Russell’s Round Room
by Russell S. Glowatz
Take any Grateful Dead song, and one can find countless meanings within. There is no exception with “Days Between,” the last true fusion of the beautiful minds of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. A few songs have taken up special meaning since the death of Garcia, and with “He’s Gone,” Days Between has become a notable term in the Grateful Dead lexicon. While the ultimate Days Between, a celebration of the life and times of Jerry Garcia, takes place between August 1st and August 9th, the birth-date and death-date of Garcia respectively, I contend that the run-up to the Days Between, from the anniversary of the last Grateful Dead show on July 9th, to Jerry’s birthday on August 1st are special days as well, and compile our symbolic Lent.
While the Days Between came to fruition, first and foremost as a Jerry holiday, as the years go by it seems that this extended month-long observance is evolving into something greater. It has become a celebration of all we’ve lost, and all we still have in our deadhead community as a whole. This is our reflection time, an opportunity to deal with unresolved grief, a moment to look upon the past year, wrestle with the good and the bad, and even atone for any misdeeds we may have done. Truly a time for karmic contemplation, and joyous communion.
If one were to call the Grateful Dead community a religious phenomenon, or at the very least a spiritual one, Deadhead Lent and the Days Between are our High Holy Days. As certain days of significance, for Christians, scatter the path in the lead up to Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday as the symbolic beginning to conventional Lent, observances such as Palm Sunday and Good Friday cap off the Holy Week leading to a final celebration of the biblical anniversary of Jesus’ Resurrection. While I am near certain that neither Jerry Garcia, nor any other deceased members of the Grateful Dead have been resurrected, the handful of anniversaries observed during this month-long high holy period serve as symbolic reminders of various crossroads in Grateful Dead history. Deadhead Lent calls to mind a time when many deadheads found themselves wandering through the metaphorical wilderness in the early post-Jerry days. And while some essential moments fall outside the realm of these days, many use this time as a spiritual recognition of those anniversaries as well.
While Deadhead Lent is very different from conventional Lent, it embodies the lead up to our Holy Week that is the Days Between. It is in essence pertinent to our overall celebration for those that passed on, and a commemoration of those lost days in the immediate aftermath of the final Grateful Dead show and Jerry’s death. No one gives up meat, smoking, or anything else for Deadhead Lent, yet in similar ways, many Deadheads can get contemplative during this time. They often mourn community losses, atone for karmic sins, and ultimately strive to be penitent, cleansing themselves for the year that lies ahead. As Deadhead Lent winds down to a close, our Holy Week begins with Jerry’s birthday. This month of solemn anniversaries and jubilating remembrance has become our holiday of holidays. Since more or less every single show or event we attend is in spirit a holy day, this month provides a time for those that may not or can not actively attend shows to participate in mourning and celebration as well. It remains to be the highest of holy days celebrated by deadheads on an international level.
Yet since nothing is really defined within the deadhead community, no edict or announcement regarding these days was ever put forth in an official sense. Rather the observance emerged organically after Jerry passed on. The hazy denotation of the term Days Between encapsulates the non-dogmatic nature of the band and community’s ideals as reflected through various GD song lyrics. And while Deadhead Lent remains an informal notion, people have been marking this occasion for years without truly designating the space in time. Ask any deadhead why and when the Days Between occur, and what they do and how they feel in the leading weeks, while varying, you will get fairly similar answers. It is a tacitly approved holiday, celebrated on informal, personal, and sometimes community wide levels.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead saga, 20 years since the last Grateful Dead show and Jerry’s passing, Deadhead Lent and the Days Between take on special meaning this year, and are likely being celebrated, in one way or another, by more deadheads than ever in years past. Whether it’s making a tribute post on Facebook for the anniversary of Brent’s last show or his death (25 years ago on 7/23/90 & 7/26/90 respectively), or putting on a show from ’77 in honor of Keith’s passing (35 years ago on 7/23/80), deadheads are making small gestures in remembrance across this great green Earth. It could be a blog post (as this is), heading to a grassroots type festival such as Grateful Fest in Ohio, or hitting up a bigger Dead oriented fest like Gathering of The Vibes in Connecticut (celebrating 20 years!) for Jerry’s birthday weekend. Large and small, deadheads are making gestures and pilgrimages alike in celebration of our unique community, and the boys who started it all, the members of the Grateful Dead.
So over this month of contemplation, consideration, and karmic realignment, I am sincerely hoping that all the deadheads out there, near and far, have or will take a moment from their day to celebrate in their own special way. There is no definitive procedure to properly take part in Deadhead Lent and the Days Between; you only need to consider yourself somehow a part of this harmonious circus, and do what you feel is special. If our cosmic energy aligns throughout these days, perhaps Jerry, Pigpen, Keith, Brent, Vince, various crew and GD family members of past time, will feel our collective stream of goodwill beaming towards them, wherever they are.
“There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean…
…there were days between
polished like a golden bowl
the finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
still tender, young and green…” —Robert Hunter
Stay green my friends, and through the good times and bad, do your best to keep the spirit alive. Happy Days!
© Watts Glow Grateful Productions, 2015
~~~ If the mood strikes you and it’s not too personal, share below (or on Facebook, Twitter or any other medium) how you will be, or have been, celebrating this year. And please like our Facebook page, Grateful Globotz, or follow us on Twitter @GratefulGlobotz, so you won’t miss any future postings out of our camp. #DaysBetween ~~~
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