Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

July 4th

It is beautiful Ohio summer morning and I have been up for a while.

Got up a bit early to enjoy some quite time and take inventory around the homestead.

I played at Zocalo’s Saturday and the Lake House yesterday which are two completely different gigs so maybe I am up because I trying to reconcile who I am after playing in such different places.

Last night was a spectacular evening. The sunset was not dramatic, but the platinum color of the lake more than made up for it. Even the drive was great. It was the first night after the new moon, and there was this tiny crescent in the north west sky.

This morning, I took the time to go sit by the creek on a big granite boulder that was pushed down from Canada by the glaciers. I was looking across the stream at another geologic feature, an anti-cline. That is basically a wave in the bedrock form some distant time in the past when an earthquake or some major disruption caused an upheaval in the earth’s crust.

It is a really cool feature. The cliff is about 60 feet high, and the exposed rock is layered shale. Generally this stuff is stacked up flat layer upon layer but because of the anti-cline there is this very distinctive hump in the layers. Sort of like taking a stack of printer paper and bending it. Only a little more impressive.

The cliff swallows have taken advantage of the situation and built a nest in the seam that formed in the shale. I don’t have a suitable camera to catch them as they fly in and out of their nest, but after my morning musings, I took some pictures anyway.

So whenever I sit on one of these big rocks, I always think about the glacier ride coming down and the force of the water moving it back down the stream-bed. Of course this made me think of Jeff’s song Like A Stone, which make the analogy of human resilience to rock.

Human resilience is an amazing thing but it is all so tenuous.

I know several young men who have been deployed in our recent military missions in the mid-east, who are trying so hard to create or hang on to some sort of life and recover from their experiences.

I don’t profess to understand why there can be such evil in our world and why we can’t find a better way of addressing it. But to sense the incredible disruption these young men are living with, and to think about the folks actually living in war torn areas of the world is so deeply disturbing.

So as I sat on my rock surrounded by the beauty of the world around me I couldn’t help but think two things:

Be thankful and grateful for the existence that I have had and to recognize the sacrifices that have been made for me to enjoy the serenity of this morning.

And what can do to help make this world a better place for others to enjoy.  I hope that music can be a part of this.


The loss of darkness

I had to drive to Cincinnati this past week for a work related engagement.  I wasn’t able to leave until 6:00 or so and this made for a few hours of driving after sunset.

I would have said several hours of driving after dark, but that really wasn’t the case.  We really never drove in the dark.

I am used to the drive down 71 to Columbus but I have rare occasion to continue south on this route. 

As we drove past Grove City we could smell the landfill that was designed by a friend of ours Kurt Anderson nearly thirty years ago.

He was a brilliant individual who succumbed to an inherent drive to always push the limits.  An excessive use of alcohol, drugs and some ultimate bad luck resulted in an untimely death.

Kurt had received national recognition for his design to capture and reuse the methane gas generated by the landfill.  As we drove by I wondered if the smell was the result of the single digit temperatures, a flaw in his design or some failure to maintain the system for cost cutting measures.  (Probably the latter)

There is a long stretch of 71 that goes through some exceptional farmland.  Land that feels as flat as a board and for all intense and purposes you might think you were in Iowa, so MJ que'd up Greg Brown’s “Iowa” CD as fitting music for this portion of the ride.

Of course historically this land might have had pockets of tall grass prairie, but was predominately forested at the time the first pioneers began their explorations.

It is hard to imagine just what those forests must have been like and about the best way to get any kind of descriptive idea is to look up and read some of the early surveyors journals.

I have read bits and pieces of journals from Israel Ludlow who worked in southwest Ohio and Seth Pease in northeast Ohio.  Both of these men recorded what the natural features they saw in addition to simply measuring and monumenting the countryside.

Their observations are simply fascinating.

Ohio had spectacular forests that were cleared to make way for farmland.  It was not uncommon for huge tracks of these hardwood forests to be burned over the winter months just to clear the land.

Every kid in school today knows about the loss of the rainforests but few people realize that our predecessors cleared the eastern United States in much the same way.

We were now driving through one of the most productive areas in the country for row crop agriculture on an interstate that had been built through rural, prime agricultural land.

What struck me as we drove along was how many lights there were across the landscape.

It seemed that every farmhouse or out building had a cluster of high output lights.  At every exit with a gas station there were a myriad of tall light poles.

The amount of light pollution was really disheartening.   I suppose as a culture we have been conditioned to be afraid of the dark.

That is all I can think of.  Why else would someone in rural America hang high output lights off of every building?

The opportunity to enjoy the night sky is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

When I was growing up in southwestern Ohio, one of my most engaging winter time actives was looking up at the night sky and taking in an overwhelming display of stars and planets.

It made me sad to observe this as we drove along and to think of the simple enjoyment that we are denying ourselves as a culture.

The dark is as much a part of the day as the light is.  It seems strange that we would choose to not enjoy the benefits of each.

Currently we have the privilege of living in a very lovely location and I have often marveled when a new neighbor moves in or builds a new house on our street what they choose to illuminate.  Sometime it is the length of their driveway, other times it is the porch, or garage, or outbuildings or in some cases all of the above.

And I wonder why they do this?

If they are afraid to live in a natural setting why did they move here to begin with?

Are we that afraid of the absence of light or are we afraid of what we might see in the darkness?

But I guess it is not to unlike having constant background noise on to perhaps keep us from hearing our own thoughts.

I think we listened to Greg Brown until we reached the hotel.

Yesterday in the early afternoon, I was driving through the valley, and caught site of a large bird over head. Sure enough it was an eagle, nope there were two eagles!

They were both immature, just beginning to get white on their head and tails, and they were engaged in a mating flight.

Now I don’t know enough about eagles to be sure if this was the real deal and if immatures actually mate or if this was a pseudo mating flight.

Sometimes animals do a sort of pre mating play as juveniles, sort of like teenagers making out. Ideally it’s just practice, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, perhaps you have seen this on nature shows or maybe had the chance to actually watch such a site.

It was an incredible and I pulled the car over and watched for ten minutes or so.

They would circle around over this broad spot in the valley floor, the male was a little smaller and would glide over the female and she would turn upside down. They would grab at each other’s talons as they were falling toward the ground and then disengage and right themselves right above the treetops. Off they would fly, climbing up into the air and repeated this again and again.

To see the female flip and fly upside down and to see the male turn completely sideways and slip down through the air to meet her was simply a spectacular spectacle.

This all was taking place about a quarter mile from my house.

Now you might ask, "Why in the world would I want to move?"

Well that is a good question.

If things progress with the other position, we intend to hang on to this house if we can.

It is a great location and would be a lovely vacation and weekend getaway house.

This might be a pipe dream but then again we’ll sort that out when we get there.

At any rate I have been truly privileged to live for the past 11 years or so in such a cool spot that has generated so many wonderful memories.

I have watched mink hunt in the creek, as well as two big water snakes work together to herd and catch minnows. And no I am not making that up.

I have had red fox sit and look into the back door in the dead of winter as if pondering the possibility of coming in.

I watched a coyote ambush a red fox off the side of the hill.  The next morning I examined the remains in nearly the exact spot where I discovered similar fox remains a few years and wondered what had happened. That day I knew.

MJ and I have been entertained by two families, at the same time, of pileated wood peckers enjoying our suet feeders.  The adults were feeding their clumsy youngsters who couldn’t negotiate hanging upside down to feed themselves.

And I will never forget watching both eagles and kingfishers hunt steelhead in the creek.

The kingfisher realizing at the last second of his dive he was no match for the big fish and pulling off before hitting the water.

And of course there is the recollection of the early morning hours on the day of the five-hundred year flood, lying in bed with MJ feeling large logs smashing into and shaking the entire house while the little creek was roaring with the extreme volume of water.

So yep this is a special place.

I suppose I too am engaged in the Acrobatics of Life.

I know I am privileged to be here, and fortunate to be considered for yet another position that may allow me to continue to work to protect, enhance and share the benefits of these things that inspire me.

I don't know if this is just practice or will produce, but it's the journey that is life.

Friday Night I went out to the Conneaut Creek Club cabin and spent the evening by myself.

Saturday was the opening day of muzzle loading rifle deer season.

The cabin is a rustic Adirondack style, with propane lights and stove, no running water, a barrel wood burning stove, two wonderful porches and many great memories.

I got out there around 8:30 and it was about 15 degrees with ten inches of snow on the ground and it was lightly snowing.

Tomorrow I was intending to walk up a deer, that is slowly and quietly walk through the woods until I either came up on bedded or feeding deer.

With the particular muzzle-loading rifle that I would be using, this would require getting within 80 yards and with the cover and habitat around the cabin, this more than likely would be something like 15 to forty yards.

In order to pull this off, the big deal is moving extremely slow.  All the old hunting books I used to read when I was a kid called this still-hunting.  I never understood why the authors would use this term and not stick with using “stalking” as the common descriptor.

As I got older and realized what was involved, I began to get it.

To really do this right you are moving through the woods while being as still as you can.

I was taking a Thai Chi class a few years ago when the instructor introduced me to meditative walking.

It is a process where you consciously transfer weight through your body from one leg up through your hips then down to the other as you walk in a slow determined way.

I recognized instantly this was an excellent method of mental training for still-hunting.

That fall I tried it and what I observed was pretty remarkable.

I consider my self to be fairly observant when I am “on my game, in myself, in the moment” or whatever you call it going through the woods.

I have noticed that generally when I am going through the woods, I will occasionally see squirrels out 60 yards or so moving away from me, and song-birds occasional twittering in front of me maybe twenty yards more or less.

When I tried the meditative walking approach, I found that I was often moving through the fall woods with a small mixed flock of chickadees, junco’s and titmice immediately around me and I would seeing squirrels moving in front of me maybe ten to fifteen yards.

So needless to say, this is an excellent method of moving through the forest with hunting intentions.

One other dimension to this approach to moving is the incredible mental focus it takes.   The easy and regular thing to do is revert back to normal “walking” in addition there is an substantial amount of focus required for deer hunting anyway.

 So I was planning on going out alone and walking up a deer.

It had been a long time since I had used the CCC cabin as a personal retreat.  Most outings over the years had been with a number of family or friends, which of course were great in there own right, but being by myself was a little different.

I needed a little solitude to strip away the layers of mental chatter that have been building for the past several months.

I had a great time dealing with the simple challenge of getting a fire going with no kindling, making a pot of tea, getting my muzzle loading stuff together, which is an interesting task unto it own. 

In spite of great technological advances, these guns are still primitive weapons.   To load one, you take an amount of carefully measured gunpowder, pour it down the barrel of the gun, tamp that in place then push a bullet down the barrel and tamp that into place.

At the other end of the barrel, there is a small opening where the a spark will flash from a primer or cap.  Ideally this will happen when the trigger is pulled, igniting the powder causing a contain explosion pushing the bullet out and toward the target.

Before bed I got my muzzle loading stuff out, checked over and loaded into appropriate pockets located on the exterior of my hunting clothing.

In the morning I set off about forty-five minutes before sunrise in the 8 degree morning air.

After a executing a slow circuitous ¾ of a mile route down the valley, through the hemlock thickets, across the oak flats and skirting the grapevine tangles I was back at the cabin for a cup of tea and a bit of lunch.

Snow was still falling off and on but in brief periods it was nearly white out conditions.  After my morning hike I assumed the deer would be lying under the hemlocks and out of the weather.  My challenge would be approaching them in a manner to get close enough to get a clear shot.

My afternoon, mosey began would be on the other side of the cabin.

I immediately saw where deer had been pawing through the snow to get to grass on the dam of the pond and had more than likely bedded up in the hemlocks on the point of a keen ridge overlooking the Conneaut Creek Valley.

This is a great nearly fail safe bedding strategy, if any threat is coming they merely stand up and bound down the 45-60 degree one hundred plus foot descent down in the valley.

So how I approached the hemlock thickets was very important if I expected to get a shot.

I figured that this deer were probably conditioned to watching for people coming from the pond so I decided I would approach them from the edge of the valley ridge as best as I could.

I put up the first two deer in a few minutes.  I had walked to within twenty yards of two lying under the hemlocks, and we saw each other at about the same time and they made their move as I was making mine and no shot was fired.

In a short distance in the same thicket I walked up on another lying behind a log.  The deer jumped up when I was about 15 yards away and started to go over into the valley but the wall was too steep, nearly vertical and instead was force to turn and come straight toward me.

I pulled up, aimed, pulled the trigger, the hammer fell and the percussion cap didn’t ignite.  Evidently moisture from the heavy snow had dampened the cap.

The deer turned within a few feet of me and bounded away.

And out of the day I had gotten everything that I had needed, several hours solitude, emersion in the elements, several hours of meditative walking, and incredible rush of adrenalin in the thrill of the moment. 

There have been reasons why I haven't posted any Pedestrian Ramblings and it hasn't had anything to do with an absence of events happening, inspirations coming etc., it has had more to do with being entirely consumed with existing day to day and not having the space to capture inspirations when they come.

This was a great inspirational moment, reminding me I am still who I am and still able to interact in the many dimsions of the world around me. 

This weekend I enjoyed watching the creek thaw.

We had snow on the ground since the first of December and several weeks of below freezing temperatures.


When it heated up to the mid fifties something had to give.


It is very fascinating to watch the creek release, just like it is very cool to watch it freeze.


When the melt waters start flowing over the frozen surface of the creek it may be a matter of minutes or days before the ice breaks up but once it starts to release it happens very quickly.


And the ice begins to move and break and the force of the water breaks it apart into smaller and smaller pieces.


As the ice gets carried down stream it sometimes gets caught up and this is the beginning of an ice dam.


Friday I watched several ice dams form and break apart. It is mesmerizing to watch.


In witnessing this, it reminded me that I haven’t taken much time to see the world around me consequently I have suffered for it.


It is easy to forget how much clutter we allow in our schedule and into our mind.


It is also easy to forget how much I enjoy taking time to stop and just see things, to find the essence of what I do and to live what I am doing.


And I suppose this is my New Years Resolution.


Stop and do more.


A wonderful juxtaposition.


August 10 there was a very talented young lady passing through Cleveland, Emily Erin. She was hoping to pick up a gig at the Beachland Ballroom on her way back to New York. One of my buds Dan Best with the Swamp Rattlers called and asked if I would do a set to round out the evening with Emily and I did. There was a fellow there who flip filmed the show and this version of me doing Stan Rogers' Mary Ellen Carter wound up on Youtube This has always been one of my favorites. I first heard his work perfomred by a dear friend in Dayton, Dave Gordon. He and his wife Kay did several of Stan's tunes, including Barrettes Privateers. Unfortunately I never knew who wrote the songs. When I moved to NE Ohio, a friend used to tell me I should do some Stan Rogers. Roland would go on and on about how great Stans tunes were and how much he would appreciate it if I learned a few. One day I heard Barrett's Privateers blarring out of my son Phil's room, and I instantly recognized the song from years ago when I used to live in Dayton. I went charging in there asking who was singing, and Phil told me Stan Rogers. Interestingly Roland and Dave had both passed away by the time I learned who Stan Rogers was and before I learned any of his songs. I think of them both whenever I play any of his material. very nice
I just took a day off of work. Yes it was an “Honest to God” day off. Well after I went in for two hours. But still I bought and installed a bike rack went to a movie. So I think this day counts as personal time. Whoa, don’t get too crazy. It has been a blitzkrieg of a year and I really haven’t had much time to do any thing beyond taking one step at a time. That being said there have been some very good moments so far this summer. Although I didn’t have time to do any promotion this year I have had several gigs at venues that I have always enjoyed. They either called me or held dates for me including the Lake House, the Old Fire House, several house concerts and that sort of thing. One of the most enjoyable was a return to the Burning River Fest. This worked out great as a gang from Western College of Miami came into town and we all had a big time of it, including the after party gig at Zocalo’s on east fourth. Big fun had by all and I am still recovering.
Let's see, Work has been exceptionally busy. Gigs have been a great diversion and great fun. Eating some watermelon after the first Zocalo's gig and having an adult beverage. Life is good.


March 2nd, MJ and I drove down to the Pittsburg area to do a show with Tom Breiding and Sara Mcquaid.

I met Tom last year at the Barking Spider where I was doing the early show with Bruce the Bassman.

Tom invited me to open up for Sara Mcquaid and after listening to Tom's show I was sure I wanted to do it.

I was certainly glad I did.

Not only did Tom treat us to dinner he also turned us on to a great music place, Cefalo's!

Cefalo's is old Church that has been converted into a wonderful space for music and dinner.

To top it off Sara was wonderful.

While the crowd was a little light, everyone had a great time.



Had great time in New York City a few weeks back.

In addition to seeing Stephanie and Sean in there new digs and having lunch with my old college roomie, Sean and I went knocking around one day.

We were able to take in Chelsea guitars where a couple snobbish kids reminded me that all the guitars hanging on the walls were expensive. So much for buying that '63 rosewood neck sunburst strat to replace the one I used to have from those guys. However I did discover the mose wonderful Music Inn right in the village. What a sweet store.

Reminded me of my mind. Cluttered up with all sorts of things... Items with great potential, some clearly broken, and some that I have no idea what they are or might be. The guys that were working down the basement have been building electric sarods, which are very cool fretless mideastern instruments.

They also had a very cool software package that they had developed to bring out all of the overtones and sympathic scales. And if that isn't enough they had a huge collection of singing bowls and all sorts of hand percussion stuff. It is on the return to NYC to do list. All and all the city was wonderfully vibrant and full of good energy.

I'm in.

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