It’s a month since the Old Goat Trail in Colorado. Early April dusted the road with snow between sunbreaks as we aimed for the Midwest.

We rolled out of the east side of the high Rockies and out into the widening plains of Kansas and warmer weather. Coats were traded off for shirts and boots shed for sandals. The road lost its curl and we drove straight for Parkville and then the Big Muddy Festival and Missouri. We joined Lil’ Rev, Rory Block, the Red Clay Ramblers, and David Grimes with locals Dave Para and Cathy Barton hosting the weekend in the the 150 year-old Thespian Hall to play to a full house of music lovers. Playing the Big Muddy was worth the 2000 miles it took to get there. The friendly jam on the front porch with the locals will remain in our memories for a long time to come. We felt right at home.

Before Boonville, Parkville, Missouri brought us close to new friends, Dave & Yvette, who hosted us after our concert at Bentley’s Guitar Studio. After a late night pasta meal, they played a new song for us and we fell in love with “Forrestyne’s Waltz” by Bill Graham. It is one of those perfect songs that captures the imagination and life of Forrestyne Loyles, great-granddaughter and descendent of Daniel Boone. Forrestyne’s story unfolds in a nutshell of three verses and a luscious chorus that wraps up with her admonition to young women to answer the call to love after her long life lived alone. Steve and I learned and played the song from memory after Dave & Yvette shared it with us. It’s a beauty. We contacted the author to thank him for the song. It’s one of the good ones.

After Boonville, it was time for a few Ukalaliens workshops in music stores in Springfield and Joplin, Missouri and Wichita, Kansas. Converting new music makers by the roomful, we aimed for a northwest return. Las Vegas and California were on the original map but work was scarce and the shortage of work compelled us to revise our route. We changed direction and aimed for Wallowa County where the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance set us up with classes, concerts and private lessons with the locals on short notice.

After Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho we made it across the Oregon state line and headed for the end of the Lewis & Clark trail and the land of Chief Joseph, Fishtrap and our eastern Oregon friends. Being back in Joseph was as close to coming home as it gets. One person after another welcomed us back with open arms and dinner and potluck invitations. The country life in rural eastern Oregon is almost as busy as the cosmopolitans but with prettier background scenery. We were glad for the Wallowas, the Blue Mountains and the relaxed smiles on the faces of the people we met. Wallowa County is a good place to get your bearings. We plugged into electricity at The Woodshed and made the back lot our home for the time we were there, complete with good homemade meals and evenings jams in the RV.

After the last show in Joseph, we headed five hours west for Mosier. Friends leaving for Colorado graciously invited us to housesit while they went on vacation. We eagerly accepted. Their place is a restful, a beautifully built house sitting near the top of the rolling hills of Mosier overlooking the mouth of the Columbia Gorge about 60 miles east of Portland. Blue skies started out the day with full rainbows between sunbreaks and spring showers. The temperature is still chilly but the sunshine makes up for the need for sweaters.

We happily adapted to life in Mosier and settled in until our weekend run out to Lebanon, Oregon. We were hired to promote a new non-profit planning an annual uke festival for August by Terry & Donna Deacon and The Aloha Foundation. Their goal is to fund the music programs in the schools by raising money to purchase ukuleles for the children in Lebanon. Our concert was well received on Friday night. The Ukalaliens Workshop was hosted by Gary and Shirlee at Stainthorpe’s Music the next morning. Gary is a piano tuner by trade and gypsy fiddler since crossing paths with a melodious Hungarian in his childhood back in the 30’s. Cheerful, warm and funny, he led as we toured the 14,000 square foot historic building housing his music shop, a ballroom, service kitchen, freight elevator and countless other rooms with stories that started well over a hundred years ago. As much as Gary would have liked us to take over the building for him, we left it for someone younger to come along. It’s a grand place. Lebanon is thriving and excitedly preparing for a new medical school and veteran hospital in the works. It was good to see a small town with a new lease on life. We enlightened a couple of dozen new Ukalaliens and left afterwards feeling satisfied to have shared our music and forged a number of new friendships, one of the rewards of traveling for shows.

We stopped by the art studio in Portland to pick up Steve’s artwork and visit with family. After we got “home” in Mosier, we began the work of preparing to hang Steve’s art show at The Dalles Art Center on Monday morning. This month-long May show features Steve’s drawings and musical sculptures along with the whimsical work of Portland illustrator/sculptor, Lisa Kaser. The show will hang for the month and will be on exhibit during Fishstock in a couple of weeks. The work between the two artists is a great blend of whimsy on top and dark underneath. The artist reception will be on Thursday from 5-7, complete with music on the sculptures and we’re hoping for a good turnout. The sculptures will be making sounds all their own.

While we’re here we’ll gather with the current Gorge Ukalaliens and have a “Chop Potluck” at Dan and Crystal’s on Wednesday night to show them a few more tricks.

In between the shows coming up, we continue to ponder “home” and contemplate what the next nest for us will be. Our last home was our first together and it lasted sixteen years. We need a place now where we can work and live. The kids are on their own and we are immersed in projects. So much of the ground we were used to walking in our old life has changed and now we are rambling in new directions. Still, the call to connect with family and friends is strong and we long for a place that will give us the solitude it takes to do the work at hand and still allow us to convene for everything from meals and birthday cakes.

As much as we looked forward to getting back to Portland, the city pace dished up a rush of intensity we were unprepared for. Every place we went felt pressed, thick and busy. The unbundling of all that compression while we were out traveling in the wide open spaces was harder to repack back into our bodies and minds. Our psychic sizing was off. I felt like a jpeg degraded into a pixalated version of my former full-definition self. My pace was out of synch with my surroundings. Looking back at our few hours in Portland, it’s unclear whether my original life in Portland will resume or perhaps it’s time to look to new ground. Sustainability. Where will we find it?

It’s not easy being unsure of what home looks like at this stage. Maybe the sudden discomfort of the familiar comes from a deeper beckoning leading us to places we wouldn’t think to explore from a place of comfort. Either way, it’s never dull. Answers beg more questions. Life is interesting. We look forward to seeing what happens next. Meanwhile, we’ll keep the door to our hearts, eyes and ears open to the next aha.

Gigging around the countryside