Just south of the Chateauguay wilderness there is a hayfield long and narrow in the summer night - a full moon hangs to the south while the dipper shines north. I’m standing on an empty festival stage coiling microphone cables, looking up at a magnificent starry dome. The crowd has left trodden carpets of grass and a silence worth waiting for .
The hollow beyond has swallowed everything. Flaps of canvas ripple on concession tents under the all night glare of strung up light bulbs. A lone worker idly wipes makeshift counters, smokes a cigarette, and closes up. Across the dark field, where the RVs have made camp, strains of music are beginning to rise, and laughter. For many, this pilgrimage in the name of mother bluegrass is a ritual time cannot erode.
In consideration of the “no visible alcohol” policy, I crouch behind my cooler in the back of the sound booth and pour wine by flashlight into a travel mug. I'm finally free to wander the festival grounds and unwind after a 12 hour workday running the board, a new band every hour, since 10 am . And in the world of bluegrass, being a sound “girl” “woman” “lady” or “person” makes me not only a stand out, but the brunt of many good-humored moments of stage banter. Praise the lord - everything has gone smoothly from a technical standpoint. I've been able to find the sweet spot of most every instrument and voice here.
In the wee hours my breath will hang in clouds; there'll be songs and beers, and a stumbling trip back to my car as I crawl from the driver’s seat into the back seat, pull an old camp blanket over me, shove my head into a ratty polar fleece hat, wrap a Carhartt jacket around my feet, and train a flashlight onto a cheap detective novel. I'll awaken to the river's burbling, maybe an ATV having a hard start, and meet up with my crew at the quiet kitchen tent,where staff and musicians wander at the crack of dawn looking for hot java.
And so the days unroll, until finally, back again under the starry dome, it's me and Pancho and Sally, breaking down the stage one last time. Our routine with objects is a comfort and a meditation. I'm looking forward to sleeping in a bed again. But these last few minutes are a gift to take with me and I know it. When Sally finally heads north to the campground for another night of field picking, Pancho and I stand next to my running car, loaded up and ready to go. I know he will understand when I speak without thinking.
“This has all been about healing this piece of land you know.” He nods and we share one last hug, aware of the presence of spirit, aware that I've appreciated his information about owl medicine. I leave, drive slowly up the path to the farm gate and through, kicking up a little gravel as I hit the sleeping village edge at midnight.