So says my son, James. I ardently agree.
It’s very rare for a person not to fall head-over-heels in love with the three-day-and-night-long music festival located in B-F-N (aka Clarendon), Ontario. When I was the same age as James is now (6), my parents brought me and my brother (then 3 years old) for the first time.
Most of the memories of my first Blue Skies are fuzzy and sepia-toned like my other childhood memories. I do vividly (and sometimes painfully) remember my own past emotions, and when I think about those first years I recall with striking detail feelings of being overwhelmed by the bombardment of stimuli juxtaposed with complete peace and relaxation. I recall total satisfaction and my amazement of the beauty of the people and the environment. I remember an insatiable curiosity and learning at an accelerated rate.
It was and still is perfect in its magic; otherworldly and bewitching.
It was a place that a painfully shy little girl could find some independence and release all her anxieties, fears, and expectations for herself. I was alone among thousands of people. I could sit in the woods, ponder, and just exist in my solitude. I was a freak among freaks and I found friends there. I stored away most of the truly important occasions for personal growth for those three days every year. At Blue Skies, that painfully shy little girl turned into an exuberant teenager and that same unaffected teenager became a slightly more wise woman.
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that the festival and all its patrons own a not-insignificant piece of my soul. Sadly, because of extraneous circumstances (early pregnancy nausea/wedding planning, young baby, and a family member’s destination wedding respectively), it had been three years since we’d been able to go to the festival and I had partially forgotten how much I owed to Blue Skies.
I had forgotten the joy of visiting with old and new friends and acquaintances; of drinking and laughing and sharing stories around a bonfire. I had forgotten the experience of discovering a new musical act that rocked your socks off, gave you goosebumps and made your whole body tingle with awe. I had forgotten dancing as if no one was watching and singing as if no one was listening. I had forgotten being lulled to sleep by the sound of distant drums, guitars and merrymakers.
I had forgotten how uncorrupt the night sky is and how your eyes can’t help but drift upward now and then to gaze at the extreme clarity of the stars. It looks like God took his brush and with one mighty stroke, painted the Milky Way. It’s so shockingly beautiful that you try not to blink and when you finally look away, the echo of the pinprick lights dance in your vision.
I had forgotten waking up each morning, baking under the hot nylon of the tent, filthy from the night before. You might choose to shower in the wooden outdoor enclosure made for the purpose; the wooden floors cool and slick under your feet; frigid well-water trickling from the shower-head sending shocks of adrenaline up your spine.
Or perhaps not… you might choose to let the sweat and dirt build up layer by layer like a papier mache mask, coarsening your features.
Your feet, however, are a lost cause. Regardless of your bathing routine, they can’t help but acquire a sort of wonderful gangrenous and leathery appearance. “Blue Skies feet” is the technical term.
There is some sort of odd freedom in going home to look in the mirror and realizing that there’s a stranger in front of you. You may recognize in your reflection that it isn’t just your physical features that have changed, but also everything inside of you. That is something that never fails, no matter how many years you’ve attended.
To be able to bring my children and allow them to have the same experiences that I did, knowing how it will shape them, will be one of the greatest gifts I could ever give them. Come hell or high water, we’ll be going. Every year.