Four years ago I stumbled upon information advertising a memoir-focused writing conference in Woodstock, NY. Because I teach memoir, I signed up. I have to admit that I was drawn to the allure of the famous or should I say infamous town, known in name at least for being the home of Woodstock, the 60s music festival. The actual festival took place in Bethel, but it is Woodstock that is forever linked with this cultural milestone.
I fell in love with the town and the festival and have been going back annually ever since. It’s always been a bit of a retreat for me. It was one of the first places that I actually “escaped” to on my own – traveling alone and not really letting anyone know where I was – so that first year, I felt a wee bit of a rebel. I celebrated my freedom and honored the Woodstock mystique by getting a spontaneous tattoo of a peace symbol on my way out of town. I had two other tattoos when I got this one, but both of those had been planned out and held very specific meaning, this one I got on the fly without thinking. And, I was so proud of myself for doing so.
It was at the Woodstock Writers’ Festival that I befriended or was befriended by Maria Wulf and Jon Katz, two people that have become friends and powerful creative influences on this blog and my work. Last year I was sick when the festival rolled around, so I missed the first day. I remember showing up in time for an evening event. It was cold and rainy, but I was excited to be there.
To me one of the joys of the event, in addition to being exposed to a wealth of world-class writers, is wandering the streets taking photographs. Color, light and character fill the streets. I have stumbled upon drumming circles and a “hippie” parade that made me feel like I had actually traveled back to the sixties. My first year there I visited this eclectic gift shop and bought myself a pink wig. When I am there, I am unfettered and free. The pink wig reflected this somehow.
Shortly after I returned home I attended a class on using the computer to create art. Unfortunately, the class was horrible. Students had so many computer problems just getting started that the teacher never even got a chance to start the class. The good thing was this gave me plenty of time to experiment and I ended up creating my first digital collage, using images I had snapped in Woodstock. It was a self-portrait and looking at it now, I realize I was already doing some of the things that have become my signature such as combining hand drawing with the digital photography. I loved the result both as a work of art and as a self-portrait. I didn’t think much when I was creating this, I just enjoyed myself, but there is something about it that is just me.
The woman in this picture is a free-spirit, she seems to be smiling, happy, energetic, but she is also peering from behind a curtain, lace covers her ace, she is not looking out with her own eyes, but rather those that are bedazzled – you question whether the eyes mask her from you or vice versa. There is a part of me that is out there, open and free, a part that is veiled. Perhaps that is the case with most of us.
The cranberry peace symbol in the upper right corner, by the way, is my actual tattoo. If you look below it the girl in the mirror where’s a different face. Her reflection is more open. It is not veiled. I like the words for which the piece is named, Hopen 4 Peace. These were snapped from a sign on a Woodstock storefront. They speak of something both universal and personal. It is what we all seek.
I leave for the Woodstock Writers’ Festival tomorrow and will return on Monday. I will be bringing my computer and ipad with me and will try to blog as I can, but the days are pretty packed with activity, so bear with me. I’ll post as I can.
Writing Prompt: Where Do You Go to Escape?