Winter Solstice has just passed so I thought I’d share with you what I remember of the one time in our thirty-five years of being in 3HO that my husband and I journeyed to Florida for the Solstice Celebration. It was 1974.
I am 23, married for two years and seven months pregnant. Hari Bhajan Singh has been working on a Forest Service contract during the day planting pine seedlings to reforest a burned area in the Cascade Mountains. I work at the Adi Shakti Conscious Cookery, our 20 x 20 restaurant on Wall Street in downtown Bend ladling soup, making sandwiches like the Alligator Pear, Cashews & Cream Cheese, or Peanut Butter, Bananas & Honey, for the lunch time crowd. Two or three evenings a week we load a vacuum, mop and bucket into the station wagon and head out to the Bank of Oregon, Cascade Realty and China Ranch restaurant to empty garbage cans and ashtrays, wipe down counters, wash out toilet bowls and vacuum stained and smelly carpets.
With all of this work we still struggle to meet our $240 a month house payment, heating oil bill and put food on our table (the only furniture we have besides our bed is a giant wooden spool covered with a cheap Indian cotton tapestry for a dining table). We live on five-acres of land in a three bedroom house with one other couple and their daughter. We board two horses and have a cat, Siri, and my dog, Raz. (Later we will add two goats, Shiva & Shakti, and be adopted by a rooster we call “Chicken”.) We have only had the house for a few months and we love living in the country – having a large garden, the quiet and a seasonal stream flowing through our back yard.
We decide to take this trip to Winter Solstice for the sake of our unborn child and to connect with our Khalsa family across the country. We live in Bend, Oregon, a small town, and rarely even get to Eugene or Portland to visit with the sangat there. It is December and very cold and we have to travel over the mountain passes to join the Ji’s from the Eugene ashram who we will be journeying with to Florida.
We are going to Orlando in two white vans used for the Golden Temple Bakery. There are eight of us to a van. Dr. Sat Kirpal Singh & Sat Kirpal Kaur, Gurupreet Singh & Kaur, from Seattle (she is also seven months pregnant), Viriam Singh, Sat Mander Kaur, Simran Singh, Gurmukh Singh, Sumpuran Kaur, 8 years old), my husband Hari Bhajan Singh and I (can’t recall the others). We pile all of our camping equipment, bedding, tents, food and clothing into the back of the vans then split up, keeping in communication with walkie talkies as we head south, then east across the U.S.
We leave Eugene on Interstate 5, stopping first in San Rafael to stay the night at Banana Ananda ashram run by Vikram Singh & Sat Santokh Singh. The next day we cruise further south to Los Angeles and stay at the Brentwood ashram headed by Bhai Livtar Singh and Livtar Kaur. It is my first time in Southern California since I was 16 and came on a family trip to Disneyland in 1967. I can’t believe that roses bloom in January and that the same diminutive jade plants I struggle to keep alive in pots at home are used for hedges here.
We pull out of Los Angeles, now heading east to Tucson, then Dallas, then across Texas, driving into the night, the men shifting off drivers and stopping to drink coffee at truck stops, while the rest of us crash in the back. In New Orleans we stay the night with Guru Darshan Singh in a large Victorian house. He is a concert violinist and wears a tuxedo and full black turban for performances. I love the homes with their ornate iron work and old-world feel. Our last stop is Alabama, where we stay with Gurupreet Kaur’s parents, in the bayou country. The air is thick, moss swings from ghostly looking trees and the canal out their back door is home to alligators.
The Solstice Experience
It is a mild winter but still cold enough for warm jackets in the evening. The lake is enchanting and the mist that covers it in the early morning creates a mystical aura. Hari Bhajan Singh spends his days in children’s camp while I do White Tantric Yoga. I sit across from Gurupreet Kaur in a chair, our two bellies practically meeting. I am aware of the child growing inside me and the soul’s delight at being in such a gathering of holy ones.
The Way Home
We return home with fewer folks than we arrived with; some deciding to stay on for a few more days, others going north to visit family. We take a different route and really power, not stopping along the way. We reach Espanola and stay at the newly purchased Ranch. The weather is sub-zero and all the pipes freeze so there are no bathroom facilities. Sat Kirpal Singh wants to get a look at the Peruvian Paso horses that Wha Guru Singh is raising, with the idea that we might do the same in Bend. We also stop at a stable north of San Francisco to visit a horse breeder there.
One van getting lost when we’re in Texas and almost going over the border into Mexico.
Lying flat on my back in the van, wedged between two other Ji’s, needing to go to the bathroom and unable to move – feeling totally helpless and terrified.
Cleaning out the van before we leave New Orleans and finding a scorpion under one of the mattresses.
Driving through the Deep South at night, over a bridge, fully taken in by the mystery.
Stopping along the Gulf of Mexico and dipping our feet in the warm, salty water.
Coming home and finding the pipes frozen and my cat gone because the person left to take care of things let the heating oil run out.
The following are photos from that trip.
Me with our cat, Siri, not long before our trip to Solstice.
In the back of one of the vans.
Stopping at the Gulf of Mexico for sun and sustenance.
White Tantric Warm-Ups
Yogi Bhajan Teaching (My apologies for what looks like a hair on the lens.)
Basking in the light
In New Mexico on the way home. Sat Kirpal Singh & Kaur with daughter, Sarib Shakti Kaur
My Husband, Hari Bhajan Singh–It was COLD!