Where to begin on this just completed, epic nuclear family odyssey to Ireland and Scotland? It was partly my discoveries in our family history that got my dad excited to go. He had expressed a desire to bring a little soil from his grandfather's gravesite in Forestville CT to return to the "Auld Sod". When I learned the grave location of Andrew McKnight and Sarah Milliken (his grandfather's parents) in West Calder, Scotland just a few weeks ago, the mission was set....

May 25, 2017. Reflecting on a year's anniversary, with love to cousin Lee and a toast to Aunt Margaret

I am flying into the sunrise, soon to land in Dublin. Sometime during this crossing of the Atlantic we have crossed midnight and into tomorrow. It strikes me here at nearly 40,000 feet above this blue ball, that this morning marks exactly a year since a significant milestone - one that more or less led to this trip with my parents and sister.

My cousin Lee and I met in person for the first time last April near Nashville....

Along with tons of other plants over the decades, Grandma gave a rose bush to my parents some 40 years ago. A few years back, my sister rescued its scraggly and dying self where it was shaded by a now full-grown tree in my parents yard. She transplanted it in her yard at home in Maine, where it had an unfortunate run-in with a roto-tiller....

For those with absolutely no interest in coaxing green things out of dark dirt and wonder "why do they do it?" as well as those with green thumbs or obsessive orchid disorder.

May 1st is always a bit of a personal pivot point for me. I'm often on the road for large chunks of March and April, and my absence usually results in weeds choking my gardens. They impose their chaotic unruliness over my carefully tended beds like an army of Orcs pillaging the good green Shire. Adding to that, deer come and graze on the new shoots of the bulbs I've stuck in the ground. I often walk around with my morning coffee looking for small signs of hope in the carnage, emulating the Michael Jackson look with a single glove for tugging at a strand of ground ivy here and bedstraw there. The proverbial equivalent of peeing in the ocean, but to clear a few square inches of precious garden space from the marauders somehow does my psyche good in spite of the magnitude of the discontinuity....

So today is #DNADay. We live in amazing times. In the 1950s Watson and Crick first described the crazy macro molecule that carries everything about living species wrapped up in a double helix. A few years ago a massive effort finished mapping out the entire human genome...

I've always loved lilacs. We used to have a large lilac bush at our old place on Snickersville Turnpike. I've been known to clip a couple when I've been on the road and stick them in a water bottle to freshen up the van during a spring tour, even once or twice without permission (see "The Great Lincoln Lilac Larceny")....

Plain and simple, my life might have been a whole lot different without Chuck Berry.

Chuck Berry passed away last month. It is bittersweet for me to acknowledge both the influence of my childhood mentors decades later and the realization that they too have aged and will not live forever. Chuck Berry certainly didn't get cheated by the vagaries of time at least, finally ending his final encore at age 90 and releasing a new recording too!

It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that Chuck Berry taught me how to play guitar...

A solo artist marvels at the intimate machinations of a large performing arts production, and some special kids who bring it to life.

The stage life of a performing singer/songwriter is usually fairly solitary. There is of course always the audience, and the interaction and energy between performer and audience makes each show unique. The sound engineer and the stage lighting crew play vital roles in shaping the experience. But ultimately, the performer plans the presentation in some fashion, and a like a one-person show, rolls it on stage and delivers.

From my background, theater is a totally different animal...

I think I've found something upon which most of us can agree.

Bacon - just about everybody loves it. The #1 food vegetarians say they miss. The smell of bacon cooking drives us nuts, and drives most every other cogent thought from the brain. Bacon. Mmmmm.

I think I've figured out what's wrong with our country, and more importantly, how to fix it...

As we Americans experience another period of societal and cultural upheaval (aka change), a few reflections on the lasting legacy of a few committed individuals who were also determined to change the status quo.

I spent more than a few miles on this tour reflecting on all the natural splendors I've visited in the southeast - swamps, maritime forests, barrier islands, salt marshes and other natural and geological oddities. Over twenty years I have amassed quite a passport book of out-of-the-way treasures of the southeast and south Atlantic coast, even when I leave out the many stunning lands in the southern Appalachians, a region where I have spent considerable time on repeated visits.

There is of course a maelstrom going on right now in Washington on several dozen different important issues, some of which will have profound impacts for many years to come...

Once again reveling in and revisiting the odd rituals that come with the New Year, and reflecting on how strange the journey is turning out to be, now that I've turned a few.

In case you missed it, in the Western world the calendar has flipped again. Our annual revolution around our beloved nearby star has reached this particular spot in the heavens, and because we draw 12 pages with an odd number of boxes on each, we must have a starting point for each of those collections. Thus, January arrives, heralding a New Year, and toting along all of the assorted rituals that we have tethered to it.

I'm not big on resolutions, but I do like to check my progress (or lack thereof) in a variety of ways, and of course count my blessings - including the ones that I might overlook...

Attempting to make sense out of a "post-fact" society, and place seemingly absurd moments into historical context.

There were some who predicted that Hell would freeze over if the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Let's just say that strange things have happened in this year when the Cubs finally did. I have a big crack in the side of my beloved Martin guitar. A whole lot of great musicians have left this earthly plane, including this month Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell. And then there is this election thing...

We think naturally of the past on Thanksgiving, remembering cherished family elders and traditions from our childhood. My never-ending exploration of my family stories and genealogy dropped an interesting and startling one in my lap this morning. It turns out that my 10G grandfather, Capt. Nathaniel Turner, was lost at sea on a voyage back to England out of the new settlement of New Haven in 1646. His ship, the Phantom, was immortalized in verse centuries later by Longfellow. I am grateful that he was not lost before he had children, or else I wouldn't be here!

Read Longfellow's "The Phantom Ship" here.

I just returned from a silent prayer vigil at the Quaker Meeting in the village. On this night when we seem to be drowning in a virtual sea of violent rage, deceit and conspiracy theories, what I needed was a moment of peace. Silence. Reconnection with real souls in person. Simply being present with each other and the unseen. Time to gather and sift through my swirling thoughts and conflict a final time. This night feels like our American dreams and ideals have been heaped onto a blazing pyre of our own virulent anger. I walked home alone in the dark, lit only by the late autumn moon through the trees...

How fitting an end to this All Soul's Day, El Dia de Los Muertos. Slowly these last few years I have pieced together my family story near and far, recent and distant. I have connected my grandparents siblings, even my father's father's family who scattered every which way in a trail of mystery and intrigue. Two years ago I was wondering if I'd ever find his sister Margaret, the opera singer who went west and seemingly vanished forever. This May we finally found her family, and while I haven't met most of her descendants - my west coast cousins - in person yet, I'm thrilled that they are part of my virtual life and that we share rich musical DNA...

I'm not sure what I find the most amazing about this. That:

1) NASA shot a piano-sized computer/camera at a planet 3 billion miles and 9 1/2 years away, and hit its 60 by 90 mile target within 43 seconds of predicted,
2) said device beamed back all that incredible detailed digital data over 16 months over an even longer distance through the equivalent of the shittiest dial-up modem ever, or that
3) we can look at those matrices of 1s and 0s it collected and carrier-pigeoned back to us in incredible sharp detail on a device in the palm of our hand.

Yeah, I pretty much find all of that the most amazing thing. Kudos to my favorite rocket scientists ever. #PlutoRocks

It is no secret that I am deeply troubled by the deterioration of discourse, debate and compromise for a common good in our bitterly divided land. I found myself yesterday with time on my hands on a gorgeous autumn day to remedy a personal travesty - in the quarter century that I've lived here I had never visited Gettysburg. I am glad that I can no longer say that. I'm not sure what I was looking for, to be truthful. Perhaps the reminder that we have survived times of bitter political and philosophical division, and at times the cost has been great and dear indeed...

A tribute to my friend Cacey Combs, who lived a beautiful life no matter how it ended. Originally published September 23, 2010, I share this again as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. #shinethelight #endDomesticViolence #loveshouldnthurt

September is a deeply transformative time. The earth passes from its summer orientation in route to winter here in the northern hemisphere. I personally feel that hurried rush of plants and animals responding to the rapidly shortening days. The leaves are just starting to turn across these Blue Ridge foothills; but despite today's 95 degree heat, one feels that this is summer's last gasping "gift" to those of us not yet ready for the bare tree season...

Has interacting with our community of geography become quaint and old-fashioned?

I was biking up to town yesterday running errands. I often do - driving 30,000 miles or more each year means I leave my van in the driveway for days on end when I’m home. As I turned up the blacktop, I saw my elderly neighbor whose house burned down in January. He was just dropping by his property to check on things after a weeklong veterans trip to Korea....

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I have done what little I can when I can to help prevent suicide with local organizations, and sharing available resources I know about whenever I can. I share this anecdote today because it illustrates one of the most important aspects of suicide prevention. We often never know what impact a little kindness, or some other little thing we do, might have on someone in dire crisis.

Thoughts on a parent's milestone birthday, and the first day of 4th grade (with best wishes to kids everywhere for a great school year)

Another beautiful steamy late summer morning to herald the arrival of another “1st day of school”. Our 5th first day of walking down our driveway and up our gravel road towards our little old village school that we so cherish. It is far different now than kindergarten was, especially her height!....

"I feel best in that little space between a smile and a tear"

I didn't want to let this week's passing of 94-year old jazz legend Toots Thielemans go by without sharing a little tribute and a lot of respect. Jazz guitarist, harmonica virtuoso, and whistler too, this gentle Belgian's musical gifts have been known to millions of kids who may not have heard his name til now - his welcome and familiar harmonica refrain that was the theme to "Sesame Street".

Music. It's my life because it is the language of life. I had the most incredible experience last night at the Epicure Café in the DC suburb of Fairfax VA. There were several fantastic musicians in the lineup over the course of the Songwriters Association of Washington sponsored showcase, and a very special guest. Karim Wasfi is a virtuoso cellist, but also happens to be the Principal Conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra...

My last full day at Ferry Beach Park Association started with a cup of coffee on the beach as my bagpiping friend summoned the sun and saluted my ancestors homeland. We gathered for our last chapel in the echoing majesty of the ocean pines to the sounds of "Amazing Grace" on the pipes, bookended our week with a different hymn to Sibelius "Finlandia", sang "We Shall Overcome" hand in hand and "Amazing Grace" when no one was ready to leave...

An Independence Day weekend spent immersed in the swirling and ever-present past. Dedicated with love to my uncle Douglas McKnight, USN (1928-2016).

We spent a day over the 4th of July weekend bringing my cousin to visit DC for the first time. We caught a glorious sunny cool day, more like May than July, so we slathered on the sunscreen and walked most of the National Mall. It was my first visit to the World War II, Korean War, and Martin Luther King Memorials, and of course we did the traditional visits to the Lincoln and the Vietnam Wall.

It was an amazing experience. Along with my cousin, my 9-year old daughter had never been to the monuments. So in addition to my own awe, I got to explain some of the significant pieces of what she was witnessing. She carefully and solemnly did a pencil rubbing of one of the eight women whose names are engraved on the Wall....

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Tour Dates

  • 12/22/2017
    Twin Oaks Tavern Winery - Bluemont, VA
     
  • 12/31/2017
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling - Sterling, VA
     
  • 01/06/2018
    Redwood Run House Concerts - Philomont, VA
     
  • 01/07/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley - Stephens City, VA
     
  • 01/13/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick - Frederick, MD
     

HAPPENINGS

SPECIAL THANKS

Andrew is a grateful Endorsing Artist for Elixir Strings and Fairbuilt Guitars, and a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Artist Roster. He also is a member of The Standing "O" Project and Concerts in Your Home.

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