Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy to be me

When I was young, we moved a lot. My father was always looking for a better home, a better job and with 6 kids in tow, it could not have been easy for him. I know it was not easy for us. I never really had an opportunity to make lifelong friends, or to grow up in one school or to call a community mine. It was my life and it was all I knew. With that life...comes stresses for adults and for the kids who must endure. It wasn’t always peaceful in our home for a lot of reasons but there was one saving grace for me and that was music. Back then it was the radio because we were not allowed to touch any record players. The radio was good and I listened to it every single day. Nixon was president and I was afraid that my older brother Keith would get called up. My parents were fighting all the time. Still no matter was happening, it was the music that saved me.

The songs that found me were songs that filled my heart. I never really knew what some of the lyrics meant but the tones, the guitar, the vocals, filled me at times to the point of tears. I was seven...and I knew that someday music would be a part of my life outside of the radio. The most radio popular song at the time was Jonathan Edwards, Sunshine. The first time I heard it played, it changed me deep inside. I grew in ways that are hard to explain but the song did something to me. I started to understand what boundaries were, how lies hurt and for the first time I heard a generation speak about human rights and civic freedoms. I became the “us” and my parents and anyone their age were the “them”.

I wish I could say that my life at that time was shaped so that the rest of this story would be about the great things I did in the name of humanity. It didn’t exactly go that way. I spent the next twenty years getting into a lot of trouble, abusing myself and not living well at all. I didn’t search out to hurt anyone but when you don’t treat yourself very well, the after shocks can affect those closest to you. Music never left me though and that song has stayed with me all these years along with other songs that moved me through challenging times. I could name them all but it would be a lot of songs and there is not enough room in this entry to list them all.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We hosted a camp with Steve Kaufman, a fantastic Flat Picker and Jonathan Edwards who was teaching a songwriting course titled, "Performance, and the Art of Avoiding a Real Job". The songs he writes are about his life...what's going on in his life, heart and spirit, and mind. It’s hard not to gush and to be honest, I tried to keep it together this weekend, but I did gush. I told the audience a little piece of this story from the stage before Steve and Jonathan went on. That it felt like, after many life challenges and single handedly dismantling my own life 16 years ago, I had been living my life well over the last decade. This concert was the reward for that. Ohio saved me and in a weird way Jonathan saved me, the audience had saved me, Jorma had saved me, my amazing staff continues to save me and my gratitude was overflowing. It is so important that I live in the now and that I am continually grateful for these amazing gifts. I am sharing a picture here of me and Jonathan. To say that I was happy to have a picture with him is just not saying how I really felt. I sent it to my sister in Maine and said, “Do I look happy?” She said I looked like I had just had sex. I had to laugh…..my face shows my joy not so much for standing there with someone whom I admire musically, but it is that I am ultimately satisfied with where I am.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I have written about this before as has John, but it just must be written again. This past weekend our good friend Rick Adams and a hand full of Fur Peace Ranch staff and a few good friends headed out to pick up the trash on our Fur Peace Ranch Adopted Highway. It’s a small stretch of road on Route 681 that enters into Meigs County. It’s the back way to the Ranch on a beautiful winding country road that hugs the rolling hills. When we started doing this some six years ago, the amount of the first trash pick up was staggering. Eighty Five (85) bags of trash. Some Verizon phone company garbage, a water heater, prescriptions, take out bags from the local carry out, cigarettes, diapers and more all thrown into the grass and trees just outside and to the edge of this winding road. It’s seems so hard to imagine that in this era of “green” living that folks would discard their trash on the road side. Regardless of if we are living in the age of green or not . It’s just wrong. We cannot do anything about the people out there that don’t think it’s wrong. It shows such lack of pride…. all I can do is show by example. I am not from here but I love this land and me and my staff and our friends will continue to do this. I actually enjoy the time spent with good friends. No matter if it is over trash duty or not. It is service work and anyone who wants to do service work on behalf of the land...well, I’ll stand side by side with them. I think they feel the same way.

I will say this...over the years the amount of trash picked up is less and less. This past weekend we only had about 12 bags of trash, a muffler, a cooler and a tire tube and some building material. Still, as grateful as we were, there should be no trash. But the real story here…..the lesson that keeps revealing itself to me is that I am in this world to do good work. I am not here to complain about others. I am no one’s judge or jury. I actually had a really good time this week. I must have laughed 100 times! I love the people I work with and looking on the bright side of picking up what others have so carelessly thrown out of the cars...I think...is essential. I am looking forward to five bags of trash on our next scheduled pick up.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If you are lucky in your life…..special people will be a part of your world. They are the fabric and the thread that binds it all together…the guidance, the stories and the love that keep us going. I am so blessed to have had many special folks come in and out of my life. They always seem to be put there when I need them most. It is a subtle placement by the universe of just the right person to guide me when I struggled to find my way for whatever reason. One of those people in my life just passed on. His name was Charles Picket. His family owned the original parcel of land that is now the Fur Peace Ranch. They were farmers and had a unique relationship with the land and passed that on to us. Farming, for them, was a way of life and it helped build the state, give sustenance to it’s communities and provide them with a special sense of place.
And despite some of the difficult economic circumstances in the last century, agriculture is still a significant part of the state economy. Agriculture took on a whole new meaning in the 60’s around here….and farmers became….well……growers….of all things green. That’s all I’ll say about that.

All the old timers around here seemed to have sprouted from the earth and they know things about the signs of winter months before it happens. It borders on magical. Charles and his family were and continue to be part of that history. He and his wife Anna raised four boys….a lot like him, rugged, kind and terribly funny. Charles’ land (the piece they kept) has a million dollar view. He and his wife over the years have allowed Pete Huttlinger and some of Pete’s students who like to fish like him….catch and release anything that was in his pond. They always come back with great stories….and like boys…covered in mud, fishing poles slung over their shoulders.

There is a hole in my heart right now for this loss…..but like all things…it will pass. When we met him twenty years ago…he insisted we call him Uncle Charles. So today, I honor his memory and the gifts he gave us through his stories and his neighborin’. Long may you run Uncle Charles……

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thank God I have John Hurlbut to hip me to such cool music. My music library it very diverse and of course I have some great Reggae because of Hurl. Believe it or not...Jorma and I listen to much different music. Jorma’s got some great stuff but I go to John when I want something new to listen to. I just read John’s blog to see what he was listening to...so... now I am listening to it.

It occurred to me that my world of music outside the Fur Peace Ranch is all about the world seen through the eyes of Israel, my four year old. She has great taste in her music. It is kids music though so I have had to get used to laughing all the way through a song. Some of our favorites are Randy Kaplan’s, "Shampoo Me" and "The Ladybug Without Spots". In case you are not familiar with him, Randy Kaplan blends folk, American roots, alternative, and pop music in his songs for kids…..and anyone who can stand it. He also adapts Tin Pan Alley gems, Broadway numbers, Rock classics, and Delta Blues songs. They are all catchy tunes and many of his folk songs for kids are honest and pure and they brighten my world when I am driving Izze around town. One of the funniest songs that I have heard on her kids radio channel (Kids Place Live on Sirius) is The Folsom Day Care Blues. Sung to the tune of Johnny’s Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues ...

When I was just a baby, my mamma told me son….
play nice with other children share your toys with everyone.
Well, I pushed a toddler over just to watch him fall.
Well, I’m here in Folsom Daycare ...
and it’s no fun at all.
I hear the teacher comin’ and I hang my head an cry...
and there’s more but I think you get the idea. Izze didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

On a more serious note, Israel really loves all kinds of music and since she’s with me all of the time….she gets to hear some great stuff. She loves Bob Marley and thinks that Gregory Issacs has the most beautiful voice. Good taste! The good news is that it is all joyful. I am so lucky to have been brought up with music as part of my life all day every day. My father was a country western singer and I got to hear some of the great old country music from the 30’s and 40’s….crooners really...so I have a thing for voices. I learned how to yodel at a very young age (no I won’t yodel for you if you ask) and my Dad taught me how to break a falsetto at the age of 6. We struggled to find a common meeting ground as parent and child. He passed several years ago and we still had not become close but I owe everything to him for exposing me to the guitar before I could walk. So, it was because of him that the Ranch even exists. I am continually reminded of the blessings that have been bestowed on me...

If you are wondering about the picture....my father is the cowboy in the top left.