But first, there’s some music happening this week, so pay attention…
Once I had my hair down to my waist, a gap between my teeth. I believed in the power of music, that it could change the world. My name is Charlotte by the way. My father used to say that I was too big for my britches. Who uses the word “britches” these days? Though Dad said that a long time ago–we’re talking the 70s. I’m an old(er) lady now, and Dad’s long gone.
A hot, gusty breeze passes by our footsteps, bringing with it needles falling from the giant redwood overhead. We walk through the heart of Library Park, looking for a picnic table safely away from other visitors, two of Juicy’s spectacular pizzas in each hand. The gusty afternoon breeze hasn’t settled down into balmy summer evening just yet; another flurry of wind blows open our pizza box. But slight pink hues in the sky creep over the lake, hinting at a beautiful sunset to come. I flip the pizza box shut, trying to turn it a direction where the wind won’t blow it open again. “Congratulations on your first six months as Poet Laureate,” David says, then takes a large bite of pizza. Georgina smiles, pulling back her hair from her face as another breeze brushes by us.
You are, I am, we are always practicing something all of the time – that this “something” changes now and then does not diminish the fact that whether or not we are consciously aware of it – some of our practices are constructive, and others are not. All practices have shape and all have impact. Our lives revolve around the construct of practice. The willing act to “create and have a practice” – even if for only a short time – helps one illuminate the power and depth of practice.
Shakespeare at the Lake is back! The joint venture between Mendocino College and the Lake County Theatre Company will be moving forward with their 5th season though not in the same manner as originally envisioned. This year’s production, Romeo & Juliet, will be presented online. Normally, Shakespeare at the Lake takes place at Library Park in Lakeport and Austin Park in Clearlake with beautiful Clear Lake as the back drop. However, nothing about 2020 has been normal. Theatres all over the world have gone dark due to COVID-19. Many theatres may never reopen. But, for one director, postponing was not an option.
While you may not know musician Mike Guarniero personally, odds are you’ve seen him play. For years he has been involved in the Lake County music scene and played with over twenty different bands. You might have heard him play with his band, Dr. Groove, which regularly has performed in the county. Or you might have caught his Lake County Music Guide, which posts on Facebook and in The Bloom (when there is live music). Sitting in the courtyard of Pogo’s Pizza in Kelseyville earlier this week with Mike felt as if we were seated with a long-time friend we haven’t seen in a while. You might feel the same if you are a music lover in Lake County; Mike’s friendly personality makes conversation easy.
We will always live in moments of uncertainty. I have no idea what the future will bring, not only for me, but for our country. The page, however, refutes uncertainty. It is a white canvas, destined for creation, and within its square space, holds the promise of an affirmation. Even while describing loss, our words are born, again and again and again.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now so it’s easy to miss important things going on in our own backyards. Our own 2020-2021 School Budgets, for example. Right now, there is a lot of speculation about what the next school year will look like in the COVID-19 era. Parents are worried about their kids having to wear masks all day. Will the kids be able to attend full-time or will they partake in distant learning? And, if they don’t go to school every day, who’s going to watch them and how will parents be able to pay for that? Good questions all. What’s not getting much attention, though, are the budget shortfalls due to COVID-19. We went into COVID-19 with a state budget surplus in California. Now, just a few short months later, we are facing a deficit. There were some great things that were in the original budget, now the state has cut many planned healthcare expansions and slashed funding for schools. The timing could not be worse. The Middletown Unified School District alone is being asked to find ways to cut over one million dollars from an already sparse budget. They are contemplating doing away with bus services for all except Special Ed for an estimated savings of $427,000. They are seriously considering cutting athletics, drama, choir, and band. All of these choices, by the way, would result in loss of jobs. And, there are long term consequences to making these cuts that go well beyond just this year.
This particular time of the coronavirus challenges us to maintain our relationship with our creative lives and it very well could be a time of pause. One may find it hard to write when we’re worried about our health and livelihoods or our families. One of my favorite writers, Nicole Gulotta, recently discussed in her podcast Wild Words how writing is certainly essential but in a way that is different than our basic essential needs. This may very well be a period of time this year where we slow down or even stop writing because we feel exhausted, we don’t have the energy or the motivation, or we just don’t feel like it. All of this is okay and I would even say that it is certainly a part of living a writer’s life.
Lake County Poet Laureate Georgina Marie and The Lake County Bloom invite Lake County writers to submit to our bi-weekly poetry column, Rooted in Poetry. This column is a collaboration to offer a platform for local writers to introduce themselves to the community through their writing. Writers of all backgrounds are welcome regardless of your experience or style. We support established and emerging writers and look forward to reading a wide range of work and perspectives.
Like all of you, I’m adjusting to this new lifestyle. No facet of my life is unaffected by the pandemic. I’m teaching classes from home. I’m homeschooling a teenager. I’m standing in line for toilet paper at 7:00 a.m. in a mask. I’m dealing with the personal and professional challenges of a “shelter in place” order, and when I get the chance, I’m writing. The following series of poems is dedicated to all of the students who are “sheltered in place” at home.
A total of 22 contest submissions were received from Lake County writers from all around the lake of different ages and writing experience. A reading panel of 5 Lake County residents made the winning poem selections. Submissions were read blind without knowing names of those who wrote the poems until after selections were made. First place winner was Diane Tulley for her poem 65 Year Old Garden. Second place winner was Ariana Weinert for her poem The Market Season. Third place winner was Mia Ruiz for her poem The Golden Peach. Each winner was awarded a monetary amount in market money to use on fresh goods at the market (funds were sponsored by Lake County Bloom and Georgina Marie), had their poems on display for the market’s opening day, and their poems are being published in the Lake County Bloom. The remaining contestants have the opportunity to have their poems posted on the Lake County Farmers’ Finest website.
Art is a conversation. We absorb our worlds, consciously and unconsciously, and when we create art, we’re expressing those experiences, whatever they may be. With the shelter-in-place order, I no longer spent my days teaching in a high school classroom. My ears rang, not with the usual buzz of my 130 students, but with an unfamiliar silence. I felt myself floating in a bubble of space and solitude, listening rather than speaking, an exchange student in a new land.