December comes just once a year and seems like a whole other kind of month on the heels of two weeks in India.
Hello, dear friends! Since I last wrote to you, I have been sewing up many many cushions and handbags for a Christmas Art Market – more about that below! In the middle of the sewing, I took myself off to India for two weeks where I joined my friend Robyn Raines, owner of Whitetop Yoga in Abingdon, Virginia, for an experience of a lifetime. How two gals from a tiny corner of southwest Virginia ended up in Rajasthan together is a mystery even to us in some ways, but it seemed like a great place to start our conversation about a musical collaboration involving her great-grandfather, my musical heritage, and our mutual love of our home county of Tazewell, Virginia (more about that next year!).
First, the scoop on the art market! If you've seen me in concert, you will know that I've been traveling with my own miniature craft market on tour for years. Well, this weekend, I'll be showing my work alongside other artists for the first time at Crofts Farmhouse in the tiny village of Leasgill, Cumbria, at the home of maker Jan Huntley-Peace. I wish everyone could come to Cumbria because you would love this corner of England where the hills roll and the trees bend in the wind just like they do back home in Jewell Ridge. We're a thousand feet or so higher up in Jewell Ridge, but that's just to keep the coal from settling on our sheets and hair.
A note if you can come along . . . Jan's house is on the right as you go along the little road from St Peter's church in Heversham to Leasgill. Google maps and your sat nav will put it other places. She has a small sign outside her gate. Mind your step because the stone walkway is slippy from all of this rain. Their house is LOVELY and was built before 1600 with beams from a ship!
If you can't come to the art market, I will be putting all of my unsold items on my bandcamp site early next week in case you'd like to give a one-of-a-kind Jeni-made gift to yourself or someone good this season!
Now, India. When I was about eight, I wrote a school report on Elephants, Indian Elephants, and I have just always wanted to go there in the way that you think "One day I'd like to go to Alaska, or New Zealand, or Southwest Virginia." Well, I've gone and done it, as Mawmaw would say, and I really can't properly express how super, how magical, how provoking my visit was. And, of course, I only saw one small part of one state in India – Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Why Jodhpur? My friend Robyn was going there to design a retreat for 2019 and is collaborating with water conservationists and yoga teachers there. I thought that I may as well start somewhere and I'd always wanted to spend more time with Robyn, so why not in India?
Jodhpur, known as the blue city because of all of the blue painted housed in the old city, turned out to be a perfect place to visit not just because of the 15th century fort or the mountains of textiles, but because the people were completely welcoming and adopted us into their lives like family. I felt it was like Jewell Ridge on the other side of the world, especially because Robyn and I attended all of the family celebrations and rituals of a five-day Indian wedding. So, thank you very much to Robyn for inviting along this blonde-headed gal whose exotic skin and hair meant hundreds of selfies interrupting our progress from one end of town to the other! And thank you to all of the Indian people – the ones that I met briefly, like the former Parlimentarian on the plane, and the ones that I think of as family (Ba!) – for making my childhood dream come true in technicolor.
So, how strange to come back to a very rainy and cold London full of Christmas lights glittering through windows and invitations to carol singing and art markets. All over the world, people are living in patterns and swells so different from our own with their big events of the year coming along when our year rests for a moment. We can easily forget that our calendar is one of many, our rush and excitement peaks at a time of quiet or reflection for someone else. Dad called this the great wheel and he said it can't turn if we're all on one side of it. I will never forget being on the other side for a little while.