Friday, March 29, 2019

Ukulele Camp

You might think I am going to go on and on about my spring break. Well, I am. You might think I am going to go on and on about ukulele camp. Well, I am. But first let’s start with this: Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

I guess this quote sums it up rather nicely.

By 7 a.m. I am packed and ready to go. My clothes, phone and ukulele are neatly waiting by the front door for Carolyn to pick me up. She arrives and we fill her van with my necessities and I hop into the front. We stop for coffee and begin the drive to Midland, Michigan, for as I call it, ukulele camp.

This is our second camp, if you remember. Two years ago we attended camp in Indiana, but this one is different … more players, flash mob, mall concert, nonstop ukulele playing. There is a Western theme for this camp as is noticed by Carolyn’s bright pink cowgirl hat in the backseat. I forgot my hat, but tie a purple bandanna around my neck as we drive. I know I am excited and happy about this camp, but really, I have no idea.

We arrive by noon to check in, get our name tags and share in the meet and greet. In the background I hear the strains of ukulele chords as if the Philharmonic were warming up. We meander back into the large room and find folks decked out in their “git along little doggies” clothing. There are still two seats available in the second row next to a handsome cowboy named Larry. We introduce ourselves to Larry and find out he is a guitar player from Richmond. We sit down, put our music on the stands and tune our ukuleles. My heart is beating wildly as I realize I am part of this marvelous event. I look around at the 60-70 folks each wearing cowboy hats and bandannas. And then it begins.

Johnny Hunt, the leader of the pack and board member of the Folk Music Society of Midland, takes center stage and welcomes us. He goes over the agenda and we begin.

Ukulele in place, songs on the overhead, we commence singing and playing. I am smiling from ear to ear. I look at Carolyn and she is doing the same. Soon we rehearse for the flash mob at the mall. We will be playing and singing six songs without music in front of us. My eyes reflect the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. No way can I do this, but we pack up and meet everyone at the mall. Two by two we arrive in the center playing “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.”

I don’t know how, but I do it, and folks gather round to take photos and sing along. This is my very first flash mob, and I think how proud my grandchildren will be of me!

Mid-afternoon we are back singing and strumming ’til nightfall. My fingers are raw from playing, but do I care? It isn’t until 9 p.m. that we head over to our hotel. But no sleeping for us … oh no. The lobby is full of ukulele players. We throw our stuff onto the bed, grab our ukes and join in the fun ’til the wee hours. I think to myself that I am now a real musician!

The next day is exactly the same, except now we have lots of friends. On this day there is a mall concert, but we get to take our stands and our music. After a rehearsal we head on out to the mall and take our places. It is Saturday so the mall is full of shoppers with 60 ukulele players in the middle. We play and sing our hearts out under the direction of guest artist, Petey McCarty, but he doesn’t know “Cool Waters.” Our new friend, Larry, goes up to sing and direct. We cheer and holler for him.

The rest of the day is full of strumming and singing and again at the hotel into the night.

I don’t want it to be over. Really, I don’t. I lament leaving my new friends and this rich experience.

I think of Plato as we drive. “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life.”
*First published in KPC Media News.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sisters Forever

Every year I take Jessie's photo on the beach!!

My sister, Jessie, calls to tell me our tickets are purchased and we will soon be on our way to visit our mom, Dick, and our Uncle Dean. We chat about our sister’s event knowing it is our once-a-year travel event. Not only do we get to visit our mom, but we have time to talk non-stop for four days. Before we hang up, she reminds me of a photo we have tucked away in a scrapbook somewhere. In the photo we were five and three and wearing matching sundresses. We were at the Toledo Zoo with our parents facing the monkey cages. Our dresses were tied with bows in the back and we were holding hands as if nothing in the world could bother us as long as we stuck together.

There are six siblings, but Jessie and I came first. The others came in two pairs of two also so everyone has at least one buddy close to their age. Families are not perfect and go through so many layers in life. I am just glad it is Jessie I have by my side.

Spring break arrives. My small suitcase is packed and tossed into my Jeep as I head out of town early before the sun appears. Ice and snow still decorate the landscape and my car thermometer shows me winter just won’t give up. I take the extra moment to drive around Miss Columbia. Stoic and proud she will wait for my return.

The chatter starts at the airport. We love our flight attendants and with a little extra chatting, we are awarded with extra cookies on our tray. We save them for our midnight snack at mom’s. We are on vacation so we don’t really care if there are cookie crumbs in the bed!! 

Two flights and we are West Palm Beach. I am never, ever prepared for the change in weather. I know it will be warmer than northern Indiana. I know it will probably be hot. But I still bring along my wool socks and long sleeves. (Okay, I really don’t want to get a suntan, but seriously?)

Mom and Dick meet us with hearty greetings. They are happy to have us bounce into their lives, even if it is only once a year. (If you remember, they live in England!) We travel the palm tree-lined streets interspersed with azaleas, hibiscus, and everything else green and blooming. The scent is a bit intoxicating as I am still in the scent of winter and snow boots and wool mittens that really need a good scrub after this season.

Mom and Dick enjoying warm Florida weather...look at their lovely tans!

Layer by layer, I finally peel off the winter garb and let the warm sun fill the winter voids. It is a nice lazy visit. We join in the condo experience of sitting out at the pool every day at 4:00. The folks at their condo give us a party. I guess we are the distinguished guests…at least for a day or so. As we sip on marguerites, it is as if snow and ice and long winters are a memory watching the sun dip behind extraordinary clouds. 

Everyone packs up at dark on these late afternoon pool visits, but Jessie and I stay out to watch the stars and planets appear. Finally, we mosie back watching for alligators in the dark!

A beach walk, a visit with my favorite Uncle, shrimp at my favorite restaurant, and the visit comes to a close. There is never enough time to say what needs to be said, to do what needs to be done, and to hold close that which needs to be held close. For us, four days is all we have.

Spending time with my Uncle Dean is always one of my favorite times!

Another quick drive to the airport, and we are gone. Late aircrafts and delays hold us up for a few extra hours, but the truth is, I don’t mind at all. It gives me more time with Jessie so we can tell more stories. We drink coffee in West Palm Beach, we eat burgers in Atlanta. We sweet talk the flight attendants so we can go home with more cookies in our bags. And we talk nonstop. We finally reach home by midnight. 

She takes me to my car, and it is freezing cold. How did I forget in four days? We hold hands and say goodbye. 

I holler at her over the wind. “Til our next adventure!”

I drive home in the dark of midnight. One time around Miss Columbia, and I am home.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Welcome Miss March...

Thanks to

One day last winter a large book appeared on my front porch. It was a huge book for star gazers featuring planets, constellations, and guides to the night sky. It even came with a small infrared flashlight to use during those lovely evenings. It did not take me long to find out who I should thank. Mark Wilson brought it over to me knowing how much I loved all of the above, and I do. I also adore the book and keep it handy in my studio for those clear nights when I meander out under the stars.

To be honest (yes, perfectly honest) it is sometimes difficult to meander out under the stars when temps hover at the zero mark. And those of you wondering about those campfires of mine? Wonder no longer. There have been only a couple this winter. The pathway to the campfire has been covered in ice and snow along with the woodpile. (Reminder for next winter: put some wood in the barn/garage!).

March has whistled in with a bit of a snarl. Cold winds will still blow. Snow will fall. March is so fickle…she never decides which dress she will wear to the ball. “Shall it be deep purple velvet with amethyst jewels?” she asks. “Or will it be a gown of aquamarine?” Perhaps she doesn’t even know.

What do we know of March? In ancient times March was the first month of the year according to the Roman calendar. Ahhh, the first month of the year brings on hope, new lambs, new resolutions, and spring. It was also named after Mars, the Roman god of war.  However, all of that changed with the assassination of Julius Caesar on the 15th of March. He was stabbed at least 23 times (some sources say over 50!)t in 44 B.C. on that date in history. According to history a seer warned Caesar to watch out for the Ides of March. Too bad for Caesar as he ignored that warning! It was Shakespeare who made us all pay attention to that date in his play, “Julius Caesar,” written in 1599 with his famous words, “Beware the Ides of March.” (On a side note, this site has received the go ahead in Rome and will begin its restoration. This site, Largo di Torre Argentina, will be opened to the public in 2021…the first time ever! Mark your calendars now!)

When the Gregorian calendar came into play, March became the third month of the year instead of the first. March also has a flower which is the daffodil.

Besides all of the above history, March will find me at my campfire leaning back towards the early morning sky or the night sky. Come sit with me.

In the early morning, before the sun of March shines or even gives a glimmer of hope upon our land, our town, our own backyard, Jupiter will make her first appearance shining so brightly you won’t miss her. Set the alarm, take out the early morning coffee, wait for the newspaper to be delivered and make a toast to Jupiter. Soon after Saturn will join her and last of all Venus will make her grand entrance. (She has always been the show off!)

Maybe evenings are your favorites then come on out to the garden with me. Bring your cocoa or tea or the last of the red wine and let’s have a look. Mars is the only evening planet except for a glimpse of Mercury this week. But you must look quickly as she is fleeting!

The full moon will join us on Wednesday, March 20th, the first day of spring. Her once-upon-a-time name of Worm Moon is apt as the rains begin to fall and creatures large and small come out of hiding back into our world.

March is here. And I, a lover of winter, am happy to see her. I can practically smell the sheets hanging on the clothesline. I know the birds will begin their morning serenade. I, too, will watch these skies from my garden. I will beware on the 15th, stand in awe on the 20th, and share my evening with anyone who saunters over to my garden.

This week’s poet is Walter De la Mare.

Look thy last on all things lovely,

Every hour. Let no night

Seal thy sense in deathly slumber.

Hello March, month of great beauty, great change, and great stories.

So my dear March, won’t you have this dance with me?
*First published in KPC.