April 24, 2012

Harbor Springs, Michigan. April 24, 2012

Tonight after dinner, Farley (our dog) and I went for a drive and took more photos of our new hometown, Harbor Springs, Michigan. We are learning our way around. The camera helps to "see" what is around us. On this 45 minute ride we saw a wild turkey, two beautiful Golden Retrievers, two geese, some black squirrels, and three deer. I also decided to play around with the settings after-the-fact. I was in a colored-down kinda mood...

This farm is high up on the coastline above Lake Michigan. 
What a beautiful location for a farm!

A small pond with Lake Michigan in the background.

The sign above goes with the house below.

Harbor Springs center is under road construction. 
I hope it is done soon. It looks like they are getting
ready to pour cement!

All photos copyright 2012 by Janice Phelps Williams. www.janicephelps.com

April 22, 2012

My Favorite Music

So, today my son mentioned Neil Young, and that prompted me to remember music from when I was in high school (including Neil Young's music)...and then that prompted me to think of music that I've listened to at different times in my life and...well...before you know it, I was compiling a pretty long list.

The following list is in chronological order as to my life, not necessarily to when the songs were recorded. Starting with childhood and working up to the present day. These are the songs I remember listening to. They were my favorites.

Open Salon readers: I have not been able to crack the code for how to embed videos on Open Salon. Though I've followed their directions, it never "takes." So, for easy viewing, and to see the embedded videos, please visit this post at its original site (April 22, 2012) on Appalachian Morning. Thanks!

1950s: Video of The Chordettes singing "Lollipop Lollipop"  

 Woody Guthrie singing "Red River Valley"   (I "discovered" Woody Guthrie's songs when I was in high school, but I've included this song early on because I had a toy guitar that would play this when you wound a little handle. No, Woody wasn't singing then, but later on I had several of his albums.)

1962: Video of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing "Big Girls Don't Cry"
This was not a favorite song, nor group, of mine, but my older sister listened to them. I remember one time I asked her if Frank Valli "knew he sounded like that?" I couldn't believe someone could be famous and have that high-pitched voice. But then, Tiny Tim had not yet started performing!

 Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev.  I loved this record as a child.

1961: Andy Williams singing "Moon River"  My father played a Gulbransen organ and I can remember him playing this song quite a bit.

 Ella Fitzgerald sings "I've Got Rhythm"  I took tap dancing class and loved this song.

‪Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake  In ballet class, I danced on my toes to this and pretended to be a swan too, though often I felt like an "ugly duckling."

1969: The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" (slide show) This was the first song I learned to finger-pick on the guitar.

1968: A video of the Beatles singing "Revolution"  By the time I got to high school in 1970, this song epitomized the mood of teenagers in the U.S.

1969: Melanie singing "Beautiful People"  I loved Melanie's pure heart and wished she could be my friend!

 1969: "Coming into Los Angeles" by Arlo Guthrie at Woodstock Minute 2:29
I do not know why I liked this song so much, perhaps the rhythm. When my sons tell me its not about the words, but the music, I'll remember this song...

1969: Studio rehearsal video of Simon and Garfunkel singing "Bridge over Troubled Water"
Well, this sound was big when I was growing up....

Elmore James singing "Dust My Broom"  There was a grocery store within walking distance of the apartment I lived in with my parents during high school. One day I looked through the record bin and found Elmore James and Billy Holliday records. I fell in love with their words, rhythm, and soul. Thinking back now, I am struck by how a 14-year-old white girl, who did not know one single African American person, was introduced to another culture and to the terrible truth behind "Strange Fruit" simply by buying two records, on sale, at the Hills grocery store in Canfield, Ohio.

A video of Billy Holliday singing "Strange Fruit"

1970: A video of Judy Collins singing "Farewell to Tarwathie" 
I loved this song and was amazed to hear the sound of whales. Remember, this came out way before the Internet, youtube, Earth Day, common usage of the word "environmentalism" or "animal protectionism"... it was so amazing to hear the whales!

1970: Joni Mitchell and James Taylor singing "Free Man in Paris" 

"Oh Mary, Don't You Weep" live video recording of African American men singing, from 1928-1935 
I actually sang this song in a school talent show. Which may explain why I never got asked to the prom! Oh well...

1971: Jonathan Edwards singing "Sunshine" Didn't every teenage girl in the 1970s have a crush on Jonathan Edwards? In 2010, my husband, Mark, took me to see him when he performed at Fur Peace Ranch. He looked so different, but once he started singing, well, he was just the same!

1971: Jimi Hendrix singing "Freedom" I bought my bedspread and curtains from Pier I; I listened to Jimi Hendrix. I put my mattress on the floor. I worried my mother... Now, my eldest son is 31 and has a Jimi Hendrix blanket hanging on his wall.

1980s: Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash sing "You Are My Sunshine"  When my son Jesse was young, we sang this in the car all the time. It is one of my happiest memories.

Elton John's video of "I'm Still Standing" (1983) When life was very tough, I played this song over and over and over again on a drive from FL to Ohio and back.

Wyonanna Judd sings "She Is His Only Need"  I heard this song on the radio when driving one day and fell in love with it. It speaks to me of hope even in those who one might think would never find love.

 Ferron's "I Never Was to Africa" (1984) When I was in elementary school, I wanted more than anything to be a missionary in Africa like Albert Swietzer, whom I'd read about in Readers' Digest magazine. It wasn't that I wanted to convert people, I just wanted to see Africa and be "helpful."

Indigo Girls' "Don't Give that Girl a Gun"  Friends who leave us too soon.

The New Radicals performing "You Get What You Give"  When I first moved back to Ohio, I would drive around the hills listening to this song.

 2001: Michael Jackson performing "The Way You Make Me Feel" (1988)  With Bryce being such a big MJ fan, I had to include this, as we saw him on 9/10/01 in NYC.

The Dixie Chicks perform "Wide Open Spaces"  Sometimes a girl needs space to make a "big mistake."

2007: ‪Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform "Falling Slowly" from the movie "Once"‬ ‪
On one of our first dates, Mark took me to see this movie!
 ‬ ‪‬ ‪

Action Figure Party: "Everybody Ready"‬ ‪ I was ready to fall in love!

‪2008:‬ ‪Brahms - Sonata No.1 G Major‬  This is probably my most-listened to song on my iPod.

2010: "Just the Two of Us" performed by Rebirth Brass Band  We visited New Orleans in 2010 and I fell in love with this sound.

2011: Aqua Velvets: "Guitar Noir" I listen to this type of music often while I work.

Andre Hajj's "Amaken" from "Instrumental Music from Lebanon"  I always feel happy and energetic listening to this genre of music. I don't know why...

What strikes me now after spending a few hours compiling this list is the wide variety of music that has influenced the sound space around me at very times in my life. How wonderful to have this music available to me, to us, and the freedom to listen to it. Thank you, performers and writers and composers for bringing this music to me!

April 20, 2012

Driving around Harbor Springs, MI: Part One

Last week, Mark and I moved from beautiful Athens, Ohio, to beautiful Harbor Springs, Michigan. After 13 years of enjoying the hills, trees, caves, lakes, and architecture of central and southern Ohio, I have opened my camera bag 500+ miles to the north and found hills, trees, a much bigger lake, and interesting architecture that delight me with slight differences, perhaps due to sand and exposure to cold and lake air and the cultural influences of this northern region.

Oh dear...it is early in the morning, I'm still tired from unpacking, so I'll just get to the good part... photos!

This was my first trip out of the house as a resident of Harbor Springs. I drove down to the edge of Lake Michigan and saw this scene above, which I thought was quite lovely. I got out of the car, zipping up my jacket, and heard the sound of little wild things, I'm not sure if they were frogs or insects or what, but while this photo looks serene, the atmosphere and audio were humming. I wish I knew the names of trees (and birds and bugs and insects), but it is enough for me to love the look of them, the color and shape, the way they move in the wind and change with the seasons.

I was about to get back in my car, when I noticed something through the trees. Here is a little rock structure, above! 

Here is a view, slightly farther down the road, looking back toward the marina at Harbor Springs.

I think this tree is quite wonderful, living as it does on the edge of a Great Lake and weathering everything Mother Nature sends its way. Here is a close-up, below.

I love big, old, beautiful houses. Not to heat! Not to clean! But to gaze at from a distance, to imagine the lives within and to photograph. Right now (late April) the homes along the water's edge are mostly still closed up for winter, still empty of their warm-weather inhabitants. But all around were signs of the coming "Season." Workmen, gardeners, and their various vehicles lined the streets and signs of "getting ready" abounded.

Certainly the most important feature on these houses is the front porch, with windows being a close second!

My son, Bryce, loves yellow. I took this photo above with him in mind.

This house, above, had a sign on it called "Pillars." It reminded me of the beautiful homes in the Garden District in New Orleans. (Here is a link to my photos of those homes.)

This house, above, has an pleasing symmetry...but it can't wait, I think, for its owners to arrive.

I love all things blue, so of course had to take the photos above and below.

The house above, with its beautiful rocks, seemed like a storybook setting to me.

This modern house suffers from no self-esteem issues, standing as it does amongst the "old-fashioned" houses.

I liked this tree.

I am not sure what this structure is, but I will go with church-turned-house until I find out otherwise!

Here's a little park area with the wonderful birch trees so prevalent here.

These boats want to be set free for summer!

I left the center of Harbor Springs and headed along the hilly, winding, wooded road home. And look what I found in a tree as I was driving by!

And then, I saw this house. After seeing the beautiful houses along the lake and the care they received, well, I felt very sad for this house. Situated, I think, at a high elevation, I wondered what had happened to it. Tornado? Fire? Poor, sad red house...


And look who is inside our home...

On top of the chair is Tyler, our Pekingese. Tyler just turned 11 years old in February. Front left is our Chihuahua, Jackie, who will be 9 in May (see illustrations of her at this link). Farley, on the chair seat, is a mixed breed dog who will be 10 in May. This is Jackie's fifth house, and Tyler and Farley's fourth house. They are very adaptable dogs!

April 17, 2012

"Tree of Sighs" by Lucrecia Guerrero wins National Premio Aztlan Award

Congratulations, Lucrecia Guerrero! Lucrecia has won the NATIONAL PREMIO AZTLAN AWARD for 2012. The National Hispanic Culture Center has named her novel Tree of Sighs as its novel of the year!

The Premio Aztlan Literary Prize is a national literary award, established to encourage and reward emerging Chicana and Chicano authors. Renowned author, Rudolfo Anaya and his wife, Patricia, founded Premio Aztlan in 1993, and the prize was reestablished in their honor in 2004 by the University of New Mexico Libraries.

Tree of Sighs by Lucrecia Guerrero

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. The writing was skillful, sensitive, and beautiful…a carefully edited yet emotionally unrestrained literary novel. The cover illustration by Alfredo Arreguin ("Nuestra Señora de la poesia" 1994)--well, it is one of my favorite book covers ever (and I'm an illustrator, so I can just drool openly).

The story centers on a girl named Altagracia (Grace); her youth in Mexico and subsequent servitude to a woman in the U.S. From the back cover: "After escaping servitude and imprisonment, Grace endures life on the streets and a succession of jobs, and she eventually lands in a comfortable marriage. But a phone call from a person in her past sets her on a journey to the border, where she meets a man who holds the key to her past, learns the truth about her grandmother, and ultimately finds herself."

Tree of Sighs begins in 2000, but then quickly flashes back to Altagracia's childhood and by page 40 we realize her life is about to take a devastating turn. We realize it in the same way Altagracia might have realized it, when a cardboard sign indicating she is mentally deficient, is hung around her head to get her past the border guards and into the U.S. Life becomes very hard for Grace, very quickly. And it stays hard for a long while. But she is a survivor and eventually returns to ask her grandmother why, all those years ago, she gave her granddaughter to strangers.

Lucrecia Guerrero is an exceptional storyteller and I can't wait for her next book; which I will read as if it were a special meal I was waiting weeks for; enjoying the longing a bit and knowing the object of my anticipation would be everything I hoped for!

Also, Tree of Sighs is a good choice for book clubs. It will start discussions and also introduce new readers to books in this genre (Mexican, Mexican-American, Latin)…a culture and sensibility about which I am just starting to learn, and love.

View all my reviews.