Memory works at you like a bend in the river wearing out the side of the bank with it's force. I think the reason that I spent this year's festival immersed in my memories of the festival at Southwestern College is because I was the age that my kids are now when I showed up in tie-dye and bell-bottoms just in time to hear Pat and Victoria Garvey fill every corner of Stewart Fieldhouse with "The Trail of Tears". As I see Mike and Rose starting to find their way in the world, I can't help but retreat into the ways it happened to me, the things I saw and heard that put me on the path I'm on now. The shock of having my daughter move two thousand miles away didn't help any, but the beauty and grace of camping with her those last few days along the Walnut will be with me always.
Maybe nostalgia just breeds saddness, but some things I learned saddened me, too. The loss of Rose's companionship is a natural and bittersweet thing. The loss of Stuart Mossman's name from this festival is not something that I can reconcile within the world that I believe in, the world I was led to believe in by the guts and heart of this music that came from the very soul of this country.
I tell people that it took me ten years to learn to play the guitar and sing at the same time, and that it took me another ten to do it in the same key. That always gets a laugh, but it is no exaggeration. Add to those twenty another twenty to learn the songs I want to play, and I'm ready to complete the assignment given to me so many years ago by Utah Phillips when he said, "This is your music, it's being taken from you and sold back to you. You might as well learn how to make it yourself".
Today I feel like part of my heritage has been stolen from me, and never sold back. Nearly an old man, I'm ready to call myself a musician, only to find that the thing that started me here just barely exists. Is it that blatant - that I must verify that past before I can validate myself? Or can I claim altruistic goals of bringing a bit of honor and truth to the history of a great, and in many ways unique, festival?
What if the hidden parts are where the uniqueness comes from?