This morning I am dancing. If not in reality—in heart and mind. I twisted my ankle last night rising up from the granite front steps of my apartment building. Not such a big deal— nothing broken. Not bones or teeth or glasses, not even pride. I have learned over time that I am a great faller. A bit of a dance dive of swanlike movement in which I let go and allow myself to land and then laugh, roll over, and pop up. I have done this with friends and family, my love, and myself. I know that the ankle will be fine, eventually. This timing, however, sucks. In four days, the Folk Festival comes to town; the river’s banks become my pounding dance floor; drums and horns, keyboards, and all kinds of instruments I have never seen will wail their miraculous sounds into my world…and, trust me, I will dance.   —Annaliese  (8/9/13)

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DANCING IN THE BACKYARD

Is home really a piece of real estate? Perhaps it’s wherever you dare to plant your lawn chair and dance, bare feet and all.

If you spy a middle-aged woman walking along downtown Bangor’s streets, carrying a lawn chair, say hello, wave. It’s me. On my way to the backyard.

I know. You’re thinking that backyards are attached to the place where the person lives, to the “back” of the house or the apartment building, in a way that enables the resident—in this case, me—to just scoot out the door and be there. But mine requires a short walk—down Harlow, by the library, past city hall, and then across a few streets—before I spy my yard. Right there on the river. Who would have thought I’d ever have waterfront property!

It’s just the right combination of quiet and the hum of humanity strolling through: couples, families, the wheelchair wonder-driver who always navigates every path expertly, and the mini ball team, whose coaches are trying to teach them more than ball.

But in a few days, thousands of people will walk, dance, and sing their way through my backyard. And I will be happy to welcome them home as the American Folk Festival spills out along this river. Remember what fun we’ve had? Aren’t you glad I loan it out?

Before everyone arrives, however, there’s a lot to do. And so I give over my yard and my chair-sitting to the workers who will do it all, and, instead, come early mornings to watch the fog lift up off the water and roll through the bridges as the sun consumes the sky.

But now, even this early, the riverfront is alive—with the laying down of water connections, electrical lines, and walkways; with the measuring and marking, the hauling, and the tamping down of granite slabs into pebbled dirt; and with the workers shouting instructions—“Hey, Johnny, hold on just a minute, I almost got the sucker!”—as they balance and shift, slide and hoist.

I find myself coming now every morning. I walk. I stop. I talk. I stand by a tree and just watch.

If I’m honest, what I most want to bear witness to is how Parking Lot #7 becomes my dancing world for three days. Although in past years I have been content with the notion that a dancing stage and its attendant blue-and-white-striped tent can spring full-blown out of tar, this year I must see it happen.

I stand under a tree and watch white wooden two-by-fours, threaded one by one into the striped fabric, lift the tent high up over the parking lot. Men in orange and green and red tighten every strap, build a stage, string loops of yellow cords with yellow-caged lights around and across and through. Finally, they lay down four-by-eight sheets of hardwood flooring.

Two carry a sheet; one wields the whirring screw gun; and—this is what amazes me—another painstakingly putties the rough spots so that my bare dancing feet—and they sometimes are bare—are not splintered. It never occurred to me to be cautious of my feet in the hours and hours and hours I have danced with friends and neighbors and all the others. I am so grateful that this Public Works man has, I am tearing up watching him scoop putty onto the knife and bend down to smooth it along the ridge of the worn wood.

IT’S A SHORT LIFE. COME DANCE!

website AJ folk festival image

Kevin Bennett

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