A Night to Remember

There is a little bit of overlap between T and I in the content of our posts this week (see his Eternal Sunshine post), but we thought it would be interesting to share our different experiences of the same events.  Enjoy!

After the age of 8 or 9, Independence day is one of those holidays, like New Years Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, that just never lives up to my expectations. There is so much commercial hype about the holiday, but the revelry often feels like a forced celebration of all the wrong things.  But this year I had a completely new experience of July 4.

First, our old friend J came to visit (our first non-family connection to come, hint, hint…).  She was so enthusiastic about everything we are doing here on the farm that it really re-set my perspective and gave my spirits a boost.  I’ve been struggling with the “what’s next?” question again, and with the idea of investing so much into a homestead that isn’t mine, when I desperately want it for myself.  But that feels blasphemous, since the universe gave us the gift of this farm work-exchange, which enabled us to transition here, while also learning so much; not to mention the reward of knowing our hard work is helping out such terrific and deserving people as H & M.  So seeing the experience fresh through J’s joyful eyes reminded me to feel grateful again.  J, T, and H played music together, we went inner-tubing on the river, and we ate loads of that quintessential American summer food, watermelon.

J & T play guitar and sing, accompanied by H on his jug-bass

H & M invited us to join them for 2 evenings of annual community gatherings.  The first was a pot-luck pic-nic on the grounds of Penland School of Crafts.  We got to just wander in and out of the artists studios, which left me drooling.  It was incredibly inspiring to be in a place where people are encouraged to immerse themselves in their imaginations.  We had fun trying to figure out what each artist was doing with the whimsical supplies left scattered about at their stations.

Funky supplies at a Penland artists' studio table

Wings in the paper-making studio

We guessed this was a metal or jewelry working studio

The grounds and studios at Penland were inspiringly beautiful themselves.  I just love that there are still places on earth that are so committed to nurturing the creative spirit and preserving old (and new) craft traditions.  It was the perfect place to celebrate the people and culture of America.

The Penland campus

The printmaking studio was a very modern structure, while other studios are log cabins or renovated farm houses.

In the evening, the school put on the funkiest July 4 parade I have ever seen.  Each studio (woodworkers, glassblowers, encaustic wax painters, paper-makers, and others) was responsible for a float or display or theme.  Costumed marchers let their inhibitions go; singing, dancing, strutting, and waving their creations in the air.

The encaustic wax painters throw in a PR plug for the bees

giant parade mask

Costumed parade participants let loose

Ah ha! That is what the paper wings were for!

Each float won a prize, but the best in show went to the glassblower's fire and smoke breathing dragon!

The pic-nic was like a family reunion for H & M, as so many members of the community attend with their children and loved ones.  Folks caught up on each other’s lives, adults marveled at how children had grown, kids sported glitter, garlands, sparklers and glowing things, and we all ate too much.

My (first) plate at the pic-nic

Some families found prime seats for watching fireworks on the hay bales in the pasture

There was a bonfire, the biggest I’ve ever seen; and of course, a fireworks display, complete with whizz-bangers, cracker-booms, color-shifters, whirli-giggers, zip-pows, and heart shapes.  The onlookers oooh-ed and ahhh-ed from hay bales in the pasture and blankets in the grass.

Giant bonfire on the pasture

A very excellent fireworks display

The second night we attended a gathering at a local organic farm.  Again there was a pot-luck of amazing, mostly home-grown and home-made foods, including a satisfyingly fizzy, home-made ginger beer; plus, a fire roasted pig on a spit.

Smokin' Pig

Families, hippies, farmers, musicians, artists, and friends of the community came from all over to camp on the farm land right by the river.  There was a Farm Olympics (which we are pretty sure we won, but were somehow robbed of our title), live music, dancing, children (and adults) playing in mud and splashing about in the river.

The farm olympics included scuttle-hoe, hay-bale hurdle, wheelbarrow slalom, balance beam (over a steaming pile of manure), and pitchfork toss.

The crowd was so intimate, so quaint and yet spirited, and so warm, I couldn’t help but think of a hobbit party out of a Tolkein novel. Bilbo’s one hundred and eleventyith birthday party.

The weekend provided much needed “good ol’ American family fun”.  It reminded us how important it is to have a community of people nearby who share values, interests, fun and food; and filled our hearts, still grieving our old community in New Mexico, with hope and possibility.

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