My guy and me, we’re about stories. Titanic ones like Lear, and little gentle ones like what we perform in Gifts. The stories sprout from life and living it, and in our work the transmission is through writing and stage performance. What comes to the recipient is filtered through our own art.
I am profoundly moved in every one of our local poetry salons by this process of distillation of story to the highest pitch. First by the art of the poet who shapes the telling, then by the vulnerability of the teller who takes these words into mind and body and then bears witness.
That’s the unique power of poetry. Our own work is similarly distilled and given unique life by our own presence. Another powerful distillery is what we reveled in this weekend, the festival of singer/songwriters and bigger musical groups at hot-as-hell Laytonville—the Kate Wolf Music Festival.
I heard artists I have loved for years, and others who first knocked me on my ass this weekend. Everything from a hard-rocking bunch of women to an achingly open telling from artists new to me. What this festival has in common is a flame lit by Kate Wolf, passed on to her from elder generations, that says we have love in common and that we can bear witness to that in song.
In this time of rupture and grotesquerie, it is healing to push all that to the side and hear what makes us whole, makes us connected. Once upon a time it was the bard at the village fire. Then it was what happened after “Grandma, tell us a story from when you were little.” Then it was at bedtime, “Papa, tell us a story.” Now we need something besides Twitter—stories that leave us open.
There are many ways to tell stories, and we need them all, like bread. Or wine. Or both. I am high and happy after having spent a weekend immersed in this joy.
—From the Fool—
Some people listen to music. More than you’d expect. Even people after their cat just died.
Even when they’re not making money. Or even if they’ve not been told to. Or even if the boss says they better not if they know what’s good for them.
Even when it’s not a contest where you have to name that tune or else. Even when they don’t start marching to the tune or get inspired to lynch some guy who’s hanging around just asking to be lynched. Even when there’s no good reason to listen to music except for just the listening.
Some people just sit there hearing the music, or else they dance around wild or they kinda bob their heads like they’re going doop-doop-a-doop even if they’re not actually doing it out loud, or they might just do a little wiggle. To each his own, or hers.
You can’t hardly tell why they’re doing that, except maybe they like to. The bad side is that they’re probably wasting time just standing there going doop-doop-a-doop when they could be setting new records. The good side is if you’re going doop-doop-a-doop you’re probably not shooting anybody.
So I guess music is okay if you don’t overdo it.
Back tonight from the Kate Wolf Festival, four days of exquisite, heart-filling music, and an evening’s prep to take Elizabeth tomorrow at 6 a.m. to the hospital for her first hip replacement.
Myself the veteran of major surgeries, from pancreas to heart to a ruptured umbilicus, I have a pretty empathic feel for the process. While I’m a believer in “alternative medicine,” up to a point, I’m pretty well convinced that if it weren’t for the knife, I wouldn’t be here. What I’m not so experienced in—apart from Elizabeth’s two Caesareans—is being the one in the waiting room.
That’ll be tomorrow. I drive her to our local hospital, and the surgery’s an hour later. Our son is coming up from San Francisco, so I’ll pick him up from the bus stop at 9:30, then back to the hospital to wait through what’s expected to be about three hours of slicing, sawing, and stitching. If all goes well, she’ll be home the next day. Then repeating the process six weeks hence.
I expect to get some editing done, and it’ll be good to see Eli, who’s just back from a couple of weeks in Australia. And the surgeon is extremely well reputed. But I know that the clock will move very, very slowly.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2016