Here we are again, and here in Florida it is summertime in the tropics! The much needed rain has turned the crunchy browns into verdant greens and life abounds. Before I get going on the newsy portion of this letter, I want to bring to your attention our next show which is coming up in a few weeks. Lecanto is roughly a 1.5 hour from both Gainesville or St. Petersburg. Crystal River and Homossasa Springs are nearby so that, with a little planning, you could make a really nice day out of the journey. We have a wonderful show planned and hope some of you will make the effort to come out, you’ll be glad you did! There is a suggested donation of $10 at the door.
Sam & I had the honor of being invited to perform at the 2019 Gamble Rogers Festival in May. We had a great time at this sweet little festival tucked into the back corner of the Colonial Quarter of St. Augustine. I was especially blown away by the musical artistry of Dom Flemons and Hawktail on Saturday night. Many thanks to the organizers (Michael Lagasse, Bob Patterson, Paul Linser, Jamie Defrates, Charley Simmons, John Dickie & Davis Loose,) as well as all the hardworking volunteers that made this festival happen. Running a festival is no small task, and they did a great job.
In mid May we returned to one of our favorite house concert venues: The Wolf Howl, hosted by my dear friends Jeff & Ann Wolf. The show, which ended with two ovations, ended up being a wonderful gathering of old friends, family and music lovers. To top it off, the artist Jenny Bleackley, gave me her beautiful water color painting inspired by my song “Dust Tracks in the Road.” Jenny is a wonderful watercolorist and I was deeply moved by her generous gift. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Jenny. Check out her work if you are ever in the St. Petersburg area (exhibitions can be found on her website www.jennybleackley.com.)
In June, another wonderful artist and dear friend, June Beverly, gifted me her painting inspired by my song “Honey Tree.” My re-entrance to the performing songwriter scene, after a long hiatus when Sam was small, was at her venue Coffeetalk. June has been incredibly supportive, not only of me, but also many local songwriters in the Gainesville area. My cup runneth over with gratitude for the way that art inspires art, and for the knowledge that someone does indeed truly “hear” my songs with their heart. Thank you June, it is an honor to know you.
This past couple of months have been ones of change for me. The big news is that I’ve retired the Sandhill Stage Concert Series out at Prairie Creek Lodge. It was a labor of love for almost ten years, for me, as well as my husband, John and our son, Sam who also worked as volunteers. I now have more time to spend time with family, reconnect with friends (old & new), read, travel, pursue other interests, and most importantly, to write and compose. Yes I will miss working with Freddie Johnson & David Ponorof, the Lodge, the volunteers, the shows, the artists and the community around it, but it was time to let go and embrace a new chapter in my life.
Sam & I continue to collaborate musically which brings me great joy. I feel very fortunate to have discovered in my son, a talented and creative musician who is also a delight to work with. Sam is now employed at UF Health in the Emergency room, and his overnight shifts make scheduling time to play together challenging, but it also gives us wide swaths of time to work together on his days off.
In the early spring I tore the meniscus in my right knee which sidelined me for some time; however, I am now resuming gardening, yoga, hiking and other physical activities. Tennis will have to wait. I miss playing, and my husband misses his doubles partner, but I’m not sure a hard court is where I should be right now. I am very fortunate to have made it to the other side of this physical challenge and am thoroughly enjoying my newly regained mobility!
On the gardening front, John, and I have been removing invasives like ardesia, jasmine, wisteria, boston fern and potato vine, as well as cutting out thickets of smilax on our property. I have developed a love/hate relationship with the smilax vines which have sliced me up a number of times. The thickets of the prickly stuff are over 40 years old, and their vines in the treetops are up to a 3/4 an inch in diameter. They are daunting to deal with. I know that the tubers (if that’s what you call them) under the ground are huge, but really have no way to extract them easily from the tree roots, so it is just going to be a lifelong process of beating them back to a manageable size. I have to admire smilax’s tenacity, its beautiful glossy green leaves, and it’s ability to thrive almost anywhere. It is a food source for wildlife, so I’ll leave some (as if I had a choice.) There are also other uses for the plant which I don’t feel inclined to explore at the moment. The work was exhausting during the most recent heat wave, but we have been rewarded by the presence of a swallowtail kite family which took up residence in a Loblolly pine on the property. These birds make my heart soar every time I see them. No wonder they are seen as shamanic spirits by some South American tribes. Their young started fledging yesterday and it was so incredible to watch one of them make it into a treetop on his first flight, soaring with those great big wings on the wind. Once there seemed a bit scared to jump off into any more flights, but eventually ended up back in the nest by the end of the day.
Sam and I continue to look for house concert opportunities, so if any of you are interested in hosting a get together with your friends at your home for a concert and potluck, or concert and desert, please get in touch. We’d love to help you make it happen. In November we’ll be playing a private house party and I’ve been invited to be an Artist in Residence for a camp in December. As Sam settles into his new job, we’ll start exploring other opportunities once his schedule settles down.
Wishing each of you a delightful summer, good health, time with friends and family and a chance to stop and smell the flowers. This world is full of things to fret and worry about, but there is also a bounty of wonder and joy in being present in the moment with the people you are with. All one has to do is be curious and pay attention.