It is a beautiful autumnal evening and a great night to watch for shooting stars. The annual Orionid meteor show peaks this evening. I love meteor showers and often stay up to watch them. I've thought about what to wish on a shooting star this evening, perhaps something about the election, but then, I thought back to the story of the Orionid meteor showers.
They are formed from the dust that Halley's Comet left in its wake the last time it passed by in 1986. This summer, at Falcon Ridge, I heard a great band called Gathering time. Their song, Halley's Comet, was one of my favorites.
It was 1985, when Halley's comet came in view
and if I didn't see it then, it'd be a long, long wait I knew,
I lived in a college town where street lights made stars hard to see
To see it well, I'd have to walk
Unto the school observatory
Though it was often on my mind,
I somehow never found the time
and it had all but vanished when
I knew I'd missed my chances then…
The song goes on to talk about living in Brooklyn, and missing chances to visit the World Trade Center or reconnect with a friend who died on 9/11.
It is a beautiful song about missed opportunities, and a reminder to seize the day.
Halley's comet won't be back until I am over 100, but every year, we get the opportunity to catch glimpses of its remnant streaking across the sky in the Orionid Meteor Showers.
Will I see shooting stars tonight? if so, will my wishes on shooting stars come to pass? I'll need to seize the day, and try to make my dreams come true.
Well, Wednesday morning, I pack up the car and head to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. It is an annual trip that the whole family greatly enjoys. For me, one of the high points is the Emerging Artists Showcase. Friday afternoon, two dozen emerging performers get ten minutes each to show off their stuff.
Each year, I try to find the list of performers ahead of time, listen to their music, and share some comments. It seems like each year, I get more and more busy, and have less and less time to really review each group. That said, here's the list.
I used that list to create a Spotify Playlist. I've been listening to the performers, and here are some of them, organized approximately by how much I like them.
The problem then becomes that I like just about all of the performers, and it becomes hard to choose between different groups. Burning Bridget Cleary (Facebook) is a lot of fun to listen too and the story of Bridget Cleary is fascinating.
Three performers grouped together next, Julie Christensen, Miles to Dayton (Facebook, Twitter: @milestodayton) and Ryan Tennis (Facebook, Twitter: @rytennis). Each of them are enjoyable, and if I had more time to listen more closely, I might have one or another as a favorite. I believe some of these performers will be at various events up on the hill before Falcon Ridge officially starts, and these performances on the hill are really fun.
The next group includes Cary Cooper (Facebook, Twitter: @carycooper), Jim Hayes, Kevin Neidig (Facebook), Rebecca Pronsky (Facebook, Twitter: @rebeccapronsky) and sorcha. They were all okay, but by the time I get to this group, they all start to blend together. I'll probably have similar problems after a couple hours on the hill on Friday.
Honor Finnegan (Facebook), Heather Maloney (Facebook, Twitter: @maloneymusic), Sweet Talk Radio (Facebook), Sarah Blacker (Facebook, Twitter: @sarahblacker), Brad Cole (Facebook) and Dan Charness (Facebook, Twitter: @dancharness) didn't grab me on the first listen. However, as I've listened to some of them more, they've started to grow on me.
So, there's a quick view of what I'm looking forward to in the Emerging Artists Showcase at Falcon Ridge. What are you looking forward to?
It was a beautiful sunny summer Sunday morning. I sat in the pew at Grace and St. Peter's church and looked at the alter. Flowers in their vases sat on the green cloth of the alter, flanked by candles. Church services always seem to have a different pace to them in the summer time. More relax, laid back.
As I sat quietly on the wooden pew I thought about where I would be a week hence. Weather permitting, I would be sitting on a hill in New York State, listening to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Gospel Wake Up Call. It is an important part of the trip to Falcon Ridge. Some years, they've actually had Gospel, and it has been amazing. Other years, it has been more ecumenical or even irreverent. In many ways, there is a deep spirituality, without the trappings of certain religious traditions, or embracing many traditions.
The Kennedy's have often sung "Stand" there:
Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, Jesus, Brahma
People get ready there's a train a coming
or Tracy Grammer and friends sing Dave Carter's great song celebrating evolution from a spiritual perspective:
This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that i have ever known
And should in stray in the dark night alone
Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden
What will Eddie from Ohio, Brother Sun and Girlyman have to offer next week? What other performers will find their way onto the stage to join them?
Falcon Ridge is starting soon and other than some of the logistics of setting up camp, I'm so ready.
It's been a busy few days, and I'm behind on my blogging, but I did get a chance to write the following post this evening, which I've also shared at the Bethwood Patch.
As I scanned Facebook this evening, I found a picture that one of my elementary school classmates posted of her first grade class. I was in a different class, but I recognized many names of long time dear friends. It was a grainy black and white picture of the kids standing on the school steps.
One person commented, "Everyone looks so cute! Remember when girls couldn't wear pants to school? I think we were in 5th or 6th grade when this rule changed." It was a different time and a different town. A small town of less than ten thousand, where a lot of college professors lived. It was a town that helped shape who I am today.
Then, I stumbled across some pictures of a friend that I got to know right after college. We went to the same church in New York City, a church where many of the young parishioners went on to become priests. For some, it was a fairly quick journey, for others it took many years. My friend was one who took a longer, more circuitous route to the priesthood. She was up in Hartford celebrating the Ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons where another friend from church in New York was being ordained.
The pictures of the bishops and the ordinands in their fresh scrubbed faces, most likely just out of divinity school added to my rosy thoughts about education.
All of this set an interesting contrast to my experiences Monday night when I went to the Amity Board of Education meeting. I went to speak about my opposition to using police dogs to search students for drugs. Yes, there were drugs at my high school thirty five years ago, and I'm sure there are drugs at Amity, but somehow, the experiences were radically different.
High school is a very difficult time for many people. My high school classmates have shared reflections back on those days, "the tears and fears and feeling proud, to say I love you right out loud" at a school dance. "The moons and Junes and circus clouds." Yes, I sang "Both Sides Now" with my school chorus.
In many ways, the public comments at the Amity Board of Education focused on keeping our children safe from drugs, their right to go to a drug free school, where school policies were not considered a joke, and where there wasn't peer pressure to try drugs. The other side of the public comment focused on the students civil rights to not be subject to unwarranted searches, and the efficacy on using police dogs to curb drug use at the high school.
If I honestly believed that using police dogs would prevent drugs from being at the school, would cause students not to view school policies as a joke, and would eliminate the peer pressure to use drugs, that I'm sure exists at Amity today, like it did at my high school thirty five years ago, I might be more inclined to support the opinion of those that would like to see broader use of police dogs at the school. However, I don't believe that would be the result, if anything, I fear the opposite result. Students will still find ways to use drugs. They will still heap scorn on school polices, and they will still pressure classmates to engage in dangerous and illegal activities.
Yet returning to Both Sides Now, it's school's illusions I recall. I remember best, things like singing in the choir, playing in the band, being in musicals. I never was particularly talented, but I had the chance to participate in something beautiful, something bigger than myself.
My high school always had students going to All State for one reason or another. I had some incredibly talented friends and classmates, and that is what I'm most happy to remember. The Amity Board of Education meeting started off recognizing great teachers, and incredibly talented students at the high school. It ended with the board voting to approve setting aside money for building a black box theatre at the school. It struck me that those who pushed hardest to expand the use of police dogs at the school were also the ones who showed the most resistance to supporting the black box theatre. Perhaps, this too, reflects both sides of school.
I savor my positive memories of high school, the school's illusions of talent young students with a great life ahead of them, as opposed to a view of students as suspected drug users on the road to ruin. I hope our school board remembers this part of high school and seeks positive ways to help the students reach their dreams, whether they need help with substance abuse issues, or hitting the high note on Broadway.
Another blog post reflecting some of my thoughts as I run for State Representative, and try to be a good dad at the same time.
It's been a tough week. I'm trying to get a couple projects off the ground and as potential partners in these projects have interviewed me, they've questioned whether I am up for the project and have made me feel inadequate. I know that these are projects that will be significant challenges for me, but I believe I can do them, and that the criticisms were unwarranted. Nonetheless, I ended up feeling a bit invalidated a couple times this week.
I suspect others often run into this, especially if they are seeking to grow and expand their boundaries. As I tried to process my feelings, I remembered a great YouTube video, Validation:
I'm here to get validated.
You! You are awesome!
It made me think about what is going on in education in America. Our system has become so focused on standardized testing that education seems to be more about invalidation than about validation. You hear education wonks making comments about 'acceptable yearly progress', and not about how awesome our students are.
All of this came to mind as I visited Arts Week at Beecher Road School. The art on the walls, celebrating the creativity of the Beecher Road Students is truly awesome and I was glad to visit the reception with my daughter Fiona.
She is busy campaigning for me, and if I get elected as State Representative, some of the credit will have to go to her. One parent she introduced me to wanted to hear my thoughts about education. We talked about the problems with teaching to the test and having very myopic views of how to measure the success of teachers and administrators. We talked about school districts cutting sports and arts, two of the great ways that students can be validated.
Perhaps most importantly, we talked about that great factor in students' success, parental and community involvement. There were a lot of parents at the reception. There were lots of students being told they are awesome, and I suspect this is one of the things that has greatly contributed to the success of Beecher Road School.
I talked about how my campaign is not against the Republican Incumbent, it is against apathy. It is about getting people more involved in the electoral process, in their community. It is about improving educational outcomes by getting more parents involved in the schools their children attend.
To all of you that are getting more involved, by attending events like the Arts Week reception, by reading this and other blogs about what is happening in the community, and by joining discussions, "You! You are awesome!"