Thursday, April 22, 2010

kindred spirits in kentucky

I knew I was in for a special time when I came to Kentucky. The home of Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, the intentional community that I'd never met but that invited me to come (and whose blog I'd already been reading for years).

But little did I know that I'd find such kindred spirits, and spend so many hours in delightful conversation about everything from missional church and neo-monasticism, urban gardening, Community Supported Agriculture, the dynamics of change and community, vocational discernment... as I learned about Sean's great book project, the Seedleaf initiative... and on and on and on...

That's not even to mention the energetic concert we had with a group of young families (see pictures here)... and I got to help Maggie and Seth as they first rode their bikes for the first time without training wheels... And I heard the amazing story of London Ferrell and spent an afternoon in the community garden that bears his name... wrote a song about it, actually, and walked the prayer labyrinth there...

While I'm certainly going to be glad to be heading home again soon (and looking forward to the upcoming weekend in Lancaster County), I have a hunch that these last few days in Kansas, Iowa and Kentucky have renewed my spirit in unexpected ways that I'll be discovering for some time to come...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

growing harmony in iowa

Look at all the people who came to one of my Iowa concerts!

Just kidding. On Saturday my hosts and I joined the throngs of people - 23,000 strong - who turned out to watch the University of Iowa football team. Their opponents? Nobody. That’s the number of people who came out to watch the Hawkeyes PRACTICE!

People here loooove their college football...

For the past 4 days I’ve been experiencing a state where I’ve never been before (Iowa, that is, in case you were imagining something more hallucinogenic), and re-connecting with friends that I hadn’t seen in 18 years. I first met Gary and Nancy in Bolivia in the early 80s, when I was a teenager living in Cochabamba and they were MCC workers in the “campo” outside of Santa Cruz.

Nancy was one of the first REAL LIVE RECORDING ARTISTS that I ever got to meet - we had a cassette of her playing the guitar and singing Spanish “coritos” that we sang in many a church service.

And one summer my brother and I spent a week with Gary out in the country where he was doing agricultural development work. That week was most memorable (partly because Gary won’t let us forget it) for the time that my brother and I mistakenly cut down a whole field of carefully sown pasture when our assignment was actually to cut down the weeds. How were we to know the difference, “green” city kids that we were... in the days before “green” meant aware of and concerned about the natural world...?

Gary still gets a lot of mileage out of that story, and gave me a chance to redeem myself by joining him in planting 4000 onions on my first morning in Iowa.

What a delight to get to know Gary and Nancy again, and see their Community Supported Agriculture farm in operation (yes, that is a wind turbine you see in the photo). Last year Gary produced 21,000 pounds of vegetables on his not-quite-2-acre farm, and he has been running his organic CSA since 1997, providing weekly deliveries of fresh vegetables for the 84 families who are “members” of Growing Harmony farm.

Gary has also been a member of my “SmallTall Reference Council” since the beginning, interacting with me via e-mail with wise counsel and experience as I have set up my own “Community Supported Music” system.

Nancy and Gary drove me around to all 4 of my Iowa performances in different communities (Des Moines, Iowa City, West Union, and Cedar Falls). No community was the same, and no concert or worship service was the same. It was a delight for me, and there was great response (although, admittedly, not as many people as turned out to watch the Hawkeyes last “spring practice”).

Now I’m on the train again, munching on one of Gary’s famous carrots on my way to Kentucky, another state where I’ve never been before and where I’ll get to spend some time and do a concert with “Communality,” an intentional community in Lexington. Looking forward to it!

(In case you can't read it, the front of the t-shirt says: "The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution." - Paul Cezanne

And the back says "That day has COME!" - Growing Harmony Farm)

Friday, April 16, 2010

and a little child shall instigate

As people were gathering before the concert last night, I heard a number of people say variations on "Lucca must be excited"... "I bet Lucca had something to do with this"... "thanks, Lucca, for helping make sure this happens"...

Apparently Lucca, age 4 (I think she's 4), was one of the "movers and shakers" to bring me to Newton, Kansas, for a concert.

So let me add my voice to the chorus - thanks, Lucca!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

grandpa jake

While I was waiting for the train in Buffalo I received the news of the death of my step-grandfather Jake Goertzen at the age of 91.

Grandpa Jake married my grandma the week before Julie and I got married (we coordinated the dates so that my family, living in Colombia at the time, could make it back for both weddings). I can't say I ever got to know Grandpa Jake very well, but my most vivid memories of him are as a wonderful, funny man who made my grandma very happy again.

It feels terrible to be far away at a time like this, but it was good to talk with my grandma on the phone yesterday. She reminded me that their honeymoon was their trip to our wedding... and she wanted to know all about my tour, which I think was her gentle way of saying it's ok that I can't be there for the funeral.

I know tomorrow afternoon in Winkler, Manitoba there will be a lot of people gathered to remember and give thanks for the life of Jake Goertzen... and as I travel in and out of Newton, Kansas for tomorrow night's concert, I'll be remembering and giving thanks too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

heading out... first stop, newton kansas

Tomorrow at the crack of dawn (more or less - I'm not exactly sure when the cracking happens) I'll be climbing aboard and starting the next railroad tour. First performance is an all-ages concert at New Creation Fellowship Church in Newton, Kansas at 7:00 pm on Wednesday (that's April 14). If you're from there - can't wait to see you! And if you're not - tell any of your friends and family who might be!

You can see my tour itinerary here... train blogging will commence shortly...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

ain't no grave gonna hold my body down

I first heard this song when Julie and I went to see Crooked Still at Hugh's Room in Toronto. Loved the band, and this is one of the two songs ("Wading Deep Waters" was the other one) that absolutely blew me away and that I couldn't stop hearing/humming/singing for weeks afterwards.

A resurrection song with ATTITUDE! "Gabriel don't you blow that trumpet until you hear from me... ain't no grave gonna hold my body down..."

Here it is:

Here's an entirely different "take" on the song, by Johnny Cash, not long before he died. The sound of a chain rattling in a box (I believe that's what it is) gives it a particularly eerie quality...

A few months ago I also found a haunting, almost terrifying version, sung by a young father directly into his computer screen/mic, quietly and intensely and unaccompanied (a note accompanying the video said he didn't want to wake the children, but the hushed approach to the passionate vocals gave the song an entirely different "edge"). I can't find it on YouTube anymore now that the Johnny Cash version has been released and dominates the searches for the song...

Whatever the tone and colour and "edge" of this season for you... I wish you a blessed Easter, and a tenacious faith in the possibility of new life...

"Ain't no grave gonna hold my body down..."