I wouldn't naturally position folk music in a food-related self discovery, but after feeling the sensations brought on by the band Crooked Still, I would say their lyrical sound melted into the essence of my family table image.
On Saturday night, I stood in front of the Lifecycle stage at Bloomington's Lotus World Music & Art Festival, my ears captured by the plinky tune of the banjo and the undulating sounds coming from the cello. When lead singer Aoife O'Donovan began to sing, her mellow yet passionate voice took me on a journey. Guided by the dancing rhythms that sailed from the fiddle, the music began to unlock part of my heart and open me to a longing I never knew I had. My head nodded and my hips swung side to side as a smile crept across my face and stayed for the rest of the evening. I closed me eyes and was instantly transported to the heartland.
While the heartland conjures images of the rural Midwest, (where I happen to be going to school) I think that it is a place where the boundaries of nature and man meet and live in equanimity. The heartland I was experiencing, elicited by the bluegrass swing, was a place where I could see my family - my Dad tossing rocks into the cold and glassy creek; my grandfather looking his wife in the eyes as they sat under the stars at night; my great grandfather treading through the forests of Nicaragua to help cure a dying man. This land, this space, while evolving, is a place where I imagine my family growing, laughing, giving, loving. My heartland is enveloped in the roots of my past, which extend to generations of men and women whom I have never met but feel embraced each other with an unconditional love.
It has been almost eight years since I last saw my mother, more than eight years since I can remember my parents showing their love in a romantic way, eight years since I have been able to introduce my parents to my friends. It's now over two years since I last kissed my dad and wished him a good day at work, two years since I tossed the football with him in the backyard, two years since we stayed up late talking about our dreams. These days I find that I am so hungry to have parents, to reach out to them, to feel, really feel their love by just their mere presence.
It is this hunger that grew within me as I stood before the stage listening to Crooked Still. Their music seemed to be luring me into my past, to untangle my roots and acknowledge a past that sometimes seems less painful if I just forgot it was even there. The sounds churned within me a desire to reach inside my family's ancestry and find the stories of the people I've descended from.
As I sit down at the table each night for dinner, it is this same heartland that I feel a longing to revive - to create a presence where I feel a love and warmth, where I feel apart of a family. While my family might not have come from a people who played the banjo or danced around the magical sounds of the fiddle, I couldn't help but feel that this music was a sound from my loved ones, whispering to me that there is a "hole in the middle", a hunger that can only be filled through the magic of communion.