Once again reveling in and revisiting the odd rituals that come with the New Year, and reflecting on how strange the journey is turning out to be, now that I've turned a few.

In case you missed it, in the Western world the calendar has flipped again. Our annual revolution around our beloved nearby star has reached this particular spot in the heavens, and because we draw 12 pages with an odd number of boxes on each, we must have a starting point for each of those collections. Thus, January arrives, heralding a New Year, and toting along all of the assorted rituals that we have tethered to it.

I'm not big on resolutions, but I do like to check my progress (or lack thereof) in a variety of ways, and of course count my blessings - including the ones that I might overlook...

Attempting to make sense out of a "post-fact" society, and place seemingly absurd moments into historical context.

There were some who predicted that Hell would freeze over if the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Let's just say that strange things have happened in this year when the Cubs finally did. I have a big crack in the side of my beloved Martin guitar. A whole lot of great musicians have left this earthly plane, including this month Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell. And then there is this election thing...

We think naturally of the past on Thanksgiving, remembering cherished family elders and traditions from our childhood. My never-ending exploration of my family stories and genealogy dropped an interesting and startling one in my lap this morning. It turns out that my 10G grandfather, Capt. Nathaniel Turner, was lost at sea on a voyage back to England out of the new settlement of New Haven in 1646. His ship, the Phantom, was immortalized in verse centuries later by Longfellow. I am grateful that he was not lost before he had children, or else I wouldn't be here!

Read Longfellow's "The Phantom Ship" here.

I just returned from a silent prayer vigil at the Quaker Meeting in the village. On this night when we seem to be drowning in a virtual sea of violent rage, deceit and conspiracy theories, what I needed was a moment of peace. Silence. Reconnection with real souls in person. Simply being present with each other and the unseen. Time to gather and sift through my swirling thoughts and conflict a final time. This night feels like our American dreams and ideals have been heaped onto a blazing pyre of our own virulent anger. I walked home alone in the dark, lit only by the late autumn moon through the trees...

How fitting an end to this All Soul's Day, El Dia de Los Muertos. Slowly these last few years I have pieced together my family story near and far, recent and distant. I have connected my grandparents siblings, even my father's father's family who scattered every which way in a trail of mystery and intrigue. Two years ago I was wondering if I'd ever find his sister Margaret, the opera singer who went west and seemingly vanished forever. This May we finally found her family, and while I haven't met most of her descendants - my west coast cousins - in person yet, I'm thrilled that they are part of my virtual life and that we share rich musical DNA...

I'm not sure what I find the most amazing about this. That:

1) NASA shot a piano-sized computer/camera at a planet 3 billion miles and 9 1/2 years away, and hit its 60 by 90 mile target within 43 seconds of predicted,
2) said device beamed back all that incredible detailed digital data over 16 months over an even longer distance through the equivalent of the shittiest dial-up modem ever, or that
3) we can look at those matrices of 1s and 0s it collected and carrier-pigeoned back to us in incredible sharp detail on a device in the palm of our hand.

Yeah, I pretty much find all of that the most amazing thing. Kudos to my favorite rocket scientists ever. #PlutoRocks

It is no secret that I am deeply troubled by the deterioration of discourse, debate and compromise for a common good in our bitterly divided land. I found myself yesterday with time on my hands on a gorgeous autumn day to remedy a personal travesty - in the quarter century that I've lived here I had never visited Gettysburg. I am glad that I can no longer say that. I'm not sure what I was looking for, to be truthful. Perhaps the reminder that we have survived times of bitter political and philosophical division, and at times the cost has been great and dear indeed...

A tribute to my friend Cacey Combs, who lived a beautiful life no matter how it ended. Originally published September 23, 2010, I share this again as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. #shinethelight #endDomesticViolence #loveshouldnthurt

September is a deeply transformative time. The earth passes from its summer orientation in route to winter here in the northern hemisphere. I personally feel that hurried rush of plants and animals responding to the rapidly shortening days. The leaves are just starting to turn across these Blue Ridge foothills; but despite today's 95 degree heat, one feels that this is summer's last gasping "gift" to those of us not yet ready for the bare tree season...

Has interacting with our community of geography become quaint and old-fashioned?

I was biking up to town yesterday running errands. I often do - driving 30,000 miles or more each year means I leave my van in the driveway for days on end when I’m home. As I turned up the blacktop, I saw my elderly neighbor whose house burned down in January. He was just dropping by his property to check on things after a weeklong veterans trip to Korea....

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I have done what little I can when I can to help prevent suicide with local organizations, and sharing available resources I know about whenever I can. I share this anecdote today because it illustrates one of the most important aspects of suicide prevention. We often never know what impact a little kindness, or some other little thing we do, might have on someone in dire crisis.

Thoughts on a parent's milestone birthday, and the first day of 4th grade (with best wishes to kids everywhere for a great school year)

Another beautiful steamy late summer morning to herald the arrival of another “1st day of school”. Our 5th first day of walking down our driveway and up our gravel road towards our little old village school that we so cherish. It is far different now than kindergarten was, especially her height!....

"I feel best in that little space between a smile and a tear"

I didn't want to let this week's passing of 94-year old jazz legend Toots Thielemans go by without sharing a little tribute and a lot of respect. Jazz guitarist, harmonica virtuoso, and whistler too, this gentle Belgian's musical gifts have been known to millions of kids who may not have heard his name til now - his welcome and familiar harmonica refrain that was the theme to "Sesame Street".

Music. It's my life because it is the language of life. I had the most incredible experience last night at the Epicure Café in the DC suburb of Fairfax VA. There were several fantastic musicians in the lineup over the course of the Songwriters Association of Washington sponsored showcase, and a very special guest. Karim Wasfi is a virtuoso cellist, but also happens to be the Principal Conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra...

My last full day at Ferry Beach Park Association started with a cup of coffee on the beach as my bagpiping friend summoned the sun and saluted my ancestors homeland. We gathered for our last chapel in the echoing majesty of the ocean pines to the sounds of "Amazing Grace" on the pipes, bookended our week with a different hymn to Sibelius "Finlandia", sang "We Shall Overcome" hand in hand and "Amazing Grace" when no one was ready to leave...

An Independence Day weekend spent immersed in the swirling and ever-present past. Dedicated with love to my uncle Douglas McKnight, USN (1928-2016).

We spent a day over the 4th of July weekend bringing my cousin to visit DC for the first time. We caught a glorious sunny cool day, more like May than July, so we slathered on the sunscreen and walked most of the National Mall. It was my first visit to the World War II, Korean War, and Martin Luther King Memorials, and of course we did the traditional visits to the Lincoln and the Vietnam Wall.

It was an amazing experience. Along with my cousin, my 9-year old daughter had never been to the monuments. So in addition to my own awe, I got to explain some of the significant pieces of what she was witnessing. She carefully and solemnly did a pencil rubbing of one of the eight women whose names are engraved on the Wall....

One gift of aging is an appreciation for the constancy of change and the inconsistency of the journey.

I recently received several poignant gifts from out of the cosmos. Good and amazing things, and events which completely derailed me from some seeming momentum of thought and purpose. If you have ever thought that creative people are constantly creating and always have some vision for what they are doing now and next, I can emphatically say that’s not how my life goes. I wish it did sometimes, though I think I am grateful for some relief from the manic bursts of creative obsession...

Music has always been in my immediate family. My dad has sat in with me here and there at shows when I'm in the neighborhood, and my grandmother's sister was a renowned concert pianist. My dad's father's family had a lot of music too, but they scattered in all directions and we never had any contact with most of them in my lifetime.

Until last week...

In honor and remembrance of those who did not return. From the fields of Flanders, and the beaches of Normandy. From the frozen crags of Chosin, and the jungles of southeast Asia. From the deserts and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan. From all of the places they went answering the call. On this day, and every other, we remember. "There's a hole in the sky...."

Many of my veteran friends say that Memorial Day is to remember the fallen, and that Veterans Day is the appropriate time to honor their service. I believe that every day is a day to honor their service, and every day is a day to work to end war. A utopian ideal given the nature of our species....  #MemorialDay #honorthefallen

While to my knowledge my family has not lost any on more recent fields of battle, several of my ancestors lost their lives on battlefields or their aftermath fighting to save the Union. This America, this one land struggling again as a house divided. I post this in their memory today... #Appomattox #Memorial Day #honorthefallen

Mother's Day seems a fitting time to share this tribute to the three mothers who most shaped and continue to shape my life. I am grateful to be old enough to be aware of how each of them shape my daughter's life. I wrote this a few days after she was born back in 2007. Happy Mother's Day to mothers everywhere, and in honor of those mothers who brought us life, wherever they are.
"A Circle of Four Women"

Wondering about the relative worth of work and capital in a land that has always had winners and losers. It still is a great country, still struggling to figure itself out.

I’ve certainly experienced a tremendous amount in this last month on the road. I’ve seen snow in New England and summer shine in Tennessee, crisscrossed the Big River and the Big Muddy, traced the footsteps of Lewis & Clark and driven America’s Main Street. I’ve stood at Amelia Earhart’s birthplace and watched bald eagles making ready to leave theirs. I feel like Johnny Cash - “I’ve been everywhere, man”...

Sometimes we are lucky enough to be present in large moments in one young person's life.

Most of us remember big moments in our early lives. Some childhood event where we did something either unexpected, beyond our perceived abilities, or in some way accomplished some thing for the first time. They are easier to mark in our early years - first day of school, first successful ride on a bike, etc. As a grownup, it is easy to forget how much of a lifelong impact some of those positive milestones will be.

I had the privilege to be witness to three different young people that I care deeply about having such a moment, all in a single day last week...

Music is life, and life is sweet. A rich tapestry of music and the soul from the pews to Panama.

This last month has brought me a whole new understanding of how deeply intertwined human existence is with the magic of rhythm, melody and occasionally lyric.

Music may have been around for as long as humans have had language. For rituals, for comfort, and for celebrations; since they first used tools man and woman have likely beat rhythms on gourds and skulls, and blown into hollow tubes...

A look at the contrast between how two big political corporate oligarchies see our national future, versus life in a real community.

It's been a rough couple of weeks in our little village. The blizzard of 2016 - dubbed Snowzilla - took shape almost exactly as predicted and lived up to 3 feet of hype. Being cooped up at home for days can bring out the worst in people, especially when compounded by health issues or other serious concerns. School was out for over a week, and as parents had to return to work, we scrambled to help one another watching kids and moving enormous amounts of snow.

It's hard on everything else too, especially for structures that aren't built to hold that load...

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Tour Dates

  • 12/22/2017
    Twin Oaks Tavern Winery - Bluemont, VA
     
  • 12/31/2017
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling - Sterling, VA
     
  • 01/06/2018
    Redwood Run House Concerts - Philomont, VA
     
  • 01/07/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley - Stephens City, VA
     
  • 01/13/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick - Frederick, MD
     

HAPPENINGS

SPECIAL THANKS

Andrew is a grateful Endorsing Artist for Elixir Strings and Fairbuilt Guitars, and a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Artist Roster. He also is a member of The Standing "O" Project and Concerts in Your Home.

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