose memory was going: “I can’t remember the last thing on my mind.” Many of us could relate.

The food was good. The coffee was good! I do not believe I have ever experienced good coffee at a large gathering where the coffee was produced by the gallon, but the people in that kitchen pulled it off.

After lunch on Sunday afternoon we packed up and went our separate ways. Last night I was thinking how great it was to be home and that there is a reason I don’t go to many events like this one. Large groups of people being social is not my idea of fun, usually. I’m more into one-on-one conversation, or reading, or watching sit coms or PBS dramas. I wondered how many people left that retreat trying to get home in time to see last night’s episode of “Downton Abbey.” Some of us, anyway.

Still, it was good to go there and step out of my routine. I saw some old friends, met some new people, renewed some old acquaintances, and even met someone who used to live on the island. It was a good weekend. Nothing like doing something that’s a little out of your comfort zone to shake up your marbles and give you a fresh point of view.