Relationships are the most important thing in life. I was reminded of how important it is to actively maintain relationships recently when I went up to New Jersey recently. Long ago, my grandparents took my sister and me to two family reunions on my grandmother's side of our family, in South Carolina and Virginia. There we met our second cousins for the first time, a few of whom were right around our age. Wally and I were each about twelve, and we had a grand time running around getting into trouble, being boys. He had two sisters who were younger, maybe around five and six. Laurie had Susan and Anne, Wally’s first cousins, who were closer to her age and they had a good time together too. Twice in three years we all got together at big family gatherings that lasted several days, and the memories we made were epic.
So when Wally decided to come down to Texas for Laurie’s wedding, it was a great reunion. He had actually lived in San Antonio on one of the Air Force bases during his basic training. He stayed at my apartment and we went around San Antonio having a blast.
That was thirteen years ago. When I announced that I was touring, Wally invited me to New Jersey, where he lives. Woodburn is right across the river from Philadelphia, where I had planned to spend some time. I never realized that this is actually where he grew up. I stayed with his mom and dad, where his sister Karen also lives. Karen was one of the younger sisters whom I remembered, though I certainly didn’t get to know her much back when she was six.
Their mother Cathy is my dad’s first cousin, the daughter of my grandmother’s sister. For those of you who don’t understand how second cousins and removals work, it’s really pretty simple. First, second, third (etc.) cousin refers to how many generations back you share a common ancestor. First cousin = shared grandparent. Second cousin = shared great grandparent. Third cousin = great great grandparent, and so on. Removals refer to a generation gap. My dad’s cousins, in his generation, are actually my first cousins once removed. My grandfather’s cousins are my first cousins twice removed. My dad’s cousins’ kids are my second cousins.
So now you know, if you didn’t already. After all the fun I had hanging out with Wally and Karen, I’m sure glad that my grandparents went to the effort to get my sister and I out to these gatherings to meet our cousins. Because we found, now that we’re grown up, that we really do have a lot of things in common, and I can see other members of my family (like my aunts, or my first cousins) in their features. It’s just neat to have family, and to get to know them, in spite of great distance of minimal history together. So I’m glad I had some time to spend with my cousins again.
Unfortunately, Wally was doing drills the weekend I was in town. He’s in the Air Force Reserve, and he had a full schedule of weekend training on the days I was in town. I ended up spending lots of time with Karen, who had some friends staying with her that weekend, in part to plan for their upcoming festival.
The festival is being organized by Karen and her friends, to be held there on their land. Wally and Karen’s parents inherited the property where they now live, which is only two doors down from where they, Wally and Karen, grew up. They are surrounded by a golf course and have a couple of acres with a wooded area down in the back. On the night of my arrival we walked down there and Karen explained what they were up to.
A mid-sized dome was set up down there, without a cover. Several wooden benches had been built, and they had freshly buried power lines so they can have electricity. They hosted a small festival there the year before, and now they were preparing for a bigger gathering, which was only a few weeks out. It looked like good fun.
Karen and her friends were all into flow art, which involves glowing spinning toys like poi, hula, and several that I had never seen. A whole new culture of psychedelic movement art is emerging from within the festival scene. I had never been given a show (which involves a close up performance of glowing movement, using either an orbit or glowing gloves) before that weekend. It is really cool.
The orbit is a new variety of spinning toy that is growing in popularity, and Karen told me that one of her friends makes them by 3D printing the casing and ordering lights and boards. These things are crazy looking when they’re moving. In the dark, all you see is glowing orbs and spheres spinning around in patterns and doing neat tricks. It’s very psychedelic.
I played with the poi a little bit, and I tried out the orbit as well. Fun stuff!
I hung out with Wally in the evenings when he got home. We didn’t get as much time together as would have been ideal, but there will be more visits. We did have one nice dinner all together one night. I offered to cook up a spread, having been without a kitchen for some time. I made spaghetti, which is easy, and then I made my specialty Mediterranean salad which is always popular. It is oh so good to have time together. I will see them all again, I am sure.
In fact, I already saw Karen again. She texted me to say she was coming up to Boston when I was in the area. I was up in Bedford, close enough. I met her at the Boston Common that night, where a bunch of her friends held a flow art meetup regularly. They were in a big gazebo, and I could see their glowing twirling lights from far off as I approached.
That too was a nice night. Perfect weather, and lots of talent aglow. Karen and her friend Jackie were using these glowing whips, with which you can do all sorts of cool things. Another girl had a levitation wand, which is a glowing stick that attaches to your hand by string. It looks really cool in the dark because it really looks like it’s just flying around doing all sorts of spins. Several passersby came up to the gazebo and ask questions, or just watch. Some wanted to participate. Many were on their way home from drinking.
One guy came up dancing, really getting into it. When he spotted the woman with the levitation wand, he screamed, “demon!” and ran out of there. Really fast. It was too funny. Hard to imagine he was serious, but his act was mighty convincing.
Everyone should have some light up flow toys. So much fun. Try it out if you never have. It’s a bit awkward at first, often, but it really doesn’t take too long to learn some basic stuff and get into the groove. It’s time to light up our world with some good vibes!