Harps and conversation

Today, I took a day trip. I’m feeling very pleased with the results. Briefly, I drove from home (in Minneapolis) to Red Wing, for a conversation in a coffee shop, and then went to my favorite harp and music store. So, you’re going to get me talking about the conversation (a little) and then harps.

For those who aren’t familiar with Minnesota, Red Wing is a small city on the Mississippi, about 60 minutes south east of the Twin Cities. (East across the river, it’s Wisconsin.) My harp (on which more later) came from Stoney End, a folk harp maker based just northwest of Red Wing, and I’ve gone down there when I have the money to spend on harp music.

Before we get to the harp, though, there’s conversation.

Now, as some of you know, I spend a moderate amount of my time on various Pagan-focused forums. (Mostly, I read, but I post on a few regularly.) This is in large part because I deeply enjoy beginner questions – they always make me think about stuff in a new way, and I like that a lot. (Hey, everyone’s got a kink. Mine is giving people useful information and resources.)


In mid-December, I got a very pleasant email from someone from one of those lists, saying, basically “Hi there, I’ve been reading your posts on [list] and I live near Red Wing.” She mentioned that she’d read the coven information, but was aware that timing issues would be a problem in even considering it – but she wondered if I knew of any resources in her area.

As it happens, I don’t – but I did say “I’m planning to drive down and buy harp music sometime in the next month or so – if you’d like to do coffee, I’d love to, and let you ask questions.” We did a little more chatting by email, with me telling her more about several of our local stores and other resources, and then when I decided to drive down today (one of the days we’d talked about), arranged to meet her for coffee at a lovely little eclectic coffee shop in Red Wing called Blue Moon. We spent nearly two hours on comfy chairs drinking excellent coffee (I’m not normally a huge coffee drinker, but at 10:30 in the morning, I’m fine with the caffeine.)

It was an excellent conversation – I got to suggest some resources that fit specific things she was interested in, and I got to have a lovely conversation that got me thinking about some things as well. I’m definitely open to doing it again, schedule allowing.

Now, I’m generally willing to talk to people at the drop of a hat, given enough time in my schedule – but I wanted to highlight something here, because the whole interaction was pretty much a wonderful example of how so many priest/esses of my acquaintances *hope* these conversations will go – but they don’t always.

1) The initial request was very thoughtful.
She’d already done a good bit of background reading (of stuff I make public for that reason) like the coven information, and she was already aware that her schedule and location and her commitment to her kids and job meant that Phoenix Song’s schedule wouldn’t be a possible fit for her. (The “I’m sorry, but it just won’t work for practical reasons” is not one of my favorite conversations to have, so I am glad she’d already figured that part out for her – but as mentioned, my covenmate and I are pretty committed to having some weekday evening group time, and we know that limits some people.)

2) She asked stuff that was reasonable in scope.
As it turns out, I’m not aware of any groups in her immediate area (and she’d already checked out the resources like Witchvox that I’d otherwise have suggested.) But I might have, and she wouldn’t know unless she asked. This is a whole lot better than someone saying either something very general (like “Tell me all about Wicca!”) or something very specific (asking for details of my tradition or personal practice that aren’t generally shared on first – or second or twentieth – conversation.)

3) She was very considerate of my time and schedule – something I deeply appreciate.
I mean, I realise my schedule is insane right now, and will be for a while. But I’ve also run into people who expect an instant response, or an immediate availability, and that’s really frustrating for me (and I’m sure for them). Having someone who made a request – and then was fine with waiting a bit to see what worked with my schedule (and the weather: I ducked the snow coming in tonight on the way back, but it’s not a drive I’d do in poor weather) was lovely. And I’m only human – people who are reasonable like that make me a lot more likely to want to make *more* time for them, because the process of setting it up doesn’t feel fraught or tense.

4) She’d been doing her own work.
She’d already been doing a fair bit of reading – what she was trying to figure out was what the next steps looked like, or what other resources she should be thinking about. That’s one of the most fun kinds of conversations for me, as it’s both a lot easier than “Tell me more about Wicca”, and a lot more individual (because it depends on someone’s personal interests.) In this case, there’s some stuff I knew about, some stuff she had more experience with but that I’m learning about (herbal things), and some stuff she’s interested in that I don’t do as much with (but know some other resources for.) It made for a really nice conversation.

I’m definitely open to doing it again next time she’s up here or I’m down there – and I really hope that she does find some folks to network with closer to her, because I think she’s being thoughtful in ways that are good for the Craft in general. I’m also planning to let her know about events up here that might be a good chance for her to see some different ritual experiences as they come up.

I consider having these kinds of conversations part of the job – and joy, when they go well – of being a priestess. But it’s always wonderful when they go quite this pleasantly, and are part of a generally lovely day.


I’m not going to go into the story of my harp just yet (because it’d take a bit, and this post is already long.) Soon, though. However, I have a 29 string folk harp (the Stoney End Lorraine model). I’ve had her since just before my 21st birthday, so she’s now something over 12 years old. One of my commitments from the last few weeks is to reconnecting with her in the ways I really want to. (And I think I’ve resolved at least some of the issues that were getting in the way of that.)

Part of it, though, made me realise I needed a few things. First,she needs a tune-up (ok, bad pun, but…), and I wanted to find out how I needed to arrange that. And I also wanted to get some music – but wanted a chance to browse through lots of it first, because while I had a good idea what I was looking for, I wasn’t able to tell by browsing online.

Stoney End is run by a husband and wife (Gary and Eve Stone). Their daughter now runs an offshoot in Minneapolis (which is smaller, but also lovely.) It is the kind of place where, if you wander in on a Saturday at around 12:30, there’s no one in the shop, and eventually a very nice woman wanders in from downstairs (where the workshop is), and begins helping me figure out what I’m looking for. And where, when I asked about the tune-up, takes me downstairs through the workshop, to ask about details. (I got to meet a very sweet dog in the process.) And then offered me a soda.

(Have I mentioned that I adore living in Minnesota? It’s not that things like this don’t happen in Massachusetts – but I love the Minnesota feel of it, and the languorous wandering from topic to topic, and browsing, and general hospitality and friendliness with someone who was a total stranger (ok, except for having bought one of their harps a long time ago.))

I also got to try one of their Evensong models – they’re designed as a therapy and more portable harp (you can play it with a shoulder strap, or with a knee brace that keeps it balanced. It’s about half the weight of my Lorraine, at the cost of 3 strings. (I want a more portable harp for ritual and playing-outside and Bardic Circle purposes, but had been trying to decide what model was a good fit for me, so it was good to try. I am, however, not allowed to consider this until I’ve been playing regularly and habitually for a good bit more. Must have the repertoire to make the traveling harp worthwhile, in other words.)

I was there, I think, for about 90 minutes – and left having spent somewhat more than I was intending, but with a bunch of stuff I know I want next. (Yay.) And on their mailing list again. I’ll be talking about all of that in forthcoming posts – but right now, I want to go send one email of books we’d talked about this morning, do my dishes, and then go play harp for a good bit.

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