July 27, 28, 29, 2018. For me, the last weekend in July has become a beacon. It holds as much importance (maybe more) in the marking of time as the January 1stholiday that’s celebrated worldwide. No matter where the last year has taken me, emotionally, physically, energetically…Newport Folk Festival at the end of July always brings me home.
Folk Festival weekend fosters an evolution of sorts. Friday Danielle looks vastly different than Sunday Danielle. When I first laid my backpack down on the Fort stage blanket of my friends, I surprisingly felt pain in the middle of my back. Upon entering the Newport triangle, I separated myself from the world’s problems and checked in with myself. My chest tight, neck on fire, jaw clenched, lungs unable to expand fully. My mind, fearful—for my health, my safety, the safety of my belongings. Energetically I felt painfully alert, a bit vibrationally haywire. For too long my frequency had been tuned into pain and hurt and fear and ache. For too long I had allowed the dominant discourse in our country to take up residence in my physical body.
Those 3 days spent at the Fort recalibrate me. The setting is beautiful—ocean views, blue skies, boats sailing past—but it’s the energy that draws me back again and again. Standing three weeks out from the magic, Folk Fest weekend shines like a declaration: of who we are, what we stand for, what we’re creating. In a country divided, our community chose unity.
When today’s headlines are found in history books, what will be the lessons learned? Living through this time, it’s hard to have an accurate perspective. Lately it feels like the very air we breathe is filled with fear, worry, danger. It’s become so normalized that it’s hard to remember a time when this wasn’t so—until I step through the gates of Folk Fest and remember.
NFF Executive Producer Jay Sweet reminds us to Be Present, Be Kind, Be Open, Be TOGETHER. Signs placed throughout the festival grounds echo this sentiment. For those of us who return to Newport every year like a pilgrimage, this is part of why we come. In our festival bubble, all is well. I trust that I am exactly where I need to be at all times. Lines don’t concern me—there is music to be heard and friendships to be forged and maybe what I need at this very moment will be found by standing in this very line. In Newport, my needs are met by my community. This community is skilled at meeting needs that are both simple (Band-Aids, baby wipes, a blanket to return to) and complex (creating a space of presence, connection, music, and love that supports healing on a profound level).
I entered the gates on Friday, fearful, tired, in pain; body aching from the strain of bracing myself against life; ears ringing from the clamor of voices loud and persistent, filling our hearts and minds with fear, hatred, division. As the weekend progressed, I released my resistance and entered the flow. By Sunday evening’s closing collaboration, “A Change is Gonna Come,” I felt energized, aware, vibrationally tuned in, and once again inspired by what we create as a community each year. As I cruised back to downtown Newport on the water taxi, I felt peaceful. Basking in that peaceful glow, I felt certain that a change is surely going to come.