Permajam at Toye Recreation Campground- Sussex, NJ

65 miles northwest of NYC is a small campground tucked away on the NJ/NY border. The closest town of note Warwick is just 15 miles East and remains famous for their annual apple fest, associated “pick-your-own” orchards, and a prominent “upstate” destination for city folk. The Toye Recreation Campground has been the home of Permajam for the last two years. I learned about the event through one of the founders whom I have been networking with for nearly a year. He attended the launch party for my charity and I have introduced him around town to those with similar interests, views, and experience. Permajam, in their own words, melds “music, art, ecology, sustainability, and ancestral wisdom to create an unforgettable experience for generations to come.” Music, workshops, and community gather for four days and I didn’t want to leave.

The initial vibe was hippie Club-Med or maybe the outskirts of a Rainbow Family gathering. Part Burning Man crowd, part nascent expert expo, it was at least an escape from the noise into a quiet wooded campground with minimal injections of management to overshadow the landscape. No obtrusive construction or out of place modernity. Vendors served from their vans or tents and the stage was just large enough to host the musicians and power some sound for those nearby. A map and workshop schedule was posted near the entrance and we were encouraged to photograph them as no paper copies would be distributed. Throughout the day were classes on yoga, foraging, crafting, healing, spiritual connection, sweat lodge session, and of course the bands.

Some of the bands were familiar such as Moon Hooch who I had recently seen at Mountain JamSchwizz who played at Brooklyn Bowl, The Nth Power, and Deadgrass. I knew my friend Island Girl was there Saturday and hoped to be there long enough to see Deadgrass. She had to leave soon after I got in on Sunday. My plans to arrive  Saturday were shattered by ominous clouds on the horizon that implied setting camp in the wet and dark was in store. Sunday morning I set camp with a friend who had just purchased an amazing floating tent called the Stingray. Connected to three trees, this triangular tent has the feel of a tight hammock and prevents the rock issues with traditional tents. Setup was relatively smooth for our first time with it. Purple hammock for scale: 

Stingray tent

We started the day with a cacao ceremony which essentially means meditate after imbibing 40 grams of cacao stirred into hot water. The intention was to enjoy the vasodilator qualities (reduction of blood pressure) of raw cacao while guided through meditation. While I would have been open to a meditation without the cacao, I was also open to cacao without meditation. The implication infused in the space Permajam creates is that you bring intention to all you do.

One quality of some workshops was this “nascent expert” phenomenon I mentioned. Some presenters were honest about their lack of experience. Some in that group were simply sharing a hobby. Others however openly had never led a workshop before and had only been working in their related field for two years or less. I love their passion but the experience turned me off to other workshops. Later I learned I missed some good ones but I’m grateful for the time spent in the massage classes and a friend had a powerful experience in multiple workshops. All the reviews of the sweat lodge sessions were positive as well.

The music was great but the crowds didn’t show for the bands till the later sets. Moon Hooch had the entire space dancing and stayed after to play at the fire. Deadgrass played an early set and included some great cuts including Wild Horses a la Old And In The Way. As the night drifted on, my musical highlight was just emerging.

Between a Reiki/ elixir/ mushroom vendor and a jewelry/ elixir/ tincture vendor were a small firepit and some folding chairs. We were in view of the main fire but tucked into the vendor corridor enough to have our own space. The Reiki practitioner was the same who allowed me time with their singing bowls at Beardfest. Later I learned the jeweler was there as well. We played music till the wee hours. Drums, uke, guitar, didgeridoo, singing, and laughing all night long. In between songs we talked philosophy and history. We asked questions and told jokes. It was an effortless gathering of insight, ease, openness, and sharing. I felt I had known everyone for years and we spoke and played from that deep connectedness. Many times I don’t play in random drum circles or music pick-up groups. In this case, there was real listening and valuable contributions from everyone involved. This was the place where the weekend became real. This was what I came for.

We left Tuesday evening and stopped for a meal at a restaurant on the way to enjoy hot food and being served. My experience was that of connection, family, peace, and of inspiration. Aside from the conspiracy theorist and the stoned dude who unwittingly tried to play on top of all the other instruments, the collaboration was effortless and truly beautiful. I started to reflect on the circles of people I connect with and thought this was an open, accepting, and enticing space to spend time in. Analog, musical, creative, healthy, sane. I choose to learn from all the circles I play in but want to keep this present for me.

The next day I had a two-hour session with one of my teachers. She helped solidify the experience and the embodiment of my concerns, intentions, and directions. We discussed nascent experts, balancing male and female energy, what to bring/ expect from a relationship, sex as a prayer, and how on Earth did she manage to miss String Cheese at Mountain Jam. Maybe this fest was impactful because of the people, maybe it was the music (or that I played a lot of it); either way, I feel great and want to share the feeling with anyone who will listen.


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