Author: Zuniga, Nancy

Looking Back; Looking Forward

Itís fitting that the New Year is symbolized by the image of a baby: hopeful, unblemished, and full of promise. And itís equally fitting that the departing year is depicted as a withered old man: tired, weary, and ready for a rest. In any given year, we can pretty much count on there being a fair number of both highs and lows. Every year blends tragedy and exhilaration, losses and new beginnings. 2010 was no exception, and I expect that 2011 will also hold its share of surprises and strange twists of fate, both amusing and poignant, uplifting and sad.

Itís traditional to wish one another a ďHappy New YearĒ, while knowing in the back of our minds that transitioning to a new year doesnít necessarily mean an end to the problems of the previous year, nor the dawning of a year free from tribulation. What it does do is to help encapsulate a time period for reflection, whether that reflection is spent in recalling happy memories of the year just passed, or examination of what went wrong during the year and why. The tick of the clock that marks the passage from December 31st to January 1st may not really be all that significant ... unless youíre the Illinois woman who underwent a Cesarean section beginning this past New Years Eve; her infant daughter was delivered at one minute to midnight, and her son came into the world one minute later. While newscasters mused over the odds of twins being born in different years, I thought of the irony that one child could be claimed as a deduction on her parentsí 2010 tax return, while her brother couldnít be claimed until next year in spite of being only one minute older than his sibling. But for most of us, no highlights of a dawning year are apparent in that first moment of the New Year, and will take longer to unfold. In the meantime, we wonder what 2011 will bring into our lives, hoping that new developments will be for the best.

In the past year, some members of our bluegrass community lost loved ones, while others welcomed children and grandchildren (hopefully future bluegrass pickers) into their families. New bands arose from the ashes of groups that disbanded. No doubt at least some folks hung up their instruments, whether due to encroaching arthritis or demanding work schedules, while others picked up an instrument for the first time or practiced harder to improve their chops.

Pretty much every aspect of life is characterized by a series of woes offset by golden moments of triumph, and this applies to bluegrass as much as to anything else. Think of the bands who endure long hours on the road, cramped hotel rooms, and prolonged separation from their families, interspersed with magical moments onstage and the adulation of appreciative audiences. How about the long drive to attend a festival, jockeying for a decent camping spot, sleep deprivation, sore calloused fingers, etc., juxtaposed with incredible jams, great music, tasty campsite vittles, and visiting with dear friends? Bluegrass festivals can be viewed as a microcosm of life in general. From year to year, from festival to festival, we mark the passage of time with memories both pleasant and sad, and anticipation of good times to come. As Iím typing this column, Iím hearing reports of more dead birds falling from the sky in the eastern and southern states. Iím also looking forward to the 48-hour Jam in Bakersfield. 2011 is only a few days old, and already it is proving to be, like any other year, a time of serious concern as well as a time for some serious picking. Thank goodness for bluegrass. It helps us to get through the tough times, and with all of lifeís foibles, it gives us times of joyful anticipation and fond memories.

Posted:  1/6/2011

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