Between the Trees and Back to Caernarfon 

Quick Overview Update:

It’s not quite a week that I’ve been back from my six days at the Music and Science Festival in Merthyr Mawr Reserve in Pen-Y-Bont in south Wales. I moderated a discussion on Welsh Independence put on by YES Cymru, and I was responsible for a small space called “The Cwtch”, which basically means a nice little cuddle type of hug. The Cwtch was the space for outdoor open mics. Later the open mic performers took a late night stage of the best of the open mic musicians. In all there were 6 open mics over Saturday and Sunday of the Festival.

On my return to Caernarfon, I had to immediately move out of the apartment I was in, and am now in a temporary residence once again. A super special thank you to Rhys Davies, who’s [lace at Tŷ Glyndwr in Caernarfon is fun temoporary space.

Now, I am trying to once again immerse myself in the Welsh language experience in preparation for next year’s year-long walk around the country without speaking anything but Welsh for a year.

Cerdded â fi yn 2023!

If you are a Welsh language learner, and would like to join me for a day, perhaps longer, walking and talking, stopping for a pint, participating in pub gigs, learning Welsh history and Welsh stories and myths…all in Welsh; then mark August 2023 on your Calendar. That is the starting date for my year-long walk and talk. Details of the schedule and events to start coming together soon.

Details from Life in the Festival and Life in the Town

Before Between the Trees, Stephen Simmonds and I set up The Cwtch, the area which would become home to the Open Mics and the Festival Choir, along with other assorted set up duties. 

Once the festival began, I had two main duties. On the Friday evening, I moderated a discussion on Annibyniaeth (Welsh Independence from the UK), which was organized by YES Cymru (a pro-Independence Movement). I jokingly commented that it was rather strange to have an American moderating a discussion on independence from England. It was a robust discussion with people agreeing and disagreeing openly, and getting along despite the differences.

Saturday and Sunday, I ran six Open Mics. The first four were in the beautiful outdoor unamplified setting of The Cwtch. On Sunday afternoon/evening, we held two sessions on the small stage. The level of skill coming from the open mic was remarkable, and included some of the performers from the large stage testing out their new material. Each session ended with me leading all the musicians together in playing the song from the Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues. I’ve translated the song into Welsh, and so I would do a verse or two yn Gymraeg. Elv Saw sent a video of us singing Fisherman’s Blues with a bit of Welsh to the Waterboys a couple days ago, and they responded back noting that it was “awesome.” Some of us are currently considering how to keep the Between the Trees Open Mic Sessions going throught the year.

Throughout the festival, I had many discussions on spirituality, which included the use of the number of old churches closing, and how those buildings might be used for both social action and spiritual renewal.

Upon returning to Caernarfon, I had to move house immediately. The place I’ve been renting was sold, and they wanted to close on the sale. I had a contract that allowed me to stay through November, but I felt that it was best to accommodate the previous owner as much as possible. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” the proverbist tell us. (Proverbs 22:1) So thanks to my good friend Rhys Davies, I am currently staying at Tŷ Glyndwr inside the old town walls of Caernarfon. If you ever come to stay, and are looking for an affordable place, this is a really nicely run bunkhouse in a beautiful old market/pirate town which locals often call the Welshest of Welsh towns.

Since being back, I’ve been spending my time getting to know the local musicians and the “Cofis” (Caernarfon townies). I’ve been playing music in the Market Hall, and spending time with some of the native Welsh speakers, soe of whom drink and curse like sailors, and we end up talking about spirituality and God. Much like living in Salem, Massachusetts, I feel like I have moved into a festival town where people are open in both mind and heart. This is why I am here, because I find this place to be one that has hard shell on the outside at first impression, but is incredibly soft of heart. God has his hand on Caernarfon in a remarkable way––that is, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Please keep us––this town and myself in your prayers.

Life at the local church, Caersalem feels full of vibrant life and grace, and the church at its pastors (Rhys and Menna) can use your prayers as well.

Bedydd efo Capel Caersalem – Baptism with Caersalem Chapel shortly after this they go down into the river just beyond the trees.

After the Festivals – Back Home in Caernarfon

I arrived in Wales, caught COVID on the first night. After a short quarantine, I got better. It was a bit like being turned into a newt. Then I spent the next six weeks traveling to five different festivals, which my previous emails outlined. Well, now I am back in Caernarfon, and it’s time for a little rest––okay that last bit is a bit of a lie. So, here’s the update of what has happened, and not happened, since arriving back in Caernarfon.

  1. I’ve received notice that the place I am renting is being sold, and that I will need to move out by November 10th. Now that’s rather hilarious because it’s also my birthday. I’m not really worried about it, but it is a strange coincidence. Prayers will be appreciated, because finding a place to live in Caernarfon is not an easy task at the moment.
  2. There was a March for Welsh Independence in the recently designated “city” of Wrecsam. I went with Gwyn Williams to the event, and accompanied a few thousand people in the happy celebration
  3. Capel Caersalem, the Baptist Church that has sponsored my visa, had a weekend camping festival. I spent the whole of the last week preparing for the event by leading a team of girls from America, who are here with the Greater Europe Mission, to help Iwan and Delyth organize their lovely piece of property, just outside Caernarfon, for the the little festival. There were about 50 of us from the Chapel, and I was the speaker on Saturday night. We met around the fire. I spoke partly in Welsh, and partly in that foreign tongue––English, because that’s about the best I could do with my limited Welsh. I sang a few songs I’ve written, and two of those were in Welsh as well. I think it went well––at least that’s what people told me. I told a short story about my personal connection to Wales, and more specifically to Caernarfon, which I will need to put onto podcast soon, and then I spoke about the subject of love. Love is such a common theme in Biblical sermonizing, and today it is popular to make love the primary basis of our Christian lives. I challenged that thinking a bit by suggesting that we become like what we love, and that it is possible to have love go astray and in all wrong directions.
  4. Well now it’s time for a bit of a rest from a month and a half of solid festival work – I wish! Now the really hard work begins. During our little Capel Caersalem festival, and now in the town of Caernarfon, I’ve been spending time working on my Welsh language skills. I walk downtown and sit with the locals on a bench in the town square. We talk, I barely understand a word they say, and squeeze out the words I know between their thick accents and what sounds like mumbling. I stop at the local pubs and hang out with people I know. Those who are involved in Welsh TV, radio, and music are typically easier to understand than most of the other natives. Performers and actors and radio personalities work on their diction and are less likely to mumble or use strange local colloquialisms, of which there are many in Caernarfon. Most of the time, my brain feels like it is on overload. I suppose I am improving bit by bit, but every now and then, the little spinning color wheel of death that happens to your old Mac happens to my brain.
  5. The basic things are taking forever! I have only been in Caernarfon a little more than two weeks out of the last 2 months due to my travels, and I am having a heck of a time getting my personal banking and the details of my health care in the UK set up. Every time I try to get something accomplished there is another little detail that someone hasn’t told me. Hopefully I will have a bank account and be fully connected to the Health Services in the next couple days.

So the next couple months are all about working toward fluency in Welsh, and establishing the connections in Caernarfon to be able to bring blessing to this town, which has been called the heart of Cymry Cymraeg (Welsh speaking Welsh).