Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Came, went

Christmas came and went. Cookies, choirs, pork loin, caroling, cocoa, parties, crab claws, presents, whiskey slush, candle light, wine, sparkling snow. It swirled in on a whirlwind and is begging to stay, not knowing that it needn't worry. Like all we love, it is gone but not forgotten. Treasured in the heart.

2009 came and went. Job, no job, new job, broken promises and pleasant surprises. There were risks that paid off, ones that didn't and cards left in a folded hand that can't be played. Until, that is, you turn them all in and reshuffle the deck. Soon it will be a new year. New cards, a second chance, a second moon. A blue moon on the turning of the year, of the decade, of our lives. Everything comes and goes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How many ornaments fit on a Christmas Tree?

Our tree will not hold all the ornaments. Every year, we seem to acquire a couple more; either by gift or because I see something that I just can't live without. Like many who grew up with a little less, I have an innate need to collect a little more. More penguins, more guitars, more salt cellars, more books, more dishes and more Christmas decorations. Our home is modest at best with bunga"low" ceilings that barely fit a six foot tree once a star or angel sits on top. I dream of a vaulted turret, bay window or picture-pane foyer, graced by a twelve or fourteen foot tree, adorned by every ornament in our possession. Every antique mercury glass teardrop, every hand beaded satin ball, every bird, beast and music note, every crystal, every angel, every snowflake, every commemorative memento of our Christmases together. But for now, a few will have to do. It is no less Christmas, it holds no less magic. It just is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's a blur

Ten days until Christmas eve. Life's a blur. Work, eat, wrap, bake, sing, drink, sleep, repeat. About now I start making promises that deep down I know I'll never keep. Next year, I'll start collecting gifts in June. Next year, I'll start baking in October and freeze the cookies. Next year, I'll make the cards in September. Next year, I'll keep the house clean so frantic sprucing is unnecessary. Next year I won't get sick, or self conscience , or sad. Next year, next year, next year......

Ever notice how brilliant the Christmas tree looks when you take out your contact lenses and look at it with your own, naked, broken eyes? Perhaps Christmas is best left as a blur, a mystery not quite understood.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A few of my favorite things

Why is "The Sound Of Music" considered a Christmas movie? It makes no sense. Don't get me wrong, I know every song, but outside of talking about "snowflakes that fall of my nose & eyelashes" and "packages tied up with string", it's just not a Christmas movie. "Christmas In Connecticut", "White Christmas", "Prancer", "Toys", yes, yes, yes, and I love Barry Levinson, yes. Among so many others, yes; they are a few of my favorite (Christmas) things.

But I will always forgo a Christmas movie for quality music by the tree time. There is nothing so filled with holiday spirit as caroling by the light of the Christmas tree. Ever since I could plunk out three chords, I've taken great joy in treeside serenade. A lovely cup of tea or perhaps some red wine, twinkling lights, a scatter of snow outside if you're lucky and hours of songs known by heart. It doesn't get much better. Tree, snow, lights, guitar, music, Christmas... These are a few of my favorite things.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Songs of Christmas

One of my bosses plays Christmas songs all year long. I may be the only one there who gets it. I've been playing them since October. Last year, I went as far as to attempt to write one of my own (with a little help and inspiration from Franz Gruber).

Most carols' melodies are timeless. They are usually easily transposed and best of all they beg for harmony. Some of the first songs a child learns are Christmas (or other holiday) songs; even non-musical families sing during yearly, family gathering type holidays. The songs become a part of you, ingrained into your very being. Even if you hate them, you can't forget them. They are as insidious as an infectious pop tune. So give in, indulge in the guilty pleasure. "Because you need a little Christmas, right this very minute. You need a little Christmas now."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

How to enjoy the holiday season

Top 10 ways to enjoy the holiday season:
10. Skip a boring party because you "had to work late". Won't work for the annual company soirée.
9. Tell the hubs there's nary a smooch until all those presents are wrapped.
8. Bring a bottle of fancy coffee flavoring syrup to share at the office. Lace it with vodka.
7. Tell everyone Robert Earl Keen wrote "Merry Christmas From The Family" about yours.
6. Volunteer with a charity. "Sorry, I didn't have time to..... I was volunteering!"
5. Two words. Internet shopping.
4. Every cookie you bake takes food from a pastry chef's starving child's mouth. Buy them.
3. Ditch the stigma. It's not re-gifting, it's GREEN gifting!
2. Screw the budget, hire a housekeeper & a caterer. It's your Christmas present to yourself.
And the number one way to enjoy the holiday season....
1. Hop a freight, go away. Go far, far away.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't think about the words

Don't think about the words. That's the only way I can make it through most Christmas carols without choking up. It's like singing at a funeral or a wedding. The emotion has to be kept at a safe distance, with just enough creeping through to convey the credible, heartfelt warmth for which those situations call. Perhaps it sounds cold, but the alternative is rafts of sniffling singers with tear-stained cheeks blubbering their way through every sad or joyous occasion imaginable. But Christmas? Holiday songs did not always make me cry. Actually, I'm not quite sure when the phenomenon began. One year, I picked up my guitar, started to sing Silent Night, and before the end of the second verse, I had begun to turn into a puddle. Silver Bells, an innocuous ditty about shopping, lights and bells, same thing. O Holy Night was like a burst levee, as was It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. What changed? Why was Christmas twisting a knife into my heart? So I worked on the distance. Now I can sing and play carols for hours on end with hardly a tear. Unless I think about the words. Because sometimes, especially at Christmastime, you just have to cry.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Romance

When they coined the phrase "hopeless romantic", they may have well been describing my love affair with the Christmas season. My romantic vision of Christmas seemed to evolve over time. Elements of my childhood like cookies, music, snow, a live tree and intricate wrapping of each present with curling ribbon mingle with literature and pop culture to include caroling, mulled wine or a goodly port (thanks, Charles), decorating the house with golden ribbon, crystal and candles, parties, entertaining, watching It's A Wonderful Life, and gazing at the twinkling tree. I know I expect too much out of the holidays, and yet I'm still let down when they inevitably fall short of my lofty imaginings. Classic Christmas blues. But as a hopeless romantic, I continue to try, to believe, to still want it all. This year is the first in quite a few that we've put up a full size, 'real' tree. The living room smells like a pine forest, the LED's are twinkling away, and treasured ornaments were hung with care. It's a wonderful start. Maybe this year.......

Friday, November 13, 2009

Strange weather

Indian Summer came late. In shorts and a camisole, I contemplated the bare trees standing like skeletons on top of the ridge, silently begging for snow. Too many days of rain knocked down the last of their leaves, then swelled the river into thinking spring had returned. Flash floods covered paddocks and fields. Streams invaded parks and basements. Deer, chased from the forest by the encroaching waters, littered the highway in a bloody mess. An unseen heron left his gliding shadow on the swollen stream. What was this strange season residing between the full moon and Friday the 13th? And what did it mean?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Do you consider it an art?

Pictures. Photos. I could play all day between the camera and the "darkroom" that is my computer. It continually amazes me how photography has changed. When I first started getting serious about photography as a hobby, my boyfriend (now husband) was patient and encouraging. While I already had an artist's eye for composition, I had to learn how to translate that vision to the reality of film. He'd give me assignments to help me understand aperture, shutter and film speed, depth of field, light metering and even filters. He bought me a good SLR and turned me loose. Every frame, I thought to myself, is this worth the film? I missed many a shot trying to be judicious and thrifty. Now, with the miracle of digital photography, we can click wantonly. It's not always a good thing. Sometimes I think that the art is forgotten in the desire of the moment, as well as the craft. Perhaps it is time to take a step back to basics. Is this shot really worth the megabytes? Is it still an art? Or is it just a craft?

Friday, November 06, 2009

George Washington Carver Day

I always dig the whole living history thing. Part drama, part history; when it's done well it really makes the subject come alive. A few weeks back, the Missouri Botanical Garden hosted their annual George Washington Carver Day. Paxton Williams from the Carver National Monument in Diamond, MO came to the garden and did a fine job of portraying Carver. He took us on a tour of the garden, talking about "his" life, teachings and discoveries. The walk ended in the Carver Garden, a 2005 addition, complete with a fountain, statue and natural amphitheater for teaching programs or just relaxing and listening to the flowers. Oh, you don't think flowers or plants can talk? Or that you can talk with them? Then you need to stop by the library and read about George Washington Carver. He wasn't just the peanut man. He was a gardener, an artist, a musician, a spiritualist, a botanist, an inventor, an environmentalist, a humanitarian, a poet, a teacher, and yes, a scientist. And pretty decent theatre.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

When did October go?

The days of autumn are all but slipping away
When did October go?
My colors are fading into a mixed muddy brown
Where did October go?
The rain hasn't stopped for almost fourteen days
When did October go?
Wet leaves are slippery like the ice will soon be
Where did October go?

Why did I let it leave?
I kept trying to say good bye.
How could I let you leave?
Without giving it one more try?

Dark skies will shatter under lightning's flash
When did October go?
The stars may be hidden but the moon peeks out
Where did October go?
You're only but a shadow in my memory
When did October go?
I try to remember so my mind can see
Your face as you turned to go.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Driving the view

"Living it down just enough time to revel
When you're driving the view
The pace looks up when the burn goes down
Time and again when you're driving the view"1

Son Volt is a great autumn band. Maybe it's Jay's often dark lyrical imagery. Or his use of minor chords that melt into momentary major glimmer. Maybe it's their music's ability to break your heart while you smile; the juxtaposition of rhythm and emotion. Try as I might, it's nearly beyond explanation. You just have to feel it. Drive down highway 44 through the brilliant death of foliage with Son Volt and the fall wind washing over you. Then you'll know.

"May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor
Two hands on the wheel
May the wind take your troubles away"2

1. Driving The View - Jay Farrar
2. Windfall - Jay Farrar

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn has captured me

People will say, oh, my favorite season is summer. Or spring or fall. Or how they hate winter. My favorite season is...... all the above. As a season winds down, giving way to the next, I tend to mourn. There is never enough time to enjoy it. I beg for one more snowflake, one more crocus, one more firefly in the warm evening. But then I give in to the joy of the new season and it becomes my favorite. Autumn has fully captured me now.

Every day on my drive to and from work, I pass through huge hills and river valleys. The trees are ablaze with color, turning my commute into a kaleidoscope. It is a joy. Air is crisp and fresh. Frost has nipped the grass. I dream of apples, pumpkins and mulled cider. An October picnic spent warming in the sun will melt away any chill, so will a fire and some port. I want to take it all in, I know it will be gone too soon. And my favorite season will change, again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Farm Aid 2009

"Hello... We're Wilco. And we're here for the party as well."

Farm Aid was worth every precious penny, even with the astronomical service fee charged by Live Nation. Phosphorescent played to glowing reviews. Lukas Nelson (yes, Willie's son) absolutely blew everyone away with his searing Strat work. Jason Mraz managed mass audience participation in broad daylight. Gretchen, well, she was there for the party. Then there was Wilco.

Yeah, I'm a rabid Wilco fan, so my views are tainted. It was far from the best performance ever; it's hard to get a vibe goin' when you only have time for a few songs. But they definitely played to the St. Louis fans. Jeff actually claimed his local Belleville heritage, even though a bit tongue-in-cheek. (Not much difference than the rest of us.) "Heavy Metal Drummer" is like a polaroid from my, and many in the crowd's, past. And even though he's not a redneck as a gambling song might imply, Tweedy and friends rocked local fave "Casino Queen". "Hoodoo Voodoo" was a fitting ending, considering Woody Guthrie's lifelong crusade for the common man, and who is the backbone of these, if not the family farmer? Perfect choice.

Dave (does he even need a last name any more?) and Tim did their duet thing. Tim always mesmerizing on his D-35, Dave always.... the head of the cult-of-Dave. No one likes Dave Matthews a little. You either don't get him, or you're a follower. Plenty of followers in the house. Many left after his set. Their loss.

John Mellencamp probably had the best set of the evening. It had been years since I'd seen him and he doesn't seem to have changed all that much. High energy, belting it out, Miriam Sturm's amazing fiddle, and that weird song ending air punch thing. The audience sang on all the old songs, especially closer "The Authority Song". It was a crowd that's been with him since this Cougar days, and they love him still.

Uncle Neil was our conscience. He ripped off his Stop Factory Farms shirt (a wardrobe malfunction) to reveal a Go Family Farms one. "We need our farms back!" He shouted. Willie joined him for "Homegrown" and the haze began to rise from the crowd. But as much as Neil Young was the conscience, he was also the beauty. The man has written some of the most simple and gorgeous melodies and heartfelt lyrics in rock history as evidenced by his set ending number, "Comes A Time." More than one tear did fall.

It wouldn't be Farm Aid without the Willie Nelson wrap up. 76 and gliding through those wacky jazz runs and inverted chords like a monster. I stood loose-jawed, staring at the jumbo screen. His face may be craggy, but his eyes are always a-sparkle, his hands move like flowing water, and the hits just keep on coming. It's a patchwork crazy quilt kind of thing, one song begets another and another, bumping into the next in disjointed yet oddly coherent fashion. Not quite a medley, more of a stream of consciousness set, but it's Willie and so it works. By the end of it all, the stage was full of any and everyone "still left" on site for the feel-good gospel & Hank Williams sing-a-long. Sadly, Neil and Hank's D-28 couldn't make the finale. Even so, all in all, and all day long, it was one hell of a show.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bon Iver Sunrise Graveyard Concert

I love Bon Iver. I love graveyards. I love sunrise.
I hate that I could not be there to experience all three.
Haunting melodies creeping on the fog through headstones
just as the sky blushed.
Amazing. Surreal. Inspiring. Perfect.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bloody Angry

This work of art says it all for me. It was not called Bloody Angry, but it should have been. When the mood strikes, this is a perfect depiction of anger emerging from the darkness of my troubled mind. Or maybe just a portrait of pissed off.

Sometimes you just want the conspiracy to be done with. Stop with the demands, stop with the needs, stop with the wants, stop with the being nice. Stop with the have to, stop with the should do, stop with the could you. Just stop.

Let me hurt, let me be angry, let me find a way to take care of myself and heal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dan Fogelberg - Love In Time

Imagine my surprise to find how many people out there "get" Dan Fogelberg. The internet is an amazing thing. True, there are the rabid fans, the women for whom he is/was an "idol". But then there are the people who found something more in his music, his art and his actions. A preacher in Dallas, a NY Times Sports writer, a sound engineer, an IT professional, other musicians, a best friend. I have run into countless of these folks in the last few years, chatted with many and forged friendships with quite a few. It's amazing, really, how this man brought so many together.

Now, by the grace of his widow, Jean, he brings us together again. I won't retell the heart wrenching story of how this posthumous release came to be, but I will say that he put it together himself as a completed musical project before his death. This is not the cutting room floor stuff that many record labels scramble to scrape together and release as a post-mortem money maker. This is Dan. Hopeful and reflective, full of imagery and emotion and in love. So in love.

I remember an interview I heard or read once where Dan was asked why he rarely spoke publicly about his life. He replied something to the effect of how he didn't need to, if you listened to the songs, it's pretty much there. And it is. Couched in artistic license and the poetry of great lyric, but the story of Dan is still there. The girl who's heart he never won, championed causes, nature and spirit, family, divorce and finally, true love. "Love In Time" is for all of us, but it was really for Jean. Hers was his love in time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wrapped Around The Equinox

The last day of summer hid behind gray clouds
Mourning the loss of its season
Skies shuddered and wept and moaned out load
Praying for a a final reprieve
But in the mist of the equinox all daylight escaped
Leaving no regrets to linger
And the darkness of night fell as soft as the rains
Like a blanket of comfort and calm.

The first day of autumn rushed in with the dawn
Blinding and orange all bright
Summer returned as if it had never been gone
Coaxing mist from the river's rise
While the sun played its game of trick the season
Leaves were attempting to turn
For time wrapped around the equinox just teases
And glimpses what is to come.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary Travers, my first folk hero

When I was six, Sister Mary Joseph, in full Dominican habit, sat cross-legged on the floor with her first grade class strumming an old classical guitar and singing.... "I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor and I don't like it very much!" We giggled and squealed with delight. Then she sang "Puff The Magic Dragon", which I'd heard on the radio, and I was totally hooked. Throughout that fall, if we were especially good, Sister would open up the record player and put "Peter, Paul and Mommy" on the turntable. Through the magic of music we went to the zoo (zoo, zoo), had a song to sing (O!) and learned the mystery of "The Marvelous Toy".
When I saw PP&M on TV, it was so exciting! I wanted to be Mary Travers. I wanted long blond hair. I wanted to sing. I wanted to sing with boys! Then I heard the other songs. "Leaving On A Jet Plane", "If I Had A Hammer", "Blowin' In The Wind", "Lemon Tree", "Stewball". I learned them all. A few years later, when I began to play guitar, I learned them all again. When I heard that Mary Travers had passed, memories of all those songs and how much they meant to me and taught me in those very early years, flooded back. Somehow, I just don't think I'd been the same person had I been raised on Barney. RIP, Mary, and thank-you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Feeling a bit prickly

Some days are prickly. Everything sort of rubs the wrong way, claws are out, hissing is only moments away. But like thorny plants and puffed up cats, it's just a defense mechanism against unwanted intruders. Deep within there's a soft center.

The cactus wren is not deterred by the spines of the saguaro, it depends on it. Goldfinches thrive on thistle. Once past their sharp exteriors, there's sweet blackberries, soft rose petals, and fragrant honey locust blossoms. Beyond my moody, prickly, stress hides a girl who really just wants a snack, a pillow and a nap. Nothing personal.

Monday, September 14, 2009

No one puts Baby in the corner

Dirty Dancing is one of those movies that every time I run across it as I'm switching channels, I have to stop and watch. Johnny is a little bit dangerous, quite a bit older, strong, handsome and has a good heart. Yet he finds himself falling for the little bit geeky, quite a bit awkward, not-pin-up-model girl. And they dance. It was an ugly duckling's dream. Even though I was already married and well into my 20's when Dirty Dancing hit the screen, it was magical nonetheless. I never became a rabid, uber-fan, but that character made me keep track of Patrick Swayze. There were good films and bad, cult classics, and TV. Outside of his profession, he lived away from fame's trappings on a ranch surrounded by horses, laughter, nature and his wife of over 30 years. He fought the good fight until the end and his death saddens me. Safe journey, Patrick, God bless.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day

How to have a perfect Labor Day: Sleep late, wake slowly to slants of sunshine falling through the blinds. Sip coffee, read all the paper, such luxury. Spend too much time in the shower, skip the hair drier entirely. Take a long walk, photograph everything, anything. Contemplate the papyrus; do others find them to be the fireworks of the garden? Enjoy tea. Read my book on the patio, fall into a delicious nap. Sip some wine while cooking dinner for friends, something easy, quick and fresh. Eat slowly, revel in conversation, share more wine. Do nothing stressful, do nothing hurried, live within each moment, enjoy it all.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Reflections on water of angels
Unseen in the sky by day
And of spirits cast like shadows
Of clouds the eye does not see

But the heart knows

The moon pulls me as if I was the tide
Shows me the shadow's secret
It is a burden just to hold
Magic no one else believes

But the heart knows

Sunday, August 30, 2009


The sky is impossibly blue, the trees are a million shades of green and the water is clear and...... cold? Something happened to August; it turned into late September. For two weekends now the mercury (okay, the digital read-out) has barely topped 80 degrees. Today was a downright chilly 72. But as wrong as it feels, I'm loving it.

Sleeping with a breeze through the windows, the night full of crickets, it's like a different world. My dreams are filled with nature. I awake expecting to be staring up at the moon from a sleeping bag, but it's only the streetlight seeping through a crack in the blinds. Then I drift away again, to the river, the garden or to a desert I've never seen. Morning comes fresh, dew is thick. Mist rises slowly from the river valley. I want to revel in the cool and drink coffee while I warm myself in the sun. A day like this is inspiring. It begs to be painted. It cries for my company. What a shame to waste such rare and glorious days on work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Job 12:7-9

Ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
Or speak to the Earth, and it will teach you;
And the fish of the sea will explain to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Creator has done this?

While I attend church regularly, I am not so much religious as I am spiritual. Doctrine is often a deal breaker for me. I like Woody Guthrie's take on it. Once, upon checking into a hospital, he was asked, "Your religion?" "All of them." he answered.

There are beliefs I hold from many different religions. Christian, Catholic (their very own brand of Christianity), Native American, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, aspects of each of these creep into my personal spirituality. Teachings and text from all can be thought provoking, inspirational and moving. But sometimes I run across a verse that is particularly relevant to my heart; one that speaks to my soul. Job 12:7-9 is one of these. When I am outdoors, surrounded by nature, I am certain that there is a higher power. It makes me sing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Funeral for a friend

"That is goin' on my funeral list." Not that I really want a traditional funeral, but I do keep a list of songs that I'd like played on the day that my ashes catch the breeze. It's been going on ever since I was in high school; the list evolves and changes as new songs capture my imagination. Most of my friends think this is macabre. They are correct, as the technical definition of the word is, "having death as a subject : comprising or including a personalized representation of death." This does not necessarily mean it is depressing, though it can be if you believe it to be. There is something uplifting and comforting in the sad beauty of a haunting melody. Something that I've always wanted to share.

Just a few:
Mark's Song - Eastmountainsouth
On & On & On - Wilco
For A Dancer - Jackson Browne
Keep Me In Your Heart For A While - Warren Zevon
Birds - Neil Young
Give Me Love - George Harrison
Something For The Pain - Pierce Pettis
The Last Nail - Dan Fogelberg

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Serendipity via Thousand Oaks Winery

Serendipity is one of my favorite things. When good things happen out of the blue it's like the creator is handing you a special gift. So it was as we meandered down highway 51.

It had already been a memorable weekend, celebrating a friend's birthday with an exquisite meal and music and detouring off the main drag to find amazing BBQ in an unlikely Missouri town. Then after taking a left and heading northward toward home, I spied the sign. Thousand Oaks Winery. "Winery!" I shrieked. "Where?" the hubs asked, suddenly paying attention. "Right there." I pointed at the drive, having made a U-turn. We crunched over the gravel road through the forest, wondering what might await us; then we emerged from the woods into an Ozark oasis. Lake, huge patio, shady umbrellas, and as we turned the corner, an outdoor brick oven for making pizza and bread the old world way. The owner was feeding the fire. He greeted us warmly, and took us inside to taste. The wines were good, the reds will be even better with more bottle aging, and some made its way home with us. Even more impressive was the experience. The folks at Thousand Oaks are knowledgeable, neighborly and gracious. Besides a conversationally paced tasting, they took the time to show us the operation, the new wines, and the view. We talked about their upcoming music and events and my guess is that we'll be back to enjoy one.

These are the joys of the road less traveled, of life lived a little bit slower, of the beautiful serendipitous gifts given to us if we open our eyes and hearts and minds. And for these, I am eternally thankful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dan

This time last year I was in Peoria, making friends, watching the river, singing The Reach with unexpected harmony and surprisingly good red wine. This year on Dan Fogelberg's birthday, I'll be at work, listening to his posthumous release, "Love In Time" on my lunch break.

Most people don't understand why I still cherish Dan's music. Maybe they get why I'm into Neil Young, the Beatles, the Eagles, Poco, Jackson Browne, Son Volt, Wilco or the Jayhawks. Chances are they have never heard of John Gorka, Pierce Pettis, Michael Fracasso, Peter Bradly Adams or Richard Shindell. There's a golden thread that runs through the whole lot, it's honesty, pain, harmony and heart. It's love unrequited and lost; it's stories of darkness and light, of nature and spirit, of hope against hope and love again found. It's the way the songs make you feel, what they bring out of your soul. Not everyone will understand, but for the few who do:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

We are not meant to be alone.
Even though I crave it for my mind,
even when I need it for my sanity,
even when quiet is all
that will quell the storm,
my heart knows when to return.
Standing together, twin forest trees,
history like roots intertwined.
A simple touch, a stolen glance,
a sentence that doesn't need finishing;
there is a comfort in sharing,
a gift in laughter.
Solitude loses its definition
without comparison.
No, we are not meant to always be alone.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sam Baker and songsillinois

It can be a hard life out in cyberland. Does anybody listen? Does anybody care? We'll soon find out.

One of my favorite music blogs is Songs:Illinois.
Not just because I'm originally from there. Not just because I like a lot of the music he champions. But BECAUSE he champions. There is a passion in the writing of his blog. A passion for music, for art, for fun, for all that makes life worth living. At least what makes it worth living for me. And now he's on strike. Sort of. In the latest post, an amazing piece on Sam Baker, we are urged to pre-order Sam's new CD. When enough are ordered, Songs:Illinois will return.

Like he is a fanboy of Sam Baker, I am a fangirl. Just saw him at Woodyfest a few weeks ago and was floored again. He is both one of the funniest and most intense artists I know, not to mention being the kinda guy who would give you the shirt off his back without a second thought. His songs hit you in the truth, make you forget to breathe; they are honest and stunning in their poetic strength. Once his songs are in your ears, they will never leave. I swear it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Where gluttony meets art

A while back I challenged a photo-savvy friend to embody the seven deadly sins. Gluttony is probably the sin we actually see the most. Not pointing fingers, I am just as guilty as most mid-coast dwellers. Going out to eat is a prime form of entertainment, as is the fun of cooking and sharing a meal. You don't have to look for a place to eat in my area of the country, they practically litter the streets, opening and going out of business at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, it seems the ones that survive are the various McBurgers. For all those calories, you could almost eat a pound of sugar, or this third grade art project called Cake.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Feeling anti-social

Sometimes I just get to feeling anti-social. Not the kind when I'm depressed, not the kind when I'm not well. Although, both could be a factor. Spurts of creativity can do it, so can want of a quiet, home cooked meal. Other times, I'm tired of being "on". When you've got a reputation as the class clown and you turn up sedate, people ask what's wrong. So I say that I'm tired or queasy or just thinking. It's not their fault, no reason to offend. But for once I'd just like to tell them, I really would just like to be alone.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sir Paul

Some of you are lucky enough to have Sir Paul in your own backyard. Some of us are not. You just don't know how much I wish I'd been there. The man is a living legend. The man is an inspiration. The man still sounds amazing. The man is...... F@#!ing Paul McCartney!!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Again. How is Jimmy Davis not totally famous?

Tell me again, why is Jimmy Davis not totally famous? There's just not enough exceptional things to say about him without sounding either trite or like a star-struck fan. But really, he's just that damn good. Period.

Vocals? He sings all out with power and emotion. Guitar? Don't let that fabulously EQ'd all koa Martin fool you, Jimmy Daddy rocks. Dead on right hand technique that is seamless. Stage presence? So much energy, so intense, fun narrative and insight and that mischievous smile... Songwriting? He can make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same song. His stories draw you in; you get to know, love or perhaps even fear the people he writes about. Jimmy has a knack for turning a phrase, just when you least expect it.

With all this going for him, I just don't understand why more people don't know about Jimmy Davis. Every time I see him, I am blown away. You should be, too. Check out his tour schedule and do yourself a favor, treat your ears and your heart to some Jimmy Daddy today!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Woody Guthrie

Every year for the last many, in the middle of July, right around Woody Guthrie's birthday, I make the trek to Okemah, OK and the Woody Guthrie Free Folk Festival. Woodyfest, as it is affectionately known, is a different breed. It's free. Attendees pay to camp or park at the main stage, (but not both) but from then on out, the music is all without charge. The artists are not paid to play there. Lodging, a meal and travel, yes, but their time and performance is donated. So only people who really want to be there play there. And once they get the Woody bug, they come back again and again, whenever their schedule allows. It's a real treat to be a part of this odd band of true hearted troubadours. They play with joy, they sing with passion, they beg you to think, they inspire you to act, they break your heart, then turn around and make you laugh. Just like Woody did. Happy birthday, Woody, my world would not be the same without the music you inspired.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Drive

My hair is tangle as I fly down the highway
All the windows down
Nothing but the sound
Of bluegrass on the radio and my easy smile.
Sunshine in my eyes and sweet green forest on the wind
Singing high and lonesome
Along with all the old songs
Until the record ends and I'm back in your arms.
Eight more hours is more miles than I can count
Driving west forever
Until I meet my lover
Underneath the moonlit midnight summer skies.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Of feathers and Neil Young

"Feathers fall around you and show you the way to go..." Sometimes a songwriter tends toward particular imagery. It makes you wonder why. "There you stood on the edge of your feather, expecting to fly...." Birds and feathers. Freedom and delicacy; power and magic. "Big birds flying across the sky...." The spectrum is fascinating, seeing how something so simple, so common, becomes mythic. "See the bluebird fly, easy as a dream..." We've all seen them, dreamed of flying, felt our spirit soar with them as they wheeled across the sky. Or been moved by the soft intricacy of a fallen feather. What enchantment held Neil?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I Am A Patriot

My favorite patriotic song. Maybe someday we'll all be free.
Happy 4th of July.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Light a candle

As a recovering Catholic, there are some things I miss about that Church. Most of them have to do with Mary, statues/art, saints and mysterious ceremony. The Evangelical Lutherans, while big on music, rather very open minded (especially at my church), lack in the lore of mystery. When I was small, I would save up my money so that every week I'd have a silver coin to put in the slot (pennies were not good enough for her) and light a candle at the feet of the Virgin Mary. I would kneel there, staring at the flame, and pray very hard for her to intercede, to whisper in her son's ear, to let Jesus know what I said with all my heart. Somehow, I was sure that the candle made all the difference. Somehow, I still do.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Presto, it's pesto!

Basil loves the sun. While I languish in the heatwave, twelve continuous days near 100 degrees, the basil grows stronger. Grass dies, flowers wilt, all begging for water from the evening hose. Eggplants, peppers and tomatoes happily bloom. These plants, like their companions of basil and cilantro, crave the heat. They are fruits and leaves of a different climate, transplants in our Midwestern world. As summers grow longer and hotter, they thrive. Sometimes I am glad of this, as I grind up the garlic and pine nuts, stream the olive oil and add the freshly picked, wrinkled, fragrant leaves. My home smells like a Genovese kitchen. Global warming be damned, I'll just make more pesto.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1987 was not so Bad

Today the news is full of Michael Jackson's death. While I was not his biggest fan, this terrible news takes me back. 1987 was my first year in "the industry". That's the year that music became a business, not just a passion.

"Bad" was far from my favorite record that year. 1987 brought us U2's "The Joshua Tree", Sting's "...Nothing Like The Sun", Lyle Lovette's "Pontiac", REM's "Document" and the guilty pleasure of "Dirty Dancing", all which still reside in the basement CD stacks. It was the year I turned onto Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos, Michael Hedges, Sonic Youth, Steve Earle, The Replacements and The Flaming Lips.

I had a hard time keeping Gun 'n' Roses, Phantom of the Opera, Bon Jovi, Beastie Boys, Def Leppard, INXS, George Michael, and Eric B & Rakim in stock. But "Bad", we had enough of. We were already talking about his so-called decline. The record was just not performing to expectation, at least not to that of our buyer's in New York. I had "Bad" coming out my ears and even after Christmas, CBS/Sony wouldn't take them back. They were hard lessons to learn. 1) Even if you are responsible, you are not in charge. 2) In most big companies, they don't want to hear anything from the front line, even if they say they do. 3) If your company's "in bed" with a vendor, ain't nothing you can do about it; there's something bigger going on.

So 1987 did have some great music. There was also Prince, Mellencamp, Robbie Robertson, The Smiths, The Cure, Geroge Harrison, Public Enemy, Sinade, Hiatt, Sisters of Mercy, Sonic Youth, Zevon, The Meat Puppets, kd Lang, the BoDeans and Bougois Tagg (anybody remember them?). And I learned many a lesson about corporate politics. So I guess 1987 was not all that "Bad."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


If I were queen, fireworks would not be relegated to a couple of holidays and the occasional (sorry Cards) home run. These midnight lights' magic far outweigh potential danger. Anything that stops a thousand people dead in their tracks to ooooo, aaaaaah and squeal like delighted toddlers should not be rationed mercilessly. We could have Roman birthday candles and anniversary displays. Every concert at your local "shed" could end with a bang; mom would know when to go pick up the kids. Some would say that the over use would render fireworks less special. I disagree. Does one tire of a single flames' entracement? Or get bored watching a campfire lick skyward? Does the Milky Way fail to marvel astronamers just because it's repeatedly visible? No. Magic does not lose it wonder, not if you believe. Stare into the night sky and believe.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ghost bird

Egrets stalked the road and adjacent field. It had been raining every weekend since Easter, fulfilling the old wives tale, and again nearly every day for two weeks. The Mississippi could no longer be held by its banks and it roamed where it willed, taking tiny creatures with it. You could almost hear the herons' laughter; dinner would be easy tonight. I parked where the asphalt was still dry, kicked off my sandals and waded silently down the road. Water ran like glass over my feet, it was still more clear than tea, neither yet turbid nor stagnant. Ahead of me, the egret stopped. Every click of the camera brought another turn of his graceful neck. We danced like this, both of us, wading and waiting, stalking one another until the rain began again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fall into The Gap

The Gap started it, blame them. Back in the '70's The Gap was THE place to buy jeans. Levi's. Real jeans. And when you walked out of The Gap, your jeans were in a nifty white plastic bag emblazoned with the Gap's logo and cinched with a cotton draw string . Everyone else had paper sacks. Grocery store bags, department store bags (sometimes with handy handles), specialty store bags, shoe store bags, they were all paper. It was a badge of honor to have a Gap Bag. You'd take something to school, anything, just to sling it over your shoulder and show that you were a cool kid. Soon all the "cool" stores were giving out plastic, draw string bags. Candies shoes (pre-Kohls, please!), Colonel Days, 5 7 & 9, if it was trendy, you got THE BAG.

Time wore on and bags de-volved. No more draw string, thinner, cheaper plastic and everyone was on the bandwagon. Even the 'Marts (K & Wal). Now they are everywhere, clogging landfills, endangering wildlife and filling up my pantry. What were we thinking?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

March of the penguins

They marched across the plate like a tiny, edible army. "O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!." I thought I heard them chanting like the wicked witch's Winkie Guards; quite frightening for an appetizer. Must have been their pointy little "hats".

A wonderful friend at my old job made them special for me on my last day there. We were the olive girls; open a can of black olives near us and you could kiss them goodbye. Considering my obsession with all things penguin, a more perfect gesture could not have been made. Not only that, but they were delicious!

If someone tells you they ate a penguin at my party, do not be shocked. Now you know the secret.

Friday, June 12, 2009


When your life changes, even if it is for the better, things spin. The world whirls around you, and when it stops, you keep whirling, like a mad dervish, carried on my a bizarre inertia. Routines are different, timing is off, I am preoccupied. It is a world trying to seek its balance. Change is like that. I'm happier, for now I'm wearier, and eventually, as any drinker knows, the spins will stop.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On the bliggity-blog

Okay, I admit it. I dig the Hulu. How could I not check it out when the ads are so good? Long having forgiven Denis for his Fogelberg bit (but it was funny), I'm always a fan of Leary's sharp tongue, bad attitude and quick, excellent delivery. He's the asshole (his words) you can't help liking. As for Hulu? Well, I'm bad about not setting the machine to record, so being able to pop over to Hulu and see Steve & Paul on Jimmy Fallon is a good thing. Maybe as a clip, maybe the whole thing, maybe just move the slider over and skip to the best part and that's it. Works for me. Still more of a You Tube fan, but for TV, Hulu's got my vote for now.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Floating fast

"Remember to remember me
Standing still in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird"
- Jeff Tweeedy / Wilco

Maybe my goal in life is to be an echo.

Somehow the spirit flows through me, like sound through a canyon, and comes out as...... These pictures I take, these words I write, these songs I sing. All reflect the world that swirls around and inside me. Nothing is ever quite the same, yet it is. A grain of truth, a glimpse of memory, it all comes back, somehow. Somehow it echos.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

If ever your town is in the middle of a drought, there is a solution. Invite us to come camping there. I have tent camped through flash floods, tornadoes, thunderstorms, wind sheer... you name it. It just seems to be our luck. Same goes for float trips; they are a recipe for rain.

Once, on the Meramec River, while floating with my husband and his brother up from Florida, it was raining so hard we could not see and the canoe was filling up. We pulled off to a gravel bar, unloaded the gear, turned the canoe upside down and wedged on end in a tree so we could sit under it. The river rose. We moved the canoe farther up the bank. The thunder and lightening began; the boat was aluminum. We lived to tell about it.

A different trip took us to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. The campgrounds are lovely and shaded, down in the hollow. It's a cool and protected place to pitch a tent, unless there is a thunderstorm. Thunder echoed all night off the cavernous bluff walls. Rain pelted the tent, blowing from all sides. Water seeped in from below. Then the wind began to move the tent. It was beyond frightening, AND I had to go to the bathroom. Finally, the wind ceased and the rain turned to a drizzle. In the morning, we struck camp, rented a room in the lodge and went to the laundromat. "Did you hear about the tornado last night?" we were asked. "Went right over the park." Peachy. But we lived to tell about it.

So if it's too dry down your way, let us know. Be be careful what you ask for.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Doe a deer

They are so cute. They are so tasty. Yes, I love deer. However, I have not had to contend with them coming into my yard or garden and eating every carefully planted fruit, veggie and flower in sight. Some of my friends who live in farther suburbs have and they are waging war with the bambies. Some communities are having special urban herd culling seasons. Shoot, (pun intended) I'm all for it. Venison is lower in calories and fat than beef and more flavorful. I've got quite a bit in my freezer now from a family friend's lucky autumn hunt. There will still be plenty of deer for me to photograph and to oooo and awwww over. Just like this one. Look at those ears! So cute. Hmmmm.... yum.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Creek dipping

My home has been this river for the last five days. Every morning it was there to greet me, every evening it sang me to sleep. A short walk from my tent the fish jumped, birds reeled, frogs chorused and water flowed. Just knowing it was there calmed me. Despite a few evening storms and rain, it was a vacation full of adventure, wonder and relaxation. Days had a natural rhythm, no alarm clocks to rudely jar me from my dreams. Nights brought stars and firelight, with time to stare into the flames and sky, pondering simple existence. Time moved slower, air was sweeter, sleep fell deeper. Someday I will live by the water, not just visit.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mystery of the Grape Pez Iris

Most iris share a similar familiar floral scent. Sweet, flowery, a hint of vanilla and lemon perhaps. But one particular iris, one small, lavender iris with a yellow and orange beard, it smells like grapes. Fizzy grape. Nehi grape soda or grape Pez, and not just faintly. No, quite distinctly and profusely. They parade up the side of my driveway and greet me when I open the door of my truck or home. As I work in the yard, planting lantana and coleus in the big, square planters, their candy-sweet scent wafts to me, tickling my nose as well as my fancy. What could be more playful? What could be more odd? I imagine some elderly botanist, snickering mischievously over the unexpected propagation result. Grape! Grape? This will confuse them! Yes, it does. But I delight in it anyway, perhaps more so.