Acoustic guitar and vocal response to radio talk of the northwoods.
WOJB: Radio Talk, Radio Chant
I turn the radio on and a smoky voice greets me, “Good evening everyone. You’re listening to WOJB, 88.9 FM, Woodland Community Radio from the Lac Court Oreilles in Reserve, Wisconsin, broadcasting on the Web at WOJB.ORG.
“It’s Tuesday, and I hope you’re having a good night.” The radio that’s been sitting in the same place for 40 years, goes silent . . . then a jock speaks again to his invisible community. “It’s Tuesday, isn’t it? Wait a minute, let me check . . . oh, it’s Thursday. Ok then, well I hope you’re having a good Thursday.”
Ok then, becomes my north-land talk, courtesy of WOJB, where words break through from another world. His musical voice landing quiet on the microphone, nearly a chant, and the jocks’ idiom camouflages a humor that’s easy to miss. Dead air . . . lots of it . . . and then again he’s on, “You’re listening to WOJB, Community Radio of the Northwoods.”
I sat by the wood burning stove and noted the program change. “Good evening from the mountain state of West Virginia,” someone said. And in seconds, soft notes from a wooden guitar, played on a stage in West Virginia, melted in my ear and met me in my place of dark pines and starry skies. Warmed by fire on a cold Wisconsin spring night, I sipped my drink and wondered what the air waves would bring next.
Opening the stove door to add wood, the restless child of Prometheus took oxygen and rose with the flame. I realized I was happy to be a sitter for Prometheus’ fiery child and the chanters of WOJB. I thought they deserved a cantor and a Psalm, so I offered a smoky chant heard only by the owls.
Blessed be the flame
Blessed be the jock
Blessed be the child and acoustic guitar
Blessed be the jack pine and the the star.
Here, RADIO ON, bathed in smoke and flame, I am surfeit with meaning and mythology. At this small cabin in the north, I forget about food, but I do get hungry. Sometimes, I smell a bakery even though nobody is baking bread, no rolls or donuts gently rise. It’s the smell of memory raised from the steps and chants of another time.
Here the sturm und drang of life comes upon me keenly. Alone, memories and dreams meld to intensify all inner storm and urge. But in spite of the dangers of extended time alone, in a remote location, I’m willing to take the risk, to engage with memory and the anchors of constancy surrounding me.
It’s a long trip from Arizona, but I take a comfort knowing that both the loons and I will meet again by the melting lake. We’ll encounter old man winter’s cold grip and watch him wane, weep, and slip away. I’ll sit by the stove and look out to see small piles of melting snow and listen to an Ojibwa chant on the radio accompanied by wail of the loon.
At dark the owl will haunt, a bear will rustle in the bushes, and I’ll speak an earthy greeting to all of them, mitakuye oyasin, we are all related.