It seems whenever we have weekends like we’ve just experienced, that I don’t even know where to begin with my writing. There is no way to capture it, and the beauty of trying makes my words disjointed.
How do I describe the deep sense of friendship, the longs talks, the conversations over coffee in the morning light? How do I describe the camaraderie as we worked together chopping vegetables and stirring grits and frying bacon and flipping burgers and setting feasts of deliciousness on tables for 30? How do I describe watching and listening to our groups of children laughing and teasing and playing and working together? How do I describe the music… oh, the music?! The harmonies and the rhythms and the drive and the laughter, the moments where I sit and weep as I hear the band sing of our need to be quiet and just watch the mountains burn with those who are aching in life, when I want to jump and scream, “Yes! Yes! You get it!” Or the head on Brian’s shoulder as they question what would I ever do without you? Because, what would I do without him?
We spent our weekend at a music festival here in our little corner of the valley. It’s one we go to every year with the same group of friends, and we set up RVs and campers and tents in a big circle and we can hear the music from our sites, washing over us from the stage or we can walk down to the music meadow and set up chairs to take it all in. It’s a wandering, meandering sort of weekend, full of late nights and long mornings, card games and kids swimming in the river. It’s piling all the kids in the back of Matt’s truck, then surprising them, trapped, with a bombardment of water balloons. We drove them down to a swimming hole under a rusty metal bridge and watched them jump off rocks and splash in the river, well, until a copperhead swam by. Then they were pretty quickly ready to go back to camp. As we drove back to camp, eleven children in the bed, five adults in the cab, we adults sat silent almost mesmerized by the chatter and laughter of our children behind us.
It’s a weekend of watching them do cartwheels and back bends for hours, giggling when they crash and applauding when they succeed. It’s walking through vendor booths and henna tattoos on bare arms. It’s sitting with my books and journal in the quiet and napping on a chair under the trees. It’s unending games of cups behind the RV and lighting candles on picnic tables during late night dinners. It’s inviting new faces into our world and feeding them good food and drink and welcoming them into our “home” for three days (or more). It’s gospel sets and children’s sets and roots and bluegrass and singing about life and love, belting out tunes together with the musicians. It’s grabbing a quick snack from a table full of berries and muffins, or working together on avocado salsas and crab dips. It’s togetherness.
The weekend wasn’t always easy. Being on chemo means life never really is, but I rested a lot in my anti-gravity chair and enjoyed watching the busy-ness of camp around me. Walking back from the music meadow to camp one night, I tripped on a rock and fell hard. My ankle is swollen and bruised, my legs are scraped and black and blue. But my Ash was with me when it happened, and oh my stars, this boy’s heart of compassion. He cared for me so well. He does that, this boy with a heart of gold. I arrived home last night, and this morning the stiffness and soreness of that fall has me nauseated and throwing up, creeping through the house like a little old lady.
My Bella girl crept into bed with me the night I fell, curling into me, choosing to hold my hand rather than sleepover with her friends again. We snuggled together and listened to the music pour over our camp, and after a few minutes, she quietly said, “I think that guy needs to sing with his inside voice.” But within moments, her even breathing told me she was fast asleep. And I listened to the music and held my little girl and whispered my love over her and my thanks to God for giving me such good gifts… these lovely days of summer.
Oh… summer days. As The Walking Roots Band sings it, “Summertime living is good for the summertime soul.”
And this weekend, oh, this weekend was so good for my soul.
Last year, after Redwing, I wept as I hugged my friends goodbye. I went home to terrifying news on my PET scan and wondered if I would even be alive to celebrate this festival with my loves again.
This year. I am still living with relatively suppressed cancer and am here with my loves. As The Steel Wheels sang their last chorus of Redwing to close out the festival last night, my friend, Amy, hugged me tight as I wept. “I was so afraid last year,” I whispered through my tears, “And look where we are. Such gift.”
Yes, such gift.
Music. Feasting. Summer heat. Crickets chirping. Rivers hushing. Friendship deepening.
Sometimes “that’s all you can ask for in these seasons, for sweet moments of reprieve in the company of people you love. You’ll still wake up in the night with the same old fear, and you’ll still face the same tired eyes in the morning, but for a few hours you’ll feel protected from it all by the goodness of friendship and life around the table, and for a few hours that’s the best thing you can imagine.” (S. Niequist)
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