Monday, May 17, 2010

Fertile Ground

I could spend pages recounting the things I learned, and the fascinating people I met, at The Harp Gathering, 2010. The techniques and information I personally gathered will take a little time to process and incorporate into my playing. The inspiration will last significantly longer.

I live in a “blue collar” community, devastated by the troubles of the automobile industry. We don’t have orchestras here – we have bands. When people learn I play the harp, they look at me like I’m crazy and ask, “Whatever would want to make you want to play the harp?”

Then that once a year weekend comes where this question is as absurd as, “Why would you want to breathe?”

As I watch people pushing or carrying their harps around the hallways of the Heritage Inn I feel that this is my real community. The empty, smelly factories with weeds growing up around them in my Detroit suburban neighborhood seem more like a bad dream. The streets were no one knows (and doesn’t care to know) their neighbor’s names doesn’t exist here. Just hallways filled with people with the same hopes, dreams and optimism about their future.

On the last morning of The Harp Gathering I looked out my window onto a newly plowed field. The golden morning sun had turned the plain brown earth into gold dust. “Fertile ground,” I thought. “It looks as if magic could grow here.” So instead of joining everyone under the Oak Tree for breakfast, I carried my muffin and coffee back to my room and continued watching the morning unfold. A pair of mallard ducks could be seen from my window, and as I watched them, a rabbit hopped into sight and began grazing on the clover. “Looks like I’m back in Tolkien’s Middle Earth again, just like last year,” I softly said to myself. I then heard my neighbor quietly tuning his harp. For me, that was even better than being in Hobbiton.

That morning was a beautiful time of reflection. All the time I had spent in workshops and chatting with friends from last year, and new friends from this year, gently swirled around in my head. I had seen the same light in the veteran harpists eyes that I saw in the novices. They were illuminated by the learning and sharing of knowledge.

I thought about Denise Grupp-Verbon’s workshop, Zen Harp: Explore your path. She had said that a person who is following the martial arts tradition doesn’t usually speak about it. They just live it. The workshop I took after that was one of Pamela Bruner’s. As I think back on that now, I think of how she wasn’t showing off her knowledge and giving us strict rules like my previous music teachers. Like a “sensi” she showed us how she had walked her own path without insisting that we march in step behind her. She was also open to learning from us. In my book, that’s the true mark of a teacher.

I thought about the nurturing spirit of Sue Richards. She gently shared knowledge and encouragement. She made us feel precious.

Timothy Harper brought a huge smile to my face as I thought of him. He understood us so well. He knows the worries we have about performing and wanted so badly to help us overcome our fears. One by one he handed us magic seeds to plant in our minds that would assist us in sharing our gift with our audiences.

Planting seeds. That’s what was happening in and around the Heritage Inn that weekend. As the farmers where putting their seeds in the ground around us, our teachers were planting seeds of knowledge and encouragement in the fertile ground of our minds and hearts.

I can just feel the magic beginning to grow.


  1. Sue's last name is Richards. I think she gets Richardson a lot :-)

  2. I enjoyed reading all your weekend experiences- at the same time I sat here drooling and feeling sad- I had to miss it all. Maybe next year....
    Thanks for posting all this. I'm learning- and I loooove my McFall. I'm so glad I have it.