For the last 7 years Bangor Maine's biggest music event of the year has been an enormous, 3 day, 5-stage folk festival held at the end of August, and admission has always been FREE. It is an extraordinary treasure for the region and for all attendees -- unique and irresistible music from all over the country and the world, dancing, local craft and homemade product booths, delicious food, and crowds of tens of thousands of very happy people moved to mellowness or joy or wonder by the magic of music.
I believe is partly due to the success of the folk festival that Bangor has put so much care and attention into its waterfront downtown, which used to be a shambles of junk along a railroad bed. It is heartening to see a community putting so much pride and effort into the face it presents to the world, and so many people all together enjoying it.
My birthday has fallen on a festival day several times. It is a great way to celebrate - or make an extended celebration, since we often go for all three days. J and I, plus our two present daughters and friends, all went into town yesterday.
Yesterday's trip to the festival was helpful in another way this time as well. It was a way to pull ourselves out of a stunned paralysis of grief.
J got word in the morning of the sudden, accidental death of one of his best friends from college, a bright, passionate, vital man - deeply devoted husband and father. We've also known his wife for 28 years, shared each other's lives of growing love and growing family.
Living through life, there are these inevitable seismic shifts that devastate. They alter the present and the future irrevocably. You read about them in the paper every day -- sometimes they affect entire regions, sometimes they are local and personal, but they are always equally tragic to those at the epicenter. It is only our good fortune if the seismic shifts don't hit too close to home, and don't come very often.
For our friend's family, this is a shipwreck without warning. Sometimes you are sailing along under sunny skies, then suddenly your mast is snapped off and you are inexplicably adrift.
In the very moment that I was feeling both grateful about my life so far and hopeful for my life to come, just arrived at age 50, the news of our 50 year old friend's death left me struggling for explanations, where there are none.