Woodstock – 40 years ago

Sweet Melinda! 40 years ago today Weedstock hit Yasgur’s farm with a blissed-out thwack–officially drawing the curtain on the muddy 60s. It was a decade that held a crazy mix of peace, protest, riots, revolution, free expression, assassination, free love, and segregation. And it was left to Woodstock to spin a hazy hope–part possibility and part fantasy–into the 70s.

I was in grade 10 when Woodstock boiled up. I had a huge desire to go without a chance of that happening. So the following year when the movie Woodstock came to Yorkton’s drive-in theatre, we Springside-five relived all four days in two hours–and then…relived it over the next 7 or 8 years.

My Woodstock was in the 70s–this is where I lived, loved and experimented–and somehow, toward the end, surfaced.

edfolkfest2009 Back to the Garden still clings to me like a tight waistcoat. Like Joni Mitchell and the song itself, we wrote ourselves in after the event. After the rain stopped and the farm dried up and the smoke cleared and everybody went home, people knew something had happened. There was a big human slurry left in the bottom of the hash pipe. We sprouted from that. We grew out of the fertile mystique of Woodstock. Part sweetness and light, part shit and gonzo. We knew that all that beauty and righteousness was mixed up with so much that was screwed up, but we plunged into the hallucination hoping for form and revelation. And mostly, we did surface–somewhat illuminated.

It’s part of me now, ingrown. Peace, love and free expression are still and always dreams to seek and hold on to. Just like back then,when the Incredible String Band played When You Find Out Who You Are, and Joan Baez sang Dylan’s I Shall be Released, we saw the connection, jumped into the Rambler and headed to the coast to go looking.

40 years hence, I’m still looking, now more often with the help of people like St. Benedict and Rumi and Patrick Kavanagh and Anne Lamont and Kathleen Norris and Cohen and Merton.

Over these decades I’ve learned that I’m ignorant of most things. Learned that yes, the "inviolable self" is part illusion, as is the "free self." And learned that, in the end, any self worth having is about a symbiosis of self-care and care of other selves.


  1. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall spun a similar hope, part possibility and part fantasy for the 1990s. It is the only peaceful event of the past 40 years which undisputably eclipsed Woodstock.

  2. wonderful post, steve…..and makes me think of meeting up with the springside 5!!! i still have to say the hippie generation was probably the most important generation in the 20th century…..so much came out of it, social reforms etc. that , though watered down by the powers that be, enacted important legislation.

    guess we were ‘junior hippies’, falling into an age category that put us between hippiedom and the disco era (i still barf at that and SO glad i didn’t cotton on to it).

    my dad took us to see the movie in a victoria theatre…i was in grade 8 and had already discovered bob dylan. the entire theatre was a smoke haze of pot :D.

    how many held on to those ideals? seems the yuppies are now retiring and all concerned about property values more then anything else. yet i’m encouraged when i meet a Y and they still vote ndp. refreshing after all the ‘i went liberal’ jackasses.

    and there’s hope with the new generation and their rainbow gatherings, burning man, blah blah. isn’t there?

  3. …and i dreamed i saw the bomber-jet-planes riding shotgun in the sky turning into butterflies above our nation…

    still dreamin

    still possible

    still faithful

    illusions aside

    care carried daily

    (…great post – thanks)

  4. So I missed Woodstock because I was preoccupied with getting married, which I did the week after Woodstock. So I actually didn’t hear about it until some weeks after our honeymoon. So I had my own illusions about my possibilities, which 40 years of marriage have served to shatter and then re-form. Nevertheless there have also been times when my relationship to my wife have been at least a bit of “back to the garden.”

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