There’s nothing new. But there is a new urgency I can’t ignore or discount – to do so would be futile, and frankly, cowardly.
It appears that I’ve come to a place of no return with critical parts of my life that have always been up for negotiation.
Like the movement of tectonic plates, a deep and radical shifting of my priorities.
I find myself, with some regularity these days, shaking with rage. I feel also, and at the same time a profound sense of deep and steady calm, no less intense and alive than the anger. The word Ferocious comes to mind.
I have somehow expanded my capacity to contain Ferocity.
It feels quite safe in a dangerous sort of way. I’m mindful of a need for care.
While I read for my masters. While I make buffalo stew. While I use my chainsaw to cut firewood, practise new bow technique on my cello. While I write, sew, draw, listen to Joni Mitchell and RVW Symphony number 9 for work and pleasure.
While I think about wise, strong people who have been denied a voice of their own for far, far too long.
It’s difficult to put my finger on the ‘why now’ of this. I think that doesn’t matter. It’s the thundercloud that matters.
I will do the things I do for better reasons. I’ll learn to do other things, because they need to be done.
What an intense beginning to October it has been. It feels like I’ve been birth canal-ed – squeezed into a ‘passage through’ from that September of structural change (schedule, mental, energetic) into this October of ‘Now, GROW’. This is the first morning of stillness after a massive storm of People and Events and I find myself looking around in wonder, like a newborn.
I played back-to-back gigs in three completely different genres from Friday until Sunday at 2pm – the fallout from those rehearsals is over there…
I threw my old loveseat in a dumpster on Saturday too – the old pullout that didn’t pull out was my bed for the year after my marriage ended in 2013 and despite its’ size and brokenness, the ragged sides ravaged by cats and the seat pillows I never did finish reupholstering, I loved it dearly. We pushed it over the edge and it opened one last time to say goodbye. I whispered thank you for holding me before we drove away. The tears that came then (and now, I’ll admit) are proof of my exhaustion. Change. Sigh.
This new old couch has good pedigree (people very very dear to me have sat and slept here) and I have high hopes for it’s eventual ‘rightness’ in this space, though it still feels awkward. The studio cats have shunned it, so far.
I suspect it will grow in usefulness as I settle in to the habit of reading books, annotating books, blogging about books and commenting on the blogs of classmates. This is how doing a Masters in Community Music translates into daily life. Ha – even as I write I know that’s not even the half of it. This masters pervades all levels of now – how can it not, when books entitled Music and Mind in Daily Life (Clarke/Dibbin/Pitts, 2010) are on the week’s menu? Every class from 7 until 10 pm) we talk about what is meaningful and authentic. How this changes when music becomes a commercialized product. What does it feel like, to share musical space, to tell true musical stories that resonate and mix across personal and political cultures. How music is so naturally inclusive, yet so easily distorted by projections of class, identity and politics. How Music changes things, always.
I have not found ‘normal’ yet. In the openness of this morning I look at my weeks and think, something has got to go. There’s not enough room, currently, for the things I need to do, for the books I need to read.
And yet this is a stage in any valuable long-term project that I recognize, and relish – a good exercise in using emotional intelligence to understand what’s going to be supportive, gain me greater clarity, sharper focus.
And what is not.
I’ve added things. Cello lessons every other week (we are changing my right thumb position, working on my bowing, and fine-tuning my ears). New cello students. A string ensemble gathering every other week. Learning lead vocals on two songs – one gaelic, one by Robbie Burns, for a mini-tour in Toronto in 2 weeks. A drawing class for people who think they can’t in November, functional art making, and visual art making for a Studio Tour in December (this is how I will PAY for the masters – I have commissions and buyers, but so far no time to do the work). Christmas mini-tour with my favourite musical collaborators. Regular family visits. Good, slow time with my dear and significant other. Time spent listening and laughing with old and new friends.
It’s a lot, yes. Doable if I practise smart self-care. If I can find and work from a new lightness of being.
There is is. I know what I need to let go of. All the old heavy I carry that’s not mine. Stories that are long over but still stuck in a run-on sentence. Time to close those old books, and burn them.
My phone is in Kingston, 200 km of driving sleet and transport trucks ago.
I travel through this with my daughter from my aunt to my niece. There’s a rightness to the timing.
In the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau I find a plug upstairs after the cafe closes. There’s a bench with cushions so I cross my legs and balance the laptop as I would find centre and lift my paddle in a canoe. Then I write, staring at horizon.
There’s a curve in the tail of Bill Reid’s Orca that keeps him suspended in the air, impossible and alive.
My paddle-calloused fingers type,
Weightless I am, suspended in the air like this massive hunter whale. Out of my element, on purpose: I intend.
I am above the Ottawa River which looks drugged into surrender by the ritual, annual, comforting January cold, across from the Parliament buildings where Justin son of Pierre sits with renewed and informed vigour as our head of state.
They built the beautiful, flower-shaped, buttressed library on the river side, away from the possibility of attack. Those Statesmen, their advisors, their Wives. Some of them in came and chose and made it so in ways I can respect.
I think about my Scots ancestors who fled here two generations & eight generations ago to look for a horizon they could aim for, for once. I think about now and La Loche and four people dead like lightning, like an arrow to what we need to see and be accountable for. I think about Idle No More, about Truth and Reconciliation.
I can barely remember the last specific, technical idea I had about music or painting – these old old ideas are far stronger.
To take the next precious decade of my life to examine and build a good answer to these things I wonder and care about, more every day.
My thinking fingers have written this:
We are all a product of our own small community that overlaps in myriad ways with larger ones like the Internet, like a city, a collective, a field, an orchestra, a band, large or small. I’ve come to believe over this small span of years that each is an ecosystem that thrives according to the strength of it’s connectedness.
I’ve found also that few connectors are stronger than the making of good music. As a painter who also writes and performs regularly as a vocalist/cellist…
…I have experienced this time and time again: visual art and writing connect us more deeply to ourselves but music connects us, through ourselves, to others. One might say that community music is like mycelium – a connective tissue that can convey a supportive ‘nutrient’ through the system to everyone who requires it….
The timing is right. I will get my Master’s degree at Laurier, in Community Music.
Like the impossibly suspended whale, like a Rebel, I will pay for this with the proceeds from my paintings. They will be on paper and canvas, in watercolour, ink and oil. They will sing.
Find a door you like, one that calls change to you. Then you go through and in.