Music to Fill a Heart: Folk Fest Thursday, July 27, 2017

I haven’t updated my blog for most of the summer.  Sometimes life just carries you to places you didn’t expect.  It’s been one of those types of summers.  I purchased my Early Bird Folk Festival tickets months in advance of the event.  It was probably a good thing because otherwise, I wouldn’t have treated myself with so much going on at the home front.  In the end, I attended the entire weekend, with the support of my family and with coverage for dog walking and other responsibilities.  Max is always a factor in my planning.

It was July 27.  It was my mother’s birthday.  I remember taking my mother down to the the island, many years ago.  We sat on a bench and shared an ice cream cone. I thought a lot about Mom that evening. I ended up closer to the entrance than any previous Thursday night and had some lovely conversation with my line mates as we waited for gates to open.  I chatted with a family group and also met a gentleman who is married to a lady from Souris, PEI, so we had some time to chat about the Cheveries, as she has her family of origin in that line.

Oh, yeah…and I found this guy, in line.  (and yes…we need to get the programs in place NOW, in regards to homeless Veterans.  I’m with you on that, readers.)

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My first and most favourite food of the weekend…a Mediterranean plate, paired with an ice cold lemonade.  Thursday evening entailed no fly sheets, a simple cozy blanket for sitting.

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Thursday night saw me plunking my butt down at the Main Stage the entire time.  I ended up very close to the music.  I felt breath and peace and music sink into me, as for the first time, this summer, I truly relaxed.  My favourite discovery was the 5:30 performance by Dawes!  Why haven’t I heard Dawes before?  What???

Immediately, the song writing touched me and I related to the music at a heart level.  I’m going to post, not one, but two videos, here.

Ripped off, directly from the Folk Festival website…this biography.

“California in the ‘70s saw the rise of the singer songwriter scene, where musicians threw off the yoke of ye olde folk songs to try their hands at new, more personal creations that melded the personal, the political and the heartfelt. California roots rock band Dawes ably carries that musical torch, even recording their first album live to analog tape in a studio in Laurel Canyon. If you need a recipe for Dawes’s sound, imagine poignant and melodic songs, heartfelt lyrics, sweet harmonies mixed together in a package that’s just a little rough around the edges.

The band’s founders are brothers Griffin and Taylor Goldsmith, so they come by the sweet sibling vocals honestly. Turns out the band’s name is part of their family roots. Dawes is Taylor’s middle name, inherited from his grandad who really liked the idea of keeping the connection and introduced them to two of their favourite artists, Bob Wills and Hank Williams. Dawes mines five albums worth of originals and occasionally serve as the backing band of their old friend and collaborator Bright Eyes (Connor Oberst). And they spread their modern take on ‘70s music, touring folk and rock festivals in the U.S., building a loyal audience for their distinct brand of indie California folk rock.
ER”

 

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A highlight for me was musician, Duane Betts, son of Dickey Betts, who joins Dawes with their touring band.  Mouth dropping guitar interludes absolutely blew me away!  A great experience in music!

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Choir! Choir! Choir!  was entertaining at 6:45, but honestly, Calgary, I would have liked to see more participation.  This makes me laugh, as I see the teacher-heart spring up.  We did a poor version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  It sounded nothing like the version I’ve posted, here.  I did move right up to the front and gave it my best effort, as you can all imagine.  We didn’t have Rufus Wainwright with us, but you get the idea.

 

An academic study into the effects of collective singing at one Mideast protest found that it helped the group vent negative emotions, strengthen solidarity, foster hope and experience spiritual transcendence. That’s also a typical review of a Choir! Choir! Choir! experience.

And it is an experience, more than a show or a gig. Choir! started as a weekly event at Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto, where anyone with $5 and any skill level could show up and sing along. As word and YouTube videos spread, they begin taking the experience on the road. The onstage setup is simple: usually, just an acoustic guitarist and somebody waving their arms (the conductor). The audience does the heavy lifting. No audition required: Choir! leaders hand out lyric sheets, divide the group into highs, middles and lows, teach the harmonies — and then a radio staple by Tragically Hip, Rihanna or a ’90s grunge band becomes a beautifully shared moment. Hope, solidarity and spiritual transcendence are often outcomes of a great Folk Fest stage, but never quite like this, where the magic emanates from all of you.

JM”

Up next was Coeur de pirate.  She has the pipes!  I was watching her perform through the eyes of my friend, Denise and I thought a lot about our friendship throughout the performance.  A beautiful and animated performer, she blew us all away.  It was at this point that I connected with friend, Jane, who happened to be hanging with all three of her kids and families.  I feel so blessed to have joined them on their tarp for this set.

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Billy Bragg and Joe Henry performed next.  It was difficult to separate the opinions of others regarding Billy Bragg and my experience of this music.  He is looked at like authentic ranchers would view a Rhinestone Cowboy…a bit of a star who doesn’t suffer the actual realities of hard working people.  However, I have to tell you, I was really impressed by the music.  I am nostalgic when I think of trains and this was the general drift of this set.  Joe Henry and Billy Bragg have been collaborators on a project that, I think, archives a history of music as it relates to the American Train.  I guess one would argue that this is an appropriation, of sorts.  I say this, simply, because its a subject that comes up a lot.

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I enjoyed my first night of music listening minus some parking shenanigans….so began folk festival 2017.

Serendipity?

Today marks the beginning of another week and I anticipate holding my first grand baby in my arms.

On August 11,  I decided I wanted to celebrate my daughter’s rite of passage and be with her in a calm and supportive environment as she moves into the last days of her pregnancy.  I stopped, with purpose, at the grocery store in order to choose some white carnations and baby’s breath.  My father, as a ritual, would stop in to a store on his way home from work and bring my mother carnations.  Sometimes they were red. Sometimes they were white.  And sometimes they were a combination of both.  I wanted to call into our prayer circle,  my mother, grandmothers and the matriarchs of my son-in-law, as well.  During the blessing, I told the story of the carnations, placed in the center of our prayer circle.  Here they are, here. (My son-in-law snapped this photograph for me yesterday morning,  August 12, because I had a “Facebook Memory: This happened four years ago” photograph pop up on my Timeline and my mouth dropped.)

White Carnations August 11, 2017

My father sent me this bouquet on August 12, 2013, the summer my beautiful mother passed away.  Here is the photograph I took of those flowers four years ago.

White Carnations August 12, 2013

Hmmm….perhaps, just serendipity?  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck.  Mom, you are always with me and I know that you will be with us all as we take this wonderful journey over the coming week.  I love you.

Road Trips and Other Summer Blessings

This has not been like any other summer.  I’ll leave it at that.

However, interspersed with hard work, vigilance and what life brings were some idyllic times shared with people I love and I need to acknowledge that as the season, very gently, moves into autumn.  Like others, I’ve noticed the brilliant yellow leaves of the poplars appear.  Yesterday, I saw a mama American Coot slam-dunk her teenager, stopping its whining in a quick moment, shoving its head and body, deep into the water.  I could almost hear her shouting, “Get your own damned food!”  With me, it always comes down to what’s happening to the birds.  To summarize, everything is in flux at the pond and there are indicators, as Cormorant teenagers practice their flights over the water and Grebe babies are taught to vocalize, that, all is about to change.

So, I reflect.

To begin, Hollee came down to Calgary.

I always hear from Hollee, mostly through the format of the post card.  My spirit sings when I get ‘real’ mail at the post box. She does this despite being a very busy lady, given her role and the necessary travel that comes with being the National Coordinator at L’Arche Canada. (but this, in fact, makes for a very interesting post card collection!)

For a glorious week, I had the chance to share daytime events with Hollee.  When visitors come to Calgary, I always begin by taking them to the Leighton Center.  I enjoy the views so much, the short walks…the art…the chat along the scenic drive.  So, on Monday morning, a day that is closed to the public, Hollee and I headed west for the Center.

First, Hollee humoured me with a walk around the pond at Frank’s Flats.  I can’t believe I didn’t catch a photograph!  However, I DID pull off the road and snap a quick photograph of Hollee at spot where I remembered taking a photo of my sister, Valerie, years ago!

In the Leighton House, a couple of lovely exhibits, one Impressions: A Printmaking Exhibit and a Wildrose exhibit in the upstairs gallery.  We were impressed by the exquisite modelling evidenced in a couple of pieces done in pencil crayon.

The haze from the fires in British Columbia was in evidence, everywhere we drove, that day.We took a country-road drive and also, made a stop at The Blue Rock Gallery, a space I have never visited in Black Diamond.  I was so happy to finally see the works, in the flesh, by Vermilion artist, Justina Smith, an artist I follow on Instagram.  I first became interested in her work when I saw her published journals as she took a drive across Canada and captured landscapes that were very familiar to me.Of course, Hollee and I stopped for an ice cream cone at the corner store!

On Tuesday, Hollee and I attended the Glenbow exhibit.  I really thought she should see the Kent Monkman exhibit,  Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience .   I had been wanting to take more time viewing it at a more leisurely pace.  Next door, the exhibit, North of Ordinary: The Arctic Photographs of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie concludes on August 27.  It was a powerful experience to visit the exhibits and to chat with Hollee about them.  I do a lot of these things alone and it’s just so great to be able to emote and converse about art, when you are feeling a response, so deeply.

First, I’ve posted portraits of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie.

Nativity Scene 2016 Installation piece by Kent Monkman.  Photographs of Kent’s paintings do no justice to them, but I wanted to carry a little archive with me, for the purpose of memory.

Baby Carriers…one small section of a very powerful space, created by Kent Monkman.

The Scream 2017 Kent Monkman a painting depicting children being rounded up from homes and families.  This huge painting was straddled by two of the Cradle walls.

A detail from Iron Horse 2015 by Kent Monkman.

The Bears of Confederation: 2016 Kent Monkman

Banquet Table installation

At some point, Hollee and I enjoyed a Spolumbo’s lunch and a quick visit to the Esker Foundation.  As well, and without photographs, we had a tour of the Calgary Reads house in Inglewood. Such a generous walk through one of the most magical houses in Inglewood.  I really hoped to knock into Ben while there, but he was out working hard with Nourish.

Wednesday found me taking a rest…I think, or maybe we did a little bit of something in the afternoon.  I don’t remember.  It’s all a blur.  And this makes me smile. I know that some where along the line, I convinced Hollee that we should go to the movie, Wonder Woman, as recommended by my daughter.  So, we did that, also….free movie and food, using our Scene cards and coupons!  I felt a little overwhelmed by the action scenes and the huge explosions.  We left the movie, sort of laughing and trying to guess Cayley’s thoughts on the movie.

Oh!  Yes!  I almost forgot that we did our epic tour of the Calgary Zoo, taking in all of the active feeding and animated goings-on of our favourite animals.  Like anyone else, I’m in awe of the experience of getting up close to animals and I DO think that the Calgary Zoo does what it can to make the enclosures interesting for the animals.  However, I can’t say that I am a supporter of keeping animals locked up and out of their natural environments.  I guess, on this particular day, I just entered into the experience at a different level.  I think, for Hollee and I, both, it brought back childhood memories…years when great big Dino stood in the center of a huge grassy parkland.  I remember visiting with my Gramma Moors when I was a child.  Oh, how things have changed since then.  Of the hundreds of photos I took of Penguins, nothing really turned out.  I’m grateful that Hollee agreed to do the Canadian enclosures with me.  The day after this, I was actually very weary!

Our last day of driving Alberta, saw us at Frank Slide.  We listened to music while I drove and that was fun!  As I put on miles, I enjoyed a lot of memories…past drives and different company…nostalgia about my parents and other friends.  It was lovely and atmospheric.  The smoke haze over everything this summer, changes the landscape dramatically.

I had never enjoyed the tours at Frank’s Slide before.  We happened to tag on to one of these outdoors, some time after enjoying a little picnic of salad and fresh fruit. We stopped off at Lundbreck Falls, on the way home.

I can’t really explain what it meant to me to be able to be with a friend for travel and visiting and relaxing.  I spend so much of my time, exploring, on my own, that it was a very different experience.  I was sad to see Hollee leave, but with the full knowledge that there will be other times.  I am just so grateful.

All the diamonds in this world
That mean anything to me
Are conjured up by wind and sunlight
Sparkling on the sea

I ran aground in a harbour town
Lost the taste for being free
Thank God He sent some gull-chased ship
To carry me to sea

Two thousand years and half a world away
Dying trees still grow greener when you pray

Silver scales flash bright and fade
In reeds along the shore
Like a pearl in sea of liquid jade
His ship comes shining
Like a crystal swan in a sky of suns
His ship comes shining

Bruce Cockburn

Wild Stone Heart and Other Matters

Hours, days, and weeks pass without writing, as I plow my way through matters of the heart.  Today, however, I feel an impetus to put down a layer of words.  It comes from a tree huggin’ place, from my utter respect for nature and for pain at watching consumption impact absolutely everything.  I am one of those consumers.  It’s not as though my ideas have transitioned much, into action.  For example, I do not live off grid.  I drive a car.  While I don’t buy a lot of stuff, I get my adult children Kinder-Surprise eggs at Easter time….that sort of thing.  This isn’t intended to be a defensive post or a judgmental post.  I simply want to archive my observations of today.

Last night, I finished another chapter of Wild Stone Heart: An Apprentice in the Fields by Sharon Butala.  I usually don’t write a review on a book until I finish it…and honestly, I’m quite a bit behind in that activity, as well…but, this book bears a lot of weight on my heart as I continue the act of circumnavigating a single pond environment every day.  I’m now moving into my seventh year.  Butala writes about her personal relationship to and with a Saskatchewan field, what it teaches her and how it calls her to grow in knowledge, understanding and spiritual depth.  This morning, her words reached into a corner of my heart.

I have been circling the same pond ecosystem every day for six years now.  Every day, I see something remarkable.  Some days I have a camera.  Some days I don’t.  Often, even if I have the proper tools with me, I choose not to snap a photograph, claiming all of the beauty for me alone.  In fact, recently, I’ve done a lot of that.  I’ve gifted myself the time for all of it…for me.  It doesn’t have to be photographed, blogged about or even written about…I walk with it…pause with it and it has been a crucial part of my healing.  It is my daily prayer.

Nature provides me with a sense of time and light and continuity.  Only weeks ago, male Red-winged Blackbirds were in chorus along the pond’s edge, nestled in the cattails, brilliant red wings on showy display.  Then, the females became visible.  Air combat broke out as the males became territorial.  They fought curious and hungry crows and even dive-bombed humans who walked or ran along the trail.  Soon, the loud chirping of hungry voices deep at the base of the cattails and not an adult Blackbird without a beak filled with dragonflies and mayflies.  Days later, clumsy juveniles tried balancing on chain link fence or on the tips of cat tails, falling and tripping through the pond environment, Mom and Dad, watching closely from a short distance away.  And now…only a few linger back.  The population has shrunk in a matter of days.  Yesterday, only two sightings of males and a single female.  And inside, I feel a sadness and a great gratitude, for what summer has meant at the pond.

The Red-necked Grebes have done well.  There was only a single loss, from what I can tell, out of six successful nests.  At the most easily viewed nest, four eggs hatched and four youngsters hung out for almost a week, when one was lost.  The American Coots have increased vastly in numbers.  Ruddy duck females are still swimming in formation, with eight and ten little ones tagging behind.  Geese in great numbers and the juveniles have been batting their wings, like crazy, while swimming on the pond, preparing for huge and harrowing flights in the autumn.

A single male Kingfisher was sighted just recently, always a little late in the season, but I’ve seen a Kingfisher here for the last three years, at this time.  I like to imagine that it’s the same bird, stopping by.

Every day is different and spectacular at the pond.

Yesterday, I looked up from the path and saw three of the most majestic bucks and five female does, edging a particularly busy four lanes of traffic on the west bound lanes of 22X-now-Stoney Trail.  The bucks, in the lead, were casing out the situation as they wished to take the females south and across this horrible maze of fencing (all types), asphalt and construction machinery.  I waited with my mouth opened wide, uttering, out loud, my fears.  It was my instinct to grab for my phone…who would I call?

With that, the three bucks, made huge leaps and bounded onto the highway, the does following…traffic lurched to a halt.  Car horns, in symphony, went off.  It all lasted about two minutes.  One of the females,  in utter terror, bounded back and disappeared into the shrubs on this side of the highway.  I swore.  I yelled, “You stupid assholes!”  I was left feeling angry and frightened for our brothers and sisters; wildlife.  I thought of the wild fires blazing west of us.  I thought of the bears that are being so hemmed in by humankind at the height of berry season.  I thought of the hundreds of gulls and crows, together, flying overhead…east…changing migration patterns.  I was left feeling very sad and very helpless.

Leaving the pond that day, I took a different route, seeking out some answer about where the deer had gone, but I was cut off by a barricade of cranes and plows.  I wondered what would happen to the female, separated from her tribe.  I came home, driving under the two osprey nests built precariously on the signage for ‘Deerfoot’ Trail.  What’s to be done about all of this?  Has it all gone too far?

What is left for me is to experience, document and remember.  In the meantime I pray for the inspired thinking of developers, biologists, scientists of every variety.  I pray that the next generation goes forward with clarity, knowledge and determination.  Our generation, I think, has made a mess of things.