Look, here’s some honesty.
When I first heard about this Indie Grits on the river plan, I was a tad ambivalent (as expressed in some raised eyebrows and a, “Huh, that’s interesting…”). I had a blast attending this year’s festival and was still soaking in its afterglow. I enjoyed it so much, I was determined to become an official part of the next festival and was lucky enough to get an internship. I wanted 2016 to be as awesome as 2015, and I had doubts that Indie Grits on the river could be as fun and accessible as the festival I had experienced in the heart of downtown Columbia. I suppose this is a common problem: clinging too much to the past and precedent to embrace a new vision for the future. Well. I’ve been converted. Or maybe just brainwashed by the charismatic personalities here at the Nick. But really. I’ve glimpsed a clearer possible picture of the future, and it’s a lovely image.
Two experiences I had a few weeks ago helped alter my perspective. The first was a meeting with the property owner of a stretch of riverbank where we’d like to host the main events of the festival. Not only is this area gorgeous and in an ideal location, but the genuine enthusiasm and future-forward vision of the owner, Charlie Thompson, for the festival and the city’s continued engagement with the river, were especially inspiring. This and the positive exchange of ideas between Andy, Seth, and Charlie re-solidified the reasons I wanted to become a part of Indie Grits – for the simple pleasure and beauty of it, the passionate people involved, and its potential to help this city grow. Suddenly, the river idea started to make sense.
Following this meeting and the excitement it stirred up in me, a few Nick team members and I took a kayaking trip down the river, led by Palmetto Paddlers. This excursion served as research for a possible flotilla of kayakers during the festival, who would ideally conclude a trip at that beautiful stretch of the riverbank. The members of the Palmetto Paddlers were friendly and professional guides and our trip increased my excitement and appreciation for the natural beauty we have here in the middle of Columbia.
The day reached a peak with a surprise during the final leg of the kayak outing. After fluttering around our group, a small butterfly decided to settle on my life vest, inches from my face. I could see usually imperceptible details of its delicate beauty: the puzzling compound eyes, beaded antennae, and feathery body. And it stayed there. For the rest of the trip. Even sticking it out through some rapids. When I climbed out of the river and pulled off my vest, it was still there, crawling along my body, until it finally, abruptly shot up high into the air and flew away, our river hangout over.
Here’s a secret I haven’t told anyone until now. I know why the butterfly kept me company for so long. I am one of a few privileged individuals gifted in the secret, silent language of butterflies, and this particular one had a message to deliver. Roughly translated, it was this:
“The river, our river, is a beautiful and valuable thing. It’s something to be treasured and enjoyed with pride and respect. Humans need to know that. If you are all willing, your festival could promote that, and 2016 will not be as great as 2015, but better.”