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There is nothing like having cancer at 31 years of age, and seriously facing your mortality, to put a different spin on birthdays.  I don’t mind the idea of getting older, I’m just happy to be alive. I feel that it has all been a gift, the last twenty years, and each year that passes is another deposit in my giftbag. So turning fifty hasn’t bothered me at all.  The giftbag grows. As it happened, my 50th birthday party was the best way possible for entering the next part of my life. It was a party held out on Yasgar’s, I mean Cole’s, farm, I mean property, half an hour out of Hamilton.  And will be now and forever known as Kstock.

Carolyn & Ziggy

Friends are the best.  I come from a very small family – one sister, neither of us with children – our parents having died over ten years ago. In the background is a large Ukrainian clan but they mostly live far away. Vi and Andy taught us to nourish and honor our friendships and both my sister Maggie and I have benefited from their counsel. And now that I am fifty, with no children, and Maggie and her husband Tom living far away in Washington State, it is even more important that I have great friends.  And they really came out of the woods for my birthday, and many of them really cranked it out to make it a great one.

Chuck, Mike, Freda, MaggieMike and Freda Cole, who have held some rocking parties over the years, know how to do it.  Freda, east coast gal, can’t make enough food (and others contribute) and it is always beyond delicious.  We will never starve at one of her gatherings. Mike takes care of the outdoor details – together they make everything flow.  They are both real gracious hosts when the strangers start arriving and welcome all into their home.  They moved to this big old farmhouse over a year ago and it is definitely made for holding an event like Kstock.  There must have been close to one hundred folks there, but we were spread out around the property, there was lots of room for camping, lots of room for dancing – people could wander off for private tete-a-tetes, or whatever you might wanna do in the bushes.

Sol, Amelia & Jaaziah in the bushes

 

Maggie & MIke on the bacon

My seeester Maggie came from Washington State and spent a couple days with Freda and Mike getting ready, helping Freda with food, and making the huge signs that could be seen a kilometer away on the road – “Kstock 2008” – for those who didn’t know where they were going.  The Kstock thing started with my friends Treeza and Rick north of Toronto (and Terry, Steve and Gloria), who not only started saying “we’re going to Kstock” but on my birthday card Rick provided a copy of his original ticket from the real Woodstock – kinda brought it all together.  

 

       Treeza & get-down Gloria

 

Chuck, Stu, Dawson & Coral 

 

 

 

 

Then the gang from Westport came to truly turn it into a musical happening.  Chuck, Carolyn, Marty, Sandy, Stu, Dave, Helen, John, Susan, Dawson and Coral filled their vehicles (a bad day for footprints in carbon) with instruments, speakers and camping gear and brought their various musical talents up the highway. 

 

 

Nineth Line – a jump ‘n jive band kept us hopping;

 

 

 

King of the Swingers – a kinda roadside swing ‘n dixie-style band brought the music off the stage and made us laugh (and keep dancing);

 

 

 

 

 

Then the “other band” played by the campfire with mandolin, accordian, stand up bass and guitar, beautiful renditions of bluegrass, country and folk tunes (most notably, for this little Steve Earle worshipper, Copperhead Road).  The music never stopped from early in the evening till I don’t know when in the early morning hours.  Nineth Line had learned a couple new songs for the occasion – I’ve been bugging them to learn a Latin rhythm or two and they got it done.  They were hot that night, and just kept getting hotter as the night went on.

Since I love to dance more than just about anything (well, dancing on a big rock in the middle of a lush forest beside a lake with a beautiful man who dances is ideal) this party played out just as I would hope to celebrate…we danced from start to finish, and I saw most of the folks up on their feet at some point. Of course, in Canada I’ve always found the dance floors filled more with females than males and this night was no exception – I’ll always remember a wild night in Montezuma, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, when there were about thirty men dancing and only four women.  Now that! was a dream…but I digress.

Then there were the people who had come from far and wide for the occasion:  my sister probably came the furthest, from the mountains of Washington State.  But the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee were represented by our friend Kathy Lowery, who left Hamilton and married an old sweetheart (and he is), Stan, a few years ago.  Freda, our friend Dean, and I have ventured down a few times to Tennessee to visit them on their beautiful porch that looks out on those perty mountains.      In that time we’ve become friends with some of theirs, particularly William and Missy Murphy and William’s parents Gerry and Shorty.  We’ve spent a lot of hours on Kathy’s porch with the gang playing bluegrass and singing.  William’s dad, Gerry, has been struggling with cancer for a couple of years and without him able to join in, William and Missy stopped playing music.  At Kstock, they got up on the stage and sang a few sweet songs again, despite the lengthy absence from strumming and singing, and it was wonderful to hear them.  They’ve got a couple of the biggest warmest smiles in the state, and that they would jump on their motorcycle and drive north from Tennessee for Kstock was another gift in my giftbag.

A couple days before the party, I got a phone call from my friend Jean Trickey, from Little Rock, Arkansas, who said she had booked her ticket and was on her way! We’ve managed to spend some great weekends together in the last couple of years, her daughter’s wedding in Little Rock, and the 50th Anniversary of the Little Rock Nine, of which Jean is one of those brave teenagers who back in 1957 walked through the hateful crowd to be one of the first black kids to attend Central High School.  I had gone last year to Little Rock for the 50th, (a phenomenal occasion it was), seen John Lewis the freedom fighter, met Ruby Bridges the little girl in the Norman Rockwell painting, shook Bill Clinton’s hand, got snagged on his secret service guy…again, I digress…but Jean had been so busy on these occasions that we really only got to talk a bit late at night when she finally could sit down.  So to have her come for the weekend for my birthday, stay for a few days and have some down time to just talk (alot about Barack and Hillary of course), to dance as we love to do, and to see her get up on the stage and belt out “Women be wise, keep your mouth shut, don’t advertise your man” (a wise old song) was another big deposit in the gift bag. 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean being here brought out her sons Isaiah (we had real Toronto paparazzi there) and Sol from Toronto and their kids, Amelia and Jaaziah, who added extra joy and energy to the occasion. (Many of these photos were from either Isaiah, Peter or Marty – thanks guys)

 

 K, Sol, Isaiah, & Miss Kathy from Tennessee

 

 

The Trickey clan is always interesting, fun, dynamic, and loud (in this gang, I don’t feel like the loudest in the room) – great to have three generations represented at Kstock. (Notice the photographic image of me on the cake – what will we eat next?)

      Kay, Sol, Amelia & Jaaziah talk cake business

 

 

 

 

 

And then there was my soul sister Cocky who lives in a nature sanctuary outside of Freeport, Maine and her partner Peter MacMillen.  They had been up in Temagami, on Peter’s beautiful island, and came down from the north for the event.  Cocky has been here in the Hammer often, but Peter went well out of his way for this one.  

 

And along with my close friends Linda and Bill Murray from Charlton (along with Jean and Cocky, we all lived up in the Temiskaming area of northeastern Ontario for years – the Murrays still do), Patti and Leo Lessard and Terry and Ted from Mattawa, they brought the fresh clean northern air down to the Hammer. Cocky,  Jean and I are a feisty trio when we get together, which doesn’t happen very often, but I love these women and to have a few days together was beautiful.  

 

 

 

Beyond these folks there was Bill and Cheryl from Virginia, Lynda and Carole representing Guelph, friends from Toronto, Freda’s family, fine Hammerfolk and good neighbours, a number of old high school friends I hadn’t seen in years, the now-getting-old kids of friends, and a couple of my favorite dogs, Alpha and Ziggy. It all added up to the best party ever. 

After this wild summer of rain and thunderstorms, the sky was completely clear, the temperature perfect all night long for being outside dancing (I guess some people were sitting) or around the campfire, people camped in comfort and peace, and we all woke up to more sunshine.  Freda and Mike and gang made us a big breakfast, only after making a deal with the Swingers to play just a few more tunes in the morning.  That Stu can drum on anything! We swam in the pool and I opened my gifts (the ones not already in the giftbag).  

 

 Stu, John & Marty, most of the Swingers

 

 

 

I ceremoniously burned the box full of paper copies of Walking with Wolf (Steve Earle was doing his Sirius radio show in the background as this happened – it was all so poignant).  I have been printing out copies of the manuscript for how many years? and no longer need them, so I put the box on the coals and slowly watched it catch fire and disintegrate.  It was a cleansing and a celebration.  If I do nothing else of value in my life, I managed to get this book written and published while Wolf and I are still alive, and miraculously before I turned 50!

It was at the moment that the last of the overnight guests had got in their cars and honked their way down the road, leaving only Freda, Mike, Maggie, Cocky, Jean and I with Isaiah and Jaaziah, that the storm hit. Everything had been cleaned up, put inside, as we could see the storm approaching over the fields.  There was some heavy rain that we watched from the porch, amazed that this whole outdoor event went on without a hitch, not a drop of rain to spoil anything, no chance for a mud-dance like at the real Woodstock.  Just as the storm seemed to have subsided there was one HUGE thunderclap with one HUGE bolt of lightning – Jean was just putting her hand on the outhouse door and was shook to her bones.  Jaaziah was in the car, but Isaiah was still outside and could hear the sizzle of electricity in the air.  I think Jean’s hair went a little curlier and we all jumped and were rocked all over. Just one CLAP that carried the power of the whole dark sky. How lucky were we that none of us were hurt by this extremely close electrical jolt – it would have been a horrible way to end perfection – and life has been so good for me lately that a bolt of lightning almost feels inevitable – and that the storm waited until our friends were safely on their way home.  One last grand hurrah, the big finish, to Kstock 2008! The gratitude I feel to all my friends who came out and worked, then played, so hard is impossible to express. Peace, love and grooviness will have to do!

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Here I am lounging on a beautiful screened-in porch, listening to a chorus of insects, overlooking the queen-anne’s laced fields on the outskirts of Westport.  That would be in Leeds County, north of Kingston, Ontario.  This is one of my favorite homes away from home – in no small part due to the great community of people I know here, starting with my friends Chuck and Carolyn, with who I usually stay while in the area. They have built a large off-the-grid home and performance space a few kilometers from town but sleep year round out on their (now) screened in porch. 

Chuck has been a long time proponent of, expert on, and purveyor of alternative technologies – this building puts it all into practice – wind-generation and solar collection maintain a perfectly modern building as well as providing the power for the nights that plugged-in musicians are performing in “the room”. Carolyn is one of those performers as well as a great artist – she also took the photo of me on the back of Walking with Wolf in the snow in a field at their place.

I came down for Music Westport – a daylong free outdoor event that Chuck and others in the community started last year.  Highlighting music from the general Kingston/Perth/Ottawa Valley area, last year was a great success – beautiful day, great attendance, increased business for the little boutique town, and amazing performances in a variety of musical genres. This year’s crazy storms and downpours will hopefully make themselves scarce for the day – the weather report is good but I guess if it does rain, it will send the people into the restaurants and stores and that will be good for business, if bad for music lovers. As always, I’m sure it’ll all work out.

One of the main attractions in this town are the musical twins, the Cowan brothers.  Their family owns The Cove, a bed & breakfast inn, which sits prettily by the lake and has that old Ontario charm.  They have a nice restaurant with many special dinner occasions and a great staff who provide real good service.  Jeff and Seamus, the twins, returned a few years ago from Montreal where they both studied music, and have brought their energy and musical talents home with them and amped up the entertainment in the Cove- now there are monthly blues concerts throughout the winter, featuring the best in Canadian blues performers (via the Blues on the Rideau music series) which fill the house.  The rest of the year features regular nights of music. 

One of these is the trio of the twins with the eccentric Spencer Evans from Kingston.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, and manipulator of tunes – he creates song mixes that leave you speechless (I think last year he put Led Zeppelin and Feelings together), performed with a great amount of spunk and attitude.  But the backbone to all the schtick (a very talented schtick it tis) are the twins – Jeff drumming, Seamus on stand-up bass – they keep the jazz licks rolling while Spencer rolls across the keyboard, off the lyrical map, or through the audience with his clarinet.  I came in last night to catch the show and do some dancing – the place was packed and rocking. I couldn’t help but notice that the little Cove is growing – getting a name for itself with the quality of music being played and the friendly ambience. 

Jeff and Seamus play in other bands as well – I saw them recently in Toronto as Spoon River – along with sitting in with the musicians who grace the stage at the Cove – and I’m always impressed by their talent. Even more so because they not only play music but mix drinks, serve tables and then play more music – they do it all, with big smiles and obvious intelligence and an easy manner with their clientelle.  I would say that just these two alone will create a buzz in Westport that’ll bring folks from far away – and there is no shortage of other talented folks and interesting businesses in this community, as well as the classic beauty of lake-filled scenery. 

I dropped some books off at Stillwater Books in town.  When I walked by a little later, there was Walking with Wolf on display in the window – how cool was that! I tell you, I’m very new at this book peddling business, and I get a thrill each time I sell one, I see someone reading one, or I see it on a shelf somewhere. Now in a window! May I never take this rush for granted. So thanks, my new best friend Steve, for being a fine purveyor of my book….

 

…..I’m now back in Hamilton, the weekend a huge success and the return trip highlighted by picking my sister Maggie up at the airport in Toronto.  She has come for my big 50th birthday bash on Saturday.  I did some business in Toronto as well, trying to get a poster together for my book events coming up, working with the lovely Bruce MacLean on computer stuff. 

 

Music Westport flowed beautifully.  The day was clear, sunny, not too hot or cool, just perfect.  The bands were varied and all entertaining.  The highlight for the audience seemed to be The Abrams Brothers – the hottest bluegrass band in the area, I think they are from Peterborough – three young brothers, their father and a couple of others (not sure if they were family or not, maybe grandpa and cousin – I missed the introductions). 

They travel in a bus, have been all over North America, including Nashville at the Grand Ol Opry, and Israel in the last year.  A huge crowd came out on the lawn behind the Foley House to hear them.  The brothers play stand up bass, fiddle, and guitar – as well as a second fiddle at times.  And sweet harmonies they sing.

 

The day started with the very silly Bald like Dad, amusing the kids, getting the folks on their feet, demanding a little class participation.  A lot of talent disguised as a free-for-all of fun. My pal Cocky showed those young kids how to shake it.

 

 

Carolyn’s eclectic trio, Romeria, were this year’s roving band.  Carolyn, Isidora, and Rob put their accordian, drum, recorders and a variety of stringed instruments together to play gypsy music and old minstrel pieces – they are purveyors of the ancient and exotic. They played a set on a small stage at the Victorian B&B on Church Street and then spent a couple of hours roaming the streets, playing their unique brand of european pop tunes from the 16th century…give or take a hundred years.

 

The Cowan brothers joined in with their old bandmate and friend Eric Lawrance – together they were a band called Bullmoose, a rocking band with great licks based in Montreal.  Eric did a solo performance and the twins played a couple with him.

 

 

 

Then there was Lance Anderson,a well-known player of the B3-Hammond organ.  It took a team to wrestle that baby around.  The show was worth the effort – that rippling down your back organ thing, makes ya shiver. Made me think of Garth Hudson and Richard Bell. The trio also played inside at night, with Teresa Holierhoek singing – apparently just off a tour with Dream Girls – a hot smokey bar room sound. 

A big treat for me was seeing my pals MC Rapper and Stu the Pike reunite with David Bull in their Buddy Holly Live act. I have known these boys for years but they stopped playing this show about five years ago and I had never caught it.  They have a whole historical commentary going on, each taking turns playing their parts, covering the history of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, their short year and a half life as a band before he was lost in an airplane crash. Buddy Holly Live does it all justice and insists that you dance. It ended out the perfect afternoon beside the lake, under the blue sky, soaking up the sun, groovin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last of our energy went out that night to the sounds of the band Pica de Gallo from Kingston.  Hot hot latin rhythms, a great singer, samba, rumba, salsa, all heavy-handed and piquante.  It was down to the diehards at the end of the night – even my pal Chuck, who was still working sound at the end of the night, after a long day on the boards, was out there dancing.  Gotta love that man, the attitude keeps him going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great work Chuck, Brin, Norman and all – alot of folks get a free afternoon in the sun with great music because of all that effort of yours. 

 

Besides my book-in-the-window experience there were three other Walking with Wolf moments on the weekend.  One was a short visit with Turid Forsyth, who lives near Westport but also has a home in Monteverde.  I took her a book but couldn’t stay long.  Turid’s stunning art and photographs have graced many books, most recently a book, Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: A guide to the native and exotic flora, with Willow Zuchowski.

 

The second was a small world moment.  At the end of the day of music, we were on the lawn at the Cove, talking with friends, including a woman named Barb. Cocky and I left to change our clothes and later meet up with everyone for dinner at Marty and Sandy’s.  After I left, Sandy was explaining to Barb who we were, saying that I had just come back from Monteverde, having written a book there.  Barb’s jaw dropped – she said, “I was just in Monteverde and I know about this book.  My friend has a copy of it and was telling me about it.”

Turns out that Barb and I had met about a month ago in Santa Elena, on the street, under umbrellas in the pouring rain, so we didn’t remember each other well. She was down with a student group from Toronto, with Jim Reed and his partner Tanya, part-time residents of Monteverde.  JR was on the big hike to Arenal with me last year, the story that makes up the last chapter of Walking with Wolf.  And Barb had met him just last winter in Whistler, B.C. and had ended up substituting for a teacher on the excursion. She came to Sandy’s for dinner and as soon as we started talking, we knew that we had actually met recently.  She has lived in the Westport area yet we have never met here, even though I’ve been there often over many years and know many of the folks that she does. We had to wait to be in a rainstorm in Costa RIca for that event.

Walking with Wolf continues to make community connections even up here in the north country.  It is a side effect of this project that I didn’t anticipate but am enjoying daily.

The third book-related event was the fact that it was Wolf’s 78th birthday on Sunday.  So I called him and we a good chat, catching up on family stuff, hearing of the birthday celebrations, and a little book business.  Happy Birthday my friend, and many many more…it is now time for me to get busy with my part of the preparations for my big 50th birthday party – Mike and Freda Cole are pulling out all the stops for a big celebration at their place – really, all I have to do is invite people, give directions and show up – the Westport gang are coming to provide music – there will be many purveyors of all fine things purveying that day – it is starting to be known as Kaystock! So if you are in the area on August 23, come on over, and bring your dancing shoes! 

Well, it took a lot of doing, but I got my jungle under control.  Lost count of the compost bags and bundles of vegetation that went out to the compost truck on garbage day.  Thank goodness the men on the truck were easily convinced to take well over my weekly limit.  I’m sure they took pity on me as I stood there asking them to take the excess, covered in dirt, scratches all down my legs from the rosebushes that I got too close to, and sweat pouring outa my skin. “Sure lady, don’t worry about it – we’ll take it all”. Thanks kind men. (Refer to former post, Steve and the Hammer, for the before pics)

Now I can see my beach, my flowers, as well as a bit of lawn back there – I only have grass for enough room for a couple of tents and chairs around my fireplace.  I live in the city but my backyard is a campground, a beach, a shady garden and a patio terrace on the Mediterranean.  I can sit in any spot in my backyard, depending on whether I want sun or shade, to face the city skyline or be shielded from the north wind, to see the full moon passing or to roast weinies in the fire, or to have a peaceful candlelit dinner on the terrace.  The only trouble in my backyard now is the skunk that has definitely taken up residence under my shed.  I thought he/she was there when I left in May but had no time to deal with it – well, now I just hope there isn’t a whole family. And I have to come up with some kind of peaceful way to send him/her packing.

Since I have been home, and once my swollen gland in my neck calmed down, I have been multi-tasking but mostly dealing with setting up the future of Walking with Wolf.  I’ve been sending books out to journals and media for reviews, taking books to bookstores, setting up book events, emailing anyone and everywhere about the book.  I am very excited that sooner or later a real review will appear – beyond the great response from people who have been reading the book, it is important to get some professional support.  My fingers are crossed that any review will be mostly positive.

Now well on my way to being a marketer, public relations manager and distributer, I am on another new learning curve.  I went and had lunch with my friend Ace Piva, a drummer who is building a new career as a road manager for bands, traveling throughout North America.  He has years of experience doing his own publicity and management, getting attention for his bands.  He gave me some great advice, expanding every one of my ideas with his own brilliance, enthusiasm and experience.  We were down on the waterfront where he lives which is only minutes from my home – it was also Mardi Gras parade day, when the Afro-Caribbean community comes out to play.  

It took me back to Cahuita and Limon in Costa Rica.  But on this day, as the calypso and reggae rhythms filled the air, the grey clouds turned black and got darker and darker, even as the colorful feathers soca-ed their way down the street into the Bayfront Park, and then the lightning started zigzagging through the sky.  I danced with the crowd for awhile but as the ominous sky grew scarier, I jumped on my bike and made it home just as the first drop of rain fell.  Within ten minutes, it was a deluge that lasted for hours. This wiped out the rest of Mardi Gras, as well as the day at the Festival of Friends, and no doubt many other outdoor activities on that busy summer Saturday. 

And gave my jungle an extra thrust.

 

For three years I’ve been working as an background performer in local film and TV shoots.  I get called at the last minute by my agent Patti at Stonewall Talent, gather the appropriate wardrobe, and go to wherever I’m instructed usually very early in the morning.  I get paid well and fed, sometimes really well, and hang out all day with interesting, often wacky, people and watch the making of movies (I show up in Lars and the Real Girl and was also in the latest version of the Incredible Hulk).  It gives me a little extra money and although the days can be very long and sometimes boring, I enjoy the work.  My mother didn’t allow my sister and me to be bored when we were kids (“I’ll find you something to do”) and her insistence at evicting that word from our vocabulary has stayed with me all my life.  If nothing else is going on, I watch people.  I look at the trees or the sky.  I sleep.  I daydream.  That’s as close to bored as I get, and none of those things are boring, just relaxing.  Otherwise, I tend to be very busy.  Or on downtime.  It’s all in the attitude. That is how I survive those long days on set, though I find that there is an illness amongst alot of extras that causes them to moan and complain about everything all day long.

In the end, I had a very short day of only six hours (usually we go closer to twelve or fifteen hours) that started at the very reasonable hour of noon in a TV show called Hardwired. We ended up being passer-bys, shooting in Gage Park, the same place I saw my hero Steve Earle play the other night. It was truly a walk in the park. Today I am mailing out books, packing up my laptop, and heading out to Westport, Ontario, to visit my friends and participate in the Westport Music Festival on the weekend.  I’m multi-tasking, of course, taking advantage of a friend with the expertise to do some work on my multi-media presentation for the book launches coming up in September.  I imagine I will disappear from bloglandia for awhile again, but wanted to check in before I go.  All appendages crossed for a sunny, dry day for outdoor music in Westport on Saturday, for a lack of growth in my yard while I’m away, and, as always, for world peace – even with my neighbour, the skunk.

I am back in Hamilton, Ontario, my home. Even though I just spent ten weeks in the tropical rain forest during the rainy season, there has definitely been more rain here this summer than I experienced there.  And I thought I was getting wet! The jungle that is my backyard is evidence of a great growing season. Luckily, in the week I’ve been home, the sun has been shining in a bright blue sky more often than not.  It poured earlier today but the planets aligned, the solid bowl of clouds broke up into popcorn, and the few stars you can occasionally see above the city glow were out. On this beautiful night, I went and spent two hours at the base of my musical hero, Steve Earle.

I’ve been listening to Steve – songsmith, multi-instrumentalist, political commentator, troubadour, activist – for more than twenty years. He has written the soundtrack to my life. I feast on each new CD that I hear and somehow this southern boy from Texas, ex-heroin addict, ex-con but also anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-insanity activist has spoken in his music of my own experiences, moods, frustrations and loves.  When he was singing songs of restlessness, I was restless.  When he’s been angry at his government, I’ve also been livid.  Now he’s in love both with his new wife and with his new city, New York, where he moved to after years of living in Tennessee.  And although I’m not in the big love, I am in love with the Hammer, this rusty little city I live in. 

He has constantly expressed my politics in beautiful simple poetic lyrics and gone down a number of musical avenues from country to rock to tropical to folk to bluegrass and taken me with him on each ride. Tonight, after playing his guitars, mandolin, and banjo and dueting with his wife, he played with a DJ behind him providing electronic beats. He has so many songs, all great. And although there was a big representation in the Hammer-crowd of drunken wild folks demanding “Copperhead Road” (which you can see him cringe to with impatient disdain, for it would seem that, fifteen years later, it is the only song people know of despite a repertory of hundreds), the majority of the audience were singing along to his lyrics from several of his albums, demonstrating that they, like me, were in awe.  To have the chance to sit twenty feet from him, down below the high stage of the Festival of Friends, on the concrete ground (which, of course also doubled as a seat right on the dancefloor), be encouraged by him to sing out, and to be able to watch his face as he sang, and watch his subtle and not so subtle reactions to the antics of the crowd, well, in an odd way,  at moments it was like it was just him and me and we forgot the other ten thousand folk.  In fact, I’m quite sure he smiled at me at one point. Sigh.

His wife, Allison Moorer, played the first set and although the best thing about her for me is that she is Steve’s wife, I do enjoy them singing together and she is a good singer of songs.  I do know from reading her blog that they are both readers, and she writes about the books she reads.  So after my soul was totally swelled by the sounds of Steve, I lingered outside his black bus for a good half hour or more with the other diehard Steve fans – all guys wanting to get their albums and CD covers signed.

Fortunately he finally came out and although I wasn’t the first in line, he turned to me (probably because I was the only woman) and I quickly handed him Walking with Wolf. I could tell he was tired and wasn’t going to have patience for long. I told him how thrilled I was to give him these words of mine after all the years that his words have excited me, pushed me, caressed me, comforted me, filled me (actually, I mumbled something much shorter). I truly believe that he and Allison will enjoy Wolf’s story.  I was so moved to be able to give him the book.  He looked me in the face and said “cool, thanks” in his southern drawl and with a tone of surprise, maybe cuz I wasn’t asking for anything, just giving him something. He reached out his arm and I touched it. I’ve still got chills.

These chills were much better than the chills I had all last weekend when I had a reoccurrence of the swollen gland in my neck with a touch of fever that I had about a month ago in Costa Rica.  I finally went to the doctor and got the right drugs and started feeling better, after five days of laying around moaning.  My beautiful neighbour, Genevieve, who left a lovely welcome home spread of wine, cheese and crackers in my fridge, also fed me fresh corn and grilled vegetables through my illness – what a wonderful person to have nearby. 

Once I felt better, I went into Toronto and distributed the book to media outlets and Pages bookstore.  I also put signed copies in the hands of my grand gurus, Bruce and Ken, who were so much a part of the final production of the book and continue to support, encourage and amuse me.  I know I will re-employ their services in the Spanish translation (which Wolf’s son Carlos is now in the process of working on). Meeting these two talented blokes (along with Jane our editor and my old friend Laurie who did the layout) was one of the biggest gifts of the last year.

Now that I am slowly coming back to earth after my near-Steve encounter, I have to get out in that jungle and get it under control.  The next month is so busy with preparing for the book launches in September and for all the visitors who are coming to help me celebrate my 50th birthday at the end of August, that I gotta get those weeds outa my path so I can see the forest through the trees.  But I will be working to the sounds of Steve in my soul, renewed, rejuvenated, re-happy. Consider the following photo a “before” picture…”after” to follow.

It is as inevitable as the wind and rain in Monteverde, that one day my time will be up and I have to leave. I don’t worry about going and I quickly transfer my thinking to arriving instead – back to Canada, friends there, familiar haunts, a different kind of music and the beautiful northern landscape. As long as I have the privilege and ability to return when I want to Costa Rica, then I can leave with a simple “nos vemos” – “we’ll see each other”, rather than “adios”, which feels much more final.

 

Of course this year also takes me back to Canada with a whole new purpose in life – bringing Walking with Wolf to the masses, doing publicity, marketing and distributing of my precious little tome. So there is an excitement at the back of my brain that I try not to get too caught up in, but will soon – within twenty-four hours now, I’ll be full on ready to conquer the north. I have until September 6 to prepare for the first big official book launch in Hamilton, and then the following weekend I’m returning to my old community in the northeast to do hopefully three presentations over a few days. This is the part of the world close to Temagami, Ontario, which I talk about in the book. I have many old friends there who have been very supportive and I am really looking forward to the book parties there. And in the second week of October, I think I will be doing a presentation at Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio, which we also talk about, Wolf’s alma mater, for their Homecoming weekend. This hasn’t been decided yet, but the idea seems to have interested the director and so I will soon be in touch with him about the possibility. 

 

Having received such wide spread acceptance and praise in Monteverde from the people who are closest to the story will truly help me go out in the big northern world and hold my head up, proud of our book. I know that I was most nervous of the reaction of the biologists – sticklers for detail that they are, strong-willed, educated and quite sure of their own versions of the world – but several of them have spoken up for the quality of the book and have enjoyed reading it and shared a minimum of criticism (maybe I shouldn’t have called the tropical cloud and rain forest “jungle” but to the outsider, that is truly what it is, by dictionary definition as well.)

 

One of the surprises of the reaction to the book is how many people have said to me that it has revived in them the spirit of the community. Wolf’s stories about the founding of Monteverde, and my modern day descriptions have given them a renewed sense of what a special community they are part of. I had always hoped to properly present Wolf’s life and accomplishments but it had never occurred to me that our book might be a positive factor in the community. How proud can one be for playing a role such as that?

 

I have also heard from friends in Canada who don’t know Wolf, Monteverde or Costa Rica, and have said they love the story and the writing. So that bodes well for the future of the book simply as a piece of literature. I think it’s deepest purpose is the telling of Wolf’s interesting and dedicated life with all its flaws and colorful tales, and that is what I feel the most able to go out and talk about. His is an inspirational story of humor, hard work and humility and I take great pride in being able to tell this story.

 

In the week that I was offline, I returned to Monteverde, saw friends, packed and repacked, sat down with Wolf and signed a whole box of books to take back to deserving friends in Canada, did some dancing, had some great conversations and enjoyed my final days of tropical life. I spent a day down in San Luis waiting for the arrival of fifteen teams of oxen who were coming from the low lands for a festival, but unfortunately had to leave by the time only one team had arrived (those beasts move very slowly). I managed to get bit on my finger by something – I thought an ant, but now think maybe a spider – that now, four days later, is still swollen up in a bunch of itchy bumps. What a year for bites! I think it may be caused by the rainy season, as I found the bug population rampant. I ran off to Cahuita on the Caribbean for twenty-four hours and was blessed with sunshine and a starry night, whereas there had been pouring rain for the days before I got there. Here too I was bitten while swimming in the sea, something that rarely happens at all, especially in the Caribbean. But I was floating and some seaweed wrapped itself around me and four sharp stings (jelly-fish? Some say sea fleas?) sent me out of the water, waiting to see if I’d have some weird reaction like that poor Australian nature guy. You just never know these days. My papalomoyo seems to be under control, though I’ll continue with my sulpha treatments in Canada – and I still have a series of bitemarks on my thighs that we think are from mites of some sort. Hmmmm, August in Hamilton, the bug situation should be pretty tame in comparison.

 

I spent the last couple nights with Edin Solis (the photo is me with one of his Grammies) and his wife Lorena Rodríguez, he of Editus, she an interior, exterior and just about all round everything designer.  Edin was finishing the work on the soundtrack to a BBC documentary production called “The Winds of Papagayo” – about the changes of the environment in Guanacaste, the northwest province of Costa Rica.  How interesting was that – not just listening to the musical themes that Edin had composed (great surf beat dude) and admiring how the music followed the images and the story of the documentary, but the information within the work itself. It promises to be a very interesting piece of journalism (with a beautiful soundtrack) about what is happening with development on the fragile Pacific coastline. I had never realized that the winds collect and transport great fertility that has risen from the huge Lake Nicaragua to the north, as well as from the potent gases of the various volcanoes that run in a chain straight through Central America. The strong winds we know in parts of Costa Rica do have an important purpose besides blowing us around and keeping us cool. The doc also focuses on the over-expansion of development on the coastline, the extreme change of community life in less than thirty years, the changes in the winds themselves, and the struggle of the turtle population to survive the many forces that are working against them. 

 

I think of Costa Rica in general as about as fragile as a population of olive ridley sea turtles. Even though I know so many dynamic, charismatic, kind, intelligent and hardworking people in this little country, over all I feel they are all under threat. Out of control development, foreign influence, fear, and an economy that isn’t servicing the people at the lower end of the scale are all signs of a difficult future. The country has great “green” policies but doesn’t seem to have the backbone to enforce the laws. Most people I talk to have little faith in the government, having had three of their last presidents found guilty of some form of kickbacks. The president of the day, Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in the 80s on bringing peace to the Central American region, had the constitution changed, by the vote of 4 judges, so that he could be re-elected (up until the last election, Costa Rica had a rule, similar to the USA, that presidents could only serve one term). He also supported CAFTA, the free-trade agreement with the USA, which many people are extremely leery of. This all adds up to a disgruntled society in an over-stressed country with a frustrated view of the future.

 

I love these people and this country.

 

The very talented Sofia Zumbado, award-winning saxophonist and her beautiful mom Myrna Castro

My friend 100-year old Otilia Gonzales and her daughters Gladys and Margarita

Luis Angel Obando, Head of Protection, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

HEY! How’d this guy make it in here?

 

Everyone I know in Costa Rica is involved in some interesting project, not only to make a living, but to bring some new awareness to their life. I wish them all well. Tenga fe mis amigos, nos vemos pronto.

 

 

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