I had a tour yesterday of the "paper streets": pathways, no more than single track dirt trails mostly, that wind through the two valleys of Inverness. On a map, these paths are laid out as streets, but were never built. On them, one can get from place to place without having to use the car streets much. I had stumbled upon one path and had used it to cross from Second Valley into First. Others I had glimpsed but assumed they were private paths. They aren't, but they contain the private comings and goings of a town.
One winds its way onto the back of the Episcopal church property and the path widens in several places where altars are erected, and ends at a large stone cross.
Berkeley has paths like these, more urban, of course, and they are called "steppes". Sausalito has them as well. One such famously extends into the bay at Pelican Harbor, and boats were, for a time, not allowed to dock on that "street" until the harbormaster passed back into the town's favor.
You think that you know a town by what you see, but there remains a hidden life waiting to be revealed. In the film 'Rivers and Tides' about the art of Andy Goldsworthy, he recounts a conversation with an old woman who had lived in the Scottish town where he lives all her life. She said something like this: You think you know this street because you know who lives here and all of their children, but when I walk down this street I don't see just them, but all of the people who used to live here.
It's time in a place that reveals it's treasures to us, and our connection to it. I've been drawn to Inverness since the day I first saw it. What I loved about it then I still love, only now I'm beginning to know what I love. I've only caught a glimpse of the treasure at the heart of the town, only a glimmer of the depth of it, and I'll continue to wander the paper streets searching for more.
posted by Lisa Thompson on 6:21 PM link | comments 
Starting with Little Things
by William Stafford
Love the earth like a mole,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands --
But spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.
Tomorrow the world.
posted by Lisa Thompson on 10:06 AM link | comments 
There is a cast of birds who regularly inhabit my beach: all loners. There is the almost invisible spotted sandpiper who follows the scalloped line of the water, a dark-eyed junco who sings from atop the boat pulley, and a great blue heron who mostly dominates from the end of the pier, or at low tide evenings fishes from shore.
Ours is a great beach for solitude. I often see footprints but only rarely do I run into my neighbors. It is a thinking place. Dramatic changes in lighting, sky, temper and temperature make it a new place full of wonder with each visit. The scope of the landscape and the drama of the beauty make it a place of constant reflection: like stepping into a room where there is always only yourself.
The colder waters have brought more plentiful food and the winter residents gather offshore. I can hear them from the beach. The cormorants are growing in number -- a quick count through my binoculars says close to 700. White and brown pelicans mix with gulls of indeterminate kind. On the opposite shore, egrets and terns.
The breadth of what I see as well as the range of what I can see from here is particular and rooted in this beach. Each day as I walk from one end to the other, low tide and high, it becomes more a part of me, more a part of how I look, where I look, and what I look for. Huge parts of the bay remain unseen. I wonder how to include more of it in my seeing without
losing the depth of vision that comes with this focus on the particular.
posted by Lisa Thompson on 5:41 PM link | comments 
We gathered in the theater downtown and the movie hit the screen and together we were moved . Every seat filled. The movie is called "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" And we were blown away. This documentary chronicles the men behind the sound of Motown. They created it. They played on thousands of Motown songs with hundreds of hits -- as the movie states, they created more hits than the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Elvis combined. They were called the Funk Brothers, and all the Motown stars went to Studio A, or the "snakepit", to get the magical sound that these guys made. The Funk Brothers were behind much of the music of bands like the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight.
In the audience we laughed, tapped our feet, and even broke out in spontaneous applause at one point in the film. At the end, people stayed in their seats to chair-dance to the credits.
The movie begins with a dialogue with Joe Hunter, piano player with the Funk Brothers until 1963. He says time went by and by, and we wondered if anybody would ever know what we had done. Last night we gathered in that theater to witness what they had done.
The Funk Brothers were paid for their work, and were known by fellow musicians in their industry in their time. They enjoyed a measure of success, but have never been widely recognized for their collosal achievement. It is so important that this movie is playing in theaters and that people have an opportunity to see it in that setting, so that their work can be known by communities, not just by individuals in their homes. Several of the Brothers died before this film was made, and before the recognition that is now coming their way. One of them was a guitarist named Robert White and when Motown left Detroit abruptly to move to Los Angeles, he was one of a few Funk Brothers who followed them there. One of his friends went to visit him and as they walked into a restaurant the famous guitar hook that he had created for 'My Girl' began to play. Robert White turned to the waiter and said, "hear that?, I..." and then stopped. The friend said, "you were gonna to tell him that was yours, why did you stop?" And Robert White said, "He wouldn't believe an old fool like me did that?" He died under-appreciated, and that is the crime that this movie is addressing for those Funk Brothers who are still alive.
One thread that runs through the work and their talk about the work is the tremendous soul that these men have. They are connected to each other in a deep way, and they are connected to music that way also. The stories of being drawn to an instrument like a calling: one of the Funk Brothers grew up dirt poor and fashioned a guitar by attaching a single string to the side of his house, and made music by plucking it and by running a piece of glass over the surface; another tells a story about his father who attached a rubber band to both ends of a bowed stick, then planted one end of that stick in an ant hill and made the ants dance.
These men love each other like family and this is the film's greatest contribution to its audience. Most of them have thrived as people because of their soulful connection to each other as brothers, as musicians, as idea. They missed the recognition of their contribution to music, but most of them don't seem to have suffered as people because of that lack. They don't appear bitter, but truly grateful that they are now coming into appreciation. When Motown closed its Detroit doors one day without any notice, most of them just went back to doing what they had done before the Studio A era -- playing in clubs and wherever else they could.
"Standing in the Shadows of Motown": it's a beautiful thing to see -- you can hear the music, and you can feel the heart in every note.
posted by Lisa Thompson on 9:11 AM link | comments 
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