Over the past several years I have been helped at times by many people to create spaces, serve tea, and more. One of those people has become a dear friend. Ally helped create our first large tea zone at Rootstalk Festival in Salem, OR in 2011, and has brought many baked goods to tea parties of all shapes and sizes since. In 2012, she brought her talents to Sh’Bang Festival in Bellingham, WA and the Village Building Convergence this year in Portland, OR. When she invited me to collaborate with her at the Blues Recess Massive for her own free tea café, I couldn’t say no!
The Blues Recess Massive is a weeklong blues dancing festival, peaking around 300 people over the weekend. Most of the week leading up the weekend consists of building, creating, and dancing. Throughout the festival there are workshops, lessons, and skillshares. Along with some of the world’s best blues dancing teachers, anyone can offer classes. The festival is not a heavily produced and polished event. Instead, it offers everyone the chance to get involved to create the festival they want to have. People volunteer to help cook and clean, set up beautiful spaces, create dance floors in the woods, and more.
Ally arranged for a dozen of us to show up to create a free tea café, with hot and iced tea, herb-infused lemonade, baked (and no-bake) goods, oral rehydration concentrate, and a sweet lounge space. The space itself was a mini wagon circle of Edna the teabus, Ally’s own tea van, a playground of swings and monkey bars, and a parachute and rain fly hanging above for shade. Beneath was a cushy mat of rugs, pillows, mini tables, plants, books, and more. We were a 24-hour zone, staffed from 8 am until midnight, with self serve hot tea over night. Of course, we also had a Lightfoot table for writing letter.
Our space was also used for some of the skillshares and workshops. I taught several, including a three-part series on small-scale, low-impact, low-overhead, sustainable, and nomadic living. They were well attended, and people were eager to learn. I had been wanting the opportunity to teach, and this was a perfect space to do it. I love talking with people and sharing skills, information, and resources. So many people have helped me in that way, and I feel it is part of my duty as a human being to pass on good info and skills.
The backbone for this free tea café is a project that Ally has recently started, called Nomadesty. Nomadesty is a cooperative of nomads who travel with purpose. It helps connect these people with each other and offers them space to collaborate. The Nomadesty free tea café at the Blues Recess Massive was no exception to this. Amongst our tea servers, we had our friends of America ByCycle – Michelle and Ryan – who travel by bike and create documentary films on inspiring people and projects; Jon Watts, who is a Quaker spoken word artist and has bike toured with his message; myself and the tea bus; and many more folks who live and travel with purpose. As a nomad, I was happy to be a part of (and sponsor of) the Nomadesty café, as I truly feel that traveling with purpose, with something to give, is super important.
And because of this philosophy, people were stoked! I often find it hard to explain to people what it is exactly that I do with Edna the tea bus. With festivals, it is often hard to show them the worth of having a space as such. I admit, it is hard to understand without seeing it in action. I think the Blues Recess organizers half knew the value before the festival, but in the aftermath, I can say with all honesty that they were blown away. It was the same for everyone there. In the 90-100 degree heat, with late nights, and full days, it was nice for people to have the space to relax, drink a cool beverage, and reflect with their friends – new and old.
A little while after Blues Recess, I was in the general store in Sierra City, CA, where they were selling magnets with quotes from children. The one that seemed to sum up Blues Recess was: “You don’t really know someone until you’ve spent RECESS with them.” The friendships, the dance partners, the knowledge and skill sharing – all these things brought the best out of each of us as a gift to others. It was truly amazing.
It was fun to be a part of a community that the tea bus and myself meshed so well with. Justin, the main organizer for the event, had just bought a big school bus for their events (mobile dance floor, gear/people hauler, etc) and I was just the person to help with a few things on it. I also was able to help with getting some electrical issues worked out for one of the dance venues, and come help get the bus from being broke down on the side of the road and back to the venue. I love being able to help. Thanks for recognizing my skills, Justin!
Thanks to Ally and Nomadesty, all the tea volunTEArs, Justin and the other organizers, all the fabulous guests, and to the Lemon Balm, which was growing everywhere around the venue…