This year I’m honored to be part of the Walla Walla County Rural Library District semi-centennial celebration. The District is hosting a year-long program of speakers as part of the festivities- -authors, artists, scientists and musicians. I am tickled to be part of this speaker community. You can find schedule details here:


The first presentation, by basket weaver Emily Sommers, was last Sunday. To support Rural Libraries and as a gesture of solidarity with the speaker community I decided to attend. Basket weaving isn’t something I’ve set out to learn, but experience teaches that interesting things cross my path when I investigate something I don’t know anything about.


We were there, too! It was neat when Emily talked about weaving construction paper mats in grade school.


I remember that, too, 9, back in second grade.


We also learned some of the history of basket making.


It was an informative presentation, Lily, that’s for sure. We learned about different styles of baskets, how local materials were used in centuries past and about the different uses of baskets. But here’s what struck me, what rose like a gem to the surface: when Emily shared that the most beautiful baskets she’s made have come out of her “deepest valleys of sorrow.” That’s where the universal connection kicked in, the experience of channeling emotion through art.


Many lingered to talk to Emily after the program, and several seemed interested her basket making classes. Perhaps they’ll become a part of the basket weaving community? You can learn more about Emily, her baskets, and her classes here:


Another community experience this week: adult tap. In defiance of sub-freezing temperatures we four “regulars” came together Monday night under the tutelage of teacher Grace. We’ve been honing our technique and learning new steps since September. We have a lot of fun in the studio, but after class we scatter quickly to the demands of the rest of our lives, in my case, cats.


As it happens, cats provided a community connection prior to class. Grace was sharing pictures of the kitten she and her husband adopted over the holiday break, a sweet little tuxedo named Tuesday. I laughed and said my tuxedo cat is named Friday.

Friday June the Sixth Matley, a member of my community since Friday, June 6, 2008!

“No way!” That kicked off an animated group conversation about cats, something we shared in addition to tap class.


Some of the other tap students are involved in music performance groups. I attend their shows when I can. Not only is this a pleasing pass time, it builds- –


Right on, 9!

As I write this (on Thursday afternoon), I’m anticipating the first of four nightly concerts of the Walla Walla Winter Chamber Music Festival. We’re lucky to have these festivals in both winter and summer, and luckier still that most of the concerts are staged at our fine local wineries. I’d been aware of the festival for several years but didn’t attend a concert until summer 2019.


I’m a big fan of string music, particularly classical and early 20th century composers.


Then why did it take you so long to start attending?


Mostly, Lily, because we lived out in Prescott until mid-2018 and it seemed less than desirable to go into Walla Walla at night for any reason because we’d have to dodge deer on the 20-mile drive home. In 2019 not only was I living “in town,” I’d made friends with a member of Fort Walla Walla Museum’s Living History community who is an avid chamber music supporter. During the summer 2019 festival she and her husband were hosting a trombone soloist. The day of his “Portrait of an Artist” performance (a solo performance that incorporates a light-hearted yet informative interview by festival founder and artistic director Timothy Christie) I had a sudden impulse to go online and- -ta-da!- -purchased the very last ticket.


A trombone soloist? Isn’t that kind of weird?


It’s the same lesson as basket making, 9, I found something there that I wasn’t expecting. Trombone, to me, has a similar tonal range to cello (my favorite stringed instrument). The pieces he played would have been well-suited to cello. It was a small step to connect the two, and to appreciate the mastery and subtlety of the soloist. Plus, there was an opportunity to build- –




You catch on fast, Lily. This past summer I dove into the festival, attended all five concerts and met several people who are festival regulars. I purchased a Silver Pass for the 2022 winter festival, a swell credential on a lanyard that I’ll wear for the next four nights while I listen to beautiful music, sip wine, and visit (fully vaccinated, masked and at a distance) with other chamber music fans.

Part of the 2022 Walla Walla Winter Chamber Music Community: my Silver Pass!

COVID has made community building more challenging than ever these past two years, yet we persist, hopefully with reasonable safety measures and concern for the health of others. Because all of us together makes the largest and most beautiful community of all.

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