Kate Power 1969I am 5 years old…  My father has shown me a trick on the piano as we sit together, his fingertips settled on the keys to play.

“One key, skip a key and then press the next key.  Doe – re – mi, doe – mi, see?  Harmony!”

“Now watch. If I move my fingers up to the next note, skip two, press three, there you have it again, harmony… but it’s a little higher, doe – mi.”

A lock of his brown hair falls out of place over one eye and he looks like a kid, like us – always something just a little out of place, no matter how well we put ourselves together.

“Now, you sing it when I play it.  I’ll be doe and you be mi.  He puts his long finger over my little one and we press middle C together.

He sings “doe.”  I follow under his note “doe” imitating the sound, my little voice under his.  He walks up “re” then once more to show me the third note.

“Mi” he says gently, “that’s your note.”

I hear the sound and sing it louder, “Mi.”  His “doe” still sounding, in chorus.

“We’re a chord!” he says smiling.

I grin, looking up to him. “Let’s do it again!” and we do.

I am 14… My father sees I’ve gotten bored with the autoharp he gave me for my birthday four months ago.  My eyes look longingly as he plays his guitar with me in a chair across from his in the living room.

“Dad, can you show me how to play the guitar?”

“Sure honey, here.”  He holds up his guitar by the neck and hands it to me and then picks up my brother Mike’s classical guitar leaning in the corner of the  wainscoted walls and throws it comfortably on his lap.

“Here’s what you do.”

He begins to show me.  I follow his fingers around the neck with mine, finding the stations for each fingertip; G, C, D. “Four Strong Winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high, all those things that don’t change, come what may…”

“Okay, go try that for awhile” he says.

Thirty minutes later I’m back for more.

He laughs when he sees I’ve got it.

I am 15… My father has driven me to The Experiment, a new folk club with psychedelic walls that has opened in the next town just up the hill from the train station in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  It’s my first audition, six months after my first three chords.  I’m young and the owners are busy until I sing, “The way I feel is like a robin…

The bartender behind the counter stops circling the counter with the wet terry rag. A smile cracks the owner’s face and he leans against the doorjamb, clipboard folded across his chest.  I close my eyes and press into my guitar to sing.  I get the job.

Forty-five years later, that day is still one of my father’s favorite stories.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This blog was also posted on Kathleen’s mothertone blog.To read Cathleen’s counterblog, please visit http://reunioneyes.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-i-was-boy.html .

 

Kathleen~Cathleen

Kathleen~Cathleen

Kate here… Memorial Day ahead. The temperature belies Spring. I’m still in my black down jacket, ducking in and out of rain showers and errands today.  Now I get to settle in for the evening.

There are two things percolating I want to write about. One is about “the one thing” that strikes me on any given day. This is a theme that has been working at a slow boil on my back burner for months now. It will need its own page…

The other is the announcement of two new blogs: mothertone –  That’s me.  A me you might or might not know.  Either way, it’s a slice of life as I know it and a possible surprise to the unsuspecting friend, acquaintance, fan or customer. Blog “mothertone” speaks from my voice as a birthmother.  I’ve been in reunion with my forty-something daughter, Cathy, for twenty-two years now.

Cathy and I have been writing Kathleen~Cathleen for seven years.  It is a memoir from two perspectives, me the birthmother I am and she as the child-in-reunion she is. For seven years we have been brewing on the same chapters, designed to describe the turning points in our relationship.  We are committed to being in relationship for life. Kathleen~Cathleen explores the challenges inherent in a long term relationship-in-reunion.

Housed in the framework, the culture of our times, we found ourselves in an undiscovered place – a crossroads with no roadmap. There was no language, literally no words, to tell us what to call one another or how to introduce each other or carry on in society. Even today, there is still no word in the dictionary for what is only recently referred to as “birthmother.”  An ancient delivery system of child to an family, the word itself seems to have been banished from a designated definition, place or description in the book of words. No discussion can exist that uses a word that doesn’t exist.  A turning of the linguistic back created an invisible wall between what is and what is not to shield the saddest of separations in the family domain, that of child from mother and mother from the child.

Cathy and I are protective of the truth harboring our relationship.  Since the conception of our book in January 2004, we decided to write freely – together – but not to share our writing with one another until we were done.  We would leave the truth of our words to describe our mutual experiences and let them grow in a  garden of chapters, unaffected and uninterrupted by the gaze of birthmother on the words of her child and the child’s eyes on the mother’s as they attempt to describe the journey from and to each other from the inside out – a memoir in duet.

Kathleen~Cathleen.  Our names are just one of many synchronicities common in our story.  “At 18” opened in labor & delivery and was followed by an eighteen year-old girl calling the adoption agency to inquire after birth records only to find that her birthmother had called the same day.

From beginning to end, this story describes life-in-reunion in the long term – after the honeymoon glow grows dim and the shadow of loss comes to anchor in grief, and the journey through the uncharted rift of relinquishment-in-reunion that comes to roost in all the colors and shades of reconciliation.

Many drafts in, the beginning is finished and our friend and editor, Barbara, hand-delivered it in New York City on Mother’s Day, two weeks ago.  For the first time, eyes and hearts will take in both sides of what we’ve each written and they will decide what we’ve got here.

We think we know what we’ve got here.

We’d like to share it with you.

So now, we’ve started new blogs to begin to talk about it.

My daughter, Cathy’s (Cathleen) is ReunionEyes and mine (Kathleen) is mothertone – our side roads from the life and adventures of she, as mother of two young sons in Portland, Oregon and me on the maternal side of the singing, string-playing songwriter you’ve been running into over music all these years.

I know it’s on the personal side. That hasn’t stopped anybody from following the thread of our history over the years – the music, the art, the writing, the shop, the stories – it’s ALL been personal – all along.

We just happen to be in a business that is about people, folks, community, music, harmony; and this is one of my stories about being a girl who came of age between two worlds and grew old(er) and wise(r) with some grit, salt, tears and laughter mixed in. It’s all in there.

If you prefer, you can stick with the music, the ukulele, the song-singing, the music calendar and not stop to worry yourself about the intrepid territory (did she say birthmother?) described there.

We’ve always been out, Cathy and me, but that’s a whisper in a noisy storm of unspoken stories shifting to be heard.  It’s been a very quiet theme all these years, decades, centuries – why yell about it now? Well, it’s too a quiet story to hold it back forever.  It may just be that the time has come to let this story out.

So this is just one way of talking about our story. Blogging from both sides is an interactive side-journal to writing the book.  The blog is one way for both of us to talk about our process and the things that we think about – inside and outside of our chapters.  We’ll write freely about mutual topics we choose. We won’t expose ourselves to each other’s views and answers to our questions in common just yet.  YOU, the reader will learn what we both think  – long before we do – and you’ll come to your own conclusions – a bit wiser than either of us. The story is bigger than the two of us put together. That’s why we decided to tell it.

Kathleen~Cathleen and the two collateral blogs are a social experiment between Cathy and me.  We have chosen to commit our experiences to words, in the hope that understanding for people affected by adoption, relinquishment and reunion, will grow and that they will be encouraged by what is possible.  Imagined or realized, reunion opens much more than a door to a greeting from a long lost relative.  It is a family claim.

Now, according to ground rules Cathy and I established for ourselves seven years ago, we are going to blog freely without visiting each other’s blogs or writing.  We are still deep in drafts of Kathleen~Cathleen. Our aim remains to remain in a free-zone from the influence of each other on our writing until we have completed the story.

Someday soon we will read it all and this part of our shared privacy protecting words and chapters will be finished and over.  Until then, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing for a long time now. It’s a safe way for us to tell the story. It gives us the room to breathe as we approach turning point chapters in our relationship and spit out the hard parts along with the rest, some in words that haven’t been said out loud before this.

So, I hereby invite you, dear reader, to witness a previously unexposed part of the life of Kate; the Kate you know and the Kate you don’t.  My blog at mothertone will reflect the dilemmas and victories of a birthmother-in-reunion. You are also invited to Cathy’s blog and thoughts from the world of an adoptee in longterm reunion at ReunionEyes.

We hope that our work on Kathleen~Cathleen will create a roadmap for anyone seeking reunion and that it will give them courage to seek what’s possible by reading our story.

We appreciate your comments as we bring our project, book and blogs into the world. Another birth of sorts – only this one belongs to the family of man – the story belongs to all of us.

Feel free to explore mothertone and ReunionEyes for a taste of what we’re up to and respond with anything you’d like to share.  This is an interactive effort that we hope will benefit anyone interested in understanding or pursuing reunion.

Harmony is no small gift. We appreciate that much of what is discussed on these blogs may come as a surprise to readers, even close family and friends.  Please bear with us as we allow the true discussion to cross the table – if not yet with each other, then with you. We appreciate the protection of our privacy as we begin to introduce our process of writing Kathleen~Cathleen and the variety of forms its effect may have take flight.

Thank you for the incredible support so many of you have given us over the years – in our music and art – as we continue to participate in the ongoing parables of Life we share, observe and sally through as a community in art, music, heart and soul.   – kate

Kate here…
Kate Power 1968
We left Portland after more than thirty years to lend support to family in Olympia. Six months later we find some of our friends and fans distressed to find us gone from our Portland perch. Over the course of the last few quick years, we sold the shop, hit the road, sold our house and moved north.

After playing the River City Bluegrass Festival in Jantzen Beach, where we encountered many wonderful and familiar faces, we discovered that a lot of people who love us, our music and our journey are wondering where we went. Don’t worry, we’re still around and the story is growing legs of its own. We’re on a quest that has taken us over 30,000 miles in fifteen months and welcomed us into communities to sing all over the USA.

Joni sings “You don’t always know what you’ve got till it’s gone” in the background as I consider these last few months and how to describe life as we know it. We get homesick for Portland and return often to play, teach and visit. With the help of our website and enews, we hope to keep up with our Portland base and to let you know that we’re back in town.

We had wanted to have a big party before we relocated. Suddenly aging family needed tending between gigs and we were tossed in a whirlwind that blew one day into another with no door to stop time, look back and reflect.

I have an old wish to have journaled every single day since coming into the heart of the music community in Portland, Oregon at Artichoke Music. That midsummer day in 1977, I ventured into a tiny little instrument shop on NW 21st named after tough little vegetable I hadn’t even tasted yet. That became a landmark day and a turning point in the map that brought me here.

Artichoke Music was just one road to the middle of my life and most heavily traveled. We intersected with so many people in that place of music. By 1994 I was behind the counter and in cahoots with the owner on strings and otherwise. Regardless of caste, class or creed, music was the common language that parlayed customers into friends, not just with mutual love for instruments but with one another and the journeys we were on. We came together in community, in marriage, in solidarity and peace marches, raffling guitars for food for the hungry and manifesting dreams we chose to try on just to see what was possible – and it worked every time.

We set a Guinness World Record singing “This Land is Your Land” with 502 official members of the “World’s Largest Guitar Band” and raised 10k to feed hungry folks at the Sisters of the Road Cafe. Every kind of human being came to Pioneer Courthouse Square that Sunday in the middle of Portland 90 degree heat – from big wild mohawks and tatoos to straight Armani suits and ties. We all sang together for a better world in that moment. Our lives had seasoned into a unique role as community harmonizers and this day was proof of the pudding. “Guitarzilla” in the square happened three days before Portland would lose one of its first favorite sons in the war in Iraq, Travis John. People came to the square in the middle of town by bus, train, foot, car and bicycle. The police were onboard and the blocks around the square were monitored without one problem erupting. The mood in the country at the time was grim and depressed; this event was something positive that we could all agree on. Sixty-five minutes later, the record was set and the Associated Press was passing the story around the globe.

Sometimes doing something that hasn’t been done before really works. Everybody wants to have fun. Everyone wants to eat. Everyone wants to do something they can feel great about. All we wanted was a good story for our as-yet-unborn grandchildren and to raise some money for the good work at Sisters of the Road to help the hungry in our town. The fine line between “the haves and the have-nots” lingers heavily in the economic climate. In Oregon, it’s the children who are affected most and on that day, a lot of meals were guaranteed to feed them.

The iconic “1st Friday Variety Revue” ran in the Backgate for years to a full house and audiences came fully prepared to be blown away. The lineup always included at least one special mystery guest who was “either the prodigious undiscovered or someone TOO FAMOUS to pre-announce for the room” was a formula that became a new standard in entertainment in town. The list of entertainers is fun to look at all by itself. It was just as fun to present an unknown centenarian on the zither followed by a seven-year old banjo player as it was to follow that with a set by Tony Trishka or Artie Traum or John Herald. Some of the most incredible music-moments-of-a-lifetime were shared among us all in that place together, awed by the beauty and kinship we discovered in the music that rang in the middle of our differences. We learned new things every day. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the heart of the people.

That was some deep bonding over all the Portland years; a bond that deepens and grows as we find our way around the world with what we learned together. Its most powerful lesson boiled down to taking what we learned and deliver it into the bigger neighborhood of the world-at-large.

Portland has watched us grow and go through a lot of intersections over the years: a marriage between two folksingers from two corners of the folk music world, unexpected brain surgery, Odetta, Guitarzilla, playing the stage on A Prairie Home Companion, the delivery of a song on a banjo in the middle of the woods from the ghost of Travis John, Pete Seeger’s love for that song and sending it to Springsteen, singing two thousand miles away in Kerrville to receive an award for a song judged to make a difference while our youngest son graduated from high school back home, Saturday song circles in back with Kate as Steve took care of folks coming through the front door from who knows where to explore instruments, a roster of music greats who came to play our stage that could fill a book all its own, and the human connection always in place, its significance burning on days like 9/11 when people flocked to the store not knowing if we were all going to survive what was coming next. We learned about harmonizing community in good company.

Now we’re traveling from home on Puget Sound. Our beloved community of Portland is still right there in first place, smack dab in the middle of our hearts. Where we land on any given night depends on where we’re working but when people ask about home, we’re from Portland and most recently, Olympia. Our sea legs have adjusted to Olympia and life on the road pretty well for now. The only way to do what we do is to go out and do it, outside of the familiar nest of home. “Home” by definition is where the heart is and for us that includes the place we came together in. The Ukalaliens movement keeps us in motion much of the time. Concerts, workshops, Steve’s art, Kate’s writing, birthing new songs and remembering old ones and the tales and times between goodbye and hello. It leaves a lot of creative juice waiting on the plate to sop up like gravy, cooking up this stew together.

It would be a lonely adventure without the warm words of encouragement and the loving support that continue to pour from our Portland community and friends. “If I could be anything, I want to be with you. I wouldn’t be anything, without you.” We’re giving what we’ve got while we’ve got it to give and couldn’t have grown such a beautiful garden of songs to pass on without the sweet side of life in the bosom of Portland.

We’re a couple of folksingers who happened to find harmony. In exchange for the gift, we make music like food and pass it on. The charm casts a spell that breaks into a natural chain reaction. Strains of “You Are My Sunshine” begins and a trembling hand begins to strum in time, remembering. Can harmony be far behind? The story between the lines comes through in the voices of the people behind the songs and light shines in their singing eyes reflecting joy and sorrow. The sonic tapestry is as different every time as it is familiar, its weft in the weave, an old song that takes us back.

So, if you find yourself missing us, please know that we miss you too. It’s a real thrill for us to see your faces at our gigs and we come to Portland so we can. Thank you. It means the world to us.

We love to hear from you and get news from your neck of the woods. Your friendship gives us courage to keep going – despite the economy, or needing wheels or hearing ominous news on the radio. We are on a track that started at home years ago in Portland. That track would quickly turn into a cold, hard trail without your genuine support and good wishes for what we do. That same track beckons us to continue what we started and to trust that as long as what we bring to the table flourishes in the hearts of the people we meet, it’s worth sharing – just to see what’s possible.


Kate here – Last week in September 2010. What an amazing week it was. We left Olympia for our first McMenamins run to sing our songs in Centralia & Edgefield and brought our Uke & Sing to the Kennedy School. My, that was fun! So fun, we’re going to do it again in October.

Then we went to the Oregon coast and taught our Ukalaliens I & II for Sitka at the Neskowin Valley School followed by a singalong that may be the best one we ever led. We’re going to bring what we learned to all of our upcoming sings and show people how to come together to make beautiful music.

The Uke & Sing! has brought about some real transformation for a lot of people and they keep thanking us for turning their musical buttons on. We are humbled by their enthusiasm and grateful for the good work that allows us to share our music and teach them how to make their own. It’s meaningful and a whole lot of fun to do. Sure, it’s a lot of schlepping, hauling and driving. We’re carrying dozens of extra ukes to share along with our banjos and guitars. It’s worth it. We hope we get to do this for a long time.

Over this next while, you’ll see us traveling closer to home in the Pacific Northwest. Come winter, we’ll bring the ukes to California and back. We’re looking for work in music stores, schools, libraries, arts organizations, retirement communities and house parties. We provide ukes, workshops and concerts filled with our music. If that sounds like something you would like to host or come to, be sure to let us know and we’ll see what we can do to get together.

Thanks for all the wonderful support you’ve shown us. We love you for it and will go the extra mile to come sing with you and for you.

This fall, we are happy to say that Homespun will release TWO DVD’s (downloadable) on our Ukalaliens I Method and Ukalaliens II with more technique & repertoire. Ukalaliens on Homespun. Yes! We may even be the first in the “Pick it Up & Play” series. We’ll let you know all about it. Meanwhile,m feel free to hit the “Homespun” button on our website homepage and meander around!

This week we are getting ready for the Olympia Artwalk with Steve’s sculptures in the great recycling gallery at Matter! and the Uke & Sing! series coming up and Arts NW conference in a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 4th at 7PM kicks off the 1st official “Uke & Sing!” at Yenney Music. Step right up! Folks can sign up for it online at our website under “Register for Events.” You can also just show up. The seats are limited to 30+ so don’t wait to get yours, just reserve your seat today! This is truly a great way to learn to play uke, to make music on any instrument, to sing and to harmonize. It gives everybody a chance to learn how to make beautiful music in a folk ensemble. Under the guidance of Steve & Kate and the simple methods of the Ukalaliens Songbook, a good time is absolutely guaranteed. Shy-friendly, beginner-to-pro friendly, all are welcome and invited to participate. Bring your instruments or just come! Absolutely no experience necessary. All experience welcome. Can’t wait to sing with you on Monday in Olympia!

While we were at the coast, we toured the Westwind Camp for the “Tunes in the Dunes” ukulele camp being planned for 9/23-9/25/2011. The beauty of the place! We took the little ferry across the Salmon River, walked on the beach to the trail up to the lodge and cabins. There was a nice amphitheatre and bonfire set up on the way. This uke camp is going to be fantastic so be sure to mark your calendars and stay tuned at www.sitkacenter.org.

Musically yours,
Kate