Tuesday, July 17, 2012

And Nobody Was Eaten by a Bear

Somewhere between my college graduation and now, I've come to regard time as a mushy, tangled, indistinguishable meatball of a concept. I have no idea what year things took place any more, how much time has passed between one thing or the other. And I know it's only going to get worse. But imagine my shock to realize that this past weekend's campout with our Hair friends was essentially our ninth. Next year will mark the 10-year anniversary of the production of the show in which Mike and I were involved and how we came to know the bulk of the "tribe," but we've also known a bunch of them from an earlier run of the show, in 1999. Mike and I have known this crowd almost as long as we've been married, and that is a long ass time.

So much has changed over those years, so many people have come and gone, some tragically never to come back, but every year brings it home to me: though I see these guys only once a year if I'm lucky, communicating mostly over facebook and the odd holiday card, they are very important to me and my life is richer for having known them. And I'm thankful for every summer gathering, for what this crew has added to my life, not one member of which I would have had the chance to know if not for a magical musical obsession and a charismatic hippie whose life ended much, much too soon.

From a diary entry dated 2007:

I know it means a lot to Leo to have everyone gather like this because in a way he thinks of us all as his kids, his family. For us it's a chance to see people we consider friends but don't usually get a chance to hang with otherwise. This year the weather was gorgeous and we lazed around the field and played volleyball and Mike hosted a trivia match and went swimming and we stayed up way too late talking and singing and drinking around the fire (I've seen the sun rise two Sunday mornings in a row! So paying for it).

It's funny because even though I call this hippie camp and we mostly know each other because of a hippie show, nobody's actually a hippie except for Leo. He is in his mid-fifties and a definite dyed-in-the-wool relic, but he's also the most together hippie I've ever met. He doesn't drink or do drugs and he leads a very upstanding day-job life. He's not remotely flaky. He just happens to have long hair and wear a lot of tie-dye and hasn't lost his 60s sensibility. He doesn't live in the past but rather applies his ideals to today's world.

He's also way into film and theater and directs an assload of local productions from farces to musicals like Oliver. Hair is his favorite and it's the reason I know him, but he's basically a performer and everyone at the gathering is at least a part-time performer, mostly singers and musicians, but actors, too. So understandably it can be hard to get a word in edgewise at times. But I enjoy sitting back and taking in the craziness. It was a good time. We'll do it again next year, I'm sure.

And we did it again, and again and again. And sometimes we couldn't make it, but mostly we did, even if just for a few hours. And there was always next year.... How could we know that so soon, so ridiculously soon--less than four years later--the sage and elder who made it all happen would be attending only in our memories, only in the field and the trees and stars and voices from our hearts?

This year we camped out with HR for the first time and he had a ball and fell in love with Leo's 4-year-old granddaughter. We swam and sang and ate and drank and talked and cried. And it was wonderful, and it was difficult. I'm not a very spiritual person in general, but I couldn't shake the feeling that Leo was there with us. I don't often feel this way about those who have died, I don't even have an idea about the afterlife, but to me Leo is so inextricable from that particular place, it was so sacred to him, I want to believe that that's where he went when he passed away. So that's how I'm always going to think about it. Yes.

Much love to all who were there this year, those who will be there next, those who have come in the past. Thanks for all the fun and joy but also the work and the heartbreak and disappointment that comes along with caring about people. It's always worth it. For Leo of course, but also for all the lucky souls who will continue to benefit from what he started. We'll always love Hair, of course, but it's not really about that anymore, is it? Hasn't been for years. Let's keep it going for him, and for us.

See you in 2013, freaks.

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