Five years ago a faded, 1944 photograph set me on a journey. Intrigued, maybe even haunted by the image, I set out to find one of the women in that photo and succeeded in finding twelve of them. Those Kalamazoo Gals inspired me to write Kalamazoo Gals. That “band of intrepid, unpretentious, stunningly skillful, thoroughly American women,” as Jonathan Kellerman calls them in the book’s foreword, taught me a lot about guitars, of course, but even more about sacrifice, loyalty, dedication, and, well, life. On my journey throughout the US and Europe since the book’s release in March, I’ve had the privilege of sharing with thousands the principal lesson I’ve gleaned from this project: an ordinary life, well told, makes for an extraordinary tale. The Gals told me extraordinary tales.
Here’s another extraordinary tale. Kalamazoo Gals has inspired a Kalamazoo Gal who has, in turn, inspired me. Those Gals propelled me on a journey that is embracing the Ensō aesthetic: the Japanese word associated with the Zen Circle of Enlightenment.
Meet Judy Carnago, the newest shining point on the Kalamazoo Gals Ensō. Judy, a Kalamazoo resident who has just taken up the guitar at the age when others abandon adventure in exchange for Social Security, can tell you her story better than I:
“I was truly inspired by your book and my lingering, latent love of music that includes playing the violin in 5th and 6th grades and being in choir in high school. I would have probably continued with the violin but I went to high school in a small town and they only had a band and no marching violins! I got a keyboard a few years ago and found that a little too complicated for my age and left-handedness. Then along came ‘Kalamazoo Gals’ with such a wonderful story and great information about guitars. I’m learning that guitars are certainly not any less complicated than keyboards but they sure are more portable and they come in left-handed versions. Who ever heard of a left-handed piano or keyboard? It’s the beginning of a great adventure for me and more proof that you’re never too old to learn something new.”
So, gaze upon the photo of Judy with her new guitar. If this isn’t a beautiful vision of enlightenment, I don’t know what is.
Thank you, Judy, for inspiring me.