When In Rome

I need to preface this blog entry by stating that I love Sister Hazel and I love their music.  Now that I’ve put that out there, please hold on to that statement as we will be coming back to it later on in this entry.

Lee and I traveled to Rome, Georgia this past weekend to watch Sister Hazel perform at the First Annual North Georgia Music Festival.  Of course, this immediately implies there will be a Second Annual North Georgia Music Festival, and Lee and I will most likely be making the 8 hour trip up I-75 again next year.  With the exception of road construction traffic and some convertible-induced sunburnage (that was for Missty), it was a great trip.

We stayed with our dear friend Robin in what has to be one of the loveliest homes I’ve ever seen.  Her house is not a mansion nor is it echoing with square footage.  Her house, plain and simply, is a home.  It’s welcoming and inviting and screams with comforting familiarity.  It is, in every sense of the phrase, a reflection of the wonderful and beautiful woman who lives in it.

We arrived late in the afternoon on Friday and were greeted with the warm kisses and loving embraces of Robin and Rich.  Their story and how they got together is such a great one, but that’s a blog for another day.  It was great seeing them again, even though we had just seen them at the end of May at Isle of Palms.  Shortly after our arrival, all of our other Nutty friends began arriving as well.  Before we knew it, we had a house full of friends, coolers full of beer and the mandatory bottle of Jaeger.

We hung out, talked, laughed, and got caught up with each other.  We made beer runs and took turns playing with Landon, our friends’ 4 year-old son.  There was a lot of “Here, let me get that for you” and “I insist.  Take my seat.”  Lee and I were surrounded by 25 other people who just 13 months ago we didn’t know, and we felt nothing but love from them and for them.

Saturday morning was very much a continuation of Friday night.  Lounging and laughing.  Eating and napping (ok, maybe that was just me – but you get the idea), all in preparation to go see Sister Hazel at the music festival on Saturday night. After all, this weekend was about catching the band, and as you recall from earlier, I absolutely love Sister Hazel. The show itself rocked, and I can honestly say it was one of the most fun Hazel shows I’ve ever experienced.  It was outdoors, the weather was not bad, the crowd was not tight and aggressive, and the atmosphere was just conducive for fun.

We got back to Robin’s after the show, talked some more, laughed some more, drank a little more (ok, again, maybe that was just me), but overall enjoyed each other’s company some more and cherished the specialness that was that weekend.  Although no one said it out loud, it was obvious from the look on everyone’s face that no one wanted it to end.

As I was getting everything ready Sunday morning for our trip back to Tampa, I had one of those reflective-surreal moments.  I grabbed my bag, flipped it over my shoulder and experienced the same feelings in my gut as when I’ve traveled to stay with family and had to leave.  It’s that feeling of wishing to stay longer yet knowing you’ll be back again soon.  It’s realizing that it’s okay to go home because the host will always be there for you waiting with open arms when you come back.  The only difference is that I wasn’t staying with a family member.

Yet in many ways I was staying with family.  I was sharing the weekend with a collection of individuals that maintain a unique bond that is the music of Sister Hazel.  After all the shows and all the concerts and all the road trips, for me it’s evolved to something greater than just a band out of Gainesville, Florida.  This is where my disclaimer comes in.  I love Sister Hazel and I love their music.  That being said, I know in my heart the feelings of warmth and love that defined this weekend would be there regardless of the act performing on stage.  Yes, all of us singing along together to all our favorite Hazel songs makes the experience that much better.  Watching Drew, Ryan, Ken, Jett and Mark interact on stage (okay, maybe not Mark) definitely adds to the awesomeness of the show.  Yet for me, I feel that it’s not so much about the music anymore as it is about being with family – my Hazel family – and sharing the whole event with them.

As I sat down to write this blog, I warned Lee I might skew blasphemous.  I like to think I did so with all do respect to the members of the band and their music.  In many ways, however, they’re the ones to blame.  When I first got into being a Hazelnut, it was about the music and the ‘fans’ and the cool things they all did together.  As my Hazelnut experience has evolved and the lyrics I’ve known by heart for years continue to take on new meaning, I feel now it truly is indeed all about the love.

I love that I had the opportunity to travel with Lee this weekend and take part in such a special event.  I love that I have friends that are supportive, encouraging and beautiful people, both respectively and collectively.  I love being a part of something so special and, in many ways, so unique.  Long story short, I love my NUTS ….. and I love not needing a disclaimer for that.

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