Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Lily and The Lotus



"ADD is not a Dis-ability; it is a Different ability."

    One of the things I love about being ADD is that my mind makes connections and finds new links and also recalls old links to plenty of things that can bring me pleasure, wonder, and joy. I don't question it and am not afraid of it; in fact the vast majority of the time I rather enjoy it.  And I never know when and how it will show up or play out.

      I spent most of yesterday at Penn's Morris Arboretum with a friend; it is a place I love but haven't visited in about a decade. Doing so yesterday brought back wonderful memories of previous visits. I could also notice some incredible changes that has happened to the place since I had last been there. So it was wonderfully familiar and new at the same time. I love when that happens; it is as if I can be in the past and the present simultaneously.

   One of the many wonderful things my friend and I saw on our ramble were several groves of different types of lilies. I have always been loved lilies, and seeing them again reminded of that love and of how long and in what different ways both lilies and lotuses have been a part of my life. My friend and I talked about that and marveled at how long they had been a quietly important part of my life. We also talked about Kenilworth Gardens in Washington, DC and their week long Water Lilly Festival in July. Again, it is a place I had not been in a while, and I had sort of forgotten about. Thanks to yesterday, I realized how wonderful it was and how  much I missed it. I want to re-visit it this year, and I will try to do it in July. Another powerful connection being made.

 I also remembered that I had written about lilies and lotuses several years ago. I found that newsletter and re-read it. I thought I would edit some of of it send it out again; I hope you don't mind.


“The lotus is an amazing creation of God, because for all of its beauty, it is the sum total of work performed in a mess”    Robin Caldwell

“Every struggle is like a big spot of mud -and there are always some lotus seeds waiting to sprout.” Amit Ray

“Whenever you should doubt your self-worth,remember the lotus flower. Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.”  Suzy Kassem


   For over 20 years my late wife, Penny, and I would end our summer vacations with an annual trip to the Limestone City Blues Festival in Kingston, Ontario area and camping at Ivylea Provincial Park about 35 miles outside of the city. We looked forward to this trip each year-it was a ritual in the best sense of the word. We loved the town of Kingston-a small vibrant city of mixed cultures, great gardens, bookstores, restaurants, museums, and farmer’s markets that sits at the meeting of the Rideau Canal and Lake Ontario at one end of the breathtaking 1,000 Island Parkway in southern Ontario. The festival is also wonderful; we got to hear some well-known American blues performers such as Curtis Salgado, Shameika Copeland, James Cotton, Guy Davis, and Harmonica Phil Wiggins. But the added bonus was that we also got introduced to some Canadian blues artists we had not heard of before such as writer,singer and harp player Paul Reddick, the sultry and amazing singer Dawn TylerWatson, and the cleverly named duo The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. We loved going to Kingston.

    But one of the greatest things about these trips was our campsite at Ivylea Provincial Park-a beautiful and peaceful spot along an inlet of the St Lawrence River that features herons, red squirrels, various ducks,osprey kingfishers, hawks, and more. It is a beautiful park with wonderful water views, some forested areas, hilly trails, and amazing night skies. One of the absolute best parts of the park has been the campsites we had. They each have had little pools of water lilies and that opened up to greet us when we awoke each morning and closed up to help put us to bed each night. Their presence was a quiet horticultural wonder and comfort that added so much of the specialness of that trip and that campground.

    I first encountered water lilies and lotuses when I was a boy and our church would take trips to Longwood Gardens in Chester County. That place both overwhelmed and astounded me with its hundreds of thousands of beautiful plants and flowers, its acres of careful and wondrous landscaping. It always had a sense of being in  some other place;some place not of this world. One of the things that really stuck me were the incredible wide pools of water lilies and lotuses that were next to the conservatory building. The quiet beauty of the plants held me breathless. The written information near the gardens said that the plants’ roots were underwater and that many of the flowers open with the sun and close at night. That fascinated me. Looking at the beauty of the leaves and the amazing variety of petals-so delicate looking yet so sturdy-I was transfixed. They definitely made a lasting impression.

   The next time I encountered lotuses and water lilies was years later when I was a high school teacher. I taught the ancient Sumerian epic, Gilgamesh, and the lotus was a central and symbolic part of the story. I loved the whole story of King Gilgamesh and the way it established so many of the motifs and patterns of the modern hero tale. But I particularly loved the symbolism that was woven all though the epic, especially the symbols played by the lotus. As I learned more about the plant I could see how and why the lotus became a symbol for so many important ideas, thoughts and concepts central to human existence. Found on many continents, it readily found a home in many mythological traditions and was given an amazing number of meanings-being firmly planted in and standing on something; rising above one’s beginnings; rising out of a ‘mess” and becoming beautiful; using elemental things such as dirt and mud as a source for transformation; being born in water; emerging transformed; all of these important ideas and more became bound-up with this plant. Ancient Egyptians saw it as a symbol of fertility, life, sexuality,youth and eternity. The early Hebrews and Christians saw it in those ways and also as a sign of faith, purity, and both God’s promise and ability to deliver good out of bad. It meant enlightenment, purity and beauty to Buddhists. It is one of the most universal of all plant symbols.

   But the true power and beauty of the lily and the lotus really hit me when we first visited Kenilworth National Park in Washington DC. We were looking for a place to go hiking when we were planning a trip to DC, and we read about this park. A drive along a crowded highway, a turn through a typical urban neighborhood, and there in the midst of the city of DC sat a wonderful 50+ acres of tidal wetlands, the Anacostia River, and hundreds of amazing water lilies and lotuses. The first time we visited we were blown away by the trails that took us through different habitats and the bridges that took us over different vantage points of the wetlands. There were literally hundreds of different types of wildlife here: herons egrets, and kingfishers; turtles, frogs and butterflies, and especially an endless sea of all types of lilies and lotuses. There were white ones, blue ones, red and pink ones, small ones, massive ones, tall ones, round ones, and so much more. We had planned to spend maybe an hour there, and we ended up spending more than three hours on various trails, in the gardens, in the visitor center and sitting on bridges and marveling at the color and the wetlands. Moreover, we learned that there was an annual Water Lily Festival in July when all of the plants were in bloom and all the gardens were open. We had the pleasure of going this year, and it was almost overwhelming to see all of different types and colors of plants, the caterpillars,all the different birds, the many butterflies and more. It was simply stunning, and I was grateful that we had stumbled onto the joys of Kenilworth much as we had stumbled upon the campsites at Ivylea. And the festival really heightened my appreciation of and gratitude for the little pools of water lilies and lotuses at Ivylea.

   So this has been a “Year of the Lilly and The Lotus” for the Colgan-Davis crew. We have been fortunate to have both quiet, small-scale time with them in Canada as well as some wonderfully big and over-the top time in DC. They have provided beauty, calm, and wonderment. And we are so glad to be in their presence and blessed by their comfort. They are another example of the incredible and quiet magic that is available to all of us in this thing we call the world. And it is there for all of us to notice, to enjoy, and to be moved and quietly energized by. It is wonderful.

(Here are some Canadian Blues artists on YouTube that we first heard in Kingston)

The Harpooinst and the Axe Murderer        

Paul Reddick

DawnTyler Watson:

Dawn Tyler Watson & Ben Racine Band LIVE feat. John 'the Stickman' (21/05/16)  

Some Photos from the Kenilworth Water Lily Festival    

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Monday, June 5, 2023

The Joy of Words


Dukes Fans:
  i love words and have loved them since I was a kid. They educate me, infuriate me, confuse me, please me, mystify me, humor me,educate me, and much, much more. When I was a kid my mother subscribed to Reader's Digest, Ebony, and the National Geographic, and I consumed them all. The Geographic and Ebony often used words I had to look up in our dictionary. Reader's Digest had vocabulary quizzes, crosswords, and a feature called "Word Power' that built your vocabulary. Naturally, I always did very well on vocabulary quizzes in elementary school. That love of language still motivates me.

 I have a well-used dictionary and thesaurus, although I now mostly look up words online. I like to find out the etymology of words; where they originated and how they evolved. And in much of my writing and speaking I try to be conscious of just what I am saying. I used to drive my middle school students crazy telling them that that new movie they were talking about or their new jeans were not really "Awesome!"  "Awesome," I would tell them, "originally meant, extremely reverential" or "worthy of God." "The Grand Canyon," I would say, "is truly awesome. That movie is not."  Of course, they would roll their eyes and groan.

 I am thinking about this because i recently spent the better part of a day watching several episodes of a History Channel Show entitled, America's Secret Slang.
It is a show that shows the origins of some of our common words and phrases such as, "bury the hatchet", "Y'all" and many more. It was interesting to me see not only the meaning of so many terms but where they originated. For example, many of the terms originated from military experiences. "Bury the hatchet" comes from Eastern Woodland Native Americans who would literally bury a hatchet to signify acceptance of a treaty. Of course, the origins of some of these words is still up for debate-does, "Bite the Bullet" really come from soldiers biting a bullet when undergoing operations without anesthesia, for example. But it was a fascinating several hours for me spent delving into the meanings of many words and phrase with which we are familiar.

  You have to subscribe to The History Channel to watch all the episodes of Americas Secret slang. There are a few bits on YouTube, but not much. There are also many other etymological sites on the web. of course, and I invite you to take some time off from regular life and just enjoy exploring some origins and meanings of things we probably say without thinking. It could be fun... infuriating.... mystifying... etc, etc, etc...

DUKES GIGS: www.dukesofdestiny.com     

1) Tuesday, June 6th;  Seger Playground; 10th and Lombard Sts. Philadelphia, PA 5:30-7:30  

2) Monday, June 26-Lovett Library-Germantown Ave and Sedgwick Street, Philadelphia, PA; 6:30-8PM  

3) Wednesday, June 28th Narberth Wednesday Series; 5-7PM: Haverford Ave and Narberth Ave, Narberth, PA  

   As the next three Dukes’ gigs indicate, it is spring and summer outdoor concert time. The Dukes love playing outdoor gigs- there is a wonderful mix of people of all ages, good food always abounds, and there is spirit of good feeling in the air. I especially love that kids get to see that music is made by actual, real people and it is not just something on a stream or a video. It is true fun. And these are three gigs that are in wonderful places.  

Seger Playground is in my old stomping grounds; I used to live at 12th and Rodman St, literally two blocks away. It is a great spot in a great neighborhood. Lovett is my local Philadelphia public library, and it is just two blocks away from where I live now. I spend a lot of time there, and now I get to spend time there playing as well as reading and taking out books. Finally, Narberth is one of my favorite small towns with great shops, a nice library, and plenty of good restaurants. We are fortunate to have these gigs and we invite you to come to any and/or all of them. Great sounds in great places. Hope to see you there. 

JOHNNY NEVER & JOHN COLGAN-DAVIS Johnny Never-guitar/vocal; John Colgan-Davis-harp; https://johnnynever.com   

1) Thursday, June 15; Letty’s Tavern; 201 State Street :Kennett Square PA 19348 https://www.lettystavern.com/ 

2) Wednesday, June 21;WORLD MUSIC DAY;4:30-6:30PM 6:30PM:44 West Gay Street, Jack Loewe Plaza:West Chester, PA 19380 

  Our next two gigs are in two wonderful small towns west of Philadelphia. Both Kennett and West Chester feature very walkable downtowns with plenty of great shops, interesting architecture, and lots of friendly people. They also feature great food! Letty's is one of Kennett's favorite dining places with creative and original food offerings as well as some old favorites.They also have great brews. We played here several months ago, and loved both the ambiance and the food. We are glad to be back. The Jack Lowe Plaza in West Chester has nearby bars and restaurants with great food and a welcoming vibe. We love plying in this town and are happy to be joining thousands of others around the world welcoming summer with International World Music Day. Come visit either or both of the great small towns, and then come enjoy the music of Johnny Never and John Colgan-Davis.

The Sunday Blues Jam; Jamey’s House of Music;  32 S Lansdowne Ave; Lansdowne, PA:215-477-9895 ; House band set from 12-1PM: open jam from 1-3:00 pm. No cover.    

  Blues lovers and players have made Jamey's Sunday Blues Jam the place for great blues jamming, really good and inexpensive eats, ales on tap, fresh ground coffee and espresso, and friendly people who love the bluesEach Sunday features an hour long set by a house band, and then an open jam until 3PM. Most Sundays the great Philly Blues Kings, featuring guitar and keyboard ace Dave Reiter, do the 1 hour set, and on the second Sunday of the month The Roger Girke-John Colgan-Davis Project do it. Got an instrument? Sing? Just want to listen to some exciting blues? Come on out and take part in this great blues jam with great food and wonderful liquid refreshments; it is a great time    

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