I just returned from four days of driving, one day of vacation at the beach, and three nights of camping at a festival on spirit, justice, music, and art. This three night, four day festival was an incredible experience that I don’t think I will ever forget. The festival was called Wild Goose Festival and it took place at a campground in Hot Springs, North Carolina. When I suggested to my wife that we attend this festival, I had no idea how incredible and unique the experience would be. So, today, as I sit in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and reflect on the past several days, I find myself struggling to put it all into words. I will probably have another post or two at some point to reflect on the lectures and workshops I attended, but for now I will just discuss the festival as a whole. And the best way I can think to describe it is to say that I learned a whole lot of NOTHING at #WildGoose14.
1. When there is NOTHING to distract you (i.e. cell phone service, WiFi, television, etc.), you discover more creative ways to entertain yourself…and your kids.
Being out in the mountains of North Carolina, a bit of a drive away from any cities, I quickly discovered that cell phone service was non-existent for me. Since we were camping, there was obviously no television. The festival did have charging stations for tablets and phones, but since there was no WiFi or cell service I didn’t really have any reason to charge those devices. That left us unplugged and off the grid.
But we quickly discovered that with nothing like that to distract and entertain us, we were actually quite creative in coming up with things to do…like my son’s new favorite game called ‘snapsticks’ (breaking hollow sticks over his leg or his head or with a karate chop). We also had an improvised s’more roast with no campfire and no chocolate.
2. NOTHING is scarier than tent camping thirty feet from train tracks and hearing a train screeching through the campground as it goes by slightly too quickly in the middle of the night.
This happened almost every night at Wild Goose Fest and it scared the tar out of both myself and my wife. I remember laying in my sleeping bag praying that God would protect us because, if that train derailed (as it sounded like it was going to)…well, let’s just say it would not be good. The morning after my first experience of this, I was grateful for family yoga.
3. NOTHING bonds you to complete strangers like spending three days together looking and smelling like swamp creatures.
Beginning on the second day of this four day festival, rain began to fall. And it kept falling for the next two days. Everyone was muddy and wet…constantly.
And it was amazing how that fact bonded us with nearly everyone we met.
4. When the adults are outnumbered by the children and you want to have an adult conversation, NOTHING works better than a little imagination.
I learned this lesson from our new friend Micah Murray as our family of four sat in our tent with him and his two boys. The kids were having a pretend campfire and Micah wanted to tell us about something that he’d experienced that day. But his almost 4 year-old son was adamant that we were telling spooky stories and not having adult talk.
[Photo from Micah Murray]
So…Micah took the flashlight, shined the light on his chin (as you do when you tell spooky stories), and proceeded to tell us the story he’d wanted to tell us anyway. And the amazing thing…it worked. His son did not argue. Micah had convinced him that the story was a “spooky story.” It was hysterical!
5. There is NOTHING more enjoyable than sitting down with a cup of coffee and having a nice conversation with a friend.
A large part of the reason we decided to go to the Wild Goose Festival was to meet some people we’d connected with over Twitter. I felt very blessed to be able to sit down with a few of them over the weekend. And was doubly blessed by also meeting some new friends.
6. NOTHING holds up a mirror to your own flaws than seeing your son mimic them.
I learned this lesson as I reflected on an experience that happened at the Wild Goose Festival over the 15 hour drive home. On the third day of the festival, I took my kids down to the edge of the French Broad River, just under the bridge, so they could play “snapsticks,” wade in the water, and make splashes with rocks.
There were a couple other kids down there. In the process of tossing rocks into the water, my son accidentally hit one of the other kids in the head with one. My son felt terrible about it and immediately said sorry. But as you can imagine, getting hit in the head with a rock hurts, so the other child was crying quite a bit. My son saw this and became overwhelmed by the other child’s pain, so he began to cry as well and tried to hide. When I asked him to come talk to me, he just yelled at me, “I said sorry.” He was genuinely sorry and genuinely concerned about the other child, but instead of reacting with sympathy and care he became overwhelmed and instead began to focus on himself and how he was feeling. I never really realized it before, but I do the exact same thing. Ouch, that reality check hurt.
7. NOTHING made me prouder on this trip than watching my wife and kids interact with others.
I’ve known since I met her that my wife, April Fiet, is an amazing woman, but watching her at the Wild Goose Festival was incredible. She was smooth, caring, kind, interested, and interesting. Everyone who talked with her seemed highly impressed. Some even told me so. And my kids were amazing, too. They handled the rain and mud and lack of sleep with ease. And they even seemed to be having a blast! My shy son had no problems making new friends everywhere we went. He even helped a worker clean up one of the tents on the last day…all on his own.
My daughter struggled a bit more with the bugs and the mud, but she made us laugh often and kept right up with her brother when it came to making new friends. I am an extremely proud dad and husband.