My partner and I recently made the long trek to Clinton County, Ohio to the Nowhere Else Festival, organized by Over the Rhine, a singer songwriter duo from Ohio. The festival, held each year at their farm, raises money for the restoration of their barn into a performing arts centre.
It was a powerful reminder of just how important both music and food are to the soul; a reminder that came at a good time, as we contemplated what our province might look like after the June 7th election.
We encountered a few bumps in the road on our long drive to Nowhere Else. A vigilant U.S. border guard noted that both of us had criminal records for political activism and put us through our paces before (begrudgingly) allowing us to enter his country. Our encounter had us wondering whether we might be turned back or even arrested for some long past outstanding warrant. It was a brief but harrowing experience that helped me appreciate vividly what a true horror crossing borders is for so many people in the world. Unpleasant as our border crossing was, we were white, had Canadian passports, cash in our pockets and credit cards in our wallets. And, if we had been turned back, we had a home to return to.
Nonetheless, we were sweating more than a little by the time we drove away from the border and onto Highway 1-75 for the trek south. Although we were ready for some smooth sailing to the festival, such was not to be. We encountered a series of detours that took us many miles out of our way and slowed our progress considerably.
Liquor is quicker. . . maybe
We had decided before leaving home that, rather than carry alcohol across the border, we would pick up what we wanted once we got to the U.S. I had pictures in my head of private liquor stores on every street corner. After all, I thought, a state that gets four out of a possible five stars on the gun friendly test must surely also make it easy to buy booze.
Not a drop appeared to be for sale in the first several towns we drove through. In one community, we discovered a drive-through liquor store called “Ooh Ooh Drive Thru” that sounded promising but, on closer inspection, it looked so terrifying that we drove off rather than through.
I am pretty sure we could have bought a gun more easily than we bought our Yuengling beer and gin, which we eventually managed to score in a very reputable, decidedly un-terrifying looking, pharmacy.
Favorite time of light
By the time we arrived at Nowhere Else, we were tired from the two-day drive and more than a little flustered by our border experience.
However, all of that disappeared from our minds quickly. We were treated to an incredible farm to table dinner, with ingredients provided by local farmers. After that, we sat in a giant tent in the middle of a farm field, watching the sun set as we listened to a concert by our hosts, with guest appearances by some of the musicians who performed over the course of the weekend. It was truly magical or, as Over the Rhine sings, “the favorite time of light.”
Worries about work, the provincial election and all those other things that regularly wake me up at 3:00 a.m. vanished as we let ourselves be absorbed by the power of the voices and instruments that surrounded us.
That feeling held for the next two days, despite the oppressive heat and humidity, as we heard from both well and lesser known performers, some familiar and others new to us.
Music, good food, a gentle setting, the company of friendly strangers: there is nothing better for the soul. Whatever happens on June 7th, I now feel ready to take it on.