Festival of Friends

            “Let it go my love, my truest, let it sail on silver wings; Life’s a twinkling that’s for certain but it’s such a fine thing. There’s a gathering of Spirits, there’s a festival of friends; and we’ll take up where we left off when we all meet again.”

This song by contemporary folk singer-songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, is one of my favorites for listening or trying to recreate myself.  It came to mind yesterday at the conclusion of a long and surprise-filled day, after helping a friend at a local arts and crafts festival in the area.  In retrospect, this was also the song played as my earthly father passed from this life in the fall of 2006, in the company of family and friends who’d helped with his hospice care. It wasn’t clear to me until today why the two incidences even had a connection.

Friday was a gray and dismal day.  It felt to me like the Friday Jesus was laid in the tomb:  forsaken as a follower, mourning the loss of a once beloved leader who seemed to have failed in his mission.  In my personal life, I had experienced a “slam dunk” answer to prayer that left me feeling desolate, because truths were revealed I’d only suspected before the “death blow” of reality.  Truth sometimes feels like death. Final.  And a desert of uncertainty appeared before me.

Saturday would turn out differently.  I’d promised a new friend weeks before I’d assist her with a display at a big crafts festival, since her husband had been weakened by repeated rounds of chemotherapy.  I’d been missing festivals from previous years when I’d either helped or displayed my own work. Numbed by the previous evening’s revelations and a restless night’s sleep, I dutifully awoke with the 6 am. rainforest melody coming from my phone alarm, and prepared to go and meet her a few miles down the road.  After helping my friend load a small pick-up truck with wooden bird houses and doll beds, and tying down plastic tubs protecting the many crocheted blankets she’d made from a wonderful variety of colored yarn, we were on our way into a new day, together……the numbness of loss beginning to wear off a little.

Many had already arrived at the park with its refreshing fountains, friendly birds, casual walkways, and well-manicured grounds.  A parking space, adjacent to a vacant spot for tables, opened up as we pulled into the crowded lot. A new canopy require out-of-the box thinking to set up when printed directions failed, but we laughed out loud as the dance to make it work ensued.  Other vendors, late to arrive, quietly found spots nearby, and friendly hellos set the atmosphere for a getting-to-know-you kind of day.  Dog walkers, young and old, families with children, teens on skate boards and scooters, and some in wheelchairs cruised by with the sunshine and gentle breezes adding to the peaceful atmosphere.  This was community at its best.

My favorite part of the day was going from table to table on the pathway around the park taking the liberty to pause if a piece of art drew me in to admire it, or I felt prompted to ask an artisan what prompted their creation. One thing that never ceases to amaze me: Everyone has a story, and most are eager to share their story if you’ll only take time to listen and show real interest. This has been my low-budget delight for a long time, but especially today since I literally didn’t have “two pennies to rub together”.

Two completely different artists nearby our table challenged me the most throughout the day. They seemed so at peace with themselves, seamlessly meeting and greeting visitors with their low pressure invitations to come into the spaces they had set up, and make observers feel at home among their artwork.  One of them, a former teacher turned “feather-light spirit catcher” handed me a piece of paper with questions asking why I was fearful of the creative side of me. Another, a man who looked like a tall Leprechaun with a long beard and dancing eyes, told me about his journey to finally acknowledge what gave his life meaning, and why he now crafted images of fish out of discarded wood.  I found myself “sitting” his space for him while he took a break or two. I enthusiastically shared what he’d told me with passersby, until his return.  By the end of the day, I felt like dancing….and did, even if in my hiking boots and button-down, collared shirt.

Packing to go, I was summoned over to meet this Lepruchen of a man in the middle of the walkway where he whimsically presented me with the “Mini-Mahi” I had admired all day as the most unusual of his displays—the one I’d said had “called” to me!  My, oh my, what a surprise!  Without a penny or a pocket to put it in I was caught off guard!  How does one accept such a gift except with a laughter of delight and a little cavorting about, holding the treasure close to one’s chest?  At least that was my reaction. (Certainly, a more dignified response would have been totally inappropriate!)

And so I want to sing again the uplifting and wise words of a sister, song-writer:  “Let it go, my love, my truest; let it sail on silver wings; Life’s a twinkling that’s for certain, but it’s such a fine thing. There’s a gathering of spirits, there’s a festival of friends; and we’ll take up where we left off when we all meet again.”

For so many reasons, even when life can feel like death, and there’s sorrow over yesterday and uncertainty about days to come—–there are friends in community, placed in our paths, who help us discover lost parts of ourselves, hovering among the creative spirits of the universe—and among them is where we’ll find life again to share the essence of who and what we were created to be:  Free in Spirit.

Karen Weber

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