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Organically Inspired. . .

MagnoliaFest brings me back to center

At least once per year, Jim and I load up the camping gear and head to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in beautiful Live Oak, FL for a weekend of camping, music, friends and good times.  We had to miss SpringFest this past March, so in October I was determined to make MagnoliaFest 2012 a very special experience.

I can hardly put into words how these festivals have changed my life.  We attended our first MagnoliaFest in October 1999 as newlyweds.  We’ve been back so many times I’ve lost count, and each time has been magical, restorative and just plain fun.  I’ve been exposed to bands and artists I would have never heard otherwise.  It’s not an overstatement to say that these festivals have radically altered the contents of my iPod.  My appreciation for fast-fingered bluegrass pickers and 3-part harmonies with a high lonesome lead continues to grow.

It’s not just the music that makes these festivals so special.  I love to camp and the park is situated along the Suwannee River.  That’s right, we get to camp on the river that inspired Stephen Foster’s classic, “Way down upon the Suwannee River.”  This place gives you a glimpse into the old Florida.  The biodiversity is incredible, with oaks, maples, pines, magnolias and others draped with enormous quantities of Spanish moss covering the land and lining the edges of the river.  This is a place where I can spend hours lying in a hammock, gazing into the canopy while my mind wanders.

Over the years, I’ve found that I’m graced with flashes of insight and moments of clarity during these festivals.  Solutions to problems I’m not actively thinking about pop into my head fully formed.  Visions of potential futures present themselves and it feels like I can try out different paths in my imagination.  Somehow, when I step away from my day-to-day life, get close to nature, and listen to lots of great music, pathways seem to open up in my mind that are not always available to me.  It’s truly magical.

The people also add so much to our festival experience.  Over the years, we’ve had romantic festivals with just the two of us camping together, and we’ve had groups of friends as large as 18 folks come out for the fun.  No matter the size of the crowd, we have a blast every time.

Walking around the festival is a visual feast as everyone digs out their tie-dye to let their freak flag fly. There are lots of kids running around, having a ball, and you often see multiple generations enjoying the music together.  The festivals attract young hippies, old hippies, and lots of folks that are nowhere close to hippie in their everyday lives.  I’ve never seen a fight break out, and everyone walks around smiling.  It’s one of the few places where everyone is just exactly where they want to be in that moment.  You can easily walk up to a total stranger and strike up a conversation.  It’s not surprising to see even the most famous artists wandering in the audience, enjoying the music and the scene.

This year, I spent so much time lounging around camp that I didn’t see as much music as a normally do.  Still, what I saw was phenomenal.  Highlights included Bonnie Raitt, Mickey Hart, Jimmy Herring, and the Del McCourry Band.  Donna the Buffalo did an awesome, but too short set that got us all up and dancing.  It feels to good to feel my joints loosen and my muscles stretch out as I jump and dance with a frenzied crowd of Donna fans, better known as “The Herd.”

By Sunday, sadly, it was time to pack it up and head home.  I had found a renewed sense of calm and optimism for the future.  I had re-connected with great friends and my sweet husband.  I was breathing deeper and seeing the world more clearly.  It’s so good to come back to center and I look forward to the next festival with great anticipation.


2 Responses to MagnoliaFest brings me back to center

  1. I always enjoy your writing, but the extra payoff is when I know you and Jim are truly relaxing and enjoying yourselves. I love you!—Mom

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