CASSY AND I rambled.
Two cats who’d discovered the alchemy of cream, we walked hand in hand, not staying anywhere for long or talking much. Other than for her to explain how she wasn't going to sleep with me, which, given my current state, was a rather endearing but woefully misplaced vote of confidence.
Close to dawn we worked our way back home, wintry and plunging now and very twisted, when we spied the flicker of a campfire in the distance. The camp of the house-bus-owning hippies.
We stopped and asked if we could get warm, and they welcomed us in, and they made a place for us close to the flames, and they didn’t ask us to talk - and it was a beacon, that fire, that final morning, of hospitality, community, and radiantly it shone, and in it attracted other wet and weary wayfarers, each arrival welcomed by a soft tattoo of drums that came from the darkened buses.
The end of The Gathering.
The beginning of everything else.
All brimming and bright, stretching long before us.
THE CREW were up and packing when we got back and I was crashing. A zombie, I shambled around and made myself not very useful, my greatest contribution a fit of pique where I attempted to discard all of my wet clothes. I would buy all new ones, I announced. I was persuaded this really was a terrible idea.
With the camp broken down, those of us who’d come in the taxi-van were distributed to other vehicles, and then, more in a sigh than an exclamation, The Gathering ended. I had a snug spot in Andy's van, warm and dry among the backpacks, and soon drifted to blissful sleep. It lasted all the hours it took to queue and exit and drive back to Nelson.
I didn’t get to say goodbye to The Gathering, to the Canaan Downs or the Takaka Hill. I never saw Cassy again. But into the darkness that morning I did carry Darius’s final words, "Izzy, bro, we walked past the Trance Zone this morning. You know your couch is still there with people sitting on it?”
For some reason this made me hugely,
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