Chapter 10: Cocoon - 16a - A beginning

Estelle prepares...

On Saturday I had a surprise guest. A caterpillar. It was the same colour as the luminous green doughnut peach I dreamt about last week but this time round the green was alive, about two inches long and squirming! I watched as it arched forward in slow motion spreading it's skinny body over the edge of my desk. Butterfly or moth I wondered... before moving my visitor into the garden.

We kept them on the windowsills in shoe boxes. The lids were stabbed with a compass to make air holes.  When those moths started whirring their wings they sounded like rattle snakes and the best bit was watching them mate! It took the male with enormous eyebrows ages to attach himself to his voluptuous partner's abdomen but when they finally made it you could stop holding your breath! Next step and those tiny yellow eggs were pumped out, dotting the walls of their carton homes. Job done, the moths died. Everyone knows that when the caterpillars hatch they usually eat mulberry leaves but if you feed them beetroot leaves your resulting trophy will be pink. Skins shed and cocoons spun, after the moths emerged we would carefully stretch out the soft oval threads they'd discarded and flatten each one under a heavy book or three.  Did you have silkworms? 

I don't know what it is about this time of the year but it feels better to me than a hot day when ice melts before the glass hits your lips. Better than breaking the virginity of settled snow with a boot print and almost as good as seeing the first buds blushing and tightly wrapped on the Japanese cherry tree.
Everything is fat at the moment. Fat with the juice of summer. Plump is seeping from the seams of all the fruit there is to eat and I want to squeeze out every drop of light before the clock-change dumps us back into pale mid afternoon sunsets. The last of my red roses are fat too and their velvet petals are snuggled and cushioned between the orange berries of the thorn tree outside my kitchen window. That spells September. It won't be long now before I wear my favourite scarf again. Another pleasure is to have my morning coffee on the garden steps if it isn't raining.

The Bay tree is begging to be harvested. When I get round to it the cut branches will be tied with ribbon or string and hung in the kitchen next to the pans on hooks. When the leaves dry what doesn't get used in soups and stews goes into a foil tray. I will walk into each room and inhale the smell of bay on fire. The astringent aroma signals that time of the year when I like to be still and watch shadows from the flame of a single candle.  It says winter is coming but it doesn't have to all be indoors.

Jan thinks back and forward . . . 

I loved Tennessee.
Home of my younger life musical heroes - Otis Redding, Carla + Rufus Thomas, Booker T, Steve Cropper, Isaac Hayes, Sam + Dave, the Staple Singers - the whole Stax sound - the sound of the rivers - the mighty Missisippi and the Tennessee. Yes I was in love with the sound of the South - it was soulful raw and sassy,  sticky like molasses, smooth as velvet with a backbeat that would make anyone's foot tap 4000 miles away.

English Valley Music
After the Thompson Twins tour finished in late 80s I went to visit friends in Nashville en route from New York to Los Angeles.  A big sign at the airport welcomed me to ' Music City USA' - It seemed I had arrived on a film set. Every colourful Southern character was there - from dungarees to check shirts, mullets to gerricurls, cadillacs to mobile homes.

I stayed for two weeks and left twenty years later.

Merlyn and Sir Jam
During that time I met some of the nicest people, built a recording studio, had a son, toured the world several times with Cyndi Lauper, revelled in the world wide web, discovered virtual space, collaborating on line, produced countless albums and made lots and lots of music along with the biggest achievement - raising my son Merlyn! With my usual enthusiasm and optimism I embraced life in the hot humid sultry south surviving ice storms and tornadoes, hunters and rednecks, grits and gravy, cicadas and the number system.

Red tin roof, buildings + matching truck
I became used to the reaction I got from 'out of towners' when they found out I was living in the South with a British accent. I spent so much time defending where and why I chose to live there that, to use a Southern expression, it 'wore me out!' How many more Deliverance jokes did I have to hear? I guess it makes people feel better about themselves to look down on a certain region, certain class of people, a certain race. Stops them considering their own shortcomings - everyone needs a whipping boy or girl.  I mean why do people love to wallow in negativity -  is it because it's easier to sink into the mud than climb out and swim against the tide?

We can't change history just the perception of it. Every country has periods they should be ashamed of so let's make sure the past is a path and a lesson to the future. Turn the negative into positive. Music does that ...

Just like a cocoon turns into a butterfly.

Chico... Reflections...

Everything has a beginning, a middle and an .... My musical beginnings I suppose started inside my mothers womb listening to my father practice saxophone and piano, from that vantage point it was like my cocoon. My journey from there continued to evolve to my eventual birth or the leaving of the cocoon into the butterfly my parents undoubtedly saw in me - a metaphor. :-)

As such, the beginning of this project with all of the participants ensued at "16a - A beginning" and now this part of the continuing saga is launched. I am very excited and looking forward to the meeting of our butterfly.

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