"A love for real, not fade away," Buddy Holly sang. It was supposedly the last tune he performed before he climbed into the airplane that brought him down into that cornfield in Iowa 50 years ago. Here in Rochester, the flight paths seem to carry planes over Frontier Field and, if the timing is right, directly into the setting sun. The vapor trails are left to drift in the twilight.
It’s that time again. The Grassroots Festival starts Thursday in Trumansburg. I blogged about it last year, before and after, and can’t sum up my appreciation any better now. I was in Ithaca last week and as I drove back home past the festival site on Saturday it was exciting to see workers setting up the Infield Stage and the Dance Tent.
If you go to a lot of free concerts in Rochester, you start seeing the same people. There's one guy who looks troubled, even when he dances. His moves are akin to Tai Chi, slow motion poses only occasionally synching up with the rhythm, but he is feelin’ it. The last time I saw him was at the Lilac Festival last year. Some ditz came running down the hill with a camera. She squatted right next to him and started clicking away. After each shot, she’d look back up at her friends and laugh. This went on for several minutes. Eventually I spoke up. “He’s not wildlife, you know.” She scowled at me and retreated and you could hear more laughter up the hill as they reviewed the photos. Tai Chi Guy seemed oblivious.
I love this time of year. The trees have covered their spindly limbs just as we’re all starting to reveal our own. I went to a park in Penfield on that 80-degree day last week, wandered up the creek to where the trail ends and stood there on a log, shirt and shoes in hand, listening to the water, watching the little seed tufts float through the air. I wasn’t there more than 30 seconds when a heron soared over the tree line. It drifted down silently and then pulled up to land on a high dead branch right above me.
There are a lot of changes here at the station these days. Most notably, Simon Pontin signed off for the last time last week after more than 30 years on the air. The outpouring of good wishes - and pledges - from the community was a good reminder of the importance of music in our lives. The act of sharing it is powerful, and we can attach a lot of emotion to the people who do the sharing.
My daughter Johanna is living in Finland for a year as a Rotary exchange student. We stay in touch through email and Facebook and Skype - options unavailable and words unrecognizable to my parents 26 years ago when my sister went to Finland, also through Rotary. Johanna left her cell phone behind, but her info is still loaded into mine. I was zipping through my contacts yesterday and there she was. I paused and found myself actually touching her name on the little screen with my finger. Kinda pathetic maybe, but I do miss that kid. I guess I was trying to feel what’s not there, like when you lose a tooth and compulsively tongue the empty socket. Absence is felt. I thought of Debussy’s quote about how "music is the space between the notes."
I went to a funeral last week. As everyone filed out, they played a song I’d never heard called “On Eagle’s Wings.” An older couple behind me sang along, their voices low and close in my ear: “He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn.” The next day I got a voicemail from my mother. She sometimes calls and asks me to look up something on the internet.
“The rain carried on falling, keeping customers away. The rain fell softly, then heavily, then softly. Static hisses on telephone lines. Jimmy Cobb’s percussion on ‘Blue in Green.’” The record shop clerk in David Mitchell’s “Ghostwritten” thinks a lot about music. It makes a place in his head, refuge from a bustling Tokyo.
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