According to the Grammarist, the idiom ‘watershed moment’ was first used in the mid 1800s, a time when the permanent effects of the UK industrial Revolution had become apparent, and the European Industrial Revolution was beginning to take hold. Grammarist offers, “A watershed moment is a turning point, the exact moment that changes the direction of an activity or situation. A watershed moment is a dividing point, from which things will never be the same. It is considered momentous, though a watershed moment is often recognized in hindsight.”
We felt it in March 2020, the Covid-19 Pandemic global watershed moment – no hindsight necessary there. Seventeen months later I’m interested in the the micro level watersheds, the local, personal turning points, after which things are never the same. So many people I know and love are feeling the effects of a private, tectonic shift.
I like the University of California’s description of the function of a healthy watershed: Capture (into the soil), store (to keep the ground moist and fertile), release (without adverse effects on the environment). The idea is that water must always move, but it’s better for it to move through than over, and at a controlled pace that soil can absorb. This offers the idea that a watershed moment needn’t be catastrophic, doesn’t have to be a traumatic washout experience. It can be a sudden, private moment of gentle awareness that there’s a ‘dividing point’ between this ‘now’ and another, very different ‘Now’. I felt that quiet moment in September, 2013. Seconds later I put down my half-finished coffee, picked up my laptop, purse and a blanket, got into my car and drove away from the house I’d built with my husband, into this much healthier future. From felt moment to driving away was five minutes.
I read stories these days of people who are leaving bad jobs, tired relationships, selling house and/or business and hitting the road in trailers or camper vans: conscious, well-considered decisions to unhook from old programming and step forward into a new sense of freedom. That can mean anything. Four people I know personally (and many others I don’t) have quietly decided not to get vaccinated for Covid-19. One person dearly beloved to me has decided to end their life four months from now. I respect these choices and hold no judgement – how could I? They’ve been made consciously and with courage, for reasons that are private, and so, sacred.
I had another watershed moment last spring when I made a choice to invest a dangerously huge chunk of my remaining cash into framing and hanging an art show and building an online gallery. It was either that or give up on this three-year artist residency and languish without any connection to the larger world of humans; I chose people. My pals could tell you how terrified I was in April when I saw that line, then stepped over it & out of my illusions of safety.
I’m learning not to be terrified – it doesn’t help. Also learning to ditch the AI templates and design my own, to stretch into meaningful online presentation and business development, grok the pro art industry practices, keep painting, enjoy the instagram experiments, and tighten my belt once again as sales trickle in according to how much I can get the word out. While I learn how to get the word out…. it’s a high-wire I’m on, now. But I chose it.
I think of my friends Robbin, Angola and Solomon at circus camp through all of August, and I remember the finale at Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria where we sat as a family in October 2019, open mouthed and transported into the impossible.
It doesn’t have to be fraught with trauma and anxiety, I tell myself, every day. I’m not the only one in a private watershed moment. There are people who get it, there is support, reach out. Two weeks ago, david sereda asked me to sing with him at Summerfolk 2021. To play live music again together, for and with people who are right in front of us – and when he asked, something fell back in to place. I whooped into the trees. YES.
So all through the video work, the writing, the uploading, the research, the courses and lists and the advice I integrate, I’ve been singing. What a gift it is, to make music after all this with david sereda and Tyler Wagler on August 18, 20, 21, 22 (I’m counting rehearsals since even those have been prohibited). We have waited so many months for the sun to shine on live music again, and here it is, oh joy.
It’s another watershed moment, since live music moves like water. May the music of Summerfolk flow through the bones and hearts of everyone present, like water does through rich, fertile soil. This is how courage grows: we sing it – for ourselves and so, for each other.