There's family, and then there's family. In the past three weeks I've been surrounded by people, who in some way or another, I consider my kin. First it was coming home to my Granny's funeral and falling back into the comfortable place I always get when I'm around all my cousins, aunts, uncles and, of course, my parents and brother. I was lucky enough to grow up really knowing my family, especially my cousins. It seems that no matter how old we get or how much our lives change, we fall into this eternal dynamic each time we gather together. There's a lot that has happened among us, and there are some that have done some things that has caused some rifts in our tight circle. Yet somehow we still manage to return to our tight-knit clan. What I noticed over the weekend of Granny's funeral was that when I see myself and my cousins all together, I can simultaneously feel the presence of our child and adult selves. We still communicate in a certain way that is timeless, and being the oldest granddaughter, I can see all my cousins as they were when they were just little. It's the next best thing to having a big passel of brothers and sisters, and I'm glad that every time one of us brings a stranger into the fold (new girlfriend, husband, etc.), that person is immediately struck by the closeness of our clan.
The other family I've been so aware of is my mountain family. These are people who know and understand me in a way that my blood family, even my own brother, cannot comprehend. I've got grandparents - Lee & Opal, Charlie & Joyce - a Faerie Godmother who is a sister, mother and best friend all wrapped up in one - and several foster parents, including Judy Branch's own Bill & Billy Joe. Since I've returned home I've been really feeling the presence of these family members, and these feelings only intensified during the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School.
Knowing that I will soon be leaveing this place to embark on a new chapter in my life has put me in quite an emotional state. It's as if I'm a rock out in the ocean, a great waves keep crashing over me. Sometimes it is pure excitement at the possibilities of a new life someplace else. Other times it's a cold soaking of grief and homesickness of leaving all these folks I've come to call family. And then there's waves of panic in which I feel as if I'm drowning and if I don't get out soon - NOW- I will suffocate.
There are certain friends that I give me hope and comfort as I prepare to jump into the abyss. Many of them are friends I've just recently come to know, friends who I met feeling as if I'd known them my whole life. This year's Cowan School was especially fulfilling, because while surrounded by my mountain family, I met several new friends from off who, in my soul, I've known forever, and in my heart I know I'll be friends with for a very long time.
I am now on the Olympic Penninsula with some KY folks, sharing a house with some SW Virginia folks and hanging out with folks from Louisiana and all over the west coast and other parts of the country. Being near the ocean and surrounded by wonderful fiddle music is just what I've needed to bring myself out of a sleepless seven weeks.