Community at large

I purposely parked on a pretty tree lined street this morning so I could walk smelling the freshly mowed grass in the shade.

Crossing the creek, I saw my final destination in the distance.

It was both a church and a community volunteer fair.

The church had invited a local bluegrass band called Monroe Crossing to be part of their morning service and to help celebrate volunteerism at the fair.

I’m in a Facebook creative arts group with a friend named Candy, a talented photographer and blogger, from Vermont.

Candy had just met the band last month when she was singing with her choir at another church in Hoosick Falls, NY.

It’s a community of particularly nice folks who once helped me out when I got lost rushing to an airport in Albany.

Candy told me I just had to hear them play in my town and to say hello to the female singer Lisa on her behalf.

I know this church venue in my community well, having attended their church camp as a teen and some of their services over the years.

It’s a large city place of worship, yet with a small town feel. In spite of its size, I recognized the name of one of the two members who had passed this last week.

He’d been very active in the community and through his work had become a good friend of my late father’s.

Back outside after the service, I recognized and spoke to another smiling woman who worked with my daughter at the same church camp 35 years later. She was looking for volunteers.

And at a nearby table I met the community volunteer coordinator at a local care facility where I’d considered placing my husband in his final days.

I saw her sign asking for pet visitors. When I mentioned my chi mix Rex back at home her eyes lit up.

Then she smiled.

One of the residents had been particularly devastated when her chis had to be re-homed after she’d moved in recently.

“Rex is up to the challenge,” I told her.

A woman listening at the next table wondered if Rex could make visits to her adult day care program also. I remembered her name as she shared it with me. I had spoken with her several years ago about my husband.

Though Rex isn’t fully trained yet as a therapy dog, he can start with both groups right away.

Looks like Rex’s community is growing as fast as the corn since moving up here from the south in December.

On my way back to the tent where the blue grass band was now playing, I stopped to pick the group up some mini donuts at the stand behind me. I’d heard a band member mention that sweet scent of the warm sugar blowing by in the breeze.

But first I stopped to greet a small five year old just as sweet in sun glasses who was calling my name. He attends the school where I work several towns away.

Once I introduced the donuts and myself to the band Monroe Crossing, we spoke of our mutual friend Candy, and the friendly community of Hoosick Falls.

And then the band members insisted we all take a picture together.

And we did.

After, I whistled their songs crossing back over the creek to my car.

And then I smiled thinking how fortunate we are to have so many communities in our lives, big and small.

And also, how blessed.

Blessings for a bucket list

We prepare to leave the bistro in pouring rain to join the big music block party down the street.

A first for me.

Actually my first rock concert ever, which is why it ended up on my ’50 by 60′ bucket list.

My friends pull their tickets from their wallets.

Just a I realize mine is back on the bulletin board at home.

Decision point.

Return home and skip the concert?

Or party on, and buy another ticket?

As we walk outside, the sun instantly re-appears against a brilliant blue sky back drop.

Decision made.

I buy another ticket while others in the crowd silently recite the mantra, “Praise the loud!”

Understand this is not a religious event, which is why the volume is being praised on the event’s t-shirts.

Yet the proceeds benefit the continuing restoration of a beautiful church and city landmark, the Basilica of Saint Mary as well as the needy in the community. A unique event and partnership, it’s now in its twentieth year.

One of the three big stages sits directly in front of a 1930s statue of Father Hennepin who seems to be blessing the crowd of 15,000 plus this night, as well as this beaux-arts style, century old Catholic Church behind it.

After my portrait is taken ‘with the Pope’ as I enter, we’re more than ready to start ‘praising the loud’.

My friends and I start to move strategically from stage to stage listening to several bands. Finally positioning ourselves near the front of the Sun Country stage to hear our favorite closing act, the San Francisco group Train.

The growing crowd starts to roar in anticipation.

I sing an impromptu duet of Train’s hit “Soul Sister” with a guy half my age who’s standing next to me.

We both agree we’re not half bad.

Suddenly we hear the ear deafening sound of train engines announcing the arrival of our headliner.

As the crowd spots the band’s members, thousands of photo snapping smart phones all rise in salute.

Quickly followed by loyal fans joyously singing and dancing with the band.

My friends and I do as well.

But soon I realize I might be here for a second reason.

The couple behind me and I stand prepared to catch the younger dancing fans to my right who’ve climbed up on recycling cans for the last two numbers.

One tipsy young lady begins to fall sideways, tripping on her floor length sundress.

She catches her balance just as she’s about to transform into heavy falling timber.

I take a deep breath, then smile as I look up back at the glorious full moon over the stage.

I think to myself it’s sure been a night full of blessings.

And not even one mosquito.

In the Midwest in July, that surely counts as a miracle.


Bliss and a boxcar

I know I should be home paying bills.

But I’m sitting on the dock of the bay.


With my old corgi girlfriend, Maddie.

The 1906 steam boat pulls in from the next town, loaded down with music hungry folk.

We’re ready now for the concert to begin, right in front of the train depot.

“The High 48s Bluegrass Band” suddenly hits their banjos with the first number.

And they’ve chosen a train song.

Maddie smiles.

She really loves her box cars.

So do I.

Our eyes travel for a moment.

We notice the blue sky above is as bright as the water below.

And it’s topped with scoops of cotton candy clouds

Glancing back towards the band, Maddie and I realize the boys are all wearing fancy suits.

Brook Brothers, I’m thinking.

I tell Maddie I’ll be asking them why.

“There’s just got to be a story. Maybe they hit the second hand store on the way over”.

Speaking of bargains, the concert is free.

And so are the sounds from the clapping crowds and views of the sailboats gliding across the lake.

I couldn’t have bought Maddie and me a more beautiful night if I’d tried.

And I’m thinking somehow bliss tastes even sweeter when it’s free.

That is until the boys start strumming and singing one very lively and special tune called, “The Train has Left the Station.”

Maddie immediately nods my direction.

We travel right up the depot steps to buy ourselves a CD.

Blissfully enjoying every last note as we stand in line to hand over my last ten.


A birthday like no other

Today is my husband Richard’s birthday.

I like to think it was a good one for him, in spite of his hospice situation. I do know I saw some smiles on that still handsome face this morning.

We greeted friends, family and staff with holiday cupcakes. The wise hospital chaplain stopped by again to extend birthday wishes as well.

Richard was serenaded by two music therapists with beautiful voices, one with a guitar. A small hospital room soon made rich with Irish lullabies, Christmas carols and old Beatle tunes.

Richard appeared to enjoy them all and was particularly at peace listening to a duet of “Silent Night.”

“Let if Be,” written by Paul McCartney, was my favorite and also the most emotional for the rest of us. Particularly the first two lines:

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me…”

My husband’s beloved mother’s name was Mary.

So perfect, I thought.

What a gift.

Silent night

I arrive late at the holiday party to join my date for the evening after navigating the snowy back roads.

I greet him warmly near the brightly lit Christmas tree.

He says nothing.

My date’s expressionless face gives me no clue.

Is he angry? Or happy to see me?

His eye lids are heavy.

Soon the deep blue eyes below, close.

My date drifts off to sleep before I get a chance to tell him about my busy day. Before I can feed him his favorite shrimp and chocolate dipped strawberries that I hold before him, on a pretty plate trimmed in holly.

The familiar carols in the next room continue to act as lullabies as I sit silently with him for a while.

I rise to greet the other smiling guests, and prepare to leave.

A woman begins to gently strum her guitar as I look over my shoulder one last time at my date.

My husband.

He is at peace, snoring softly in his recliner. A comforter on his lap.

And for this night that’s enough, I tell myself as I close tight the security door of his group home.

Country music: One new tradition?

Trains have provided unexpected delays for me all summer yet have offered up gifts as well. It happened again today. I went back in town after stopping at the orchard to pick up apples. I was thinking I’d take a walk along the shoreline of the lake before it started to pour, but got trapped again by another long train. I thought I heard music in the distance, over by the beach. I walked towards the noise where I saw a large stage and a country band playing.

It was a free concert, with a cool breeze blowing, and a small crowd. I thought I’d politely listen for a few minutes, while waiting for the train to pass by. I’m not a big country fan but I appreciate most music as long as it’s performed well. I tend to prefer the sweet strings of a classically played violin or the soulful sound of a jazz saxophone. But today I found a new appreciation for a fast fiddle, the holes of the harmonica, as well as the perfect harmony of the singers performing.

The group of seven, Hitchville, perform as the opening act for names such as Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. The toe tapping music almost had me joining the girls up front, but instead I modestly danced over to the side and bought a CD. I forgot all about the train for the next hour and a half.

Well almost. Near the close of the concert one of the group members was just starting to sing the old Jonny Cash tune, “Folsom Prison Blues.” The first line begins, “I hear the train a comin’, it’s rolling round the bend.” And sure enough, another train came whistling through directly behind him as he started the song up.

That was okay with me. I wasn’t in a hurry. I’d already decided to stick around for the encore.

The music doesn’t have to stop

I heard the sound of strings rounding the corner. Two women were beautifully playing their violins in a booth, at a small street fair near me. The women were promoting their small community orchestra that plays in an area church several times a year. My husband and I used to attend orchestra concerts there together. I miss the live music. I think I’ll go again this season, even if it’s just me.

The music doesn’t have to stop after all.