Category: Mixtapes


Immigrant Songs, Covered In Folk
(A non-partisan mixtape for the comfortable and the afflicted)

January 29th, 2017 — 7:31pm





I’ve often said this is not a political blog, but that’s not really what I mean. Folk music cannot help but be political; it is political at its roots, not just in its branches. Woody Guthrie’s fascist-killing guitar is a means to an end; the ends he shares are more apparent in a broader statement, often attributed to Woody but more likely borrowed from a newspaper writer of his generation, that the purpose of folk music is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. But no matter the origin, it is true, of music and of folk: the tenets of social justice are entwined so deeply in the folkworld, to pretend otherwise would be a failure of coverage.

But I am not just a folkblogger. I am also a practicing Unitarian Universalist, who believes fundamentally that love will prevail. And I am a true descendent of Ellis Island, born of a line of immigrant Jews who came to this country as teenage refugees themselves, the sole members of their families pushed out just in time before the Nazi party rose to power and swallowed the rest of our shared family tree.

I live in Massachusetts, both home of the Salem Witch Trials, and a Commonwealth known for harboring religious persecuted minorities since 1620. I serve my community as a member of the school board, the better to help establish norms and priorities which will best cover the spread of vocational and civic possibility in a community that trends 60/40 towards blue-collar, independent-contractor Republicanism that appreciates the high school musical but doesn’t always recognize the merits of the liberal arts mindset among us, or in our schools. I teach English and Media Literacy in an urban setting not just because it is what serves my soul or pays the bills, but specifically because it serves my sense of patriotic duty to develop the civic, questioning mind in those populations historically underrepresented in the halls of power – not to feed it the pablum of any particular creed or standpoint, but to engender, to the extent I am able, the articulation of thought in service to right dialogue in the generation of my children, and beyond.

And then, in the increasingly rare moments of peace, I turn to this virtual soapbox, and share the joy of communion in music and culture-sampling that is folk coverage. And sometimes, because the songs are speaking, that means harboring the fugitives: in this case, songs crafted – and performances – to afflict the comforted, as Guthrie so wisely yet so probably did not speak, after all.

There are a few of you out there who sent partisan responses to our last post; there are, surely, a few reading this who will willfully misunderstand, and follow suit. But this is not a liberal blog, save that we celebrate the transformation of both song and of culture, as their arc bends towards justice. These attempts to shift the conversation here to partisan discussion will go unshared, and un-responded to, though I am ever regretful that there are those out there who cannot tell the political from the partisan.

For mine is not political work, and this is not a partisan blog. It is, in the end, a folkspace: a patriotic platform, proudly American, where those who sing intimately to power are welcome, regardless of their party affiliation.

Just like in my classroom, all opinions are wanted here, so long as they are offered respectfully. Just like at the school board table, we work in service to the dialogue, and its participants, not to its contents or conclusions. And no matter your beliefs or your actions, if you are doing so peacefully, and proudly, and mindfully, and joyfully, then you are one of us.

All are welcome here, just like in America. You, and you, and you and me. For all of us, everywhere, are native to this world we share. And in a very true way, all of us are descended from immigrants – all of us together, and each one of us alone.


Immigrant Songs, Covered In Folk

2 comments » | Mixtapes

Arise! Arise!
Coversongs for change on the edge of a new era

January 21st, 2017 — 2:28pm



Vermont folk artists come together for a performance of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land


My students were more restless than usual yesterday. And though it’s tempting to conflate their behavior with the unrest and uncertainty that has surrounded President Trump’s ascension, and the ending of an era for another, more humble President, one that looked more like them than ever before, I know better. In the inner city, students spend what little energy and attention they can muster on the lowest tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; end-of-term hopelessness, mingled with the daily grind of poverty and impossibility, is enough to explain their malaise, and empathize with it enough to double down on the markers of care and comfort I work to bring to my daily practice with each of them, and with all.

It’s a volatile time in America. Yesterday’s destructive attacks on the symbols of high capitalism kept me up late; last week’s cabinet hearings did, too. Our discourse is fragmented, and too often tinged with anger, even as, across the globe, we raise our voices in hopeful determination, even as we worry that only we are listening to ourselves.

I’m not marching today; though we had originally hoped to make it to Boston, family illness, kids far behind in their coursework, and end of term grading weigh heavily on the mind and soul. We are not ashamed, for living out loud in America proudly and well is as important as protest, in the end. But we are tracking, carefully, those who are: in Washington, Boston, New York; in smaller communities across the nation. Their smiles and pink hats fill our Facebook feed; their joy and purpose flowing like a mighty river in video posts and status updates as they converge on the centers of their communities, and raise their signs.

Our spirit is lifted as America unfolds before us. There is hope here, the candlefire of the determined spirit magnified a millionfold as the power of the people, gathered together, burns bright.

There’s new songs on the backburner, an undiscovered coverfolk country on the horizon. But today, we put aside the new and novel to embrace history in our midst with a soundtrack of sorts, with songs determined and patriotic, melancholy and uplifting in equal measure.

May those who march today find their journey light, their voices heard, their stamina great and their conviction strong. May love prevail across this great land we love.




The Avett Brothers take on George Harrison’s Give Me Love



Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down thrives thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.

So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking. And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.

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Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix

January 7th, 2017 — 2:03pm


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


If the holidays are over, then so is our respite from the day-to-day of work and school. No longer does the cold and snow bring hopes of friends and good cheer; instead, it drives us inwards: to our minds and our houses, the detritus still lingering after the burning of the old year.

We were going to see my father in Boston today, but the snow is coming: as much as a foot, out where he is. Here in the rural middle of the state we’re on the edge of the storm, looking at a shut-in day by the pellet stove, writing lesson plans and playing charades with the family while the blizzard whirls outside the window.

A day by the fire, then. And appropriately so, for it’s the time of year where we hunker down, huddling against the cold.

We’ve shared several relevant coversets over the years: on snow itself, and on the nondenominational seasonal songs so easily showcased among the holiday, thanks to a resonance with the hopeful spirit of the season.

But there are also wintersongs that are quiet, still, notes and voices resonating hollow against the shimmery white world, their voices soaring into empty, grey skies. In which each new day adds but a minute of daylight, not fast enough to slow the pace of deep introspection. In which Spring is present at a distance: a dubious promise, made muffled by the snow.

Themes of withdrawal and stillness typify the songs of this, the second season of winter. The longing for light we hear in these sounds is less golden, less joyful; more wistful, more weary. There is comfort, here, of a sorts, knowing that such states are temporary. But it is one that we must bring, ourselves, to complete the emotive loop.


Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]



Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down continues to thrive thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.

So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking. And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.

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The Year’s Best Coverfolk Singles (2016)
A-sides, b-sides, deep cuts, one-shots and more!

January 1st, 2017 — 7:21pm


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And so the old year passes once again. And in our ears, there is music, echoing for all to hear.

In previous “Year’s Best” features, we’ve prefaced our final musical offering with an attempt at data analysis – a sort of state of the folkways address, as glimpsed through the lens of coverage.

This year, other than to note that there’s a good lot of tradfolk in the mix, we’re skipping the formalities of trend and tribulation. Instead of trying to make sense of what is ultimately as much a private act as it is a collective one, we’ll let the genre speak for itself, and focus in on the song.

Because at year’s end, we find ourselves holding a full deck: 52 well-loved tracks, one for each week; each one a winner on its own, and nary a joker in the bunch.

Taken as a set, this curated collection shows the margins of folk, and its underbelly; yawing wide and deep, it runs and rambles, confronting and comforting with the manic, the maudlin, and everything in between.

But taken song by song, it offers 52 chances to fall in love again with the world. And in the end, maybe that’s the more powerful reason we come here, every year, to lay the year at your feet, and begin again.

So download the entire collection here, or sample track-by-track below, as Cover Lay Down proudly presents our favorite coverfolk singles, b-sides, live tracks and deep album cuts of 2016, from indie to traditional, and all the contemporary singer-songwriter, alt-country, and acoustic poprock genres in between – with thanks, as always, to the artists, the labels, the promoters, and you, for holding us up, and in, and close, when the world keeps spinning right round, like a record.

Join us, as we rejoice in a year gone by, and welcome in the new, with the beautiful, the bountiful, and the bold – the very best coverage of a year now ended, with a whisper of what is to come from the darkened wings.



The Year’s Best Singles: A 2016 Coverfolk Mix [zip!]




Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking.

Got goodwill to spare? Want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers otherwise unblogged. Click here to give – and thanks.

Comment » | Best of 2016, Mixtapes

Back To The Source, Vol. 1: MOJO Magazine
(32 covers from twelve years of tribute albums)

August 28th, 2016 — 2:59pm


mojocollage


Great covers come from a myriad of sources. But the coverlover’s collection is founded on a finite set, where coverage runs fast and free: deep wells that sustain us, pouring forth the volumes that pepper our mixtapes and shore up our artist-centric features, from “homage houses” like Reimagine Music and American Laundromat Records to ongoing YouTube tour-stops like AV Undercover and the pop-up microstudios of Dutch field recorder Onder Invloed.

Back To The Source, our newest feature concept, dives deep into these wells, seeking to celebrate and reveal just what makes their waters so prolific and life-sustaining. We kick things off today with a look at MOJO, who in just over a decade has produced dozens of tributes to seminal albums and artists, sealed lovingly in plastic alongside their monthly music magazine; read on for beautiful interpretations of seminal songs from Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, and more, plus more Beatles covers than you could ever imagine.


I love used CD stores, where a quick skim of the liner notes can reveal treasures previously unnoticed or unheard, and rarities abound, from live local radio compilations to label tributes long out of print. And so, a few weekends ago, in a last gasp effort to enjoy the waning days of summer, we found ourselves in Brattleboro, VT, where Turn It Up records has recently relocated to new digs. I begged a few minutes from the end of a great meal, and headed for the stacks.

And there, in the three for five bucks tray, was a treasure trove: someone’s entire collection of Mojo Records CDs.

It was an incomplete set, to be sure – about 5 year’s worth, of a total collection that so far spans a dozen. But I walked away with ten separate tribute albums, most otherwise impossible to find. And after steeping in them for two weeks, it was just too good not to share.

A little history here: Mojo Magazine has included a free CD with almost every issue since late 2004; not all tackle covers, but many do. Two-disc set Beatlemania, which emerged in September of that year, and Cash Covered, released that November, were the first covers compilations to appear as part of a series that yaws wide enough to define the broad tastes of Mojo itself, where punk, soul, pop and indie all have their place in the pantheon, and authenticity is the name of the game.

For the first few years, Mojo’s CDs tended to compile previously recorded material, maybe with a brand new track or two; the joy here was in the collection and organization, which generally trended towards a broad genre spectrum held together marvelously, resulting in a growing cache of eminently listenable long-plays. In more recent years, Mojo has included a number of bespoke CDs in their collection, with songs solicited and recorded exclusively for their projects. Either way, their taste is impeccable: it is these collections, in fact, which have introduced me to The Staves, Neville Skelly, Jeb Loy Nichols, and other up-and-comers, while renewing my love for Woodpigeon, Phosphorescent, Yim Yames, Sam Amidon, Emily Barker, Thea Gilmore, Jim White, and many more artists pushing the envelope beyond easy genre categorization.

In the end, as a collection, the Mojo tribute CDs stand almost unparalleled – a fitting beginning for a new feature series, and a great way to celebrate the magazine and its tastemakers as they continue their search for the source in the songscape. Read on for our favorite, folkiest tracks from a close-to-complete chronology of cover albums, from that Beatlemania set to Blonde on Blonde Revisited, last month’s delight of a Dylan tribute.


Mojo Magazine’s Best Covers (2004-2016)
A Cover Lay Down Mix
[zip!]



Always artist-friendly and ad-free, Cover Lay Down has been covering the changing landscape of music since 2007 thanks to the continued efforts of sources like Mojo…and the kindness of readers like you. Donate today to help us keep the servers spinning, and receive our undying thanks, PLUS a mixtape of otherwise unblogged rarities!

1 comment » | Back To The Source, Mixtapes, The Beatles, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Barefoot Dancing: A Cover Lay Down Mix
(with covers from Mumford & Sons, First Aid Kit, Luka Bloom & more!)

July 28th, 2016 — 12:14pm


cassiadancing


I learned to dance in the suburbs, a child caught in the web of projected dreams of high class living. Sessions took place in the front parlor of an ivied, stately mansion, record needles skipping us across the waxed wooden floors in waltzes and ballroom foxtrots as we held each other distantly, stiff in our navy sports coats, palms sweaty and awkward against the unknown sex in their disdainful white quarter-sized dresses.

Later, dance was a skill, useful for the stage and a gym credit in high school. I took jitterbug lessons in a downtown studio for a Merchant-Ivory production of Cinderella, learning to be led by older boys in wigs and stepsister dresses, watching my steps in a wall of mirrored glass. I learned the basic language of choreography, and the sideways look to be sure.

I learned, in other words, that dance was work.

Discovering dance as a joy – as a personal thing – was a revelation in my twenties, when the world of jam bands taught me to dance hypnotically, and Michael Franti and Tribe Called Quest taught me to jump. It became a joy to share in my thirties, when the children were small, and unaware that the world was watching. But something about the world of dance as a skill, to be polished and critiqued, still lingered in my brain. I had to work to lose myself in it, and it never lasted long.

And so I rarely dance these days. Oh, sometimes half-furtively, for the encore of an especially good band, from the back of the chapel. But the children are grown too old to dance with Daddy. The world is often watching, in my dreams and in my mind.


But you have to find your place in the world. And so, once a year, I go to where I feel most alive, and most comfortable in my own skin: offline and off the grid, deep in the green fields of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

And I dance.

I dance in the rain, when it comes, if it comes. I dance in the bright midday sunlight, alongside the stages. I dance under tents, darkness all around us; I bounce in the crowd as psychedelic strains and hot lights fill the air. Some years, I even try a round of contra dancing. Saturday night, my daughters and I make ourselves into glowstick figures, and dance up the aisles in the darkness. And Sunday morning, by the side of the main stage, I raise my hands and voice in agnostic praise for the Gospel Wake-Up Call as the spirit moves me out of my seat.

I’m not that good at it. I’m sure I look ridiculous, most of the time.

But it doesn’t matter, really. What matters is the dance.

So find your place and time, and dance with reckless abandon, with tenderness, with style. Dance like no one’s watching, with small children and old men and women if possible. Dance to the stars, and the bright morning sky on the last day of summer. Dance in the closet, or with the grass at your feet.

From slow dances to rockabilly two-steps. From here to there. We’ll be back again soon, refreshed and rejuvenated, limbs loose and ready to move.


Barefoot Dancing: A CLD Mix
…now available in one convenient download-able file!



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down explores the folkways through coverage here and on Facebook throughout the year thanks to patrons like you.

1 comment » | Mixtapes

32 Flavors And Then Some: A Popsicle Mix
with covers of Tom Waits, Lovin’ Spoonful, Hozier, The 1975 & more!

July 21st, 2016 — 2:54pm


kid-popsicle


On Monday, in a rare lull between too many things, we decided to make popsicles: the elderchild who appreciates food deeply, and understands its complexities, and the father who has taught her to create joy in all its flavors, in moments when we are together, and alone.

And so we mashed watermelon and picked out the seeds. We squeezed lemons, stirred sugar into water. We minced basil and muddled mint, and took out that bottle of smoked maple syrup we picked up at a crafts fair on the way back from a week of sea and high-bluff living. We mixed and measured, tasted and poured.

For four days now, they’ve been waiting in the freezer, welcoming when the heat rolls in. Each one we take and savor is a delight; a connection between us, a moment in the sun together in heart and body. And as their numbers slowly dwindle, we talk cucumber peach, smoked grapefruit, tomato and tarragon, strawberry lime: the sweet and the savory, like the way we are becoming, as she comes into fourteen, and the woman begins to show itself.

Let the world ring with flavor: gentle and tart, sharp on the palate, refreshing and slow. It’s summer, and the warm sun sings to the meadows and the woods beyond.


32 Flavors: A CLD Mix
[download here!]



Artist-centric and ad free on the web since 2007 thanks to the generous support of patrons like you, Cover Lay Down recommends steeping in the music slowly, and then following what you love to the source to purchase these and other fine folk products.

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These Days: A Summer Interlude

July 12th, 2016 — 1:04pm


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I’m in the middle of a lot of things these days: booking artists for the upcoming Unity House Concerts season, boning up on poetry and plays for Drama and English classes this Fall, compiling a mid-year list of the best 2016 tributes and cover compilation albums so far.

Far off in the distance, the horizon is busy with the skyscrapers of family and work and social justice. Tomorrow morning I’m off to Louisville for a conference; just two weeks, and we’ll be on the fields of Falcon Ridge, our home away from home; one week after that, and I’m in school, if not the classroom, preparing for another year on the front lines.

But it’s a fine day, with little to do but since on the porch and listen mindfully to the birds and the hum of the air conditioner. Gypsy moths flutter by over the overgrown yard. The air is cool as yesterday, when we took my brother to Sturbridge Village, and wandered among the calves.

Nothing is urgent. It’s almost noon, but upstairs, the children are still snug in their beds.

Slow Summer is here, if just for a moment.

Let it shimmer around you, before it gets gone.


2 comments » | Mixtapes

Still Standing: Remembering The 2011 Tornado
with covers of Springsteen, Survivor, INXS, CSNY & more!

June 6th, 2016 — 9:13pm





In June of 2011 our town made national news when a tornado tore through our downtown valley and up the hill again, leaving a strip of destruction and chaos that was visible on weather satellites. For the next month, in a series of four features here on these pages, we traced the town’s slow process through the stages of community grief: from shock and heartbreak to hope and determination. And in the end, though we weren’t really healed, we moved on: back to work, and to school, and the pretense of normal which so typifies the modern condition.

But looking back with the wisdom of years, it is clear that through the forge of wind and cracking wood and crumbling stone, the fire of bent backs and open arms, something changed about us. Somewhere along the way, we had come to take for granted the closeness of the community; we had been jaded and cynical, complacent in our ways and means; now we were resolute, and banded together in the face of it all.

And so we mourned and cleared our smalltown streets, huddling together with those who had lost everything but each other. We took water and food into the worst of it all; we gathered wood from our driveways and yards, and hauled it away to keep us warm for the next two winters. We took care of our own, a town together, independent and practical, resolute and proud as only New Englanders can be. And in doing so, we learned that having each other was everything.


Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 8.48.17 PMThese days, new homes and new green lawns stand where houses once tilted and yawed into the aftermath of disaster. Town Hall has been rebuilt, fixing the hole in the center of everything which stood for years as testament to our trials. First Church has a new steeple, and it’s visible all the way down Main Street, where it proudly oversees the Memorial Day parade. Our Civil War era Memorial Hall reopened its doors last Christmas for the bazaar, and it was just like old times.

We no longer shudder at the sight of clouds. From a distance, the scar that cuts through the land has faded into a faint yellowgreen line of new trees. Last night’s high school graduation took place on time, and no one mentioned the tornado which cancelled the ceremony for their oldest brothers and sisters.

Normal has become normal again; life goes on. But in many ways, it is a better, closer life than it was before the world fell apart. We know each other better. We celebrate each other more. The town remembers, deep in its bones: we are still, after all this time, Monson Strong. And so it will be, harbored against our hearts and our bodies, until we forget, and nature calls once more to remind us of ourselves.

From the folk rock of Alana Davis to the delicate determination of Kallet, Epstein and Ciccone, then. From the sparse lo-fi indiefolk of Eye Of The Tiger to the bright summery uke stylings of Dog Days Are Over, and from delicate string-driven Springsteen to weary countrified fun. From Love Canon’s grassy, resolutely bittersweet Touch Of Gray to Chelsea Berry’s sweet, soulful take on Patty Griffin’s Heavenly Day; from Sara Watkins with the frenzied fiddles of Darol Anger’s Republic Of Strings to Beck, St. Vincent, Liars and Os Mutantes as Record Club supergroup.

May this loosely-mixed set of songs of determination, aftermath and rebirth carry our deep joys and appreciation to you and yours. And may you always have your neighbors at your side, their strong backs bent and consoling arms open, when your disasters come to you.




Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Coming soon: our annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival preview…plus new artists from all corners of the folkworld cover Dylan, Lucius, The Cardigans, Jackson Browne, Big Star, Angus and Julia Stone and more!

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Back To The Garden:
On The Healing Power Of Green Places

April 9th, 2016 — 2:22pm


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The hospital where my daughter spends her days is one of the best in the country; a place of comfort and cheer, where cutting-edge medicine is served side by side with gentleness and joy, and mental wellness is considered a vital partner to physical health. Evidence of this is everywhere: The rooms we live in in shifts these days are bright and big, friendly and comforting, with equal access and support for patients and their families; child life specialists and kind social workers are core members of the medical teams that visit throughout the day; clowns, therapy dogs, craft-makers and musicians visit the wards regularly, and those who can move more freely throughout the hospital find a seemingly endless unfolding of spaces both large and small, staffed with volunteers and paid professionals eager to offer play, shared solace, and performance on a busy schedule aimed at filling the empty hours of those who need it most.

In the middle of this labyrinth of hallways lined with cheerful art and playful design lies Prouty Garden, a green, welcoming space that serves as the perfect symbol for the creative balance of soul and body we have experienced in the last few years as we come to frequent this sacred place. Designed by the same architects that built Boston’s Fresh Pond and New Orleans’ Audubon Park, the half-acre is subdivided into smaller shady spaces and open lawn, broken up by benches and fountains, rich with hidden statuary and small niches that offer privacy to those still struggling to accept the changes wrought by medicine, disease, and injury upon their fragile bones and flesh.

For kids whose only other access to the outside world is far too often nothing more than a half-glimpsed skyline through an upper story window, Prouty Garden is a haven in the midst of hell – the only space large enough to guarantee sunlight throughout the day to kids whose skin has grown pale from lack of exposure, and the only way to truly let them feel like they are outside, in a fully open space, surrounded by nature, with sky above and grass below.

We’ve chased squirrels and rabbits there, and hunted for eggs on two successive Easters. We’ve walked there with grandparents and friends who seem too sad to truly be themselves in hospital rooms full of medical devices and the other trappings of illness. In many ways, the garden is ours; in many ways, it is needful, as much a part of the lives of my children as the doctors and nurses that populate their days.

But this, too, must pass. As of this year, Prouty Garden is slated to be torn down, to make room for a new building that would alleviate current strain on space in the hospital – a strain we know well, having stayed overnight in the ER at least once while we wait for a bed to open up upstairs. And although public outcry, especially from those children and families who have been served directly by the garden, is loud and clear, ultimately, the hospital trustees continue to maintain that the destruction of our beloved garden is the best path forward for all of us.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the controversy over the loss of the garden is already affecting its ability to serve children and their families. This morning I spoke with a father whose kid is here for the long haul, midway through a four-month treatment for cancer; last night when they went down after dark, he said, the security guard treated them with suspicion, and insisted on taking down their badge numbers before letting them in.

And so we went down to the garden ourselves, once the elderchild had woken up, and her nightly fever had gone down enough to travel. And found it blocked off, and swarming with security guards, who kindly informed us that until the kind and well-intentioned protesters had left their post at the front of the hospital, the garden would remain closed, just in case.

It’s true that Boston Children’s Hospital is in desperate need of more beds. It’s also true that space is dear here on the edge of downtown Boston. But how ironic, how bittersweet, that a garden designed to be a core component of the healing practice of one of the best hospitals in the country has become, like any other medicine, so carefully meted out, and so cautiously watched.

My daughter took being turned away from the garden in stride, as she does so much these days. She knows, like her father, that the time and place for protest of our own must be carefully guarded, and cautiously selected, lest we learn to live in anger at the world.

But after the protesters left, we returned and found the garden open again. We sat on a stone bench near the entrance, alongside a statue of a nurse and child dedicated the poet whose bequest still sustains it 60 years after its founding, and ate a late breakfast, throwing our crumbs to the sparrows, which clustered at our feet. The sun was bright, and the daffodils big in bloom. The long lawn was green and full of life, and all around it, small copper and marble statues of foxes and egrets, squirrels and beavers nestled in the flowerbeds and fountains, their noses red and round with evidence that the clowns had been there before us.

It was hard to miss the two security guards watching us carefully from the other end of the garden. It was hard not to look at the big Dawn Redwood that loomed above them, and over everything, and think of how much, how very much, we have lost, and will continue to lose to love in this world.

But for a moment, there in the sun and dirt, my daughter smiled, and laughed, and felt free again.

And after we returned to her room, and the couch in the corner where I will stay the weekend, and leave again on Sunday, I thought of all the garden songs I know, in which the idea of the garden, as metaphor and locus, features predominantly as a place of love, solace, growth, and reconnection to nature.

May the wild and cultivated places of our world live in our hearts and minds in our times of trial, that they may serve us in our pain and sorrow. May we too, find them in our world, and wander through them, and be free.



Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round here and on Facebook thanks to the kindness of patrons like you.

1 comment » | Mixtapes

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