What Should I Wear? – Humbled by Humanity
“Is this just like a T-shirt and jeans all day sort of event?” my sister-in-law-and-good-friend asked the night before coming to join us for a weekend of camping and fun at the Red Ants Pants Festival.
“I’ve never been but I’m likely to wear shorts mostly and bring jeans/boots for when it cools off. I think it will be the kind of atmosphere where you could wear about anything you wanted.”
“Naked it is,” she replied.
“It might be embarrassing if someone else is wearing that same outfit,” I countered.
“Didn’t think of that. You’re so right.”
My sister-in-law, Bobbi, met me at my house Friday afternoon and we hit the road. Shortly thereafter Kenzie and Kim meandered along their way, Kenzie having put on her big-girl, badass panties to pull her camper for the first time without her husband. We headed excitedly toward the festival; a weekend overflowing with music, laughter, friendship, and inadvertent spooning as we each slept two-to-a-bed in the small camper.
We arrived at the Jackson Ranch, just outside of White Sulphur Springs, Montana, and found a pull-through camping spot in the dust-bowl pasture where hundreds of campers/tents/RVs had been herded. The women that greeted us at each ticketing entrance exploded with enthusiasm, smiles, and a kindness that seemed overly generous given the hours they’d already spent in the heat of the day with dust from axle after axle of tires rolling by them.
This was going to be an incredible weekend. I just knew it.
“The Red Ants Pants Music Festival is a 100% homegrown, volunteer-driven event based in a community of 900 people with the goal of bringing good folks together to celebrate rural Montana.
…Our non-profit mission is to develop and expand leadership roles for women, preserve and support working family farms and ranches, and enrich and promote rural communities.”[i]
Apart from supporting such a remarkable endeavor, there was the added bonus of Montana vendors and inspiring musicians. The headliner artists consisted of such talents as Martin Sexton, JJ Grey & Mofro, Jack Ingram, and the indomitable Grace Potter.
Bring on the freshly squeezed lemonade, 1lb bags of kettle corn, and the kind of musicality that seeps from the pores of those performing straight into my soul.
The soul of music itself translates over any manner of recording, but live music allows for a glance into the soul of the musician. And sometimes that glimpse is a palpable witness to the artist’s connection to the percussion, a reverberation of her heartbeat, the keystrokes of the piano before which she sits and pours her heart over the ivory in a wash of emotion, the solo guitar moment when artist and music seem intertwined in a way that moves me to the core. Music and musician inseparable.
In these moments the focus narrows to an intimate conversation between the musician and me. I close my eyes and exhale as she does while my world contracts and expands simultaneously. I breathe in, inviting her into my soul to become a part of me, a friend/mother/sister/confidant, a reflection of that which I crave. There’s no other way of translating this connection but through live music. And this weekend was dripping with connection.
The thing is; all these aspects of the weekend were as remarkable as I had expected.
What I hadn’t expected were the depictions of humanity that were so moving I am forever humbled, in awe of the evolution of community, connectedness – organically grown and nourished by pure human compassion. I’ve been irrevocably transformed by the experience, the reminder.
The connectivity of music doesn’t move exclusively between musician and individual, but fills the pores of those that gather around it, expanding hearts and minds alike.
I had forgotten.
I had forgotten how music and community hold hands and bring out the best in people, their truest representations:
All in attendance reverently stood still and quiet, their hats and hands on their hearts as soon as the national anthem hit its beginning notes. An acre of humans of all walks, moments before engaged in conversation, shopping, eating, laughing – then standing as one.
Big sister pulled twin toddler brothers around and around in the wagon, their 7 combined teeth brightening the world through their beaming smiles.
Kids covered in dust, stuck to their cheeks where the face paint held it captive as evidence of their glee.
Light sabers in the growing dark. Dad played with the four kiddos in the open area as people passed by. A gruff, manly man walked by, asked Dad to borrow the green saber with which to engage in a duel with the four-year-old who looked up to him with pure joy for the interaction.
A tall, slender man draped in a jumpsuit decorated with white and black sequins, his head adorned by a pair of illuminated devil-horned headband, stood shoulder to shoulder with the man in his dusty cowboy hat and boots as they visited about their admiration for the musician then playing on the side stage.
The representation of commonality brought to this weekend from every angle of preparation and implementation seemingly washed over everyone and diluted any inclination toward judgement. Those wearing river sandals, cowboy boots, bare feet, Birkenstocks, loafers – all human and all together in a feeling of community, connectedness.
Internationally accomplished musicians gave heartfelt nods to the landscape of both the local terrain and the hearts of those who live upon it. The intimacy the musicians share with this place was honest and undeniably felt.
At the end of the evening, I was lulled by contentment as I settled into my chair at our campsite and gazed at the starlight, with the breeze brushing against my face and sweeping across the neighbor’s American flag, the white stripes and fluttering movement illuminated by an adjacent light.
I’m beyond proud to have been included in this community, and grateful to have shared such experiences with my friends-who-are-family. I’m overcome, levelled, beyond humbled by the humanity I witnessed this weekend. I stand in awe of the strength, grit, and integrity Montana grows in such abundance.
Thank you, Red Ants Pants, for a weekend that awakened my senses and my spirit.
**There is another incredible community event coming up that will undoubtedly share similar notes of connection and inspiration as I experienced this weekend… and… I’m blessed to say I'VE BEEN INVITED TO BE A PART OF IT and share my heart as an author!
Subscribe to my mailing list, if you haven’t already, so you don’t miss the announcement of when and where. I’d love to connect with you there!**