Winter storm Seneca stranded me without the internet on my way back from Pantheacon. Not that this was a great hardship. I had to go pick up Orion from my parents home in Northern Minnesota and the idea of a 3 hour drive back into the storm vs a few extra days with my parents made for an easy (smart) decision.
Being without the distractions of “coming back” for a few extra days gave me a chance to really absorb my Pantheacon experiences. Crystal Blanton suggested to me that Pantheacon might be a pilgrimage. I dashed off a response and she included it in her article for The Wild Hunt. That thought has stayed in my mind throughout the coming home process, especially given the weather delay. What if this were a spirit journey? What opportunities has this apparent obstacle put into my path? How would my experience have been different if I had approached the entire event as a pilgrimage?
There were plenty of extra obstacles in the way this trip. There was the issue leaving and almost missing the plane. They called at least 10 names on that flight over the speakers. Southwest didn’t staff for the possibility of the Atlanta flight being canceled. We ended up in line behind them.
I did everything right, pre-printed the boarding pass, got to the airport early. I’ve never waited so long just to check my bags! I asked and was told there was no other option. As we pushed ahead in line at TSA the agent decided that the 3 people who’d seen my boarding pass already were wrong and I wasn’t on a flight out of Minneapolis at all! He was corrected and facilitated my EASY pass through security in return for his mistake. The flight crew was extra kind, knowing how frustrated we all were with the ticketing window. What a way to start the trip!
Transferring planes in Denver the gate got moved so the walk was further than I’d hoped. At the hotel room wasn’t ready and the convention didn’t have my registration. One step at a time, one problem at a time, one solution at a time and a little help from my friends. That first day I ran into old friends and joined them for lunch. I got hand-held by the convention staff. I got invited to “hang out” in another friend’s room across the hall while I waited for mine to be cleaned. I found the woman I’d agreed to share a room with and we spent some time getting reacquainted. I attended my first workshop and made a new friend. I had dinner with Crystal and her family.
Any convention or festival like this is an exercise in priorities and pacing. There were a lot of workshops I was interested in: a panel on privilege, a workshop on medical clergy, a celebration of the Mighty Dead none of which I attended. The things I did attend where exactly what I needed and sometimes I opted out just to take care of myself. Elevating swollen ankles beats sitting on an uncomfortable hotel chair hands down, no matter how good the workshop might be. It’s an age thing I suppose. I even left the convention one evening to join local friends out for dinner. That was an extra treat and well worth the time. The fact that the food was as good as the company didn’t hurt either. Hotel food is expensive and a little boring.
The highlight of this year’s Pantheacon for me wasn’t the workshops I attended (although they were spectacular) but having the opportunity to present one of my own. I suspected that I would have a larger turn out than I’m used to for my presentation of “Daily Practice Sucks”, but I never expected I’d fill a double conference suit and that the staff would need to bring in extra chairs! It’s a good title.
It was also apparently a good workshop. For the rest of the conference I found myself in conversations with people who’d attended. People would stop me in the halls and thank me for such a great workshop. I’d sit down at breakfast and somebody would come by and tell me that my workshop was exactly what they needed. I had one woman tell me she’d already put some of my suggestions into practice and it changed her life!
My ego almost as swollen as my ankles, I floated through the rest of the convention. I visited some of the hospitality suites. I attended a few more workshops. I even managed to squeeze out some time in the hot tub, although that’s because we stayed an extra night. I’m always impressed with the quality of the workshops I find at Pantheacon and this year was no exception. The vendors also tend to be high quality with some real artistry and reasonable, but appropriate pricing. Year after year, what I come back for are the people. It’s great to chat with other workshop presenters. It’s pleasant to strike up a conversation over breakfast. It’s fun to pass on a kiss to someone you’ve never met from a mutual friend. (Stephanie, I’m going to tell this story for a long time.) And best of all is connecting with friends across the country that I don’t get to see very often.