Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebrating Life

Our family -- and in this case, I mean Rick's family, though by now I consider them mine as well -- has gone through some significant losses this summer. This past weekend we went to Minnesota to say farewell to Rick's uncle Gene and to celebrate his life.

I didn't know Gene as well as some of the family -- they lived farther away and by the time I came into the picture, he was beginning to become more frail. I didn't have the opportunity to know the Gene that Rick and his brothers knew. (That's Gene below with his wife, Beth, and his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters.)

Until this weekend.

Rick was speaking on behalf of the family at the celebration, and over the past few weeks in preparation, he has shared with me many stories and the impact this man had on him. During the ceremonies, and after, as we shared memories, I learned even more.

Gene, who was married to Rick's Aunt Beth, was the first person not from Toledo the brothers had ever known. He was a "foreigner" (being from St. Louis) with new ideas and ways of thinking, and he expanded their universes in many ways.

But he was more than that. He was an astounding human being who (with Beth) adopted three children -- an adolescent and two infants. He provided a bone marrow transplant for his sister. He taught skiing to those with disabilities and he was an avid sailor who raced often. He was active in his church and his community. His life was rich and full and the fact that the church was so full was testament to how much he was loved.

And, the photo below shows -- without words -- how much he loved his granddaughters!

Times like this bring out so many emotions. At one point I said, "I wish Gene and Bob were here to see us all together having such a good time." (For you see, we are a fun group and between tears there was a lot of laughter this weekend, as there should be.) We lost Rick's uncle Bob in May.

And, when I saw the family photo on display at the funeral home, I thought, "Three are missing. Gene. Bob. Gene's daughter Andrea, whom we lost a year and a half ago."

But there are new faces in the picture yet to be taken. Gene has granddaughters now, and his daughter Sarah is a splendid mom who will not let them forget their family legacy.

And Bob has a wonderful son-in-law in Brian and grandchildren who came along after that family photo was taken.

The photo is representative of a "living" experience. We live. We step into the photo. Others move into the picture and one day will take our places. But if we do our jobs right, everyone will remember who was there in the first place.

And there are new experiences to be had. I thought it was no accident that after trying a long while, the fact that Sarah's youngest daughter finally could ride her two-wheeler for the first time unassisted.

Her dad said that unlike her older sister, she had been having a tough time getting it right without the trainers. As we sat on the deck, she rode on the grass below -- or tried, falling or stumbling then getting up and doing it again and again until she flew around in a circle.

She wasn't really unassisted. I am firmly convinced that an angel named Gene was wrapping his wings about her, guiding her gently, helping her along the way until she could fly.

Ride on, little one. Rick said the nieces and nephews stand on your grandpa's shoulders. One days, they'll stand on yours, your sister's and your cousin's.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So, I Saw This Window...

SO, while Rick was playing guitars with Richard Brune, I thought I'd take a little walk. And I saw this window...

For once I found an appropriately priced antique store.

And yes, I did some damage -- not with anything in these photos, much as I would have liked.

Let me say, this store had all the qualities I like in an antique shop.

It was charming.

It was well designed with ample space between the shelves of china.

It was well lit.

It was in a charming neighborhood with great windows.

It was diverse, but mostly with home things -- dishes...


...small bits.

And I really never wanted to leave.

(I have a drawing for "Anything Considered," a caper novel taking place in France, over on Chopsticks and String. Stop by to enter!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making Music with Rick and Richard Brune

I'm not sure I'd ever heard the word "luthier" before I met Rick. But you can't know Rick without knowing his guitar. And you can't know his guitar without knowing about its maker, Richard Brune.

So, when Rick and I headed toward Minneapolis last weekend for a family funeral, we made a stop at Evanston, IL., where Richard Brune's studio/showroom/workshop is so that Richard could "give the guitar a little love."

Rick's a pretty good guitarist. When the instrument went into Richard's hands, it began to really sing.

I have to say, I felt very privileged to meet Richard and to see his workshops and guitars. Not everyone has a letter from Andres Segovia on their wall or a recommendation from the master on his website saying "I promise to play your guitar daily and give you an account from time to time as to how it is evolving. Thank you and I send you a strong embrace."

It's no accident that the guitar was at home in the hands of its maker. Brune started building guitars in 1966 and played flamenco guitar professionally in Mexico in the 1960s and '70s.

He later moved to Chicago and began crafting this beautiful instrument full time.

His workshop is tucked into a quiet neighborhood in Evanston, home to Northwestern University.

It's a stucco, hacienda-style building. The interior has white walls, graceful arches, beautiful lighting and case upon case of guitars. Despite the hot and humid weather outside, inside the studio it was a cool, relaxing haven, and while the music made in that room is full of energy, the overall feeling is one of divine calm.

All of his guitars are beautiful. Some are simply amazing. Those of you who have worked with paper know how demanding it can be. Look at the rosette on this guitar.

It's made from sheepskin parchment and the detail is so stunning I simply couldn't believe it.

Richard's son Marshall is also a luthier and I couldn't help but think what pleasure a father would feel for a son following in such footsteps and with such skill. He showed us one of his guitars and the workmanship and design was truly remarkable.

Well, while the guys were talking guitars and Rick was trying out some others, I took a few minutes to walk around the neighborhood. I'll show you what I found next time. But let me say, I returned to the studio to find them in the workshop.

Now, I'm a sucker for workshops or art rooms of any kind. But really captured me was "guitars in progress."

My brain knows they don't show up at the guitar store looking like those you've seen above. But to see things like this...

...or this...

...really break it down to the basics.

I confess, I've developed a real love for classical guitar music since knowing Rick. But after visiting Richard, I have discovered a deep respect for the artistry that goes into creating the instrument.

Richard graciously gave Rick's guitar the love it needed and when we picked it up, well -- it sounded fabulous.

I can see why -- it's not just the guitarist or the instrument -- it's the craft, imagination, skill and grace that goes into creating that instrument in the first place. Not a duo. A trio.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Great Lakes and Great Folks

East Lansing was a wild place the weekend of August 13 with the annual Great Lakes Folk Festival -- my favorite event!

Over the course of three days we heard Celtic...

...a cowboy poet...

Mariachi (not pictured) and flamenco. (This would have been an excellent act if the guitarist had kept his mouth shut. He was very loud and sort of sounded like he was in labor when he sang. Gave me a headache and we left after this group! That said, he could play the guitar like crazy!)

He came with his dancers -- and they were good. (The guy was fabulous and really was shining in his solo. Often the woman looked like she was just going through the steps, but it was also 88 and a little humid. We were dripping just sitting there, so I've got to cut her some slack!)

All that and more was Friday. There are many stages to this event, with the music happening simultaneously, along with lots of demonstrations, a green arts marketplace and more. While there was lots to enjoy Saturday, one of my favorite bits was the musicians jam (there was also a community sing). Here Hanno, one of our local musicians, participates in the jam.

And this is a lousy picture of the wonderful Quebecois group that also performed that night.

They were also at the dance tent, which is great fun. (You could have joined in there with polka or Creole/Zydeco, too!)

If those genres don't get you, how about some Hawai'ian ukulele? Kimo Hussey was my favorite of the acts, and a very nice guy.

And then there were the heritage awards. Alberta Adams, at 93, was recognized for the blues. And if you think a 93-year-old can't belt it out with the best of them, think again!

She had the pipes (and the band) to really sell it!

Without doubt, a good time was had by all!

Be there, next year! (Second weekend in August!)

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