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The Last Night of the World

Monday, March 19, 2007

We're just back from a weekend away, again. This time, we had a real triple bill. Friday night, in a continuation of his birthday celebration, (will it ever end?) I took Bill out to dinner at the Inn at Cedar Falls. I love this place! Picture a hand-hewn log house with a fabbo restaurant in it, nestled in the Hocking Hills--hemlock ravines and sandstone caves and waterfalls. Romantic setting, wonderful food. It was hard to leave. We had wanted to stay there, too, but you have to book three months in advance! Never underestimate Ohio, my friends. It's got hidden treasures everywhere.

From there, we made our way to Nelsonville, Ohio, to Stuart's Opera House to see Bruce Cockburn play a solo acoustic concert. I called minutes after tickets went on sale and got the last two box seats. Many heartfelt thanks to birder and BC fan Vince Lucas of Ft. Myers, Florida, who gave me a heads-up in January that Bruce was winging our way. Yeah, Vince!! In the box seats, we were close enough to throw a spitball at him. The Opera House is the most delightful, venerable venue imaginable: 400 seats, balcony, boxes, warm wood, beautiful historic architecture, neat crowd that knew every word of every song. Saved from decay and demolition by a dedicated band of volunteers, and now back in its glory. It's clear performers love to play there as much as we love listening to them there. Bruce blew us completely away.This unprepossessing looking man has an entire band, melody, bass and percussion--in his right hand. I have never seen anyone get more music out of a guitar than Bruce Cockburn can. Add to that a perfect baritone voice, and soul-stirring, universally nonspecific yet personal lyrics worthy of a poet laureate, and you have absolute musical heaven. When they handed out soul Bruce must have been at the front of the line.
There's a magic that happens when you finally get to see an artist whose work you've loved for years. I can only compare it to having stood before rhododendron tangles listening to a rich tweet tweet tweet for hours, and finally, finally, catching a glimpse of the Swainson's warbler, with the song coming out of its bill. I started crying when he launched into "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," kept it up through "Life's Short--Call Now--" a song that always reminds me of my mom-- and was still fumbling for Kleenex when he sang "The Last Night of the World."

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you

Would the person you'd pick choose you, too, for champagne on the last night of the world?
please, make it Shiraz. I hate champers.
Bruce Cockburn's songs make me think and hope and yearn. They touch a place way down deep that no other artist's songs do.
Mr. Cockburn didn't waste any time on patter. He just played and sang. His rhythm was steady as a metronome, and he has so much of it in his songs that I didn't miss his band one bit. You ought to hear him on his sunburst-red twelve-string. My gosh. I just couldn't believe the sounds that one man could create, with a little artful pedal use (delay and reverb).

I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing

That lyric from "Pacing the Cage" could be Bruce Cockburn's artist's statement. And it resonated for me, writing every day for you, still putting together a book proposal that, if I do it right, will empty me out of my best stories and paintings. Hoping that the publisher understands how much I want to put into it. Hoping I can convey that in a 30-minute meeting. Leaving Wednesday for Boston to try to make it happen. Pacing the cage until then.

Drained but filled, I couldn't think of anything to do after the concert but to give Bruce an inscribed copy of Letters from Eden. Bill ran the quarter-mile to the car in the cold to bring it in, and we gave it to the concert organizer, a man I trusted to take it to him. I discovered Bruce in 1982, on a trip to Newfoundland, and was instantly in tune with him. For all the music and joy he's given me, it seemed the least I could do. I liked to think of him, maybe reading it on his big ol' tour bus until he fell asleep.

Photo by Ric McArthur

Saturday night, suitably cowed by Cockburn's stunning musicianship, we gave a concert for Aullwood Audubon Society's 50th anniversary lecture series. About 100 people showed up, and we had a nice show ready for them--homemade live music and images from our place and our travels. Afterward, we signed our books, Bill signing All Things Reconsidered, Bird Watching for Dummies, and Ohio Bird Watching, both of us signing Identify Yourself, and me signing Letters from Eden. Photo by Ric Mcarthur.

It all went smoothly, considering neither of us had slept worth a darn the night before. We stayed in a bed and breakfast after the concert. Victorian. Much furniture. Many, many dolls on that furniture. Staring. Nice place, real nice people, but the dolls...I dunno. Something about rows and rows of realistic dolls staring at you all night is not conducive to sleep. We were wound up from the concert, but still...Along about 4 AM when I was despairing of ever getting to sleep, a cool breeze suddenly played over my face and arms. Since the place was buttoned up tight as a corset, I decided that it had to be a visitation. Sweet dreams!

We were delighted to find Ric and Anne McArthur (you know and love him as Rondeau Ric) waiting for us at Aullwood's lovely visitor center. Since they won't be able to make it to either West Virginia or North Dakota this spring, they decided to pop down and see us in Dayton. How lovely. It took them only a little longer to get to Dayton from Ontario than it did for us to get there from Whipple. After the show we got takeout Skyline chili and dogs and brought them to our room where we pounded a few beers, eh? and hung out. A wonderful end to a really good evening. Love to meet dem Rondeaus. Rondeaus what I love to meet.

Theme for the weekend: Pouring it out, and being filled up again. Knowing that putting out a product for other people to enjoy is making the world a better place. Knowing that the more you create, the better able you are to create. Trying not to waste the time we're given. Trying to spend each day as if it were the last day of the world.Happy birthday, big love. Photo by a sweet woman whose name I've forgotten, who sat behind us in the box at the opera house. How's that for a credit?


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