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 disarray was a rather endearing but woefully erroneous.
Close to dawn we worked our way back home, wintry and plunging down and very twisted, when we spied the flicker of a campfire in the distance. The camp of the house-bus-owning hippies. Four of them were out sitting bronzed in the fire's ruddy glow.
We stopped and asked if we could get warm, and they welcomed us in, and they made a place for us close to the blaze, and they didn’t ask us to talk; and it was a beacon, that fire, that final morning, of hospitality and community and radiantly it shone, and in to it flew other wet and weary travellers, each arrival welcomed from the darkened buses by a soft tattoo of drums.
The end of The Gathering.
The beginning of everything else.
All brimming and bright and stretching long before us.
THE CREW were up and packing when we got back. I was crashing. A zombie, I shambled around in a sort of unhelpful daze. In a fit of pique I did attempt to throw all of my wet clothes away. I declared I would buy all new ones. I was persuaded this really was a rather terrible idea.
The camp broken down, those of us who’d come in the taxi-van were distributed to other vehicles, and then, more in a whimper 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 I did carry one relic that morning - Darius’s final words. "Izzy, bro, we just walked past the Trance Zone. You know your couch is still there with people sitting on it?”
For some reason this made me hugely,
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