Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Beltane at the Baylands

Several years ago a friend told me about an event called Beltane at the Baylands. At this ritual (both cultural and Pagan) a hundred or more completely insane people, along with various troupes of Morris Dancers such as Mad Molly and The Deer Creek Morris Men, get up at four in the morning to dance the sun up near the wetlands.

The dancing starts at at 5:15 and goes until sunrise. The Morris Dance teams all perform. At the end they teach everyone a folk dance, and the whole crowd dances together in a circle.

This year, I got there rather later than I planed. (1) I finally made it to the park by 5:30 and I think I was the last one to arrive. As I drove along the road, past the duck ponds and up toward the Lucy Evans nature center I saw about a dozen black tailed hares eating the tall grass by the side of the road. I slowed down so I wouldn't hit one by accident, and wished them all a Merry Beltane.

By the time I arrived, the Morris dancing was in full swing. I hugged a few friends and walked along the edge of the crowd until I came to some hedges at the north-east edge of the lot. Past these hedges is an clear view of the bay and a ramp that leads down to the water line. A walk down the ramp brings you to a floating deck. Bird watchers love this spot. From here you can see over to the East Bay hills and you get a good view of the tidal marsh birds, as well as the swallows, hawks, ravens and geese. All
these birds were out that day, including terns who were fishing and the purple swallows, who were flitting after bugs in the early morning light. I stood on the ramp, listened to the music and watched the sun come up over the hills. As the sun rose it colored the clouds rose-gold and white. Light touched the dark water, turning it silver and pink. The water was still enough for scrying, until a bird landed, then it shimmered slightly, sending ripples to the shoreline, where the stilts strutted and bobbed for food. They seemed to keep time with the dancers on the green, especially during the stick dance.

I've rarely seen such a morning. The bay, the clouds and the mountains together looked like an early Monet I once saw in Paris. Only this time, instead of standing in the d'Orsay, I was looking at a living picture while Celtic folk tunes played in the background. It was so beautiful, I stayed at the water's edge, enthralled, and missed the dancing completely. As a friend of mine says, sometimes the best prayer is to simply stand outside and say "Thank you".

Finally, the sun came up and the Circle Dance was done. The crowd helped the organizers clean up the space and went to their cars. I met up with some friends and went out to breakfast.
I've enjoyed some magnificent sunrises in my life, but that one will always remain one of my favorites.


(1) I was coming off the 101 when I got a flat tire. I pulled off on to Embarcadero street and parked under a street lamp. I was more annoyed at missing the Beltane celebration than I was at the tire. After all, I was in a safe place, the blow out had not a caused an accident, it wasn't raining and I had my cell phone. If you are going to have car trouble, this is how you do it. Mostly, I just wanted to the coffee and muffins I knew were waiting for me a mere 10 miles away, at the end of the park. Happily, the a tow truck from AAA showed up quickly and I was back on the road, using my spare within half an hour. In the meantime, I had explained to the truck driver why I was there (and why so many other cars were going by in a deserted area at 5 in the morning.) He turned out to be half Irish and very interested in Celtic music and events, so I gave him a card. The Goddess has a sense of humor and she likes to use me as she sees fit.

1 comment:

Morgaine said...


The link to the Baylands doesn't work right. I would love to know where there are Beltane festivals, celebrations or rituals here in the Pacific Northwest, if you know.