Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rearview Adjustment (Again)

It's been almost a month since my children and I took a family vacation away to Virginia for a few days. I'm just now reaching the point where I don't think about it every day. It was nice to get away, nice to get a change of location, and nice to be immersed into something we enjoy so much.

Coming back, work hit hard. The day after our return I was off to an out of town round of meetings to close down a project (successfully, thank goodness). Once back, I found myself immersed in a land I didn't know at all -- Southern California.

We are working there for one of the best run orchestras in the country. It's got great artistic leadership, great administrative leadership, and in the department for which we seek leadership, a great team. No potholes. Nothing on fire. A perfect opportunity for a seasoned and sophisticated person. It took us damn near the entire month to turn up some real candidates. We're not sure what the problem is, although since that area is one of the most expensive regions in the country in terms of cost of living, that has a lot to do with it.

Anyway, we're finally getting somewhere past that Santa Ana windstorm. But for a while we really were spinning our wheels.

When we were hitting our hardest stretch, about two weeks ago, I rarely left the office without my thoughts drifting back to our trip to Virginia. As much as I know that for the moment I am where I belong, there was part of me that needed to wander through the rolling low mountains of Western Maryland and on into a bit of Dixie. Coming home took us forever, but it was a beautiful ride. It is still in my plan to move away from here someday in the next five to ten years or so, and make some other warmer, hillier clime my permanent home. Until then, I guess I'll just have to sing about it along with this favorite from the Vol. 3 "Will the Circle" album, and think on those other scenes in my rearview mirror as we lunged over the mountains in eastern West Virginia on down through to the Tidewater. The smell of boxwood and pine, and the crunching of oyster shells underfoot as we strolled along the James. And then the slow trek home across the Blue Ridge, back to the quiet familiar hills of the lower Western Reserve.

Where home is, I still wonder.

Oh Cumberland

Fire on the asphalt, LA Freeway
Santa Ana windstorm, come blow me away
This rearview mirror could use some adjustment
Some other reflection, some other place

Oh Cumberland
I'm your faithful son
No matter where I run
I hear you call my name
The Mississippi's wide and long
From St. Paul to New Orleans
But my heart's restin' on your banks
In Tennessee

Lazy old river, not a lick of initial
Get to Kentucky, then you roll on home
If you were a highway you wouldn't go nowhere
And I wouldn't be lost and all alone

Oh Cumberland
I'm your faithful son
No matter where I run
I hear you call my name
The Mississippi's wide and long
From St. Paul to New Orleans
But my heart's restin' on your banks
In Tennessee

There's a stolen river in the San Fernando
Down in the Valley, in the shadow of Greed
But I have a memory knee deep in salvation
That old muddy water that once washed me clean

Oh Cumberland
I'm your faithful son
No matter where I runI hear you call my name
The Mississippi's wide and long
From St. Paul to New Orleans
But my heart's restin' on your banks
In Tennessee

Sunday, July 29, 2007

This Possum Don't Play

When X used his attorney to draw up the original separation agreement, he was so paranoid that his lawyer put in a clause that neither party could marry within 12 months. I don't remember whether I left that in or struck it out, I just remember it was offensive and ridiculous. Obviously, I'm not the one who moves at the speed of light when considering forcing a new family arrangement on my children.

I did not really relish the chance to begin the weekend by sitting down with my kids and assure them that while someday they will likely have a new family to love and should be happy that daddy has a new woman in his life, what is between them and me will not change, not how much we love each other nor our time together. Giving them this "permission" and reassurance was the right thing to do, but it felt odd finding myself stuck with the task, as the most uninformed of all three of us. For Potter fans, it's a bit like being in the mid-air during a Quidditch match on a stormy day and someone just threw an extra snitch into the game.

To be clear, I think it would be great if X were happy. Everyone has a right to be happy. But we have children, and he shares that responsibility with me. It's not going to change. I don't believe all parties are quite aware of that. I think there are quite a lot of things that all parties are not aware of but that's not for these pages.

It is interesting to watch single parents lunge at the opportunity to remarry (although not necessarily pleasant to be in the dark when you're children are asking questions about it). What is the void they are trying to fill? I respect that life can be sometimes a little lonely and that it's nice to have adult companionship and intimacy. But I don't need marriage to have those things. Between the available research, my own experience, and the professional advice I've received about the impact of remarriage on children, I have little interest in rushing down the aisle again for any reason. I also don't believe love has to be experienced under one roof to be meaningful. And I don't expect to rely on someone else to take care of me. So while I will give you that for some families, a second marriage might be a very good solution and beneficial to the children (and I know at least one circumstance personally for which I am hopeful), overall the idea of remarriage any time before my children are relatively stable is the least compelling of any relationship arrangement I can think of.

When I left my altogether vacuous marriage I found myself with enormous freedom to really think about who I was and what it is I wanted to do. As a result, my life is very full. I'm guessing that many parents with a great passion to remarry either lack some of that wholeness or the confidence that they can manage without a spouse. Based on the success I had with my first marriage partner who did absolutely nothing to save the marriage or to keep his family together, it's hard to imagine my doing that amount of work ever again with zero results. I took the opportunity to make my life full and wonderful on its own, including the time I spend parenting my children alone. It truly is, "all good." A really nice relationship with someone who isn't compelled by a personal mission or agenda to take care of us or move in or save me from my situation would be, as I once referred to it, like the vanilla sauce on the side of a perfect slice of chocolate cake. I'm sure I'll go off my diet now and then for that slice.

But the whole thing leaves me wondering whether I'm expected to be out hunting for Mr. Sugar Daddy. I get all kinds of solicitations to try various services for free but, no matter how nice it might be to have some new adult companions, I'm just not a mail order bride. I've had an experience or two with Find A New Mate Dot Com, and with one or two rare exceptions it was decidedly disastrous if not merely disappointing. While I certainly am learning all the time, I am by no means an amateur when it comes to human anything.

X and others forget that, at the end of the day, behind all the arts and culture and music, I make my living doing one thing: assessing people. I'm good at it. I can see through most anything. Authenticity is rare. Maturity even more rare, especially in men who are newly freed up from their marriages and ready to act 21 again. I just don't have time for games. Since my kids are such a high priority, I don't leave them to go out much when they are here, and sometimes we skip things like festivals or concerts where I might meet new people either because of the time or the money or the likelihood that my younger one might not last through something.

I am proud to own a home, have a job I absolutely love and refuse to give up to work for Corporate City, wonderful children, an active calendar, great friends, and hobbies like learning new instruments and writing for this blog that keep me from losing my mind and allow me to press on toward the next phase in my life. To be honest, I'm not sure where a new relationship would even fit in to all that. I'm very selfish about my private time because I have so little of it. As an online dating specimen, I completely lack credibility because there is not a single thing a man can do for me that a) I haven't been able to live without, and b) can't do myself.

But yet I feel I better get myself a partner QUICK, or sign up for the next Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Frankly, I feel I'd do better in the latter.

This is why I love music so much. Music is my perfect partner. Music does not deceive. It is always there when I need it. I don't have to watch it beat someone up. I don't have to take it to court to get it to pay attention. It isn't trying to hide something from me or my children or lure me into some sort of timewasting game -- in fact, it always feels like a win. The more time I spend with it, the more I learn about myself and the more I have to give to others.

I am fortunate to have taken up the fiddle. The only possum I'll play for or with anybody is this old tune, Old Possum Up A 'Simmon Tree. It is a great joy to release my fears of the unknown and relinquish any attachment to other people's random acts and intentions into the posture, bowing, tuning, phrasing of an old tune. To create something. To make a noise that might have been made 200 years ago. To really participate in something that is so much older, so much more expansive, so much bigger than me that I cannot be successful in trying it unless I let the worry and attachment to these other petty things fall away like stones from around my neck. Otherwise I had no room to rest the fiddle.

I am learning this tune from Art Stamper's last recording, a different version from the version below from the late Buddy Thomas. It's a little less modal, and I'm more modal, but the essential line is there. You can find a snippet of Stamper's version here.

Old Possum Up A ' Simmon Tree

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, well, maybe I'll just pick up my fiddle and go home.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday at Last....Hello California

No, I'm not going to California.

I've been there, all week on the phone, talking to people from LA to San Fran and 100 little towns in between. Finally, I think we're getting somewhere.

A few minutes ago I was just chillin' and listening to FolkAlley.com and heard a different Joni Mitchell favorite, and remembered this one.

So I'm sending it out to all those people I've talked to who have been charming, frank, helpful, marvelous, soul friendly, snarky, direct, thoughtful, and generous to give their time and thoughts.

Thanks, California.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

At the Bottom of the Glass

I'm sitting here just after a chat with my sis-in-law, laundry a-swishing, having a little glass of wine. I'll get to the last drop, probaby finish this post, read a little bit, then head to bed. I'm thinking of that, and the fact that al lot of folks would not be able to stop at a half a glass.

Alcoholism is deadly for many reasons. Not only does it kill its victim rather slowly and painfully, it also kills the love in those around him or her. It is a vile creeping vine that quietly ensnares. Suddenly, its prey is trapped, and it becomes a way of life, until death.

I've seen alcoholism in my own family, and I know it is alive and well in other people who have been close to me. I know people who have a problem who are no longer part of my life, but I know they are still out there and I worry that they'll hurt themselves or others. It's a dreadful kind of knowledge. I wait for the phone to ring. All the time.

While out on a short walk in the park tonight, it began to rain rather sweetly. At just that moment, this beautiful song from Tony and Larry Rice, Herb Pederson and Chris Hillman, came on. It's from Out of the Woodwork, one of my favorite acquisitions of the year. I thought about the meaning in this song and how deeply sad and scared I am for the people in my life affected by the drinking dragons within. I would slay them if I could, but they are not mine to slay.

Streetcorner Stranger
Streetcorner Stranger can I talk with you a while
I see that you are standing in the rain
You see, it's not that easy for me to explain to you
But I've been back into the poison once again

Streetcorner stranger can I have a talk with you
I know I've passed you by many times before
And I know that you'r'e not Moses but I'm standin' at the water's edge
Can you tell me how to get to the other side?

You see, I've traded my family for the bottom of some glass
And now I need to speak with you again
And I know that you're not Moses, but I need to speak with you
'Cause I've been back into the poison once again

Do these folks round here look down on you when you bow your head in shame
I know the way you feel when you shake and cry
What advice can you give me, so I don't end up like you
Ringing wet and cold as they pass you by

You see, I've traded my family for the bottom of some glass
And now I need to speak with you again
And I know that you're not Moses, but I need to speak with you
'Cause I been back into the poison once again

Monday, July 23, 2007

Another Banner Day as Mother of the Year

Tonight, after working 11 straight hours on what my colleague and I are near deciding is an impossible project, I stopped over to drop off some things to my children while their father was golfing. My daughter reminded me that I had forgotten a book she is reading along with another little friend, so we went back to get it. On the way back to her father's, she said in her little matter of fact voice at the end of a long string of other news items, "Oh, and I met Dad's new girlfriend. She taught me a new computer game. Is Dad getting married again?" I told her she'd really need to speak with him about that.

Then upon handing my son a set of keys so that he could get into my place to clean his nearly condemned-status room, he informed me that he wouldn't be hanging out with me tomorrow evening, because, well, there's a new episode of his favorite show on and he wants to be home in time to see that (we are, remember, cable-less at my house).

Ok, then.

So much for 13 years of pregnancy, breastfeeding, bus watch, cleaning up other people's puke before you finally wind up puking yourself, washing diapers (yes, I sure did), sitting through the same Disney movie over and over, and staying up late to make treats for the class party.

As I walked in the park I had to laugh at this. We don't have kids for our own glory. Kids grow and evolve into their own sorts of people. At least my kids are honest. And it really puts life and love and attachment somewhat into perspective. We all work so damn hard, love our children more than anyone ever will, and you know, it's all, as one friend says, just leaves blowing.

It's really true. Nothing is ever owned. If you think you own something, or that something or someone is yours, you're crazy. Humans are human, people move from one to another like the clouds roll across the sky. Sometimes they remember you, sometimes they don't. There really ain't anything you can do about it. Nor should you, no matter how maddening it is.

I used to live my life for the people in it, making it comfy and pleasant for everyone else. It came at an extremely high price that I nearly paid with my entire consciousness. Sometimes I think the way my brain never shuts off now and the way I never tire of making new connections around music is a symptom of 15 years of stifling those passions so that I could keep my family together. But what I didn't realize is that families are fluid, made up of humans and all our human wonders, all our human frailties, all our human inconsistencies.

So while I walked I gave to the wind this message for my daughter: "Yes my little BooBoo Daughter. Daddy might get married again. And maybe someday I'll be swept off my feet by a French horn player. But I will always remember sitting on the floor of my office nursing your sick brother while I worked with the Senator, and I'll always remember holding you that first night of your life and nursing you with milk I made just for you, and seeing you lift your tiny head when I said your name. No matter what happens, or how far apart we are, or how much we disagree, I will never stop loving you both."

And the wind blew, and I kept on walking.

The Dance
(performed by Dance songwriter Tony Arata)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Believe In Things You Don't Understand, And You Suffer

The last few days have involved lots of indulgence for me -- a movie with the kids, two of my favorite people performing at the local Irish fest, and a truly marvelous performance of Howard Shore's "Lord of the Rings" symphony by the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom, conducted by the composer. In around the corners of all this activity I've been practicing myself and also trying to finish a few books. So I've been taking in a lot of music and a lot of imaginative stuff over the last several days which has me thinking, naturally.

So much of the root of music and story is essentially superstition. If we didn't leave some things to the imagination it would be hard to get involved with a story or its plot line or the direction a song is headed. And much of the stuff of these stories is resonant because it leads us back to consider something about ourselves, whether we like it or not. It's a theme of ages.

I realized last night that two of the heftiest box office hits of the last few years, LOTR and the Harry Potter series, are lacking something many people take for granted: a supreme deity. There are supremely "good" and supremely "evil" presences or forces present in the mythologies in each story, but not any kind of omniscient being directing everything. Most of the action of the characters is driven from within and we are led through the story by the choices these characters make.

Just as we are led through our lives by the choices we make.

The Ring story is pretty plain. Young Frodo confronts in the powerful ring the power of shadow, and learns how completely one can succumb to it. It is always within him, but the ring brings forward those shadow feelings and actions. The late Jungian analyst and author Robert Johnson relayed, in his book "Owning Your Own Shadow," a dream in which he chased down a golden ring, which he realized had to be destroyed or it would destroy him. Once his shadow is acknowledged, Frodo has to leave Middle Earth; is self knowledge is too powerful to dwell in the less-aware land that has been restored to its variety of balance.

The story of the longsuffering orphan wizard Harry Potter, is similar. The series about this young boy who is on a journey to discover who he is and what his special gift means is long but worth reading. In Book V, the latest to be released on film, the strong connection between Harry and the main antagonist, Voldemort, portrayed as the dark side of Wizardry and enemy to all, is finally acknowledged. To put a shadow spin on it, one might also consider that maybe Harry and You Know Who are really different parts of a single person, the good and the bad.

In none of these powerful stories about the struggle to reconcile good with evil is there any hint that any of these characters are the way they are because of something else. Not because of the day they were born or the year, not because of something that happened to them in a past life (Harry's scar and Frodo's involvement with Bilbo's journey were in their present), not because of the color of their hair (so far I haven't seen much of a temper from any one of my beloved red-haired Weasleys), not because of the way the runes were cast or because of something their mothers ate when they were pregnant. The characters on the page and on the screen present themselves to us and we watch as they evolve through every encounter with their circumstances. They must own their actions and the consequences of the choices they make.

And so it is, I'm afraid, with all of us.

Now, that's not to say that our star charts or objects of divination like Tarot cards or runes aren't fun; they can be much fun and even a little uncanny. Sometimes they offer up little meditations or affirmations that are worth thinking about. But they do not run our lives. We do.

My last He Who Shall Not Be Named said to me once that he felt sure we might be reconnecting from a past life. It was the first time I'd been confronted with this notion as a reason or hallmark of a relationship since I had disavowed myself of the possibility, which was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I said to him, "However it is we got here, the rest is up to us." Based on the fact that I've not heard from him in many months, I gather he was ultimately not too keen on my reluctance to join him in rationalizing our near-instant human connection -- nor, evidently, too keen for taking any responsibility for this mystical connection to help it to grow.

The point is, it is always up to us. My sister and I spent the better part of last week wondering how it is that The Big Finger often points at the wrong people when doling out things like unemployment or cancer or a mine collapse. Or, you know, Katrina, or the Holocaust. Many millions of people throughout history have been confronted with unimaginable circumstances like these. How these individuals coped with their lot probably had more to do with what resources they had, what kind of support was available, how facile they were intellectually, whether they had leadership skills, and whether they were healthy emotionally and physically, and not so much with whether they were a possum in a past life.

I temper all this with the full disclosure that for all of my life, until recently, I ate all this stuff up. In particular I drew much strength from Celtic lore and mythology mixed with the early legend of the Grail, which enabled me to connect to my ancestral past and also find a nice balance among nature, humanity, and the mysteries of life. Oddly enough, like seekers of the Grail, I was never satisfied, until I realized what I was looking for was always within.

So. I am not a walnut tree. I am a woman. I make no excuses for my behavior, whether it's been negative or positive. While I think it's perfectly fine and even healthy to develop a connection to a personal mythology if it helps you to be a better person, it only counts if you are the same better person through and through to all the people in your life, whether you care for them or not. It certainly is not easy; I know I am still finding my way. It is there that so much of religion or other spiritual questing falls apart. So few people remember to carry through what they profess when someone cuts them off from getting their way.

So as you wander through this week, take with you this fun acoustic treatment of that old Stevie Wonder beauty, Superstition, by the not-to-be-missed Old School Freight Train. And try to find your inner Harry or Frodo, or Elf Queen, or Buddha, or Christ -- whatever figure it is who gives you a sense of personal power and longing to be the best person you can be.

And use it wisely.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reeling? Get your Jig On at the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival

My son and I spent the evening with some friends from out of town at the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival (www.clevelandirish.org). I hadn't been paying much attention this year until I learned that Liz Carroll and John Doyle were playing this year. So since Son of Mando has been spending a lot of time at camp or away on vacation when he'd otherwise be hanging out with me, I thought it a good opportunity to catch up.

We met up with our friends talking with Liz, and got ourselves a seat at the Harp Stage. Within minutes we were transfixed by Liz'a extraordinary fiddle playing and John's energizing guitar. John did sing a couple of tunes as well, one a favorite of mine from a recent album. Add these musicians' sense of humor, and the whole set was a joy. Well, except that my arms were tired after watching Liz and John -- and I don't think it was the tetanus booster I got that morning!

So if you need something to lift your spirits and put a little jig back in your step, I highly recommend heading over to the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea this Saturday or Sunday to catch John and Liz, Eileen Ivers, Cherish the Ladies, the Prodigals, and many more.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Book Is Always Better

I took my kids to see the new Harry Potter movie tonight, despite having about 150 pages left myself until I finish Order of the Phoenix (Book 5 for you Muggles who aren't caught up to speed on this). While the film was good -- and I won't spoil it for any of you -- it really did lack the depth of the story played out in the book.

I think that's often the case with movies made into books (did anyone see the disastrous Eragon?). And it's often the case with shortcutting life. I just don't believe in it. I don't believe you can get results that way.

Modern life seems all about shortcuts. People who indulge in these obviously have never tried to learn to play an instrument. You cannot play a fiddle tune like Bruce Molsky, until you practice like Bruce Molsky. You cannot clear your mind and practice mindfulness until you've tried a few times to put all the thoughts out of your head and hear the breathing. You cannot cast a spell like Albus Dumbledore until you spend the better part of your life practicing and sometimes, messing up.

You can't just get what you want with a flick of the wand, a snap of your fingers, a click of the button.

I like to savor life like I savor a good book, a live concert, a glass of wine, a new tune, an evening with friends. I lreally like to savor getting better at fiddling or singing or playing on my mando a new (to me) tune. These things, these moments, you can't just whip up out of thin air. It does not "just work" as some folks expect.

It ain't easy. If you are paying attention, there's a whole lot going on in the world, and it's easy to let your own life slip away while balancing the needs of those around you, staying involved with the world, and trying to just get through every day.

But you still have to write the book. Your parents started your story and you get to finish it. And it's your life story, regardless of who else turns up in it.

So write your book of life, and enjoy every page. No cliff notes. Every day the real deal, however it is to be written. And no peeking at the ending.

(But if you want a soundtrack, that's ok. This tune from the amazing Ginny Hawker and Hazel Dickens could probably make a few lists, I'm guessing.)

Times Are Not What They Used To Be

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rain Knows My Name

Glorious rain. It fell from the sky on our dreary crisp grass, our brown trees, our gasping flowers. Rain. Beautiful wet rain.

Having a bit of rain meant stepping back, staying inside a little, taking a break from the usual evening social routine my daughter and I enter after dinner. Instead we stayed inside to play a game, read the same book (I had to get a step or two ahead of her), and just breathe. For the first time in ages, I sang to her our special goodnight song when I tucked her in.

Rain slows us down sometimes. And it cleanses the mind. Today as the first drops fell, it was as though it washed away the old fears, old habits, old chains that melted away.

Today rain cleared the way, and I finally recognized for the first time, that I really could do anything. I don't know what's been stopping me.

It was a different kind of peaceful deep knowledge, like a seed had finally burst open. Very quietly. Underground. A sudden departure from the manufactured constraints I've been using to keep myself down, and an escape from the mental constraints others have been using to keep me down.

I don't know how I was liberated. All I know is that now, it's suddenly just clear--clear the way you feel after you've been sick and you wake up that first day you feel well again. It's time to decide what I really want to do. And then, I get to do it.
Simple. So simple. Like rain.

from Gillian Welch, Soul Journey, 2003
(lyrics and chords courtesy of Roughstock.com)
C] Oh my mother was just a girl, [G7] seven[C]teen
Oh my mother was just a girl, seven[G7]teen
And my [C] dad was passin' [C7] through doing [F] things a man will [C] do
Oh my mother was just a [G7] girl, seven[C]teen [C]
It's a wonder that I'm in this [G7] world at [C] all
It's a wonder that I'm in this world at [G7] all
And I [C] have a life to[C7]claim though I[F]really don't know my[C]name
It's a wonder that I'm in this [G7] world at [C] all [C]
Well I had a good mother and dad [G7] just the [C] same
Well I had a good mother and dad just the [G7] same
And they [C] took me to their [C7] breast and they [F] surely stood the [C] test
Yes, I had a good mother and dad [G7] just the [C] same [C]
Ain't one soul in the whole world [G7] knows my [C] name
Ain't one soul in the whole world knows my [G7] name
Just a [C] other baby [C7] born to a [F] girl lost and [C] lorn
Ain't one soul in the whole world [G7] knows my [C] name [C]
Now and then there's a lonesome thought [G7] in my [C] mind
Now and then there's a lonesome thought in my [G7] mind
And on the[C]crowded street I [C7]see a strangers[F]face that looks like[C] me
Now and then there's a lonesome thought [G7] in my [C] mind
Ain't one soul in the whole world [G7] knows my [C] name
Ain't one soul in the whole world knows my [G7] name
But I'll [C] see it by and by [C7] cause it's [F] written up in the [C] sky
Ain't one soul in the whole world [G7] knows my [C] name.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Make A Beeline for the Buzz!

Have you heard the buzz? The Dixie Bee-Liners, out of Virginia, just signed with Pinecastle Records, and everyone is glowing. Or, should I say, buzzing?

This engaging band, which was actually born in New York City, introduced themselves over on myspace, and I've been buzzing ever since. One listen and I'm guessing you will be too. They are Brandi Hart on rhythm guitar, nashville guitar, dulcimer & vocals; Buddy Woodward on mando, guitar, banjo, bass, drums & vocals; Rachel Renee Johnson on fiddle and vocals; Claiborne Goodall on lead guitar and vocals, Sam Morrow on banjo and Jeremy Darrow on upright bass. These fine musicians join Pinecastle lineup of seasoned talent that includes John Cowan, Larry Stephenson, and Special Consensus.

I love their unique sound, their musicianship, and their spirit. It seems that, not long ago, I was whining on here about the future of bluegrass. Just in the last week, I've been introduced to some mighty talents and I no longer have that worry. There are young tradition bearers, new mavericks, and lots of musicians that fall somewhere in between. All of them that make it to this blog have something wonderful to offer you, and to offer to the future.

The Bee-Liners are still mounting their various MP3s so the very best way to hear them is to buy their new cd, or for now, their old cd! Well, ok, in the meantime, head on over to their MySpace page and check out some of the tracks (my favorite is the current tune on my own MySpace page). They're all good and frankly, irresistible.

I must sadly remove myself off to my chamber for the night. I have about 400 pages to finish in Order of the Phoenix before I can take the kids to see the movie Thursday night. I'm thinking we ought to name the Dixie Bee-Liners Fan club, "Order of the Buzz." Kinda catchy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Turd Maxim Holds Firm

A while back I acquired a maxim from a friend and fellow blogger, a maxim that today proved true:

You can give it a shiny new convertable, a shiny (and probably sadly unsuspecting) new girl in the passenger seat, and all the benefit of the doubt you can muster.

But you really can't polish a turd.

I don't want to bother with the details of the brief episode, but it was thoughtless enough, tasteless enough, and preventable enough that it deserves a nod.

My mother would have called this kind of behavior "uncouth:"

1. Crude; unrefined.
2. Awkward or clumsy; ungraceful.
3. Archaic Foreign; unfamiliar.

My sister and I decided that, when we get through the various real difficulties we're dealing with, perhaps we'll invent a Couth Blockage Enema for the many people we know who seem to need one.

It's so tiresome. And I don't know what the answer is. I do know that I managed to have relationships all throughout the last couple of years without ever once feeling compelled to show these men where my kids' father lived, certainly not without invitation or within the first ten minutes of having laid them. Really, I think I'm at a point, both in my personal life and in my career, where I just expect other adults to have better sense, maybe take a moment to think and make sound decisions, or, you know, show some couth. Otherwise I have to imagine that no one my age really is that daft, and have to assume that these completely avoidable acts are chosen with full intention of their potential. By turds.

This is a job for a nonbluegrass but nonetheless marvelous and highly regarded folksinger, Christine Lavin. I can't run the lyrics to this live tune, because you don't need them, and you'll hear every word. If you haven't seen Christine, or are unfamiliar with her work, you might really enjoy her. You might especially appreciate her if you are continually caught off guard by your own unsupecting and forgiving attitude toward people who are just not as smart as you are.

A final word to those who scratch their heads and wonder why I might possibly only be interested in men several years my senior: DUH.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Worth the trip, worth the wait

I was hanging around The Infamous Stringduster myspace page and listening up a bit, and I remembered this tune from their performance last year at the IBMA FanFest.

I'm hoping to convince my kids -- and myself -- that we need to catch the Dusters down in Columbus in a couple of weeks. The trick is, it's a Friday night, which makes for tough going in my life. But I think I've gone just about as long as I can go without some live bluegrass this summer, and these guys can make up for it all.

My son and I were totally taken with these fellas last year, and I remain thoroughly impressed with the seriousness of their talent. I hope you are too.

I can go to sleep and dream, dream that there's a song out there like this for me.

You can check out their myspace page and listen up to additional fab tunes at http://www.myspace.com/stringdusters.

Have a good night.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Fringe of What?

I found a place where you can hear and

One of my favorite discoveries earlier this year has been The Eastern Music Festival. It's what I would call a regionally appropriate adaptation of the music and festival school model like a Tanglewood or an Aspen. Situated in Greensboror, NC, EMF hosts today's best classical music artists like cellist Lynn Harrell or a capella chorale Anonymous 4 and veteran conductors such as JoAnn Falletta and Gerard Schwartz together on a monthlong schedule that also includes performers like The Mammals, the Waybacks, Josh Ritter, the Greencards, and Leroy Parnell.

It's pretty cool, but not all acts are created equal. The offerings that pepper the more traditional classical programming are grouped in a package called EMF Fringe. I realize that's suppose to be cool and hip and as a one-time marketing professional, I get the cutsy part. As someone who straddles both worlds, I think referring to the more contemporary popular acts as "fringe" is a little misleading. When it comes to lining up two very different kinds of music right next to each other under the same umbrella, fringe goes both ways.
The beauty of EMF is the blending of both worlds. What is fringe to classical fans is likely steady fare for us bluegrass fans, likewise for us bluegrass fans I can see how an evening of Bach and Bartok might also be considered fringe. The festival calendar has some pretty ambitious repertoire and some impressive talent. So does Fringe. I mean, the other fringe.

EMF goes back several decades but it is said to have flourished to its current state of success under the leadership of Tom Philion, who recently was also appointed to the helm of the long-suffering Seattle Symphony. It's no secret that Philion's successful working relationship with Gerard Schwartz, both Music Director in Seattle and Principal Conductor at EMF, probably had a lot to do with that; Schwartz is not well loved by Seattle's musicians so in Philion he's got at least one advocate. Philion is leaving most of the ops in capable hands, at least according to this article.
The EMF school is pretty impressive, too. Students range in age from 14 to 20 and are engaged by very fine orchestra musicians and conductors from around the country. Some of the better known alumni include Wynton Marsalis, along with musicians representing the Boston, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas, and National Symphony Orchestras (a nod to Cleveland Orchestra cellist Bryan Dumm!).
But where are the alumni of the EMFringe School?
I hope that I can get down to EMF next year on my own personal sabbatical to sample the program and take in the bigger EMF picture. Maybe with the potential for new leadership comes the potential for joint leadership -- a chance to blend the fringes of both worlds into one remarkable training ground for talented young string musicians, regardless of their preference for Brahms or Bluegrass.
Here the 2005 Young Artists Festival Orchestra in a snippet of Shostakovich's 6th here, or, from 2004, one of my all-time favorites from the classical repertoire, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3. (Remember, these are some pretty young musicians.)
If we had some snippets of the EMFringe Jam Camp, I'd put them here, but they don't exist.
Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Say Darlin', Is it 2007, or 1864?

Just wanderin' around on the Tube, and desiring a bit of music, I stumbled across this vid while looking for Rayna Gellert.

These young players are pretty damn good. They're having fun, passing time in a good old fashioned way with a good old tune, one of my favorites.

When you look at these young faces, what do you see? When you listen and watch, is it two college kids you see, or a couple of boy soldiers, settin' around at camp outside Gettysburg or Manassas?

Mahler and Beethoven can be thrilling. I love my old stadium standbys like U2 and REM and Dave Matthews. No one plays sax like the late great John Coltrane. And it's true that a Bach concerto or cantata raises my pulse in a mighty way.

But the timeless marching on of this elemental musical experience is what holds me fastest of all.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mission Accomplished on Blacktop River

It was hard to leave Virginia, but I'm tired, and it's good to be home.

The trip back took longer than I'd ever have expected and I still haven't figured out why. Lord knows the route I took was a bit longer, but in retracing my steps through Mapquest, the site's Online Map Gurus tell me I'd only have added an hour or so to my trip. Now, even as the single driver, my average speed was probably around 73 mph so these people clearly are crackers.

Nonetheless we did have a nice time, all got to and back in one piece, and enjoyed the process.

Now that I'm back I have to face the many grinding tasks of everyday, beginning tomorrow at 5:30 a.m. with another trip to Rochester NY. Another 8 hours in the car, which by some accounts would be all it would take to get me back to Viriginia even if I went through DC. Heh. Back to Blacktop River.

I'm still trying to figure out this whole myspace thing and in being added today by an artist named Bryan Field McFarland I found this tune of his, which is both lovely and fitting. Thanks to you Bryan for that singable flashback to my perplexed state driving up Route 81 through the glorious Shenandoah Valley yesterday and on, and on, and on.

The rest of you please check out Bryan's music at his myspace site. It goes well with planning, or recovering from, your summer vacation.

Blacktop River
copyright 2006 sassafrasongs
ASCAPw & m: Bryan Field McFarland

I'm on a highway through the Shenandoah
Sky so blue that it hurts my eyes
I've got a cedar-topped box bound with koa
Packed in the back with a week's supplies
I see construction cones in the lane ahead
and it looks like I'll have to merge
So I'm signaling right like a ton o' lead
These other captains won't let me converge

I'm on a rippling ribbon through the world today
I got my windows rolled down and my hopes up high
I'll let this blacktop river roll my blues awayI don't even need to know why
Yeah, it's a great day to live...a great day to die

Out on the road sometimes it gets so lonesome all I can do is feel the wind
The way stretched out in front of me can be so awesome
Sometimes it seems like my only friend
I feel instruction in the heat off the highway
Like the Spirit is settling inRiding this knife edge - going my way
Life could stop. Life could begin.


Death is just a door, just a passageway, just another part of being
All the lore ain't gonna scare me away
And it’s not that I'm foreseeing.
Oh, I'm good to go, but I would rather stay,
Cuz there's more here I need to get done
I've got this feeling now that death's my friend,
Not some frightening oblivion

I took a walk last night down by the river
Stinging stars in the Milky Way
And as my leaf crunch steps made me shiver
I caught a whiff of death in the Fall decay
I see destruction looming in the days ahead
These trees are gonna be so bare
And I'm reminded of what Quoheleth said.
No, there's "nothing new" anywhere! [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day Indeed

Well, so it's July 5, and yesterday at the end of the day Blogger decided not to cooperate with my Independence Day wishes. Anyway, my kids and I spent the entire day in the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg, which as you might imagine was bustling with feverish excitement about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad. Patrick Henry, Virginia's new Governor, repeated his "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech -- which only garnered FIVE VOTES at the time he first gave it at a session of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Benedict Arnold was all over town, continuously insulting all of the colonists for their foolishness. Today we missed visits by General Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but we did hang out in a good many of the places they did when they walked the same paths here in town.

They had a lot on their minds, as did the divided citizens of the colonies. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Colonies had fairly little in their favor.

1) We manufacture none of our own goods.
2) We have no navy or army.
3) If we are executed, our children and widows get nothing.

So the declaration of independence really was an incredible act of high treason that could have, and should have, sent everyone to the gallows.

It's amazing, really, that it didn't. The men who declared independence as representatives of their freeholders did it pretty much on a wing and a prayer. And they won.

We need that again. We need to turn the current administration's world upside down. We need to shake loose these chains of willful ignorance and nearly obscene leisure to take back our country, which was founded by men and women who really were ready to give up their lives for it.

This tune is reputed to have been played by the surrendering British troops under Cornwallis at Yorktown. It's called The World Turned Upside Down, and is sometimes called When The King Enjoys His Own Again. This morning the colonies delegates names were read and each flag was presented. With each presentation came a tune played by Williamsburg's famous Fife and Drum Corps.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oh to Be a Freeborn....Anything

Let me begin this post by reminding my regulars that I do love my children.

But tonight I really don't like them.

On the eve of our first family trip in a while, I'm wishing I hadn't planned it at all. Over the last three or four days I've hustled, bustled, and been on the go, shuttling them to movies and family events and just about anyplace else they felt they needed to go. I did take about 45 minutes and head off trail at the park today, just to hear the wind in the trees and feel my feet on the earth.

But otherwise, I'm tapped out. This evening instead of listening to me when I said to read instead of watching cartoons online, because they can do that tomorrow and tonight is all I have, I foolishly let them talk me into letting them drift over to CN while I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry and trash and papers and packing.

That is the end of it, and the end of a lazy summer up til all hours while I sit and wait for my free time to roll around. That dog don't hunt, in fact, it took a bullet in the tail.

At their other house they have a great deal of freedom, and far more space to be shoved out of the way with their CartoonNetwork obsession without it annoying everyone else. What's worse is the CN and Nick and whateverelseisoutthereoncableeatingupbrains is allowed to be consumed at such a pace that they can recite line for line some of the shows. What a world it would be if children could recite a line of Robert Frost, or even better, a line of their own poetry.

I've really had it on so many levels. This little place is all I have. I try to allow my kids most of what they are used to in very small doses, but it is literally never enough. I really do try to show some interest in it, but frankly, it's just junk. When among a group of adults I recently expressed some appreciation for the artfulness of some of that junk, specifically a show which celebrates the imaginative powers of young minds who make up distinct and complicated imaginary friends to meet their needs -- indeed, because of the interesting psychology behind it that particular show might be the one thing I can tolerate -- you would have thought I had grown a second head. So I remain at a total loss as to the appeal of any of it and cannot for the life of me fathom why so many thinking adults allow this stream of consciousness-killing crap into their kids' lives.

So when my own kids bring that junk into my space, I can take it for about five minutes before I'm over my limit. And actually, that time is running shorter and shorter.

I really do love my kids. We do watch movies together now and then. And we do lots of other things together, like this trip we're about to take. But I think I'm over my limit in more ways than one. I'm back to a place I was about a year ago when I found myself without room for me when they're around. And I need that space back, and that means they will have to give up something that most likely isn't good for them anyway.

Tonight my daughter came down stairs upon a summons to take back up to her room some stuff she had left on the table, and she was surprised to see that her tooth had fallen out. It was impossible for me to muster any excitement. We looked around for it a little but chances are it was washed down the drain while she was brushing her teeth. By the time I got her in bed, I sighed an unceremonious "Oh well" and that was that. I felt guilty but I could barely care about a lost tooth with the mound of chores that lay ahead and the seeming lack of interest on the part of either child just how much has gone into pulling together this trip on top of working as well as the activities they've thoroughly enjoyed over the last several days.

When I saw Carrie Rodriguez last weekend, I thought, "What this world needs is an all-woman tribute to Jimmy Martin." I love Jimmy Martin songs. They're so full of gusto, and I don't mind singing them. Because a lot of the time the stuff that comes out of those songs really hits it for me. Like Freeborn Man. I love to sing that song, and not ashamed of it at all. There is no doubt women can appreciate those songs. I read recently the best quote I have seen in a long time, from a woman who runs a clever niche nonprofit here. She said, "Before I had children, I was a man." Ain't that the damn truth.

What would happen if I actually walked away from it all? I have actually been blamed for putting other things aside in the interest of my kids, like, it was the wrong thing to do.

To those I say:

They're children, you fucking morons. I didn't have them to send them to boarding school, sit them in front of a TV, or leave them by themselves at 10 p.m. on a school night so I could have a social life. I chose them. They require effort and attention to be the smart, engaging little people you like so well.

I'll get through this next week and I hope I have a little time to enjoy it. Hopefully my kids and I can make up and share a meaningful connection and place to move forward from that does not include me sacrificing my values and personal space and sanity. Meanwhile I'm going to dream about singing this song. Someday, my home might be on my back, and I don't think it sounds all that bad. No TV, no Target, no LL Bean, no Amazon.broke. No junk, no stuff. Just music.

Not bad, not at all.

Freeborn Man
Performed here by The (Almost) Original New South from the Sugar Hill Retrospective