To Locate

I resist the obviousness of GPS as a tool to locate, navigate, identify.  Most interesting to me is when GPS is wrong, as in the case this spring when a K-W woman, travelling in deep fog at the tip of the Brice Peninsula, drove her car into Georgian Bay instead of the Hotel parking lot.

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tap water filling the bucket I used to water my garden every day, in this dry dry summer we had

There are so many other ways to identify that have more meaning, make more sense. They pull from deeper source data to inform us about identity.  Navigation there is not by straight, measurable lines.

very simple shore cabin where I spend several summer weekends this year. This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the "sound" that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work
This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the “sound” that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work.

I live in a place surrounded by water.  It rains and snows more here than any other place in Ontario.  Travel by car in any direction and you’ll find a river (likely with a waterfall), a lake Great or small, a creek or stream – in less than fifteen minutes.

Jones Falls, Owen Sound
Jones Falls, Owen Sound

My mother’s family has lived here for six generations before me.  The (scots) paternal side of her family was famous for their foundry, where they made enormous propellers for lake and ocean-going ships “At one time, [Kennedy’s] supplied propellers for about ninety-five percent of marine traffic on the Great Lakes” (Grey Roots Museum and Archives).  Water people.  Industrialists.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I'm using this as reference for a series of paintings.
a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I’m using this as reference for a series of paintings.

Mom’s Maternal side (Pennsylvania Deutch – descendants from German refugees of the 100 years war) not so famously made ladies’ hoisery, employing 200 women at a time when women were organizing to get the vote. A great great great uncle of mine fought for the North in the American civil war; we are making a book of his letters home at the moment.  Dependable people. Steady.

It is in that factory building, on the third floor NE corner, where I have kept a painting/music studio these past eight years.

studio a couple of years ago

My parents are retired (and excellent) Highschool English teachers saturated by music, literature and art (Mom – ARCT Piano, Toronto Conservatory; Dad a painter of landscapes and literary references).  My daughter is now twenty, mostly fluent in Japanese, studying modern languages and international studies at U of Ottawa.

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I had a mentor and teacher as a young music student who was fierce like a grandfather to me.  As a young man he used to play violin like Fritz Kreisler in my Great Grandmother Kennedy’s parlour for the WCTU ladies. He later played at my parent’s wedding and made both of my cellos, the first of which was just returned to me last summer after 14 years. (link to that blog if you click on the picture I believe)

oldcellotuners

Instead of studying cello at Laurier at age seventeen I chose to study Visual Art at York University.  Somehow I felt that the formal study of music would ruin my love for the pure joy of playing it.  I will never know if I was right, but I’ve also never regretted the decision.  I’ve been able to do both in my life and love them equally. Each practise informs the other I’ve found, so I teach musicians how to draw and it makes them better players.

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It is this very thing that has led me to a Masters in Community Music – at Laurier, where I chose NOT to study music performance 35 years ago.  I love the way life travels us back to ourselves.

Firebird

Unbelievably, I am reunited with my oldest love, after fourteen years.

OldCelloFhole

I was fifteen and vague with deep introversion when we came together.  I had no real tools other than my ears and a fierce invisible longing that Named Me, so I struggled as if blindfolded.  I didn’t know how to properly approach the impossible,  let alone get through it.  Nevertheless,  he felt me through all the awkward then and he answered, full and deep, rich and old and stable, as Fathers can.

I’m not overstating things when I say he became as always as bedrock to me.  As permanent as sky.  More than anything else in my young life, he taught me that I was More.

OldCelloTuners

We  stayed  together and things happened.  Impossible shook  me and took me like tumbleweed into places I had no business being, places that could so easily have trapped me,  cloistered me, shaped my forever into defeat and imprisonment.  In retrospect I can see that I was protected then by a great naivete which was the only visible edge of the longing that Named Me.

He was with me through those years, enshrined in a corner, voiced in a stairwell – a place of joining always on offer, where I could shed what I needed to and reclaim what I needed to, if I felt strong enough to meet him.

I didn’t feel strong, though, in that time.  I still thought myself a child  who ought to seek approval. I was afraid to show my teeth.

Drips from paint I threw at canvas on my studio walls splattered his belly.  I sang in a band that laughed and drank and smoked and toured.  I abandoned myself in lovers who saw, but didn’t see.

OldCelloScrollEd

Then Ed phoned and I answered, as I’d done many times before.  I took my Always up to compare to the new girl, who had been rejected by a student, & why, what’s wrong with her.  Played new girl for twenty minutes, then picked up my Always to compare sounds,  as I’d done before.

But I couldn’t play him.  He was gone.  Tried again.  No.  And again.  Nothing.

With no warning, New Girl had claimed me over him.  I couldn’t buy her and keep him, so after two weeks of tears and trying, I traded.  Fifteen years ago.

He went to a place of silence and while he sat like a secret inside a hard case, I played New Girl.  She pushed me, like a bitch.  She made me work for every note,  she called me out on every bad habit.  She could snarl like a tiger, and scream ugly like a stuck rabbit.  She demanded that I use my teeth.

So I found my teeth, and learned how to use them.  I learned to love her, and we learned to compromise well, my sister and I.

OldCelloBridge

Oh but against all odds, the man who bought my cello 15 years ago found me and offered me first right of refusal.

I said YES quickly without thinking –  knowing I couldn’t afford it, maybe I’d exaggerated value, romanticized connection.  I said yes, and months later  & five days ago Impossible came like tumbleweed and delivered him back.

There are splatters of paint on his belly.

OldCelloScroll

I’m not overstating things here:  this week my fifteen-year-old self has been re-introduced to me, 36 years later, through this 1928 instrument from Germany via the hands and ears and exquisitely focused, raging love of Edouard Bartlett.

In the two concerts I’ve played since then, in the hours of practise I’ve put in I can hear that we have teeth now.  We have better tools. We have Possible, and great, sweet Beauty.  We are full to the brim with Longing… for more.

I listen to Stravinsky’s phoenix rise, and my face is wet.

 

This post is for Fran, and for Sue, who told entirely different firebird stories to me at different times on the same Day-of-Change.

sitting bones

This morning’s cold has made the rain weightless.  As I watch from my third floor window I can feel the pull and flow of ocean, save that it’s air – currents made visible by tiny crystals of frozen water.  The north wind, playing.

My walk at dawn was full of the promise of this; I’m glad to be in the saddle now watching it happen.

NorthWindPlaying

The saddle today is all about music education – not just classical, not just conventional, but real and applied like a cord that weaves through every part of life (in Austria the bricklayers sing opera as they work). I’ve got alot of ground to cover from now to Sunday evg – on familiar roads, abandoned roads, through fields, bush and escarpment on animal trails – always pulling this cord (chord?) of an idea through it all.  (I’m tempted* to play a little with this idea (like the North Wind) and pull up the Minotaur in the Labyrinth myth….)

MusicBinders

There are models out there that answer the need for a strong, universal program for kids to learn and play music.  Every one of them needs to be altered to fit the place they will be.  Every one of them needs strong advocates on the ground, a solid team of non-competitive, collaborative teacher/player/coaches, and the clear understanding that without including and involving the parents, the community will never engage, the bricklayers will never sing on their scaffolds.

celloHip

There will be some valuable breaks from the computer – practise on cello & viola & piano, learning vocal lyrics, arrangements; rehearsing & playing a great benefit gig for the Phillippines with great friends (& incredible players); hikes in the playful snow.  Through it all my heart and head will still be in the saddle here, building a good plan.  I love this work.  Love it, love it.

detail of 4'x4' painting in progress:  D-ring snaffle bit
detail of 4’x4′ painting in progress: D-ring snaffle bit

I have the bit in my teeth now and girth snug on my belly – I’m both horse and rider, and we’re off.  See you on Sunday if you live here. Have a great weekend, wherever you are,  if you don’t.  ‘Hope you get to play.

Here’s the Phillippines poster:

calm in the eye poster1(1)

 

*maybe later, since it would require a pretty serious re-write.  I’m not sure that the bull-headed beast is a bad thing that needs to die in this version, and not sure we need one hero (we need many). Cut or change Theseus’ motivation, re-write Ariadne’s lines, keep the labyrinth as a metaphor for accepting what you don’t and cannot know until you’ve gone the distance,  give the Minotaur an archetypal weight and purpose because we need him, there’s always a scary beast….