Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival

We set up the tent to the sound of a banjo, waking up at night with loons calling from the nearby lake.  Ate breakfast in the morning with a penny whistle in the distance  and a raven circling close to our camp site with a strangely distressing call

I attended a song-writing break out session led by Tim - the stand up bass player from The Barrel Boys.  Some of the things he said were:
-inspiration may or may not happen.
-pay attention to what is on the fringe because the most interesting things do not show up on the most well trodden path.
-you cannot surprise yourself.
-turn off the filter.  write fearlessly.  later edit mercilessly.
-liberate the creative process by putting things in a box. restrict your options.
-do some free writing every day. 5-10 minutes. then walk away and make coffee
-find the surprise.
-if the idea is outside of yourself, you just need to execute the form. it is less attached to you
-commit to one thing ahead of time. helps to restrict possibilities

The last part of the song writing break out session, of course, was to partner with someone and take a shot at writing a song.  Tim set the restrictions: make this a sad song.  Write a sad song about an animal at camp.  My assigned partner and I tossed around a few ideas, and decided to go with a story about the raven I had heard at breakfast.  We decided it was a sad raven.  We had a few ideas and lines down by the end of the break out, far from done.  The raven story stayed with me... woke me up early in the mornings in the tent till I "finished" it. 

I have written exactly one song in my life.  That was on the shore of a river somewhere in northern Ontario part of the way through a college choir tour.  So here you are - the second song that I have written.  About a sad raven at the Northern Lights Blue Grass and Old Tyme Festival at Ness Creek.
Melody still to be determined.  So no, not technically a song!  A few days later we heard 2 owls hooting at each other in the late afternoon haze.  Sounded territorial but I've rarely heard owls, and certainly not in the daytime.  So maybe they were mad owls.  Sad ravens.  lonely loons. and cheeky blue jays. So many songs could have been written about the birds we heard and saw! But I digress.  (clearing throat). a Sad Raven.

Camp was built on raven land
nests high in the trees
song and smoke and raven's call
drifting on the breeze.

Raven voices reckless
while the banjo's and penny whistles sing
baby raven trying to fly
trying to take wing

mama circling back to you
calling calling
mama circling back to you
calling, calling

light has faded in the smoky sky
and the dew falls wet on the still, black wings
this little baby couldn't learn to fly
while the banjos and fiddles sing

mama circling all around
calling calling
little baby raven on the ground
calling, calling

Camp was built on raven land
nests high in the trees
song and smoke and raven's call
drifting on the breeze.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Somehow in this sorting of things in our deep fall cleaning I started thinking about my neighbor Fran. She's been gone 6 years now. 

She would lean over her back deck watching the birds, watching the seasons, watching my children grow.  We often visited when I worked in my garden.  She'd hear me sneezing and call "Hello!!" across the fence. 

After her Keith passed away I could hear her singing through her open kitchen window
"One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking of you ..."
I'd never heard her sing before.

She told me one summer afternoon that if I heard her talking to Keith, it wasn't because she was losing her mind.  It was because after a life time of talking to someone, it was hard to stop. 

And so she kept talking to Keith. She was not very strong any more.
She got baptized that summer 
in the water of her backyard fountain.

Her pastor told her that every day as she heard the water running over the rocks, she could remember this day - remember whose she was. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

September morning

September stillness settles into the crevices of the morning.

Yellowing leaves stand damp after yesterday's rains;
birds are waking slowly.

A child says goodbye to her grandma
and sings to herself as she walks past my house on the way to school.

My self-seeding snapdragons stand tall, sending rockets of color skyward.
I transplanted himalayan poppies, some new lilies, delphiniums, and crocuses over the summer.

As they settle in with these fall rains I look forward to seeing what another summer will look like.
In the meantime, the winter, the snow, the months of dormancy will overcome them.

September stillness settles into the crevices of the morning.

In the crevices, I am resting.