Vancouver
4 min

Spring rites

Our own Salt Spring version of Love! Valor! Compassion!

I have come home to a house full of friends. They’re down in the lower field with my husband, Mark, tending a sick lamb.

Earlier in the afternoon, they attempted to hoist and replant a 30-year-old cherry tree blown over in one of the more severe winter storms. Despite their best efforts, both lamb and tree are not likely to recover.

Knowing this makes the lamb’s bleating and the cherry tree’s death-defiant blossoms ever more sad and beautiful. I believe it was TS Eliot who said, “April is the cruelest month.”

I grab my knife, thick gloves and cloth bag. I head down to greet them, hoping to enlist someone to assist me in harvesting stinging nettles. I’ll make up a good pot of highly nutritious soup to shake the city pavement out of these boys.

Twice a year, every Easter and Thanksgiving, we host a long-weekend gathering. Anywhere from 12 to 20 queer boys join us to celebrate the change of seasons and honour the shifting rhythms and tides of our own lives. They come from as far as California and Washington, and from as nearby as Victoria and Vancouver.

As Sprout says, “It’s beginning to feel like our own version of Love! Valor! Compassion!” To which several of us simultaneously scream, “I wanna play Ramone!”

Within minutes of their arrival, Evie has stripped down to his full-body tan and is displayed out on the back porch table. Dean picks up a pen and begins to draw stick figures on Evie’s flaccid penis. Sprout takes pictures of his two leading men in action.

This is the same team who performed the role of the Sink, the well-greased Plumber and the despairing Housewife who lost her wedding ring while washing the evening dishes. That crowd pleaser was on stage in front of a 150 men in the wilds of Oregon last summer. Here they’re in the open air of our neighbourhood with cars driving by wondering who’s playing doctor on Mark and Robert’s picnic table.

The closest neighbour, a sweet, retired RCMP officer, enjoys stargazing and owns a high-powered telescope. For a very brief, guilty moment I am relieved he has Alzheimer’s.

After such a rough winter, we’ve decided our weekend theme is to “stick a straw in the earth and suck up, snort or ingest Spring by any and all means necessary.”

We do nothing by half measures. We’re a group of friends who know how to live large. We’re determined to co-create one life changing event after another.

As a tradition, on the first night, after dinner, we sit in a circle together. We settle into the living room, warmed by the red wine and a small fire and flop into each other’s laps. Tonight, we start by choosing a name out of a decorated cup. Without getting caught, we agree to spend three days anonymously “observing” the person we picked. We’ll create a necklace or beaded object, something that somehow captures his special qualities. It’s a small way to let him know that by the end of the weekend he has been witnessed and appreciated, been lovingly seen as someone who’s constantly changing and growing.

As a close group of fags, we spend hours talking, one at a time, for as long as needed. We know no one will interrupt or judge us. It helps us to unload our stressed-out hearts. It’s been months since we last saw one another. There’s lots to say and hear-and in the unlikely case I get bored, there is always a new cute face or two to flirt with as well.

Later, Dean grabs his laptop and shares Sprout’s nude photo essay of himself and Evie. Set to some Celtic ballad, we watch their back porch antics from penis sketching all the way to money shot.

I’m not shocked to see friends playing sexually together, not even when they share digital photos of it as the evening’s entertainment; it’s more that they’re revealing to me the erotic potential of my own home. I would never jerk-off on my back porch on Good Friday. Or on any Friday. But now, thanks to their contribution to the weekend, every meal I eat out there will be savoured for the better. The bucolic landscape I enjoy daily will look more beauteous because something outrageously queer has happened here.

The second night we concoct a powerful herbal potion (call it the Green Man’s Viagra). As we brew up what we hope will be an erotic liquid wonderland, we each make a wish and down a cup or two of it. We stand in front of the fire outside, determined to cast off the remnants of our winters. As a ritual, we burn objects, beliefs and ideas that no longer fit. It makes room in our lives for the coming passions of spring and summer.

Magic happens of its own accord. We don’t expect what comes next. When we return inside, one of the bravest of us asks the rest to sit against the wall. The lights are turned off. Someone stands behind a muted floor lamp and reads journal entries narrating an extremely personal story. The protagonist, playing himself at 18, begins to re-enact his story of being raped by an older man.

Afterwards we cry together, proud of our friend’s courage to show his history and pain to us; tears come easily, remembering our own lost or stolen innocence. We spend the rest of the night laughing, daring ourselves to share some of our own buried stories. It feels great to let go of any embarrassment or sexual toxicity, left for forgotten in our own private pasts.

Easter morning comes quietly, is filled with the scents of strong coffee and a subtle, sweet breeze of redemption. The fields are filled with little lamb mobs, jumping to and fro. Everywhere we turn, trees and flowers blossom.