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Copyright 2001 Bruce Ling

 

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Winterberry

        I had the honor of being involved in a rather unique group of folks from the Grand Haven/Spring Lake area during 1992-93.  The towns of Grand Haven and Spring Lake are right on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the largest inland lakes in the world, and the atmosphere along the coast is very artistic and cottagey.  The group of folks that I'm speaking of were responsible for organizing large municipal festivals, art gallery openings and shows, major music concerts in town, etc. Eventually the idea for the Cold Creek Music Festival was conceived and implemented about 200 yards from where this tune was born.

   

     You see, as in every group of mammals, there is always a ringleader, or alpha couple, and this group was no exception. Paul and Val had a real cool house in Grand Haven, but also had the greatest digs out in the middle of nowhere.

  

     An hour north of Grand Haven is a town called Newaygo, (Native American names all over here,) and another 15 minutes would bring you to a gate across a very narrow two track trail. Follow that for a half of a mile and you arrive at a most unusual abode.  Paul built the place, perched on a 250 foot drop to a magical Cedar Swamp, and it was the perfect place for creating.  The cabin was heated with wood, had no electricity, water was collected and gravity fed to a shower, slept as many folks as could fit into the 4 queen sized beds in the loft and downstairs on the floor, and was "the place to be."  Weekend evenings in the winter would find those staying over engrossed in different art projects; from painting to mobile making.  You were only limited by the boundaries of your own imagination. 

 

     A prominent contributing writer for the Chicago Tribune had even written about the outhouse, which featured two holes for true co-ed participation, a picture window with a wonderful view of the Cedar swamp, and exceptional art work.  It was, (fundament-ally,) a work of art.

   

   You get the picture.

   

     New Year's morning of "93" found me nursing a rather large headache.  I had stayed up at Paul and Val's cabin, sang many songs, and participated in many toasts.  I arose with the dawn and headed out doors for some fresh air, thinking that might clear my head.  It was one of those Michigan mornings were the temperature was down around +5F, but it didn't feel cold. The sun was coming up real bright, and the air tasted like Cedar and Yellow Pine.  I felt kind of dazed by the reflection of the sun on the snow, everything was turning into diamonds. I wandered around the field in front of the cabin, then returned inside to find the coffee brewed and folks stirring.

   

     I was still pretty dazed by the sunshine, and after a cup of coffee I decided that what I needed was some more of that sun. Without thinking I grabbed my fiddle case and started down the long, steep slope through the trees to the bottom of the swamp.  Now, normally you'd never find me bringing one of my instruments into such an extreme temperature, but for some reason I felt called to do this thing.  I made my way down to the bottom, and followed a trail that the deer had broken through the thigh deep snow.  The trail led deep into the swamp, and followed till I found a tree that had fallen and provided a nice seat.  Out came my fiddle ,and away I went on a melody that I had never heard before.  I played it for about a half hour, then went back up to the cabin and played it till it was locked into my head.  Deb Keene called it Winterberry, cause those berries show up bright red in the swamps in Michigan during winter time, and Paul and Val's swamp was full of them.  I remember a special time in my life when I play this tune.

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 by Bruce Ling 2-2002