With the sky full of stars, a favorite person, a favorite blanket, and perhaps a little wine to sip, makeshift seats on the lawn at Wolf Trap Farm Park sweeten any musical production.
There are no actual "seats" of course, just grass to sprawl on. But there's a special atmosphere provided by those people stretched on the sloping lawn areas. It's a casual, comfortable bluejeans-and-T-shirts crowd of both the young in fact and young in heart.
They arrive early, spreading blankets, picnic baskets and cheer. They swap stories, smiles and grapes with strangers and friends alike. They leisurely watch as the sun fades and the house lights brighten. They take their lives and their music slowly for the night, fearing that if they rush, they might miss the chance to mix the music with words, musing with relaxation.
Lawn seats are the least expensive ( $5) in the house, but the most enjoyable. Even on the outermost slopes of Wolf Trap, the acoustics are excellent.
Actually seeing performers on the stage is not easy from the lawn. But then, most lawn-sitters don't really seem to care since the atmosphere is so appealing.
At the recent Arlo Guthrie/Pete Seeger concert, one woman said to the man she was with, "Gee, I can't see cute little Arlo from here."
"Yeah, but you can't see that from in there," he noted, pointing to the moon.
She smiled and huddled a little closer to him on their blanket.
The lawn is the people's place. It's the place where folks sing, clap and sometimes dance. It's where no one feels inhibited blurting out, "That song makes me think of the time...."
That's an important part of what music is about, isn't it? Raising images. Recreating slices of life. Encouraging spontaneous responses. On the lawn, there's an easy willingness to express them.
The lawn is a naturally comfortable place, but here are some ways to enhance an evening even more:
Arrive early. Get a prime spot - one with maximum view overhead and straight ahead.
Bring field glasses. Sure, you can use them to see cute Arlo, but they'll also come in handy scouting for friends.
Bring a jacket. Even on the warmest of nights, there's a breeze on the hill at Wolf Trap. Sometimes it turns cool and there's no sense being uncomfortable at all on the lawn.
Bring a blanket - to sprawl on. Forget folding chairs. If you must sit on a chair, head inside. Chairs tend to stick out amid the casual setting of the lawn.
Bring your kids. You won't be the only ones with an infant strapped to your back or tugging a toddler by the hand. Bring them a snack, let them catch lightning bugs, enjoy their response to the music and watch them fall asleep under the stars.
Stay late. Lawn folks are the closest to the exits, but generally the last to use them. While the sitters inside pour out, stretching, pushing, looking almost eager to fight the traffic, the people on the lawn hang on.
Maybe the lawn folk are recalling a few lyrics, or taking a last sip, or studying constellations.
Or maybe, they're just reluctant to give up the night's simple pleasures. CAPTION: Picture, no caption