I received an invitation to be inspired this New Year’s Eve and Day, and I’m so delighted that I accepted it. Living in Ithaca, NY, I seized the chance to attend First Fest, sponsored by the Life Reimagined Institute at AARP. Envisioned by Bill and Jude Thomas, First Fest is a love letter to creative expression and community spirit. This year’s two-day event offered a fresh twist on typical New Year’s fare. A celebration of local music, dance, poetry, and art, First Fest invited me to engage my senses, rather than over-indulge them.
But there was something deeper I walked away with that I didn’t expect… a sense of the spiral nature of time and the unique hand we each offer in creating the present moment. Throughout the event, I couldn’t help but feel that, yes, here we are again, at this place on the wheel of the year, yet it’s a richer, wiser version of itself with more layers and nuance. This should be no surprise, coming from the Thomases, who can always be counted on to cleverly remind us that life – at any age, at any time – is an ever-evolving work of art, full of ongoing growth and possibility.
It began New Year’s Eve at Corks and More, a local wine tasting lounge, with a performance of music from 1914, newly arranged for 2014 by musician Nate Silas Richardson and a group of premier local artists. The lush harmonies were, at moments, so timeless, that when I closed my eyes, setting and space were irrelevant. It was something older and beautiful, made even more resonant by the now. The play on time continued New Year’s Day at the Museum of the Earth with “Arts in Harmony,” a First Fest feast for the senses.
Beneath a massive right whale skeleton (itself, a work of art), attendees noshed on locally-inspired appetizers amidst fossils from the Devonian period. Improvisational music blended with recorded sounds of the local, natural world while abstract photography, capturing the textures and shapes of our Finger Lakes Region, glided across the wall. Sights and sounds of different seasons filled the room, blending time and texture, mosaic-like. This became the backdrop for three poet laureates and a duet of dancers dressed in white, who became one with the art projected behind them, bringing it to life in three dimensions. I was spellbound. These artists, all of different ages, were mostly familiar to me, but their work layered in this deeply moving way became something, well, reimagined. I left there wanting to share my own gifts in new ways, to see how they might become a part of something bigger than me… hence, the metaphor.
As culture changers, the art of creating a caring community is like fine art. We are invited to shape and re-shape culture in everything we do, whether it involves our own inner world or the systems that we influence. This doesn’t mean throwing out what’s come before, but rather building on its existing strengths and beauty to create something richer that honors the wisdom of time. The opportunity to grow, become, and transform is ever present… we simply have to take it. No more hiding… it’s time to come out, try something new, and (gasp) maybe even shine! And as we each have powerful gifts to share – no matter who we are or how old we are – together we are even stronger and more dazzling. In the First Fest program notes, a quote from Bill Thomas says, “The right to ‘reimagine’ our lives, our work, and our communities belongs to us all.” What more is there to say? Heed the call. Make this year count.