Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The random word of the day is LAVENDER:

My friend Carla has a lavender bush in her front yard. A large, hearty cluster of green which shoots, sparkler-like stems of purple-blue flowers now and then. Since I don’t live there, I don’t know its blooming cycle. I really must get a start from her so I can have some of my own. Her whole yard is a sight to see. It appears to civilized suburbanites that they have left their yard to run wild. They have received letters from the city about it. But to them it is beautiful. Xeriscaping with indigenous Utah plants, left to grow according to their own consciences and untrained by the human hand. It’s a water saving practice, and also a difference in philosophy about our stewardship over living things. We tend to prune; to keep things tight and cooperative. Carla likes to let things be and see where their own spirits want to take them. It is not unrighteous, and we should not judge her.
Carla feels inadequate. Her emotions juxtapose in her; one minute she wants to belong to the sisterhood of average-but-classy women who have their dignified Stampin’ Up type hobbies and tidy houses – the next she is dying a strip of her hair cerulean blue. The strip of blue makes her happy. So does Stampin’ Up. Our friend Larry put it perfectly one day. He said to her: “Carla, you want to remain anonymous while wearing Christmas lights.” Indeed.
Carla suffers from some illnesses, invisible to the naked eye. She talks lately about having only so many “spoons” on any given day; far less than the average person. The spoons represent things she can do, and when they are spent she is done. She is at the mercy of her invisible illnesses, the most painful of which is Fibromyalgia. Its hard to have something be so terribly painful and no one can see it. I think someone should sell bruise tattoos that we can apply on days when we just don’t want to deal with people judging us. I have a sense for how she feels.
I’ve known Carla a long time. We first shared the stage probably two decades ago. That’s when I first saw her. Actually, it was a wagon bed. A fundraiser for Farmington’s Clark Lane Historic District. She and Dave played their instruments and sang just before I did. They had the stage set up in the back of a wagon. I remember arriving, setting my guitar down and beginning to open it so I could tune. I reached for the neck of my instrument as they started to play. I paused, struck by the fullness and stunning beauty of their sound. I stood rather awestruck, wondering to myself who these people were and why didn’t I know about them? Were they from Farmington? If they were from Farmington, and they wrote their own music, why in the world did I not know them? What a cocky attitude, come to think of it.
Indeed, they were from Farmington. Her fluttering resonant voice, like butter heated to the prefect golden brown, had been warbling just across town all along while I scurried around in my own little space up north here, totally unaware. It reminds me that there is magic going on everywhere, we just don’t know about it. Dave’s music was no less shimmering, and their writing was so full of fresh inviting images I was stunned! I felt almost ashamed to take the stage after them.

When I was done we introduced ourselves.
“Hey,” Carla said, “a group of us get together in a song circle every month. Would you consider joining us?”
I was at the time heavily involved with the Utah Songwriters Association. As vice-president I oversaw seminars and workshops and hosted a monthly writers night in Salt Lake City. Still, the night I drove down Main Street and over to Eskelsen’s I was so nervous. I sat in a corner, trying to be invisible, and listened to the finest folk writers and musicians in Utah. They were skilled and friendly and I was shaking with nerves when it came my turn to sing a song. No one emitted any judgment. I only judged myself. I was a country song writer. A sell out, in my own evaluation. They wrote for the song itself, as opposed to the audience. It took me many years to not feel inferior in that group. But they are some of my closest and dearest musical friends now, and I cherish them.
Carla also hosted a small circle of women writers in a daytime gathering now and again. There were just a tiny handful of us. We’d gather at her house on a weekday morning and write. Sometimes with guitars, more often without.
One morning, after the girls had left and it was just Carla and me, she walked me out to the car. We stood beside her blooming lavender bush, the warm Farmington sun awakening the oils in the flowers. A gentle May breeze swept down the mountains to the east of us and crossed the foothills, whispering on down through the flatlands and out to us there in her yard. It brought the scent of Lavender to our nostrils and we both inhaled long and deep. “Oh my!” I exhaled, “you must keep your windows and doors open for that!” She bent over and snipped a couple stalks off, handing them to me. We stood there, amid the swirling aroma as she wept. Her mother had called, about what I don’t remember. Carla had forgotten to do something, and we had just spent the hours of that morning on writing instead of “accomplishing”. The weight of her neglect was heavy and she spilled out her feelings of inadequacy. Five children came through her, each of them as unique and free as the wild plants growing in her yard. I think they were sent to her because she understood that some things need to grow in their own way, even if the neighbors all have sterile trimmed green grass in their yards. Still, she beats herself up about it.
All my words of reassurance were not enough, and I left her still in tears, standing there beside her Lavender bush. I placed the stalks she had given me on the ash tray then aimed the air conditioner vent to pass over them. As I drove home I breathed the beauty of the moment and began the words to this song, Lavender Morning.
It may take Carla being released from her achy self-battered humanness to see herself clearly. She is good and kind and loving. Gifted voice. Genius mind. Tender heart. Capable hands. She awakens the senses; shakes the jar of daily life and enlivens the scenery, like sparklies in a water globe. She is a long loose braid swung over the shoulder; a worn pair of pale green bib overalls, the cuffs caked with horse manure and hay. She is a well loved piece of wood strung with steel wires. She is a carefully measured drop of this added to a few drops of that, all scented with fragrant earthy hand picked lavender.

Lavender Morning

Twas a Lavender morning
You opened the door and
You called to your sisters
Come gather and play

We turned from the dishes
We folded our aprons
Then danced with the breeze
On this Lavender day

CHORUS: Look how the garden
Bends to the sunlight
Delicate stems
Laden with Blue
No sweeter smell than
A lavender morning
No dearer soul than
Lavender you

Your mother may tell you
The children will suffer
They’ll watch as you’re wasting
The hours away
But look, they are smiling
And soon we’ll make supper
But first we must dance
On this Lavender day

Look how the garden
Bends to the sunlight
Delicate stems
Laden with Blue
No sweeter smell than
A Lavender morning
No dearer soul than
Lavender you

(Here are some pictures of our Saltwerks Circle friends circa 2003-2005)
The Eskeltones (Dave and Carla)
Nancy Hanson Wood and Dave Wood
Tom Shults
Doug Wintch

Weston Cann

John Connors

Karla Pattis (sans Larry?)

Tom & Gael Shults

Dave Edwards & Joey Dempster

Anke Summerhill

Kyle Wulle

Kate MacLeod

Our circle expands and contracts, with a few at the core who were here from the start.  Still, the music rings regardless of who creates it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


My son John and I teach guitar classes in the lower level of the Farmington Arts Center: Thursday evenings; Beginner, Intermed and Advanced. Many of our advanced students have been with us nearly three years. I think I’ve taught them everything I know, so I have to learn new things every week to pass on to them. For instance this week I taught about modulating keys, and in the process had to do a little studying up on the circle of 5th’s. Johnny really knows more than I do; but we both have a rather distorted bank of knowledge in the guitar area since neither of us ever took lessons ourselves. Sort of reminds me of faith, or more accurately, testimony. We learn bits and pieces out of order, so the building blocks sit all skiwampusy, and sometimes they topple over and we have to start over again trying to figure out what we believe and why we believe it and how to work logic into emotion and such. Dave, having learned the gospel as an adult, line upon line in intelligent order, has the simplest most beautiful testimony I know. And he’s the brightest man I know, smarts-wise. And he’s the happiest man I know. He’s just not weighed down with too much logic in one area and not enough in another.

Johnny and I, at least in regard to guitar if not testimony, know quite a bit in some areas and not enough in others. But by teaching, we are learning. He’s a better learner than I, and it’s rather lovely I think, to be able to learn from one’s son like I am learning from John.

This week one of our beginner students, an adult woman playing a youth size Wal-Mart guitar, moaned aloud: “Is it possible to have fingers that are just too fat to play guitar?” I let her use my guitar for the lesson, since hers kept going out of tune. So I was trying to help teach with this youth size guitar, out of tune I might add, and I kept looking at my own hands. Short, stocky fingers with tell-tale age spots like so many Parrish women have. My fingernails are suffering from a long and demanding Christmas performance season. My sad paper-thin nails disintegrate from over-plucking guitar strings and I end up needing artificial nails on the picking hand when I play night after night. Those poor petite women in the nail shop were so distressed that I only wanted artificial nails on my right hand.
“No, you need nail on left hand to match.”
“Actually, I don’t”
“Sure you do! Here, let me just do little nails…to match!”
Drove ‘em crazy!

In the process of analyzing my most unattractive chubby age spotted hands Thursday night, I was struck in an instant with gratitude. It seriously hit so abruptly that my eyes welled up and I had to shake my head and focus on what Johnny was teaching so I wouldn’t go down into the well of emotion that is so hard for me to pull myself out of.

First I remembered this:
The Monday of Thanksgiving week, after a most spectacular evening performing in Libby Gardner Hall at the University of Utah, with my favorite musician friends playing and harmonizing beside me and a string quartet on the other side; with a 170 voice choir singing back-up (seriously…how amazing can reality get?) I chopped my finger at 1 am while trimming the flowers they had given me.
 We spent the remainder of that night in the ER getting 5 stitches in the index finger of my chording hand.
You’d have to be…or pretend to be…a guitar player to understand the gravity of that situation. I had booked almost two dozen performances for the coming month, and I had two concerts (both sold out) in less than one week. On the left hand the job of the finger tip is to smash that skinny little string against the neck of the guitar so hard that it rings clear with the note you want to play. Add to that the fact that I do quite a bit of hammering on and pulling off in my arrangements.
So Dave of the mighty faith gave me a blessing.
And I prayed.
And I played every gig, including both concerts, through December.

Thanks to God and LuLu’s Special Blend (my friend Carla’s blend of special oils- she really should sell that stuff!) and the Bone-Skin-Cartilage pills my friend Linda brought over, I watched my finger heal before my eyes.

By Christmas this is what that finger looked like, even with the stress of playing.

In fact, looking back on it, I believe the whole thing was a gift from the Lord to remind me that He is blessing me. Constantly. Without me noticing, usually. Only I noticed this time because I needed that finger to testify. When I sing; when I play; I testify. Even if only to myself.

I was reminded again that He has healed me often. My stiff electric rubber feet remind me. Sometimes the peripheral neuropathy I live with makes me sad. The sad usually only lasts a moment though, because I realize that in spite of the pain, I can walk! I can walk on my feet which once were paralyzed by Guillain Barre Syndrome. And I can move my once useless arms. And my hands, even with their age spots and chubby fingers, can move along the neck of my guitars and make music without hardly thinking. There was a time I thought I would never again be able to use my hands, let alone play guitar. Look at me now: I am strong enough to lift my little Ruby and swing her onto my hip! I can even sort of try to dance with Sophie, and semi-shoot a basketball with Timo (though I will never again in this life be able to do a jump shot. My whole basketball balance is gone.)

I know first hand (excuse the pun) that my Lord can heal me. Not that He always will. I trust that He is aware, because He has shown me inside in my center buzzy space and outside in places like the tip of my finger and the tips of new born nerve endings in my extremities. The day He decides not to heal me I will also trust Him. I pray to have the strength to take whatever comes whenever it comes, because even if God doesn’t intervene or rescue or heal; it is enough to know He can.