Tall Tales

  1. Winter Woods
  2. Spring Azaleas
  3. Summer Hemlocks
  4. Autumn Red Maple Bards
Performance by Dana Brink

I read an amazing book while recovering from long haul COVID. It was The Overstory, by Richard Powers. It’s simultaneously a human story and a tree story, and it wrecked me. I laughed, I cried, and I savored. Spoiler: Gradually it emerges that the trees are working to change humankind for the better, communicating with the people that are ready to receive their messages. I have felt kinship my whole life with the Standing People, and deeply feel that if humankind is going to be allowed to survive, we must change, and that starts with opening our hearts.

It occurred to me that the bassoon is still a tree. It’s tall. It’s often brown, and most often made of wood. The tree gives its life and becomes a bassoon, and bassoonists are able to make music because of that priceless generous sacrifice. As musicians, we tell stories through our bassoons, and so those tree spirits are still singing through us, sharing the breath we use to vibrate our reeds and instruments.

I pondered all of this, offered a tree in my yard some tobacco, and walked with my beloved Great Dane in the new spring light pretty much overwhelmed to still be here, and asked the trees in my neighborhood: Please help me to hear your songs. Please help me to write them down. What do you want us two-leggeds to know?

Tall Tales is the result of those prayers.

Winter Woods:

You have six Russian grandmothers who live in a secret cabin deep in the woods. Your grandmothers have asked you to come and visit them, and you’re on your way through the snowy forest. You know that when you get there, they will wrap you in soft warm blankets, feed you wonderful spiced cakes and many cups of tea, and sing you into the Dreaming after telling you many magical stories.

Spring Azaleas:

The Azaleas sing with their blossoms: “Wake up! Color! Life! Joy!” They are some of the early bloomers in spring, especially in NC. There is a deep pink one by my front door, and I look forward to its blossoming every year.

Summer Hemlocks:

There are places in the Smoky Mountains where the mountains were thankfully too steep and the coves too blessedly remote to log out completely. In late winter of 2001 I hiked 600 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and watching spring happen all around me was incredible. It was a great gift during that trek to sit with a stand of virgin growth hemlocks. There are a few hemlock friends growing at Wildacres, where we have Glickman-Popkin Bassoon Camp, and I love them so much. The mists drift, our human hearts pulse, and the trees sing with us as we play our bassoons.

Autumn Red Maple Bards:

Fall is possibly my favorite time of year, even though there are gifts to every season. The trees put on such a colorful show, all those changing leaves positively shouting and dancing in the breeze as they fall, unafraid of death. Autumn helps us to look back at the year we’ve had as our hearts turn toward the coming Winter cold and its gifts of storytelling, dreaming, and hibernation.

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