Monday, September 28, 2015

Prairie Dance

In late September
the prairie puts on
her autumn clothes.
She dresses herself in layers
of russet and bronze
with touches of gold
and yards of feathery trim.
She rustles when she moves,
her skirts rippling in the breeze.
She adorns herself
with flowers
and fluff
and her perfume is
the sweet, warm scent
of sun-dried grass.
She settles in
with her face to the sun
and smiles at the sound
of cricket chirp and cicada hum.
She doesn't have the glitter
of mountains of aspens
or the jewel toned excess
of sugar mapled hills,
but her subtle style of beauty
has a glory all its own.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I See the Moon

Tonight was the full moon. There was also a total lunar eclipse. And in China, it was the Mid-Autumn, or Moon Festival. So, since Steve is an astronomy fan and I have a soft spot for all things Chinese, we went out to look at the moon.
The girls had no real interest in either the science or the symbolism of this moon rise, so we played. With the moon.

I love the thought that people all over the world are looking in wonder at this very same moon.
The Moon Festival is a time when people return to there families of origin to honor their ancestors and celebrate the harvest and marvel at the beauty of the moon. I know that my girls' birth families and Rachel's foster family probably went out on their evening (which was sometime during our morning) and watched the moon. I always imagine that they are wondering about the babies who became my Katherine and Rachel. I wish that I could tell them that their daughters are here and that they are safe and healthy and oh so loved. For now, I'll just send silent messages to the moon and watch in wonder.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Saturday evening, after my mom and the girls had left the bluegrass festival, I stayed and hung out with friends for a while. Eventually, they all headed in different directions and I was alone. I was tired and chilly, but not quite ready to leave. I decided to head out to the campgrounds to find Carp Camp, the group of musicians who played at church last week. I thought I'd listen to them play a few songs and then go on home.

When I arrived at Carp Camp, I found it absolutely packed. There were at least 70 musicians crammed shoulder to shoulder under their open air tent and people standing all around the outside enjoying the music.

I have been to Carp Camp many times, but I had never seen so many people playing there at once - I counted 16 hammered dulcimers alone!
The musicians were laughing and joking and clearly enjoying themselves. To make things even more fun, many of them were wearing pirate hats, head scarves, or fake beards to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day!
Some of the people in the group have been playing together for decades. Others brought their instruments and joined in just for the night. The leader, who was sitting in the innermost circle, would call out the name of two or three songs and start them off.
Occasionally he'd shout for different sections to play alone - "Just the fiddles!" or "Dulcimers and mandolins!"
The music ranged from traditional Irish tunes to songs they'd written themselves, crazy fast songs that made you want to dance to slow, sweet waltzes. I was great fun to just stand and listen. I recorded bits of the music, but can't figure out how to link it to my blog....
One of the wonderful things about this collection of players is that they invited passing musicians to come and join them, even play a solo or teach them a new song. At one point, the group leader looked up and waved in a man standing near me. It was Pete Huttlinger, a wonderful guitar player who had been performing at the festival all week. They sat him on a platform in the middle, the place of honor and announced the next song. Pete groaned because it was a ridiculously fast piece, but he played with a grin on his face.
After a few songs, Pete gestured to his friend, who had been singing with him during the week. He introduced her as Mollie Weaver and announced that she would like to sing for us. He explained that the song as an aria and in Italian, but he thought we would enjoy it. The musicians politely set down their instruments. Mollie smiled, opened her mouth, and proceeded to sing the most gorgeous song. Everyone listened in complete awe, as her enormous voice filled the tent and the campgrounds far beyond. "Con te partiro" she sang, time to say goodbye. Her voice was rich and powerful and full of emotion. Mollie was sitting on a rotating stool and as she sang, she slowly turned in circles, aiming that magnificent voice at every person there. You could hear her in your bones. It was magical.
I have heard lots of unusual things at the bluegrass festival over the years - didgeridoos,  musical saws, Jimi Hendrix played on mandolin, yodelling - but this was the most unexpected. And the most beautiful. That voice singing that song in that place was something almost holy. It's something I will never forget.

I stood outside that tent in the cold for an hour and a half. If I hadn't had responsibilities the next day I could have stood there all night. I finally headed home, though, with my heart full of music and my bucket overflowing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bluegrass 2015

Our town hosts a big music festival every year, with thousands of people coming to camp out, play music, and listen to musicians on the 4 official stages and endless music jams in the campgrounds. It is pretty amazing, but a little difficult to describe.  I first attended the festival in college and have been back most years since and my girls and I look forward to going all year long.

Yesterday we donned our tie-dye and headed out for a day of music and fun.
The festival is a laid back affair, with people wandering between four stages listening to bluegrass, folk, Western swing, Celtic, mountain, gospel, and other sorts of acoustic music.
We enjoyed a series of 16-and-under musicians... excellent Scottish group that played Celtic music, including an incredibly talented bagpipes player...
...the amazing Linda Tilton, who is a sign language interpreter and turns music into visual dance of symbols...
...and our favorites, folk performers Tom Chapin and John McCutcheon. We saw both of them perform individually, but it was especially fun to see them on stage together.
We listened and sang along on songs we knew and just enjoyed the music flowing everywhere.

There are all sorts of music and craft vendors at the festival, and we had fun exploring their wares, too.

Katherine was eager to check out the instruments for sale. The vendors could sense her interest and they encouraged her to take a try at playing. Kate was slightly hesitant at first, but couldn't pass up the offers. First she tried a hammered dulcimer, an instrument that is as physically beautiful as its sound. Even the wooden hammers are gorgeous.

Next she tried a ukulele.
After that, is was easy to talk her into trying out these fantastic wooden washboards!

They really were cool!
But what Katherine really wanted to try were the fiddles.
So she did.

She told the vendor that she loves playing classical music, and she does. But she is also totally fascinated by the fiddlers and the way they just jump into a music jam and play along. She knows she doesn't have the experience yet to play like that, but she wants to.

One of the best parts of the festival is just watching the musicians. There are people playing music everywhere!

We wandered out to the camp grounds during the afternoon. There are hundreds and hundreds of RVs and campers and tents crammed together in little camps. We even spotted this excellent throwback site.
We found Carp Camp, the group that played at our church, but they were mostly just sitting around chatting.

I spent time hanging out with some of my college friends, some of whom I only see at the festival. We still enjoy each others' friendship and now our kids have become friends, too.
Bluegrass weekend is one of the very best times of the year. It's when we see old friends and make new connections. Where we fill our ears and our minds with music. Where we fill up our buckets and soothe our souls. We had a wonderful day and, as always, we were a little sad to leave. But there is always next year!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way