Publications n Press

“HOW TO MAKE EVERYWHERE YOUR HOME” contemplates Maren…..

One of my hobbies is to visit another city neighborhood, or small town like Carnation, and, even if for just a few hours, make it my home. I imagine that I already know the people there, or that perhaps I live and work there. Then I create a story in my mind about who the people are and where they’ve been, each person perhaps being someone I’ve met before, or someone who’s story is similar to mine, or someone famous. Or better yet, I sometimes take that extra leap of faith and introduce myself and get to know the person a little bit better. I like to think of all of us as connected no matter how little we know each other. Doesn’t it bother you to stand next to someone in a store, park, or other public spaces and have there be no exchange of hellos? Would they have done that had they known that they were standing next to someone like Joni Mitchell? Or Jane Goodall? So that is my point: everyone has a voice and something to contribute to his or her community, and it is through Soundfalls that I am lifting up those voices wherever I can.

When I travel, I find singers, story tellers, instrumentalists, and the like, who can come to our community and tell their story. In Carnation and in the valley, I talk to people about their ideas, and help them bring those ideas to life. Shaping these ideas, we bring them to the stage, where we carry on as a circle of friends even though in many cases, we may have just met. Our bond: we all speak the same language of creation through words and music, through the tradition of sharing live ideas. People feel instantly welcome, instantly famous. This is true community.

My husband, Byron Ricks, and I had an extraordinary time making the ocean our home one year. That was a challenge. We lived on it for five months, as people have done for thousands of years, and I wrote and drew pictures about it that were published in our book Homelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage. We met people along the way who embraced us, just as I esteem to do with those around me.

Homelands was not a book about kayaking. It was about completely taking risk, about fully experiencing the natural world, and fully experiencing the people, and fully immersing ourselves in their lives and the ocean life, just as one does when playing music or singing a song for others. Below is an excerpt from, about the book:

Making community with international travelers who all find themselves together on the same remote beach in Canada.

AMAZON.COM:  “In an era of testosterone-charged adventure tales, Byron Ricks’s Homelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage is a wonderfully introspective adventure-travel memoir. In 1996 Ricks and his wife, Maren van Nostrand, came close to making an offer on their first house, but instead decided to undertake an adventure of a different kind together–kayaking from Alaska’s Glacier Bay down the coast of Western Canada to southern Puget Sound, near their Seattle home. They had no set schedule to keep and for five months lived by nautical charts and the rhythms of the tides, wind, and weather. Their plan was to paddle from the glaciers to the city, exploring a coast in flux and the ways of native peoples such as the Tlinglit, Tsimshian, and Haida–whose ancestors paddled the passage for centuries. The driving question of Homelands is this: how does the act of making a very long journey home, in this case by paddle–at an average velocity of a mere three knots–affect one’s concept of home? This ocean-size question is fed by smaller tributaries: Do overcoming peril and danger make the rewards of coming home greater? How do native inhabitants encountered along the way relate to their homeland? What do you do when you’re camped in a bear’s back yard? And what are the issues facing a husband and wife setting out across vast expanses of open water to confront–in the most literal sense–what lies beyond?

A journalist with a background in history and anthropology, Ricks is gifted with both a keen eye and a poetic ear. The tale is written in diary form, and its voice originates in the pace of the kayak: tranquil, steady, respectful. An easygoing and astute companion, Ricks is clearly an old soul–with questions well worth asking and some lovely observations to share. –Kimberly Brown”

PUBLICATIONS ABOUT SOUNDFALLS Somehow along the way, newspapers grabbed ahold of what Soundfalls was doing and wrote about it a few times…..

AN ARTICLE FROM THE WOODINVILLE WEEKLY from February of 2011…  Soundfalls! shows bring old-time radio theater to Carnation …quoted below…

“Six years ago, Maren Van Nostrand wanted to do something nice for her husband’s birthday. She called some of her musical friends and organized a night of music and performance at Miller’s Community and Arts Center in Carnation.

“He struggles with how to find venues where people will listen to him, because he likes to just talk,” Van Nostrand said. “He would do some fantastic little monologue and I would feel guilty because I was the only one who heard it.”

The evening was a hit, so Van Nostrand did it again the next month. Since 2005, the performances have morphed into a quarterly variety show called Soundfalls! and changed venues to the Carnation Tree Farm barn.

The 90-minute shows feature local musicians and entertainers interspersed with comical skits and entertainment from Van Nostrand and her husband and co-host, Byron Ricks.

Soundfalls! shows are eclectic. Past shows have included folk singers, comedians, dance groups and even members of the local 4-H club showing off their guinea pigs.

“The shows are all inclusive. They include a sort of Prairie Home Companion-like mixture of plays, talks, music; and it’s local,” said Denny Redman, who has played clarinet and performed spoken word at past shows.

Occasionally, the resident barn owl swoops down from the rafters to surprise the audience in the barn.

“It has the type of feeling that you would expect for a barn dance,” past performer Becky Chaney said of the barn. “Expect to have a good time. Expect the unexpected.”

The barn is not heated, so Soundfalls! participants must prepare for the weather.

Van Nostrand drew inspiration from Garrison Keillor, creator of Prairie Home Companion. She grew up in Minnesota near the fictional Lake Wobegon from the Prairie Home Companion radio show.

Van Nostrand wants to get more people onstage and performing. “People don’t realize how good they are,” she said. “They think they have to be famous to be appreciated.”

Soundfalls! shows typically start out with beginners and less experienced performers. Towards the end, more well-known and experienced performers take the stage. Top performers from previous shows include Seattle-area acoustic guitarists Dan Carollo and Angela Reed, as well as Van Nostrand’s sister Laura Caviani, a well-known jazz pianist.

Soundfalls! podcaster John Coates recorded the last six shows and Van Nostrand said they will soon be available for download from

For Van Nostrand, the barn at the Carnation Tree Farm is an ideal setting for Soundfalls!. It combines two of her interests; music and community planning.

“In community planning you try to protect environmental areas, especially ones that communities give the most meaning to,” she said. “I think the barn where the two rivers converge is a sort of a sacred meeting place.”

Van Nostrand has held concerts at her house, planned concerts for Tolt United Congregational Church and Miller’s. For her, organizing music is a way to build community.

“I’m a natural organizer,” she said. “I’d rather organize music than anything else.”

Soundfalls! shows are family friendly. The last show had 120 attendees ranging in age from infants to great- grandparents.

The next Soundfalls! show is 7 p.m. February 5 at the Carnation Tree Farm barn. Van Nostrand asks for a $10 to $20 donation from adults and kids get in free.

The upcoming show is the 6th anniversary of Soundfalls!. Once again, Van Nostrand wants to do something nice for her husband, so her old friend Melanie Lamareaux is coming up from California to help MC and roast Byron for his birthday.”

THE WOODINVILLE WEEKLY of December 3, 2007 “Soundfalls: Radio Theater off the Air began last February, as a birthday gift from Maren Van Nostrand for her husband Byron Ricks. Van Nostrand arranged for a stage, lights, and friends to gather for an evening to celebrate his talent. The result was the birth of “Soundfalls,” an evening of short performances of music and spoken word.

Byron and Maren at the Holidays

Each Soundfalls night is unique. It’s an open stage gathering for a broadly-defined community that includes Valley folks and those from outside the Valley who love to come here for peace and spontaneity.

“The stage is here for you. The magic of discovering the creative performer in you is here. Experience the unknown,” read the fliers and invitations.

On Dec. 8, Soundfalls will feature Kaj and the Old Guy from Hakai singing and strumming Irish folk songs at Millers Arts and Community Center in Carntion.In addition, the event will feature holiday songs from the Sound Singers composed of Kathy Fraser, Lee Grumman, Krista Luccio, Stacy Powell, and Maren Van Nostrand; Violin and Voice from young musicians Feona Cromarty and Mary Ward; reading by Byron Ricks.

Van Nostrand often joins with many of the performers at Soundfalls to add a bit of harmony or perhaps a bit of percussion, while Ricks will co-host with wit and story. It is a rich, warm, varied evening of short performances by people of all ages.

Van Nostrand is a concert percussionist and marimba player, and an artist. She teaches piano and marimba in Carnation when she’s not working for the City of Sammamish on shoreline policy development.

Ricks is an author and has traveled for National Geographic and other publications in search of stories about natural environment.

The duo captured a bit of celebrity-dom when they published a book about their 1,200-mile-kayak journey from Alaska south through the Inside Passage along the Northwest to Puget Sound.

Byron authored the book and Maren did all of the illustrations (Homelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage, Bard/Avon, New York, 1999)

FROM THE RIVER CURRENT NEWS, October 16, 2006 which talks about the opening of Millers, the birthplace of Soundfalls: