I had never been to the Ozark Sufi camp, though I had certainly heard about it. Modeled on a similar rustic camp along the Mendocino coast, it’s already been in existence for 37 years, with two camps a year, and many many people returning all these years, watching and being with each other as they age, while doing Sufi practices and the Dances of Universal Peace. “After all,” one of this camp’s founders told me, “we’ve been with each other now, since we were in our 30s, and here we are in our 60s and 70s!” Lots of kids too, little kids, raised to be wild, free beings as their parents were raised by their hippie parents to be wild and free. So three generations present, all determinedly occupying a growing edge of this rapacious, selfish culture, lending stability and grounding over time to sacred communal practices on the Earth mother to invoke her place and ours in the Sky above.
There were times when I wished I had been together with this strongly bonded community for the many decades. It reminded me of regular and sporadic reunions with my own large, multigenerational brood, eight siblings and countless grandchildren and great grandchildren. Family life, tribal life, such a powerful force for regenerating the human spirit! That was mostly what I was feeling during this entire week, where I danced and sang and dined and conversed with others under constantly threatening skies; but very little actual rain or wind, and none of the 500 tornados that we heard about later, surrounding us on all sides! Were we being divinely protected, as we strove to invoke the soul of the human family so that all will remember peace?
Luckily, there was no wi-fi, so I couldn’t even be tempted to blog. But I did take a few pics, just to give a feel of the place.
Here are the two main indoor structures, both just about empty when I took the photos. First, the dance hall, musician’s instruments sitting circled in the center.
Next, the dining hall, which was noisy; we had to shout, so we did, holding deep long conversations in a loud pitch. This effort, along with the freedom of the small children, lent the entire camp an aura of boisterousness, a sort of managed chaos.
By the way, those of us who stayed for the entire camp (Friday afternoon through Wednesday morning) were asked to sign up for three sessions of karma yoga in the kitchen. This work duty took up about five hours total, and was great fun, focusing with others on a common task.
The spacious grounds, with cabins in background. (Mine was very far away, number seven out of nine).
This camp held about 180 souls, most in the nine cabins that accommodate up to 20 people in bunks. In our cabin, most of us got bottom bunks; so about half full. Bathrooms inside the cabins, which I did NOT expect. A great luxury! However, the grounds are infested with both ticks and chiggers, so no sitting or lying on the lawn without consequence. Too bad!
But our time together was deeply fulfilling. For me, an early chi kung class, then breakfast, followed by dancing in the morning; lunch, and then small groups devoted to various (mostly Sufi) subjects, studies and practices, including singing, in the afternoons; dinner, followed one evening by a play composed and put on before the evening Zikr dance — (this play introduced with a parade trailing gorgeous, detailed, elaborate costumes that are packed up and held, with kitchen ware and decorations, in storage between camps) — and for me, daily afternoon naps. As usual.
And what, for all of us, perhaps, was the crowning glory, the final Zikr evening, with Turning, following the call of the “whirling dervishes” in Turkey.
Three women who have perfected this spiritual practice are mesmerizing to watch: beginning with a deep bow, arms crossed over the heart, then slowly uncurling and rising to begin turning, right arm up and hand up and open to the spirit, left arm up and hand down and open to ground spirit to earth, both arms spread like wings, and feet turning rhythmically, fast or slow. For the amateur turners, faces were focused, serious, concentrated on making sure they keep their balance and not fall! But these three? Well, their faces held serene, beatific, even ecstatic expressions, for many many many minutes at a time, while they twirled fast or slow and the musicians played and drummed and the rest of us chanted while holding the circle for the turners, until finally they slowed to a stop, closed their arm wings to again cross their hearts, and bowed.
In this sequence of three photos, focus on the one of the three w9ndrous turners, this woman with with dark robe and a light green scarf. She told me later that she turns as often as possible, even daily, with her husband sometimes drumming for her.
I want to begin to learn this practice!
And then, the gyre turned, curled back, put me in the car again for another eight hours.
By Wednesday evening, home!
The roses had bloomed in my absence.
More shroom forests on the hugel mound in front yard.
Plus, perilla (looks like basel, but purple) is back, and this time, has moved to many many new spots in the village. If you recall, last year at one of our Community Dinners, an Asian woman, Jenny, arrived for the first time (she is now a regular) and told us about the extraordinary healing properties of perilla. Says it’s the very best herb!
Then, the very next day, one of our twice-weekly work parties, where seven of us cleared out a whole bunch of plants in the back yard of the third house, to give more room for the wine berries that grow back there; plus, made a new fence so the eight new and rapidly growing chicks have a good place to run.
Gabby will blog on the work party with photos. I’ll put up another post on last night’s weekly Community Dinner. Let’s just end here with Dan’s work boots, muddied from the morning.