Author: Karsemeyer, John


It was the trees that changed, the too many to count trees, unless you had a great deal of extra time on your hands. This tall mass of living trees on the eighty acre parcel of land became not what they once were. The change was, indirectly, caused by the humans who came every year and stayed for a week or so.

These humans brought with them the now distant relatives of trees; relatives that were now still wood, and yet different. All kinds of wood that was once alive, just like the trees now standing and stretching to meet the radiant blue sky that had no visible hint of pollution. The humans brought what were once trees, but were now guitars, mandolins, fiddles, banjos, resophonic guitars, and string basses.

The trees looked down at what seemed to be small odd shaped brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and other relatives that came from their genus and species. The curious shapes of these musical instruments are what fascinated these still alive, towering trees. And the reaction of all of this by the living trees was something to behold, if only the humans had bothered to look closely.

The green of the trees became greener. The shades of the brown, red, and tan colored bark became much deeper and more colorful. In fact the trees almost seemed to glow, especially when the sun retired for the day and took its ten hour rest. The glow, in fact, did happen. It’s just that it was not observable to the humans because of the glare of the lanterns and electric lights that punctuated the dark of the night.

These musical instruments that were made mostly of wood which was no longer alive also changed. However, it could be argued that this wood of the musical instruments was not really dead, but still had a life of its own. That is to say, when these instruments were played they became alive through their own individual creation of sounds that gave way to song, melody, and harmony that came from the humans. Yes the humans, who forged a symbiotic relationship with their musical instruments.

And there was a kinship between the trees and these instruments of wood. A homecomings of sorts, much like a Thanksgiving gathering among the humans.

And to some of the humans these instruments sounded better when they were played beneath and in the presence of the living trees during this particular time on earth. They were louder, had a more pleasing timber to their “voices,” and even played more easily. The humans noticed this, but attributed it to the thought that their instruments were finally “opening-up,” and that the overall atmosphere of the bluegrass festival contributed to the fact that the instruments were playing easier and sounding better than ever before. But this was not true, or at least not the biggest reason.

Oddly this occurrence (which some, but not all, would call “surreal”) happened only at one musical event in the world, and only one time a year. It was peculiar to the California Bluegrass Association’s Fathers Day Festival that is held in the middle of June at Grass Valley, California. It happened at this first festival thirty-seven years ago, and will happen again this year from June 13th – 16th at the 38th CBA Fathers Day Festival.
And at the end of the festival this year the same thing will happen that has happened at the end of all the past Fathers Day Festivals. As the last bluegrass pickers leave with their last wooden musical instruments, the extraordinary brilliance and varied colors of reds, browns and greens of the trees will slowly began to fade back to what they were, and their musical progeny will not sound quite as good as they did during their time at their family reunion at Grass Valley. But then again hope will spring eternal as all will look forward to next year as the gathering again comes to life.

It is a wonder to behold, but you have to look closely and listen well.

Posted:  5/11/2013

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