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Drop the veil

I just need to write this here, shout it out on whatever broadcast range I have – it’s SUCH good news.

At age ten Larisa Yurkiw told me her goal was to compete for Canada at the winter Olympics.  Against incredible odds she has just qualified to do exactly that – 2014 in Russia.  I taught Larisa cello for 4 years starting at age 6 so in many ways she will always be my kid, but she’s everyone’s, really.  We are so so proud.  I am very much inspired by her determination, heartened by her grace and calm.  Here’s a link to one of many articles about her story, so you can be inspired too:  Toronto Star, Jan 17, 2014

Bent tree on the Lion's Head section of The Bruce Trail, 2013
Bent tree on the Lion’s Head section of The Bruce Trail, 2013

And now leap with me – to a coffee shop conversation I had this morning that stuck with me…  so why do I write this blog?

It’s not a confessional, nor is it a journal  (I also write in one of those and have done since I was seven – nobody gets to read those; they will be burned).  The writing I do here is edited and then proofed then edited again, for a purpose I can only barely describe.

I think it’s a ‘ping’ – to reference my friend Marcus’ blog, Echolocators.  It’s as clear a depiction of the process and experience of being an artist/musician as I can imagine and write – with all the ugly, painful and ridiculous bits included alongside the sublime.  I do know I’m never satisfied with the results, but I get that this too is part of the process.

I write this material partly because I believe it’s time we collectively de-mystified and un-deified this idea of what an artist is, and understand finally that art is a set of tools, like carpentry tools or plumbing tools or surgery tools.  What sets any of these skills on fire, and makes miraculous results possible is passion, which everyone is capable of.  The rest is just work.  Simple, pedestrian, deliberate, clean, persistent work.  If you get that, then you get what humility is.  And every once in a while, when you get out of the way of your own perceptions of ‘how it should be’, you also get to participate in something brilliant.

elderberry flower buds
elderberry flower buds

There’s a dark side to this.  Artists & musicians who have the craft, the drive and the courage to hone their skills can hit a bell tone with them that resonates with and reaches millions of people.  Immediately (at least in North American cultures) they are perceived as fair game to be de-humanized – into an action figure doll that anyone can manipulate and play with and project their … stuff onto.  The bigger the bell-tone, the brassier the bell, the more toxic this can get.  People who are star-struck want a piece of that fame shine and when they find they can’t possess it, they will often try to destroy it, through slander and abuse.

“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent.”, said Emily Dickinson

thyme from my mom
thyme from my mom

Still, we do this… pinging.

…There’s places in your mind
Been working overtime
Trying to name a brand new sound
There’s places in your heart
Listening to the ground, to the ground
All your windy life you’ve waited,
now it’s time.

Kris Delmhorst, from “Brand New Sound”
Shotgun Singer, 2008


Most of the pings are imperfect, some are misdirected, some never get uttered.  Many that are released come back to us though, echoing off the surface of far away things we can only name by our voicings.  It’s good to know there’s something there in the dark of humanity.  Good to know if you’re swimming towards obstruction or if the way ahead is clear and open.

So…. Ping.  Glad you’re there.


“The soul should always stand ajar.”  – also Emily Dickinson

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