High and Tight or High Lonesome…It’s All Good

Last evening felt like an embarrassment of riches.

The Nationals were mowing down the hated Phillies on the road, to maintain the best record in baseball and lower their magic number to 3.  There were some high and tight pitches thrown. Michael “The Beast” Morse hits a home run “nine million feet” into the Nat’s bullpen in right-center field where reliever Tom Gorzelanny catches the ball in his cap, eliciting whoops, cheers, and raised arms all around.

It was fun to watch.

But the International Bluegrass Music Association awards (IBMA) show was being live streamed on Bluegrass Today’s web site from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville at the same time, with appearances by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Doyle Lawson, and many others.

What’s a bluegrass loving Nat’s fan to do?


Zap goes the mute button. I’ll “listen” to Bob and F.P. on closed captions. Next, I turn on the live stream on the iPad and we’re off to the races.

Loved the tribute to Ralph Rinzler and the story of how he discovered Doc Watson.  (Doc came to a recording session with his father-in-law bearing an electric guitar.  Rinzler, the purist, sends him away. The next day Doc comes along with a banjo and plays old-time music. Rinzler pays attention, and the rest is history.) And it was a nice tribute to name Doc the bluegrass guitarist of the year. There was great music throughout the evening.

So Thursday ended up being a pretty wonderful day.  Of course, things change and the Nats are now down 5-1 in the first inning. Oh well…there is still a lot of baseball to be played.

If you can’t stand the scary parts (as Boswell puts it), just click on the video below and listen to Junior Sisk sing the Bluegrass Song of the Year,  A Far  Cry from Lester and Earl. For extra credit, see how many bluegrass tunes you pick up in the course of the song.  You’ll also get the reference to the High Lonesome sound.

High and Tight or High Lonesome. No matter where you looked, it was all good!

More to come…


The World’s Longest Art Gallery

Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon is one of the unique cultural  landscapes in the world. Earlier this week I was fortunate to tour portions of the canyon with some of the smart, passionate people who have helped save it through the years.

As Jerry and Donna Spangler note in their guide Horned Snakes and Axle Grease, Nine Mile Canyon is…well, not nine miles in length.

By its very name, Nine Mile Canyon is an enigma.  From its upper reaches on the west, the canyon twists and turns more than 50 miles to its confluence with the Green River on the east. And how the canyon got its incongruous name remains clouded with the passage of time.

Despite the misleading name, Nine Mile Canyon is an amazing landscape filled with rock art – or as some prefer rock writing – from Native Americans about whom we know very little.  The miles of rock art has led many to call Nine Mile Canyon “The World’s Longest Art Gallery.” As the Spanglers note, “There is something undeniably magical about Nine Mile Canyon….”

So rather than write about it, I’m simply going to post six additional photos out of the 150+ I took on the trip, ending with the world famous “Great Hunt.” Enjoy the mystery and beauty. If the pictures tweak your interest, the Spanglers’ roadside guide is a good place to start.

More to come…


Begin the New Year

For many Americans, the Labor Day weekend – not January 1st – is really the beginning of the new year.

School years begin in late August and early September. Some parents – like us – have just dropped off one or more children at college this weekend. (In Claire’s case, she flew off to California on her own, but we did physically deposit Andrew in his dorm room for his sophomore year.) The somewhat slower rhythms of July and August at work, coupled with vacations, seem to be a bigger break in anticipation of starting over than the December break provides before January 1st. And this year, many Americans are just beginning to focus on the presidential race and the choice facing our country.

So while Candice, the twins and I took a two-week family trip in mid-August to visit with our parents and siblings, we took the advice of those who said family trips don’t equal vacations and decided to tack on four days around the college drop-off to make sure our batteries were sufficiently recharged.

We are ready for a new year.

Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, we were nearing the end of an 8-day, unscheduled stay in the Intensive Neurological Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital, after Candice fell and suffered a severe concussion and seizures as we dropped Andrew off for his freshman year at college. The Fall – as it came to be called – affected everything over the past year, in good ways and bad.  On the down side, we had to grapple with the onerous US health care system (count us among the fans of universal health coverage and the Affordable Health Care Act); unintended side effects of the concussion (such as the inability to exercise and swim for several months, which led to a faster-than-expected hip replacement for Candice); and strains on care-givers and children. I have put on about 20 unwanted pounds, which I’m attributing to my focus being elsewhere.  (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)

But Candice likes to say that the past year has been a blessing…and as much as I hate to admit it, she is right as she usually is in so many instances.  Our doctors, nurses, and physical therapists have been amazing. Candice has had time to think and reflect while resting first from the concussion and then the hip replacement. Out of that time, she’s focused on how she wants to reshape her life as we begin time in the empty-nest without the burden of personal health issues staring us in the face. We realized that we could simplify much of what we did and still get by.  Our children have been wonderful – and so supportive – during this period of recovery. The greatest blessing of all was the love of friends and family, who fed us, drove us to appointments, and watched over us during the most trying times of the year. We were just reminded of that last evening when we visited with our friends John and Sara, who helped us in so many ways throughout the year.  John is the photographer who took the photos of the two of us I included in this blog post.

Candice likes to talk about all of this as we’re sitting out on the porch of the Cranberry Inn here in Chatham, on Cape Cod.  I’m more of a listener when it comes to these discussions, but I’ve been thinking about how this year can – and should – be different. What can I take from this experience as I begin a new year?

Claire’s interest in psychology has me reading all sorts of books that I wouldn’t have considered just 18 months ago. Case in point: I recently read Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, which explores some of the recent scientific study of the brain. I have begun to think about ways to change some regularly recurring actions that I want to lose, and how to strengthen a couple of new habits that can be keystones to reprogramming other routines in life as well. In the past two months, I’ve been much more faithful at the gym, in part because I trigger that habit by laying out my gym clothes at night before I go to bed.  Simple, but effective. Yet that unwanted 20 pounds won’t go away on exercise alone.  Our children have become much more focused on exercise and eating well, and I want to build on their good routines.

Music fills my soul. More music comes when I practice guitar every morning before heading off to work, and then scheduling regular play times with my guitar buddies.  (Sounds like 4-year-olds, I know).  I’ve seen the former, because I’ve played every day since early July.

We have been so touched by the kindness of friends this year, and thus have looked for ways to build on that kindness. Candice and I love entertaining small groups of friends, and we’re working on making that intentional all the time – not just when we happen to think it has been too long since the last dinner.

For me, work becomes more effective and rewarding when I delegate and support, rather than attempting to do it all. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Duhigg writes that,

Habits aren’t destiny….(They) can be ignored, changed, or replaced. But…when a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision-making. It stops working so hard or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.

Part of my new routine is to name the change.  I’ve done that before (as when I announced, on my Facebook page last January, that I was giving up all sodas) and it has worked.  I’ve named a few more changes needed here. I have others where I want to make the change but I’m not ready to announce them to the world.

September 2011 – August 2012 was a blessing…most especially in that a potentially fatal accident led instead to time for introspection, learning, and more reliance on friends than we’re use to. September 2012 begins a new year where we can claim all that we’ve learned.

More to come…