Long after I think we will crest the summit, we do, which seems to always be the case with curving backcountry roads. We reach a jagged rock edge plummeting into the southeast-facing drainage of the North Lick Creek/Secesh River that will take us to the east fork of the south fork of the Salmon River. Confused? No worries. Continue reading →
Each year during the third week of June, roughly 350 musicians from thirty states and their fans congregate at Weiser for the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival. Fiddling arrived in Weiser with covered wagon emigrants in 1863, and contests were reported as early as 1914. The current festival and contest, first held in 1953, now ranks among fiddling’s “Big Three,” alongside the Grand Master Fiddle Championships in Nashville and the World Championships of Fiddling in Crockett, Texas. Continue reading →
The first time I read one of my own poems in front of a live audience, my cheeks burned bright red, my eyes filled with tears, and I thought I would need an oxygen tank to breathe.
Needless to say, the experience overwhelmed me, and for three years I refused to stand in front of a microphone. My daughter, DaNae Aguirre, and my mom, Rhoda Sanford, continued to inspire and encourage me. They had this show-woman thing down. They didn’t need oxygen tanks.
Eventually, I returned to college and majored in communications, where I was required to give numerous speeches in front of live audiences. Picturing them naked didn’t ease my unease, but I practiced hard, and the added incentive of making a good grade helped me stop crying every time I stepped in front of a crowd. Continue reading →
It is a warm, bright September evening, the kind that gives no hint of the cold and dark that will inevitably come. Sweaterless, I toss my notebook and pencils—I can’t sing without a pencil—into my bike basket and pedal off to an autumn ritual: the first practice of the Pend Oreille Chorale as it prepares for its Christmas performances.
As I park my bike under the eaves of the church where we practice, I see Caren through the window adjusting the pillows and books that will put her at just the right height to accompany us on the piano. Beyond, I see her husband Mark in his usual well-worn jeans and work shirt, riffling through the score on the conductor’s stand.
Rehearsal begins with reunion. I greet my fellow tenors, the altos who sing the notes I once could, the sopranos whose ranges I haven’t had since grade school. I hear about Gloria’s new grandchild, and Jackie’s new job at the hospital, and ask Ed if he’s in shape for the ski season. I’m pleased to see that Charlie’s back; as one of a few who have been in the group since it first performed twenty years ago (when he was but a youth of seventy-four), he helps maintain its institutional memory and culture.
None of us would be here were it not for the distinctive devotion of Mark and Caren Reiner. They are, as Charlie says, “unimaginably caring mentors.” When they arrived in Sandpoint in 1992, they noticed that the community lacked a chorale and orchestra, and saw they might be able to do something about these omissions. It would be their contribution to the health and well-being of their new community. Continue reading →