The Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival came and went, from October 11-13. A beautiful spot in the hills off the Arkansas Pig Trail is now a muddy mess, no doubt. I went on Friday, as it rained, wearing my gardening boots and a poncho I made from 3 ml plastic so I could stay dry. I probably looked stupid, and my son said, “You look stupid cute, Mom!” He was quick to add, ““Stupid cute” means really cute!” I said, “Oh, the way you and all your friends say “Sick!” for “really cool”?” Yes, I got it. I really did not care how I looked to others. I simply did not wish to get soaked, the way I noticed so many were. I was glad to be there, hanging out with my son and his lovely girlfriend. It is so rare that I get to spend any time at all with my son, I was quite willing to take him up on his offer to go spend the day and night with them. I saw a few acquaintances, and met several of my son’s friends. I listened to some amazing music, and wondered at how energetic these people are, to ignore the rain and have a great time, no matter what. I was determined to not get grumpy, and I succeeded, despite my right hip acting as though it needed replacing. I never felt the urge to dance, since my gardening boots were heavy and it was all I could do to stand.
I chose to go on Friday so that I could listen to the Mickey Hart Band. I had seen them several years back at a venue in Fayetteville and had thoroughly enjoyed them. I expected to be inspired to dance, so I went to the main stage and stood in front of it, waiting for them to start. It took them at least forty minutes to set up, with about thirty fellows on stage, moving things about, including a stage on top of the main stage. Gradually people crowded around where I stood. I met a couple who had come all the way from Iowa for the Festival. They offered me some smoke, which I declined, assuring them I would enjoy the band, no matter what. Just as the crowd starting making impatient sounds, all the musicians appeared on stage and took their places. They began. With the first beat of the drums, my heart almost stopped, the vibratory frequency was so intense. I did not hesitate for a moment to move away from the spot I had held for almost an hour. I stood in the mud, about four hundred feet away from the stage. I watched people, the band up on the stage, and felt my feet moving with the beat. I was still inundated by the sound, only I did not feel as though I would be damaged by it at this distance.
I had been standing at least twenty minutes in the same muddy place, so I moved and found an area less lit up. I was getting tired and considered leaving to go back to the campsite where Chris and Jenny were napping. As I looked about, I noticed a couple who had an empty chair next to them. Glancing back at them a few times, I saw the spare chair was still empty, so I walked over to them and asked if I might sit in it for a bit. They graciously said yes.
I sat for at least an hour, following the sound coming from the huge stage. I mused on the intricacy of the different voices, the instruments, and how overpowering it all was. I wondered if all the musicians got heavily stoned before going onstage. I closed my eyes and listened, noting the changes, the added electronic sounds, and the immensity of the bass and drums that still rattled my sternum and made me glad I had moved away from my original spot directly in front of the stage. I had expected to feel moved to dance, but instead, I was almost in a meditative space, feeling like I could fall asleep, right then and there. I knew I would still be able to hear the music from the camp site, so I moved away from my chair and the crowd to go see if Chris and Jennie were through napping.
They were feeling refreshed, and I was balancing the urge to lie down with the desire to stay up and “party” with two of my favorite people. Once they were up, we walked over to another venue, a very small stage called “The Backwoods,” as it was built away from the main area, tucked under some trees. Chris raved about how great they are, Split-Lip Rayfield, with the bass made from the gas tank off a vehicle, and one weed eater string with which to get the sound of a bass. The other instruments were a mandolin, banjo, and guitar. Their sound was truly fun. They were fundamentally bluegrass pickers, but the guitar and bass added nuances of jazz. The witty lyrics to their original songs were well articulated, my son singing along to make sure I caught them; I certainly did! The drumming bass affected my sternum as had the bass with the Mickey Hart band, but I survived. By two a.m. I was feeling like I should go take a nap.
The best thing I noticed about this gathering was how friendly everyone seemed. My son introduced me to everyone he knew, and one of the girls I met was their neighbor at their campsite. She was listening to Split Lip when I met her. She was from Eureka Springs, so I asked her “who are your parents?” When she told me I almost fainted. I told her that I knew her parents from when I lived in Eureka Springs twenty years ago. In fact, her older brother, Tom, lived with us for a couple of weeks, in exchange for keeping an eye on my then, young son, who was turning into a street urchin in Eureka. Now, talking to Ashley, who was just a toddler twenty years past, I thought aloud, “It is such a small, small world!” I spoke into Ashley’s ear, “Tell your mom hello, from Tina!”
As we left that venue and went back to the campsite, I decided it was much too late for me to drive back home in the fog. I trailed behind the kids, who kept waiting for me. I was dragging! At the campsite, Chris put the front passenger seat of the car into a reclining position and I settled into it for the rest of the night. As I listened to the band playing in the distance, I heard a tree frog chirping nearby, and involuntarily counted its chirps. Each of them added up to the number six, representing, ultimately, family, either blood kin or that of reincarnation. I felt I was surrounded by both as I drifted off, relaxed and content.
The next thing I knew, it was early morning. The sound of the tent door being zipped open woke me, and as I turned my head I saw my son just about to crawl into his tent. I tapped on the car window and motioned to him. He came over and responded positively to my query, “Will you help me get my stuff back to my car? I need to get home to let my dog off the porch!” Within a few minutes I had all my stuff gathered. We started the ten minute walk to the parking area. There were very few people up and about and thanks to having had the presence of mind the day before to note some markers, we found my car easily. Where I had driven in the day before was now a huge swath of muddy earth. Thanks to the front wheel drive on my car, I cut across it to the grass and made my way out. I had a vision of tow trucks coming on Sunday to help people out of the mess.
The forest was showing the fall colors, thanks to all the rain. It was still misty, so the different hues of green were vivid, along with the yellow, orange, and red leaves on some of the trees. I did not hurry, as I had on Friday, and as I climbed higher into the hills, the fog grew thick. When I finally reached the driveway to our place, I felt pleased to have made it home safely from my first ever large musical festival.
I was also pleased that I had ventured out of my comfort zone and attended such an event. Apparently, in my “reality,” it is either all or nothing. I either never see any folks, or I see hundreds of them at once! It took two days to recuperate, for my hip to stop hurting. I was glad I had committed to only one day out at the festival and wondered how Chris and Jenny would feel after the entire three days there.
The festival closed its gates on Sunday afternoon. Chris and Jenny called me to say they might stay in Fayetteville Sunday night, that they would see me Monday sometime. I was not surprised when they showed up mid-afternoon Monday. The Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival was one more memory they made together. For me it is a memory that will carry me through any other possible future happenings that I will not feel obliged to attend. Thanks, guys! It was fun to hang out at that Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival, but this one time was enough!