Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Same Week, Radically Different Experience

Some of you may remember that this time last year, I got to spend 3 Days Solo. Yes, you heard me right - 3 days. And ah, what fine days they were. I did yoga, I hiked, I spent an afternoon with friends. I even sat in our local pizza joint by myself, with a laptop and a book and an obnoxiously large "sampler platter" from the menu. It was divine.

I got that gift of 3 days solo because, last year, my husband and boys went to a
Christian Rock Festival and had themselves a grand ol' time (despite the fact that we're not Christians - there, I said it. Again).

But this year... well, this year was a little different. I didn't get me some 3 days solo. Oh, no sirree bob, I did not. This year, I got me some of this:
Is that what you think it is? Why, yes. That, my friends, is one big-*ss Christian rock venue. And guess who was there? Uh huh - Moi.

After a year of begging, I succumbed to the pressure. "You'll love it, Mom! Seriously!" "No one will get up in your stuff about converting, I promise." "It's not that bad!" "You have to go with us. Please?!" These were the refrains I heard over and over and over. I admit I got pretty passive-aggressive about the whole thing, waiting until just a few days before the festival to mutter, "Oh, I guess so... but not for all six days! I can only handle three!" while still surfing for reasonable airfare to Denver, where my entire extended family (and then some) were headed for a different sort of gathering. One with water. And a roof. And with 24,985 fewer people than the Cornerstone Festival.

Turns out there wasn't water in Colorado - my aunt and uncle live up in the foothills and their well ran dry for most of the time everyone was there. And something tells me it's a bit more psychologically challenging to be without water in a house than in a campsite, where you go in with that expectation.

So - here I am to tell my story as a non-Christian at a Christian Rock Festival.

Here is our van before we left. Believe it or not, we fit 5 people in there. Brady and his best pal and bandmate, Ben, were squished into the back seat and practically on top of each other, and Jonathan was wedged into the only remaining middle seat. I'd show pictures but they begged me not to - they couldn't see out the back, sides, or front. It was pretty funny. They harrassed me the entire way there with complaints of "we didn't have this much stuff LAST year," to which I replied, "You invited me. Now be sure not to block your brother's only oxygen hole."

I hadn't camped for YEARS. And you know what I rediscovered? I like camping! We grew up camping in Colorado but the few times I'd done it in the midwest, as an adult, it was too hot, too buggy, and too tiring to hear the kids whine after only 1/4 mile into our hike, "Can't we go back yet? I'm so tired!!!" But the kids have grown up, and there was a lot to do, and I don't want to know why but there weren't any mosquitos to be found.

All day, every day, there were bands to listen to. Folk, gospel, screamo (egads), heavy metal, rock... you name it, someone sang it. There were several small tents for music and a main stage where the big names played. Here, we listened to a singer/guitarist named Josh Garrels - nice and mellow, just my style. Go have yourself a listen, why don't you?

When we first pulled in, my mouth fell open... as far as the eye could see there was tent after tent after tent - no shade, no room, nothing but gravel. It would be like camping on the midway at the county fair with thousands of people, and while my mind fired "Retreat! Hotel! Hotel!" Rob laughed not to worry, we camp somewhere else. "Ok...." I said, hoping beyond hope that he really meant it. Cuz I don't want to be high maintenance or anything, but, um, Ya - I'm not doing that.

25,000 people attend this festival. 25-freakin-thousand. So really, when I say it's like camping at the county fair, I mean it. There's a midway, carnival-like food stands, and big-top tents everywhere containing vendor booths, musical acts, and seminars. There's also a lake, though, and that's where we camped, thank the higherpowerwhogoesbymanynames!

I didn't know how to take pictures of people without seeming intrusive or offensive, so I took a picture of this van to depict the sort of folks who were at Cornerstone. As homeschoolers, we're all too familiar with the denim skirt-wearing, long braid-sporting, obedience-loving Christians. But here? Punk, Goth, and Hippie were all the rage, and I saw more tattoos and piercings there than in all the county fairs I've ever been to put together.
There were men dressed like Jack Sparrow and men dressed like Spiderman. There were lots of Emos. There were motorcycle dudes and hippie chicks and more dreadlocks than you could shake a stick at. And there was an entire photo tent devoted to people who wanted to dress up like monsters - theatrical make-up and all - and get their pictures taken, and I haven't a clue what that was all about. There was one fellow who sported one of those thick nose rings that remind me of tethering a steer to a fence post during my 4-H days, and I found it difficult to listen to what he was saying when my mind kept firing things like, "But doesn't that d*mn thing HURT?!?" and "Yo, one's gettin' away - hand me that there lasso."

One of the guys I talked with sounded high the whole time, but there were no drugs and alcohol allowed. I know, I know, but seriously - he wasn't HIGH-high, he was high for Jesus, man... and I enjoyed listening to him talk since he was rather socially-liberal even while being religiously-conservative. And yes, there is such a thing - I saw thousands of examples. There were lots of "save the children" charities, I was pleased to see, and I'd have supported them if I wasn't worried there'd be the whole "we'll save them first" stipulation attached. (I give elsewhere, rest assured.)

The highlight for Jonathan and his cousin Trevor was - get this - chasing golf carts. You could rent golf carts there, much to my chagrin, as they kicked up dust like all get-out as they zipped by all day long. But on day one they discovered the fine sport of golf cart chasing and they didn't stop until we broke camp and left for home. Here, the boys stretch out in preparation of hours of running.

And they're off!
Go Trevor Go!

Occasionally the boys took a break to play cards or a board game, eat, or swim.
And then it was back at it! They became quite a novelty, known throughout the festival, and people took to circling past our campsite, over and over again, just to see the golf cart-chasing show. Some folks awarded them free t-shirts and glow-in-the-dark souvenirs and they got lots of high-fives and "You guys Rock!" from their admirers. And if the boys were resting or distracted, you'd see carts go by very slowly, the riders searching eagerly for the cart-chasers. It was definitely one of the most amusing parts of the week.

Here is the lone photo I consented to take, and it didn't turn out half-bad considering it was day 4 and I'd all but forgotten what a real shower felt like. And I was wearing a button that read BE THE PEACE YOU SEEK. Right on, sistah.

There was a mass on Friday night at the main stage. It was lovely to see an entire hillside lit by candles, touching to see thousands reach out to their neighbor with the sign of peace, and a bit curious, in a voyeuristic sort of way, to watch people sway and get weepy while they turned their faces upward toward God. But not as curious as the lyrics that caught us by surprise in the middle of a song. When I first heard the man sing, "And it's smelling a little funky in my house, like a monkey in a zoo" or something similar, I sat up straight, cocked my head to the side, and started looking around to see if that was indeed what I heard or it was just my wandering imagination.... Nope, others definitely noticed and our mouths turned up as we stifled our giggles. Verse two... and the refrain.... Yep, it was definitely "And it's smelling a little funky like a monkey in a zoo"... *snort* That is a HOOT. During MASS! Ah, sweet levity...

The boys might've teased me about how much food I packed, but there were no empty-belly complaints. With our group came roasted vegetables, tamales, and meatballs, cheese-and-fruit-filled crepes, tacos, and pork tenderloin. We feasted. Is it just me or does food taste better when prepared under the open sky?
Even washing dishes is more fun outdoors. And we laughed how we'd wipe a swarm of gnats off our cast iron skillet or scoop an ant or eight out of our water jugs and not think a thing about it, whereas if a single fly lands on our food at home, we're disgusted or appalled. Reality check.
Here, our camp neighbor. He sat and strummed his guitar under this tree for hours. It was lovely background music.
And here, a full-immersion baptism in the lake that I happened upon. That was fascinating.

I'm pleased to say it was an interesting experience and I very much enjoyed myself. While I'm 'not there' on the Christian faith, I'm grateful for the chance to have fellowship with a great many people. Music, food, fellowship and fun... Life is indeed good. Very, very good.



Sierra Mama said...

I think I fall under the socially liberal/religiously conservative category. I have been wondering how I would describe myself. This is a good description!

I like to just consider my self as a cool person who unschools her kids, loves to talk, play games, play outside, go to Starbucks and shop and is also a christian.

Glad you had a good time and it wasn't "weird" religious.

Sierra Mama said...

and I just looked at the website and saw that Hawk Nelson was there... we love them!

KMDuff said...

Looks like a good time for everyone. Glad to hear about it!

Beverly said...

What a great trip. I hope it will happen for me, too, when the kids are a bit older that I can go on a vacation and be better for the experience instead of worse. If you know what I mean ...

EC said...

Wow, Laura, that's really beautiful. It opened my eyes to the fact that I'm quite narrow minded. Thanks for sharing your experience!