June 29, 2002
P.O. Box 12078
Cincinnati, OH 45212
It’s summertime and I rarely walk out of the house without pausing to pull a small weed or two out of one of the flowerbeds. Jack says a weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place, but he’s not a gardener, as of yet. Quack grass is not a flower under any circumstances.
It’s been an unbelievable year for the tiger lilies. The grape vines have really come into their own as well, although the squirrels keep eating the green grapes. The squirrel population has exploded in the back yard again, so I need to borrow a live trap from Michael Wilson. You have to drive at least five miles before you drop the squirrels off, or they’ll come back. I’m not too worried about the grapes right now, but there is talk of taking a run at a Grey Ghost Merlot one of these summers. Ever since I was a child and my mother showed me pictures she took as a young woman traveling around Europe, I’ve wanted to see a barefooted girl hitch up her skirt and tramp on harvested grapes to crush out the juice.
The catalpa trees went to town this year: big heart-shaped leaves, hundreds of flowers fifty feet or more off the ground. If you can’t remember which tree is a catalpa, look for the big bundles of beans. The tulip trees had a banner year as well. When we were walking Willow in the woods, we kept trying to figure out where all the flower petals and blossoms had come from, strewn along the path.
“Was there a wedding?”
“Probably so.” We had visions of rosy-cheeked, golden-curled flower girls sprinkling exotic petals out of baskets. My oldest brother Conrad finally pointed out it was the tulip trees dropping their blooms. Sure enough, we leaned back and spotted the flowers hidden toward the sky in the leafy branches.
When Conrad and his wife Kathy visited us this Spring with their five robust country children, a walk in the woods felt completely different. Their children, Jonathan, Hannah, Jesse, Rachel and Seth, *engage* with the earth: they get down in the dirt on eager hands and knees. Rachel found a beautiful snake skin that she carried home. Jesse ran ahead and came back with reports. Jonathan caught two snakes with his bare hands, and one of the water snakes bit him and drew a little blood. Conrad warned him that they were further South then usual and had to be careful of snakes, but he wasn’t too worried because the snake didn’t have fangs, just spiky, tiny teeth.
“We’ll know something’s the matter if you start babbling, if your sentences begin to fall apart,” Conrad said.
The children were splashing around in the creek knee deep overturning rocks, reminding me that I should never walk by a creek without keeping my eyes peeled for fossils. They had a contest to see who could cross the creek walking on a fallen tree, the naked trunk slick with dampness and the greens of tiny mosses and molds.
The children sleep in the attic of the Grey Ghost under eaves of odd angles.
In other news, we were informed that a horse gave birth earlier this year, and the offspring was christened OTR Tribute, OTR for short. They thought OTR was a filly at first, but it turned out to be a colt. He’ll be entering some initial competitions this August at the Ohio State Fair and then down in Lexington, so keep your fingers crossed. The thought of a Thoroughbred named OTR Tribute makes me very happy somehow.
In other news, we just realized that we’re going to be playing our 10th Cornerstone Festival this year. Unbelievable. I don’t even remember how we got hooked up with C-Stone Fest back in the early days of the band, but it’s hosted by an inner-city mission based in Chicago run by a wonderfully odd assortment of bohemian philanthropists. The festival has grown over the years and now draws about 25,000 people to the middle of nowhere to hear mostly underground bands. Surreal, dusty, sweaty, somehow unforgettable. Anyway, we’ve been honored by being invited back repeatedly, and here we go again. Our friend Dave Nixon will be looking after our booth for us. Dave presided at our wedding back in 1996 on a fine October day. If you want to volunteer to help Dave out, stop by the booth, and he might sign you up for a shift so that he can take a breather. He’s a fine writer, good company, and his daughters’ band, Brownhouse, will be playing the festival for the first time this year…
Unsung is finally done. My first book. I’ll be driving down to Kentucky to pick them up this afternoon. If you pre-ordered a copy, and plan on being at Cornerstone, you can pick up your signed and numbered first edition there. We’ll be mailing out all the others right after we return from the festival. (Make sure we have your latest address if it changed.) I really appreciate the patience of those who ordered the book so long ago.
Many people asked us about the possibility of getting a copy of Unsung after the first run sold out in advance, and thanks to the good folks at Larkspur Press, we were able to secure a second edition of an additional 500. So there should be plenty of books to go around for the foreseeable future. We’ll see how many people actually write in to pick up a copy, and if they move quickly, we might consider a small third edition. But when the letters get dumped out of the letterpress forms, there are no more books. (The text of the book was set entirely by hand, one letter at a time, with a tweezers, backwards. The woodcut illustrations were pressed directly on to the pages from the actual woodblocks.)
It’s a small book. A first step. They are beautiful. You could say that I’m happy.
We’ll get the ordering info up on the website soon.
After Cornerstone, we’re going to disappear for awhile to do some recording. In August, we’ll be playing some concerts around Europe and visiting Jack and Hazel in Scotland. They bought a house in a small village there. The rest of the European dates will be posted soon. We’ll performing in Holland, Italy, England, Ireland, Wales and, hopefully, Belgium.
In September we hope to do a handful of concerts in the South–Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee.
Here are a few recently added links at overtherhine.com to check out:
European Tour dates:
Malone College interview with Linford:
Silver Platters (Seattle) review of Grey Ghost Stories by Lisa M. Smith:
Thanks to Megan Holmes and Ken Carl for concert photos:
That’s all for now.
Enjoy these days,