pointer from the past?

One of my favourite, earliest memories is of me tucked into the side of a slightly damp riverbank under the root of a pine tree, the sun pouring down through the leaves and sparkling off the water as I carefully wrote in a small school notebook my first play.

I can’t remember what it was about, except that it involved a man and a woman. Regretfully, the notebook went missing years ago, despite my attempts to keep it safe, and I still miss it.

I had hidden myself away from the hectic bustle of my family on a camping trip. The water moved slowly, birds sang occasionally, it was warm and drowsy, and I felt inspired. There was no reason to write, no homework assignment or contest or carrot dangling for any reason. I loved the quiet encouragement of this natural environment and responded simply to the impetus to create.

After a certain while, I felt I had been away too long. Not wanting an outside intrusion to spoil my solitary happiness, I packed up my stuff and returned to the campsite,

I wonder now how it was that I knew to bring along the notebook. I usually don’t remember myself as a writer, but this treasured moment implies that I wanted to use words from a fairly young age. I remember feeling very satisfied and adult (which was always a goal of mine then) with my notebook filled with a story. I also remember that I never returned to it to add more. I’m not sure if I completed the play. I don’t think I did. But I never again felt that special combination of time and place to allow myself to say something outside the routine of school.

I wonder now why I chose a play. Perhaps I thought my brothers and sisters might help me act it out. Maybe I had just finished reading… oh yes, now I remember. I know I went through a period of reading compilations of plays borrowed from the library.

It’s interesting how vague one’s own life can become when trying to pin down facts.

So. I don’t know how old I was when by the riverbank I wrote the play, nor how close to that event I was when in my play-reading period, but I would guess the two are related. Because the memory is still so vivid, I wonder if it shows me a serious interest I should follow? I’ve experienced many happy moments which have not remained so warm and clear in my imagination. Perhaps I should try writing another play?

#memory #playwright #writing #happiness #autobiography


childhood revelation

I guess the thing about my inner dialogue is I feel I’m the same person I was at five years old. Before then, I have a few memories that are more like snapshots, moments of happiness or fear. At five, I was talking to myself in the same tone of voice I have now, confirming what I like, urging myself to try something out, emphasizing when I should remember something. My conscious awareness has grown in understanding, my vocabulary has expanded, but my inner voice sounds the same.

Except that I think now that maybe there are two inner voices. If I really listen, my actual five year old voice is much fainter, much more raw than my daily inner voice. Isn’t that interesting? When I focus, yes, there are two. The supervising voice, the one that says when it’s time for bed or time to go to work, that grown up voice is more “front of house”, distracting me from the other, which doesn’t have the vocabulary. In fact, I think that other voice may not have words. An impulse, a feeling.

I go back to that time I was walking to school with the next door neighbour and I convinced her that we should speak French on the way so that no one would be able to comprehend our conversation. I didn’t know anyone who spoke French nor, I think, did she. My grandparents spoke Ukrainian and my chum was from a Polish background so those languages didn’t qualify.

I clearly remember speaking gibberish with her, gesticulating and modulating the tone of my voice, confident she understood whatever I was pointing out. For a short while I felt immune to outsiders and yes, superior. I don’t know how I learned that French exists. Perhaps it was one of the things that made school exciting. I clearly didn’t understand what language was. French sounded more foreign, more exciting than Ukrainian to my uncomprehending ears. For those moments walking to school, I really believed that if a French person walked by they would understand me. I really believed that by making appropriate sounds my words were transformed into invisible ink, secret and comprehensible only to the initiated.

At five years old, then, I already had a secret life that I wanted to protect from some and share with others. Much later, when I learned what speaking and understanding a language meant, I would squirm when I remembered this walk to school. How embarrassing if a French-speaker really had walked by. How ridiculous a thing to do, in public, no less.

But that memory remains vivid and my inner, inner voice reminds me that 50 years later, I still have a secret life I want to protect from some and share with others.

#secrets #language #inner voice #childhood #French #Ukrainian

time to think

Spit it out! Just spit out. So easy to say to someone hemming and hawing and hedging their bets. So hard to do when you think someone might get hurt.

My mind is filled with these comments that want to come out. I feel I’ve noticed something remarkable and then it’s not enough just to contemplate it. I want to share my observation with someone. It’s through conversation with another that I explore my idea and often get to some underlying story or factor to help explain what I’ve noticed, and once that happens, I feel a satisfied joy.

My first cup of tea is almost finished and I still haven’t truly got myself going this morning. My mind is filled with ideas around the Nag Hammadi texts, my eyes are filled with the green leaves and grass out my studio window, my ears are filled with gentle lute music, and I sit bemused, enjoying the morning but not getting anything done.

I get tired of feeling the push to make the most of every minute to get something accomplished. Yet if I give myself the time to look out the window and let my mind wander, do I ever feel guilty. You mean I could have written two essays, seven tunes and beaded a bracelet, and all I did was just sit there? Outraged criticism hurts my ears, guilty blushes suffuse my face and my morning peace is busted.

But no! Today I shall fight back! Spring has been a long time in coming this year, and I refuse to ignore its nurturing presence. I hereby certify today as National Goofing Off Day! Tea and contemplation for all!

Except contemplation and being in the moment is not goofing off.

It’s being truly alive.

#contemplation #guilt #over-achiever #spring #joy

getting started

I spent my morning trying to write some music, getting grumpier and grumpier. First I can’t settle on the sounds I want. Then, when I hear something really interesting, the controller I want to use doesn’t communicate with the software properly. So I switch to another controller but decide it’s too awkward, and maybe I should write the bass line out in my notation software. I try setting that up but cannot get the sound I’ve chosen to respond. I consider going back to my DAW and use its looping function instead but I hate the feeling of being restricted to a loop, and I throw up my hands, stymied.

I’m trying to write a piece on spec. I figure it should be a piece of cake. But I realize that the sounds that I am being asked to use do not appeal to me at all. And I guess something inside me is throwing up all kinds of obstacles to say “Don’t do it!” At least, that’s what it feels like.

I thought I could easily knock off a little 3 minute piece in a new age, meditative style with my hands tied behind by back and still have time to watch the first IPL playoff. But no. Nothing is co-operating this morning. When I complain to Nick, he asks “have you written any words yet this morning?”

“Uh, no…”

And here I am. Why should not expressing myself in words prevent my music from working? Really, they’re both forms of self-expression. But, I see the one has to do with expectations from others, judgement and possible rejection. Maybe I have to get my day started first before I can expose my inner ideas to the scrutiny of others. Sort of gee myself up, or maybe, climb into my identity, strengthen any little weakening patches before taking on the world.

But then you’d think writing words would be subject to the same difficulty.

Interesting, n’est-ce pas?

I’ll try writing words first tomorrow, before the music, and see how that goes.

#writer’s block #music composing #obstacles #creativity #music software

betwixt and between

I’m slowly getting back to my routine of doing a musical improvisation first thing in the morning.

It hasn’t taken long, though, for the joy of the sounds to be tarnished by the complexity of the setup. I work with electronic instruments and midi instruments, and while the alluring tonalities and sparkling accents connect me with some deep, emotional truths, the hassles of getting everything to work when I so choose irritate me bigtime.

I keep thinking there should be some easier way to trigger patches and switch voices. I’m caught between wanting to improvise in the moment and needing to prepare the computer to understand rhythm, sound choices and tempo. I set up parameters in advance and the find myself wanting to break those boundaries. No matter how many instruments, controllers, fingers and toes I use, there always comes a moment during playing when I want something unattainable.


Not unlike, say, life!

#music composition #improvisation #boundaries #unattainable

social media addiction

I’m trying to manage my small but growing social media addiction. I don’t understand why I find it so hard to stay away from it, as when there’s no activity it’s a bit painful. It’s as if I’m moping around home Saturday night hoping for the phone to ring, or running to the front door flap when the mail arrives only to find it’s just more bills.

It’s such a kick to get a little bit of feedback that as I look for more I lose track of time browsing the internet, trolling for groups I might want to join. I don’t recognize myself in a way, for my internal dialogue is usually about my complaints that I don’t have enough time to do my creative thing. I’m actually a solitary person, I tell myself. I need my contemplation time. So why am I here?

I’ve started setting my computer to blurt out the time every 15 minutes. Annoying, but it effectively reminds me of my physical world. I don’t suddenly wake up four hours later angry at myself. 15 minutes seems like a mild treat, but hours spent poking aimlessly through other people’s lives seems like a shocking waste of time.

I wonder why it’s so addictive. It’s probably because I think it’s third party proof that I matter. And beyond that, I think there’s something about how much I love stories, especially those that go “behind the scenes”. I love to know what a person is really like, what makes them think or act the way they do. But after a certain point, I lose my own priorities and identity, and generally get depressed.

Tricky, tricky.

#social media #time management #story #addiction

longing to be heard

I wonder why I am so convinced that a tree makes noise if it falls in a forest even though no one might be there to hear. On the other hand, if I say something out loud, in words or music, and no one reads or listens, I am not nearly so convinced.

Expression of my own ideas in writing or music does bring a kind of satisfaction and release. It’s afterwards, once the idea exists outside my mind, that I start to worry about its validity. If no one else hears my communication in my lifetime, I fret, feeling the job is only half done. I believe that I need some sort of feedback, otherwise there’s no point. The best is a “well done” comment, or even a “not bad”, although a “what is this piece of s***” may be better than silence. But is this true?

There are only so many times I can be happy with my partner saying “That’s nice”, so I keep looking for other listeners and readers. That’s not easy given all the voices clamouring for attention these days. But maybe, maybe struggling to find an audience is not the goal. After all, the tree certainly doesn’t look for outside permission to keep growing, or, when it’s time, to fall. So why do I think spectators are required before I set pen to paper?

My own experience, my own judgement is not enough, and why? Because all my life I have been judged by others. Parents, teachers, employers, conductors, leaders, have all taught me I don’t know enough to know when I have done well, and unfortunately I have believed them. Maybe, yes, definitely, at one time it was true. But I have learned and grown, yet no one has warned me that the moment would come when I should stand on my own and say yes, this has value, no matter what anyone else might think. To continue with the tree metaphor, this may not be the best red spruce ever grown between 1990 and 1991 in this particular corner of Canada, but it’s a nice tree. It deserves its life.

I realize that as part of a civilization that produces so much, I rely on taste leaders to save me from wasting precious minutes on things I know I won’t enjoy. I don’t feel I’m dissing the books or music I haven’t absorbed. But I have chosen not to become an audience for those creators. So where does that leave me, a creator, looking for an audience?

It’s extraordinarily tough to find an audience these days when there is such an overwhelming abundance of creations. So I go back to my tree. Do I really, really need an audience? If there is no audience would I stop creating?

The quick answer is no. I write words and music initially for myself, for the pleasure it brings.

But why, eventually, does that seem not enough? Why do I feel such a kick, such a lightness of heart and motivation to repeat, when I hear from some like-minded soul that because of my creation we’ve shared a connection? And once I’ve experienced that joy, I crave it again and again?

#audience #feedback #tree falls in a forest