When I was sixteen years old, I spent a semester on a 300-acre working farm in northern Vermont. Along with normal high-school type classes, we also had blocks of time in the day devoted to farm work — harvesting potatoes, mending fencing in the pasture, splitting logs. You might imagine what would happen to a teenager’s brain when immersed in this sort of environment, reading Thoreau and Emerson. I began to wear Carhartts and Birkenstock clogs, even in the snow. I learned to knit. I tearfully paged through a copy of Reviving Ophelia. And I discovered Dar Williams, a singer-songwriter and spiritual mix between Joan Baez and Ani DiFranco who had recently released her first album, Mortal City. Now, here I am in London, almost half of my lifetime away from my time on the farm in Vermont. Carhartts and Birkenstocks really aren’t my thing anymore, but I love the respect for the natural world that those months gave me. I look back on my time in Vermont and feel a sense of peace, and the excitement of the burgeoning sense of political empowerment, possibility and responsibility that adulthood brings.
And I still love Dar Williams. She’s gone on to have a lovely, long career, not a big name, but much beloved by her fans. I’ve collected her albums, and some of her songs (which have lyrics like poems) I’ve heard so many times that I could sing them in my sleep. She came to London on Friday evening, and I attended her show — I was delighted to find she had many fans this side of the pond as well. Second on her set? The Beauty of the Rain.