Jennifer was afraid no one would bring champagne, so she requested everyone bring champagne. Everyone obliged. We drank 8 bottles of champagne (with four left over) along with several outstanding bottles of wine, and coolers of iced beer. There was a vodka tasting that began about 12:30 AM Sunday morning.
You get the idea.
At one point in the late evening, the gathering inevitably broke up into these little groups that spontaneously form as conversational partners wandered around, changing with the free form of topics from tick bites, to the national debt, the supreme court, how our various jobs were going, music, books, class reunions, old backpacking trips, and half remembered events from past gatherings. A conversational tossed salad.
I played Salonen's Helix for Ted and he enjoyed it. I listened to him tell me about all the different angles his family geneological research was taking him. Mark and I talked a little baseball. Bryan was still anxious to move forward on the renovation of his house. Richard's business was surviving well enough in the struggling economy. As was Jeffery's mechining business.I was with Mark sitting in the media chairs in my living room listening to Neil Young play "old black" on several DVDs from 1970, 1979, 1981, 2000 - over 30 years with the same guitar that gives that distinctive crunchy, arcing, grungy and genuine strength of his rock side. There are many sides to Neil though. Part of my mix earlier had included Neil doing jazz, rockabilly, and country, in addition to some fine songs from some albums that are honestly not all that great. But, if you manage to put out a dozen awesome albums out of, say, 40 in your creative lifetime then you’ve accomplished something. He’s not dead yet. There might be another gem in his creative longevity.
Anyway, Mark and I had just heard Neil perform Cowgirl in the Sand at Red Rocks, Colorado and then turned right around and listened to him perform the same song with Crazy Horse at Fillmore East 30 years earlier. Same guitar, different bands, different approaches to the extended rock song.
When we had finished listening, we were momentarily our own Armadillo micro culture, mutually dazed by the booze and the wonderful guitar performances of Neil. There was a pause. Mark looked at me and very slowly articulated how he had known Jennifer and I for a number of years now (a couple of decades in fact) and that he “felt so blessed” to know not just us but to have all the associations in the room (including some who were not able to make it.)
I smiled and acknowledged my appreciation of where he was coming from. Earlier in the day when I played Helix for Ted our conversation drifted toward the fact that he recently turned 61 while I turned 50. I told him – and later reiterated this to Mark since the occasion warranted it – that I felt really good turning 50. I realized that in some ways the next 40 years of my life might not be as much fun as the last 40 but that didn’t bother me. I take care of myself. I stay mentally and physically active. But one thing was clearly better about turning 50 as opposed to when I turned 20 or 30. Time had revealed to me a more precise perspective by which to appreciate the ordinary moments of each day, and particularly our gatherings, my aesthetic interests, my land, the value of how I chose to live my life and the precious few others who could understand it and to some degree share it with me.
I take nothing for granted anymore. The moment is no longer disposable. No longer do the pregnant possibilities of the future lead me to lightly toss aside the current Now for the coming Now. Each day is a treasure – or should be – and if it isn’t it is my own damn fault. This deeper appreciation of Being, examples of which go back through the moments of this blog and clearly to our trip to Alaska last summer, was something I did not value highly enough at a younger age. Therefore, I had grown in Being and so I could see how we were all “so blessed” to have that party this weekend just the way it was.
Will said this morning that he felt like he had “dodged a bullet”. Everyone managed to keep things between the ditches, as it were. Our kitchen slowly became a hive of activity for brunch, after about 36 cups of coffee to get us all going. There was more champagne (mimosas mostly), French toast, fresh maple syrup, or fresh strawberry spread, figs, turkey sausage, and Bryan’s signature frittatas made with fresh herbs from our spring garden.
My 1930’s mix served as milieu for the brunch and much of the typically rambling discussion to follow. Several commented how nice the music was. Diane and Bryan and Eileen were just terrific at helping tidy everything up. Afterwards, I listened to Richard and Bryan have a discussion, with others occassionally chiming in, on the centuries long plight of Native Americans. Several of us had read and admired Guns, Germs, and Steel.
We all made plans for the upcoming trip at Swan Cabin this July 4. We toured our land on a mostly cloudy day. Light breeze, really nice. Jennifer got to identify all her plants to the inquisitive group. Her gardens are diverse and pretty well thought out and are at one of their peaks this time of year (the other time is October).
By 3:30 everyone had gone. Jennifer went to pick up our daughter. I moved on to chores, pausing long enough to review my birthday gifts. Excellent bottles of champagne (of course), some very thoughtful book selections (with emphasis on baseball and Arctic explorations), a wonderful professional quality print of Neil playing old black circa 1979, Jeffery and Ted came through with a fresh pack of Depends and a can of prunes. Nice thinking guys.
So, yeah, the food, the appreciation of art, the diversity of topics by a well-read group of creative thinkers, the celebration of bountiful food and drink and humor and ideas in the space of my home and my land, the gifts, the laughter, the surprises we still didn’t know about each other…yeah, Mark is so blessed. And so am I. And so are we all.