Sunday, August 27, 2006

Home from Kenosee

I started this post a week ago, Sunday August 20th. It's refreshing, now, to read it and remember what the Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party was like. Today I saw Denise, another camper at the Kitchen Party, and we agreed that there was a great let-down afterward. But there is still the music, and next year...

Saturday morning I finally slept in - just a little. All week I had been waking at six or earlier, with fiddle tunes running in my head, and all those new guitar challenges twitching my fingers, and bubbling underneath it all, a deep and sparkling joy that wouldn't let me slow down.

The Kenosee Kitchen Party was magical. I never dreamed I could learn so much in one week, and I can't remember having so much fun, ever, not in my entire lifetime.

But I didn't get enough sleep.

We had concerts every evening, the first three by our instructors (incredible playing!) and the last two by the whole lot of us (sheer fun). I couldn't sit still at those concerts, partly because my back ached from playing so much, but partly because all those jigs and reels got in my blood and made me dance. Then after the concerts we'd move down to the campfire on the lakeshore and play and sing some more. When I finally got to bed each night, the music was still with me, and I lay wide awake, dancing inside.

And then woke at six. Or four. My cabin was right across from the washrooms, so you'd think I could just stumble over there with my eyes half open and then get back to bed, but no. My head would be whirling with all the stuff to learn, and how I needed to practise, and besides, I forgot my alarm clock. So I'd lie wide awake some more, and then give up and leap into another day.

Wednesday morning, standing groggy in front of my puffy-eyed reflection in the shower room, I recalled my assignment from the day before: to write a silly lyric having something to do with fish, to the tune of the Westphalia Waltz. Simple enough, except that I couldn't remember that tune at all. I was pondering this problem and the possible remedies, when some sadistic muse hit me over the head with a still-flapping fishy bit of doggerel.
Fish -
dreaming of fish -
dreaming of Lucas's fish.
I wish
that I were a trout.
Just
to be a fish -
just to be Lucas's fish,
waving above his snout.
I went quickly from groggy to giggling.

Perhaps I should explain a bit. Or a lot.

The Kenosee Kitchen Party is a five-day music camp, based on the idea of a fiddle camp, but aimed at a wider audience. At a fiddle camp, there are guitar and piano classes for people who want to learn to accompany fiddle music, but at Kenosee those classes were more general, for any lovers of guitar and piano. We guitar students got to learn all sorts of things, including some new tunes to play as a group at the final concert. Then again, we were also divided up into groups and handed a bunch of chord charts to learn, to accompany groups of fiddlers at the final concert.

But getting back to Westphalia and the fish . . . on Tuesday, the whole lot of us (fiddlers, pianists, and guitarists, including instructors) were divided into three mixed groups and sent off to rehearse for a "band scramble." Each group had three hours, one hour each day from Tuesday to Thursday, to come up with some sort of musical offering for the Thursday evening Pig 'n' Whistle.

At our first rehearsal, somebody suggested we start by playing something that everyone knew. Westphalia was offered, and those of us who didn't know it said we would learn. One of the guitar students was delighted to hear it, because it was the same tune that she knew as the "Dreamy Fish Waltz," and she was looking for the lyrics.

Nobody knew the lyrics.

But the idea of a fish had been planted. The instructors in our group exchanged mirthful looks and explained that Lucas Welsh, another instructor, had won the 2003 Saskatchewan Fiddling Championship while wearing a hat with a large fish head on the front. There had been talk of the "Power of the Fish" ever since. So, maybe we could come up with a fishy lyric. Did anyone in the group write lyrics?

My wrist stayed on my leg, but my hand lifted enough to be noticed.

And so it came to pass, that instead of sleeping the last couple of hours before breakfast on Wednesday, I was juggling fishy rhymes, and wondering if I even had the right melody.

Turns out that I did. And Thursday night at the Pig 'n' Whistle, I got to sing it. Got to, or had to? The instructors did some wonderful monologue over the A section of the tune, telling the story of the fish and throwing in lots of other fsshy stuff. And I sang:
Fish -
dreaming of fish -
dreaming of Lucas's fish.
I wish
that I were a perch-
-in' on his hat.
Just
to be a fish -
just to be Lucas's fish,
winkin' at April Verch.

Fish -
dreaming of fish -
dreaming of Lucas's fish.
I wish
that I were a trout.
Just
to be a fish -
just to be Lucas's fish,
bobbing above his snout.
(and some more monologue, and then - )
Fish -
dreaming of fish -
dreaming of Lucas's fish.
I wish
that I were a perch-
-in' on his hat.
Just
to be a fish -
just to be Lucas's fish,
winkin' at April Verch.
Imagine that!

Fish -
dreaming of fish -
dreaming of Lucas's fish.
I wish
that I were a wall-
-eye or a pick-er-el.
Just
to be a fish -
just to be Lucas's fish,
hoping that I
don't fall.
His bow would fillet me!

Friday night at the campfire I had to sing it again, by request. I don't think any of us will ever hear Westphalia again without thinking of Lucas's fish.

After the Pig 'n' Whistle came a square dance. I was standing by the wall, watching the dancers gather in squares, when our guitar instructor Ray Bell walked in, pointed at me, and found me a partner. What fun! I had to bully my young guitar-guy partner to keep dancing - he wanted to go join the band, but I told him he had to find me a new partner first - and after a while he caught on and had a good time, too. Friday night's old-tyme dance had some square dancing as well, but this time Ray invited me to play in the band. A few songs into the dance, Andy McNamee showed up with his guitar, too. He said I looked like I was having so much fun, he had to join in. Andy is a gentleman, an octogenarian with lots of stories from his Air Force days. He and I were often the first to show up at our classes, and he would tell me tales and admire my playing. I admired his, too. I hope he's there again next year.

Friday's campfire was more subdued. Lucas wasn't there - that was part of it. He had left immediately after the concert for an eight-and-a-half-hour drive up to Big River to play in the Bluegrass Festival. And that was after staying up until two or three in the morning all week, and no sleeping in; breakfast ended at nine. Crazy guy.

But Lucas wasn't the only one who had left, and those of us that remained were starting to think about goodbyes and home, I guess. Linda and Audrey, Denise and Lori and Cheryl, I hope it won't be a whole year before we're getting together to play again. You're not far away. And Michele, and Buzz, and Al and Bill. My kitchen is cozy - come on over!

And then it was Saturday morning, and I could hear people going to breakfast. I didn't even comb my hair, just threw on some clothes and went. One more hearty meal, and back to my cabin to throw my stuff in the suitcase. Ruth would be waiting. Six weeks she'd been away at the Air Cadet Summer Training Centre in Penhold, Alberta, taking music courses, and I hadn't even met her at the airport, because she got in during our final concert at Kenosee. My friend Anita had met her instead, and taken her back to their farm overnight. I phoned to say I was on my way, and Anita told me that Ruth wasn't complaining, but she was clearly longing to be home, now that she was so close.

Some quick goodbyes, and I was on the road. The highway south out of the Moose Mountains never seemed so high and beckoning, nor the sky so wide and bright. But as I came to Carlyle, the fiddle tunes and toe-tapping and hollering for more had begun to recede, and my old habits of thought came pushing forward again: thoughts about agriculture and industry and ecology and such. I tried to listen to the CD I'd bought, "In My Dreams" by Lucas Welsh (scroll down), but the player in the car always skips so badly that it locks into one short loop of sound and goes nowhere. Oh well. I drove on south of Carlyle, watching combines working in the fields.

Soon I was greeting the kids at Anita's farm. They were packed and ready to go - probably the quickest departure we'd ever made from that hard-to-leave place. And everyone was talking at once, all trying to tell our stories of the past week or of the whole summer. The Geo Metro is a small place for a clamor like that. I bit back my own stories and tried to listen, and tried to be glad of my kids and their excitement, but they were urgent and demanding and becoming strident, and I missed the rhythm and harmony of the constant sound at camp.

Through all of this, I was driving, automatically, down the gravel road. Suddenly, but gently, my eyes were drawn to the drift of alfalfa along the ditch, flowering, and twinkling with butterflies.

******

Home. Our cat, completely out of character, purring and loving because he'd missed us. If only he could appreciate us while we're around! The note I'd left for Mom, under the bowl of tomatoes, saying "Help yourself - and please don't do my dishes!" The tomato bowl, empty, and - wonder of wonders - the dishes left undone, for once. Luggage to unpack, laundry, those dishes, some meals. And then, at bedtime, long after dark, the sudden recollection that James was supposed to have walked a friend's dog today.

What to do? The dog might bark when we arrived and disturb the neighbours, but what if he'd run out of food and water?

I let James off, and went to walk the dog myself. When I let myself into the garage and turned on my flashlight, there was no welcoming rush of doggy energy, but as I took a few steps forward, there was a soft, anxious "Woof!" I spoke and he bounded joyfully to me. He had plenty of food, but he sure wanted that walk. Jog. Gallop. I let him run a bit at the south edge of town, a little worried about him disappearing into the shadows, but unwilling to deny him this little bit of daily freedom.

When we turned back again, there were the Northern Lights, arching bright and bold even through the wash of the lights of town. I returned a contented dog to his yard, and finally made my way home alone. I stopped for a moment by the darker space of the empty schoolyard, and watched the Northern Lights dance.

4 comments:

Granny said...

You make me wish I'd been there.

madcapmum said...

So you got your chance to work on rhyming lyrics! Sounds like you had a fabulous time.

Fred said...

Nice lyrics. I watched a friend of mine play in a fiddle contest this weekend and I got to hear a bunch of different versions of the Westphalia. It was easy to hum along and sing the fish lyrics. Good stuff. I love playing fiddle tunes. Next year you'll have to make sure you're at Forget and we can do some jamming.

Laura said...

Granny - I'd suggest next year, but it's a bit far for you! Maybe Jim at Earth Home Garden can suggest something closer.

Mum - hehehe - I didn't really get much chance to work on them, except to try to run through them in my head enough times (between lessons and workshops and jam sessions and such) so that I could remember them in front of the crowd!

Fred - a jam would be great! I had my first real experience of jamming at Kenosee, and loved it.