Lichtung (noun) (genitive Lichtung, plural Lichtungen)
- (forest) clearing
The German word lichtung has its roots in the word licht (light) which sometimes has it translated as “lighting.” The word features prominently in Being and Time; It’s my favorite non-fiction book and was written in 1927 by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. For Heidegger, lichtung was a clearing wherein something can be revealed, uncovered, or show itself. His focus was the question of being and for him, being (not to be confused with beings) stands out as if in a clearing, or physically, as if in a space. There, in that clearing, truth is accessible and authenticity begins to take shape.
MAY Fest happens in and around a clearing called Surprise Lake just east of the Hudson River and north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. On the site of a day camp seemingly unchanged since its founding in 1902, the cabins, buildings, offices, and fields are repurposed over Memorial Day weekend to usher in deep practice, dance, connection, art, food, community, and more. This is a clearing for being.
Some came just for yoga, some for the music, and some for a weekend away with the kids. Classes included many forms of yoga, hiking, drumming, dancing, tea ceremony, drawing, and more. This year the music lineup was amazing and I threw myself deeper into the yoga offerings than at the last three years combined. Between Friday night and Sunday, I did approximately 15 hours of yoga. The bands started around 6 pm and I dance most of the night till 1 am. That leaves me on my couch focusing on staying horizontal, drinking water, and writing this.
The yoga highlights (definitely check out these amazing people!) were Amy Pearce-Hayden, Marti Nikko w/ DJ Drez, and Elena Brower. MAY Fest attracts far more exciting classes than what I often find. I’ve rarely had a bad yoga class anywhere but this weekend consistently broadens my definition and appreciation for what I know yoga to be. Classes carried insightful Satsang, kirtan, dancing, partner work, and an immense amount of fun. MAY Fest always brings things to the next level.
So where’s the music? Check out this lineup (edited to those I chose to see): DJ Taz Rashid, Dar Williams, Srikala, Hayley Jane and the Primates, DJ Drez, Ozomatli, Dustin Thomas, Rusted Root, and The Garcia Project. If you follow the tag on Instagram you may have noticed there were very few photos or videos this weekend. Primarily because I chose not to take my phone with me. You’ll have to trust I was there and that it was amazing. I also recommend doing a show or two without your phone. That made the time even more immersive.
I spent most of Friday telling people not to miss Hayley Jane and the Primates. Anyone who knows me or who has read my post about them knows I’m a fan. Sadly, I missed their show but caught up with them afterward. Luckily their bassist Josh (AKA Treebeard) filled me in on the important details. “We played songs, Hayley sang, Juice (AKA Justin a guitarist) took a solo.” The excitement I missed before they went on included an amp sparking and smoking during sound check. Juice was able to borrow one from Ozomotli on the condition that he play a song with them. That is a no-brainer. More greatness to look forward to! I was extra excited because I hadn’t seen Ozomotli since 2002 (ish). They still got it. Nonstop energy and excitement. Not that I was worried but Juice nailed his spot on the encore performance of Como Ves.
Srikala did a great DJ set on the beach stage with Malia Kulp whom I know from Ecstatic Dance but wasn’t expecting to see. That was exciting and the tunes were enough to distract me from the challenge of dancing on the sand. From a DJ perspective though, Drez takes the cake each time. This was his third year at MAY Fest but the first I’ve asked him to DJ the NYC Ecstatic Dance. “Sure. I just got back from one in Costa Rica.” Of course he did. That wheel is in motion.
Acoustically Speaking (an offshoot of The Garcia Project) made an appearance in a yoga class I took to play their unique and beautifully simple arrangements of Garcia favorites. Kat Walkerson sang next to Mik Bondy on guitar, sample pedal, and additional vocals. They sat on stage watching us bend, flex, and open to Birdsong, On The Bright Side of the Road, Dear Prudence, Not Fade Away, and other uplifting, inspirational melodies clearing the space. “We weren’t doing yoga with you… but we were.” Yeah man. Later in the night their full band would take over the beach stage and do their thing as The Garcia Project. That includes playing full, original JGB sets (similar to how Dark Star Orchestra plays Grateful Dead shows). Dancing was hindered by a tweaked ankle; my body was ready for me to slow down. I couldn’t not move. That is my gauge for dancing. I only do it if I can’t not. In the downtime though, I conspired by the fire, ate a smore, said farewell to new friends, and absorbed all that revealed itself this weekend.
My new friends include yoga teachers, healers, and generally beautiful souls whom I am glad to know exist. The bulk of my weekend had me buddied up with my friend, healer, coach, mentor, and partner in lichtungen, Coyote. That’s not her name. She worked her magic healing on me, I gave her a Reiki session. We spoke, unpacked, examined, and were present (i.e. just were). MAY Fest provides the clearing for that in an overt way. The lesson, however, was to take that clearing, create that clearing, and share that clearing everywhere we go.