Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I'm Knitting....

Mittens out of sock yarn
A funky scarf


An earflap hat
Fingerless mittens


A beret....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mark Zane and Friends at the Red and White Cafe

Mark Zane and Frankie Diamond played Saturday night at the Red and White Cafe.


The Red and White Cafe, DeRuyter, NY....check it out, it's a great place to go!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Updated Playlist

When I begin a new project (or start getting ready for my annual Plowshares exhibit of my handknit goods) I start burning CDs to help me get through it. Here's what's on my latest playlist:

I'm Not Ready to Play Nice....Dixie Chicks
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)...Dylan
Casualty Officer...Mark Zane
50 Miles of Elbow Room...Iris DeMent
I Married A Magician....Dust Poets
If I Should Fall Behind...Bruce Springstein
Whistlin' Past the Graveyard...Tom Waits
Motherland...Natalie Merchant
Yellow Coat...Steve Goodman
Watershed....Indigo Girls
In the Winter....Janis Ian
Splendid Isolation...Warren Zevon
Chelsea Avenue....Patti Scialfa
Flying Shoes....Lyle Lovett
Sailing to Philadelphia...Mark Knopfler
Stranger Song...Leonard Cohen
Joy...Lucinda Williams
Perfectly Good Guitar...John Hyatt
On With The Song...Mary Chapin Carpenter
Bone in My Ear...Bruce Cockburn
Free Man in Paris...Joni Mitchell
Have Hope...Mark Zane
Evening Ride...Donna Colton
I Don't Know Anything...Marc Ryan
Sam Stone...John Prine

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words?



this is why I never took a road test....

Forest Lake





Where Rupert and I would like to be walking again this morning....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hope

When I stopped working, one of the things I promised myself was that I would surround myself only with people I really liked, who shared the same passions I did, whose politics matched mine most of the time and who I could be with without having to bite my tongue or filter my thoughts when I was around them.

For the most part, I've been successful in my mission. I spend most of my free time with artistic people who understand that staring into space for an hour trying to come up with the perfect word to rhyme with "mustard" is not to be considered a total waste of my time. It's quite refreshing. Occasionally someone will make a comment that I'm too much of a Pollyanna, still too liberal for my own good, or some such thing that I can usually smile away. Differences are okay with me...it's what makes the world go around and I embrace them.

But not when differences become mean-spirited and just plain nasty. I have two dear cousins I don't see often who choose to communicate with me via email...mostly forwarded jokes. I once thought this was a waste of time, but, hey, it's still keeping in touch, and that's better than losing track of them completely. Or so I'd told myself. They're family, after all. I've noticed over the last year, however, that their emails have become much less humorous and much more political in nature. I read some, just deleted some based on the subject line, even dashed off a couple of emails to them asking them not to send this kind of stuff to me, reminding them that I'd been a liberal Democratic too long and they were not about to convert me now.

This morning I deleted 22 -- yes, 22 -- emails all aimed at convincing me that we're doomed to live in a socialist society, that I'll die before I get an operation I need, that all my freedom is being taken away because troops are coming home, etc.....and believe me, the words I've just typed are extremely tame compared to the language found within these emails that are full of language I can only call nasty, combative, racist, and, what's most alarming of all to me, just plain ignorant.

I'll admit I do tend to look at the glass as half filled. I do look for the good in people. I often give folks the benefit of the doubt. I trust. Sometimes it doesn't work out. But I still have faith in President Obama. He's only had a short period of time to undo mistakes that were made over a very long period of time. I wish more people would take the time to listen, to suggest alternative ideas instead of slinging arrows.

If we wish to be outraged at something, why are we not screaming about the reporter who spent nine months in jail for throwing his boot at then President Bush....he missed him.....while Dick Cheney, certainly responsible for the torture of human beings....is off giving speeches and being honored here and there. Certainly this is more unsettling than someone working hard to try to fix our health care system.

I still have hope I'm not alone in feeling this way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Enchanted Evening Listening to the Women Sing

I know. I said I wouldn’t attend a gathering that was exclusive. But, hey, I’m a woman, exercising my right to change my mind. And I’ve had several lines of a poem I’m revising rattling around in my head that begins “sister songs, so full of grace”, so I felt an almost urgent need to be within a group of women singer- songwriters, hoping to be inspired to find a way out of that poem.

Their gathering in no way mirrors the Songwriters Woodshed, and that was a nice contrast for me. They take turns playing their own material or whatever else they wish to play. Others play along, add harmony. I so wished I’d learned to play guitar or could carry a tune. At times it was damn near painful only being able to sit there and tap my foot.

It was a delight to hear some songs by songwriters I was not familiar with as I am not fond of listening to the radio. Once I stopped working, buying CDs became one of the vices given up and the library’s selection of music is…well….pedestrian at best. I enjoyed hearing some “new” voices, at least for me.

I hadn’t expected to be taken down two very emotional memory lanes with their music that left me rattled far into the night.

Eugenia played and sang so beautifully in Spanish, reminding me of the month so very long ago….in 1988, in what seems now like another lifetime for me….when I lived in Bolivia for a month as part of my job then. Tony, Kathy and I would sneak out of our quarters at night and wander down side streets we’d been told not to go on to listen to local music. I was instantly taken back to LaPaz when Eugenia strummed her guitar, wondering what had happened to those two old friends and the others who had been with us on that trip. Was the gentleman who crafted one of my silver bracelets still making his amazing jewelry in his tiny little shed? Was his donkey still as ornery? Did it still smell so green there? How was it possible I’d done all that? And why did I not remember more of the Spanish I’d had to learn to exist in those lush surroundings? Why had I never made it back there?

And Jo sang a rendition of Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”. She did it in honor of someone she knew who had passed away. I’d never heard it done as a song. I know the poem by heart though. It was Grandma Thelma’s favorite. I recited this poem at her funeral, the first eulogy I was asked to do. I was in my twenties then and foolish enough to believe that this would be the only eulogy I’d ever have to deliver.

I thoroughly enjoyed Joanne’s version of my all-time favorite Lucinda William’s song “Essence” and thank Melissa for playing Mary Chapin Carpenter’s haunting “Grand Central Station”. Although I find the original work I hear from these musicians always to be very good, Wendy’s “Put On Your Seatbelt” was by far the best song I’ve heard from almost anyone in a very long time. I think it knocked everyone’s socks off…..I’m so glad she decided to sing it.

I loved the easy atmosphere found with this group and hope to find myself in their midst again. Maybe by then I’ll have finished my poem and can share it with them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wondering.....

We walk Rupert in the morning at the same time the kids gather for the school bus. It seems odd to us that they appear at every corner. We remember having to walk to ONE corner to meet the bus in the “old days”.

Our neighborhood is so diverse….we passed two Afro-American teens, backs to one another, their cell phones blazing in the early morning light as they texted away (to one another?) on one corner, nodded to an Indian boy rushing to meet his bus, said hello to the younger Chinese kids who wait in the church parking lot who rarely speak but spin their sparkly smiles our way, and crossed the street in order to pass by the Iraqi kids on another corner because we’d noticed a grey car parked there on our way by earlier, parked on the wrong side of the road and just sitting there. We wanted to be sure everything was OK.

The young Iraqi boy, I’m guessing he’s around twelve, stopped me and said, “The police just went into that house and now they are standing there waiting.” Two younger Iraqi girls waited near him. We pass them most mornings, run into their parents in the laundry room we share, but don’t really know them well. I looked back at the grey car, recognizing that is was indeed a police vehicle and noticed several police men with bullet proof vests surrounding one of the houses on our block we have long suspected of being a drug hub.

“Do you want us to stand with you here until this is over?” I asked the young man. These kind of drug busts are fairly common in our neighborhood, typically end quickly and non-violently. I hoped the police wouldn’t be doing this at this time of day if they had feared it ending any other way. The girls seemed completely unconcerned. Had the boy been entrusted with their safety? Was he frightened?

He shook his head. “No, I am not scared.” He stood taller and thanked me and we slowly walked the half block home, letting Rupert take his time sniffing around every tree and telephone pole until it the drug bust was over.

All morning I've wondered.....what might this young Iraqi man have witnessed in his old neighborhood that makes a drug bust nothing to be scared about?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writers Group Meets Today!

I cannot wait to see the gang! We take summers off to escape to cooler places or deal with families. Our first meeting is always a casual lunch at Sparky’s where we catch up on neighborhood gossip and what’s going on in each of our lives that we don’t already know. No one has to read anything or offer a critique, so we’re more relaxed. No one has to offer an excuse as to why they haven’t been writing anything either.

Mary Ellen and I have been writing during the summer…at least in our heads. We share a backyard fence now and have seemed to be back from our camps at the same time this summer, so we’ve talked about our poems a bit. I don’t know what Vince is working on. Jeffrey has kept me up to date via email on his memoir. We still haven’t replaced Deb, Denise or Demetri – the three former members who all moved away. If we do decide to replace them, we need to look for people whose names start with a letter other than “D”, I reckon. We miss these folks…..they’ve been gone awhile. We talk about having others join us, but we’ve become so comfortable with one another, it seems as if it might not be right to let anyone else come in. And could anyone really replace them anyway?

There are similarities and contrasts between the writers group and the songwriters circle. I think the writers group has more fun. We meet more often. Perhaps because we are smaller, we handle more material. I like the structure of the songwriters circle better and often wish one of the writers would run the group as efficiently when one of us gets off on a tangent and the others fail to bring us back to task.

I’ve missed these fellow writers. When we share our writing…in its rawest form with every flaw…we grow to know one another better than spouse or family often. I feel safe with them. They respect my politics, often share my convoluted view of the world. I know I can say anything at all around them and they’ll agree or just shrug it off as me being me. They are my sanctuary. And today I get to have lunch with them. I am indeed a lucky woman.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Old Friends

"Old Friends, sit on the park bench like bookends...."

Yeah, it's a Simon and you-know-who song, and don't worry, I'm not going into a tirade here again.

I had the privilege of having breakfast over the weekend with an old friend. It always feels so good to see Ginger, like pulling on the cardigan sweater you keep in the back of the closet, the only one that makes you feel warm on those days when you think you're coming down with the flu.

We met in the strangest of circumstances. It was nearly thirty years ago. I'd been physically assaulted and was in the hospital, literally fearing for my life. I begged them to put my in the psych ward, the only locked doors in the place, the only place I knew I could get a good night's sleep. My roommate there was Ginger, who'd had enough of the world at that time and had ended up being rolled into my room the night I arrived. We spent two weeks locked up together, talking, letting her friend Maggie sneak us in hot fudge sundaes, swapping therapy session stories and ranting about the therapist when each of our sessions resulted in the exact conclusions even when the issues we'd each raised had been extremely different. We scorned the so-called professionals there, plotted to assist a young woman's in escape from the ward (and succeeded!), and became fast friends.

We don't see each other often. I think it'd been a couple of years since we'd last seen each other, even though Ginger lives about three miles from where we camp. Saturday we met for breakfast and my new favorite spot, the Red and White Cafe in DeRuyter. We caught up on kids, grandchildren, our animals and retirement plans and life in general, met her latest dog, made vague plans to get together soon, waved good bye.

I carry her spirit with me still. She got me through some tough times; I like to think I helped her along the way, too. And we'll do it again someday. Gladly.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September Songs......Continued From Previous Post

In July hubby and I were treated to a lovely evening at the home of Mark and Alice Zane. After a tasty dinner, Mark grabbed his guitar and said he was going to play me the song he would be taking to the next Songwriters Woodshed so I could tell him if I liked the lyrics. How delighted I was to get a sneak preview of the next Mark Zane masterpiece!

And then he started playing a graceful melody and singing lyrics that startled me: it was a poem I had written. I was numb. Why was he doing this? Was he making fun of me? I’m a poet, not a songwriter. I think there is a huge difference between the two arts. I waited for him to stop playing and go into the song he had really written. He continued to play, the melody entranced me and I was speechless. If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a huge fan of Mark’s music. And there he was, singing one of my poems. I was honored, humbled.

About ten years ago, the Marketing Director at the oncology practice I worked for asked me to write a poem for a dinner being given by the Research Department for folks participating in a clinical trial. She asked me on a Monday morning and I read the poem at the dinner that Thursday night. It was well received by most. My boss at the time and I had our usual falling out about it. She felt I should have written about “heroes”; I had a different definition of a hero in my heart. The poem remained on the desks of several staff…..which may have merely been a means to suck up to the HR woman….but it was also picked up by other research programs in other states. The emotion of the poem touched some.

“The Urge” has a cadence, because I knew I had to read it out loud and it’s easier for me to do that with a rhythm and a rhyme if a poem has no personal meaning to me. And that’s probably why Mark chose to set it to music. Still, we knew that the songwriters group would NOT know what to do with it. It had no “arc”. It didn’t “say” anything. There is no chorus, no bridge, only three short verses. And the music, written mostly in minor chords, might be said to not match the lyrics, though I personally loved the contrast, finding it almost hymn-like.

It wasn’t a hit with the group, almost exactly as we expected it not to be. It may not have been fair to them to even present it, but it did generate a discussion about the melody. Sometimes the group gets hung up on critiquing lyrics only, so that was nice. The critique of my lyrics actually thrilled me…..as Wendy said, “You’ve been initiated!”….even though some of the lines rejected were the same others quoted as being the most meaningful to them. That’s perfectly fine with me: I want my words to mean different things to different people.

My delight came when Mark commented that he thought the group would know it wasn’t one of his songs and another songwriter said he thought it sounded like a Mark Zane lyric. THAT was music to my ears! Mark, my sincerest thanks. And, again, thanks to the group for allowing me to listen in every month. You always inspire….

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September Songs

After a month’s hiatus, the songwriters gathered again at Sparkytown last Tuesday. More about the songs later. First I want to share an exchange made by two of the musicians that I was so glad to hear. I’m paraphrasing here, but you’ll get the drift (and I’m not using names as I didn’t get permission):

Musician: Can you tell us what you meant by the verse that began……..?
Songwriter: I’d rather not get into the logic behind the song. I’d rather it be about the emotion of the song.

Yes! The song did not require explanation….it was about embracing possibility, and having possibility embrace you in return. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it. Someone else may have found a different meaning. And isn’t that the purpose of some songs? Not every song is supposed to have a clear cut beginning, middle and end; not every song should tell a complete story or mean the same thing to everyone. How nice it was to have a songwriter actually say this.

Many of the songs presented at the Words and Music Songwriters Woodshed are of the folk genre, which indeed do tell a story. And that’s fine. I love folk songs. I’m also drawn to those mystical lyrics that make you wonder what in the world was happening in someone’s life to make them put those words down on paper at that time (think of Leonard Cohen) ….and what could be learned from such words. It’s what makes music interesting to me, listening to lyrics that reflect an experience someone else may have had that I might identify with on some level. This song about possibilities spoke in volumes, possibly because I could fill in the blanks with my own experience. I didn’t need the details of the songwriter’s experience to make it real. I didn’t need the logic.

Other songs performed touched me also, particularly “Tuesday’s Song”, which included a line about Memorial Day. There was some discussion about the use of this holiday in the song. I felt it quite appropriate to use this for the day a relationship is over, for would that not be a memorial day? I loved the song….and boy, that gal can sing!

“One Drop of Rain” had delightful lyrics with surprises tossed in to keep you listening for what came next and a melody that pleased. It was a very catchy tune. Another melodic wonder with lyrics to match was “Make the World Go Slow”. Although there was some discussion about whether references to actual locations, in this case Lake Champlain, were good or bad for the song, I love this songwriter’s use of local venues and towns. His lyrics are always interesting, make you think and never bore me with worn out clich├ęs.

One of the talented singer-songwriters in this group never fails to amaze me with his rhyme schemes and complicated songs. “Hang Onto Me Baby” was a delight…..and it always seems to me as if he sings each and every note he plays on his guitar.

“In Your Head” was painful to hear….not because it was not a wonderful song, but because it was so real, you understood exactly what the singer was going through. It reminded me of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” I just wanted to hug the songwriter afterwards. The song gave me chills.

The two youngest members of the group delivered two very strong songs. “Before It’s Too Late” was about not making the same old mistakes….and the words rang true. And my hat is off to anyone who can write Abraham Lincoln into song lyrics and make it interesting; “Hold Me to the River” did just that!

My disappointment of the evening was that one of the songwriters came empty handed. He’s been working on a lovely piece, “The Olive Tree”, and I’d hoped we would get a chance to hear it again. I hope his lack of a song to share was only due to his not having enough time to work on anything and not discouragement of any sort.

Oh…..yeah…..I almost forgot. One of the songwriters wrote a melody to a poem I’d written. We presented it to the group. I’ll have more to say about that in another post, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Trapped


There they are....in the center of this spider's web....see them? All those words I wish I had the energy to type right now? Maybe tomorrow. After I unpack from our move back from the camper. After I get some sleep. After Chris gets back to work after his recovery from knee surgery. Once Rupert gets used to being back in the city again and stops barking at every noise. I've got lots to say, as soon as I can unwind the words....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Transition







September 1st. We are back at the apartment, preparing for hubby's knee surgery scheduled for Thursday. I brought the first suitcases back from the camper and unpacked this morning. This task ranks tops on my list of least favorite things to do.




Others I know are getting used to new jobs or kids leaving for school or new schools themselves. I guess September is a month of transition for many. Still, I never like the move we make from peaceful days in the woods back into this city life. It's nice to have a grocery store around the corner and friends within shouting distance, yes....but oh how I miss those long, solitary walks Rupert and I started our mornings with wandering around the lake or through the woods and hay fields. He must get used to the school bus again and other dogs and people who feel compelled to yell.


Ugh. Sure will miss those woods.