My Four Lifelong Lessons from Woodstock 1969

It was 40 years ago- almost to the day- that I was wandering around at the Woodstock Festival. Separated from my travelling companion, and just had my 17th birthday few weeks beforehand, I was lost, muddy and very wet. So I scanned for a place to nestle in. There really wasn’t much available so I simply walked toward the stage, saw the entrance and walked in as though I belonged there. Though there was a ton of security, no one seemed to pay attention to me so I just walked straight back to the service trucks where I would find some cover. I stayed there for a bit until the sun set and slept there, backstage, in the sound equipment truck. First lesson: be audacious, bold and take action.

The following day when I was discovered walking around backstage with all of the roadies, rock stars and very very interesting looking hippies who were much older than I was, I was discovered and told to split. I dreaded having to go out into the enormous crowd; alone, no sleeping bag, no food, nothing. Before I left to go looking for my next refuge I noticed a guy nearby who was sitting crossed legged on a table. He had a huge Afro and round spectacles with green lenses. Looked very trippy. Anyway, he looked at me intensely and sort of ‘tractor beamed’ me over to him. I was intrigued. He looked at me as though he was expecting me. He said, “Man, like we’re either green and growing or we’re ripe and rotting… but we’re never standing still.” I was close to getting kicked out of there, scared and alone and this guy drops this ditty on me. I thought to myself in my 17yr old cranium, Ohhhhhhhhkayyyyy… then smiled, flashed a peace sign and went on my way. Happily I carried that phrase around in that cranium (no unadorned by hair) for years and year and then, after college- my ‘formal education’-, his message became clear to me; indeed, we grow or rot! It was then that I committed myself to continuous learning and I live by that credo some 40 years later.
Second Lesson: follow your instincts, listen and store data even if you dont ‘get it’ at first because it just might carry a nugget of wisdom.

Early the next day, which was to be the first official day of the festival- when the music was to begin- I was again discovered and scolded to ‘get the #@!&a out of this area now, kid’. Scared, tired and alone, I jumped up and hung on the fence that separated the stage area from the massive audience with an eye on scoping out my next ‘landing area’. All I could see was an endless sea of people. It was a bit daunting because I was in the middle of what the reporters described as a ‘disaster area’, feeling alone and overwhelmed. I had never seen this large a crowd in my life. Noone had. And as I scanned the crowd which went back as far as the eye can see, I saw, not more than 20 feet from me a vision that was surrealistic. It was a group of friends from my high school! I couldnt believe my eyes. Was it a mirage? No, it was them, my friends from home (which was hundreds of miles away). I was away that summer working at a camp way up north so I had no idea that they were going to the Woodstock Festival. There were no cell phones with which we stayed in constant communication- so we were out of touch. I climbed over the fence and was feeling relief and comfort just being with them. Still no food or shelter but the warming comfort of friends. Third Lesson: scan the field for opportunity- it’s always there even if seems like the odds are against you.

I was ecstatic at finding and hanging with my friends (who were with their older sibs so we were, at some level, feeling more comfortable). They shared what little food they brought – and we ran out the next day. No more food, but lots more music and awesome vibes. We were sustained by the music and energy. People we almost euphoric at being part of this Woodstock Nation. Someone was leaving the ‘madness’ and gave us two sealed bottles of wine and an orange. We were so excited to have something to consume so we made it all dissapear in a matter of 5 minutes. Thus, we got very dizzy, headache and low blood sugar. Took a while to get back on our feet.
Forth Lesson: Love your wine, don’t drink it on a very empty stomach.

Crazy time, amazing festival and lifelong learning:
Be audacious, follow your instincts, look for and discover opportunity and, if it comes in the form of wine,… take it slow!


2 responses to “My Four Lifelong Lessons from Woodstock 1969

  1. You never know where and from whom life lessons will come from.
    In the mid 70’s when I was close to high school graduation my stepmother and I were in Santa Barbara wandering through some artist workshops, where the old warehouses use to be. At the time I was struggling with what I wanted to do after graduation, when we meet a sculptor who was working on an abstract marble design. He look the role of a 70s sculptor, with the hair, beard and covered with marble dust. He told me to do like what he does with his sculptures, and remove the elements in my life that I didn’t want and reveal and embrace what is remaining then you will find your true nature and direction.

    There are Guru’s walking around everywhere you never know what you will find if you open up yourself to life’s possibilities.

    Great article, thanks

  2. William Campbell

    It’s refreshing when I see people take lesssons from life. Too often we waste important moments. Keep on growing…we all need it, especially the short dim ones.

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