This past weekend we participated in community and song at the Southeastern Regional Folk Alliance Conference in Montreat, North Carolina. “Community” was the buzz word going around all weekend and as community seekers and encouragers, we were taken with the genuineness of that sentiment. We met so many beautiful and engaging souls, had life-giving conversations, shared lovely meals with each other, enjoyed late night jams and heard so many amazingly creative and inspiring songs.
SERFA is a chapter of the International Folk Alliance. We have been to a few other regional conferences as well as the International in Memphis and they all have their own flavor. Some are more hustle and business focused, but it’s folk music for goodness sakes, and at the end of the day it really is about community. Not gonna lie though, we do look for ways to present our talents in hopes of finding work. This year when we were accepted as “official showcase” artists, we were overjoyed and looked forward to showcasing our families latest body of work, ‘Over Land and Leas.”
Being a family first, we aren’t the typical band. And so, there were all sorts of dynamics and things to take into consideration as we prepared for this event. Including rehearsals, home school, meals, bus logistics, sleep schedules, attitude adjustments and basic marriage maintenance. As a mom, there were a few thoughts that went through my mind this weekend regarding our children’s participating at SERFA. First, I was absolutely humbled by their general willingness to engage at the conference, including going to their first business meeting. Second, the poise and graciousness that they offered to those that would approach them or that they would approach was beautiful to watch. There was such a joy listening to them engage in conversation with all these adults.
By the time we took the stage on Saturday night, the pride this mama had towards her children was brimming. We were performing but the whole while I could barely take my eyes off of my children and husband. During our second song, Graciana took the reigns and it was all I could do to not break down in tears. This was the image that washed over me.
We are on a mountain: I imagine an elder (me) and a child (Graciana), they are yoked together and the elder is pulling the child up the side of a cliff, strong footing, carrying the burden and pouring into that child with everything she has. It is a healthy yoke, meaning not manipulated for either parties personal gain. It is a long journey but the elder is committed to the youth and near the top of the mountain the child finds a firm footing and begins to move on dependable legs. For a moment, the youth and the adult are neither lifting or pulling but balancing each other. Both looking out over the glorious valley below. There is a subtle shift and the focus begins to change. The weight lightens for the elder and the strong footing that the elder once had becomes unstable. For the first time, the youth recognizes the weight and makes a choice to share the load. The youth offers a brace to the elder as they enjoy the view a bit longer. There is no resentment, only an understanding that this journey is not their own, that they are connected to the core of their marrow.
I can’t describe it any other way, but while on that stage, I could feel the balance between my daughter and myself, it was a mutual respect and delight. I could feel our energies working together in harmony. The picture was of an elder lifting up while the younger helps her elder down.
I wonder if this ideal of reciprocal respect and support is possible in our greater culture, specially in the music industry where ageism is such an epidemic? We grow up in a society that segregates its population based on age. Marketing in almost every capacity is targeted to a specific age group and as we grow up there is little contact with others who are not in our demographic. It seems that many mentor programs, probably built with good intentions, are hierarchical. I wonder if we are missing a bigger picture? There is a richness and depth available to both those climbing the mountain and those traversing down and I don’t think it just applies to our mother and daughter experience. I wonder if it is possible to create and nurture this image, giving opportunities for young and old to find this deep connectivity? I think it is attainable, remembering when one falls we all fall, when one is honored we are all honored.