Thursday, July 16, 2009
Oregon County Fair
Force Less~Flow More
I went up to the Oregon Country Fair this past Sunday and had a very interesting and good time. First of all, I went up with my friend and student Neil and his brother Allan and we had truly great "travel karma." We left Ashland at 6:00am, got to Eugene at 9:30am and parked about 100 feet from our bus out to the fair. We were on the first bus and were the first in line to go in at 11:00am. We were given a piece of chalk by one of the staffers and told that we could choose the greeting that people would see on this little blackboard at the entry gate. After careful consideration we came up with "Force Less~Flow More", which turned out to be a good theme for the day as it was very rainy, slippery and muddy all day!
We headed for the main stage to catch this awesome band called Paper Bird. It had been looking like it would be a rainy day and sure enough by the time we got to the stage it was more or less pouring with lightning and thunder to boot. As soon as we arrived we found this little strip of dry ground beside this fence and promptly grabbed it. We knew we'd end up wet but we didn't want to start the day that way! What I could hear of the band I liked a lot. Very tight with unusual arrangements. After hanging there for a while we decided that it was time to brave the storm, leave our cherished spot, and go catch my friend Jim Page.
When we got to his stage, I had to smile. Here was Jim playing on a stage with about 25 people up there with him. He'd invited the audience to come up on stage with him where it was dry! Jim has folk roots that seem to go to the center of the earth and there was no way he was going to be dry while his audience got soaked. After awhile, I ended up up there too! It was great hearing my old Seattle friend again and it was nice to be dry while I did it! Jim was the only performer I saw who invited his audience to share the dryness of the stage.
Then my friends and I went our separate ways for awhile. The thing that I found fascinating was to watch how people dealt with the mud. It was nearly everywhere. Every path to every place was a slippery, muddy mess. I teach T'ai-Chi for a living, which is basically learning to keep your balance in various training environments, and here I was, watching thousands of people trying to do just that. I've never watched so many people working on keeping their balance for eight straight hours. Most people hardly ever challenge their physical balance so this was really interesting to me. Everyone had their own approach and style.
At first I tried to walk where I could keep my feet out of the mud, but after about 20 minutes I realized that if I did this all day, I'd have no fun and all I'd really see of the fair was my own feet! Plus, if I worked so hard at keeping my feet clean, it meant staying at the edges of the pathways and limiting severely where I could step, both of which, in my mind, actually increased my chances of taking the dreaded huge fall right into the mud.
So, I decided to lower the bar and play a different game. I decided that it was fine to get my feet covered with mud up to the ankle but I'd try not to get it all over my pants and I'd certainly try not to take the big fall. Once I did this, everything became like T'ai-Chi. I was slipping and sliding, walking right down the middle of the paths, through puddles, on the edges, anywhere I felt like walking. I used every one of my T'ai-Chi leg muscles and skills, succeeded in enjoying the challenge, and I never took a big fall. I came close a couple of times when I really pushed the edge, but both times I saved myself with a well placed hand of the ground. (Once I even got some applause and appreciative comments!)
I sat when I could on a bench, drank Chai from my thermos, people watched and caught a few more acts, most notably Raina Rose who I really liked a lot. She really had something going on even though it was pouring her crowd was not large. At one point she sang the line "As a storm rolled in" and thunder sounded just as she said the word storm. The look on her face was priceless.
I felt sorry for the bands and vendors who didn't get the money or exposure they may have hoped for, but I didn't see anyone feeling sorry for themselves. Everyone I saw was not just making the best of it, they were enjoying making the best of it!
After a whole day of "surfing" the mud, we were ready to head home. We met at the gate, got on the first bus to downtown Eugene, didn't have to stand, walked the 100 feet to Neil's trusty vehicle and we were back on the road to Ashland. We had managed to enjoy what could have been an awful day by joining the die-hards, embracing the mud, and mostly by living by our motto: "Force Less~Flow More".