To reach Nowhere Farm, find the slow curve of a backroad, with one hand on the wheel. Drive just shy of forever. Take a left at loneliness. Drive till you remember how it feels. Look for the pre-Civil War brick house still standing tall and straight somehow. Leave your Sunday best behind, out here they've learned to leave the edges wild. If anyone asks, "How did you find me?", tell them, "I can't remember anymore, but I want you to know your kindness through this night has found me. Meet me at the edge of the world. It's the last night on earth again." *
Last month, James and I wound our way to Nowhere Farm, home to Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, the married musical couple also known as Over the Rhine. We gathered with other orphaned believers and skeptical dreamers for a special concert, a fundraiser for their new double album, Meet Me at the Edge of the World. We met under a big white tent billowing in the space between the pre-Civil War brick house and the flat Ohio fields that stretch to the horizon. We were a one ring circus, ready for an open air barn dance or an old-timey religious revival.
My love affair with Over the Rhine started during my college years, back in the mid-1990s. I used to keep track of how many times I'd seen them in concert. Let's see: There were multiple shows on campus in Grove City, including one on my twenty-first birthday (which also happened to be Karin's thirty-first). The roadtrip my bestfriend and I took to Cincinnati for the holiday show during Christmas break, when we were invited to stay at the apartment of one of the band's managers, but then fled to a Hampton Inn when her (the manager's) brother showed up alone to let us in. There was that seedy bar in Ohio where I embarrassed myself by telling someone that listening to Karin sing was better than having sex. (Caveat: I hadn't yet had sex. But, really, her voice is amazing.) There were the shows at Rosebud in Pittsburgh how many times over the years? Once by myself in London when they opened for Cowboy Junkies. (Was it really at Royal Albert Hall?) A second trip to Cincinnati for another holiday show, this time with the boyfriend who would become the husband. Once at tiny little Moondogs in Blawnox. Other venues of which I've forgotten the names. Club Café in recent years.
I've lost count.
Do I sound fanatical? It's true, I'm a fan. But that doesn't really get to the heart of how their music has wound its way through my life, like morning glory vines that take over a garden in the most beautiful way.
What I'm trying to say is that in a very real way, I've grown up on their music, the way you grow up-and-in to your self from the age of 18. I've been listening to Over the Rhine for half of my life. (Oh my.)
So you can see that attending a concert at Nowhere Farm would have me pretty excited. It was a lovely experience, and I keep looking for a narrative thread to tell you all about it, but I haven't yet organized the snapshots of moments into a story.
But what I want to tell you is this....
The sky was blue and the weather was fine.
Little bits of magic shone all around.
Before the concert, James and I picnicked in the grass. We ate brie and raspberries under the shade trees, dappled by sunlight. Later, as the birds sang counterpoint to Linford playing "Little Genius" on the piano, I leaned in to James and whispered, "This is the song I walked down the aisle to." I could see in his face that he didn't need to be reminded.
Even the cookies came with stories that night.
During the second half of the concert, we stood a short distance from the tent, waiting in line for a paper cup of cappuccino, handcrafted right there under the trees, by Chip from La Terza Artisan Coffee Roasterie (who roasts a special Over the Rhine blend). As we waited, the band played "Favorite Time of Light" just as the day was, indeed, bending low. I swayed under the evening sky, and as if on cue to the song lyrics, I saw the redwing blackbirds fly.
The resident canines made guest appearances.
Four hundred of us gathered together that evening, all of us superfans in our way, sitting under the big top to be part of something we love.
At the end of the night I signed the guestbook set up in the writing shed....
...and what was there to say but, thank you for the beauty?
Evening turned to night. The full moon played shy. The chairs came down, and soon so would the tent. We took one final look at the lights festooning the trees, and then we said goodnight.
(final photo by James)
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*The italicized phrases in this post are lyrics or titles of the following Over the Rhine songs and albums: "Go Down Easy," "Called Home," "Highland County," Meet Me At the Edge of the World, "Last Night on Earth Again," "All My Favorite People," "Hush Now (Stella's Tarantella)," and Good Dog Bad Dog. (I did take a few liberties with pronouns in the opening paragraph.)