A week ago I spent a fine spring morning skiing Breckenridge. It was sunny and warm, and I was already tired and a bit sore from hitting the slopes pretty hard the day before at Keystone. By noon on Friday the snow was softening up to make skiing more difficult than I was ready to challenge. I called it a day and sat on the patio at the base of Peak 8 to have a bite of lunch and soak in the sun. At three o’clock, Yonder Mountain String Band began their free show. They’re essentially a nationally known local band, and thousands gathered for a great afternoon of music in the high country.
I had a blast listening to the music and enjoying the company of good new friends. It was fun to watch the people in the crowd, too. I found it amusing that the entire experience was much like a flashback to forty or more years ago. The music, though new, was reminiscent of the tunes I heard in high school and college, and those in the crowd seemed to be the same ones I had seen at so many concerts “back in the day.”
I was surrounded by young people dancing and having a good time. Quite a few young men were sporting long hair and beards. Men and women alike were dressed in patched jeans and tie-dyed shirts. Halfway through, a Security guard was carrying a corpse-pale fellow out. The smoke wafting overhead many times had the sickeningly sweet and acrid smell I remember so well, and it still turned my stomach.
One of the biggest differences I noticed, though, was that mixed in with the twenty-somethings was a large contingent of men and women with grey in their hair. Close to half of everyone in attendance was my age or older; everyone grooving on the music and the experience. When I was the same age as the younger music lovers in the crowd, we were the only ones in the crowd. Our parents (and grandparents) were still at home watching Ed Sullivan or Red Skelton and hoping they weren’t going to get a call from the police or medical personnel that we were in some kind of trouble.
When the music ended, we all politely made our way on down the mountain to our cars or to catch the bus, chatting in the gondola, sharing anecdotes about the music, and realizing that we were connected in some way. I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of guys who looked like they were fresh out of high school. Just so happens that they had graduated from the school not five miles from my house. We talked about places we all knew and music we enjoyed from Omaha bands.
Not much had changed. I wasn’t at the Civic and didn’t have an hour’s drive home to my little town, but it seemed as if I was still here in the Midwest even if it was ten hours or so and several thousand feet closer to sea level away. Even so, we weren’t just high on the mountain (and they might have been higher than that). We were sharing the moment above the clouds of reality and just enjoying life and possibility.
I hope it is always this way. Despite the misgivings many have about our country, I see hope and hopefulness everywhere. It’s nice to be able to enjoy these things, including the people who are my hope for the future. I feel pretty good about it.