Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Extended Vacation

The month of me was spectacular, perhaps a bit too good since it translated into my extended vacation from blogging and writing anything beyond my research for graduate school. Actually, the real excuse is a heavy paper dealing with ethics in the making, valuation, and sale of art. This is a subject which brings up horrible memories of a controversial time at Randolph College. I have been reticent to say anything about it for reasons I won't go into here. Suffice it to say, it has been a difficult, complex, and heart wrenching task of reliving an unpleasant past. Although the writing of it is important to my graduate work, and I would not shirk its necessity, it has taken a bit of the joy out of writing for me in the process. Now that the semester is over, and the initial draft is complete, I begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps when I finish my paper, I'll be less cryptic and share my feelings on the events and the subject here. Right now, I am ready to walk away from the whole thing and enjoy my extended vacation. On that note, I leave today for a cruise of the Caribbean. Woohoo!

Anyway, instead of talking about ethics, the environment, and art, lets talk about me. Specifically, the month of me. I promised I would tell you all about it, and then I got selfish and took several months off. I am prone to selfish acts. I'll admit it. Anyway, the month of me was spectacular and I think I may have had the best fortieth birthday of anyone on record in the history of humanity. I'm not even sure I remember everything I did during the month, but the highlights were exceptional.

I started out with a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Gallery and the Hirshorne museum. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard right beside the National Portrait Gallery. Apart from the typical frustration of driving in the convoluted streets of that city and the ridiculous cost of parking, we had a fabulous time walking the streets, enjoying art, eating great food. I got spectacular photos. My favorite is of the amazing sculpture pictured above by Ron Mueck at the Hirshorne and the New York fan who was equally awed by it.

Next was the highlight of my month, Shakori Hills music festival and an entire weekend with many of my dearest friends camping, enjoying and making music, and dancing till our feet ached. My lovely zoo peeps all came out to help me celebrate, as did my partner in crime and art making, Terri, who drove all the way from Lynchburg with an injured back to join the mayhem. She was a great sport! Nikki baked me a cow cake which made me laugh and laugh. Another story for another time. Pete dressed me up like a princess in tiara and jewels, to which Terri added a really cool scepter that lit up and played magical sounds. We sat around camp fires, listened to fantastic music and generally laughed until our sides ached.

But, I haven't even gotten started. My dear friends Kimmy and David cooked up some serious surprises for me along with the rest of my friends in Donna the Buffalo, the best band in the world. So, not only did they bring me fun decorations for the campsite and lovely gifts both in the bag and in their presence, they also had my favorite songs added to the Saturday night set list, dedicated a special version of my all-time favorite song, Conscious Evolution, to me and had my all-time favorite guitarist, Jeb Puryear, wish me a happy birthday, not once, but twice during the show. Wow! I was really floored. Now, you'd think the month of me would end there. I mean, how much more fun can one girl have? Oh, I haven't even gotten started.

After Donna ended what I now think of as my birthday set, we all waltzed on over to the dance tent to dance for several more hours to my second favorite band in the whole world, The Duhks. Maybe it was just the rosy glow of my party, although I really didn't drink that much, so I don't think so, but I feel like that particular set was one of the best I have seen by this talented band. I lost my magical scepter at some point during the show, but the magic seemed to stay with me regardless.

After, Leonard and several of my friends in the band hung out and closed down the dance tent. Then Christian, the drummer, David, and Kimmy and I ended up finished out to rest of the night, literally, laughing until the sun came up over at their campsite. I'm fairly certain the laughter alone lifted several years off my life. So, my actual birthday party ended with three dear friends and partners in mayhem watching the sun come up over the sheep field and wondering at the manliness of those big-boy sheep. They are really quite spectacular in ways we shouldn't discuss here.

As it turns out, the scepter went on to have its own fabulous party and found the perfect home away from me. Apparently, my friend Kath's daughters found it and had all kinds of fun playing with it until they tried brandishing it over the guy in the chicken suit who drives the hay ride tractors around the park. I guess they were trying to turn him into a frog. It didn't work, but he ended up with the magical instrument of birthday power and carried it around the rest of the weekend threatening the unruly children with it. I kept hearing the squeals of delight that followed it's funny electronic sounds, and I figured it was right where it belonged, spreading the magic of joy and laughter throughout the park.

But, fear not. I was still not without its magical powers because the magical fun did not end with the party, as one might expect. No the next day, after one short hour of sleep, as the campers began to rise from their warm sleeping bags, I woke unable to fall back to sleep. Feeling bleary, I opted for a shower and some coffee. So, I dragged myself out of bed, and took care of business. Once I had coffee in hand, I was beginning to feel mildly human again as the sounds of Keith Secola drifted across the main stage field with the unmistakable guitar riffs of Jeb Puryear wandering along the scale. Like a bee to honey, I followed the music and stood near the stage drinking in the sounds, letting the music wake me up.

Perhaps five minutes passed before I was being pulled by one of my herd friends, Gail, towards the stage steps, and led right up onto the stage to become one of the fry bread backup singers for the band. Suddenly, I am on stage directly in front of Jeb with a microphone in front of me singing. How did this happen? I had to laugh. So, I sang along, and danced and generally tried to make myself smaller since I figured most people would rather see Jeb play his guitar than me dancing around and pretending to be a professional singer. Still, it was amazing, a new perspective on the festival and perhaps one of the most fun things I've ever done at Shakori Hills. Thanks Keith. If you ever need a full-time singer, look me up.

Oh, and I cannot forget to mention the best dancing at Shakori every year in the dance tent when Preston Frank takes the stage. That man knows how to play some Zydeco. Put him together with Donna the Buffalo as his band, and you have some of the finest dance music ever played. So, we danced and we danced and we danced for the rest of the day.

Although the weekend was swiftly drawing to a close, I still had one more wonderful thing to come. David's son Riley, who is twelve, decided he wanted to play the drums with his dad's band for the first time during the Friends of Donna the Buffalo ritual closing concert of the festival. Can I tell you, he rocked the house. The musical talent in that family will indeed live on in Riley McCracken. I'm personally looking forward to many years as one of his groupies. We were all very impressed, including Tara, and I get the sense she does not impress easily. Christian Dugas of the Duhks also sang a lovely ballad, but not from his comfort zone behind the drums, but rather in front of the band. Although he seemed a bit nervous about it before the fact, he was impressively composed onstage and sang a hauntingly lovely song for the crowd. It was a spectacular birthday party to be sure. Thanks go out to all my fabulous friends and family who made my birthday one to remember. I love you all!

Photos appear courtesy of Bill Davis. Thanks Bill!