The last time I attended this event was the 34th annual in 1978, a small affair held in the Alaska State Library. I was 22 years old, had recently moved to Juneau and there I was with my guitar sitting in awe at Doc Watson’s feet during a workshop.
Fast forward to the present and my good friend Jean up in Juneau needed a housesitter during Folk Fest week while she headed south to catch some sun in Mexico. She extended an invitation to me and my friend and musical partner, Kelsey, to stay in her house, use her car and enjoy the week’s events. Why not? Kelsey and I bought airline tickets and signed up for a 15-minute slot to perform on the big stage as the Ribbon Ridge Girls, our folk duo. O M G.
The Alaska Folk Festival came about 48 years ago as a way to celebrate Alaska’s musical talent in the folk genre. Musicians converge on Juneau from all over the state and a few beyond its borders like Kelsey and me from Oregon. Most have some previous connection to Alaska. There is a show every night of the week with musicians performing every 15 minutes on the big stage. On Saturday a headliner act performs Saturday night. Add to that are workshops, dances for all ages, a potluck, and music at venues all over town.
A year ago Kelsey and I casually formed the Ribbon Ridge Girls ( Kelsey lives on Ribbon Ridge and I live down the hill) and started tiny performances, a couple of songs here and there in the middle of another band’s set, and at a couple of open mics. We dusted off our dreams of playing guitar and singing when we met in the McMinnville Women’s Choir. I wanted to try something new so at the ripe young age of 66 I started playing the tenor guitar (4 strings, tuned in 5ths). That means learning all new chord forms (a good way to stave off dementia). We shared a guitar lesson slot to get our skills up. Then we started practicing together eventually forming a duo singing mostly Americana and original material in harmony.
Traveling begs photography. One usually returns from atrip with a raft of photos on their cell phones as souvenirs. When my friends and I travel together we also like to incorporate some kind of art into the mix. This includes anything from painting, sketching, art journaling, and collaging. Forget about the notion of being good or not. This is just an adventure with your hands interpreting what the eye sees. Sometimes the most primitive attempts evoke the strongest memories.
My first attempt at travel sketching was many decades ago. I packed a fresh sketchbook and a new set of watercolor pencils lined up like soldiers at attention in a tidy tin box. Several sketches later I declared them horrible and I quit. Over the years I’ve come across those sketches. They bring back memories and emotions that no photograph can. I feel the wind in those drawings and the mood of seeing grazing horses in a summer field. The thing about art – it has soul, emotion, and heart that most snapshots miss. I’m so glad I didn’t throw them away.
My travel art supplies are simple and small. I carry them in a pencil box and a felt, zippered pouch that includes watercolor “sheets,” a water pen (or colored brush markers, or colored pencils), and a postcard pad-sized watercolor paper and/or sketchbook. A glue stick and small pair of scissors are handy for collaging those travel brochures and tickets.
You don’t need much. At the very least, bring a pen, paper, and a sense of adventure.
Sedona, Arizona was our last adventure this past April. Pictured are a few things we brought home…
Dang, we had a long winter here in Oregon. Rain, cold, and dreary skies persisted for months my motivation plummeting with the temperature. Looking out at the first portion of my native plant garden I planted last year I fretted that many plants had perished over the winter leaving dreadful bare patches with their demise. Then bam- a few sunny days in the 70s and 80s last week changed all that. All around I spotted my little green friends emerging shyly from the depths of the earth.
I look to my garden for the understanding of life. We certainly don’t flourish in all conditions. I certainly have been in a period of dormancy due to inhospitable conditions in my life. But as my garden tells me, inspiration will return with better times.
Some plants are coming back stronger than ever. A few I thought I’d lost during the heat of last summer are returning in force. My expensive Trillium kurabayashii that failed to bloom last year is blooming and returned with it a friend. Then a few of my white trillium lost the battle with slugs. A little wood rush perished for good. Replant or try something new? Such it is with our creative children…
The muse has flipped her sign to “open.” It is over 60 degrees today. I think I shall go out and work in the garden.
The past two months of March and April have been busy ones for me. After a year of mulling around ideas, phase 2 of my native plant garden has manifested complete with a little gazebo for a writer’s nook.
Last year was phase one, largely a DIY project with a little help from friends. This year I signed on some professionals to get the effect I wanted. My vision is to provide (when the garden matures in a few years), a habitat for birds, invertebrates, pollinators, and myself to hang out in. This is akin to bringing nature to my front door. Later this summer a rock water feature will be added.
I was fortunate to find Marc & Josh of Amaranth Organic Gardening in Oregon City who were very enthusiastic about my vision and ready to go as soon as the gazebo was installed
I wanted a primitive look for the gazebo. My husband and I cut down alder poles which I debarked with a draw knife just like in the old days building a log cabin. The next step- not an easy one, was to find a carpenter willing to build with these primitive materials and a sense of adventure. I found Richard, just the man, on Craigslist.
After Richard finished, Marc and Josh got busy, and voila my garden! Now the fun starts watching the plants grow, a very slow process in this cold, wet spring we have been having in W. Oregon. In the meantime, I have been having fun furnishing the writer’s nook with primitive furniture, and placing bits of artwork around the garden.
As a garden is an ever-manifesting being I’m curous to see what is in store for me. I will be sharing as it unfolds from my writer’s nook.
Over lunch some weeks back, fellow writer friend, Becky shared a couple of sweet little poems that were inspired by her “ Dream Delivery Service. “ Your WHAT? Yes, she explained to me, she subscribes to a dream delivery service that sends out written dreams to her in pink envelopes. If he happens to be in your town he will deliver them before sunrise on his bicycle.
Yup. The guy is for real. His name is Mathias Svalina, a poet who started writing dreams for people from his imagination by subscription. He also offers various prompts on his Instagram account but he is known more for his Dream Delivery Service. Who knows how one can find such a niche? Obviously, someone with a vivid imagination and sense of adventure.
I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. Where do they come from? Where do they go come morning? Ask the dream catcher….
Someone’s got to do it
pickup all those shards of
dangling from tree branches
and blowing about like tumbleweeds
across a desert highway
He gathers up odd bits of psychic litter
metaphors, & scrambled images then
repackages them into new dreams
for delivery in dainty pink envelopes
onto the porches of subscribers
by bicycle in the wee hours before dawn
Then back he goes pedaling furiously
to his dream workshop
to create a new batch of untamed fantasies
and to get a bit of dreaming in himself
to add to the brew
As the sun sets
he wakes and prepares
for a new tangle of subliminal
flotsam and jetsom to gleen
When the REM alarm sounds
the dream catcher mounts his bike
and rides swiftly off into the night
a mug of black coffee
balanced on his handlebars
Tucked away in the Oregon Cascade Mountains lies Breitenbush Hot Springs. I’ve been going there mostly every winter for over 25 years for a getaway with friends and sometimes solo. It is an intentional, off-grid community dedicated to living in harmony with nature and providing nurturing experiences to its guests.
In 2020 a catastrophic wildfire tore through the area. Through massive efforts, Breitenbush is being rebuilt. I just returned from a two-day stay there with a friend.
The fire left a mosaic
of green among black
surviving trees standing proud
above layers of ferns, mossy rocks,
and the glossy red leaves of Oregon grape
I recognize familiar voices
chickadees, nuthatches, crows, and jays
busy among the treetops
as squirrels scamper below
Thanks to the bravery of a few souls
the stately lodge remains standing
the meals served there are
still ample, still delicious
with nary a scrap of meat
The stone-lined pools in the meadow
and the hot tubs down the hill
offer respite to the body as they always have
their hot minerals sinking deep into muscles and soul
We sleep in new lodgings
in the spot where forested rows
of boxy brown cabins once stood
and mice once played
in the heart of night
The river still flows with vigor
a roar of rapids over stones
unconcerned of the surrounding devastation
a vein of life in a wounded land
its soft breeze on my cheek reminding me
that life goes on
no matter how much pain we endure
the landscape has changed
as have we
destruction and rejuvenation
stand side by side
as the earth's heart
beats strong and steady
beneath our feet
It’s good to be back
It was early February when I noticed the symptoms…
lack of motivation
Something felt familiar…my annual nemesis Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD was back, catching me off guard once again. My pet name for this is Seasonal Defective Disorder. I first came face to face with SAD during my first year of teaching- along with my first migraine headache (not a good omen). My classroom was in the basement of the school with only a small rectangular grated window up on ground level. I had virtually no natural light all-day.
I discovered that even on anti-depressants one can fall victim to this syndrome. It’s thought to come about by biochemical changes in the brain brought on by lack of sunlight. For those of us in northern climates with dark winters and inclement weather SAD can be quite common. It can also happen any season if you are constantly indoors and deprived of natural light. In this conditions it’s hard to spark joy or feel creative. The good news is there are easy and affordable ways to deal with SAD. Here are my four go-tos to get back on track within a week or so.
Sit in front of a SAD light every morning for about 15-20 minutes daily. These lights emit full spectrum light like sunlight. Years ago these were big cumbersome boxes that cost several hundred dollars. Now you can get a little portable unit you can place on a desk at your workplace for about $25. Here is a link to the one I purchased on Amazon which I like a lot (I get no kickbacks for this recommendation).
Take a lot of vitamin D3. I recently upped my dose to 15,000 units to get through the rest of the winter.
I take several dandelion capsules a day. These supply an amazing amount of micronutrients and antioxidants. Of course, you may eat fresh young dandelion leaves usually in abundant supply in your lawn- at least in mine.
Get outside as much as possible. There is nothing like fresh air and natural sunlight. I say that as the rain continues to fall here in Oregon.
If you have found yourself down in the dumps lately for no tangible reason, consider the possibility you might have SAD. You can try my recipe which is quite noninvasive or see a medical professional. Whatever path you choose- remember that life is too short to be depressed! Get the help you need.
I have been thinking a lot about time lately. In the mirror, I see a mop of gray hair on a much older face than what I started out with. This August I will turn 70. Really? Where did all the time go? Time flies quicker than the wind these days but as a child, a year was forever. Time is often a notion of perception, yet it can be measured precisely…