I blogged for years. Once upon a time I wrote at least a post or two a week. In all the time I tried to blog, tried to promote and network, I think my most popular blog post *might* have gotten fifty hits in a day. Maybe.

I did meet a few people through it, some of whom are still friends, and that matters. But I suppose deep down I had visions of it leading to “making it” in some way, of being recruited to something bigger, of finding my voice, of helping people somehow. It didn’t work that way. I never quite found my Big Purpose. I never made it into any inner circles. I always felt like I was the awkward kid people are nice to sometimes, but who never quite fits in: isn’t quite smart enough or strong enough or attractive enough or well-off enough to run with the successful crowd.

And then one day I wasn’t a kid, not even a little bit, and I felt more and more pathetic and irrelevant for continuing to try to accomplish…something, while there are other more talented, much more confident people in the same space. And I stopped trying. Told myself it was just for awhile, that soon I’d feel better and jump in again. I don’t know if that’s really going to happen. And maybe it’s not meant to.

Meanwhile, my cats have come to have more than 10k Instagram followers. They get shout-outs. They get fan art. I’m not sure how to feel about that! It cracks me up. They are way more popular than I’ve ever been. Granted, they’re cuter, but still.

Anyway, I’m not sure how to get back a measure of confidence to start blogging again. Or what my goal should even be. I mean, I am a thing of easy ridicule: a 40-something-year-old perpetually-single woman with multiple cats and a Catholic habit. (I mean, not like a *nun* habit habit, but you know.) I am not an inspiring figure. I can’t advise. I don’t have cute kid stories, or “what my darling husband got for me today” stories or “Diseases I Have Fought and Won” stories or “How I Became Rich and Famous on Less Than a Dollar a Day” stories.

But I may give this thing one more try, even if it’s just me shouting into the void, just to sort my thoughts out. And who knows, I guess, maybe there is at least one other 40-something-year-old perpetually-single woman with multiple cats and a Catholic habit who might stumble across me and be grateful she isn’t entirely alone in this world? Ya never know.

Picture of Timo, because awwwww.IMG_20180317_123439_058


OK, technically I suppose I could have just gently squashed that spider or shown it the door instead of brutally pummeling it into sometime next week, thus risking a rift in the space-time continuum.

On the other hand, you can never be too careful with spiders.

Sweetness and Thorns

IMG_20170821_191048.jpgI had big plans for my backyard this year, or at least big plans for big plans. I decided that this would be The Year of Preparation for the Most Amazing Garden Ever. I planted a few little things in pots, but mostly I thought big thoughts about the future.

I started a compost bin. I bought a garden cart. I was going to level The Mysterious Lump in the middle of the back yard so I could put a raised bed there next spring. I was going to start some flowers in the shady places under the trees. I was going to start some perennial edibles like asparagus and rhubarb. Above all, I was going to dig up/cut up as many of the blackberry bushes as possible, and keep cutting back any remnants that dared show their ugly little snouts, in hopes that within a year or two, I’d be all but rid of them.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

In the best of years, I have a limited interval between spring fever and the July blahs. Every year by about the third week of July, when I suddenly need to water and weeds grow faster than anything desirable and I’ve not managed to go anywhere or do much of anything I’d hoped to do, I realize that summer is half gone without much to show for it. It hits me like a ton of bricks, and I get depressed. Tradition!

To add to the challenges this year, I was in a car accident at the end of April, right when my fervor was at its peak. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but my little car was totaled and I was stiff and sore for close to a month, not to mention struggling with a heavy awareness of my own mortality.

Before I knew it, my yard was a sea of dandelions, my lettuce had gone to seed, The Lump abided, and the blackberries–oh, the blackberries!

They’re everywhere. There are so many and so thick that if I could afford it, I’d hire a blackberry hit-man. Especially given that not only do I need to pull them out, I also have to figure out a way to dispose of their prickly carcasses. They can’t be composted, they can’t go in the yard waste bin my garbage company provides since they’re considered “noxious weeds,” and I have no way to burn them even if we didn’t have a burn ban in effect and wildfires popping up on a regular basis. I usually have to chop them in tiny bits and feed them slowly into the regular garbage as I can make room, which takes time, and is more easily done later in the season when they dry up and retreat a little.

Time gets away from us so easily. A few weeks ago, my-brother-the-chef, my closest relative (physically speaking) took a new job and moved about three hours away, to Leavenworth, WA. It’s a great opportunity, a wonderful place to raise a family, and I’m thrilled for them. I went up and spent a few days helping where I could as they packed up to drive off into the sunset. Or sunrise, as the case may be.

And then they were gone. Not so far I’ll never see them again, and it’s not as though we don’t live in the age of Facebook and phones. But feel a bit left alone in my weeds and my brambles with many fine plans choked away: I was going to take my nieces and nephews to the children’s museum, to the beach, to the movies. We were going to make Christmas cookies and crafts and hike, when I got around to it. I could have done so much more with them than I did, and now it’s too late. I’m stuck with my choices, or lack thereof, just as I’m stuck with the blackberries.

But since I’m stuck with them for the time being I guess I might as well enjoy the benefits for a few more weeks. There are hundreds of sweet berries, with more ripening every day. I’m not ambitious enough to make anything with them, especially this year, but spending a few minutes a day wading through my dandelion sea to stuff my mouth with juicy blackberries isn’t a bad remedy for the late summer blues. Maybe they’ll motivate me to grasp the moments I have, instead of the moments that slipped away, and see that there is good even in what can feel like wreckage.

Single Catholic Problem #41 – The Sign of Peace

So let’s say you’re a slightly awkward single Catholic woman, and you’ve been trying very hard to pay attention to the readings and the liturgy at Mass despite all the cute babies (SO MANY CUTE BABIES), and then the Our Father rolls around.

Are you meditating on how the Father gives us “our daily bread,” providing for us in so many physical and spiritual ways? Are you thinking about the ways in which you’ve “trespassed,” and asking forgiveness? Are you considering the times you’ve failed to forgive the trespasses of others as you should?

No, let’s face it, what is going on in your head is more akin to a pool shark strategizing where to hit the next ball. Because in just a second, the Our Father is going to be over, and the priest or deacon will tell us to offer one another a sign of peace, and if you don’t play things right, it all gets pretty weird.

Let’s see…the impossibly young boy and girl in front of me are obviously a newlywed couple, so they’ll turn to one another first, and considering that they’ve been holding hands through half of Mass, they’ll probably be all kissy and huggy and take awhile at it.

The big family in front of me with that INCREDIBLY CUTE bald-headed baby will have to shake hands in every possible familial combo first, so they won’t be done for a bit.

The woman to my right is a wild card: she has a full black veil over her face and knelt for ten minutes before Mass and has a large, well-worn leather Latin missal, so she may consider shaking hands a bunch of Norvus Ordo tomfoolery and not participate.

That leaves the guy in the ancient green polo shirt behind me, the one who smells so strongly of cigars that he’d better not walk too near a smoke detector. For the moment I love him because we are united in our otherness. So I will shake hands with Mr. Smoky, then eyeball veil lady, then turn to the family, then the couple if they aren’t still kissing.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

 And may I not find myself a pathetic goober, spinning in endless circles with my sweaty hand futilely outstretched. Amen.


My Dad was a minimalist before it was cool, before there was a movement and a name for it. (There was one exemption from his campaign of what we’d now dub “de-cluttering.” He had so many books they would end up in rows two or three deep on every bookcase, and stacked in teetering towers around his chair and bed. But I digress.)

I remember him ranting about the stupidity of any and all single-purpose kitchen appliances: mixers, cookers, choppers. Who needs a special vegetable slicer or a garlic press or a nut chopper when you have a decent knife and a bit of finesse? Who needs a toaster when you can make whole batches of toast in the oven? For years, Mom hinted at getting a rice cooker: with eight kids and a tight budget, we went through a lot of rice. But Dad pointed out that we had perfectly good pan and a stove.

A few years ago, just before Dad arrived for a visit, I picked up my first electric tea kettle. I remember thinking I should hide it, because I was afraid Dad would point out how unnecessary it was given that a pan on the stove did pretty much the same thing. But I forgot to hide it, and to my surprise, he didn’t scoff. In fact, to my surprise, he confessed to giving one to a brother for Christmas, and admitted to loving his own.

There’s a level of minimalism I don’t care to achieve, even if it might mean clear counters and a kitchen I could fit in a box. I love my kettle. And my rice cooker means I never have to deal with cooked-on rice or carefully watching a timer. I wouldn’t care to go without my marvelously hands-off Instant Pot pressure cooker.

I’m also not going to pare down to six inter-matchable outfits and two pairs of shoes, or a single pen and pencil. Minimalism at that point is a hobby, and I prefer my cluttered writing/drawing/music making hobbies, in spite of the stuff that comes with them.

I don’t have enough enthusiasm about having little to get down to what I could fit in a suitcase, though I have a certain admiration for those who do. I’ve reached a point where I like certain things around to make life more comfortable, even if it means my kitchen will never be perfectly Instagram-able and my desk will remain a bit cluttered.

But–and I know this has been a morbid theme of mine all year, so bear with me–I again and still feel it would behoove me to reach a point where at least what I have, bountiful though it may be, makes sense. If I was to get hit by a bus tomorrow, would my family have to wade through meaningless flotsam just to find the key to the garage? Would they know where to find the cats’ medical records? How much time would they have to spend going through the odds and ends in the garage I was planning to deal with “eventually?”

Or would they at least find my too-many inks and pencils and notebooks in one place, my important papers and keys in a logical spot, and maybe even a list of bills and contact numbers?

I guess that’s one of my goals for winter, provided I don’t get by a bus first. I did do a certain amount of paring down this spring, but there’s still some excess, and things are still out of order. My goal is more “turnkey” than “minimalism.” Stuff doesn’t bring happiness, but some stuff is still pretty fun, and I’m OK with that.

Getting Back on the Horse


In the last year, and especially the last six months, I’ve drifted away from regular writing. And I miss it: fiction and blogging and just scribbling down thoughts in a journal.

Part of this is a feeling that I’m out of my depth. Blogging in general these days has skewed from what-I’m-up-to to Categorized Important Topics. In the days when I first started blogging, there were a lot more people just posting statuses and images and a few opinions, mostly for family and friends. These days, that sort of content has shifted to Facebook and other social media platforms.

So maybe this is redundant. Since (despite efforts toward the end of my last substantial blogging spurt) I am not a profound or intelligent or particularly inciteful-on-a-special-subject sort of writer, it may be that my little essays belong in those walled gardens. But there’s something to be said for shouting into the abyss, if only as a means of collecting one’s own thoughts for the purpose of shouting, even without the expectation of response.

Maybe this time, I’ll just be honest, not shaping my posts to an audience, not trying to hide bits of pieces of who and what I am: a 40 year old perpetually single slightly nerdy Catholic woman with too many hobbies, far too many pens and pencils and notebooks, and several peculiar cat-dog-things roaming around. Once upon a time I was sure sooner or later I would be a slightly nerdy Catholic wife with a slightly nerdy Catholic husband and potentially very nerdy Catholic kids, genetics being what they are, but this was apparently not meant to be.

I do have assorted amazing nieces and nephews, nerdy and not, and people I can serve. I have days when I am content to live in the moment and accept what comes, not fretting about the past or sighing about the future. I also have days when I don’t understand how I arrived at my current state.

I have days when I am caught up in my music or my messing around with art objects or my cats. I have days when they feel like selfish indulgences and I feel guilty about them.

I have days when, despite life not turning out the way I expected, I rejoice at how blessed I am, and I feel like I am right where and how I am meant to be.

I have days, especially since turning 40 in October, when a part of me is afraid I only believe because I’m terrified my life will lose any meaning if there isn’t more to it than worldly success and achievements. I’m halfway through the game of life, and there are days when it feels as though I’ve already lost and now I’m just pointlessly pushing pieces around, an endless stalemate.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in my position. It just feels that way at times.

In any case, I guess I may as well start writing about it. I’ll keep me out of trouble for a few minutes at a time, right?

Finding Fine

20150510_122014(Just by way of background: about a month ago, I was running a routine errand on a quiet Friday evening, and while I was at a red light waiting for it to change, an inattentive driver plowed into the back of my little Corolla. I was sore, but OK, but the car had extensive frame damage and is gone.)

The other day I was going through a bag of stuff that we took out of the little blue car before it went to the body shop, and the stuff I pulled from the glove compartment before it went off to the salvage yard when it was declared totaled. Among the stuff: a spiffy, shiny maintenance record. Barely used. I’d also saved the all the receipts from oil changes, and the nice tires I got not too terribly long ago.

None of which matters now. It doesn’t matter that the tires had a good warranty. It doesn’t matter that the engine and transmission and brakes were all in great shape.

Likewise, it doesn’t matter that I never got around to cleaning up those few drops of dried coffee in the cup holder, or wiping the dust off the dashboard.

In his homily on Sunday, Father said that “all analogies limp.” And I’m not sure there’s really one I can draw from this anyway.

I’m just thrown off balance still, I guess. It makes you realize that doing the right things is no guarantee of anything, whether it’s a car’s existence or your pet’s well-being or a person’s life. You can do everything right, you can be the sort of person who (like my little Toyota) generally enjoys perfect health, and you can still die in a freak accident or end up with a sudden catastrophic illness or cancer. Being careful is no guarantee. Being “successful” is no guarantee. We’re all still totally vulnerable. There’s no magic bullet.

This past week was also the anniversary of Mom’s passing, so those emotions are in the mix, too. I remember that after she died, it took me a long time to get over a frightening, paralyzing awareness of the fragility of life. We take for granted that each day we’ll get up, go to work or school or church or the grocery, come home, go to bed. Day after day, year after year. Mostly, we do. And yet, at any given moment, that could come to an end. When Mom died, it was the first time I was really struck by how easily and quickly someone could go from being here to not being here.

At the moment, I’m back to that awareness, and I know it is partly an opportunity to find trust and to think about what truly matters in this life and the next, but mostly it feels like living on the edge of a precipice, and it’s taking a long while to fade.

Hold Fast

Mushrooms from a nature walk with my brother and sister-in-law, nieces and nephews–a memory worth holding!

If there is one bit of worldly wisdom I wish I could convey to my younger self, it is this: don’t be afraid to spend your time and money on experiences.

It’s something it has taken me far too long to learn. It just seemed almost wrong to spend money on trips or concerts or other intangibles that left you with nothing–nothing, that is, except memories.

There is a paradox there, however: it may seem that experiences are fleeting while objects endure, but in our memories, it’s just the opposite.

On top of that, things can weigh heavily on our homes and minds, especially as the years go on and despite our best efforts, they accumulate.

I’m at a point now where I’m concentrating on letting go. Part of this is yet another attempt to work on my poor organizing skills. But another part is realizing there’s a certain peace, a certain freedom in only having what you need, only buying and using things you really want.

I’m not really a materialistic person, I swear. Yes, I like beautiful instruments and other objects. I appreciate good tools. There are things worth having.

But as I pass into another phase of life, I want to pare down, concentrate on what matters, spend more time and money on making memories, not on gathering things.

Unfortunately I can’t go back in time to straighten myself out:

I can’t tell myself to buy fewer instruments/guitars (except that one, because man…) and spend more time and money on camps and festivals and lessons.

Take the younger siblings camping.

Take more road trips, just to explore and appreciate.

Take a cooking class, just for the fun of it.

Take lots of classes just for fun of it.

Find ways to take trips, even if I have to go alone.

Try that restaurant, even if I have to go alone.

Buy flowers once in awhile, even if they’ll fade away.

Pay attention.

I’m a little late to the ball game. But I’m trying to embrace experiences a bit more. Don’t let week after week after week slip by unlived in. Call people more. Spend more time with family and friends. Observe the seasons. Check out nearby places. Do things. Learn, even if what I’m learning isn’t “useful.” Stay curious.

And remember.

Bad Thing

I don’t know if I’ve ever told the story of how Halvah came to me.

It was the year 2000, and I had my first grown-up civilian job, doing PC support for a small company in Lyndonville, VT, not too terribly far from the town where I grew up. I got a full hour for lunch, so sometimes Mom would come by and pick me up and we’d go out to eat.

One day at getting-toward-lunch-time, one of the gals at the front desk called me and told me Mom was there. She hadn’t said she was coming, but I still wasn’t terribly surprised. But when I went up to the front to meet her, I found her practically wringing her hands, very agitated. “I did a bad thing,” she told me furtively. “Can you get away for a few minutes?”

Of course I said “of course,” but I was amused and bemused. I followed her out to the car, where she showed me the “bad thing” in the form of a cardboard cat carrier containing a little ball of beige and brown fluff that cried and cried in a gravelly voice.

It turned out Mom had wandered into the pet store in Littleton, NH, which back then occasionally had puppies and kittens–often local “oops” litters. There was a single Himalayan/Siamese kitten all alone in a cage there, crying and crying, and it broke Mom’s heart. She (the kitten) cost $250–a crazy sum of money for Mom–but she shelled it out and fled with the kitten, hoping against hope that I’d bail her out and keep the poor baby.

I mean, really, what else *could* I do? I named her Halvah, because her coloring resembled the sesame candy, and because she was so sweet.A few days later her voice changed to a more normal cry–she’d apparently cried herself hoarse.

In the long run, she turned out to be more sassy than sweet. She is her own cat, sets her own rules, gives affection under her own terms. She doesn’t mind a warm lap now and again, and she’ll greet me at the door, but woe to anyone who might try to pick her up, or pet her an instant longer than she prefers. MAJOR woe to anyone who tries to get her to take a pill or eat a food not of her choosing or deign to allow her nails to be cut. She knows how to strike like a snake, claw like a cougar, and wail like a banshee.

Select Halvah adventures include the time she somehow found a way to get from under the sink to under the floorboards at an apartment in a not-terribly-well-maintained old house, and then got stuck because she insisted on going forward and wouldn’t back up. My brother and I spent what felt like hours huddled on the floor in the middle of the night, calling and pleading with her, while Tam yowled frantically and wanted SO MUCH to go in after her. I imagined having to call my landlord at 2AM to explain that he was going to need to cut the house apart because my cat was too stubborn for words. (She finally grudgingly backed her pudgy behind to the starting point, and Jim and I hauled her out by the legs).

Then there was the time I moved across country. My sister Margaret rode along in the minivan as we transported all my belongings and the two cats from Vermont to Colorado. We discovered pretty quickly that Halvah would cry loudly if we didn’t have music playing, and we further discovered just how much of this country has almost no radio stations. I’d foolishly packed all my music away in an inaccessible box, so we were left playing two CDs my sister had on hand, over and over and over and over for thousands of miles: Clint Black’s Greatest Hits, and an Everly Brothers collection. I will forever think of Halvah and that trip when I hear those songs.

Age is starting to catch up to her now, and she’s showing some symptoms of the kidney disease that took Tam last year. In her case, I know treatment options will be limited: she eats only the food she wants to eat, you can’t trick her or force her when it comes to pills, there’s no way in the universe I could give her fluids. She has very definite opinions, and at her age, I guess I can only respect those opinions and hope she has some good times left.

She’s one of the more interesting cats I’ve known. And she’s still Mom’s little “bad thing,” and I love her for it.

Happy 17th, you funny little girl.

Personal Log, Wintergrass 2017


At the very last second, everything worked out for me to go to Wintergrass this year: the huge indoor bluegrass festival held at the Hyatt in Bellevue every year. These are some of my thoughts and experiences on the concerts and workshops. Buckle your seatbelts, this is going to be a long trip. It’s the closest thing I can manage to taking you to Wintergrass 2017 with me!


True North: a semi-local bluegrass/Americana band. Took us for a ride through all sorts of emotions. I think my favorites were the song they’d written about the festival’s move from Tacoma to Bellevue and how it’s a tough place for bluegrass songs (chorus: “it’s a hard place to suffer, and that really gets me down”), and this tear-jerker:
Be Here Now

Kruger Brothers! As I recall, they started out with a portion of Jens’ Appalachian Concerto. At Wintergrass, of course, it was just the three musicians–Jens Kruger, Uwe Kruger, and their bass player Joel Landsberg. But somehow they *still* sound like an orchestra. Exceptional musicians in every way. And a beautiful composition by Jens.

The Kruger Brothers & Kontras Quartet – Appalachian Concerto

Uwe also did People Get Ready, which is a crowd pleaser. We were pleased.

Kruger Brothers – People Get Ready

Darlingside – not entirely sure how to categorize these guys! Eagles meets Simon and Garfunkel meets I dunno? They sing tight harmony around a single mic, but are more folk rock than bluegrass. They used a kick drum and a loop pedal and build their songs up to a swirling crescendo that will drag you in. I’m not sure I entirely get their lyrics, and that usually means I don’t care for the band/artist, but their sound is so pretty!

Darlingside – White Horses


John McEuen did an audio visual presentation on the history and backstory of the famous Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, starting with the history of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and continuing through the recording of the album itself. There were all SORTS of archival photos and clips and anecdotes, interwoven with live performances of some of the songs by the John McEuen Trio. So, so well done. Some people asked hopefully about a DVD version, but it sounds like it might not be possible. John McEuen *is* however working on a book covering the information, with lots of the pictures and all. It will hopefully be out next year.

Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore Family Band. I’d heard Mollie and Rich before a few times, including at little ol’ Traditions down here in Olympia, WA. Man, what a voice she has! Powerful. And he’s pretty nifty on guitar and harmony vocals. This time around, they had two daughters with them, leading to some tremendous family harmonies. I don’t see any of their family performances out there on the Interweb, but they do have an album! It’s called Daughters. Anyhow, here’s Mollie and Rich: Mollie O’Brien + Rich Moore – Train Home

Jeremy Kittel Band: these are one of the groups that helped support the whole “Bach to Bluegrass” theme this year. For any who loved The Goat Rodeo Sessions–taking bluegrass or Celtic tinged music and classical-fying or jazzing it up a bit, you need to check this group out. Virtuosos. Also one of the few hammered dulcimers I’ve seen at Wintergrass, and who doesn’t love that?

The Jeremy Kittel Band – Irish Tunes

Hot Rize: What can I say? This was my first time seeing my favorite ever bluegrass band live, and they didn’t disappoint. So much fun. Also, Bryan Sutton may be the best flatpicker in the world.

Hot Rize – Western Skies

Caitlyn Canty: wasn’t entirely sure how to take her stage presence/persona. Great voice. Her songs are lyrically rich–so many vivid images crammed in. Overall, not entirely to my taste, but she’s talented and I’m glad I saw her.

Caitlyn Canty – Get Up

The Kruger Brothers, Part Two: they were ON for that performance. Joking around, pushing one another, taking everything as far and as high and as deep as it would go, and it was magical. Every Wintergrass has a few moments that take on mythical proportions for me. This year, this was it.

Kruger Brothers – Beautiful Nothing

We were in the Cedar ballroom where they were broadcasting live via Concert Window. Now I really wish I could go back in time and tell ALL THE PEOPLE to watch. C’est la vie.

The Kruger Brothers ran late because they could (as Uwe pointed out with a big grin, they were the last act on that stage for the night), but as soon as they got out, I jogged over to the WAMA suite to hopefully catch at least a little of Kathy Barwick and Pete Siegfried‘s act. I was hoping against hop that they’d to “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” when I was there, and when I walked in, Pete was introducing it. Further proof that someone loves me. I’ve heard a lot of people do that song, but I’m not kidding when I say their version is my favorite by a good bit. Pete has a marvelously expressive voice, nicely completmented by Kathy’s tasteful guitar picking and his own mandolin. I don’t think it’s out there in YouTube land. You’ll have to buy their Long Time Gone album. But here’s something of theirs to tide you over.

Barwick and Siegfried – Dusty Diamonds


Turtle Island Quartet: They can’t really be categorized, but essentially they are all fabulous classically trained musicians who do everything from classical to jazz in the form of a fairly traditional classical quartet: first and second violin, viola, cello. (This is the only thing traditional about them.) I am surprised we didn’t listen to them growing up, honestly–I think Dad would enjoy them if he doesn’t already know about them. Very fine musicians.

Turtle Island Quartet – All Along the Watchtower

Flatt Lonesome: this was about as traditional bluegrass as I went all weekend. As they put it, mostly a family band: twin brother and sister (he on guitar and she on fiddle), their older sister (mandolin), her husband on banjo, and then Dobro and bass. The Robertsons did the vocals, and man oh man, what vocals! 
Flatt Lonesome – You’re the One

Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg: these two were a big, big pull for me. I’m a big fan of classical music, and Caterina is one of the very best classical mandolinists in the world today. Mike Marshall, for his part, has brought classical music to a lot of bluegrass musicians. The two of them met and fell in love at a Mandolin Symposium a few years back, have two adorable little girls, and despite very, very different musical backgrounds, make beautiful music together. Which I enjoyed tremendously. As I said at the time, it made me want to play classical mandolin SO MUCH, but I think it would take decades to get there. Very complex music.

Caterina Lichtenberg and Mike Marshall – Bach Gigue in D Minor


Sierra Hull. She is so young, and yet has been a known musician so long, it’s hard to get your head around it. She’s a powerhouse. I got to see her live at Traditions a few months back. I confess, I think my favorite song of hers this time was Mad World, during which she fingerpicked a ’64 Mandocaster. What this says about my taste, I dunno. But man, this is good.

Sierra Hull – Mad World

Tim O’Brien, as in lead singer/mandolinist from Hot Rize and brother of Mollie O’Brien. Very good performance. Do wish he’d played more banjo, but ya know, you can’t have it all, but YouTube does, pretty much.

Tim O’Brien – You Were on My Mind

Oh, and at the end of Tim’s set, a bit of a dream come true for me: I love Mollie and Tim’s voices together, but I’d only ever heard them in recordings. For years I’d hoped they’d sing on stage together when I was there, and finally it happened!

The Wintergrass Youth Orchestra closed things out. Such a cool concept. Mostly they are local middle schoolers, and they work all year to prepare for this performance. Some of the performers volunteered their time to perform with them, so they did music with The Turtle Island Quartet, Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg, Tim O’Brien…and some others after we took off, though they were winding down. Really neat to see!