Sunday, June 29, 2008

This Old Guitar

Most players have an outdoor or camping guitar. It's "the beater". Already mojo'd up with dings and scrapes, another would only add to its character. Mine is my oldest guitar, a late '60's or very early '70's "Jadee". My parents bought it for me already well used back in '75 or '76; my first cannon. A Gibson Hummingbird copy, a big dread with a big sound. Back then I didn't know a lot about guitars, except that mine sounded a lot better than most of my friends'. Now I know why.

Extensive internet searches have brought up nothing for the Jadee moniker, but the history of Japanese copy guitars of that era is getting to be well documented. This guitar is solid top, back and sides, grain goes all the way through, no laminates. Adjustable bridge, like many early Sigmas, typical of that period. Logo and decoration all inlaid mother of pearl. The headstock still has the Gibson mustache, so it is said to be pre-lawsuit. Interestingly, the label, while stating "Made in Japan," also says, "Constructor de Guitarras. Jadee. Modelo No 684.6". Made for a Spanish speaking market? Or like the Ibanez, just trying not to be so Asian? Many factories were putting out amazing product during this "golden age" of Japanese production, guitars that blew the socks off of the lesser entry-level price point instruments made in the US.

But the best feature is how it still plays. The action has always been low, the neck profile slim as well. It's always sounded warm; matter of fact, that's how I got into buying D'Addario Phosphor Bronze strings, to edge up its brightness. After all these years, the bridge was just beginning to lift, so earlier this year I took it in for a glue job and had new tuners, a new saddle, and some fret replacement done. Probably spent as much on it as my parents originally paid for it. A total bargain. While I love my Martin, my Sigma, my Ovation and even that 2 x 4 of a Fender 12-string, this old guitar has a part of my heart. Don't think I'll ever let it go.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Love of the game

Baseball is not my game, but I respect it. I understand why people are into baseball. Having played ball in school, I certainly understand the players' love of the game. And that is what you get to experience at a independent league game; you feel their love of the game. They play their hearts out, hoping for a break, not making much money, and loving it.

Last night the Gateway Grizzlies played the Evansville Otters. It was a hitter's delight, 24 between them both. Not that the pitching was poor, it wasn't, these guys were just connecting like crazy. We were right on the third base line, and in Frontier League parks, that means you're just a few feet from the action. Even for someone like me, who usually finds watching baseball to be slow and tedious, when you can watch the players' faces, hear their chatter, feel the energy as they round third and their disappointment as the pop fly that was lost in the lights is miraculously caught, well, the game takes on a new angle. It's like you're part of it. It makes you love the game.

If you've never been to an independent league game, or a farm club series, find one near you and spend the evening in fun and amazement. There's games, raffles, sometimes music, give-aways, the food and beer is cheaper, (BTW, the food at the the Grizzlies home, GCS Stadium, is way above average. Get the pulled pork or pulled chicken nachos, yum!) there's stuff for the kiddies to do, and of course team swag to buy so you can share your new-found passion. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Can I have some of your purple berries?

Years ago I planted a row of blackberry slips along the fence in our backyard. Now they are a thicket. Even though I prune out the old canes and train the new ones on trellises, it’s hard to keep up. On a summer day I’d swear you can actually see the shoots growing, trailing their way along the ground. It’s always a desperate chase to catch them before they are set in their ways.

Last year there was a killing frost in April. Not many berries. This year they seem to be making up for lost time. In spring the briar had so many blossoms that it looked to be covered in snow. Now the vines are heavy with fruit. Blackberries ripen in succession; at first just a very few to tease the taste buds. Then the fruit begins to flush. Every other evening, an hour of my time is devoted the berry patch. Glossy, black fruit hides under leaves, eluding all but the most thorough examinations. The quiet time lets the mind wander, songs with berries bubble up and I sing to the birds as I pick. Wooden Ships, Blackberry Wine, Raspberry Beret, and tunes of my own making about thorny briar berries. It is relaxing, it is itchy, it is tasty. By the time I’ve finished, my hands and lips are purple, just as they were as a child when I picked boysenberries and ate more than I brought home. Now there’s more in my basket than my belly. Berries for ice cream, berries for trifle and berries for pie. Especially pie. Mmmmmm. Pie.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer Solstice

The longest weekend of the year. Summer solstice. A perfect day to float down the river, unhurried, stopping to swim, enjoying everything Mother Nature has to offer. Even with my usual proclivity to sleep late, we were on the river by 9:30 am.

With rains aplenty this spring, the upper Meremac was running well and very inviting. No portaging this trip. We put in somewhere above highway O, and hit some riffles almost immediately. The kayaks required very little paddling, allowing attention to wander with the wildlife. Birds dotted the trees like living Christmas ornaments; red cardinals, indigo buntings, yellow goldfinches and painted cedar waxwings sang and dived, eluding the camera lens but dazzling all eyes.

Further downstream was Fishing Spring. Had it been 90 degrees or more, the wading would have been more easily tolerated, but at a balmy 84.... well it was still worth the frozen toes. Water flowed from a small cave, ran from under a ledge and boiled up from the rough sand making a odd snow-globe of the pool's edge. Together they produced quite the spring branch, tumbling over rocks out to the river. Not to mention cooling the main channel down enough to make us float on down to the next gravel bar before taking our next dip.

One of our favorite river games is "guess the ruin" or "ruins stories". Most Ozark streams have several old cabins, ruins of defunct resorts, forgotten stairways leading to the river, and abandoned camps lining the banks. Some are documented, many are mysteries ripe for creative exploitation. Floating by these, we spin yarns of vacationers tripping out by rail or in model T's on old Route 66. Gangsters and their molls hiding out in the cool shade of rock-walled resorts, families escaping the city's heat at fish camp, company picnic grounds returned to forest years after a flood, the scenarios are endless. Some ancient structures, like this one, are actually a part of a going concern. Although seen from the river to be unused, this amazing rock wall and staircase seem to be a part of the still-active Cobblestone Resort. It didn't stop our imaginations from running wild.

On the way home, the skies cracked open and poured. We'd made it off the river just in time. After stopping at Supersmokers for BBQ, there was still enough daylight to put the boats away, unpack, clean up and hang out on the porch to sing the sun down. A day as close to perfect as possible. Such is the magic of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Maudlin. Why I spend time in such a state is both a mystery and admittedly my own fault. I think too much. Things bother me. I dwell. Realization should grant power over the situation, and often does; rational emotive therapy and all that crap. However, the reality is that I’ve always felt deeply. Whatever it is cuts right to my bone. Delight, pain, rapture, despair, stillness, loss, hunger, satisfaction…. if boredom can be experienced passionately, I’ve done it. Makes for inspired artistry in times of creativity, or just a mess in the absence of muse or diversion.

So when that bittersweet sentimentality creeps in and lays heavy on my heart, it tends to settle in and stay a spell. Like a bad relationship, it’s symbiotic. We feed each other an addictive diet of romanticized sorrow that circles back and spirals around us, steeling a bond that shouldn’t be. It lurks behind my outwardly comic demeanor, visiting when I’m alone, unoccupied and unsuspecting. It colors my pallet with deep purples and midnight blues, pushing my brush into the pigment again and again to darken the circumstance.

And I know it. I feel it happening. Like watching the drama unfold in a seven hundred page sixteenth century novel, I am strangely removed, yet intimately involved, in the plot of my own life. This duality is an enigma, almost as impossible to convey as the feeling itself. Eventually, something unknown will pull me away and for a while I’ll be free. Until the next time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Water. The river, the ocean, the pump, the tap. A mostly legal vice. One I'm not giving up.

RuralGurl goes ink. Read the guest column here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just a sliver off a full moon

Tonight there's just a sliver off a full moon, a night on the cusp of magic. It drew me out to play suspended diminished chords in moody progressions by candle light on the porch. Dreamily, eerily, the music washed over the garden in waves, pulled like the tide over a thousand miles away. Dissonance, resolve, dissonance, resolve, dissonance. Never ending. When a breeze took the candle's flame and I was left alone with the moon, the song found its voice. Some progressions are only complete when they are left incomplete. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Make Love Stay

It's June, the brides are swarming like bees. Picking out gowns, registering at every store imaginable, making lists of love songs for the DJ to spin.

So many songs account the first blush of love, just as many detail the pain of love lost. Same with movies, books, etc. Then there is the rest of us. Common knowledge holds that the honeymoon doesn't last forever. It's up, it's down, it's fireworks, it's an icebox, it's exciting, it's boring, but it is. While most would have us believe that we are either wildly, passionately in the throes of heated romance or dead, there have been thoughtful, touching tributes to trying to make it through. Dan Fogelberg wrote, "Now that we know the fire can burn bright or merely smolder, how do we keep it from dying away?" Jeff Tweedy of Wilco sings that "You're gonna need to be patient with me."

But perhaps the most brutally honest depiction of making love stay was in the 1946 movie called "The Best Years Of Our Lives." Middle-aged Milly is speaking to her husband who has recently come home from WWII, after her 20-something daughter told them that they didn't know what it was like for her, because their lives had been perfect, they'd never had any trouble. First she says to her daughter, "We never had any trouble...." and then she turns to Al, her husband of 25+ years, "How many times have I told you I hated you, and believed it in my heart. How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me, that we were all washed up? How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?" And the look in their eyes reveal every word as truth.

Having once been a starry-eyed bride-to-be myself, I know that looking forward and seeing something less than idyllic just isn't on the agenda. But later, "when the lonely nights are over" and you're wondering "how do we make love stay?" you'll need to be ready to fall in love all over again.

Monday, June 09, 2008


One of the great pleasures of my life is walking barefoot in the grass.

Of a morning, coffee warm in hand, still in my white summer cotton nightgown, I'll head toward the garden. The dew is on the grass, cool against my toes. Breeze gentle on my bare arms, sun already warming my back, I check the blackberries. Fruit is already on the vines that I twine around the trellis, soon it will be ripe and luscious.

In the evening, sun waning, the grass is warm beneath my feet. The sun of the day tells its story in the blades, tickling my ankles as I make my way toward the herb garden. There's oregano, parsley and rosemary for the pasta, some dill and chives for the salad. Their fragrance wafts ups as I snip and gather, inspiring recipes not yet dreamt.

As the moon rises and the white flowers bloom, the dew falls. Moonflower perfumes the stillness and the lightning bugs appear like ghosts from the other side. The grass on my feet is once again cool, soothing after a long day. It restores me like a hymn to the darkness. For a while I'm whole.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Wine Whine

It's no surprise that the wineries are calling to me. They combine much of what is right in my world. Working with the land, often family owned operations, craft in the making, art in the vinting, aroma, texture, creativity, food, calming vistas, conviviality, usually some music and a good wine buzz is just icing on the cake.

While cozying up in front of a crackling autumn fireplace with your sweetie and a glass of port is softly romantic, the warmer months let the wineries shine. Colored bottles sparkle in the sunlight. Birds sing and swoop to perch at table's edge, waiting for a crumb. Picnic blankets are spread on lawns, lovers resting heads in laps, watching clouds and stealing kisses. Laughter peals and ripples from group to group, that giddy sound that only a cocktail of sunshine and champagne can bring. Acoustic music wafts over the hillside and people sing in spite of themselves, suddenly unconscious of inhibition, and it's beautiful.

My husband and I had our third date at a winery. On a little patio covered with vines, dappled sun peeking down on us, he got me drunk on champagne, fed me strawberries and held my hand while we took in the sweeping view of the Augusta vineyards. It was the first of many winery trips that year, that decade, this lifetime. Eventually, I learned to love complex wines, and I learned to navigate our complex lives. But when we go back to the wineries, we're free of all that. It's just pure pleasure. No wonder the wineries call to me.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Jill of all trades

Like most folks, I'm not really an expert at anything. Music, cooking, gardening, art, photography, lit and (gasp!) "management" I am pretty darn good at, but throw me into a room full of people and I can hold my own with all but the most pretentious of the narrow minded.

At one point I'd entitled my Monster resumé "Jill Of All Trades". While a person should feel good that they know enough many about many different subjects to jump in and be useful almost anywhere, being well rounded is no longer a sought-after characteristic. Not in the job market, not in life in general it seems. Pity. Folks who are well read and have varied life and/or job experiences are far more interesting, vibrant and valuable. They provide bang for the buck at work and are more fun to have a beer with after the whistle blows. Diverse, yet well rounded coworkers can find common ground on which to build relationships with one another. This in turn creates a culture of acceptance and teamwork, something employers always say they are striving for.... but are they? Like the Tootsie Pop commercial says, the world may never know.