Recalibration

The piano room is the only space I’ve yet to spend decent working time in, these past three months. It calls me today, teasing out some soundtrack to the observations, the tectonic shifts of spring 2019.

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Gulliver, pinned – on a walk to Old Dublin. There was a narrative series of these set into the wall of a new-ish building along the way.

I’ve spent the last three days going through two months of correspondence I’ve not had time to properly respond to. It feels good to take time for this.

I find myself Printing out photos, too – how strange a thing, now! – of the Ireland chapter, the Lyon Chapter, Tuscany, Florence, Edinburgh.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

 

Transitional moments as well – the wing of each plane I flew in, dipping into sunlight or through cloud; mountains, fields and neighbourhoods through train windows; the great metal sweep of airports – one (Brussels) with its hallway grand piano, open and waiting to be played.

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For an abundance of reasons I want the memories of this trip to become tactile. I learned this from my artist friend Wes Ryan, who has taught himself to consciously keep the memories he needs to keep alive after a serious concussion made it necessary to do so.

Do I claim an awareness of my own deliberately displaced self, this way, I wonder. Is this a philosophical act. Is this research and preparation for the 2014 painting that awaits transformation into the world of now, in my patient studio? I felt so, when I was there two days ago. I’ll go again this evening.

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en route to Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin

Inner travel while unmoored from the familiar took me farther into uncharted territory than I knew was possible. 19 days gone was just enough for me to see the possibility for still more discovery in a longer trip, with the potential to turn my known world inside-out.

I’m still coming home.

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Garden in Montelupo, Tuscany. We trained it into Florence from there.

I took luggage – a masters completed, rich notes from my generous panel to digest; my father’s dignified, graceful passing and all that he taught me in the last hours we spent alone together; a book mostly written; a talk about the book forming itself out of five months of momentum; some deadlines in the comforting future

…questions about why and how art in this time, where are the resonances that will speak in a bell-tone, what is a good portrait; curiosity about solo travel after 10 years of staying put, geographically speaking. All of this was packed, then unpacked and laid out, then re-packed. Some I used, all I carried. I did find answers, but also more good questions.

I’m still unpacking, will be for years to come.

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Entrance to The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. A great gallery, full of questions like this one.

Music has the tenderest of beginnings. I’m much better trained to hold fragile visuals in place until I can play with them on paper than to catch the ascending pattern of a new, humming thought. For this little project though, I’m doing what I can to hold a safe and welcoming space for the shy notes to enter.

Am I compelled to this because through all the old and layered of UK and Europe that I saw, there was so little live music? A band of young and old guys playing american dixieland in a city square. A young guitarist playing pop tunes in a Lyon street. The silent grand piano in Brussels Airport.

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One of the astonishing mosaics in Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon.

Thankfully, blessedly, some amazing jams and performances in three Edinburgh pubs that nourished my soul and made me wish I had my cello. (A young cellist did offer me his to play but by that time I’d had three pints). Thank you so very much for this, O Generous Soul, outlaw cousin Nick T!

(the vid below features Nick himself and musician Doug Downie, who later sent me an excellent song he wrote by email – great lyrics, a haunting tune. I’ll make a Canadian version of it & send it back to him)

 

There was the invisible young man singing softly beneath the vaulted ceilings that hold up 13th Century Palazzo Vecchio, Oh my love, my darling… I need your love… Perfect notes that traveled like whispers along the arches.

We all heard him, the harried tourists, the tired shop keepers, guides, security guards and ticket sellers. I swear even the stone lions smiled.

The deep rain

Even the loud old fridge is drowned out by straight-down-rain.  Not sheets and thunder and driving – but a rain that will drench us for days, soaking the soil, swelling the creeks, rising the shoreline of Georgian Bay above the sad sorry rocks that appeared this spring, covering their nakedness once again.  It is 12 minutes from midnight, and in this place water rules the world.

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After days and days of standing sweat this is the moment we’ve felt was coming. Come it has, all the way from the Rockies and the Purcells.  This same deep rain has fallen down through the foothills of Alberta into the basements of Calgary houses which are now buried in the mud and the death of water, their downstairs dens & offices rendered useless, their keepsakes now garbage-bin bound with the reminder: nothing is forever.

Three vast Canadian Provinces to the east, we are nowhere near a floodplain. Our houses are built on the bones of ancient sea creatures, layer upon layer of them still pushing up through the soil along the northeasterly curve of the Michigan Bowl. Half a mile to the east of this table lies the cold and deep of Georgian Bay, fed by a thousand thousand rivers, swelling now in ever-generous acceptance of more and more and more.  Here, we are nourished by the same deep rain.

This rain comes from God – from a place where the details of human life have no meaning.  This rain, heavy on our metal roof and our gardens is the consistent, inexorable kind of rain that erodes illusion and denial, lays bare the bones inside of a feeling.  What is laid bare becomes an honest offering on the altar of Acceptance:  Ah. I see, now.

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I’m almost cross-eyed with tiredness after a long long day of listening to music, tweaking arts business strategies, watching baton twirlers, karaoke tweens, future head boys (also a few who could command world change but opt instead for just pitching in to the school talent show for now until they’re good and ready to save us all) – teach, rehearse, promote, schedule, rehearse, cajole, listen, play, insist, back off, stifle two yawns, spark a few ideas, accept two challenging projects, steer clear of others….  a day in the life of all who work in the vast, unquantifiable ocean of The Arts.  Always satisfying, sometimes enthralling, mostly just a lot of good, clean, decent work.

The idea that diverted me from the sleep I should be in right now hovers around the concept of muscle memory.

In the process of teaching the fingers of my left hand to think differently so that I can play the fast bits of the Faure Elegie,  I’ve learned that my mind has also developed deep muscled habits that no longer serve well.  Several of these were paths laid first in my childhood, and are now like canyons…

Ah.  Yes I see, now.  To change my mind – this will take a great deal of steady steady work.

So, tonight in the deep dark rain I stand before the Altar of Acceptance, and on it I offer my love –  for the terrible, astonishing beauty of Change.