Cornstalk was advertised as a revival of an old event from the past, a gathering of poets and musicians, an open mike in an open field. Bring a chair, a beverage, a musical offering or writing to share, or just come and listen. S and I went simply to enjoy, neither of us brave or extroverted enough to stand and perform among strangers.
It was a sweet night. The air was cold and laden with the aromas of fire, fallen leaves and the newly broken green stalk smell of harvest. We circled our lawn chairs where a make-shift stage was set up underneath the light of a heatlamp. Outside of that bright circle, the the natural houselights went down to complete black with only a complete astronomy chart of stars above us for contrast. At one point in the evening, those in the back rows could be distracted from the on-stage performance by the eerie beauty of of the coyotes raising their own harmonies in the not-too-distant fields.
The performers, a collection of farmers and professors, students and seniors, brought us essays and poetry, classical guitar, instrumental and vocal performances . There was a sweet high school kid with a honey voice who charmed us with Leonard Cohen's Alleluia, and a "woman of a certain age" who looked like she might have just walked out of the barn from doing chores and sang with a sultry alto voice and whom I'd swear has to (or at least should) have sung with with a big band somewhere. She sang an a capella solo, a Louis Armstrong piece with the trumpet player and did an impromptu request with the guitar player of It Had to Be You and sounded very fine every time. We also heard from the organic farmers. He read from his essay about the connection between social justice and organic farming. She read about the toad who moved into her greenhouse. Both were equally captivating. She then joined a friend in singing an original duet about fish bones. They rocked! Two high school guys played reggae on guitar, electric mandolin and harmonica. We heard some poems from the cowboy poet who writes while swathing and cultivating, and we were treated to various combinations of instrumental selections. The guitar teacher seemed to be able to play with anyone from trumpet players to flautists and he made it all look easy. He also composes, and he shared an original he says is "rough and in process." Could have fooled me! The nursing home lady regaled us with radical poetry on aging and a very funny and satirical riff about going into the home. She is not to be trifled with! The recently retired local newspaper editor shared his poetry, and the news that he has a book coming out next week. He has been very openly struggling with clinical depression and the poems he read were about the spirituality and pain in that struggle. I look forward to his book.
Nights like this fill me with peace and gratitude for the simple sweetness of this transplant life I never even had the sense to want or know I needed. But God, in God's dream for me, found a way. It will be six years this week. I stand amazed.