the essence of folk music

Yesterday morning I woke up to an National Public Radio (NPR)  story about the sounds of Haiti one week after the devastating earthquake.  My ears were filled with the voices of children singing joyously in French about Joshua tumbling down the walls of Jericho.  Ironic choice of song, but I was deeply moved by the music and I began to think how music sometimes  breaks down walls between people.   And then Kate McGarrigle passed away on January 18th, 2010.  What a loss.  So much music and joy came from Kate and her sister Anna and their collaborations over the years with Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen and The Chieftans to name but a few.  Last weekend I was in New England and I  got the chance to make music with a couple of wonderful people – Keith and Mickey.  Keith is one of my oldest and dearest friends and music has always been a part of our bond.  Sometimes I sang, sometimes I listened, and sometimes I tried to paint them playing, happy to be a part of the music.

Mickey. Copyright 2010 Robin L. Chandler

Mike Rigenstrief wrote in the Montreal Gazette this week “but perhaps Kate and Anna’s most enduring musical legacy is communal music-making: the way they’d gather friends and family together in concerts….and make thousands of people, most of whom they’d never met, all feel like they were sitting around the kitchen table or in a living room, making music together. That is the essence of folk music. “ I think about all of the people I’ve shared  or made music with over the years in all the living rooms, kitchens, stairwells and cars on road trips. Music is the tie that binds and can help to heal sadness, loss and despair.

Keith. Copyright 2010 Robin L. Chandler

Musicians are reaching out to Haiti with “Download to Donate – Songs for Haiti” with 100% of the funds going to Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund.  If she was with us, I’m sure Kate would be a part of this music for relief.  Kate you raced the Matapedia, you could not slow down, and you were not afraid.

Jammin’. Copyright 2010 Robin L. Chandler

In the shadow of the ancients

The Topatopa bluffs are part of the Condor Sanctuary in the Sespe Wilderness; the sanctuary is a space where the Condors can mate, breed and raise their chicks undisturbed by humans.  At sunset seen from the Ojai Valley, the bluffs glow “pink” from the last rays of the setting sun.

Topatopa Bluffs near Ojai. Copyright 2010 Robin L. Chandler

With their nine foot wingspan, Condors glide at fifty-five miles per hour ranging three hundred miles a day on the look for expired creatures that will sustain them.  Bradley John Monsma in The Sespe Wild writes “attempting to see the lay of the land through the eye of the condor quickly turns a wide-angle wilderness into a lesson in the limitations that we impose on other species.”  The Sespe is a crucial link in the foraging habitat used by the Condor for thousands of years ranging from the the Ventana Wilderness through the Sespe and Tejon Ranch to the Sierra Nevadas. Humankind continues to encroach upon the condor’s “home” as rolling oak grasslands situated along I-5 north of Los Angeles too often become real estate development opportunities.  But sometimes people do get it right.  In May 2008, a coalition of conservation groups – the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society of California negotiated a conservation easement to preserve 178,000 acres in Fort Tejon that will supplement the public lands forming the condor habitat.  There are approximately seventy condors in the wild and space and water are key to their survival.  I marvel at the condor’s ability to daily traverse a “u-shaped” area from Big Sur to the Range of Light.

Mt. Whitney and the Range of Light. Copyright 2008 Robin L. Chandler

Their need for habitat, fires my imagination contributing to my personal geography.  As Stephen S. Hall writes in his essay I Mercator in the book You Are Here, “I have roamed across state lines and oceans and continents, backwards in time, each thought colored according to a personal legend, corresponding to the elevation and depressions of my private humors: pride, wonder, sadness, remorse.”  We are here, now, navigating our personal maps, facing the emptiness of our  intelligence in a space and time where nature balances precariously between our greed and our benevolence.