Saturday, June 27, 2009

Just When I'm Wondering If I Have Any Friends Left...

I had a voicemail message from Vince, a call I couldn't get in the woods where phone service sometimes just sucks. I called him back when we came back into town. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Sorry I couldn't get your call. What's up?
Vince: I wanted to offer to give you a ride to this thing the Peace Council is doing in Thorndon Park, inviting folks to read their favorite poetry in an all-day event of Peace and Poetry.
Me: Sounds great. When is it?
Vince: Well, it was yesterday.
Me: Damn! I'm sorry I missed it!
Vince: I went.
Me: Was it wonderful?
Vince: It was. A great day.
Me: Did you have trouble deciding whose poetry to read?
Vince: No. I took my copy of "Taking Heart" and read your poems.

Thanks, Vince, for leaving me speechless, something we know doesn't happen very often.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reminder About Summer Postings

Don't always have computer access.....but that doesn't mean I'm not when I post, there will almost always be more than one posted, so, if you're interested, scroll down. Wouldn't want you to miss anything. And thanks for reading!

June Songwriters.....and Thoughts

All the songs delighted at this session. The changes made to “I Dream in You” have made this a song I hummed for a week or so – it’s absolutely lovely. “Two Diamond Rings” is based on an exceptional story and will someday be an exceptional song. I loved “Gifts Along the Way” just as it was and “Water Wheel Go Round” reminded me of my younger days living on the lake right between New Hope and the Mandana Inn and I wouldn’t change it either (sometimes we really don’t need to understand everything, do we?) I identified too closely with “Dysfunctional Family Blues” to find fault with it and I felt that “License Plates” worked exactly as planned and felt the critique unfair (didn’t anyone else know John Hiatt’s “Tennessee Plates” where you knew what was coming?)

Anyway, that’s not what the evening was about for me. It was the young-uns. They blew the night away with their songs.

It wasn’t the lyrics. It wasn’t the melody. It wasn’t the performance. Although all were strong. They were good.

It was something one of the other songwriters said that stuck with me. After hearing one young man’s song about what’s wrong with the world today, she made a very valid comment about how we’ve been listening to songs about such things for a lot longer than he has. How true! And how damned unfortunate!

It’s something I’m thinking of more and more these days. When I watched a Jackson Browne PBS Concert and he’s singing “Lives in the Balance” and “I’m a Patriot” written years ago for different conflicts yet too meaningful today. When I watched another PBS special about Neil Young and he says he waited for today’s Bob Dylan to come forward to write new protest songs and no one did so he had to write them himself. There are new songs out there…..perhaps not as angry, not as in-your-face, but they’re there. There will always be protest songs. And it feels like a generation failed in its music. We’re just singing the same things with different words. Are we getting so used to it, we aren’t listening any more? Are any problems being solved?

I hope those young men keep on playing, loud and strong, however they see the problems of the world. AND I hope they take to heart something that Dana said as part of his critique of their song, something maybe us “old” folks might have learned along the way as we try to get our message across: anguish is better than anger.

Thanks again Sparky and the gang of songwriters that let me listen in the first Tuesday of every month.

May Songwriters' Circle at Sparkytown

At the end of May’s session, Dana urged me NOT to blog about that session. I’m not sure why. I found it to be one of the more interesting with a song about masturbation sung at the break and the songs offered for critique that evening right up my alley: poetical and/or political.

“Do Frogs Dream?” I didn’t care what it meant….wasn’t that the purpose of this piece? I just wanted to get lost in the melody and lyrics, and I did. I wanted to hear it again and again. I keep reading the lyrics. It’s great as a poem.

“The Olive Tree”….a poem turned into a song….a sweet, sentimental song that with a little tweaking could be a song we all remember. There’s a personal touch here that makes you want to love the song, but it’s just not there quite yet. It will be. He’ll get there. I hope to hear this one again in the future.

I’m always up for the quirky, Tom Paxtonish tune….and “The Men’s Room Wall” delivered. Lively discussion followed, including whether someone standing there urinating would be “cogitating” or “contemplating”. Hmmm.

Sometimes I’m just plain jealous of a lyric…..why didn’t I write that first? That’s the jolt I got when Joanne sang “conversation spills a memory into my lap”….ah man, she sometimes just nails an emotion and then sings in such a pretty voice, you can’t help but love the song. “Any Given Day.” I always imagine Emmylou Harris making a million or so on one of Joanne’s songs someday….unless Joanne does it herself first.

“In My Reverie” was the source of lots of discussion that I didn’t understand. Too much repetition? What did it mean? I kept wondering what Bob Dylan might have gone through had he been a member of this group. I like the rhymes in this piece….they don’t seem forced or words put there just for the sake of a rhyme. I like the repetition…it’s like a day dream. Maybe the folks who didn’t get it should spend more time fishing. Or day dreaming.

The most discussion of the evening came at the end of the night. It was a Mark Zane song that did it, called “An Army of One” about an Army Recruiter. It could be interpreted as the recruiter gloating that he’d roped in another sucker. “Another notch toward promotion” as the song quotes. Some took exception to this. Perhaps it was the late hour. Perhaps it was a lack of experience or personal knowledge. Perhaps I’ll just never understand that politics do in fact make strange bedfellows and not everyone believes as I do. Anyway, I’m glad Mark wrote this song and I hope he found a corner of the campus he works on to sing it the next day when the Army recruiters were working there.

And isn’t that the purpose of songwriting…..especially in the folk style? To record the story of the day? Whether it’s what’s written on the bathroom wall or what’s happening on a college campus?

Thanks again to Sparky and to Dana and to the group for allowing me to be a fly on the wall.

Summer Postings

For those of you checking in, I’m still writing as often as usual, just not posting as often as I have no Internet access in the woods. So scroll down....when I post, there will be several new items. Hope you’re having a good summer!


I’m a loner. I’m not a joiner. I don’t attend a church, am not a member of any clubs. My writing group in the closest thing to a “gang” I’ve ever been involved in……except for the four kids I hung around with in high school: Carol, Roland, Margaret Ann and Mark.
We hung out together a lot, mostly in Roland’s room. He had the best stereo and we were all into music. I could walk to his house. He also had a car and we all fit into it. Roland dated Carol, who was a couple of grades ahead of us in school. Mark, Margaret Ann, Roland and I were all in the same grade, all in the same home room; we worked on the school yearbook together. We had some great adventures.
I lost track of them after graduation. I’ve never attended a high school reunion. I moved away from the hometown several years ago, and since my father died, have little reason to return. And then because I wanted to “keep an eye” on the emotional status of my son, I did the Facebook thing….and suddenly hometown folks dropped into my life again. Not anyone I really knew at first. But one day there it was…..a friend request from one of my old “gang”….from Carol.
I was happy to answer that request! Carol was someone I’d always looked up to. She was popular, blonde, pretty and had a boyfriend: I longed to be just like her. We chatted back and forth and arranged to get together at our camper.
What a lovely Sunday we had! The hours flew by as we caught up on the lives we’ve led the past forty years. Carol did not judge me for leaving the old hometown to follow my dreams, encouraged me to attend my next class reunion coming up in a couple of years, even offered to go with me. From the moment she drove up to the camper, she brought with her the ease and comfort I remembered her always having with her. I still carry loads of respect for Carol. I still want to be just like her.
I doubt I’ll go to that class reunion. Others won’t be as nice as Carol. They’ll point out the extra pounds (behind my back, of course, and not nicely) and gossip about the son who’s been in and out of jail and the daughter who doesn’t talk to me. They won’t acknowledge the good things; that’s often how it is in small towns, one of the reasons I longed to escape.
But I will keep in touch with Carol, for she remains the same in such a good way. And how often can we say that? I certainly hope to. I’m looking forward to seeing her again soon.


My friend Denise Hayden has had her poem “On Call” selected as “Editor’s Choice” in the 2009 Allen Ginsberg Poetry competition. I am so proud of her! It’s an amazing poem written about the days she was volunteering as a rape crisis counselor…..she should get an award just for saying she’d volunteer for doing that, much less writing a poem about it. She’ll be reading her poem at a reading in Paterson, New Jersey in November. I can’t wait to go.

And thanks to all of you who voted for Allegra Barley who has made it to the final EIGHT in the San Diego Fair Musicalooza contest! She now competes in a live contest at the Fair and I am so wishing we could make it out there to cheer her on! I’m asking you to keep your fingers and toes crossed or do whatever voodoo you know to wish her success. Allegra is in a good place at the moment, completely living life as she wants…..she’s been able to give up her day job and support herself through her music! I’m so happy for her!

Mark Zane didn’t win a Sammy Award….but at least they were smart enough to nominate him! I can’t stop playing his “American Hunger” CD. These songs are multi-layered. The song I liked least on the CD – a song about domestic violence called “See Spot Run” – has now become my favorite. Each time I listen to it, there’s something I missed hearing the first time. It’s become a treasured part of my day in the woods. And even though he didn’t win a Sammy, Mark did “win” the heart of the lovely Alice and will be getting married on Saturday. We are honored to be attending the wedding and wish Mark and Alice many happy years together.

Friendship and Happiness

Recently I’ve been mourning the loss of two friends. One has passed away; the other is lost in negativity. I miss them both dearly.

This morning when I was walking Rupert down by the lake, I was remembering a conversation the friend who passed away on my last birthday and I once had. We were very young, sitting in bleachers watching the neighborhood boys playing baseball. She had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was then that we made the promise to attend one another’s funeral….the promise I kept a few weeks ago. She ended up living much longer than she expected to….having two sons after being told she’d never have children, marrying her childhood sweetheart, buying her childhood sweetheart unexpectedly and gracefully when they had always planned on her going first, and carrying on her life to the absolute fullest with not a trace of bitterness, not a regret that tugged at her heart. She held her head high, kept her heart full of love and positive energy, inspired everyone around her to treasure every day and kept that amazing smile of hers on her face until the very end. She worked her way through the unbearable loneliness of losing the love of her life and the physical pain she endured when a stroke ravaged her and her cancer returned.

I wish my other friend could have known her. It may have helped her find some perspective.

Also this morning while walking Rupert down by the lake I was flooded with music of my youth, an old Procol Harum lyric that simply would not leave my head, a song I’d long forgotten but once listened to almost daily. It’s barely known, written by someone I consider a true poet, Keith Reid. It’s called “In Held ‘Twas I” and starts out “In the autumn of my madness….” And I’d love to quote the entire song here but I’m afraid I’d get the lyrics wrong and that wouldn’t be fair to the song. The lyric that kept repeating itself over and over in my head though…..and I can remember my deceased friend nodding as we listened together so many years ago….I could see her face so clearly….

“…wallowing in a morass of self-despair made only more painful by the knowledge that all I am is of my own making……”

We choose to be happy. Or not to be. Every day. Keith Reid knew it. My friend Laurie knew it. Her choice to be happy gave her to power to overcome true obstacles in her life. I need the reminder now and then. And I gently pass it on to others now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Island Trail

These were taken on the Island Trail on Chincoteage Island, Virginia. We took Rupert here to walk at least twice a day, sometimes more. It's a little less than a mile, with several benches tucked near ponds where we could sit and reflect on life. If you look closely at the picture on the right, you'll see that Rupert is sitting and waiting patiently for three ducks to cross the trail in front of him. He's so used to having ducks and geese around at the camper, he never chases them, just accepts them as companions on the road of life. He loved this trail, as we did. We are so thankful that Michael told us about it...thanks, Michael!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chincoteague Ponies

Hubby took these pictures of the Chincoteague ponies that roam on Assateague Island last week while we were visiting there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Baby Foxes

Our "neighbors" at the camper...not afraid of us at all....enjoying the sun.