September in Langley can be dizzying as we move from heady summer into crisp autumn. The smell of fallen apples, the waning gardens, the hint of harvest, the bright moon dancing on the Sound. There’s a nostalgia that creeps in toward the end despite the variety of activities swirling around us. The outdoor Shakespeare Festival has come to an end and leaves are falling on Goss Lake. But we move on. There are the abundant art gallery openings and the two major theaters in town that present unusual and superb modern plays. So far this season I’ve enjoyed Looped by Matthew Lombardo and Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. Then there is a gala open house at the retreat for women writers, Hedgebrook, the international Django Fest Northwest, and the inimitable Soupbox Derby (yes, you read that right). And let’s not forget Seattle, a ferry ride across the water, with its plethora of art exhibits and full cultural menu.
I started September with a flying visit from two of my favorite musician buddies, Coleen and Neal Walters, who have been spearheading the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering I try to attend every year in Pennsylvania. They came by for lunch after performing at Pete d’Aigle’s Workshop in Seattle (Pete and Polly Daigle publish the Autoharp Quarterly), and we had a great time catching up.
The streets were alive with music for ten days for a bigger and better DjangoFest Northwest than ever before. Langley was the center for topnotch players from all around the world. My favorites were the French contingent, highlighting Bireli Lagrene, thought to be the greatest known guitar player in the Gypsy Jazz genre. Musicians hosted a variety of workshops during the day and concerts every evening. There wasn’t a coffee shop or empty spot in town that wasn’t full of guitar players, fiddlers, bassists, and assorted wind players…and enthusiastic onlookers clapping and dancing to the music.
I remember my grown daughter as a four-year-old riding with her father in a handmade cart down a steep hill in Clarksburg, VA, and my young sons a few years later doing the same crazy thing in what they called the Soapbox Derby in Summit, NJ. So you can imagine my surprise to find that my new home town was continuing the tradition with its own special name (Soupbox) and even more elaborate vehicles to scare every mother and onlooker to death. Thank heaven for those bales of straw to save the young ones if the brakes failed. But, actually, it was the older ones who seemed to have the most trouble. What a hoot it was, and what a great way to usher out the month!