Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Greenbelt Moments 2014

Alas...the last of my offspring has returned to their place of employment/study - so I'm home alone contemplating with delight the mix of challenge and inspiration, joy and discomfort, discovery and homecoming that was Greenbelt 2014.


A new site meant that I, along with many others, was slightly nervous before the weekend. Apart from one unhappy visit in the early 80s (when my friends wanted me to like Christian rock and I only enjoyed Renaissance polyphony!) we've only been Greenbelters for the Cheltenham years, so had no memories of happy nights on a greenfield site to encourage us, and with one uber conscientious site steward in the family concerns about arrivals, departures and associated logistics weighed somewhat heavy in the week before the festival.

And yes - getting on site on Friday was hard. 
Very hard for those with particular needs and not that straightforward even for the able bodied who had taken the theme of Travelling Light to heart....though when we arrived we seemed to be surrounded by people who were so happy to be there that the grumps and difficulties were soon sorted - and the lovely lovely volunteers who met us as we parked and asked how the journey had been, whether we were 1st timers or needed particular help were just the icing on the cake. 
For me, Greenbelt is home in all sorts of ways that I can't quite articulate - and as we came down the hill and saw the camp-site spreading out in front of us, I totally failed to suppress squeals of delight.
I know I should know better at my age - but...you know...GREENBELT!!!

It was a vintage year in many many ways. 
Sometimes the festival makes me sad about paths not taken as I look wistfully at families towing cart-loads of golden children and fall into that familiar trap about which Ann Lamott warned 
"Never compare someone else's outside with your inside". 
Sometimes I waste time wishing that I had grown into myself earlier, had not spent my 20s and 30s trying so very hard to be the sort of good girl who never walks on the grass.
This year, though, it felt good to be me. 
It was at Greenbelt 2013 that the first conversations happened that led to my move to Coventry - and I guess I'm absolutely where I should be, since there was not a whiff of envy or regret about the place  - a gift I've both noted and been thankful for.

 As the weekend unfolded, my hopes and expectations were not disappointed. But - as so often - it was the surprises that delighted me most.




Chief among them, to my utter amazement, was the absence of any reliable signal on my phone. Occasionally, a window would open for a few moments and whole raft of texts would arrive -but every time this happened, by the time I'd read them the signal had vanished and I couldn't reply...and I LOVED IT! Instead of spending the weekend anxiously working out how I could see all the people whose numbers I had carefully collected in advance, I wombled happily about the place, went to a good number of talks, heard some amazing music - and managed to see a remarkable number of dear and special people through serendipity alone. I have to accept that there is never enough time for all the conversations that I long to have, - so being relieved of the responsibility for organising them was wildly liberating - so much so that I'm tempted to try a technology fast for one day each week.

There were the predictable joys - some splendid talks (Ann Lamott talks as she writes - and is officially confirmed as the additional god-mother whom I'd not yet met: Sara Miles & Nadia Bolz Weber were as exciting and inspiring as ever);
great music (Yvonne Lyon, Grace Petrie & the Benefits Culture & more) and the annual delight of sharing Communion with friends whom we rarely manage to see much outside Greenbelt...
There was the thrill of finally becoming a contributor (interestingly this felt very much like approval from some adult whom I love and admire...) and the sheer fun of the panel itself, with friends Sara, Claire and Emma, the pleasure of basking in Sunday's sun while my youngest god-child did what three-year-olds do...and the deep deep joy of having all my children on site for at least one day, and getting to spend time with them. I love that Greenbelt is our "other Christmas", the time when we will do everything in our power to be together. This year an MPhil thesis and a complication with work shifts meant that we only had one day - but that day was quite wonderful.

Interestingly, perhaps my most powerful Greenbelt moment came about because I wasn't doing something that I normally would. 
On the Monday evening, as the rain fell in torrents, I was part of the Taize service that is almost always a Greenbelt highlight.
There was so much light in the venue that, instead of focussing on candles and icons, I closed my eyes for a while and then (completely unheard of) 
I stopped singing. Singing is my default route into prayer...It's part of who I am, and how I come before God...If there is singing to be done, you can pretty much guarantee that I'll be doing it.
But - I stopped.

And, as I sat there with my eyes closed, the voices of my fellow worshippers joined with the Communion of Saints as they sang to me
"Trust in God, do not be afraid..."
And - it was so.




4 comments:

thinkingaboutleaving said...

A lovely reflection on a beautiful weekend. Thanks for sharing

Claire said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm a volunteer on the traffic team, and as you can imagine, we had quite a challenging year, with a very steep learning curve. Reading posts like this, which are so very positive, whilst acknowledging that some things could improve, make the whole volunteering experience worth it. Ultimately, GB is family for a lot of people in many different ways, and it is lovely to be reminded of that, and to see ones own journey reflected in other people's words. Thanks again.

Dave Wilkinson said...

This was beautiful, thank you. My Greenbelt was mixed, with the ultra bad (A scooter hired on site that ran out of power after 2 hours on the first day, & when I took it back, being told that if a 2 hour day means a 12 hour recharge, well, that's what it takes., & £25:00 a day for the privilege, & losing another day at the end, with the rain, & the scooter having to be back for 7:00 pm), then there was the ultra good. The site was/is stunning. The friends we were camped with are wonderful. Some we only meet at Greenbelt, but wonderful friends nevertheless, sharing their journey with us. A night spent chatting with 3 wonderful people, 1 of whom I'm married to, in our tent, & all the laughter that we shared as a result, which contrasted with the previous night that had me in tears, & within an ace of asking my wife to take me home, as I didn't sleep, & my back was in severe pain throughout the night, for lack of a comfortable chair.
A whole mixture of things then, but your post reminded me of the joy of, as you put it, GREENBELT.
May it never change.
Also, the app for the IPad? That means all the things I missed, I can spend a year googling from my ever so comfty (My childrens word), chair.
See you next year.

Dave Wilkinson said...

This was beautiful, thank you. My Greenbelt was mixed, with the ultra bad (A scooter hired on site that ran out of power after 2 hours on the first day, & when I took it back, being told that if a 2 hour day means a 12 hour recharge, well, that's what it takes., & £25:00 a day for the privilege, & losing another day at the end, with the rain, & the scooter having to be back for 7:00 pm), then there was the ultra good. The site was/is stunning. The friends we were camped with are wonderful. Some we only meet at Greenbelt, but wonderful friends nevertheless, sharing their journey with us. A night spent chatting with 3 wonderful people, 1 of whom I'm married to, in our tent, & all the laughter that we shared as a result, which contrasted with the previous night that had me in tears, & within an ace of asking my wife to take me home, as I didn't sleep, & my back was in severe pain throughout the night, for lack of a comfortable chair.
A whole mixture of things then, but your post reminded me of the joy of, as you put it, GREENBELT.
May it never change.
Also, the app for the IPad? That means all the things I missed, I can spend a year googling from my ever so comfty (My childrens word), chair.
See you next year.