Another fabulous Voiceworks class, this with Anna and Elizabeth. As the week progressed and we ate lunch and dinner with the instructors at the tables as well as each other, I felt more and more blessed and impressed. These teachers said, “Come talk to us. We have time. We are here and you can talk to us between classes.” What generosity and blessing.


This is Ruth Merenda, one of the many brilliant faculty, from a Centrum Voiceworks class this week.

Ruthie was at Voiceworks with her husband Mike and two children. I got to trade jokes with their son William at lunch one day. I am listening to their newest album as I write this, Sunshiner. It’s good that only really hear the faculty near the end of the week, because we would be WAY too intimidated if they did the concerts at the start! William has an album too, Piano Nerd, that I have not tracked down yet. He was seven when he made it.

I took the first class of the week with Michael, his Song Doctor class. We each brought a song with problems to the class and sang it to the class. I did that class first because it was hands down no holds barred the scariest, so I thought best to get it over with. I sang Tree Boat a capella. The feedback I got makes me very happy, but the assignment is hard: now I have to learn guitar. Or mandolin. Or something. Accompaniment. Also it’s not my song alone: I wrote the poem but not the melody.

I took two classes with Ruthie. One was on music theory and chords. The other was a performance feedback class.

I had a rather surreal moment in that class. Ruthie has us close our eyes and visualize a protective sphere of energy around us. Now, I’ve been writing about trying to lose my armor suit. So WHAT am I to do with a protective sphere of energy? I thought of my story Good Girl and that gave me my answer. My protective sphere moved outwards, the entire universe. I visualize that protection as holding everyone in the room, gently, lovingly. My protective sphere is my connection to the Beloved and the Beloved’s entire universe and anything beyond that. And then I could do the visualization.

Blessings on Mike and Ruth and their children and on all of the teachers at Voiceworks. The week brought me tears of joy over and over and over: and tears of grief and tears of hope.



Songs to raise girls: Long Black Veil


This and The Fox are what I think of as the two core family songs. We sang this from as early as I can remember and my father played the Band’s version on the record player all the time. I taped his records to take to college…

This is the song my parents chose to raise girls on? Oh, and I do have it memorized….

Ten years ago on a cool dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene and they all did agree
That the man who ran looked a lot like me

Ok, it starts with a murder. Someone is killed, in the town, at night. Be careful, little girls, bad things can happen at night.

The judge said “Son, what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word although it meant my life
I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

It is about infidelity and not only infidelity, but infidelity with his best friend’s wife. This song is a morality play. He doesn’t speak. I see the magazines at the counters in the grocery store and think about how different this song is from our current culture. Divorce and splashed all over the papers, that’s what the celebrities do today.

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

So she doesn’t speak either. She remains faithful to him in visiting his grave, but the marriage must continue, because she only goes at night.

The scaffold was high and eternity neared
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold wind moans
In a long black veil she cries over my bones

She watches him die for what they considered a sin. This song is about ethics, really. The two of them had broken their code of honor and paid the price, which was that he died for a different crime. And did the man who really killed the person in the first stanza then go free?

Why wouldn’t they speak up? Perhaps she had children and he couldn’t support them. Perhaps they truly considered it a sin, a dishonor, a horrible mistake. Perhaps honor and honoring his best friend was more important than love…. Our current culture seems to think that love conquers all, but it doesn’t in this song. Did they do the right thing? This is a song to discuss and to think about and yes, a song to raise girls.

Though I think the husband and any children would know that there was something…. a parent and partner can’t really hide that deep sorrow….

It was written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin in 1959 and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell.

Lefty Frizzell: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50k18gL76AU]

The Band, 1968

Johnny Cash, 1968

Lots of others…. and us.

The photo is me and my sister, probably in 1993 or 1994.


Songs to raise girls: Pack up your sorrows

This song interests me. It is the fourth in my series about the songs that my sister and I learned growing up.

When we recorded our family songs, my sister said she liked it. I said, I think it is creepy, with that juxtaposition of a sweet tune and then words that are not so sweet.

No use cryin’
Talking to a stranger
Namin’ the sorrows you’ve seen

Oh, ’cause there are
Too many bad times
Too many sad times
Nobody knows what you mean

If somehow
You could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

The line that bothered me was “I know how to use them”. What does that mean? Use them for what?

No use ramblin’
Walkin’ in the shadows
Trailin’ a wanderin’ star

No one beside you
No one to hide you
An’ nobody knows where you are

Ah, if somehow
You could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

And how could you give your sorrows to someone else? The singer is offering to listen to sorrows but also take them away. “You would lose them.” And then the singer “knows how to use them”.

No use roamin’
Walking by the roadside
Seekin’ a satisfied mind

Ah, ’cause there are
Too many highways
Too many byways
Nobody’s walkin’ behind

Ah, if somehow
You could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

I never got around to asking my sister if it was the tune she liked or the words or what it meant to her. I chose to play that recording at her Washington memorial. I could not go to her California memorial because I was too ill. My father had terrible emphysema and was on oxygen. I thought I had pertussis but it turned out to be systemic strep A, which hurts. At any rate, I was too sick to travel. Her Washington Memorial was a month or two later, when I was well enough to organize it…..

You would lose them
I know how to use them
Give them all to me

It is by Pauline Baez. The version by Richard and Mimi Farina is the one I’m familiar with, so my parents probably had the record:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4LbU8w7Th4.

Joan Baez, Pauline and Mimi Farina were sisters. Joan Baez recorded it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAMe1bRW8Ao. So did Peter, Paul and Mary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVxNleqVpx4.

And so did Johnny Cash and June Carter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ctVhDEuTYE

The picture is a music party at my house in 2009, my father seated and Andy Makie on harmonica, Jack Reid standing with the guitar.