Lum: Frolicking with Fragile Lung |

Lum: Frolicking with Fragile Lung

Su Lum

Fragile Lung, let me quickly explain, is the name of a musical group consisting of my granddaughter Riley and three friends from Bennington College who have been playing together for the past year or so on or near the campus and are presently winding down a cross-country gig trip to Seattle, where they will dismantle and go their separate ways: the end of the Lung.

Katie will be dropped off at a friend’s house in Montana, Leah will fly to her family in Indiana, Riley and Colleen have lined up a room to rent while they look for work and an apartment — four college grads wondering what to do next.

Queries about the peculiar name of the group led my daughter Skye to respond on Facebook, “It’s all about the airy quality of these young voices.” There is that, but these kids are anything but fragile — they are smart, and they are tougher than they may know.

I can’t even remember the last time that I was around four ladies in their early 20s, and it was with great curiosity that I invited myself to spend Saturday afternoon and night at Skye and Steve’s house in Carbondale for the Fragile Lung’s final concert.

If I were searching for a word to describe the experience it would be “refreshing”. From the viewpoint of someone who is increasingly creaking, they were so vibrantly young and alive. While we were painting one another’s nails, the conversation strayed to the complications of self-actualization in the face of societal extremists — fundamentalists, cults, heroes — and then segued to rehearsing one of their more complicated numbers, Colleen (the drummer) keeping time with a fork against empty glasses.

You could cut the estrogen with a butter knife. They ate like starving horses.

Riley (my Little Dumpling) said she had almost finished knitting me a new pair of socks, and when I showed her the toe holes in the ones I was wearing, she darned them then and there and gave me hers off her own feet. Her socks are the best.

Their concert was early — 7 p.m. My daughter Hillery arrived in time for dinner; Skye, Steve and the Fragiles dashed off to set up, and I overfilled my four-hour oxygen tank and didn’t help matters by bursting into tears, but the gig went off without a hitch.

I can’t write intelligently about music. I love everything my Dumpling writes, which she’s been doing for most of her almost 23 years, a born singer-songwriter. Some songs are sweet (“I tiptoe down to the edge in my stocking feet”), some edgy (“We are all related by blood and dirt”), great harmonies, Riley playing a ukulele, Colleen on subdued drums in the small room.

At the end, they startled and amazed the audience with a Sacred Harp version of “Wayfaring Stranger” — a cappella and very loud. Find them at

En route across the country, the ladies had bought T-shirts in thrift shops and, with handmade stencils of cardboard and aluminum foil, printed Fragile Lung and drawings of actual lungs on the front. Being a COPD patient, I, of course, loved the irony of that. Then someone pointed out that the lungs looked like sagging National Geographic naked boobs, adding to the interest.

Afterward, we all sat on the deck — Katie counted the money, Skye and Hillery hummed “Home on the Range” in a secret noise/language they call Uri, and then we all started playing a game called “I Never, Ever.” One person would say something like, “I never, ever had more than $2,000 in my bank account,” and anybody who couldn’t say this would have to eat a point until it gets down to two and you have to think fast.

After I went to bed, I realized that what I should have said was, “I have never, ever tweeted; I have never, ever held an iPad; I have never, ever played Angry Birds.” I could have cleaned up.

Su Lum is a longtime local who was jet lagged all of Sunday. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


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