May 12 — 18 days to go…

Countdown, 18 Days:  Today we gathered in my living room: music stands and guitar stands, Maggie’s glittering accordion and her two guitars—one in standard tuning, the other tuned to a huge open C chord, which sounds gorgeous; and my battered Martin and my mandolin, as well as a violin I keep close in case I get confident enough to use it. Both of us with notebooks stuffed with lyric sheets ad chord charts. We are joined today by my mother, Barbara, who is deeply engaged with our Water Dragon Southwest Tour; as a birthday present, she’ll pay for the rental car in which we’ll drive those 2000+ miles.  She loves listening to us play, even though the music makes her miss Oakley very much.

Rehearsing on the back deck

Maggie’s done so much of this—music, touring, concerts—it’s hard not to feel a bit intimidated, but she’ll have none of that, and her attitude is bracing. We worked one by one through the list we’ve concocted of about 16 songs, beginning with “Rustler’s Moon.” This was written after visiting my friend Dana in Durango (she’ll be hosting one of our concerts at her ranch, Coyote’s Revenge). As Dana walked me to where I was going to sleep she pointed up to a sliver of a moon high in the night sky, and said, “That’s a rustler’s moon.” When I asked her what that meant, she said, “a moon bright enough to see by, but not bright enough to be seen by.” This seemed a useful image for clandestine love, and a few years later, inspired by an illicit love that didn’t really go anywhere but had left me thinking, and having recently read MacMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, I wrote,

     The moon’s a pale sliver in the dark night sky

     A sickle’s edge that gleams against the stars

     It’s a rustler’s moon, and he saddles up his pony

     Her hand trembles as she holds the light

     Someone’s going to lose something tonight

Over the years Maggie and her husband Luke have played this tune with me many times, and Maggie’s worked out lovely harmonies. A good song to begin with! bolstering joy in what we’re up to. After that we ventured into less rehearsed territory, including Maggie’s gorgeous song, “When the Sun Goes Down in the Sky.” On this one she plays guitar and sings, I’m on mandolin and harmony. Its lyrics and melody are perfectly matched to create a yearning melancholy. Mother looked infinitely sad, even as Maggie asked me to move my harmony from a fifth above the melody—a bit dissonant for the mood of the song—to a third, which efforts were definitely not a beautiful thing to listen to. When I expressed concern at Mom’s sorrowful face, she said, voice breaking, “It’s just awful to be a widow.”

“We’d better move on to something more cheerful!” Maggie said, and so we launched into “Dancin’ Through the Heavens,” written for my old beau Tom Lane, which begins,

     I believe in distance

     But I was afraid of space

     The ebb and flow, the come and go

     Until I saw your face

     Now we’re dancing through the heavens,

     Swinging through the stars

     Holding on to moonbeams

     Loving you that’s how things are.

Which made Mother sad as Oakley wasn’t there to hear rehearsal.  “This is how it is,” I said to Maggie. “They had such a fun marriage, and when she’s having a good time, she wants to share it with him, and he isn’t there.”

“Another happy song!” Maggie said, and we launched into “O Joy Divine of Friends,” the title of which comes from an engraving above the fireplace of some of my parents’ friends. I noted it when I was about 15, and ten years later, found reason to put it into song:

     I know that it’s been said before, we are orphans of the storm

     Cast adrift and far from shore, orphans of the storm

     Drifting moorless on the sea, by winds which rock us endlessly

     Until we find the land we seek: the joy divine of friends

“I like that song,” Mother said, cheered.

We worked until a bit after 6:00 and then, after pouring some Prosecco into long-stemmed glasses and toasting the Water Dragon endeavor, looked at clothing choices. My sister, photographer Brett Hall Jones would be arriving at 6:30 to take shots of the two of us—we’re overdue to send out a description of the event to our various hosts. Both of us had chosen a dozen options to discuss as possibilities, but we quickly settled on black sleeveless tops and knee-length spangly skirts—Maggie’s deep blue with black beading, mine white with black beading—and dark hose and black heeled boots. Our hair we pulled up and back, and we wore silver jewelry. As the sun lowered and the mosquitoes grew dense Brett took dozens of shots. “Open your eyes, Maggie, pull in your chin, Sands. Beautiful!”

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