Thursday, 18 July 2024

Arts & Life

KELSEYVILLE – A new genre of entertainment will be on display this month when Lake County pianist Carolyn Hawley and trumpeter Thurman (Tee) Watts improvise together to create accompaniment for the poetry of Lake County Poet Laureate Mary McMillan.

The performance promises to provide a new electric blend of different art forms.

“I’ve been thrilled to find that my poetry takes on a whole new dimension when I read along with music,” McMillan said. “It’s almost like I’m singing.”

At this uplifting concert, titled “Calling for Light,” Hawley, Watts and McMillan will be joined by the four former Lake County Poets Laureate: Jim Lyle (2000-2002), James BlueWolf (2002-2004), Carolyn Wing Greenlee (2004-2006) and Sandra Wade (2006-2008), who will also be reading and talking about their poetry.

About the program, Greenlee said, “Poetry and music ephemeral as light spring wind — time to rest the brain while supporting the voice of the community — what a great way to spend a few hours in the company of good friends!”

Lyle said, “I hope that my poetry will communicate something that I believe (or don’t believe).”

Hawley, a renowned concert pianist, is looking forward to playing the Yamaha grand piano owned by Clear Lake Performing Arts.

“That piano is a beautiful instrument with exceptional tone,” Hawley said.

She will play three etudes by Chopin and some of her original compositions, along with the improvisations with Watts.

Watts, an aficionado of blues and jazz, hosts several popular music programs on KPFZ, 88.1 FM and writes criticism and reviews for music magazines.

“Calling for Light,” a Spring Concert of Poetry and Music, will take place on March 15 at 3 p.m. at the Galilee Lutheran Church, 8860 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville.

Tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Children (18 and under) may attend for free.

Tickets are available at Watershed Books in Lakeport and Wild About Books in Clearlake, or by calling KPFZ at 263-3064. All proceeds benefit KPFZ, 88.1 FM, Lake County’s Community Radio Station.


UPPER LAKE – The Blue Wing Saloon & Café in Upper Lake is becoming the place to be for both good food and good music.

After a successful trial run last Thursday the saloon is announcing Open Mike Evenings every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Musicians wishing to participate will sign up for a 15-minute slot (your “15 minutes of fame”) at the door with Events Director Teresa Cook.

A small speaker system is provided, but voice and acoustic instruments only are encouraged.

Restaurant patrons are assured of a pleasant, hospitable experience on Thursdays with the usual good food plus good music in the background.

The Blue Wing is already well known in the community for its live music at Sunday Brunch, the blues bands that appear there every Monday night and the Concerts with Conversation Series at the Tallman Hotel next door.

The third annual four-day Blue Wing Blues Festival is now scheduled for this coming Aug. 5-8.

The Blue Wing Saloon & Café is located at 9520 Main St. in Upper Lake, telephone 275-2233. Visit the saloon and cafe online at


LAKE COUNTY – Youth Writes will celebrate National Poetry Month with warm-up venues throughout Lake County, throughout the month April.

Venues are open to all Lake County students through age 18.

Become a "Youth Writes" poet. Show up at any Warm-Up Venues and perform one or two original poems.

Poets under the age of 18 will need a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian. Students are encouraged to show up at as many warm-up venues as they can. No need to pre-register. All events are free and open to the public.

Warm-up venues will be held at Catfish Books, Lakeport, Saturday, April 4, 1 p.m.; Tuscan Village, Lower Lake, Saturday, April 11, 1 p.m.; Holy Joe’s, Upper Lake, Friday, April 17, 4 p.m.; Firehouse Pizza, Lucerne, Saturday, April 18, 3 p.m.; Mountain High Coffee and Books, Cobb, Sunday, April 19, 1 p.m.; Wild About Books, Clearlake, Friday, April 24, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Calpine Visitor Center, Middletown, Saturday, April 25, 2 p.m.

For further information and to download permission slips, go to or contact Lorna Sue at 274-9254 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


KELSEYVILLE – This Saturday, March 7, the Kelseyville High School Sober Grad Committee will present its annual Comedy Night benefit fundraiser.

The event will take place at Fritch Hall at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St.

Doors open at 7 p.m.; curtain time is 8 p.m.

Kelseyville's own Marc Yaffee will host the evening, which will star Bay Area favorite and national headliner Dan St. Paul, who has been featured on MTV, Comedy Central and VHI, and featuring Lizette Mizelle, who has been seen at The Improv and on Comedytime.

Along with the laughs, enjoy adult beverages, finger foods and a silent auction.

Tickets cost $20 and are available at Kelseyville Lumber, Big Valley Properties, Pearadise Video, Jimmy's Deli, Golden State Water or at the door.

For more information call 245-4833 or 349-6366.


CLEARLAKE – There seems to be a lack of just about everything these days: credit, money, oil, space, time and peace. So we can all be forgiven if we're not eager to learn about yet another: water.

According to those who know, California will be out of water in about 20 years. Like everything else on this finite planet, fresh, sweet water – so crucial to all life – is finite, too.

Second Sunday Cinema's free film for March 8th is “FLOW,” a well-made documentary that takes an unflinching look at the major water problems humans all over the globe face today: our water is being squandered, taken away, polluted and sold as a commodity when in reality it belongs to us, the people.

What makes this documentary special is that it also looks at places on the globe where ordinary people have successfully taken back control of water that giant corporations seized and were selling back to them at outrageous prices.

What inspired them? Desperation. Many faced the daily decision: does the family eat today or do we buy water? As the New York Times says of this film, “This astonishingly wide-ranging film is less depressing than galvanizing, an informed and heartfelt examination of the tug of war between public health and private interests.”

Want a little rocket fuel or anti-depressant in your morning coffee? No? In some parts of the US they're already there. Want to pay ridiculously high prices for what is often tap water sold in a plastic bottle? You already do.

Some people say of SSC films, “I don't want more doom and gloom, so I won't go.” But consider this: If a forest fire was churning towards your house, would you rather be forewarned, or would you prefer to watch another half-hour of a soap? Without reliable information, no one can act effectively on their own behalf. SSC exists to provide that vital information.

Former Lake County supervisorial candidate and local water expert Robert Stark will speak briefly on local water issues at this screening.

“FLOW” will be screened, for free as always, at the Clearlake United Methodist Church at 14521 Pearl Ave. in Clearlake on March 8. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for socializing and snack and seat-grabbing. The film starts at 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!

For more information call 279-2957.





The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

A novel by David Wroblewski

Published 2008 by HarperCollins ISBN: 978-0-06-176806-04



The story is set in rural Wisconsin, on a remote farm where the Sawtelle family raises a unique breed of dog.

Long before I was half-way through this masterful book, I found myself limiting my reading time in hope of making the journey last longer. My resolve eroded at the end, as I was unable to put it down for the last hundred pages. Like a roller coaster cresting the top of a high loop, momentum built up to where putting on the breaks was no longer an option.

I did not know that books this good were still being written today. So much modern fiction is written according to the same rules, predictable as only the products of writers who have all taken the same writing courses and read the same writing manuals can be. And the ironic thing is, the plot of “Edgar Sawtelle” is totally predictable (to those versed in the classics). And yet, knowing the plot doesn’t tell you anything, really, about the book, which is full of unforeseen delights and “A-ha!” moments.

So, the first great tantalizing contradiction of “Edgar Sawtelle” is that it is one of the most familiar plots in the history of literary fiction, and at the same time, an utterly original and surprising book.

Though it should not be pigeon-holed (it transcends genre), it is also one of the greatest dog stories I’ve read.

My shelves are full of dog stories that I cherish – “Beautiful Joe,” “Bob Son of Battle,” “Lassie Come-Home,” “Big Red,” “The Voice of Bugle Ann,” “Old Yeller,” “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “Savage Sam,” “The Way of a Dog” and many collections of dog stories. Each celebrates the bond between humans and canines, but regard the bond as a mystery, never to be fully understood.

“Edgar Sawtelle” addresses the human-canine relationship in terms of the evolution of consciousness that both humans and canines have undergone, over millennia of evolving together. Canis lupus became different because they joined forces, so long ago, with another “pack animal,” Homo sapiens. And Homo sapiens are different because we joined forces, so long ago, with Canis lupus. Both species’ evolution was changed by the fact that we have evolved together. We're co-dependent species.

In the famous novelette “Childhood's End,” Arthur C. Clarke explored the evolution of human consciousness. In “Edgar Sawtelle,” the author makes a convincing case that human and canine consciousness are evolving together, destination unknown, but intertwined.

Though it is not necessary to know the play to appreciate this book, it is impossible for any fan of Shakespeare to fail to notice that the plot is from the play “Hamlet.” Nonetheless, “Edgar Sawtelle” stands triumphantly on its own two feet. Or rather, two feet plus all the four-footeds who are equally compelling and fleshed-out characters.

Heretic though it might sound, I will say that I think “Edgar Sawtelle” is better than “Hamlet.” A story better told.

In “Edgar Sawtelle,” we see deeper into the souls of all the participants. Which does not mean to say that “Hamlet” does not achieve profundity (no play holds our imagination for centuries without good reason). No, it is not that “Hamlet” is not great. It is just that, in my opinion, “Edgar Sawtelle” is greater.

I don’t recall any production of “Hamlet,” which made me feel such empathy and understanding for the other characters in that drama – the people whose lives, loves, feelings and world views were shaded into second-class citizen status in Shakespeare’s play, as if they existed for the sole purpose of giving Hamlet something to bounce off of. (The modern play, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” took minor characters from “Hamlet” and made them central in their own drama. But that play was more about celebrating its own cleverness than shedding light on the human condition.)

In “Edgar Sawtelle,” we do get to understand, to empathize, with all these other characters, two-legged and four-legged, and their richness of characterization makes the story fuller, more moving. They all have solid motives for everything they do, and with the exception of the bad guy, they all have good intentions.

(WARNING: If you don’t like to know plot points in advance, you may want to read “Edgar Sawtelle” first, then read the rest of this review.)

As much as I’ve enjoyed many different productions of “Hamlet” over the years, on stage and screen, there is a certain quality about the play that leads one, eventually, to yearn for it to be over. “Oh for Pete’s sake,” one finds oneself thinking, as yet another lengthy soliloquy begins, “Hurry up and kill each other – anything – just stop the whining.”


Where Hamlet can come off as self-obsessed and self-pitying, rudely indifferent to the suffering of others, “Edgar Sawtelle” is different, in ways that cannot be explained without giving away too much. Towards the end, I found myself hoping against hope that in this book, the author (who had stuck so faithfully to the plot of “Hamlet” throughout) would have allowed himself just one eensy-weensie-itty-bitty liberty, one teeny-weenie deviation from the plot of the original, and allow… no, I won’t say it.

The crowning achievement of this book (to me), was the reminder that we miss the forest for the trees when we focus too intently on what our five senses tell us. To be so focused is to deny the truth we all hold in our breasts – that there is more to reality than just what our conscious mind is capable of perceiving.

Like so many who take “the hero’s journey” (for you Joseph Campbell fans), Edgar is heated to white-hot temperatures in the crucible of emotional, spiritual and physical torment. By the book’s end, all spare flesh has been burned away. All confusion and doubt are gone.

Where before there was fog, anger, jealousy, confusion, doubt, incomprehension – a soul buffeted in a sea of emotional turmoil – what emerges from the crucible is, in the book’s phrase, “a hollow gourd” – a man-child who sees everything clearly at last. I was reminded of an analogy from Lakota spirituality, that the pure soul who can bridge the gap between the spirit world and our world is like a hollow bone – a tube through which The Light shines.

The very act of hoping that death will not come to the lead character is a denial of the deep spirituality of the book.

Therefore, ultimately, though I cried buckets, I also felt joy in the cathartic ending. Joy for the success of a tormented soul who, at last, saw everything clearly, and who took the right action. For a soul who was finally at peace, after flailing about in pain for so long.

Most of all, joy for the re-uniting of true soul-mates, spirit-lovers, who had been cruelly separated by human blindness and human faults. “You were lost,” she said, by way of greeting him. “I was lost,” he agrees. Several hundred pages of riveting literature are thus summarized in a few short words.

Tragic ending? or happy beginning?

“In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond, and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.”

So wrote Kahlil Gibran, centuries ago. It would make a fitting epitaph for “Edgar Sawtelle.”

D. Baumann lives in Upper Lake with many shunkas (dogs) and ta’shunkas (“Big Dogs,” Lakota word for horses).


Upcoming Calendar

07.18.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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