The warmth and beauty of a fire has been the heart and gathering place of humans since before recorded time. It works at any time of day, in any weather condition, no power or wi-fi needed. Fire is universal and it is familiar, and powerful. Sometimes it is sought out in desperation, sometimes just for its glow and mystique.
I think of campfires and their tendency to draw songs and tall tales. Of stoves and their ability to transform food into feasts. Of a forge, melting metal into tools, useful for survival. I think too of how fire can be a source of comfort, but it can also consume much of what means anything to us. It, like its sister water, can sustain and calm us or destroy us with its power. Love too, is similar in that way.
I remember some of my first days here, working in the house alone over the winter. I didn’t even know how to build a fire in a wood stove! But folks here taught me, sometimes built a fire before I arrived. My best days though, were when I started to build it, got frustrated, thought it would never catch, but then by afternoon having a blazing burn and not even remembering how cold it was when I had begun.
The gathering we do at the festival, the warmth and sustenance that this place provides, has that feeling of hearth and heart like fire itself. We come back to it, not only because it’s pretty, and dazzling, and unpredictable, but also because it warms and comforts us. It feels like home. It provides us with warmth, feasts, many a tune and a tale! We work to build a fire, gathering wood, chopping it, with patience and care, piling twigs and brush and then larger kindling and logs. It is the same with Shakori Hills. It starts with a gathering, day by day we work to build it up, and soon it blazes toward the heavens. Drawing others to it – full of light, life, and surrounded by music.
There are other fires. Some rage and consume whatever is in their path without distinction of value. Some anger (caused by fear?) starts small and then grows with no good understanding of why and without stopping to think through consequences. There is blame, there are lies, there is misunderstanding without communication – they consume until there is nothing left but charred remains. Black and silent.
I would like to invite you to gather around this GrassRoots fire with your friends, invite the strangers in close, sing and pick, laugh and remember. Let it inspire you to help build the fires we need – the sustaining, transforming, feeding kind – and teach others to build them as well, sometimes building them for others, helping them to understand how essential and how precious they are. Together, we have the power to keep the fire going.
Love and warmth,
Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival Co-coordinator