Monday, March 31, 2014

Fiddles, Floodwaters, & Civil War Letters

Another Fiddle Camp has blown in and out and I am left inspired, grateful, and a little frazzled. Two days with a house full of string tuning, bowing notes, first fingerings, and the song that started it all: Ida Red. For two days the farm (or in some cases, neighboring farms or random places in town!) are full of those virginal few notes and it really makes me happy. It doesn't sound wonderful (and I think the students at the camp would agree) but it does sound promising. People arrive knowing nothing about the beasts in their cases and by the end of Sunday afternoon are able to play the D scale, fiddle their first tune, repair strings, adjust their bridges, rosin bows, and tune their violins. But the real goodness of the camp is seeing people "get it". That look of realization that this may be choppy waters, squeaking and squawking, and all that - but the promise of music is there. The first song has been found and if they can learn that ditty they can learn four more like it. If they keep up the practice a few minutes a day in a month they'll not even have to think about where their fingers go and might even start droning songs and adding shuffles on their own. They need to want to learn to teach themselves but every fiddle camp there is at least a student that glows.

When I say glow I don't mean the most talented, or the one who shows up with an $800 instrument. I simply mean the fiddler with the fire inside. My first camp there was a woman named Trish from Virginia. She was dedicated, hungry even, to play. She worked hard at camp but she was not the best sounding in that group. But I got an email from her not too long ago and she's never put it down since. Two years now she has been playing and has sought out her own instructor in her hometown and can play beautiful songs. She waited until middle age to even play and now I'm sure her tunes outshine my own. I think that is wonderful. Hell, I think that is magical.

Another bit of magic is this wild weather. Over the past few days intense rain and vicious winds have smacked into the Battenkill Valley. I was worried the sump in the basement wouldn't be able to keep up with the deluge but it did. I'm buying a second sump pump soon as I can afford it and a backup power system inverter to run off the idling truck. In a power outage I can stay sheltered, warm, fed, and dry but my basement can't. It needs that pump until I can divert water around the house. (not easy to do when you live on the side of a mountain with a lot of slope above you and a lot of gravity working against you. But it is cheaper to run the pump in an emergency off a few gallons of stored gasoline than it is replacing the furnace, water heater, and anything else down there that would be ruined in a good flood without power…

That rain brought the creek that runs down the mountain some serious high water. What is usually a trickle is now a raging mini-rapid. All that snow melting and running to the Kill, which runs into the Hudson, which runs down to the big City and into the sea. But some of that ocean water started right here in all its mineral rich goodness on my wet hill. It feels nice to contribute.

Fiddles and floods, that is where I am tonight. Rain is welcome after a long winter that never seems to end. I wrote a letter to my friend Brett up in the Adirondacks to see if he was interested in Jasper and I got a letter in return written by a man tired of winter. It sounded so bleak it reminded me of a Civil War letter. I wrote this back. Thought it might cheer him up. Feel free to queue up Ashokan Farewell on youtube as you read it out loud in a cheesy southern accent.

My Dearest Brettington, 

The winter has been too long for all. Cold nights and colder hearts are all we see in our uncanny valley. Here in the good Battenkill lowlands the farmers and bankers alike have run out of fodder for their stoves and their horses. I think Ol' Gentry Billing finally lost his old wife and his mule. He said he ate the mule alone - only because the law has writ that eating people is a sin to man and angel alike. He never cared for her much. She was done buried on the Catholic side of the cemetery. She wasn't a papist but Blillings said it was the only way to hope for peace in the hereafter. 

My farm is in young debt and I don't fret it much, less the consumption take me over and I die of the vapors like that sordid Mrs. Billings. I have the constitution of a kicking goat and do not worry for my health or happiness. I have learned if you punch a sapling long and hard enough it will grow with a hollow in it. That hollow is this farm. Force and will, and I can't sell my damnation horse. I suppose since the flu has passed over this abode and the bank hasn't taken into its Devilhands I must be counted amongst the lucky. 

As these days stretch into this Fresh Hell that used to be called spring I find myself only remembering warmth in ballad and storybook. The dog is skinny as a whippet and I think we shall never know the sweet sap or holy light of July ever again. Surely it is lost forever, gone to the place happiness has. Alas. Shall we ever know the freedom from lack of this eternal succubus known as winter falling?

I wonder what mule tastes like? 

Warmly concerned, 



Blogger Jeannie Lindheim said...

Jeannie, I was a vegetarian for ten years. learning about animals, ecosystems, the environment and local living changed that.

Can you let me know what from the comment you wrote above changed your mind about eating animals…. confused… thanks so much~ warmly Jeannie

March 31, 2014 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Jeannie Lindheim said...

Jeannie, I was a vegetarian for ten years. learning about animals, ecosystems, the environment and local living changed that.

Hi Jenna, confused… so what about the above comment changed your mind so you are now eating animals…. thanks~ warmly Jeannie

March 31, 2014 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Because that is what feels correct to my mind, body, and soul.

March 31, 2014 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Sylvan said...

LOL..."Jennadiah!!" That is great.

April 1, 2014 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger M. Birt said...

Cracks me up. Jennadiah.

April 1, 2014 at 2:27 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Okay, that letter is just funny.

Also, the last bit describes exactly what so many folks are feeling, I think.

April 1, 2014 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Heehee. I'm sure that gave him a very warm smile and a hearty laugh!

April 2, 2014 at 2:56 AM  
Blogger Lone Pine Farm said...

That's marvelous, Jenna, and just what I needed. The snow fell here (north-central BC) again this morning, and it is forecasted to continue all week. I too am beginning to doubt that we will ever feel the warmth of July, the abundance of August, and the satisfaction of September.

And now I'm also wondering what mule tastes like...


April 2, 2014 at 1:54 PM  

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