It wasn’t the first time I’d done a musical pilgrimage. Years ago, during a road trip to visit our friend Sheryl in New York, my sister, her kids and I travelled back up through Woodstock, and then tried our damnedest to find Big Pink, but there was some missing link in the road signs (we suspected perhaps the current home-owner might have caused this) and we just couldn’t find it. Many do it. Music, like all art, is a spiritual experience. And if music affects you as deeply as, say, Music from Big Pink or The Basement Tapes did Cathy and I, then you’d seize any opportunity to be in that place where it was created or inspired. It adds a whole other layer to the musical story and your experience of it.
So here I am in the beautiful town of Jasper and I realise Pyramid Lake is just a short jaunt out of town, and I have to go because it is at the centre of one of my long-time favourite Blue Rodeo songs, the trippy and joyful Cynthia. While here I learn that Jasper National Park is the world’s second largest dark sky preserve, and so how could star gazing in a place like this not inspire a beautiful song like that?
I'm clinging to the waning summer like a security blanket. Where I live, it's the most glorious and gentle changing of seasons, warm and sunshiny days lingering on and cooler nights sliding in. I stood in the street the other day admiring the freshness after some spectacular thunderstorms the night previous, and imagined what it will look like in three or four months. Then I told myself to STOP IT and get right back into NOW. We're blessed with so much this time of year, and the older I get, the more I relish it for all I'm worth.
Last Saturday my girls and I had a picnic in Kelsey's backyard under the canopy of grapevines. It was our favourite kind of meal – a hodgepodge of contributions from each of us: new potatoes roasted with rosemary and olive oil, corn on the cob, Greek salad, lentils and rice, cucumbers, cherries and chardonnay while we listened to Blue Rodeo songs, some of which we've been listening to since those girls were tiny.
After dinner we jump in a taxi to go hook up with cousin Pati and a couple of her pals to see the very band play at their annual summer show in the Molson Ampitheatre on the grounds of Ontario Place. It's a fun event – a very "Toronto" experience, with the local guys playing and lake behind us and the city skyline to the east and the just-opened Canadian National Exhibition (CNE – or "the Ex") to the west.
Pati and I agree that they knew what they were doing when they designed that stage with its giant windows showing those views behind the performers. Both audience and band are outsanding, as is supporting act Steve Earle. There is a spitting rain, off and on, and nobody cares. Little kids dance and run around, people lounge under umbrellas and drink beers sing along to favourites.
After the show we walk through the CNE and eat junk food and ride a ride.
And we enjoy this rather spectacular view of the city from a quiet corner of Ontario Place.
It's rainy off and on again the next day when we go to my sister's for supper. As usual, Cathy and Stan lay on a gorgeous meal; this time: barbequed roast beef, corn on the cob, green and yellow beans, field tomato drizzled with olive oil and French bread. Need I mention wine? We try to grab a few moments outside but the impetuous stormy weather won't cooperate. My sister does manage to take a few moments between raindrops to plant the Pearly Everlasting which she'd brought home from the Manitoulin Island the day previous.
The other day after work I take the short walk over to City Hall to look at the ongoing tribute to Jack Layton. The public response to his death has been remarkable.
Here in Toronto where he lived, and where he was an activist and member of the city council before he got into national politics, the tribute has taken the form of what started as a few chalked messages in the City Hall squre, and has grown to cover the square and the adjacent ramp up to the buildings. Where the rain washed messages away, they were soon replaced.
The week was both happy and sad. Thinking about the loss of one of the rare politicans who actually inspired people and the public's response to that loss makes me grateful for what I have, for being alive and for sharing these moments with my family. And for the humanity we all share. It's another reminder of how important it is to stay living in the NOW; after all, it's the only thing any of us can be certain of, isn't it?
Chalk Love – Beautiful thing number sixty one.
Paul McAdams at A Change is Coming: Travels and Human Rights reminded me that today is International Day of Peace. Go read his piece – I love his reflection on this day, that maybe we could look inside and recognize the peace we might find there, and then take a look around and show some kindness to people who might not be so lucky. Maybe like that couple I wrote about this morning.
Here's my little playlist of some of my favourite peace songs, in honour of the day. If you care to listen why not give some thought about what you would do, if you could, to perpetuate the spirit of the day.
People all around the world have been doing that today. Imagining peace. Can you feel it?