A photo montage from Pat's wake.
Writing for Pat’s Operation Fat Peril blog was cathartic for me this past year, and I’d like to start posting writings again. So, here goes. This early June I poured my heart into Pat’s beautiful service and wake, as did many of us. I compiled a piece about the experience over the next week while sitting out late on the Carroll porch in Traverse City. I intend to share this piece in the future when I’m ready to step into the world of editing more Pat-related video and audio...
I think it’s fair to say I’ve had a rich three months since Pat passed. This has been a time of unabridged feelings spanning the emotional spectrum- often moving quicker or deeper than I’d like. However, I’m finding that the degree to which I accept my feelings correlates with my capacity to be creative. Accepting my grief has often been scary and exhausting. But a mix of good company, solitude, deep breathing and creativity has encouraged me to face it more often than not. It’s a gift to have music to pour into the void of loss I feel. I’ve generally been rising and resting with music on my mind, staying busy writing, practicing, researching or trying to replicate something in my head. There’s been lots of “here we go” style learning going on. Lots of trying things I didn’t think I could do on my own. Lots of learning about things that Pat or others used to do for me. This process has often had me transfixed and delighted, with a growing collection of songs to boot.
I’ve been occupying quiet spaces throughout Michigan these last few months and feeling best with solitude, broken up by periods of social time and music gigs. I’ve been landing in three “nests” as my mom calls them with my mother in Brighton, MI, with my friends Tony, Joyce and Paul in Kalamazoo, and with the Carroll’s in Traverse City. I’m grateful that they all have spare rooms, generous hearts and listening ears. I’ve spent many an evening talking, crying and laughing with these dear hearts.
Fiddle Case napping...
Later in June, I worked at the Earthwork Family Weekend and was lifted by the sweet staff, kids and families there, not to mention the incredible talent show. Here is a blog post about the annual weekend that I wrote with some of Pat’s photos on the Earthwork site. You can also view a beautiful tribute video by Michael Erlewine chronicling the section of the talent show dedicated to Pat.
Soon after Family Weekend, I celebrated my mother Susie’s birthday with family and reconnected with them for the week. Then, I headed to the Allied Media Conference and part of the Grace Lee Boggs conference in Detroit, which were inspiring and sobering. Both are centered around what grace calls "visionary organizing" and place based activism. You can check out Grace's new documentary here: American Revolutionary: The Evolution Of Grace Lee Boggs. It was nice to attend at my own pace and dip back into a macro-world of justice initiatives. Learning how to engage with the reality of the world in a good way is often a struggle with my fixer tic. But, at least these conference folks know how to have fun. They throw some of the best dance parties I’ve seen!
The rest of June consisted of slowing down and letting reality set in about Pat’s death. This heaviness was punctuated by performing at the Midsummer Music Feast at the Eaters Guild Farm in Bangor, MI, and by recording with a collective studio in Kalamazoo called Double Phelix. Recording the track, “Sweet Green Valley” was so revitalizing. This tune was written by my friends Graham Parsons and Gitis Baggs while in California, and they let me harmonize with my self on the vocals. It’s part of a great compilation that was just released called “The Call Of Double Phelix,” which you can stream online.The poppy fields at the Earthwork Family Weekend.
July found me gearing up to teach at the SEEDS School Of Rock (SOR) Camp, which I LOVED. One highlight included jogging backward around a fire pit while singing a call & response operatic song with Katie Lee as a somatic breathing exercise. Other highlights included receiving massive group hugs from campers during a wave of grief, and leading a live version of Pat’s “Glow In The Dark” with a youth-led horn/violin section at the Traverse City Opera house. Another favorite moment was singing for a collective track created by students and staff, and produced by Community Records, a hip-hop collective based out of Ypsilanti, MI that led workshops with SOR students.
Throughout July, I played violin in a series of weddings and square dances, as well as a funeral for a dear family friend Ralph Stallard. The times I did play out this summer were fewer than usual, but they required lots of prep to get back into performing shape, learn new material and fill out my sound as a solo performer. During this time, I also worked periodically with the Carroll’s to start the Pat Carroll Foundation and tie up loose ends for Pat’s friend-powered, national listening party tour. (I also discovered that Pat's mom Beckie has nearly the same swimsuit as me. Surprise surprise. ;)
Raspberry sac dress basket
The last half of July, I got bowled over by the beauty of a northern Michigan summer. It started with a house sit while working on music with Elisabeth Pixley-Fink, and continued with a vacation around the pinky of MI in Northport and Maple City while visiting my friends Will, Gaia and Adrian. It was full of berry-expeditions, swimming in the big lake, and homemade culinary delights. I also got to see some Clausnitzer family members at our cabin in East Jordan, and splash in the Jordan River with the Wagbo Farm crew. I eventually got back downstate for my cousin Erin’s baby shower, hung out with the Coopers and saw my sister Katie and Lindsay’s small farm emerge at my dads farmhouse in South Lyon, MI.
Photo by John Hanson.
Come August, I geared up to play at the Great Lakes Folk Fest with Bowhunter & banjo-Sam Herman! A good part of August was spent in the generous arms of the Miss Muse house in Kzoo. Tony Roth and a Kalamacrew were also a huge help with moving Pat's things that month. August was filled with recording at the Double Phelix Collective Studio. I recorded a piece with words that I set to music from Kahlil Gibran’s book “The Prophet”. I named the tune “A Moving Sea” and recorded it with some of my favorite musicians, marking the start of a solo album project! I also recorded most of an album of hymns with Elisabeth Pixley-Fink before she left for a Montessori teacher training in Portland, OR. Here’s an Earthwork blog article I wrote about the project, which will be released around the Solstice with accompanying shows.
Strawberry patch in Leelanau County
To close out the summer, I prepared for one of my first solo shows- instead of playing as a backing musician like I’ve done for years. I played at the Filling Station in Traverse City, but I didn’t promote it too loudly. This show was a big deal for me, especially because it was the first that I’ve led without Pat or Elisabeth in the wings, let alone the first I’ve led since Pat passed. Getting a body of songs polished in the middle of a creation-boom was also tricky, but a fun challenge. Kudos to my mom Susie for being my first listening ear, and for helping me let go of the premature songs babes’ I didn’t have time to polish. (ATTN all songwriters I’ve backed in the past: I finally understand how hard it is to resist the urge to play brand new material!)
Luckily, I really enjoyed leading the set. I saw a lot of friends there, which comes with the territory when you’re playing with the likes of Breathe Owl Breathe and Jon Timm. I also had friends sit in, and I’m glad that I did. For instance, I tried having Micah Middaugh do a vocal drone at the beginning while I sang an acapella tune. After a one-minute practice, it turned out to be confusing for Micah to hold a G sharp, take breaths in sync with me and hit the same note again without falter. (Imagine that!) But, the whole thing gave us both a fit of belly laughter and put me at ease. I also had Andrea Moreno Beals sing an old song with me, and Jon Timm and Lauren Farrah accompanied me for an old country tune. My friends Brenin Wertz Roth and Adrian O’barr backed me up on a couple fiddle tunes toward the end too, which were so lively that my violin holder fell off the mic stand. (Luckily I was playing the violin at the time.)
I was relieved that I felt comfortable talking about the Pat Carroll Foundation, and thankful that we sold some of Pat’s "Glow In The Dark" CD's. The Patrick J. Carroll Foundation is almost up and running. All the proceeds of Pat's album will be going to his Foundation, which will support youth education in the fields of music and social work. Beckie Carroll will be announcing more info about the Foundation at the Earthwork Harvest Gathering (Harvest) this year during Pat’s Sunday tribute set. My next solo set will also be on Sunday afternoon, September 22 at the Earthwork Harvest Gathering with another crew of friends sitting in. That weekend, I’ll also be playing a square dance with my string band Bowhunter, accompanying Elisabeth Pixley-Fink, singing during the Double Phelix Collective block and co-leading a singing-songs workshop. I highly recommend attending the Earthwork Harvest Gathering in Lake City, MI if you haven’t before!
Sources for our upcoming album of hymns
My fall time in Kalamazoo will be busy between studio work for friends, practicing, preparing sets for Harvest and working on the yet-to-be-titled hymns album. Come October, I look forward to being up north for the changing of the leaves... I just learned that after the Harvest Gathering, I’ll be occupying the ISLAND Hill House as an artist in residence! I did an artist residency there in April 12’ with Elisabeth and the experience was really formative. They happened to have an artist cancel their upcoming spot, so they contacted program alums to see who was interested. This works out well, because I’m already set to play a series of background music gigs for ISLAND Institute events on October 5, 6 and 11.
The rest of my fall and winter is yet to be etched. I'm planning a "Hearth & Hymn Tour" in late December-early January for our upcoming album of hymns. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to host or book a wintertime hymns concert with me and Elisabeth Pixley-Fink between Dec. 21 and Jan. 4. (Pre or post-show treks outside are encouraged, as are post-set hymn swaps.)
Thanks to all for your continued love and support.
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