Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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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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Wind, unwind

I find it’s most difficult these days to be truly still and resoundingly empty like a huge stone bowl on a plinth.  I’m getting better at it, but it’s taking a considerable amount of focus.

I seek to do this now because it occurred to me many months ago (years, even) that I need more information about several key areas of inquiry:  the education and mentoring of young people; music and the practise of music; energies, their frequencies and the focused direction of them; and the all-encompassing idea of service, which is not necessarily obvious.

further down the trail, same day

The approach I’ve taken thus far into the exploration of these things is the one I learned – from my family full of educators, from my piano and cello teachers, at University  – an idea of ‘study’ which has become nicely embedded,

“I know how to learn.  One does Good Research (source source source!), reads and digests the material one digests, places a clear and concise question inside this newer information and eventually there’s an alchemical moment of aHa.  Then one writes and writes, which leads to know and do and take good action.  If one does this for long enough, inquires for long enough, makes adjustments based on experience and further study, one becomes an expert, a new Source…”

same walk

It’s a decent formula for inquiry.  But there’s no ivory tower anywhere around here – & my studio won’t do for this (Bob Dylan through the wall & a drum kit, my cello waiting right there to work with, those paintings, those prayer flags waiting for the next stage, that sewing machine which needs a tune-up…)

My head can only hold so much ‘live’ data, can only maintain its focus on that academic alchemical process for so long before I need to shut it down and buy groceries, schedule printers, figure out my part in the Stanford, pick up my kid in time for her appointment, and deliver the car to the mechanic’s.

Big hibiscus flower in my studio, the day after that walk. I’ve had this plant for three years, and it’s never done this before.

It’s more than okay to be busy at 49, and a mom of a (great) teenager, and to have many gigs, lots of rehearsals & several students to prepare for, to be in the last stages of building a house with my husband, to spend time (though never enough) with a family I love, etc etc.  I’m having a great time with all of it.

But I would very much like to learn & grow into a higher understanding of things, as a teacher, as a friend, a daughter, sister mom wife musician artist mentor.  To hone myself, and so better serve.

closer in

So I’m intuitively working at what seems counter-intuitive:  emptiness & stillness.  How can I hope to find the unknown thing I’m looking for if I’m busy stuffing myself with information?

This came to me one day while I was practising – I was working away, working away at a difficult passage, thinking ‘this is crazy – I should absoLUtely be able to do this!  What’s blocking me?’.  As I thought this my shoulder, neck, arm and finger muscles became more and more tense and stiff, and my energy plummeted into something like despair (close to ‘I can’t’).  So I put the cello down, and watered my plants.  Then I worked a little at my paintings.  Then I puttered and played with a textile art idea and got pulled into fascination with colour.  Then without knowing it I was back at the cello, carrying no tension, playing a piece I know well – still thinking about colour.  The notes I was playing had colours, the piece a big long skein of coloured threads flowing each into the next, weaving into fabric….


After what seemed like an hour of this bliss, I came back to the place of my old obstacle.  In my mind I changed the colour of what I was trying to do, and it was wonderfully, measurably easier.

Amazing, what a little colour change can do.

Empty of stuff I don’t need, to make room for what I do.

Still, so I can appreciate it.

Happy Wednesday, all.

K – hey neat – I just found this:

” Experience teaches only the teachable ”
Aldous Huxley

…wonder if he’d agree …