The August long weekend is the date of our annual party at Birdsong. We start on the Friday afternoon and the last guests usually clear out by noon on the Monday. In between there is always lots of food, drink, chatter, and music with friends old and new coming together on our little patch of Gabriola compound.
This year we decided to combine a house concert/community dinner with the party and ended up feeding about 65 people on the Saturday night, and I think we saw about 80 people in total over the course of the weekend, with 30 of those folks staying at our place in tents and in the house. We don’t hire anyone to help, so yes, it’s a ton of work but our friends share the DIY spirit and many people pitch in over the course of the weekend to help with food prep, dishes, kid wrangling, and tidy up so that by day two the party takes on a really self-sustaining vibe.
This was our fourth year doing it (we started the first summer we moved here) and for me it was the sweetest one so far. We did a lot of food prep in advance, freezing meat skewers, pulled pork, and vegetarian chili that all came out ready to cook or be reheated. This year I also organized a few activities that were well received – Saturday morning yoga in the park, disco happy hour in the afternoon (blender drinks, ABBA!), and an artist talk on Sunday by the creator of a piece we are hosting for a few weeks. Although the days remained free flowing, these scheduled activities gave everyone drop-in points if they were interested in having them. They also gave me timing points that helped organize the work we needed to do each day.
Throwing a three day party is a bit of a thing, but the length of time people have together really helps open up deeper conversations and relationships than is possible in a few hours over drinks in someone’s living room. As hard as I worked, there were so many moments in which other people took over and I could just relax and enjoy the companionship of good people and music. I made some surprisingly tender connections with a couple of people, had a rousing singalong of Bony M’s Rasputin with my former bandmate Jon, and got to drop into a truly delicious yoga practice on a bluff above the sea.
On the last night of the party I went down to the ocean at high tide with some friends and we swam out while watching the last light of the day disappear on the horizon. I haven’t swum at night for a long time, and I forgot the pleasure of feeling adrift, looking up at the lit houses on the bank above while floating on my back in the bottomless water. I felt stoned when I came out, heavy with the pleasure of a massage as I padded up the trail, now faint in the after light. It wasn’t quite the end of the weekend for me, but it stands out as a moment in which I felt the deepest of gratitude for the companionship of friends and of nature, full of all the possibilities of a well lived life.
Most years I get to the end of the party and tell Brian that I’m not sure if I ever want to do it again. This year on Monday morning we sat up in bed drinking our coffee and talking about what we could do next year to make things even better. Too exhausted for any new ideas, we gave up in the moment and simply focused on what the days had meant for us: a chance to connect people to one another, to do service for our community, and to participate in a different vision of the world if only temporarily. Full up, we are, with the gift of being able to bring people together in this way.