Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Square Dance in the Rural West: An Oral History July 26, 2016

Don & Fay promenade

Check out my new article in the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) online journal. It’s based on interviews with my elders, who can really tell a story, and contains small photos of those faboo 1950s dance outfits.

Best of all is getting to witness how community dance like square dance or contra dance forges community.

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“Square dancing hit its heyday in the far west during the 1950s, and many elder members of my family were heavily involved in it. Hank Fields, my dad, was a popular square dance caller long before I was born. I follow lightly in his footsteps as a contra dance caller today; thus my interest in what the dance scene had been like for him. What are the similarities and differences with dance today? And what got so many people so passionately interested in square dancing back then?

“At a Fields/Glascock “inlaws & outlaws” family reunion held on my cousin’s ranch in rural Idaho during the summer of 2003, I spoke with a number of older folks who had been active in the square dance scene back in the 1950s, asking about their experiences.”

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 To read the whole thing, go to:

CD+S Online, vol.1

Or get directly to my article itself

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 I hope you like it! Please leave comments here.

 

SAC in 2016 July 5, 2016

The following is reblogged from the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness’ Open Access blog. It was a great honor to serve as their Keynote speaker. If you are interested in exploring issues of consciousness with a group of very smart, kind interdisciplinary thinkers who look at wild topics with both rigor and open-minded humor, SAC may be the group for you.

“Huge thank you to Tina Fields the 2016 SAC keynote address for her talk, ‘I am He as You are He as You are Me, and We are All Together’ — Fostering Ecopsychological Relationship with Place. Here is a snippet from an interview at Naropa University in 2012 on culture, consciousness, and conditioned assumptions about reality.”

 

Source: SAC in 2016

 

student loan saga February 2, 2016

Filed under: Adventures,Cranky Rants,Tales & Blarney — Tina Fields @ 11:16 am
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student loan feeling seal

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It’s done.

I just lovingly placed every paper related to my student loans in the recycling bin.  They are paid off.

It only took me 14 years. (:-0)   My hair is white, just like the jokes say, but by George, they are paid off. The balance due, once over $45,000 USD, is now zero. I sit in a bit of stunned silence. I now have no debt whatsoever. I am free.

This is a bit of a surprise, I’ll admit. When I graduated, I joked they could sell my body parts when I die to finally pay them off.

Thinking about how many of you folks are in the same boat, I decided to write this. Perhaps you will benefit from hearing some of the small strategies that helped get me here.

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My Student Loan Strategies

  •  While still in school, spend time and energy seeking out other sources of money too. My loans, while huge to me, were not as enormous as they might have been because I also went for every fellowship, scholarship, and the like that I could.  The best one was the California Graduate Student Fellowship. When I entered grad school, I took the time to fill out the mountainous forms very carefully. It took days to hunt up all the data they wanted. And then I waited. When the envelope came, I was very excited… until I opened it and found I’d been rejected. This was a major blow. I scraped up my last savings and took my first loan, and attended school anyway, scared of the debt I was accruing. That fear did impact my joy in my studies. The next year, I halfheartedly filled out the form again with mostly repeat data and sent it off. To my surprise, this time I got the fellowship. Thousands of dollars, repeated for four years.

  The message here is: stick with it. Apply more than once. Fellowship boards apparently value tenacity. Repeat applications show that we really want what they are offering. In fact, speaking from hindsight, it seems to me that tenacity is one of the major gifts of attaining a higher degree. A Ph.D. in hand proves that its bearer can finish something, even when the process grows teeth-grittingly frustrating and tedious and all you want is to bail; to go to movies and read bad science-fiction novels and have a life again. You stuck with it. Stick with the application for money process, too. It’s worth it.

Different scholarships and fellowships skew for various criteria. Some are place-based (for, say, residents of a particular US state). Some are diversity-based, with desire to support people of certain demographics such as immigrant ethnicities or a populace that they view as under-represented in higher education. The American Assn of University Women (AAUW) likes to support young women going into STEM fields and older women returning to school after a break for child-rearing or other work. One reason I think the Cal Grad people chose me is that I am the first person in my family to go to college. Be sure to apply for the ones whose criteria relate specifically to you: the odds are better, since the pool of applicants will be smaller.

  • Pay the loan principle off as fast as you can.  I  noticed that when I paid what I thought I could afford from my modest wages, the actual amount of the debt never went down. In fact, it was still going up. How maddening!!  I felt like Sisyphus, doomed to eternally labor for the bank’s benefit, never to gain my own freedom. This wouldn’t do.

  My way out was to ALWAYS pay more on the principle than on the interest. It takes a bit of calculation to figure out the number, but it’s worth the effort. Even $10 per month adds up on your side of the ledger, thereby reducing the interest that accrues – in geometric proportion. When I sold my car in order to take a nomadic job where I wouldn’t need it or have a place to store it, the money went directly to the principle on those loans. Do stuff like that.

Incremental additions directly applied to the principle pay off. I never paid huge amounts each month, never more than I could afford, and yet now the loan is GONE!!!

It’s a good idea to consult with a representative of the loan company to determine how much extra principle to pay each month in order to get that amount down, based on your own means and comfort level. This can be complex to figure out on your own, as their calculations of interest vary from day to day.

  • Keep your honor. I’ve heard some students and grads say that they never intend to pay their student loans off. Bailing on the loan was never an option in my mind. My family is big on honor, and given the vagaries of economic status and other aspects of life, I figure that integrity is all I’ve ultimately got. Really.  I was given the option to accept the loan, which allowed me to gain a wonderful education. Surprisingly, this then led to interesting jobs that I would never have otherwise gotten to do. I owe the money and there was no question that I’d keep paying it back – if only so I could sleep at night. Again, I knew it might take so long that they’d have to take the last bits out of my dead hide, but I was determined to continually do my best to hold to the responsibility I accepted. If you take loans or gifts of any sort, please treat the exchange with honor. 
  • If you have to, take a Forbearance. This allows you time to not pay on that loan for awhile when your financial situation gets rough. In 2009, I not only lost my job, I lost my entire workplace. Three college campuses were brought down in flames by the institution’s disastrous leadership. And that was right when the “Great Recession” hit the USA, so no new jobs were to be had either. It took two years before I found another full-time position that paid enough to not be scrounging for food (see a fun post on that) and running down my savings just to avoid becoming homeless, let alone pay off this loan. The Forbearance allowed me to stay in good graces with the loan company while keeping my money in my pocket. Keeping good status in their eyes is important if you ever want another opportunity to borrow big money, such as buying a home.

 Requesting Forbearance status means you are being brave and upfront about your situation (see “honor” rant above) so the loan company understands what’s going on. It signals to them that you are not just taking advantage of them by casually skipping town; you are a responsible person who still intends to pay eventually, and right now you’re doing the best that you can. While this plan elevates your status in their eyes, this plan is still not ideal, as the interest on your loan continues to accrue. 

  • Work at the same time you’re going to school in order to keep your loan amount down.  It’s good to have some money coming in from other sources.

…But don’t do what I did. At one point, while attending grad school full time, I had six (SIX!!) jobs. They were all part-time, but still. That was too much. My body finally gave out and I got sick. Extremely sick. So sick that I had to drop out of not only school, but work, and life itself for a year and a half. I was literally broken. This is actually why my student loans wound up being so high: because I couldn’t work, I took out even more loans to pay off the high-interest Visa bills I’d run up for my rent, food, and health care costs. Ugh.

Take care of your health and sanity first and foremost. Hold to certain boundaries regarding workload. You’ll need those habits even more if you become a college professor.

  • Some might say that the best strategy is to not take any loans in the first place. If you can pull that off, I agree. It was pounded into my head from a young age to never go into debt: “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” But three big purchases don’t fit within that category, simply due to constraints of time: a house (who has the kind of money to pay full cash upfront?), health concerns (if you wait, there may not be a you left…), and education that you’d like to gain and apply now. These are investments in a stronger, happier future. That said, it’s still good to invest wisely: don’t get in way over your head. Don’t buy a McMansion if you can’t afford the payments and taxes. I took seven years to complete my B.A. degree in order to avoid taking any loans. But I decided it was worth it to take loans on my Ph.D.
  • There are some ways to get forgiveness of part of the loan.  Check out the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. It’s meant to encourage newly minted college grads to take public service jobs like government or nonprofit work, recognizing that tons of loan debt may turn grads off from taking lesser-paying but otherwise satisfying positions in the service industries.

I applied for the smaller but similar California GradAPLE after completion, a program for new grads willing to serve full-time as a college teacher in certain settings for three consecutive years. Applying involved another terrible series of California state forms, with updates for each year. But once attained, it allowed forgiveness of $2000 of that student loan debt skimmed right off the top. So the hourly wage worked out well.

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student-loan-ancients toast

Larger Societal Concerns

Now, all of this said, I know well that I’m not yet addressing the larger societal concerns that underlie the existence of these large student loans in the first place.

Contrast my experience with that of my then-sweetie when we were in grad school. He is a Swiss national. Once he passed a battery of tests proving his ability and desire, he received education clear through to the Ph.D. that not only was free, but he was paid a living wage to do it. He did not need to take six menial jobs in order to survive while studying. He could focus on his studies and thereby really get good at his field (which was theoretical astrophysics. As you might imagine, extended time to focus just on that was useful.)

The fact that most American scholars have to take out what amounts to a mortgage on our brains in order to gain higher education, particularly at the B.A. level, is appalling. It’s a national race to the bottom. Given the questionable economy and job market, fewer and fewer people are going to be willing to gain a liberal education under those conditions – and with good reason, given the squirrely economy and questionable job market. That trend is a detriment to us all.

Increasingly, students are being viewed as consumers rather than scholars or learners. The sort of education that is seen of most value focuses on technique: electrical engineering; MBAs. Don’t get me wrong. Technical training is a great thing. But it should not be the only education we value and seek. And tech edu should also have a component that builds human beings’ capacity for a better life, not just a bigger wallet.

Education should not be solely tied to current potential jobs.  We need a populace who is trained to THINK; to question, to seek meaning, not only to be good cogs in an existing economic structure. A liberal education is worth getting. It makes for a happier, fuller, more examined life. It gives you a fuller perspective on whatever is happening around and within you. And it remains yours forever.

The current constant-growth capitalistic structure will dramatically shift within the next thirty years anyway, because it’s not sustainable. Constant growth is the ideology of the cancer cell, not of a thriving living being or system. If American standards of consumption were to be exported everywhere at the current rate (as is increasingly happening), Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute conservatively estimated that it would take at least 1.5 earths to provide the raw environmental resources alone. So the indefinite continuance of “business as usual” is obviously not going to happen.  This means the available jobs will also change. There’s no guarantee that a job you train for today will even exist in ten years. Many of the top-paying jobs today, such as those in the tech industry, didn’t even exist in imagination thirty years ago. That field was pie-in-the-sky nerdville when I was a teen. So choosing a field of education based solely on current perception of its earning power may not ultimately pan out.

The consequences of making higher ed prohibitively expensive is that fewer and fewer American people are getting the kind of liberal education that helps one to make sense of life and to enjoy living it to the fullest.

It also means that fewer will gain the critical thinking skills that allow us to begin to understand whole systems and how to effect some change within them.

I suppose some politicians like this idea of keeping the majority uneducated in how to really think, because it means the people across the country will be more easily malleable and swayed, making their own personal wealth agendas easier to push forward. When reading the news, it’s always worth asking, who stands to gain from this situation? 

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Concluding Remarks

Anyway. While we have the situation we have, I applaud those of you who decide to educate yourself despite the hardship. Whether you do it via traditional schooling or by investigating on your own, the time and energy is worth it.

Education is one investment that can never be taken from you by others. 

And I hope that the small strategies I offer here for getting out from under student loan debt help you out as they helped me.

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frodo loans over.jpg

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What my students learned this semester December 6, 2015

Unknown

Start paying attention

The difference between me and you (or anything, for that matter)

is the thought that creates that reality.

 

I need to be radical in my love, my thoughts, my actions, my acceptance and surrender – to get to the root,

the seat of life and growth, which is the seat of quintessence.

That’s where i want to be.

 

[What I’ve learned has been] both extremely helpful and devastating:

How unconscious most humans are, but that it can change!

I uncovered some of my own self-defenses that keep me from action.

The application of psychoanalytical theories to understand the great complexity of our environmental situation.

I developed more clarity and compassion, for myself and others

Context for the madness

A lot less anger

At once, I feel the urgency to act and the need to be patient and not act forcefully

To learn to live with and through the earth, not just on her

Gratitude that I owe to my family

 

Humans’ connection with nature

A sense of oneness

Enmeshment within the natural world

Being an integral part of the macro interdependent-system that feels itself, knows itself, and heals itself

Ecological identity

This has forever changed my life

 

I look at all that is around me a little differently now.

Knowing it is all of the earth, and perhaps more importantly that it will go back to the earth, changes the way I operate in my days.

 

This sense was deepened and became more embodied

An exchange in breath: as the plant was breathing out, I was breathing in

Increase my awareness and widen my perception

Eventually feeling the reciprocal awareness of nature

How incredible these realizations have been for me.

 

Awakening has been the most beautiful process I’ve ever endured.

Thank you Earth!

Healing source

Never ending story

 

These are the truths that have become my mantras from being absorbed in ecopsychological concepts.

These are incredible supports that I rely on when feeling distressed, confused, and at times, hopeless.

 

I will continue to live mindfully in respect to nature.

Being conscious about what I purchase, what I waste, how and what I eat etc.

“No matter how big you get, don’t forget to take out your own trash.”

 

So grateful to walk this path with you

and share what I can with whoever will listen.

A challenging(!), engaging, deepening, fulfilling and respectful round of studies

I’m so grateful to be receiving wisdom

Like candy for my soul.

 

I bow out to a transformative journey

I and the moon bow in thanks

Your wisdom and beautiful hearts

 

Just bloom.

 

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These words are from first-year students’ final self-reflections on their learning in my Ecopsychology class, part of Naropa University’s M.A. program in Ecopsychology, early December 2015

collated into a poem by professor Tina Fields

I composed this as a gift back to them, a lens on what happens in this program, and a reflection for teachers to turn to when times at work get rough. To help us remember that what we do matters.

Students whose words are in here: Katie Poinier, Thompson Bishop, Melanie Gajewski, Colleen Kirkpatrick,  Karen Delahunty, Lauren Mangion, Anne Gordon, Sierra Robinson, Erika Dearen, Bekah Turner, Tessa Stuart and Jakob Ledbetter.

I am extraordinarily fortunate as a teacher, so often getting to feel awe at the depth of my students’ thoughtful engagement with their learning, their passionate desire to care for the planet, and most of all, their souls.

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Honoring Veterans November 11, 2015

My dad Hank just told me some hairy stories a couple of days ago about flying bomb runs over fascist Italy and Germany in WWII. They sent him on some of the more dangerous missions: over half of their company never came back (and the story was later immortalized in Catch-22!) He flew 54 missions before they decided that was enough. He apparently has some strong guardian angels.

I’m a pacifist – very against these contemporary US invasions masquerading as “just wars” – AND I’m appreciative that Hitler and Mussolini didn’t get their way in that one, in part because I’m one of the people who would not be alive today if they had.

Thanks, Dad.

Some good-hearted people struggle with honoring military veterans if they don’t honor the act of war, or particular wars. I think it makes more sense (and more heart) to separate the two in our minds. Look at the example set by the Dalai Lama, facing the horrors of exile and genocide of his Tibetan people perpetrated by China. When asked (paraphrased from memory), “Don’t you hate the Chinese?” he responded, “No. But I do hate the Chinese government.”

So I think we can – and should – strive to change the destructive nature of systems such as the US military-industrial profit complex, while simultaneously respecting each being caught up in it. Respecting one another at the core (beyond preferences, current ideas, past actions, etc.), and deep appreciative listening with the goal of truly understanding, is a vital skill that paves the way forward to peace. What better way to honor Veterans Day than by working to ensure that no more of our children have to become vets; to endure the horrors of war?

Thanks to each of you, veterans of wars and veterans of peacemaking alike.

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#HonoringVeterans

 

Ginger Protector September 28, 2015

organic yellow ginger root

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Do you ever get the spine-tingling feeling that the more-than-human world is looking out for you?

I went to make a drink the other night that involved ginger. In an attempt to save money, a week or so prior, I had made my own ginger tea (brewed from grated ginger root peelings left over from a meal in which I’d eaten the root itself). A small bottle of what I hadn’t yet used was kept in the fridge.

I’m not a butterfingered person; I’m quite facile with my hands. I rarely fumble or drop things. But this day, as I went to pour some of the ginger elixir into my cup as the last ingredient, I knocked the cup over and its entire contents spilled out onto the counter and down on the floor. The ingredients are expensive, so I wasn’t happy with myself about this waste. Sighing, I cleaned it up, and then carefully made another.

The same thing happened all over again – the ingredients poured out all over. I cleaned it up. And then it happened yet again. The third time, the bottle itself slipped from my fingers.

What is going on? I thought. Then I looked more closely at the ginger brew. The bottom third of the bottle, which I had now reached, contained small puffs of mold.

I sat down, heavily. Who knows what kind of mold this was, and what effects it might have had on my health had I unknowingly drunk it? Perhaps it would have been fine. But I suspect otherwise.

When such things happen, a person has many possibilities for interpretation. Maybe I was just not paying enough attention to what I was doing. That happens. Or maybe my hands suddenly became clumsy due to some other factor. But three times? The event was so anomalous, and repeated three times like in a fairy tale! So I, an unrepentant animist, think the ginger was looking out for me. And I feel enormous gratitude over spilled drink.

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Archangel Michael. Source: nikkiboruch.com

Archangel Michael. Source: nikkiboruch.com

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It’s the Autumnal Equinox as I write this, which the Christian church overlaid with a celebration called Michaelmas. Archangel Michael, for whom Michaelmas is named, is known to serve as a protector. He’s actually appeared to me personally not only once, but twice, in hours of need. …Me, a pagan, who doesn’t “do” iconography of good vs. evil; neither devils nor angels. But that’s a story for another time.

Some scholars have pointed out the parallels between Michael and the pre-Christian Irish god Lugh. At least Lugh is another form easily recognized as a holy agent. But the grand Archangel Michael in the guise of a hot yellow root?!

Why not?

I’m also reminded of the wonderful Greek tale of Philemon and Baucis, humble peasants who were visited in their home by beggars who turned out to be disguised gods. Their generosity with food and shelter to their unexpected visitors ultimately allowed them to live when the rest of the entire stingy village below got inundated the next morning with a covering flood. So there. Love these cautionary tales. Plus they got to live out many post-human-death years as entwined trees.

The message is, you never know who you’re really dealing with.

There’s Don Juan’s crow that isn’t a crow. And the old Irish poem that ends with the line, “Often, often, often goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.”

All of these serve as good reminders to treat the entire world as divine, particularly the humblest manifestations. If such stories speak true, sneaky godlings get a kick out of testing us that way.

And if you’re thinking, wow, what crazy unscientific thinking she’s exhibiting here, please consider premier psychologist Carl Jung’s observation in Modern Man in Search of a Soul:  “The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.”

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botanical print ginger

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Bonus: Two Recipes for Delicious Ginger Drinks

…I suggest you drink them fresh.🙂

Hot Ginger Drink
Grate ginger.
Boil it in water, and add a sweetener to taste.
Drink this hot.
It not only tastes yummy, it’s good for soothing throats when you have a cold.
You can also buy this sort of mix commercially at Asian grocery markets. I like two brands in particular:

Ginger Brews

 

Moscow Mule
(An adult beverage made of non-alcoholic “ginger beer,” vodka, & lime)
In a medium-sized glass, squeeze 1/2 lime over 3 ice cubes and drop the peel in on top.
Add one jigger of vodka.
Then fill the glass with “ginger beer” (which is basically ginger plus sugar, brewed and fermented till it’s fizzy. My favorite brand is Fever Tree – it’s delicious and healthy to boot, with no corn syrup in it, but it’s pricey. To make your own version, add a dollop of strong ginger tea and a bit of sweetener of your choice, then fill to top with carbonated water.)
Stir and enjoy.
I hear that some people think a copper cup enhances the flavor. Never tried it myself.
This drink is super refreshing in the summer after work.

 

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That lovely ginger root pictured at the top of this post was grown by my friend Hugh Johnson, a.k.a. “Biker Dude”. He runs the largest organic yellow ginger farm on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Chances are high that whatever organic yellow ginger you find in mainland grocery stores will be some of Hugh’s.

If you buy ginger, please buy organic if you can. It makes a difference to your health, the health of the planet and the health of the farm workers.

And do yourself a favor sometime: try organic yellow ginger. Mmm. Believe it or not, it’s really really good sliced raw on Newman-O cookies.

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Yogi Explains Jazz September 23, 2015

Filed under: All My Relations,Arts,Humor,music — Tina Fields @ 6:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

RIP Yogi Berra, whom my friend Steve Gaddis rightfully calls “America’s unintentional Zen master.” Yogi_Berra_1956

By way of example, here’s his take on jazz – in which he captures its spirit better than anyone I’ve ever heard:
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Yogi Berra Explains Jazz
By Steve Chalke

Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?
Yogi: I can’t, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, its right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it’s wrong.
Interviewer: I don’t understand.
Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can’t understand it. It’s too complicated. That’s whats so simple about it.
Interviewer: Do you understand it?
Yogi: No. That’s why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn’t know anything about it.
Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?
Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.
Interviewer: What is syncopation?
Yogi: That’s when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don’t hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they’re the same as something different from those other kinds.
Interviewer: Now I really don’t understand.
Yogi: I haven’t taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.

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Thanks to Michael DeLalla for introducing me to this Berra interview. His fingerpicking guitar wizardry can be heard at fallingmountainmusic.com

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