Posted August 25, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen
“I don’t read music. I don’t write it. So I wander around on the guitar until something starts to present itself. Writing songs … you just follow the clues … follow the breadcrumbs. It is an unconscious process and hard to describe with language.“– James Taylor, Oprah’s Master Class
Music is a traveler.
Notes land in artists minds from a place that only God knows. When a writer picks up on a familiar signal – vibrations, voice or aura – it’s time to clear the landing field.
Over time, with varying degrees of success, songwriters learn to court the muse – the bearer of mysterious gifts.
Ever have one of those days when nothing goes as planned, but everything turns out perfectly?
We have a lot of them
After leaving Mystic, we pulled into Buttercup Farm in New Hampshire and pastured beside a pond with a small herd of grazing cattle.
Far from the highway, in the quiet countryside, we discussed a short list of activities for our four day stay in Newport.
The next morning, we crossed the border into Rhode Island and stopped at The Middle of Nowhere Diner where beans and apples are what’s for breakfast.
We would have scheduled more time in the “City-By-The-Sea” if not for all of the poor campground reviews.
The Meadowlark RV Park met our standards for a vintage suburban campground. No, not luxury, but cared for. The grounds are quiet with a lot of old growth trees, and nicely groomed.
Meadowlark borders a fascinating historic park where dogs are allowed on leash …
… and, it’s only a short bike ride to this world class beach.
Someday we will return to Meadowlark for a two week stay and see more of the flower-bedecked cottages, the manor houses and the coastline …
Okay, so it has occurred often enough that Jim now prepares to be mistaken for Anthony Hopkins.
The Hopkins Treatment often happens at restaurants and campground check-ins. It begins with the piercing gaze, the knowing smile and then, “Ha-ha-hannibal Lector!” To which Jim responds, “Sorry, not him – but Anthony is my much older and not as good-looking brother.”
When Jim entered the Meadowlark office, the host appeared to demonstrate all the visual signs of The Hopkins Treatment, but instead of saying, “We’re fresh out of fava beans” (as a server once snickered while taking Jim’s order), she exclaimed, “What perfect timing!“
Jim didn’t have a clue, so he said, “Timing for what …?“
“For The Newport Folk Festival! “
“That’s why everyone’s here. Starts tomorrow … Wow. You sure look familiar.“
She winced at the screen noticing the reservation was made only two weeks in advance and said, “How did you manage that? We’ve been booked for months.”
Jim said, “Persistence. I called everyday until I got the right answer.”
Then, testing his powers he leaned in and said, “Can you suggest a place where I might find a good chianti?“
Then, she figured it out.
“Kenny Rodgers…” She said, “or the spittin’ image. I bet you hear that all the time.“
Jim has that kind of face.
So we arrived on the eve of “The” Festival … the city is booked to the hilt … excitement all around … and that’s a bummer when you don’t have tickets.
Our sympathetic host presented us with the website for Eventbrite saying, “It’s a long shot but hope you get in. Obviously, you’re supposed to be here. Maybe they’ll think you’re Kenny and just open the gate.“
We settled into our big, grassy tree-lined private lot on the back lower level – the best area of the park – and Jim logged onto Eventbrite to put us on the waitlist queue. At 5 pm Thursday, we were #53 on the list for Friday’s festival. The queue moved slowly and we could back out at any time, but we felt hopeful.
We sat outside on our computers watching the queue and were distracted by a meadowlark guarding it’s territory, darting from tree to tree, ousting saboteurs buried in the branches – ravens, crows and squirrels. Right there, I did some research and learned that the Meadowlark is a traveling musician – one of the only birds to sing while in flight. In folklore the Meadowlark is associated with the banishment of sorrow, protection, divinity and happiness. So, we took it as a good omen that we’d get tickets to the concert.
The next morning, one hour before festival started, we got a text that we were booked. And we were ready to go.
Traveling the festival circuit is a great way to see the US and Canada. We don’t go looking for them, but it’s always lovely to stumble onto one. The last time LIB bumped into a festival was Bluesapalooza 2016 in Mammoth Lakes.
Honestly, I’m not familiar with the work of most of the artists we saw – I’m kinda an eastern European klezmer and American bluegrass, girl – but I really dig Maggie Carson and …
… when James Taylor made a surprise appearance, Jim and I took a trip back in time…
… remembering how the music carried us through those tumultuous years during the 60’s and 70’s. The era’s musicians were prophetic because the work endures.
Like the meadowlark, they sing in flight, traveling across cultures and time soothing souls even as they roust the saboteurs out of the shadows and into the light.