Years ago I remember writing “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essays when I returned to school in the fall. At the time, I envied children whose families took vacations, traveling west to the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Disneyland. As I recall, my summers were filled with picking strawberries and other crops from our garden, hoeing weeds, mowing grass, and canning fruit. But it wasn’t all work–there were long hours spent in the Mount Blanchard swimming pool, followed by a stop at the ice cream stand, trips to the public library, and reading. In other words, I never lacked for something to do.
This is the summer of the workshop. It kicked off with a glorious week in Madison, Wisconsin, where I attended Write By The Lake for the second year in a row. This summer I took Amy Lou Jenkins’ workshop, Richer Nonfiction. The workshop began the morning after the Orlando shooting, and I knew I had the right instructor when when Amy Lou stood up to introduce herself and spoke about the need to make art in the wake of such tragedy. Writing, she explained, can be a way to shift the world and to figure out things. For years, I’ve wanted to write, but I wondered who would care about my stories. Amy Lou helped me recognize that the specific can be universal. Now it’s up to me…no more procrastination.
After being home for a week, we headed to Bardstown, Kentucky, for Kentucky Music Week. Hundreds of dulcimer players, plus people with penny whistles, ukuleles, fiddles, autoharps, and other instruments gathered at the Bardstown Elementary and Middle Schools each day for classes, jam sessions, and socializing. On the first day, I bought a penny whistle, which I like much better than the recorder I already had. We learned a lot from Jeff Furman, Dave Haas, and Sue Carpenter, enjoyed jamming with Tull Glazener, and had a great time making music with others. By the way, I also found time to practice my French horn every day.
At Kentucky Music Week you can take up to five classes. As a break from music classes, I decided to try my hand at basket weaving. I can’t say it was a relaxing experience, but I’m quite pleased with the result. Think of all the yarn it can hold!
I first visited Bardstown about fifty years ago with my mother and grandparents, and while there we went to “The Stephen Foster Story,” an outdoor musical. I remember my fascination with sitting outside to watch a show. During Kentucky Music Week, several of my friends indulged my desire to see the musical once again. It was a perfect evening for it, no mosquitoes, low humidity. In this era of technology, the show was refreshingly simple–music and dancing without pyrotechnics or digital magic. At one point, a green tarp behind the stage dropped to reveal a painting of the federal-style house that inspired “My Old Kentucky Home.” It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, but I did wondering how much the shows content may have changed in the past five decades.
Now I’m thankful to have time at home to write and practice my music. And to garden. This week we had the first few cherry tomatoes, zucchini casserole and zucchini bread, green beans, onions, and beets. And the sunflowers are blooming!