Saturday's wonderful events weren't over yet, although I initially thought they were since we'd finished the planned ones.

As an aside: I love celebrations! I love the planning, the decorating, the parties, and the gift-giving, where you choose something you feel is perfect for a dear friend. I deeply enjoy celebrating birthdays and the turns of the season and Solstice parties and Christmas and all sorts of celebrations. Further, one of my secret desires all my life has been to have a surprise birthday party.

The weekend of the drum-making and sweat lodge, my cohort sisters were incredibly sweet — and surprised me with a birthday cake after dinner! It was German chocolate (yum!) with cute little twirly candles, and they sang "Happy Birthday" to me. I was so touched, I almost cried! It's things like this which make me so happy to be part of such a wonderful cohort of amazing women. :-)

Sunday was relaxed and easy-going. We cleaned up the house together, which was oddly pleasant — I don't care for housework, but making things nice with friends makes just about everything better in my book. We turned over the keys, then went browsing through a local shop which had all kinds of wonderful pagan things in it — I wish I could have afforded more there. Oh, that reminds me: there's apparently a storefront near where we were living which is called… Seraph. Nothing more, just that name. The address is 111 (is that the counter to 666? :-) and the sign had calligraphic gold writing which said only "Seraph" — with no explanations whatsoever — and a sparkling star over a stylized painting of Mt. Shasta. That's it! I can't help but wonder just what was there — is there a store font on the other side of town at 666 titled something like Balseraph or Succubus? :)

After that we drove up as high as we could on Mt. Shasta on the roads, then wandered around a bit. It was cold and foggy and windswept and beautiful. Some of us considered climbing higher, but the clouds were lowering enough that the mountain's top was hidden, and there was the occasional sprinkle of rain, so we decided that wouldn't be wise. There were other folks around as well, and we simply wandered about a bit, enjoying the cold wind on our faces and looking around at how beautiful the mountain was. It was easy to sense why it is sacred ground to the Native Americans; mountains usually make me feel that way.

As we were wandering around, I noticed someone had piled rocks in a particular area. Walking over and studying it, I realized it was a nicely crafted, stone-outlined labyrinth, maybe 20' in diameter — very cool! I pointed it out to everyone else, and most of us decided to walk the labyrinth together, with two outliers. I was first in the line walking the labyrinth, and it gave me a lovely sense of 'breaking the path' for my companions, as well as giving me time to reflect on both the previous day's wonderful events and my upcoming future. When I reached the center I waited for everyone else, and once we'd all collected — even our two outside watchers — we laughed and joked together as we huddled close to stay warm in the increasingly chilly wind, and took photos of our feet resting on the center mound.

It was an incredibly nice, peaceful goodbye and thanks to the mountain. After that we loaded up into the cars again, planning to go have lunch together. As we left, the clouds swept in and splattered rain; our timing was perfect. We headed down the mountain and went to a small, quaint local restaurant for some delicious hot food before heading home.

It was, curiously enough, one of the strongest and most pleasant weekends of camaraderie with a group which I've ever experienced. Admittedly, there were plenty of other influences as well on me (both positive and negative) over the time of the Women's Spirituality master's program. However, the last two years of being practically in each others' back pockets for our classes has built a level of trust and openness in me — and, I suspect, in my cohort sisters as well — which is both new and marvelously powerful feeling. I've never been quite so comfortable in my body and with my Self before, and I really like it.

To my cohort sisters, both those who were able to be there for the weekend and those who could not make it: thank you so very much. I believe I'm a better person now than I was two years ago, and I have all of you to thank for that.

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