I hope you’re well. We’re all healthy here and safe, which is no small thing right now. Yesterday I was walking our dog in our friend’s field and though it’s only the first week of August, I could see a few leaves in the trees just beginning to turn and the tall grass in the field bent, the blade tops heavy with seed, announcing that this was as much as they was going to grow for the year.
In this issue:
But still summer. A teacher friend of mine told me once she felt summer was like the weekend – June was Friday, July Saturday, and August Sunday – and I think that’s true, even if you’re not completely aligned with a school and work schedule.
A very limited performing schedule has given me extra time around home, and it looks like it will be that way for the fall. I’m contemplating what my job is if I’m not performing. It’s gonna take awhile, but I’ve got a bunch of ideas.
In the meantime, I do have a couple of shows coming up you can look for here. I’d love to see you. Get your vaccination, wear a mask and come say hi.
The Big News is
Now You Say Yes, my new book was officially released on August 1. This book was a long time a’borning – I’m thinking it’s been seven years since I first got the idea. Reviews have been good – here’s a couple of quotes!
“This road-trip story is introspective and revealing, much like the desert highway in the middle of the night.” Kirkus
“…this poetically written and economically plotted hero’s journey by Harley makes a heartwarming, hopeful case for self-forgiveness and second chances.” Publishers Weekly
The book tells about two kids – brother and sister- who drive across the country hoping to connect with their estranged grandmother. The trip takes place in 2017, the summer of the Great American Eclipse, which plays a huge part in the story. This work has consumed me for the past several years, and I’m very proud of it. It’s aimed at 10 to 14 year olds (the publishing world is very specific in their marketing), but it reaches beyond those ages. It’s about loss and grief, hope and perseverance, and also the truth that we depend upon the kindness of others to live out our dreams. I’d love to have you read it or give it as a gift to one of your favorite readers. I’m happy to autograph if you order from us.
What we're reading
A friend of mine gave me a great book, Lost Prophet – the Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’emilio– a wonderful and moving autobiography about the unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s a moving and tragic story about an incredibly talented and complex visionary – the man who really guided Martin Luther King Jr. in his development of non-violence as a means of fighting injustice. Before I started performing for a living, I was a staff person with American Friends Service Committee and knew of or met a number of the people that play a part in this biography. It brought me back to the vision Rustin and King offered to us – something we would be wise to look at again as we navigate our own troubled times.
Both Debbie and I absolutely loved Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, a very funny and moving novel about how people heal from traumatic experiences in their youth – among other things. The other things include children who actually catch on fire when they’re upset. We listened to the audiobook version of this – great reader. Actually, I listened twice.
Right now, I am reading, with my mouth open in wonder, The Milkman, by Anna Burns. It’s about Belfast during the Troubles and the confusing path people had to negotiate just to live their lives. First person story, told from the point of an eighteen-year-old girl just trying to get through the day. Like my Irish friends would say “Brilliant!”
The last book I have to mention is The Topeka School by Ben Lerner. Really good – challenging, but great.
Debbie and I were in Ireland in September of 2019 for the Cape Clear Festival, then drove around for two weeks afterwards, visiting with our dear friends Jack Lynch in Dublin, and Clare Murphy in Galway. We stopped in Sligo one evening and the next morning wandered around the beautiful town, thinking we would leave before lunch. We happened upon the shop of Michael Quirke, woodcarver. Five minutes, we said to each other, then we’re out of here. That was impossible. Michael greeted us and was off to the races. We barely spoke – he’s a wonderful woodcarver (we bought a piece), but he’s really a storyteller – what some of us in the business call an “all day talker”. He told us about the history of Sligo, and the heroes Cuchullain and Fin McCool. Most of his carvings had to do with Celtic myths and symbols – he would pick one up and talk about it for twenty minutes – four or five stories with every piece. Young people dropped by to show them pieces they were working on, then stood and listened along with us. Like other folk artists I’ve been lucky to meet over the years, he didn’t seem particularly interested in selling anything – he was there for the talk. I’m reminded of the wonderful outside artist Clyde Jones from Bynum, North Carolina, famous for his cedar log “critters”. He never sold anything – he would only give things away.
Michael talked, Debbie and I looked at each other, smiled and shook our heads at our good fortune. Of course, we had to buy something. In this picture, Debbie’s holding a piece that is all about women’s wisdom and power. We walked out of the store an hour and a half later.
More stories to tell. Always. Always one more.
Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.