October 07, 2007

Council of Elders

I spent about four hours in the northwest corner of the state, in a circle of about 30 people - the crew chief meeting for the annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

During the meeting, we went around the circle as each crew chief talked about the festival recently past. The number of crews for the festival is legion: site crew, camping, security, first-aid, volunteer kitchen, festival kitchen, access, recycling, parking, front gate ticket sales, vendors, kid's activities, instrument lock-up, food tickets, merchandise, accounting, volunteer coordination, credit cards, lost-and-found, teen crew, ice sales, signage, communications, performer liaison, and a person in charge of each stage: main, workshop, dance, family. I am sure I am leaving someone out, and apologies for that. But you get the picture - a lot of people, each pretty sure that their crew is the keystone to the festival happening. And each correct, really. All the pieces need to work for the festival to happen.

It was a singularly pleasant exercise - seated in a circle under a large tree, each of us spoke of the recent festival: how it went, what worked, what needed to be improved. In the breaks, smaller conversations between crew chiefs: thanks for a particular situation, requests for something different next year, closure on a particularly testy moment or a well handled situation. After we all went around once, we went around again, with a chance to speak from the heart this time. The teen crew chief, a middle-school teacher the other 51 weeks of the year, spoke movingly and eloquently about his mission - both a responsibility to the festival to nurture and train the next generation of volunteers, and a responsibility to his charges, to pattern responsibile adulthood, to instill a sense of purpose and responsibility.

I've volunteered at Falcon Ridge for 15 years now - I started in 1992 on the heels of the breakup of my marriage. I went to a folk concert at Thomaston Opera House that spring, and they were raffling off a pair of tickets - and I suddenly and inexplicably knew I had to go. While I did not win the tickets, I did notice that they were seeking volunteers, and I called and went that year, and every year since (I missed one year when I was in Indonesia for work). That first year, I pulled my car into a space next door to a woman from Long Island named Ellen who has become my annual campmate, crew chief, and friend. Such is the nature of serendipity - sometimes she is bold and evident, other times she knits with a more subtle hand.

I have always known that Falcon Ridge was special - the festival has always been advertised as a "four-day community of folk music and dance" and the fact that the festival is a community - deliberate, planned, nurtured, guarded, discussed - has always been clear to me. How blessed I am to have been invited into this community within a community, to come to be seated in that circle yesterday, having been charged with nurturing, guarding, one small slice of that community.

Yesterday at yoga, Nykki had us focus on two things: something we wanted, and something we were thankful for. I am thankful for moments like yesterday, for the opportunity to be part of something bigger, part of something special, to be of service to something larger than myself which makes this world a better place. And perhaps, what I really want is not financial stability, or to be loved, or to be healthy and strong, but to be able to experience moments like yesterday (and like the folk festival itself) more often in my life.

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