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NGI Recipient: Julia Eager

Session Attended: Folk Music Society of New York and others - TradMaD (2018)

I came to Pinewoods in a packed car on a dusty road, half-asleep with sunlight and half-awake with bumps in the road. I remember snapping fully back to consciousness when someone rolled down the window, and I caught my first breath of the air: rich, rain-wet soil, incubating mushrooms, mingled with the dry tang and snap of pine. We pulled up in the heart of camp, the innermost tangle of cabins, and I immediately leaned out the window like a dog on a road trip to bark a hello at some understandably startled friends. My first memory of camp, newborn, staggering on wobbly legs, was even then surrounded by familiar faces.

As time passed and the week went on, camp provided a natural rhythm to tumble into headfirst: waking, eating, singing, dancing, sleeping. I learned that while workshops were invaluable, sometimes all I needed was an hour alone, watching the glimmers of light that the water tossed and refracted back to the sky. Learning was immeasurably good, but what was equally delightful was the ability to fall into a group of people, singing whatever came to mind, and be caught by an immediate web spun of harmony. Life gained a simplicity that filled my head and my chest. The frantic press and spin of dancing interspersed with the quiet moments, soft exhales of wind through treetops, fed me somewhere I hadn’t even known was hungry.

The end of the week felt like the end of an era. As a friend and I commiserated, each day felt like a week, but the week felt like a day. I wasn’t sure how to leave Pinewoods without leaving some small but vital piece of myself, so I packed my pillowcase in my backpack. I opened the zipper once on the way home, just once, and let myself memorize that little breath of wild, pine-smelling air.

Thank you to the incredible staff, who pour their lives and themselves into the music they carry, cultivate, and share. Thank you to friends at Pinewoods, old and new, who welcomed me with the widest-open arms I’ve ever had the privilege to meet halfway. And the most enormous, capital-letter Thank You to Joy and Heather – without the benefit of the NGI scholarship (and words of encouragement), I never would have been able to find everything I found at Pinewoods. I can only hope to retain every note of the music I learned, cling to memories of singing under the moon, and wait, with bated breath, until the drowsy end of next year’s August. Thank you, thank you, thank you.