Archive - Jul 26, 2011

The Falcon Ridge Moon

As I pulled the 2005 Grey Prius laden with camping gear off of Route 22 in Hillsdale, NY onto a small farm road, and then into a field, my wife proclaimed to our nine year old daughter in the back seat, “We’re here!”

I rolled down the window and spoke to the young man standing in the field. He echoed a similarly excited welcome to us. The day before, there had been volunteers on the road holding up signs saying, “Welcome Home.”

I told him how our GPS would always say as we approached our destination, “You have arrived!” I’ve always thought that was an especially appropriate announcement at the end of a long road trip, and it held especially true for that moment in time when we arrived at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Not only were we arriving physically, but there was some sort of emotional or perhaps spiritual arrival as well.

I’ve gone to Falcon Ridge pretty much every year since 1994. My wife Kim has always gone since we met, and Fiona first kicked her feet to the music of a drummer on the main stage a few months before she was born. The words of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer came to mind

This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known

It was going to be a hot weekend, so we set up camp as quickly as possible and headed to the local State Park; an old quarry turned into a swimming hole. Everywhere we turned we ran into people who had become our friends in previous years of the folk festival. In the evening, I listened to some music up at the Lounge stage, and the next morning we headed off to the dance stage.

Falcon Ridge is a place where I’ve always felt comfortable letting my children run free. It is a safe, loving community. This would be the year that Fiona would start pursuing this freedom, especially if it meant more time at the dance tent. Friday morning, I headed down to the dance tent with her and ran into some friends who were struggling to make ends meet. They talked about their part time jobs and the goals of making enough money to feed, clothe and shelter the family, so that they could spend as much time on creative community oriented tasks as possible.

The idea stuck with me as I later listened to a performer introduce a song. She spoke about having watched a bunch of documentaries like Fast Food Nation or Gasland and wondered what had gone wrong with our country that we were allowing men corrupted by greed to destroy our nation. I thought about the impasse in the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington. I thought about some of the extremely wealthy folks I had worked with on Wall Street who seemed incapable of soaking in the enjoyment of a gathering like Falcon Ridge.

Now there's smoke across the harbor, and there's factories on the shore
And the world is ill with greed and will and enterprise of war

I often come back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. How is it that some of the richest people I know are stuck in the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, seeking to satisfy only their physiological and safety needs, even when they have more money than they could ever spend, when money simply becomes their way of keeping score in the game of life?

Yet here I was, surrounded by people just barely meeting their physiological needs so they could focus on other things like loving, belonging, esteem, self-actualization and self-transcendence. Falcon Ridge is a place where we feel loved and belonging. It is a place where people live up to creative potentials.

It is an inclusive community where all religious beliefs are honored. Yet I return back to the religious framework of my formative years. I’ve always thought of humans as being created in God’s image. Yet what is that image? It isn’t white skin, or brown, two eyes and a nose. No, the essence of our creation to me has always seemed to be about being creatures capable of creating, of loving, and of forgiving.

Later in the festival, I listened to Red Molly perform Susan Werner’s great song, “May I suggest”

May I suggest this is the best part of your life…
This time is blessed and shining almost blinding bright…

My mind returned to those who seem incapable of savoring the best part of their lives, to the people I have worked with on Wall Street and in politics that have gotten stuck fighting to run up the score in their financial balance sheets at the expense of being able to find love, belonging and esteem. My mind went to the words of Woody Guthrie’s song, “Pretty Boy Floyd”.

Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

It then drifted to the great old Zen Story:

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.
Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."

I looked around at the crowd on the hill enjoying the music and the moon over Falcon Ridge, and I thought about the poor fellows fighting to defend taxes breaks for the wealthiest and wished I could give them this beautiful Falcon Ridge moon.

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