We left for Merlefest in a tailspin. This was all I’d managed to pack by Wednesday. That’s not entirely true; the tent has been in the back of my car since last Merlefest. Our eight-man shelter, affectionately dubbed the Taj MaTent, is just exactly perfect for three girls who camp with artwork and disco balls.
Audrey and I went up together on Thursday morning. We’d each had a tricky week. Neither of us were in prime condition. We swung by Julia’s, intending to pick up a tarp and drop off a car in Durham, and realized we’d forgotten to bring the extra car. I blame the critical error of waiting until Durham for coffee. Audrey had forgotten socks, and I had forgotten my phone charger. My back was in knots. But we were confident that Merlefest would take care of us. On the way out of Durham we saw this:
and we thought, yep, that’s about right. A little off kilter, and basically fine.
A lot of the stress fell away as we drove through a rainstorm, and then up highway 421 in the mist.
Things felt better and better, and when we finally saw this sign,
we knew we were home.
Audrey and I are not what you’d call “strong” campers. We have enthusiasm. We do not have knowledge. I was feeling some trepidation about setting up the Taj MaTent, given my wonky back and the cloudy skies and the number of poles and stakes involved. We pulled up to the VFW office to check in, and two vets who looked like the heckling muppet guys greeted me. “Damn!” one said to the other. “Every carload gets better and better looking! Woo hoo!” Then I got to the office and our friend Alex from last year gave me the warmest, homiest greeting a girl could ask for. My confidence swelled. We found our exact campsite from last year, and Audrey and I coaxed the Taj into a vertical, mostly taut status. It was beautiful.
Our first order of business was to hang the artwork, and then we had the disco ball ceremony. See, in nomadic cultures, the chief carries a hearth stick, and plants it in the ground at each new resting place for the tribe. The community orients itself around the hearth stick, and everyone knows exactly where they fit. It is powerful architecture. It is the cosmic axis. It means “home.”
We hung the disco ball, and said a few words to the effect of, “Let the Merlefest begin, walk in peace and love, power to the music.” We unzipped the tent to toss in our sleeping bags, and there, nestled in the center, was a pair of clean socks in a neat little ball, which Audrey had left behind last year.
Merlefest magic. And so it began.