Music has always been a source of comfort for me and an outlet of expression when I often don't have one. Now, I should clarify by saying that I cannot actually PLAY music. That takes actual hard work and effort. But I CAN listen the heck out of music. I like to think I have a decent ear for it and can sometimes strike the right mood or convey the right sentiment cribbing the hard work and self expression of those much more talented than I.
As Rob Gordon, in one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies, High Fidelity, says, "You're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing". While my current emotions and thoughts about The Farm's imminent closure are varied and vacillate, I thought it best to try and direct my thoughts and reflections through the making of a mixtape of sorts. I'm going to go through each track one by one on the blog but if you want to listen to the whole list, it is on Spotify:
1) Wildflowers- Tom Petty off Wildflowers
Far away from your trouble and worry,
You belong somewhere you feel free
Those volunteers that came down to The Farm during my time will likely recognize this one. It was played as the entrance song as groups entered the chapel on the first night of reflection and so I think it's only appropriate that it starts this playlist. It was Jamie's suggestion during our first planning session. I don't know if Colleen had ever heard the song before, but I had not, only being familiar with Petty's more anthemic offerings. But much like the rest of our year would unfold, the three of us came to a quick agreement (perhaps relieved to have made a choice so quickly). McNicholas seemed pretty receptive to it. Looking back, I have to laugh because I don't think we could have picked a better match of song for chaperones than this one with Hutch and Sara. The next time during our planning meeting it seemed so natural once again to use the song...and a tradition of sorts was born.
It's a little weird to think of this titular song on a divorce album as the welcome song to The Farm but I guess context makes all the difference. Everything about this song reminds me about the peace of The Farm. The folky guitars and the jangling of the piano keys meander their way about, and I can almost hear the crickets singing us up to the chapel. And the central sentiment of this retreat to a very natural and peaceful freedom is just so perfect for what The Farm represents. It's this incredible oasis of peace in a hectic world. Turning down Lower Kinney Road did at times seem a little like time travel. It's like you were going back to a time where human connection and interaction were paramount and things like busy schedules and glowing screens only got in the way. It's pretty incredible what would happen during those weeks when we removed those self-imposed shackles. No longer worried about what was to come, we became enamoured with what was happening at that moment. It afforded us the opportunity to truly and deeply connect with those we encountered and made it so that people we knew for a week became fast friends. This incredible Presence is something I cherish and something I strive toward (often unsuccessfully) as often as I can. I think that for me, the idea and image of Wildflowers is forever linked to those intense and energizing feelings of true connection.
There's another important aspect to the song and that's the feeling of belonging. It's the confirmation that you, yes YOU, belong in this place. You deserve to be among the beauty, the quiet, and the peace. I think in a society built on schedules and achievement, we becomes so hard on ourselves. Shortcomings become condemnation rather than constructive learning experiences and we work so hard to scrub out any sign of them. I think there is certainly value in learning and growing and moving onward and upward but I think we're so anxious to get past those moments that we often don't fully heal and don't fully forgive ourselves for them. But this song speaks to the idea that we do indeed deserve to be happy and at peace and we have a place we can do so.
I think The Farm functions as that place for many. It's a place to belong, regardless of who you may think you are or what you may think you deserve, The Farm, with its commitment to valuing connections with each person it encounters, affirms again and again that you belong in this place. I experienced it myself and saw it happen to countless other volunteers. The Farm is a pretty foreign concept to most. The rural setting, the pace of life, and the sometimes head scratching rules are unfamiliar on their face. But somehow you get this sense of rightness when you're there. I can still remember driving back from Construction when I was a volunteer in college, trying to decide what I was doing post graduation. And the more I thought about it, the more I could picture myself there, at The Farm. I found a place I belonged.
To this day, this song still has a centering quality for me. It's a reminder of days spent laughing, working, sharing, and being with others in the most intense way possible. It's a call to always be present, to always have fun, and to always love. It was such a blessing to be able to live in that for 14 months, 14 months where I got to be far away from trouble and worry and somewhere I felt free.