About a year and a half ago, as my sixteenth birthday neared, my parents offered to take me on a weekend birthday trip. As I am deeply fascinated by the time period of the 1960’s, and especially intrigued with the counter-culture that emerged during that era, I immediately thought it would be wonderful to spend the weekend in the Woodstock, New York area.
The process of planning for the trip ensued, and originally we thought we would simply explore the area and visit The Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. But the universe had another idea in mind, and as I perused the aisles of my town’s bookstore one evening, I stumbled across a book entitled The Lucky Ones, written by Jenny Brown, co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. I decided to pick up the book, knowing that I would soon have some spare time on my hands for reading.
So I read the book. And I laughed and I cried and I smiled. And after reading the tales of these incredible creatures, I knew I hoped to visit the sanctuary one day. What a beautiful coincidence that the sanctuary was only a fairly short drive away from the Bethel Woods museum! Within a short amount of time, our tickets were booked, and so was a room at the bed and breakfast located on the sanctuary’s property. Little did I know that I was about to have the inspirational experience of a lifetime, and that this trip was to shed light on what my life’s passion and work would be…
Part One: The Museum
The Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was a dizzyingly beautiful kaleidoscope of colors and artifacts. The essence and emotions of the flower power decade had a potent, resounding presence within the exhibits. The Woodstock music and arts festival was, after all, a grand notion, a miracle of existence. More than half a million people filled a farm in upstate New York, and the chaos, the mass of humanity was immense enough that the government declared the festival site a disaster zone.
But even with all of those people, the festival team’s vision of three days of peace and music came true. Harmony presided over the land, and festival attendees have alluded to a feeling of connection, to something greater than oneself. When learning about the Woodstock festival, one thing becomes clear: this was not only about music. This was about a shared spirit, a longing to look after others, to do something that appealed to one’s sense of humanity even in a time when war permeated society. Indeed, this was about revolution.
Part Two: Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
And you know what is also revolutionary in its own right? When a goat walks right inside a building like he owns the place. And when he does this, his alleged superiors, the humans, don’t reprimand him. No. These humans only love him, infinitely and unconditionally.
Who am I talking about, exactly? I’m talking about Emmett the goat, a creature so delightfully charming and happy that he very well could be the poster goat for the animal rights movement.
See what I mean? Emmett just radiates. He makes people smile. He was the first goat I ever met and the first goat who ever walked right up to me and lay down in my lap, as if it was understood, an unspoken agreement of sorts, that so long as he was lying in my lap, I would pet him to his heart’s content. So that’s what I did. And I made my first goat friend that day. But I would make many more… among those, Walter, Madison, Star, and Albie. And every one of them, with their gentle, trusting dispositions and unique personalities, would continue to change my perspective.
I had a beautiful day at the animal sanctuary. Interacting with Dylan the cow, who was originally destined to be a veal calf but was saved by a couple who saw him tied to a tree at three days old, and watching my parents interact with him.
Watching Star the goat crash my dad’s selfie.
Meeting Judy and Patsy, the pig sisters.
I remember that day as the happiest day of my life so far.
And that night, I fell asleep in a cozy rustic bedroom in the sanctuary’s guesthouse. I looked out my window before closing my eyes that night, and I literally counted sheep. A field full of rescued sheep who could each finally sleep at night, who were all free to move and free to dream. And as I lay my head down on my pillow, I knew, literally in the depths of my soul, that this is what my life is for: speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves.
It is not an overstatement to say that this weekend trip changed my life. I realized that the desire to connect with others and to connect with a cause far greater than oneself that resounded in the era of the Woodstock Festival has lived on. I also realized that there is a thread of love that connects different revolutions, whether the anti-war movement of the 1960’s or the animal rights movement of which I write about today. Indeed, John Lennon once said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”
Love and peace really are still here. They are entities within us, and they shine through beautifully in every act of compassion we commit. And so long as we can feel their presence in times of tumult and discouragement, we can continue to change the world.
Learn more about Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary at http://woodstocksanctuary.org.
Have you ever visited a place that has helped you see something in a new light? Share you stories in the comments!