More Music, Please

February 16, 2011

We are in the process of rearranging some furniture at our house, and have brought my piano back upstairs. I want more music in my life. Today I played for about 30 minutes, and I was surprised at how much I remember. It’s not exactly like riding a bike, but a few minutes a day of practice should make a big difference.

I suppose I really should learn how to operate the machines in our house that make music. I use my iPod to shuffle songs when I walk on the treadmill, but I haven’t mastered the equipment that will play our CDs. Nor can I turn on our television. Not that I’m a technophobe (I have a blog, don’t I?), but it seems that electronics have gotten increasingly less intuitive and more complicated. Please tell me it’s not just that my brain is old! More and more, it seems that the multitude of bells and whistles (that we don’t even want) interfere with the basic operation of these gizmos. I don’t consider learning to juggle three remotes just to turn on the TV a way I want to spend my time.

Still, having more music in my life might require that I learn. Not just to play the piano, but to accept and deal with the electronics as they are (light a candle) rather than rail against the overly complicated technology and wish it were different (curse the damn darkness)!

Dear Blog

May 18, 2010

I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows. ~Emily Carr

Yes, I’ve been busy. Yes, I’ve been tired. Yes, I’ve been adjusting to major life transitions and doing some heartwork. But, dear blog, I’ve also been doing fun things…Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival. The Hike Inn.  Writers’ group meetings. Yoga. And soon I’ll be going to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a weekend. A retirement gift to myself.

So, my poor neglected blog, please forgive my absence. It is not for lack of love for you and my readers. It is just that life has gotten in the way recently. So I hope you have been entertaining yourself while I’ve been away. Perhaps you visited other blogs or checked your statistics or reread some old posts. Because, dear blog, your old posts are almost never time-sensitive!

Here’s to you, dear blog. May you live a long, interesting, regret-free life!

Angry and Afraid

April 4, 2010

I don’t want to live angry. I don’t want to live scared. ~John Mellencamp

My husband says the Democrats should be using “angry and afraid” to characterize right-wing Republicans (actually, that phrase seems redundant these days) every chance they get. Why don’t the Democrats wise up and learn to use the media and sound bites the way conservatives do? Anyway, I invited him to do a guest post on my blog, since he has a million wonderful and creative ideas and no good outlet for them, but he declined. So I’m sharing his idea anyway, hoping some of you will pick it up and run with it.

I’ve always loved these lines from that great song “Another Sunny Day” by John Mellencamp. They seem to me like good words to live by, and I agree with Robert Frost, who said, “There’s nothing I’m afraid of like scared people.”

Here’s a nice cover of the Mellencamp song.

What do you think?

Words That Sing

August 29, 2008

In journalism, there is no music that does not conform to truth; in poetry, no truth that does not conform to music. If you can’t find truth that makes music, you must change truth to make music. ~Judson Mitcham

I’m sure that is not an exact quote, but it is the gist of an idea I heard Mitcham express in a writer’s conference in 1996. He asked, “Where does the poem sing?” At the same conference, Mike Fournier asked us to consider how a poem would sound to someone who doesn’t speak English. He said the sound of a poem is what makes it memorable.

The two books I remember from my earliest reading days were a cloth book and a Disney book. The cloth book began, “How big are you baby, why don’t you know? You’re only so big, and there’s still room to grow.” The Mickey Mouse book began, “Bang, bang went the hammers, and zzzzz went the saws. A new house was being built.” I remember these lines because they were music. As were the Cautionary Verses of Hilaire Belloc I memorized and recited as a child. (“The chief defect of Henry King/was chewing little bits of string…”) Verses may not be poetry, but they can teach us about words that sing.

Charles Olson talked about the poem as syllable + line: The head, by way of the ear, to the syllable. The heart, by way of the breath, to the line. Makes perfect sense to me. I don’t know if this one sings, but here’s a poem from 2004.


The ones we saw: violets in profusion,
dwarf crested iris, trillium,
the ubiquitous cinquefoil.

We stooped to see the brilliant red stamens
on the tiny star chickweed
and exclaimed at acres of mayapple
umbrellas all along the trail.

The ones we didn’t see–
pink lady’s slipper, mountain laurel,
and the majestic rhododendron–
will come in their own time.

And the ones we overlooked
will keep their secrets, while we
will go on planting our huge feet
one in front of the other until
we must lie down with our sisters
among the leaves.


July 2, 2008

There is nothing that can stop the Creative. If life is full of joy, joy feeds the creative process. If life is full of grief, grief feeds the creative process. ~Stephen Nachmanovitch, in Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts (p. 196)

Again I will say that this is one of my favorite books. The last chapter, from which the quote is taken, is called “Heartbreakthrough.” I love that idea, and in fact have been having visions of my heart breaking wide open. Although I must say, I have not been able to tell that my grief of recent days has fed the creative process. It must have (else from whence came visions?), but I’ve been “blogsick” at being unable to write here lately.

So I’m glad to be back at the keyboard today, talking to myself with a hope that someone kind is eavesdropping. Iris Dement in person last week, what can I say? Claudia said I was acting like it was Elvis, and I said, “Iris is my Elvis.” The enormous fun I had with friends brought my loneliness into sharp relief. Iris didn’t sing “Got No Time to Cry” but I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Have you ever had a heartbreakthrough? I feel one coming on…

Happy Music

June 22, 2008

Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead. ~Scottish proverb

This week, to my delight, I signed up for Pandora and created my own Internet radio station, playing only music I love! Thanks, Dave, for introducing me to Pandora. And now I feel compelled to spread the word far and wide about this great site.

Pandora is an application of the Music Genome Project, which was begun in 2000 to “map” the attributes of songs, making it possible to match music to your particular tastes. It works!

My radio station is called “Americana Radio,” and I shared it, so you should be able to find it yourself if you’re interested. Here are the artists I entered as examples of ones I like: Bap Kennedy, Bob Dylan, Delbert McClinton, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Graham Parker, Gram Parsons, Guy Clark, Iris DeMent, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, John Fogerty, John Prine, Joy Lynn White, Kasey Chambers, Kelly Willis, Kim Richey, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Nick Lowe, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle, The Beatles, Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys, Van Morrison, Warren Zevon. Seems like it will be a great way to discover new artists, as well as listen to my favorites! Check it out…


June 15, 2008

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.  ~Vita Sackville-West

Life has been slipping by these past few days, with work-related travel, oppressive heat, visiting relatives who are not well, and general malaise. But I’m told there is at least one person who misses these blog entries when I don’t do them (besides me). So Janice, this one’s for us!

I’m behind in reading my Shambala Sun issues, so I took a half-finished copy with me on my recent trip to south Georgia. I was struck once again by how much I enjoy that magazine! I’m not sure I even consider myself a Buddhist, (although it’s probably the organized system for which I feel the most affinity), but there are always authors and articles within the Sun that inspire and teach me. So it is one thing I am grateful for today.

Another is the steadfast love of my husband waiting to greet me from my travels. There is language that enriches my life immeasurably. True friends who teach me something about the impact of my presence on earth and who want only the best for me. Yoga that helps me focus my attention on my body. Music, always music, that has the magical ability to lift my spirits and my spirit. Of course there are too many things to list here; these are just a few that grace my life.

What comes to mind when you consider life’s blessings? How does it change from day to day, month to month, year to year?

The Beauty We Love

February 20, 2008

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


What a beautiful last line. It almost makes up for Rumi’s dissing of reading! 😉 And just look at that first line that describes the human condition–not one that’s special (“like every other day”) nor one that is unique to us as individuals (“we wake up”). The question Rumi begs here, of course, is “What is the beauty you love?” This poem is one answer for me.

Only in midlife have I begun to understand that this is the right question, much less to consider the answers to the question. As a child, I don’t remember having dreams about what I would be when I grew up. It didn’t occur to me to aspire to anything in particular, even though I came from a solidly middle-class household that valued education and achievement. Possibly this was true for many girls, whose socially acceptable options typically consisted of teacher, nurse, wife and mother. Most certainly, though, the question in my family would have had more to do with accomplishment as measured by society than with the beauty I loved. 

So…what is the beauty I love? Poetry, words, music, textural arts (fiber, glass, multimedia), laughter, yoga, living spaces with feng shui, human connection, singing. What is the beauty you love?

Music and Cats

January 28, 2008

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.  ~Albert Schweitzer

I am sometimes astonished by the power of music to lift my spirits. The right music, of course. John Fogerty, for example, or Professor Longhair. Just TRY to listen to the Professor’s “Crawfish Fiesta” and not smile. I really don’t believe anyone can do it.

And cats…well, watching my cat stretch and roll on her back on the sun-drenched deck makes me want to be in that same state of mind. It’s really about being present in the moment, because she is quite alert and apprehensive when a deer walks into the yard.

I think Schweitzer did pretty well with these choices, although I might add one or two things. 😉 What serves for you as “a refuge from the miseries of life?”

The Ineffable Creative Process

January 6, 2008

An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.  ~Jean Cocteau

Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.  ~Frank Zappa

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. ~Martin Mull

Since that leaves nothing to say about the creative process, here’s an example of its product: a country love song I wrote a while back.  Who out there can put the right music to it so we can publish it??

Slow Smile

Born and raised Appalachian
Pickin’ banjo and guitar
Playin’ with the band at night
Now they say you’re a local star
How many years you been at this?
Well it looks like twenty or more
Doin’ what you love but still
Wonderin’ what you’re put here for

You’re here to gimme that slow smile
And look into my eyes
Gotta have your slow smile
The one that took me by surprise

You know I didn’t come here
Lookin’ for a man to turn my head
So why do I think of you at night
When I’m tossin’ in my bed?
Well I can’t say for certain
But I think I’m in trouble again
My mind’s confused and distracted
And I’m doin’ things I don’t understand

C’mon and gimme that slow smile
Make me feel a fast heartbeat
Yeah baby got a slow smile
And it’s turnin’ up the heat

They say that mountains can’t be moved
But I don’t believe it’s true
‘Cause I was sure my heart was rock
And it’s meltin’ now for you
Maybe I’ll have to stay now
I never counted on your charms
I know I can’t go away now
When you hold me in your arms

I fell hard for your slow smile
That look that was in your eyes
C’mon and gimme your slow smile
The one that took me by surprise

1998, Lyn Hopper


August 17, 2007

Not everything that can be counted, counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. ~Albert Einstein

What is now considered education, it seems to me, is teaching to a test, and test scores are the most important measure of the success of the educational system.  I’m all for using outcomes to measure the success of programs, as long as we remember that for many programs, it’s next to impossible to really understand their impact by measuring.  Who can say what reading great literature really does for a person?  Yet we know it is of value.

Is the liberal education really dead in our modern world of job training disguised as school?  As T. S. Eliot put it, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”–which reminds me of another of my favorite quotes: “Remember, Information is not knowledge; Knowledge is not wisdom; Wisdom is not truth; Truth is not beauty; Beauty is not love; Love is not music; Music is the best.” ~Frank Zappa


August 16, 2007

Music is your own experience, your thoughts and wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. ~Charlie Parker

I love this quote. And I don’t think it’s just about music. Any creative act (and everyone performs them) is only as good as the naturalness, the inevitability, of its expression. The next line in a poem MUST be a particular line in light of what the poet has lived, and tuning in to find out what that next line will be is the trick!