The Hart of South Padre

10430411_736857576429026_7311618442923585049_nEvery town needs a little Hart, Aarin Hartwell that is. We met Aarin at the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance (aka SWRFA) in Sept. We noticed her immediately as she literally floated around the conference from room to room with a huge smile and a welcoming spirit. She came to our midnight showcase and danced the whole set. Afterwards we sat with her for a moment and were impressed by her sense of engagement and her excitement for community. She gave us information on The Island Folk Festival in South Padre Island and made note that she’d love to have us come down for it. We were delighted but our assumption was that she was an intern or on staff with the festival, and so we weren’t really sure how concert the offer was. It wasn’t until after the conference that we struck up a conversation online about a possible Hollands concert with her production company Hartwell Talent and Production, that we realized that this little darling was the founder and operator of the whole big festival. And so, we set a date to perform for her Island Folk Concert Series on Feb 13 and she arranged for us to come down a little early to enjoy her hometown.

We arrived with a welcome text, making sure we were all settled in and the next day she popped by to grab Graciana for a day of Kiteboarding and exploring, while the rest of us10600532_1397175867189728_8344541029171900161_n went to visit the Turtle Rescue and the secluded north shore. Later, we met up for a meal to talk over logistics before our show.

Through the course of our time on the island, Aarin shared her story of growing up in Brownsville, just down the road, surfing South Padre Island (which the locals call SPI) and was committed to SPI as her home. She is involved in city counsel and chamber meetings, and working towards getting her brain child of a festival up and running. Aarin is a self-appointed ambassador of the island and she is most certainly a visionary. If you just sit down with her for five minutes you’ll feel inspired to dream with her, hoping on board and lending a helping hand.

IMG_0657South Padre Island is a barrier island in the U.S. state of Texas. It’s 1.9 miles long and has a population of 2800. South Padre is a beach resort town and every year experiences a large influx of winter Texans, mostly from the mid-west and spring breakers from universities all over the country. The island also attracts a large international population. At its core, its economic focus is on the outsider. So, Aarin’s vision to make it home for folkies all over the country is on par with the ethos of the island. However, her vision goes beyond the tourist to the heart of those 2k plus inhabitants, of whom she knows almost everyone. Her vision is to bring art and music to the island, as well as, give a cultural voice to those local folkies who meet regularly for jams and community gatherings.

IMG_0666Aarin created the Island Folk Concerts to showcase some of the artists that she hopes to bring back for the Festival. We kicked off her spring season at the SPI Birding Center and had about 40 kinfolk in attendance. It was chilly winter night at about 52 degrees but everyone seemed ready for the chill and brought sweaters. We did two solid sets offering our original Folk/Americana sound, including a few new songs that our daughter, Graciana, wrote. She also debut her Nord keyboard on one of the songs. After the show folks were generous in supporting our music by purchasing CD’s and our son, Banjo scored a big profit with his handmade “bottle cap” percussion instruments.

We finished out our last day on the island biking up and down gulf road. We explored the local shops and in the afternoon, Aarin taught us to make a proper sand castle. We had aIMG_0675 blast learning the tricks of the sand art trade. That evening we rode our bikes to the bayside to enjoy the sunset. Aarin and Graciana had some fun doing a little modeling shoot for Graci’s blog, Dutchy Gazelle and then we finished off the night with a bbq at Aarin’s and Valentines Fireworks. The next morning we went to a little Baptist church with Aarin, that was chalk full of Winter Texans. We sang a few songs, shook a few hands and heard a bit of classic fire and brimstone. For lunch we stopped by the local farmers market and met Aarin’s dad and fellow musician, Jack Hartwell. He invited us to sit in for a song or two and we couldn’t pass it up. We sang a few songs, got a few veggies for the road, fired up the bus and said goodbye for now.

We enjoyed our week of Hartwell love. If you’re a beach combing, folk music lover and are looking for the next hot ticket, think about adding The Island Folk Festival, Sept 4-6 to your calendar. You’ll be glad you did!

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Contra Dance

Contra dance (also contradancecontradance and other variant spellings) refers to several partnered folk dance styles in which couples dance in two facing lines or in a group of four. It has mixed origins from English country dance and French dance styles in the 17th century.

Our introduction to Contra Dancing was in Bishop Hill, IL, 2013. We were invited to the tiny historical town to perform at their Midsommer Music Festival. After our performance the festival moved indoors for the finally, a contra dance, (also known as a Barn Dance, but not the same as country line dancing.) We had never been to a contra dance so were unsure of ourselves but delighted to find that it was a welcoming community and easy to learn.

The evening began with a caller, who explained and guided the group through a dance. Then once everyone had the general gist, the music began. It was fiddle based tunes, with piano, guitar, banjo and bass accompaniments. It was festive and the energy level was brilliant as we flowed from one partner to the next. The movements were whimsically smooth and spirits were high. One thing that caught us off guard however, was the intense eye contact. Contra dancers make eye contact whenever possible. This adds to the connectedness of the dance, and as we found out, helps reduce dizziness, especially during “the swing.” There were no costumes or role playing, it was just pure dancing pleasure. 

Austin Contra Dance Fast forward a year and we are on our way to Austin, TX  May 2014, with our fellow bus riders, Greg and Jeffrey. Somehow Contra dancing came up and we decided to look up a dance in Austin. We discovered the Wednesday Night Contra Dance that was open to the public and also allowed musicians to sit in with the band, which they call the Local On-Call Orchestra (LOCO) . It was a win/win, so we took our friends, taught them to dance and played music!

It was such a great time that we went back one last time before our departure, north where we would sit in Wisconsin for the summer. Then as we began to make our way back south for the winter, we told Rhys, our Australian bus rider, about Contra Dance. He smiled that sort of, “yeah, I’m probably not gonna dance,” smile. But we were convinced he’d try it once he saw it. Ha! We joined the Wednesday night Contra Dance as soon as we arrived back in town. Rhys was happy to play music with the band but reluctant to try the actual dance. We got him out there eventually. He was a good sport and in the long run, he can at least say he’s tried.

 

 The History of Wednesday Night Contra Dancing, Austin TX

Contradancing in Austin originated when AFTM (Austin Friends of Traditional Music) started a jam session at Hancock Recreation Center over 30 years ago or so. Somebody (the name was lost in time) said “Hey, this is a good dance floor so let’s dance!” and thus the dancing started. The dancing went through several variations and around 1990 became predominately contradance.

To this day the Wednesday night dance at HRC is still a community dance with an average of 40-60 dancers and occasional 75 dancing to the music of LOCO (Local On-Call Orchestra) – an open band of 3-10+ members with many excellent musicians, where anyone is welcome to come and play. The callers will call a variety of dances, whether it be contras, squares, circles, or whatever. This is a free dance courtesy of the City of Austin and Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

If you’re near Austin, TX we highly recommend a Wednesday night with the The Austin Barn Dancers. They meet every Wednesday night at Hancock Recreation Center from 7:30 until 9:45.

If you aren’t in Austin, do a search for Contra Dances in your area. Fun for the whole family!

South Texas, The Land of Milk and Honey

20130325-144311.jpgAfter a few months in the browns and reds of the desert, the lush greens, slight humidity and rolling hills of Austin were a welcomed sight. Our time in Austin was eclectic with opportunities to be in community with our hosts, the Newell family and friends, connecting with new friends, sharing music, sharing sacred space, lending a helping hand with projects and enjoying some quality family activity, including paddle boarding, kayaking, dining out and a little bit of shopping.

20130325-144300.jpgOur first weekend we enjoyed the sounds and sights of SxSW, which was significant in and of itself. However, our week with the Newells was when all of the magic happened. Our favorite restaurant was Torchie’s Taco’s! Pete, Lori and their three darlings took us there after church our first Sunday in town and we fell in love. Torchie’s started out as a food truck and now has about four locations throughout the city. Through out the week we made it to three of the locations. 🙂 Monday evening we shared our first BBQ on the grill with them. I made my Grandma’s potato salad, the sun was warm and there was a cool breeze. The kids had fun running and jumping on the trampoline, listening to music and taking a load off.

Tuesday we helped Lori set up the house for a house concert. They invited all sorts of friends and neighbors and acquaintances. The energy was high and all of their guests made the evening so lovely.

Wed. it was 91 degrees and we decided to hit the water. We went paddle boating and kayaking down on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake which is part of the Colorado River. It’s calm, pristine and offered us relief from the heat. We floated for about an hour, watching the University of Texas rowing team practice along side us.

Later that evening, we all meet the Newell’s at Rudy’s BBQ for a Texas favorite. I’ve seen Rudy’s sauce in the grocery story but it was fun to actually be eating where it was created. And man, is it good!

Jesse and Janae
Jesse and Janae

The night didn’t end there, after dinner we trekked about a half hour southwest to Dripping Springs, TX to visit with the Heikkila’s who we had met through the Newell’s. Jesse, Janae and their four children live on a beautiful property with his Sister and her family. The Heikkila’s moved to Austin a few years back and have been building a “Tiny House” on the property. We entered their warm home with delight and amazement. We were excited to hear about their journey in marriage, family and building this fun home. Janae made the most amazing candied nuts to top ice cream sunday’s and Jesse and Craig talked shop (building).  We love meeting kinfolk along our way, especially those who are taking risks and swimming upstream. It was so encouraging to be with them.

20130325-144832.jpgThursday was our last day in Austin and it was equally as delightful as the days that ran before it. I met a woman named Ruby James. We had actually met at Steel Bridge songfest in Sturgeon Bay, WI the summer prior. She had approached us after we played our set and thanked us for waking her up gently. Later that summer, we saw her again at another venue and had an opportunity to chat a bit more. There was something about her bright spirit and so when we arrived in Austin and I saw she was living here, I thought it would be great to see her again. There was an ease when we chatted on the phone and through the course of our conversation I shared some of the struggles we were having with our son. His transition from adolescents into manhood were taking a toll on us as parents and her listening ear was kind. She had an idea, a way to maybe encourage our son and lined up an opportunity for him to meet a fella named Dony Wynn. Dony is a world-class drummer and has worked with folks like Robert Plant, Patti Griffin and Robert Palmer. He met us at his front door with a bright smile and invited us into his space. There were percussion instruments everywhere and Dony was open and inviting, engaging our son in conversation and sharing his story. It was an honor to meet him and I’m sure will be an important part of our son’s story down the line.

20130325-144740.jpgLater that night we were invited to share in sacred space at a Bahai’ New Years celebration. We met Rose, our host, at the Newell house concert a few days prior and she gave us a little overview of her vision to bring together community in her neighborhood and her efforts to host weekly multi-faith gathering. This week they were focusing on music. We shared with her a potential offering/workshop we call “sound scape” which is an exercise that allows even the laymen and opportunity to be creative. She loved the idea and so we arrived,  shared a few “Hollands!” songs and then had folks break into two groups. Because the gathering was meant to have a spiritual bent we used sacred passage from the bible as the inspiration and each group began to create a sound track that would be played behind the reading of the passage.

Craig’s group choose John 1:1-22, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…” My group choose Revelations 22:1-5,  “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Each group entered into the exercise wholeheartedly and the creative interpretations that they each offered was so inspiring. We topped of the night with Persian Tea and lots of hugs and well wishes.

20130325-144823.jpgFriday morning before we set sail we invited Dony and Ruby over for farewell scones. And then we said goodbye to the Newells!

There is such a richness in this life that we lead. Joy is full, pain is real and we accept it all, knowing there is hope and we are not alone. Our week in Austin is proof of that richness and we hold fast to these moments as examples and encouragement for our lives.

Big Texas Love

20130324-123754.jpgWe crossed the state line into Texas on March 8, 2013. First stop Lubbock, TX. The drive from Albuquerque was long, hot and the landscape was flat for miles and miles. In fact, it was so flat that it felt like we were plastered to the ground. Trains ran along the highway and we had fun counting the cars and wondering if we knew any train hoppers on board.

20130324-123816.jpgIt took us about 5 hours to reach our host home, the Latham family. We were referred to this big ol’ Texas family by our friends, the Morfords, in Bend, OR. Scott and Diana along with their teenage and adult kids are real givers. They are actively involved in the spiritual growth of their community and host regular gatherings at their home for young adults and couples. They are beautiful, thoughtful kinfolk and graciously welcomed us into their community. It was inspiring to be around the depth of conversation and experience that they offered, specially listening to their children share the genuinely positive influence growing up with parents who live by faith and service.  They offered us an opportunity to share our gifts and talents in sacred space at a little Methodist church on a Sunday morning.

This was our offering…

Call to worship- Song, Come Before the Lord.
Deceleration of God’s faithfulness- Song, No Other.
Reading: 2 Cor 4:18 The things we see now are hear today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can not see will last forever.
Sharing/Teaching: Walking by Faith, Our journey learning to “swim upstream”
Lectio Divina: (prayerful reading of scripture) Psalm 62
Response: Song- Unfashionable Wisdom (No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived, what God has for those who LOVE him)
Closing Songs: Morning Star, Old Timey Trio- I’ve Got a Home in Gloryland,I’ll Fly Away, Amazing Grace, Oh When the Saints.

20130324-123853.jpgSunday evening we drove down to Snyder, TX to visit with an old friend, Brad Floyd. Brad is one of the brightest stars we know. His smile is contagious and he’s about the kindest big ol’ Texan you’ll ever meet. He introduced us to his wife Sally, mother and a few friends, made us Chicken fried steaks. Dinner was a hoot as we heard stories from one of their friends, Anne. She’s in her 50’s and suffers from MS. However, her spirits were high as she declared her mischievousness and shared about some of the nonsense she got up to as a youth. For example, the time she and a few friends shot an arrow into the town generator and the whole power grid went out. Or the time she stood at the top of a water fall and dumped laundry soap down the falls. The bubbles filled the river so high that they began to spill over onto the streets. Our favorite story was of her two friends who’s fathers owned the two car dealerships in the town, one Chevy and one Ford. One night the three of them snuck into the showrooms of both car dealerships and switched the hub caps. It was a few months later that a customer came in questioning why his new Chevy had Ford hubcaps? Ha! Meeting folks like Anne and experiencing these kinds of moments are so special to us. Later in the evening it was a natural progression to for us to share a few songs with these kinfolk, and so we did. The next day we followed Brad down to Fort Worth, where he treated us to a tank of diesel, a stay at The Comfort Inn and dinner out. Their gift to us was more than we can possibly repay and so we are glad it’s a gift 🙂 and we are honored to call Brad and Sally friends.

20130324-123910.jpgOur next stop took us to Dallas were we stayed at an RV park for two nights. We meet up with our old friend Donny. He, his wife, Jenny and baby daughter came out to our bus and we shared dinner, while hearing their story. It’s amazing where life takes you. When we met Donny in 1999, he was a tattoo ridden, cool drummer dude. In fact, he was drumming at the time, in a band called Unwed Sailor that performed at our wedding in March of 2000. Then fast forward to March 2013 and he’s newly wed to a precious woman named, Jenny and has a son who is 11 and beautiful little girl. He has his PhD in Biochemistry/ Chemical Biology and is working at UT Southwestern Medical Center, researching cancer. It was an honor to hear his story and to be able to encourage him in his marriage, faith and efforts in science.