The weather is getting slightly warmer here in Oklahoma. Daylight savings time is today and so begins longer nights and longer days. The promise of spring is starting show its face through the buds of Bradford Pears easily damaged by the notoriously strong winds that race through these plains. There is hope that the frost will leave soon although our spring and summers come a little earlier than those north of us.
This winter for me and my family has been one of not just symbolism, but one with the feel of the cold it to our core. It all started on a Sunday. I had forgotten my phone. I never forget my phone. I worked doubles on weekends as a geriatric nurse, so I decided to go home to get my phone. Upon getting home I found out that at the same time my wife was going to my work to give me my phone. She called me through our security system and told me that I needed to go see my Dad. See Dad had a fall and was in a skilled facility doing well, and getting back to health, or so we all blindly believed. Looking back as a nurse I can see all the signs were there. That Sunday my father had passed. He was 72, it wasn’t expected, but when is it ever really?
I’ve taken care of other people’s loved one for 25 years. Many I’ve been with them when they took their last breath. Usually family was there, but not always. Being there for them, I consider a privilege as they cross over from one plane to another. At that moment it’s about also taking care of the grieving family and being there for them in whatever way they need. That experience still never really prepared me for my father’s death.
By Tuesday, still in shock, we had to put my favorite cat, Hope, to sleep. It was time for her. Another loss. She had been sick for a while. It was the right thing to do, but still hard. Then Wednesday night after thanksgiving with my mother and brother and his family my wife fell to the ground. Unable to really understand what was happening, which is very unusual for a nurse. She was complaining of a headache and couldn’t stand. She began to beed up with sweat and couldn’t get cool. Also, she was slightly out of breath. I had no clue what was going on.
After a few minutes of her not being able to get up I had to call 911. They arrived at the house and loaded her up onto the back of the ambulance. I looked around in utter disbelief. In desperation, or just plain frustration I yelled out, “I feel like f’n Job.” Knowing I shouldn’t drive, I called my mother and she drove me to the ER to be with my wife. In a short time we would find out that she had blood clots all throughout her lungs. While spending Thanksgiving weekend for a total of 6 days at the hospital, I felt blessed to have a book by Katherine May called Wintering come across my feed that I would that day buy and later read.
You know the saying, “When it rains it pours”. Well my season of wintering was a blizzard. TMJ hit me hard during that same time. As a singer having your jaw not being able to open without extreme pain makes you unable to do the very thing you love. But through all this grief and all this wintering I had a companion in Katherine May’s book to see me through. It is now the summer months and I’ve had time to winter and reflect. (Although I know it’s an ongoing process.) It’s hot and muggy out now in Oklahoma and that season has begun to thaw. I don’t feel paralyzed with grief anymore. I decided that I would start to paint on the weekends, because that was something special that my Dad and I used to do on the weekends. He would paint in the living room and I would paint in my bedroom on my drawing table.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from the book was when she talked about how the druids would break up the seasons with different festivities. This would in turn give them an anchor to the time of year. As a nurse I lose that sense way too much because I don’t get holidays the way 9-5ers do. Holidays come and go and half the time as a nurse I might not even realize, “Oh it’s Memorial Day.” I had no anchor. So, I decided that I would decorate the mantle for the different holidays to give me an anchor of the seasons. Even though the old cynic in me wants to yell “commercialism”, with this new sense of purpose for adding bunny soap to the bathroom during easter, and a wooden sign that says “love” in February helped in a way I never expected. I even look forward to adding new decorations with the changing seasons.
Influenced lyrically by songwriters like Ani Difranco and Dar Williams, Sarah Popejoy’s folk introspection mixed with activism are the key ingredients that fuel her writing. At the same time, Sarah’s sound gravitates to the dirty, country blues akin to Lucinda Williams. Born into a musical family her father Brad Popejoy played bass guitar for a band called Front Page News released on Dial Records, while her Grandmother, Gwen Popejoy Bonnell, was part of a successful singing trio that toured Oklahoma in her younger years. With two studio albums recorded in Nashville under her belt, Sarah is no stranger to recording and producing. Her extensive touring credits include performances at Cambridge’s Club Passim’s Cutting Edge of the Campfire, Blue Bird’s Sunday Showcases, and opening for Debbie Campbell at her Summer’s Fifth night in front of a crowd of over 10,000 people. She has made appearances on BBC News, American Songwriter Magazine as a lyric contest honorable mention winner, her song "Father's Love for His Son" was talked about in Dar Williams latest book Writing a Song that Matters. Moving back home to Tulsa, what Rolling Stone calls the next Austin, Sarah is producing her 3rd studio album called “The Oklahoma Storyteller”, set to release at the beginning of 2024.