“By the time I got to Woodstock ...”
I channeled that phrase from Joni Mitchell last Sunday when, at age 71, I finally visited the site of one of the most transcendent moments of my generation.
The trip to Bethel Woods —where in August of 1969 an estimated 500,000 young people descended upon on a hill and meadow off New York State Route 17B to experience the Woodstock Music Festival — coincided with our family trip to a wedding some 20 miles away in Narrowsburg, N.Y.
In both events, 50 years apart, love was in the air.
Our nephew Conrad, who grew up in Visalia, went to high school and college in Montana and now lives in Brooklyn, on Saturday wed his sweetheart Callison, a New Yorker.
Their wedding was held at her parents’ home in the Catskills, overlooking the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania border.
Conrad and Callison met eight years ago in Yosemite. She is a talented singer and songwriter, and their mutual love of music created an immediate bond. That bond grew deeper as Callison moved with Conrad to Montana, then they moved together to New York City.
Likewise, the half-million young people who trekked to Woodstock shared a love of music — as well as a message of love, peace and the beauty of the land — that could not be diminished even by traffic jams, rain, food shortages and drug overdoses on that weekend 50 Years ago.
“I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm, gonna join in a rock ‘n’ roll band. I’m gonna camp out on the land and try and get my soul free.” Mitchell’s lyrics, made famous by her friends Crosby, Nash, Still & Young, touched a lot of souls — even those of us who couldn’t make that pilgrimage to Max Yasgur’s bucolic patch of rural New York.
Five decades later some of us who came of age in the Sixties are now running the country and major corporations. Or we’ve dropped out, retired or passed on. We’re wearing MAGA caps and Si Se Puede t-shirts. We’re growing organic peaches, picking bluegrass banjo and playing Pickleball. Maybe we’ve quit drinking, but we’re taking cannabis for our pain.
Love, peace and brotherhood. Was that concept just a fad that was born in the Summer of Love, took root in Woodstock mud and died as we embraced our bank accounts and high-tech toys? Or are those Good Vibrations still alive today, even in our grandchildren who are challenged with mastering the fine art of balancing technology with the human touch?
Maybe the answer lies in the marriage of Conrad and Callison, whose nuptials blessed the hearts of young and old alike just down the road from Woodstock. After all, if Montana and Manhattan can be soul-mates, why can’t we all?
Indeed, why can’t we all, for at least a few minutes each day, sing loudly to the heavens: “We are stardust, we are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”