Thank you to everyone who has continued to visit my blog even though I have written no fresh posts in the past three months.
After this fallow period of non-blogging, today I am happy to be writing a new post.
As faithful readers may remember, for the past year and a half I’ve been focused on recording, fixing, mixing, and releasing decent versions of songs with significant amounts of input, collaboration and expertise from pianist/engineer Doug Hammer.
“My Sweet Honeydew” — featured in the player at the top of this post — is part of a new crop of original songs I’ll be sharing in 2022.
Some of these songs attempt to make sense out of the tipping point which human civilization — along with the rest of the extraordinary web of life here on planet earth — is now experiencing due to our overconsumption of fossil fuels during the past 150 years or so.
“My Sweet Honeydew” highlights the gratitude I attempt to practice every day despite horrible news such as the accelerating extinction of plant and animal species; the increasing frequency and severity of fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes; and the political unrest/discord which these events stir up!
I am very grateful to live in the United States of America and specifically in Massachusetts, which is currently led by a rare Republican governor who believes in science and who continues to respect the ever-evolving recommendations of public health experts during our ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
Because of these two geographical blessings, I have so far been spared most of the anguish and shortages and panic and destruction that so many other beings on planet earth are already experiencing.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
But I am aware that this could change — and possibly much faster than most of us who currently have access to food and clean water and shelter and electricity and computers and the internet would like to think is possible…
That’s because I’ve been reading a book called DEEP ADAPTATION with a small group of friends.
So far it’s been a very sobering experience — as you may know if you have already read it.
Another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
I’ll probably write more about DEEP ADAPTATION in future blog posts.
Please let me know in the comments section if you have already read it — and what YOU make of it…
Yet another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
I have a few resolutions for 2022.
One is to continue to decrease the impact of my life on all of the ecosystems which support our lives here on planet earth.
Another is to write shorter blog posts.
And a third is to remain curious (if that is possible) rather than terrified or furious or disheartened or disgusted about everything that continues to unfold here in these not-very-United-States.
One more deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find many songs (and learn more about my musical life here on planet earth if you are curious).
You can also find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Musicand other digital music platforms.
Note: I originally wrote this blog post in August 2018. When I recently attempted to update it (in order to put in photo credits and a new postscript), I was given the option to use the new “block editor” to which I have — reluctantly — become accustomed. Except the new “block editor” only pretended to work on the first photo and then didn’t work at all on any succeeding photos. And as I was toggling around to try and make it work, I decided it might be wise to revert to draft mode so that I didn’t keep updating the blog post live. Then I feared that I had removed the blog post entirely from my timeline. However, after re-publishing it, it appears still to be listed in correct chronological order.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
So… this is a slightly updated version of a blog post which you may already have read three summers ago!
Anyone who has spent time on the outer arm of Cape Cod can be deeply grateful to John F. Kennedy due to the creation on August 7, 1961 of the Cape Cod National Seashore during his short presidency.
According to Wikipedia — which is where I borrowed this map — it includes over 68 square miles of “ponds, woods and beachfront (in) the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion.”
It’s also where I and my sweetheart and various family members are fortunate to camp each summer during the last week of July and the first week of August — in North Truro on the Atlantic side of the outer arm (or wrist, really…) of the Cape.
In 2010 the campground where we have stayed for over 25 years — called North of Highland — was protected with a conservation easement thanks to the hard work and generosity of many people and organizations — including JFK’s younger brother, Senator Ted Kennedy.
So hopefully it will remain in operation for generations to come!
For me camping in North Truro is heavenly…
This is a view of our site from a site which some of our family members rent above us.
We are in a bowl which is home to pine trees, grasses, chipmunks, red squirrels, all sorts of birds, lots of ants, a few oak trees, crickets, various fungi, and quite a few blueberry bushes.
There are also visiting dragonflies, bees, mosquitos, horseflies, June bugs — who appear in the evening, attracted by our lights — and on some nights we can hear coyotes howling in the distance.
Although I have never seen a raccoon or opossum or rabbit or turkey or deer at our campsite, on one night someone DID get into our niece’s trash can.
So I am guessing that larger animals are around — just wisely inconspicuous during the day.
I love the way that sunlight dapples the trees and grass — and I love picking a few blueberries each morning.
There weren’t very many this summer, which may be because it has been somewhat dry.
We only experienced rain three times this summer while we were camping — a) on the day we drove down to set up camp, b) once overnight, and c) a substantial storm on the day that we were packing up to return home.
When it rains I imagine how good the moisture must feel on the roots of all of the trees and shrubs and grasses.
Each berry is such a jewel… and hopefully there are plenty more for the folks camping at this site right now as well as for any animals who like to eat them, too.
I spend most of the day in our tent — which is quite spacious — with a ukulele, a little handheld digital recorder, a rhyming dictionary, two lap top computers, and several bags worth of song ideas.
Each morning I stretch and listen to song ideas I’ve accumulated during the previous months — or in some cases years — until something catches my fancy.
Then I focus on that particular idea for the rest of the day — writing lyrics, coming up with chords for a missing bridge, etc.
The song in the player at the beginning of this blog post is one I wrote a few camping sessions ago and later recorded with the pianist Doug Hammer at his studio north of Boston.
This is a view of our (green) screen house — where we cook and eat — and our (orange) tent.If you look past our tents in the upper left corner of this photo, you can glimpse the tent site from which the first photo in this post was taken…
There are many, many things I love about camping.
For example, when we are camping, we become much more aware of our relationship with water — since we are carrying it in big multi-gallon containers down to our campsite for drinking and cooking and cleaning dishes.
Also all of the sinks in the bathrooms at the campground have faucets that automatically shut off after a couple of seconds.
And hot showers cost 25 cents for three minutes of bathing time.
I also love that there are LOTS of stars visible at night.
I went for several long walks along the beach late at night when the sky was clear — and the moon so bright that I didn’t need to use a flashlight to see where I was going.
Being away from street lights and TV screens and radios — while spending hours and hours surrounded by birds and insects and trees and sky — helps me reconnect with what’s important.
Like time with family and friends.
And intact ecosystems.
Before dinner — which is often something delicious cooked by my brother-in-law who bikes to the local fish store on an almost daily basis, bless him — I usually walk down a pine-needle-covered path to the Atlantic ocean and swim.
In recent years the tide and winter storms have created a gully along the beach which ranges in depth from one to five feet depending upon the time of day.
Since there is now a robust population of seals who swim up and down this section of the Atlantic ocean — as well as great white sharks who come to eat them — my family is much happier if I swim laps in the gully rather than in the ocean.
There were a couple of great white shark sightings during our two weeks at the camp ground, and also one day when a bunch of whales cavorted within sight of the beach.
But I did not see them because I was working on new songs in my tent…
Everyday I checked in with a hydrangea plant which grows near the path to the bathrooms and showers.
There was so much happening on this plant — it was a world unto itself!
Every day flowers would unfold new petals.
And bees and wasps and even flies in many different shapes and sizes would gather pollen.
During the course of our time at the campground, several spiders wove webs — which in due time trapped a quite a few meals.
Here is a close up of one of the spiders against a green hydrangea leaf.
Eventually it was time to pack everything up and return home.
This is always a sad and somewhat stressful process for me.
But my sweetheart and family members are very patient, since they know it happens every summer on the last day of our camping adventure.
What doesn’t usually happen, however, is an hours-long rain storm on the day of our departure.
Strangely this lifted my spirits…
I even got to continue working on a new song after our tent was down — with our brown tarpaulin providing protection during a prolonged period of deluge…
Thank you to all of the folks who keep North Of Highland camping area going year after year. I highly recommend it if you are in need of some rejuvenation!
Thank you to Andrew for letting me use his photo looking down towards our camp site, and for making so many delicious meals.
Thank you to Doug Hammer for his wonderful skills as a pianist AND as a recording engineer.
Thank you to the Kennedy family, whose love for — and lobbying on behalf of — Cape Cod has impacted millions of people — and plants and animals — for many, many decades.
Thank you to my sweetheart for all of the beach photos and for letting me use his phone to take photos of the hydrangea and our camp site.
And thank YOU for reading and listening to this blog post.
Where is your heaven on planet earth?
P.S. You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me singing (with Doug Hammer playing his glorious Schimmel grand piano) on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Musicand other digital music platforms.
Night arrives suddenly these days — the autumnal shock of daylight savings time.
I am also feeling shocked by the outcome of our recent national mid-term elections.
According to US News & World Report, only 36.6 percent of eligible voters showed up to cast our ballots. And only 13 percent of eligible voters under age 30 participated in this last election.
How do we educate and inspire our next generation of adults to do something as simple — yet profound — as vote?
The Center for Voting and Democracy’s web site says that countries such as Australia, Chile and Belgium, where voting is mandatory, experience almost 90% participation, while other countries — including Austria, Sweden, and Italy — have turnout rates near 80%.
In a presidential election year, our voter turnout rate rises to around 60%.
Food for thought and then perhaps some action…
I wrote the song in the player at the top of this post when I was in a rock band — Cue — with four other hard-working musical souls.
It reminds me of autumn — our shorter days and longer nights — as well as the billions of leaves which are letting go and falling to the earth… to decompose and then — we hope, we trust, we pray — give birth to new seedlings in the spring.
One of my bandmates, Alan Najarian, took my a cappella, four-track recording and added a bunch of great music to it — drums and keyboards and church bells and other atmospheric sounds.
I was inspired by the story of 80-year-old Giles Corey, an early emigrant from England who was crushed to death in 1692 as a result of accusations during the Salem witch trials.
He chose not to stand trial, which — according to Douglas Linder’s account on the University of Missouri-Kansas City web site — meant that his farm would be less likely to become the property of the state and his children might inherit it.
However, “the penalty for refusing to stand trial for death was pressing under heavy stones. It was a punishment never before seen in the colony of Massachusetts. On Monday, September 19, Corey was stripped naked, a board placed upon his chest, and then — while his neighbors watched — heavy stones and rocks were piled on the board. Corey pleaded to have more weight added, so that his death might come quickly.”
Deep sigh of sadness…and amazement.
How many of us would be so brave — and strategic — under similar circumstances?
Linder continues, “Corey is often seen as a martyr who gave back fortitude and courage rather than spite…His very public death may well have played (a part) in building public opposition to the witchcraft trials.”
And yet we know that this pattern of accusation and persecution and brutal punishment continues to thrive in human communities all over this planet.
And a damaging spirit of “us versus them” seems to have hijacked much of our current political process — which certainly may be affecting our voter participation rates here in the US.
Eventually the Salem witch trials wound down.
“A period of atonement began in the colony following the release of the surviving accused witches. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and an apology. Several jurors came forward to say that they were ‘sadly deluded and mistaken” in their judgments.'”
“Governor Phips blamed the entire affair on Chief Justice William Stoughton, who refused to apologize or explain himself. He criticized Phips for interfering just when he was about to ‘clear the land’ of witches. Stoughton became the next governor of Massachusetts.”
“The Salem witches disappeared, but witchhunting in America did not,” concludes Linder.
“Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. (The Salem witch trials) warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice.”