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.


  1. thanks for sharing this. Listening to your c.d. the other day I was wondering just this. How did you meet and what did she do before your band. You are such an amazing friend and I love how you find and share the beauty in people lifting them and showing them the love of Christ. I wish we could all be a little more like you.

  2. Now, that's quite a collection of self-grown plants. Too bad you all live a thousand miles away. But what would I sing? Folk songs about Photoshop and dogs jumping fences. Maybe about the richness of friends you hardly know. Or the strange seam between children and - wait, I don't quite know what comes after them. but I could harmonize with you. That's what I do best, stand behind and bear up the melody. Carla is like the rest of us - odd but yearning, with our secret pain and our shooting lavender plants. Loosen the lens and back off the focus, and we all begin to blur together -

  3. beautiful words about beautiful carla. thank you.

  4. The creation of Utah Voices has blessed my life so richly. One of those ways is by being associated by the greatest of great human beings - one of them being Carla. She is amazing and I loved your description of her. All so very, very true.