grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at ron@ourcommunityplace.org.

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

singing praise: the walking roots band.

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–>walking roots band BW1walking roots band drawwalking roots band sing1 walking roots band BW2Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

a feel good time: the walking roots band.

walking roots band windowThey showed up in uniform, if you count suspenders, the color blue, leather shoes, and facial hair as a uniform. And possibly the last name Yoder.

Well, except for the ladies, of course. But only in the facial hair category. You’d expect a group of people in uniform to work together toward a common goal. All there for the same purpose, performing as a team, complementing each other. And this past Friday, the Walking Roots Band delivered on that expectation. Brandy and I were privileged to have attended their CD pre-release concert — a celebration of their long-awaited album Carry Your Heart.

walking roots band sing1This eight-piece outfit squeezed themselves and their arsenal of instruments into the far end of Greenberry’s Coffee Co. for a cozy performance in front of roughly a hundred onlookers of all ages. We all sat elbow-rubbing close to one another, and the band members huddled naturally around an old-timey microphone. For a couple of friendly, heart-warming, and sentimental hours, we enjoyed the musical symmetry of Seth Crissman, Jackson Maust, Adam Schmid, Greg & Kristina Yoder, Lauren & Mitch Yoder, and Michael Yoder.

walking roots band crowd BWJust as their uniform was likely unintentional, they seem to play off one another as if by instinct rather than rehearsal. They’re obviously very giving people — during the introductions I learned that they’re all teachers and nurses and philanthropic types with qualities reflected in the music they write. They write about humanity: about God and love, dancing and freedom and nature, but also pain and suffering and loneliness — all parts of life’s grand song. Their voices oblige each other in delicate harmonies about bein’ poor and country girls and moonshine and honey. They sing about havin’ money (or not havin’ it) in a Partridge Family-esque ditty: “little things mean the most, and the little things are free.” And they steer from negativity, even in humorous ways: “You can take your sorry glasses…”

At one point they conducted an informal sound check by simply asking the audience if everything sounded okay. Someone yelled, “More bass!” and Jackson quickly suggested the spectator move to the seat right in front. :) Adam sang a song about the one who got away… a song he admitted he didn’t fully understand, because the one he wanted didn’t get away: his dear Katie.

walking roots band sing2Out of nowhere, amid an accordion, a harmonica, a mandolin, and other such instruments, came a rap song with full-on gesturing called “Sweater Weather.” Yes, it was funny and most certainly a crowd pleaser… but I don’t know. I see some real crossover possibilities, what with Greg lookin’ all Eminem-ish and the rest of the group channeling Dobie Gray in the chorus.

Then Adam totally shifted gears when he sang a song about dying. He first asked us, “Do you want to hear a sad song, or one about how love can really mess with a man?” Uhhh… is there a difference? And the sad song was sad, yes, about someone who’s ill and dealing with the confinement of pain, suffering, and regret, who’s “wishin’ to feel free,” but who also takes solace in knowing he’s “goin’ home to Jesus.” Hope is an ingredient of every one of their songs.

walking roots band BWThey continued, singing about community and apiaries, moonlit meadows, and gratitude. They played three songs from their “Sacred Songs” project. In one of them, they combine three Psalms from three centuries. The kids especially liked “The Gardening Song” which tells the tale of a wascally wabbit who eats the farmers greens, and the fox who kills the hens, and the bear who steals the honey… and the farmer who recognizes they’re just doin’ what they do. After that, it was nudging bedtime for our little ones, and we left the warm cafe, condensation running down the windows, and stepped out into the chill night, happy.

walking roots band accordionNow, go like these folks on Facebook so you’ll be informed when they’re performing nearby again. They’ll warm you up!

walking roots band outsideCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.