Kerrville, Texas. Home of the Kerrville Folk Festival. Home of the New Folk Competition. Home of the most magic all in one place like I've never felt before.
This year I was lucky enough to be part of the New Folk Class of 2018 and all the wonder that goes with it. THe morning songs, the ever changing circles of conversation, the late night circles, the early morning risers, the twinkle lights adding to the magic. The pep talk from Dalis back stage before the show did, in fact, make me cry just like I thought it would. The show shirt I brought was infinitely more travel hardy that the dress I thought I might wear and I worried about my hair (again, camping and competitions aren't great bed fellows).
The punch line is that I didn't win, but that's OK. I felt sad for about 10 minutes on the evening of the announcement. I felt slightly defeated the following day for about 10 minutes and then that's it. I feel really happy to have been there, to have shared in the magic, to have brought my family with me so they can see it too.
New Folk 2018 feels like a turning point. I don't really know to what, but it feels like an opening up, an expansion of the world, the heart, the imagination and I think that has everything to do with my family being there with me for the weekend.
More than the competition, I was worried about the Dunbars I was bringing with me into a world I've worked to keep separate from home life.
A mom and a musician. The mom feels guilty she's a musician. The musician feels trepidation to confess she's a mom. What's she doing leaving her family to go play shows? Why in the world would she bring her children along on a work trip? Moms take care of people. They think about them and worry if they're OK. But the musician, going to a gig, has to get ready for the show in order to take care of the audience. They have to take a break from caregiving for their family for a minute to find a quiet place and get their head in the game in order to be for the audience. The mom. The musician. Both in the room at the same time.
And that was the turning point. I walked into a world as both and felt permission to be both even after years of trying to be two separate people in two separate worlds. My family embraced Kerrville in a way I could not imagine. And Kerrville, in perfect Kerrville fashion, welcomed them home like they always do.
My eldest son went to song circles for the first time, stole away on his own in the middle of the night, wrote his first song, and went back to the circle to play it. Jon listened to every one of the morning songs. More songwriter songs than he's ever heard in his life and then remarked how much more enjoyable those small morning shows were to him than the stage shows in the evenings.
My two younger boys loved helping keep the camp tidy, helping fetch and unload the supplies for Lindsey. Jesse picked up the ukulele and sat in the song circle carefully listening and being a part of it. Joey took it all in from a camp chair and declared that we all need to come back next year.
There's so much more to tell. The songs, the songwriters, the song school, the inspiration, the new friends I've made, the heat and the sweating, the laughter and comraderie that came from being the dregs of the New Folk camp in the middle of the week after everyone had cleared out.
But this time I just want to tell you about that time I went to New Folk and brought my family with me and about how, thanks to the magic of songs and community built around music, I came home with a feeling of wholeness that had been missing for some time.