Saturday morning I woke to gentle but steady rain. This is the first time it has rained on our "Beyond The Borders" festival, but it didn't seem worrisome. We have the beautiful, historic Longbranch Improvement Club hall right there and, at worst, the bands could be moved inside with the artwork display, put on by Two Waters Arts Alliance. Still I felt a slight disappointment for my friend and bandmate, Mark Runions, who creates this wonderful show every year, finding musicians from all over the world who live and work in the Puget Sound area.
Then my daughter Anna woke up, in the middle of a rough "Herxheimer" reaction. As the bacteria do their monthly "die-off" they spit out neuro-toxins which make all of her symptoms turn up the volume. It was not a great day for me to leave her side, but her brother has become so good at helping her. Still, I didn't want to leave her. About this time I noticed I had a message on my phone and listened, my heart dropping further into my shoes as I heard my friend Jan tell me that there had been another break-in at the LIC, Friday night, and the hall was totally unusable. Fire extinguishers had been set off all over the place and would require a professional clean-up crew with breathing equipment. Jan sounded near tears, telling of the damage.
By the time my husband got down there, the community was pitching-in to set up everything with the determination of a populace full of good heart and strong bones. I did my best to keep taking deep breaths and put on my Les Izmore, gonzo journalist outfit, thinking I might make my friends laugh again. Finally, an hour late, I drove the six miles down to Longbranch, unable to help myself lift, anymore than I could banish the low cloud-cover. I thought of the daily Native American Elder quote I had been sent that morning, "Everything I know, I learned from listening and watching."
As I walked towards the crowd, I heard a man and woman locked in haunting, beautiful vocal harmony. It pulled at my heart and my breath came a little easier. A world of musicians had come and, finding our community hurting, set up to play in the rain and stand with us. The first band, Correo Aereo, billed as "Pan-Hispanic" was already half-way through their set and it was Madeleine who drew me in. She is a stunningly beautiful woman, in that aura to the core way. She was in her Bliss as she swayed and sang, playing wonderful rhythms with different percussive instruments. Each player was astounding in their own right, but I could not keep my eyes from the priestess Madeleine who poured soothing balm into sound and performance, blessing us all. Her dance was like one performed alone under the moon, her connection was something I could hold onto. The harmonies between Madeleine and Abel made me rock from side-to-side, with tears in my eyes. Evan's incredible stand-up bass playing gave the trio their solid, dancing foundation.
When they finished I walked, with my friend Trish, over to the hall to check out the damage. No one was allowed in, except for the forensic crew who were getting both finger and shoe prints left behind. It was then I found out that the Longbranch Church had also been hit...hard. Neighbours gathered together in small groups to talk and comfort one another, off to the side, and yet the spirit of this hardy bunch held it together. Our local drum circle began to play as the second band got their equipment set up on the stage.
I walked through the Art Show tent and voted for my favourite. So many good folk asked me how Anna was doing, knowing she would be with me if the day was a good one. All of us were so very tactile...we needed each others touch, as if it kept us safe in an unsafe world. Then the world began to give through music again, this time a family band originally from Egypt, The MB Orchestra. The band was made up of men from George Sadak's family.
This time mid to far-eastern rhythms and melodies reached for our hearts, hands and hips, music that has soothed me since I was a baby in Southeast Asia. Here too, the vocals were like prayers for us all. The ancient stringed Uhd was played by an older man who seemed as if he naturally and protectively curled around his instrument and its long history. Meanwhile, Bev Pederson and a few more of us let the rhythms bring us out from cover and into the rain to dance. I'd pay for that later...but it was good medicine in the moment!
By now, I had started to feel the pull to go home and be with Anna, though there were still two more bands to go. But first I drove down the street to the church and to the few people standing in the parking lot, while the police were doing their work inside. Thankfully, the Sanctuary and stained glass window were spared. With my silly "PRESS" hat, at least I gave them a wee chuckle and they asked me to please take pictures of the damage to show you. It broke my heart to see a happy children's room in wrecked chaos. After hugging everyone I could, it was time to go home.
My family stayed close last night. Thankfully Anna was doing a little better by evening, which is often the way with her Lyme disease. We all gathered in her room to watch a movie, insular once again. I had watched and listened to my daughter's struggle, learning from her strength. I had watched and listened to music from opposite sides of the world and knew to accept, with gratitude, the music's soothing. I watched and listened to my community's struggle, and learned we have strength together. Beyond The Borders succeeded far past anyone's expectations this year, just by carrying on. Kudos to Mark Runions, The Longbranch Improvement Club, Two Waters Arts Alliance, and the strong spirit of our community.