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Masked Brothers

Once there were two masked brothers

who wanted to play fiddle music for a country dance.

 

But there weren’t any dances in those days,

because people couldn’t get together–

a deadly virus lurked.

 

So, they found themselves a country porch,

and they played a few tunes for a little donkey instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yellow Bells

This spring song is inspired by Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” (1854).
Yellow Bells

The rarest wildflower in these woods…

A pale drooping maiden 
Just outside my cabin door
Her frail form
Heralds
Spring once more.

Though her voice is quiet
Her pleading look does say
Oh’ spring come 
Winter pass away.

Her sighs the hope for the weary
Spring come-- 
Spring come--
Come without delay.


Though her bloom is fragrant
The winds blew fierce and gay
Oh, spring come
	Come without delay.



Moments after this song was sung, the little donkey came to visit the
woodland meadow, and
Its hoof fell upon the yellow bell
And so, no song 
could the slender maiden
 longer tell.


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Pine Beetle Kill

Ponderosa Pine fall

Listen to the text and below the short piece is a slideshow showing the process of tree to boards.

The insects come now,
or never leave.
And all the sap in the world can’t save our old ones.

In summer, hundreds of summers ago,
we threw butterscotch-
that warm pudding fragrance
emanating from our bark
into the woods, but now
we don’t seem so wondrous or plump-full of butterscotch
when we are standing dead.

The line that kept us from falling 
has shifted to less water, less winter
no quick-hot 
renewing fires, and too many crawlers, borers, chewers
and all this sap 
cannot drown them out.
We the tallest, the greatest circumference
of this valley, we are 
taken, beetle-felled. 

Our butterscotch fades.
Our green needles have thinned to brown.
Our bark pulls away.
Skin pockmarked
round death craters
have reached our core
untangling us from this valley’s web 
and carbon releases, but slowly...

We will fall, as a duck falls.
Felled by the cutter of down.
Not by the pellet but by the saw. 
And as we fall, she holds her breath.
Watching the tipping, 
descending to three o’clock-- six o’clock--
Thud! --ground absorbs the long pole, 
branches trembling upon impact
a thousand vibrating wings
go still.
She breathes again, when the fall is
complete.
The men move in and begin de-branching,
and drag the log pole, readying it for the sawmill.

We become Ponderosa pine boards.
Shelves in the greenhouse--
shelves in the bathroom--
flooring in the outhouse--
frames for oil paintings--
benches--
stools--
wood for the farm table.

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Andre Lamoreaux (1933-2021)

Eulogy for Andre Lamoreaux –please listen 7 minutes. After the text you can see a short video of Andre performing in 2019.

Andre Lamoreaux (1933-2021)

 

Today we celebrate the life of one of our local music heroes, Andre Lamoreaux–88.  We all knew Andre in our own way whether as a family member, friend, a fellow musician, or one of the many people throughout the Columbia River Gorge whose lives were lifted by Andre’s voice.

 

This is a song of mourning and a song of celebration for a voice that has left us—for a song that will live on in memory inside each of our hearts.  Andre helped me sing.  He told me— “make it your own- sing like you mean it – that’s what makes a singer.” He meant adding heart-emotion, color and interpretation to the lyrics instead of just singing every song the same way.

 

In 2014, Bruce and I went to our first jam and country western dance at the Cherry Park Grange – after Virgil, the grange host, warmly greeted us and showed us to our seats to be part of the band –Andre was the second person who spoke to us.

 

He was a little old man wearing a black cowboy hat. He said, “You’ve not been here before, are you new in town, what do you play?” 

 

“Bruce plays the fiddle, and I sing,” I said.

 

When he heard that word “sing” Andre got a sparkle in his eye. 

 

Bruce told me later “Wow, that Andre he’s the real thing. Did you see the way he stood up to microphone—in complete command, and belted out “Walking the Dog” as he beat on that four-string guitar?”   Indeed, people in the crowd were smiling, and dancing, and singing along. For a few minutes everyone in the room had tuned in for Andre’s show.

 

As time passed, I started singing the country western songs from the 1960s by artists like Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and my favorite Kitty Wells.  Bruce and I started showing up to help play for the Sunday dances at area grange halls and senior centers. I also sang every song Andre thought I should sing. He’d come up and say, “I’ve got a new song for you.” And it was always a perfect choice, right for my voice and for me.  I’d learn one of those songs, and sing it, and he’d come up to me afterwards and say, “I really like how you did that—how you put your heart into it.”  He didn’t always say this—only when he felt I’d lived up to that ideal of making a song your own—making the song a part of you. That advice transformed my singing of classic country music.

 

As many of you know Andre never used a word sheet; He continually amazed us by knowing all the words to hundreds of songs in his head. And, if something slipped, he’d make it up- on the fly. We all smile when we recall how he’d take a Hank Williams or a Willie Nelson and give it that special Andre twist.

 

His voice reached the crowd—strong, distinct, resonate—even into his 80s.  Even though his voice wasn’t the voice of a thirty-year-old, he knew how to make it work—to make the best sound out of what he did have. He gave me complete confidence that it’s possible to sing and play music well into your eighth decade.  

 

 In recent years- he ended all of his sets with “This Little Light of Mine.” And when we were playing with him, and his good friend K. C., and sometimes Joe, we all belted out the chorus in raucous harmonies, and the crowd would be yelling with us.  It was terrific to play with Andre!

 

Andre sought out places to play music where his voice could make a difference in peoples lives. He volunteered to play in the memory units, and the old songs cut through the confusion and connected with people. We went with Andre and saw residents who had sat silent for days actually start singing a song along with us that they remembered from childhood. I can remember similar spontaneous group sings happening at the Veterans’ home when we played there with Andre.  Andre brought his music to everyone—he didn’t forget those who were ill or those who were separated from ordinary walks of life.

 

This past year has been a rough year on our music community—we’ve lost so many fine musicians and voices –Buck, Phyllis, Bud, Joe, Bobby, Gordon, Andre….  It’s hard to say goodbye- hard to see them go.  Music provided the social thread for everyone to dress up wearing rhinestones and fancy cowboy hats, and brightly embroidered shirts –to dance, tell stories, joke, hug, enjoy homemade desserts- and just spend time together. Playing music brought meaning to the musicians’ lives, and to all those who listened, and it brought us all together every week. The pandemic came and wiped that all away and separated everyone.

 

Those of us who are left will carry on, and hopefully we’ll have more dances and other times for sharing musical friendship, but we won’t forget those like Andre we have lost this year. These warm giving hearts and their strings, drums, and voices just can’t be replaced—even if we create a new song going forward. We love you Andre—it’s hard to say goodbye. Wherever you are- we hope you’re playing music and laughing and telling your stories once again.  Maybe Bud and Phyllis, Buck, Gordon, Joe, and Bobby are there too. 

 

Authors Note:

A graveside ceremony is planned for late March in Washington.  Once restrictions have been lifted and Senior Centers reopen, a public gathering –hopefully summer of 2021—will be scheduled to celebrate Andre and his musician friends who have lost their lives during this pandemic year.    

 

Andre singing “Walking the Dog” for a country dance – 2019.
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Mother’s Gift of the Sequined Heart

The title, the photo, and listening to this short piece all go together-click above 1 min.
Mother’s Gift of the Sequined Heart

Shall the sequins that cover your heart all lie in one direction--
the same direction
smooth and tight 
like scales 
of a rainbow trout--ruby and true--

If you are caught, brought in and dipped up,
and held to be admired. Photographed even--
and by whom...
don’t squirm too much.

Some of those scales may shift, slide down, or turn over. 
And after many years, and 
all that handling
transform, by necessity perhaps,
to burnished gold.

Now thin ruby petals
and old, old gold.

But, really is any true heart all one texture and 
just one color 
when life is over?



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Two Old Goats

Two old goats walking--
Stiff old boots trotting--
Heading into spring.

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Earwigs

Photo by Sankax — Earwig
Mix of haiku, dialog, and prose about earwigs 3 minutes click above.

Wonders of earwigs

Her cries ring when she finds them–

In folds of white sheets.

 ***************************************** 

Earwigs drown in oil

Dog finds, drink the bugs and fat–

Tongue touch– wet nose smiles on.

******************************************

Snow is thawing; the creek is running very high; it’s so noisy I can hear the rushing water one hundred yards away.  My neighbor calls and asks, “Are you thinking about the earwigs?”

“Yes, I am –will it be another earwig year?”

“If we have a wet spring—you can count on it.”

The dread of earwig invasion. 

This is how they are outside:

Under all the flower pots, inside the cracks of the decking, hiding in the crevices of stone comprising the outside farmhouse walls, hiding inside the cap of the hummingbird feeder (how did they climb the tree, travel out on the limb, and crawl down the foot long s-hanger, and wedge themselves under the cap. This is the wonder of the earwigs. And thousands of them.

The damage they do.

They hide during the day and come out at night to eat flower buds and much of the green parts of the flowers. Young springtime flowers are especially vulnerable to earwig attack, so those lovely flats of yellow marigolds and tender purple petunias you bought at the nursery–become swiss cheese works in short order.  It’s painful to see the plants eaten alive like this, and vegetable gardeners have their own earwig tales of young-starts devastation.

Inside the house:

Imagine this. Earwigs behind the picture frames, under the soap dish, wedged in the door jambs, stuffed inside the hinges of the cabinets, inside the inner fold of the wet washcloth hanging in the bathroom.  And, I have to vacuum them up.  Then I dump them in a field away from the house.

********************************************

Takes a storm to kill

an earwig or a flower–

Inside, out –earthly hearts shake.

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We’re All Trying to Figure it Out

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com
A very short listen–click above to hear the poem reflecting on the snowstorm.
We’re All Trying to Figure it Out
 
I’ve heard that animals have prescience.
Then why are the hummingbirds and red-winged blackbirds still
here?
Don’t they know about the blizzard...?
 
They smell the walking wall advancing from the west.
The pressure falls.
They feel the moisture in the air as it breathes into their bones.
The sky is dense. 
 
Relentless oyster gauze falls in folds.
Thousands of thin sweet layers pile three feet high.
Baklava and deep silence--
but not to eat--
layers mean desperation.
 
All the food forms are covered and smoothed. 
The Junco’s black eyes glitter.
Her white tail feathers peep. 
She seeks a roost, but --
will she have enough energy to last through the night?
 
Meanwhile, a farmer looks over his accounts while the woodstove pipes along,
steam rises from the pan.
Will he have enough to buy seed for next year and what about that new tractor?
 
Price rise, fall of demand--
Creased brow.
He’s turning the numbers..
 
We’re all trying to figure it out.
 
 
 
 

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Moses Survives

Moses’s corner bed- before all the straw and shaving layers were added.
A quick listen and a quick read. Click above to listen.

Moses the Cheerful has survived several feet of snow and an extreme cold snap. A friend who raises Nigerian Dwarf goats told me, “If you’re gonna lose an old goat, it will be during the winter when it gets so cold. They can get hypothermia quickly and not be able to maintain themselves—their system just tips over.”

Recipe for success:

Ziggy, the donkey was in the stall next to Moses. Ziggy’s body must have given off some warmth.

Shavings and straw layered several feet high were piled in the corner where Moses slept. Goats will pee when they sleep. And urine, plus straw, plus shavings creates heat.

Each morning I added a new layer of straw and shavings over the old layer.

A small bucket of very warm water in the morning, and just before bedtime–Moses would come running for this and suck up several cups.

Plenty of hay.

Stall doors shut at night.

Results:

Water in the buckets inside the stall never froze, even though outside temperatures were in the teens or single digits.

Moses the Cheerful was still in his bed each morning at 8 a.m. when I opened the stall door to feed and clean. He survived.

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Good Fences

A two minute listen–click above.

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This is an illusion .

“Good fences make good neighbors” is a line from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”. It’s about keeping a wall between neighbors in good repair. One of the men in the poem doesn’t think the wall is necessary and the other man believes a well-maintained barrier is the best way to stay good neighbors.

 Ziggy and Moses are like these two men.

Ziggy has chosen the wall and Moses would prefer a relationship without barrier.  

We’ve taken the donkey and the goat on a walk twice daily for almost ten days. Moses is always on a leash. The donkey and the goat have shared a large stall at night separated by a wire panel. They have had lots of time to get accustomed to each other.

So, this week I let them out into the big paddock together. They grazed peacefully for 10 minutes, and then unexpectedly Ziggy turned and tried to stomp Moses. I reacted simultaneously by rushing in and yelling and diverted Ziggy just before his front hooves smashed into the goat. Stomping is serious. It’s how a donkey attacks another animal with full intent to do harm. Stomping is a rapid, multiple pummeling of front hooves – drilling the attacked into the earth.

Moses the Cheerful was completely unprepared, and he seemed not to understand what was happening. It may be old age, or he may simply be innocent from living for years around other farm animals he has gotten along with. The dislike Ziggy has for the goat is inexplicable. Goat and donkey are both grazers. They are prey animals. Moses is quiet and gentle.

Often in life things don’t turn out the way we wish, because other factors than just our wishes are at play.

So be it- but Moses stays, and going forward the goat and the donkey can be near each other with a fence line in between. Good fences make good neighbors.