Monday, February 7, 2011

Angels Among Us

Yesterday was a good day. In fact, a very good day. Just as I was heading out, my friend, Michael von Helms, artist of the "Open Boat," and fellow Bedoin of the soul, called and asked if I'd like to have a late breakfast or lunch. I mentioned that I was on my way to El Tesoro and would meet him there in twenty minutes.

Our lunch turned into almost two hours of talk about art, literature, life, and all that jazz. We tend to cover the gamut. While talking about the need for a creative process in our lives he mentioned that with the challenges in his own life and in this economy he may well be leaving painting behind. He would find another avenue for creative expression. He is well-armed for that, but still ...  I recalled him saying in a phone conversation a few months ago that he knew several artists whose, "lights are going out one by one." This news made me sad, sad for him and all artists who are struggling to continue on their path over such rugged economic terrain. We need our artists. They represent and provide spiritual sustenance. Yes, it can be found in nature, absolutely, but I like knowing there are people in this world who mirror that, each in their own unique way. 

We also talked about our mutual love of music and how he uses it while in the studio, noting that several artists later in life chose silence to accompany them while painting. We talked about the folks of Appalachia who sing in that high lonesome sound, folks like Gillian Welch, and how music can shape our day, our lives.

As I drove away, down Guadalupe and onto Cerrillos Road, I decided to stop in at Book Mountain, the used book store I had planned to go to earlier in the day. Michael's invitation rearranged my day ever so slightly and for that I'm very grateful. Let me tell you why.

When I got there, sitting inside was a circle of ten people, each with at least one musical instrument. There were several guitars, a dobro, a fiddle, a mandolin, a banjo, and a bass. Oh yeah, there was even an accordion.They were playing and singing folk and traditional music. They asked me to join them. One of them pulled a chair into their circle and I sat down. What followed was almost two hours of picking and singing and yes even some grinning. They were a fun and diverse group of people who meet once a month with an open invitation to anyone who'd like to join them.

I'd met the owners of the book store previously, Tom and Peggy, who also originate from Minnesota, but have lived in Santa Fe for many years. There was a woman to my right who was from Wisconsin and the man on my left was from Maine. We shared our stories in a few words. Amazing what you can learn in a short time. They went around the circle with each introducing a song and then all would join in singing and playing. I knew almost every song and sang along, too. They asked me if I had a request and the first song that popped into my noggin was John Prine's,"Speed of the Sound of Loneliness." Turns out that one of the guitar players knew the entire John Prine songbook and we were off and running. Everyone knew it. It's a sad song, but we sang it with gusto.

What a beautiful gift from the universe the day was. Perhaps setting forth the idea that it was a good day from the get-go allowed for this to emerge, bringing with it a clear reminder of why I love Santa Fe. Good things can happen anywhere, at any time. We just have to be open to it. But Santa Fe, for me and for so many folks, seems to arrange these serendipitous encounters that point to something larger at work in the world. Those big, blue skies certainly create the right atmosphere. And, Michael's invite made the timing flawless. 

P.S. I've always liked Nanci Griffith's version Of John Prine's song, in which he sings back-up. It comes from her classic album, "Other Voices, Other Rooms," a tribute to many great folk artists, the title of which is taken from the Truman Capote novel by the same name. So, I can't resist sharing a video with you of the two of them together. It's one of the coolest music videos I've seen. There are ruins and tombs and angels on roof tops. And there are feathers, white feathers. I think you'll like it, too.

Paintings: Andrew Wyeth.


  1. What a classic day, now I do wish I was there. I love the impromtu music sessions.We had a group that met every two weeks. A list of songs was put together for people to choose and new songs were always shared. If you could play you played, if you could sing you sang, and if not, stay and have a lovely time.I watched quite a few of Nanci's videos, hadn't listened to her in ages.Perhaps you are out there running,just to be on the run. Think that could be my theme also.

  2. I'll add Book Mountain to my list of places to visit when we're in Santa Fe this spring. Thanks for a lovely post.

  3. A meal spent chatting with a friend always makes for a lovely day!

    Good for you Teresa!
    xo Catherine

  4. Love letting the universe decide how the day will unfold. Michael sounds like someone fun to spend time with. And Santa Fe must be amazing. Never been please! :-) big hugs...

  5. the music and art {within} must flow~ making any day a good day. your stories give me feelings as if i am inside them. this is good because i dream of living in the magical southwest.
    thanks teresa~

  6. What a wonderful visit you must have had. A special visit. Every time I've been there, something(s) magical has happened. There's just a feeling... It doesn't go away when I get back to Kansas, but it does go deep inside.

  7. What a marvelous day, surrounded by art and music and friendship, evoking all those good things that make our lives richer.

    We, too, know of artists "whose lights are going out one by one" and it brings forth a mournful mood, doesn't it?

  8. Thank you All for your responses. I appreciate each one of you, very much.

  9. I love this post Teresa! I felt like I was sitting there with you, absorbing all of that musical healing energy! I LOVE SANTA FE!! And I love you. God, life is beautiful, isn't it?

  10. Life is beautiful, indeed, Kristy. The entire day was an unfolding of Good. And I love you.

  11. Funny how the universe can provide just what you need...even when you don't realize you are looking for it. Today I listened to an old Creed song on the radio in my car. For some reason it stuck with me all day. I think it was a message I needed to hear.

    "If I had just one wish
    Only one demand
    I hope he's not like me
    I hope he understands
    That he can take this life
    And hold it by the hand
    And he can greet the world
    With arms wide open..."

    Isn't that a great way to meet each day? Arms wide open...

  12. Yes! Arms wide open. Thanks for sharing the lyrics and your response.

  13. Hej Teresa! I sometimes wonder if I sent my comment. I'll try again!
    It was really a great day you had with a good talk with a good friend. Such talks with friends are so vital. I do not believe in angels, literally, but our friends are the angels among us aren't they?
    Love the water colurs.
    Grethe `)

  14. Hi Grethe! Yes, friends are indeed angels among us. Exactly so. Sometimes they don't know that, though. :) Thanks so much for commenting. I always love hearing from you.

  15. What a happy, wonderful post! You had me smiling and humming! Since I'm reading your posts backwards (sorry), I know you're even closer to leaving SF, but I can only think that you're leaving because, all things are meant to be, and, for some reason yet unknown, it's time to return to Minnesota. (I love the duality of the bowl, like dual citizenship, in a way.)

  16. Hi Kittie, Yes, I am en route. Thanks so much for stopping by. I always love hearing from you!

  17. Teresa,
    A perfect day! Wonderful post. Had me smiling too. And I agree, Santa Fe, and for us Taos as well, hold repeated "serendipitous encounters that point to something larger." Reading this post was another.
    Hugs and love, Chris

  18. PS,
    "The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness". One of my all time favorites as well.

  19. Thanks, Chris! Magical places for certain.

  20. It was easy to imagine how content you were that day.

    I enjoy music of all kinds but for some inexplicable reason, I can't listen to any music for any length of time. I need silence when I'm working. Never thought about that until just now. I learn something about myself with nearly every post of yours!

    I do feel badly for the artists whose "lights are going out."

  21. I cannot write with music on. I need a silent background for the ideas to flow, but other times, and especially in the car, it's nice. I do turn it off though periodically and enjoy the silence, just the quiet, no noise, no background.

    It was a day of great contentment.

  22. It is the 28th of february there is snow in the forecast, I am having a terrible day, my health is not good, I simply must eat less and not the caloric ridden sweets that my type 2 diabetes would tolerate..some people are bugging me and there it is I find your blog, oh, my God you give me hope and love in your blogs no matter where I and when I read them, thank you thank you thank you, I am feeling better and relieved..I even walked more and ate less, sipping some tea..i agree with your blogging about creative people if they are not here in the USA I think many would die spiritually and mentally plus beauty we would lose. Your picking and singing circle sounded to me like a wonderful wonderful circle of creative people giving their talents to make real music..I love how you put names on your blog writings, i find it darned near irresistable not to read, I do read and get a big ole smile on my face and in my heart..Keep up the loving and peaceful musings from your soul it helps me to maintain a sanity in an sometime insane world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I am so very grateful for your response to my blog. It's the finest part of blogging, and why I write, the belief that my words will touch people, their hearts and souls, in some way. It's always nice to read words that encourage us to do positive, healthy and loving things for ourselves. Thank you so much for your kind words. Snow is coming here, too, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get even quieter and more peaceful, and then a walk in the fresh snow after. Have a wonderful evening!