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ah, the moon.

There’s the crackling of a quiet woodfire.  Then crickets, close to my left, but in counterpoint also farther away to my right, and farther away still – a tremolo in the hayfields that surround us.  I can hear an airplane – farthest away – a sustained roar almost entirely muffled by great distance.

It is utterly black outside – the kind of black you get when the moon is full and you’ve been staring at glowing embers in a fire pit.  Every once in a while, the black that is not moon or embers is punctuated by the comma of a firefly.  Ah, but I’m grateful to be alive, right here, right now, surrounded by magic.


It’s the eve of the June 2013 supermoon, almost two days in to the turning of 2013 from bright to darker, from long long days into long long nights.  I am nowhere near the far north of this planet, but I can still feel what is sacred about this moment  – we are lifted weightless at the crest of a great, six-month-long crescendo wave, just before we turn and surrender to the sustained business of its’ trough  …growing food, tending the field, harvesting, planning for, reaping and saving what we can of glorious summer abundance for the long, long, impressively quiet, dark winter.

I’ll go out on a limb here, and give voice to what my gut is telling me as we ride the crest of the season, and time seems suspended:  in the six months between this solstice and the next we will all feel quite profoundly different.

It seems to me that there is choice, i.e. – how different from now would you like to be?  Perhaps in only small ways.  But I sense that even those will be clear turning points, in retrospect.  Certainly, true for me.

Happy Summer Solstice weekend everyone.  Hope you’re feeling weightless, even just for a moment…


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Soil change

These days the greater part of my awareness is below the ground amid the roots of plants I’ve put there  – encouraging them to reach down, to spread through the warm rich mix of compost, loam and peat moss I’ve made for them  – drink drink, feed, grow.

Above ground the signs are good – everyone is standing up tall and strong, producing flowering buds (some for the first time in years) and spreading out as far as possible to catch the sun.

my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden
my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden

These plants are themselves the meeting point of earth and sun – where miracles occur.  No matter how often I witness this burst of spring growth I’m still astonished by it.

What a will to live and be huge!  What tenacity! – to come out from under three feet of snow and in two short weeks grow from dormancy to golden green and glorious and sweet sweet scent and bloom!

these blossoms are SO heavy - most years their stems can't hold them up, esp after a rain.  Strong stems this year....
these blossoms are SO heavy – most years their stems can’t hold them up, esp after a rain. Strong stems this year….

We exist in partnership, these plants and I.  They cannot choose where they will grow, are entirely reliant upon my attention for this.  Some feel aversion to others and demand to be moved elsewhere.  Some need more space, some need more sun, others less, some more water, some want their roots exposed, other need them deeply covered – I can hear them telling me if I listen properly.  Once they’re settled where they want to be though – the miracles happen – Ah!  What joy.

I believe it is also this way with music education.

celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April
celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April

Here in this small small town that has witnessed so many big musical triumphs by it’s young musicians, we are in need of a soil change and some enlightened educational planning.  There are very young players who have no access to decent instruments (soil), positive and consistent guidance into proper technique and a regular place to play together (sun).   Very few schools offer string programs now, save for two exceptionally strong programs to the east.  Strings are the heart of any orchestra – without them you can’t play the beautiful classics that so inspire kids to make the world a better place.

OSCVI is a highschool 150 + years old with a rich musical tradition that I am and so many others are a product of – this year the orchestra program at OSCVI was cancelled, for lack of string players.  For me, and for so many others who were enriched by the music from OSCVI, this feels like a sucker punch.

This is not acceptable, to have no school orchestra in this town.

I don’t believe it – that kids don’t want to play stringed instruments anymore.

They are there – the kids who want to play.  They are there, the parents who will support them.  They’re just not getting any sunlight.

Edouard Bartlett - a great gardener of young players.  Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl's with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.
Edouard Bartlett – a great gardener of young players. Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl’s with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.

We need to change this.  We really really do.  Music allows kids to blossom in a way that academic achievement never will.  In fact, learning to play an instrument well, and in concert with others can only support academic achievement – but this is a by-product.

The real benefit of playing music with your peers is that you learn step into your confidence, accept who you are, respect yourself and others, and learn how to love learning.

Then miracles happen.

Shall we prepare to be astonished?

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Youth Orchestras, open windows and spring

I wake into this morning still wrapped in a cocoon of wonder, pour myself into hot coffee and sunshine.

From this computer two lovely pieces of new music emerge, both via my dear friend Kati Gleiser who is some hundreds of miles away but also next to me, as I write.  I listen to Kati’s voice, hear wolves and oceans, and also the phoebe & the white-crowned sparrow through the open windows.  There is no wind.  It’s as though the world I see is paused in a bow of gratitude.  I believe I can hear the plants speaking – chamomile, thyme, mulberry, foxglove…

carpet of trout lillies
carpet of trout lillies

Last night, 19 young cello players from Meaford Owen Sound and Port Elgin played together in a combined orchestra, beside 9 double-basses, an ocean of violins, a full wind & brass section.  There were upwards of 130 of us on stage, with young energy pulsing through the hall like a big Hug of Promise.  Wonderful, wonderful.  All those characters, from bassoon to trumpet to bass and viola – the tribe of celli like a thundering herd of centaurs, playing in time and in key together.

I don't have a pic of last night - wish I did.  But here are some rehearsal celli.  2 Walkes, a Ruppert, and a Bartlett.
I don’t have a pic of last night – wish I did. But here are some rehearsal celli. 2 Walkes, a Ruppert, and a Bartlett.

Huge thanks to everyone who played, to the parents of everyone who played, to Patrick Delaney and Sandy Pedlar for building such thriving music programs in their respective schools, and for Richard Mascall who brought five orchestras and ensembles together into one.

So Flipping Awesome.

I itch to get into the Garden – to tend and dig and coax and listen as everything wakes up and the last of the snow melts.  Tomorrow is tree sale day, so we meet in the 6am ritual line to buy maple, birch, oak and cedar then bring them home to the soil and sun that will sustain them long after we have left our bodies for the next chapter of life.

I think the 10' transplanted oak is going to make it.
I think the 10′ transplanted oak is going to make it…

More Awesomeness.

Happy friday, all.  I’m going to go get muddy.