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Research methods

This spring term has been spine-cracking difficult, not just because of the workload but because of what it’s transforming in me – a requirement of fulfilling what has been assigned:  Read the following ten books by next week; comment and engage in discussion online re same; define a research question and complete a lit review by the week after; build two presentations for the same two weeks 1. about narrative research 2. synopsis and discussion of a major thesis paper related to your subject….

…write a final Research Study Paper Proposal (35%) and hand it in by the end of June; change your mind about your own capacities for this work, now; imagine yourself as a much larger and more efficient person, now; sort out your philosophical and methodological tendencies; ask if you have any questions…

I come up for air to tuck into a quick poster design for a show at Leith Church in July. I realize as I make a poster using these photos that in July I get to rehearse, trade stories, laugh and cry with the persons in the photos.  Then we perform together. Who gets this in their life?!?!

poster draft, missing photo credits, and ticket information. Here is the former: Tom Thomson (Canadian 1877 – 1917), Soft Maple in Autumn, 1914. oil on plywood, 25.5 x 17.8 cm Collection of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario, gift of Louise (Thomson) Henry, sister of Tom Thomson, 1967, Photo credit: Michelle Wilson. Ann Michaels photo is ©2009 Marzena Pogrozaly; david sereda photo is © John Fearnall @ GoodNoise Photography. Also, you should come to this if you can. It will be more than magical.

I come up for air to meet my incredible lifelong friends at Summit Place retirement lodge where my dad is, and stumble through some challenging but lovely music. Little Fugue, Brandenburg III, Danny Boy.  Dad cries, as he always has when I play for him.  Another resident tells me afterwards that listening to us play blew the dust off his soul.

porcupine teenager, retreating after I asked him firmly to stop eating the plywood at the shore bothy. They kept coming for hours, until I firmly shooed his mama (HUGE) with a few stones, and brought all plywood inside, at 3am.

I come up for air and find myself waking at the shore, staring at an endless infinity of my friend, the Bay, who is so much a part of who I am

I come up for air and find myself playing Sibelius and the Bach Double in the midst of a high school orchestra in Meaford

I come up for air, blink my astonishment at the world, then dive back in to a deeper understanding of how much I don’t know, dive again for pearls of transformation.  Find my gills, drink humility again and again, knowing it is elixir.

 

 

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Value

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.

bridge on the way to my weekly class at Laurier

Bridge on the way to my weekly class at Laurier.  Like a birth canal, save that I come back through it every week at midnight.  Always an odd sensation.

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…

Oh yes, and Friday was also my birthday. Why the roses...

Oh yes, and Friday was also my birthday. Why the roses…

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.

Plaid. High back, which makes me feel short. Longer by two feet. hmmm.

Plaid. High back, which makes me feel short. Longer by two feet.

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.

Books like food. Masters is like eating and eating when you know you are already full. An exercise in stamina...

Books like food. Masters is like eating and eating when you know you are already full. An exercise in stamina…

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.

chair_floor_studio

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.

Ah, that crazy beautiful bridge.

crazy beautiful bridge.


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A broadly curved road

I went subterranean twelve weeks ago, maybe more.  Came up again two days ago, I think.  I know this because I found myself gardening yesterday.

DomsLilly

This was a tunnel of a place I’ve been in, a way into and through the deep, long list entitled Impossible-but-Necessary.  In twelve weeks strong and beautiful people died, shockingly, suddenly, and those of us who grieve them turned inward then slowly forward; old and treasured things were broken then transformed phoenix-like amid the mourning, the loss.  Boundaries were breached, injuries dealt and received, some old trusts betrayed and also new ones established without question.  Concerts were rehearsed and played; family homes sold and contents dispersed, others burned and the tenants embraced by this rich community. Long overdue letters were written and sent; 50-year careers ended; a 20-year-old vehicle sold for parts; the streets in the city opened and excavated in the great replacement of metal with plastic…

BackyardLawn

As the boxes were packed and the old things released into landfill sites, recycling depots, re-store Judy Collins sang who knows where the time goes? to help the tears come.

As the goodbyes were said after the stories were told, as the weeping hugs were shared, Kodaly’s solo cello sonata raged and softened and spoke …

As the solos were played and the painting delivered; as the portfolio was presented and the university applications sent, Cohen sang ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering…

Through all the overnight insomnia on the studio couch Joni sang dream on, dream on...

Forsythia

As we turned forward into spring, and green and growth, david sereda sings, you’re beautiful.  Be You.  Coco Love Alcorn sings We gather ’round when we can, and we let ourselves be true…  Tyler Wagler sings …out the doorway, ‘way we go.  Where you lead, I will follow … Kati Gleiser plays Rachmaninoff and then sings our beauty back to us.

As the pipes thawed, so did we.

 


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#Selfie 19: The Writing of Book

As predicted, each painting for #Selfie has had it’s own arc of becoming.  They have all been surprises, have all taught me things I wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s been a privilege to be at the centre of this project and participate in the discovery, the shaping and polishing of each facet.  Quite a geological process – I am changed by it, I know.

I sat down to pull the book together and realized that even though the whole project has a broader, wider arc I was still inside it, making.  Still in process, still on the curve…

It became clear over the days of showing up for writing that this lovely broad #Selfie arch also had a corresponding shadow.  As I walked along this one it became narrower, and darker, and steeper – in descent.

Then I realized, “Ah.  This is personal now.”

also, “Ah.  This is writing of Book”.

'map' for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

‘map’ for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

#Selfie has been a great collaborative experience – music, performance art, spoken word, poetry, well-considered response and story.  Ron de Boer and staff, david sereda, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Coco Love Alcorn, Christopher McGruer, Paul Hartmann, Christian Wilke, Marcus Vichert, Norm Bell, Thom MacFarlane, Kate Walsh, John Fearnall, Brad Morley, Frank Klaassen… so many more who climbed in and on to add thought, response, notice, rhyme, feeling, rhythm, comment.  Highly resonant, this idea of examining #Selfie.

#Selfie Examination.

three of five images, underdrawing...

three of five images, underdrawing…

Did I think it had already got personal, in the making of the paintings?  Yes.  Yes I did think that.

But the paintings were one of five components to #Selfie.  There was also the collaborative performance; the collaborative spoken word; the blog (the way in to the paintings); and the book.  The book is the larger arc – both visible and public, and invisible, personal.  Not a compilation (though I thought that’s what it would be), not a summary or a closing paragraph.  It has elements of those ideas, but the book needed to be a distillation of the experience into something …chewable.

So I wrote a folk tale.

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

It begins this way,

A girl was born with a sleeping wound buried deep inside her.  She also had joy, which was clear for anyone to see.

While she was growing up, her family, who loved her very much, gave her another wound to keep, and buried it deep in her future.  They also gave her love, which was clear for anyone to see.

They made the wound they gave her out of pieces of their own memories, fragments of their parent’s arguments, scattered bits of rage and anger that they had collected from behind the doors and under the carpets, in the chesterfield beneath the pillows, under the beds, under the kitchen sink.  they put all of their hopes and dreams for her in the wound, and wrapped it all up in a beautiful cloth made from their love.

That was the way it had happened for them, the way it had always been, and the way it would always be.

more colour

more colour, corrected drawing

I’ve loved the essential nature of Folk Tales for as long as I can remember.  They don’t mess around with descriptive filler or emotional drama, but deliver metaphor in layers which the reader can take in and combine, to build their own image and intuitive response.  Always I’m trying to do this with my paintings.  This last #Selfie painting more than any of the others – possibly because of the book writing, and the Folk Tale…

When the time came for the girl to leave her parents and seek her fortune, everyone agreed that she was well-prepared.  Beautiful and full of life, promise, intelligence and talent, it was clear that she would have no trouble finding success, fulfilment, happiness and love.

And so she did.  As the years passed, everyone who knew her was reassured by the clean arc of her life, since This was the way it had happened for them, The way it had always been, The way it would always be.

She herself was happy, content and grateful for the comforts she enjoyed, until she came to the day in her future where her parents’ gift was buried.

TotemJuly27

Today from 6 until 8pm we will launch the book and this final #Selfie painting.  The show will come down on August 8th, and then #Selfie will be in Chapter Two, which I’ve not written yet, but I shall.  Here’s the link to that event if you’re nearby & on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/748736241853940/

The story to be told there is a more introspective one – it’s mine, certainly, but also it belongs to anyone who is pulled to #Selfie Examination.  Good heavens there are riches there – fragility; audacity; strength; disempowerment; blind, mute sadness; singing joy; risk and nourishment.  It behooves one to keep walking down the path….

Final painting.  This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is... interpretive.  Come and see the original if you can.

Final painting. This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is… interpretive. Come and see the original if you can.

In the story, the girl meets a Hermit.  Then she meets the Great God Pan.  Then she meets Baba Yaga, and ….

Well, write to me if you want the rest of the story.  It belongs, I think, to all of us.

 


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#Selfie 17: new moon

It’s been a week since the morning after #Selfie’s opening at Gallery de Boer.  That was such a profoundly good time, rich with love and excellence, risk and joy.  We all of us had about an inch of air beneath our feet as we walked through the space and played together on the roof afterwards.  That felt so good I’ve barely touched the ground since.  Thank you thank you to the 150 and more people who agreed to meet in that space & do marvelous things.  To Ron de Boer, Sarah, Jean and everyone at the gallery who jumped on the #Selfie train and rode it, screaming around corners to the station.  Deep deep gratitude especially to my incredibles who held centre:  david sereda, Coco Love Alcorn, Larry Jensen and Kristan Anderson.  That was fine fine work.

playing in photoshop- me layered & floating between two shots of the same painting.

playing in photoshop- me layered & floating between two shots of the same painting.  I’m frowning because I’m not awake yet- this is about 6am…

#Selfie work continues.  I am compiling the oceans of material I’ve collected from social media, written response pieces, research and documentation of my own process into a book, which is coming along nicely.  We hope to have this published and available by the third week of July – write to me here if you’d like a copy or two.  I’ll keep everyone informed about how that project is progressing.  I’d also like to put a couple of new pieces in before the show comes down on August 1 – they are whispering in the back of my mind, and would like to be manifest.  We’ll see how that goes.

An 'out take' from the last #Selfie shoot before the show.

An ‘out take’ from the last #Selfie shoot before the show.

Much has occurred between last friday and today – a noon-hour concert with david sereda in a church with wonderful resonance, a gathering of friends to move me from country to town, a reclaiming of things I’ve not seen for ten months, a sort and file.  I’ve been especially challenged by the process of coming back to normal sleep patterns – by 19th June I’d become accustomed to a 3-hour sleep then work then sleep then work out routine, like some subterranean sleep cycle experiment.  Mostly back now, but that was interesting.  It got the work done, though, and perhaps more importantly it put me in a place where I was open to imagery and resonance beyond what was immediately obvious.  Love that edge.

Me loving the edge.

Me loving the edge.

Cello is calling me to practise this morning – I have two solo gigs this weekend, and need to build that stamina back.  Wonderful.
Life is incredibly, marvelously rich.

more coming, too.


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#Selfie 15: You get what you need

I once played a minor (non-musical) part on a Rolling Stones Tour – ‘Steel Wheels’ in the ’80s. I have a tour jacket, even, that boyfriends past have happily worn… and torn and stained. This comes up now because I wrote the blog title first.

It's true.

It’s true.

It’s still a good jacket, and I keep it to remind myself that I was there in my 20s, watching them play Sympathy for the Devil when Mick (atop a 20-storey stage tower) forgot the words…  I asked myself in that moment – Really? Really? How can you forget the words to THAT song?

There were many moments on the tour  (way more telling than that one) that turned me off the ‘Stones permanently.  For me it was like watching the end-play of 60’s dark side play out in industrial money-grabbing meanness – utterly devoid of relevance to the real world of human beings.  Hope you can forgive me all die-hard fans.  They’re a piece of history, granted, but I do not worship at that altar.

An almost-finished selfie painting of the waterfall I grew up with on the Niagara Escarpment.  I don't have words to describe for you how sacred this place is - not just to me, but ... just sacred.

An almost-finished selfie painting of the waterfall I grew up with on the Niagara Escarpment. I don’t have words to describe for you how sacred this place is – not just to me, but … just sacred.

Nothing worthwhile is accomplished without limitation, I believe.  This is not Protestant sensibility, but a law far older – we are not supposed to have every whim answered, every passing wish fulfilled.   There’s a muscle of ingenuity in the human brain that requires ‘lack of (……….)’ to work effectively.  Many folks default to complaint well before this happens, but if you can get beyond discomfort and engage ingenuity, you’re doing your job.

 

This is photo reference for "White", which is on the boards now

This is photo reference for “White”, which is on the boards now

#Selfie is a fine example of this.  I started the project as I was just entering the heavy spring concert season.  It was an impossible thing to commit to – fill the space at de Boer’s with art, write and hand-make a book, write and rehearse a performance art piece, and immerse my#self regularly in #Selfie online via social media.

…in 14 weeks, while working full time teaching, coaching, rehearsing and playing cello, planning 2 summer camps in art and music, and attending to those things not work-related, but oh so important…

I said yes because I knew I wanted to take a risk and do a show, and this was the only way to make that happen.  Ingenuity has had to kick in, big-time, especially in these past two weeks.

Photo reference for black canvas

Photo reference for black canvas

Here’s the thing, though –  throughout the 14 weeks, but especially in these last two, I have had great need for some things that could have stopped me in my tracks, were they not fulfilled.  No tripod, poor cashflow – a friend chips in half as a gift.  Low on essential materials only available in Toronto, no time to get there – Tim at the Colour Jar finds what I need in days.  Dangerously low on basic confidence and faith in myself some days, spinning my tires – someone says just the right thing (so grateful for this, every time) to kick my butt in a better direction.  I need pro help to sign on for the Performance piece, since we have next-to-no rehearsal time available – david sereda, Coco Love Alcorn, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Sandra Swannell and a few other incredibles say ‘Sure!’ with no hesitation.  I need social media ‘response’ material for the Book and the opening – eight people agree to put pen to paper and pitch in.  I’ve never even met some of them.

Here’s Brad Morely’s haiku, just in:

Narcissi beckon
in the light blue facebook pool
cam’ra bugs fly off

 

…you get what you need.

photo reference for Totem 1

photo reference for Totem 1

Paintings are due in three days.  They’ll get done.  Book and show have only next week – they’ll be fine.

See you there.


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Lip service

One month:  Corelli to Handel to Brahms and Faure to Jensen to Patootie to sereda to Kurt Cobain via Drew Wright.  In between some work re-arranging songs by JTaylor, Norah Jones, Kris Delmhorst and other specials for cello and voice.  Or just cello, or just voice.  And thumb piano (note to self:  revive and nourish friendships with sweet tasteful drummers).

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s.  Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s. Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

This sounds urgent, but it’s not.  It’s more like breathing.  Or working out, with the intention of finding muscles that haven’t been used for a very long time, and… using them again, even if it takes a rebuild.  And yes, yes, all that about pain and gain, too.

wild carrot

wild carrot

I believe it’s important to Do the thing that you feel compelled to do.  There’s a reason you feel so compelled, after all – you can probably trust it.

If there are obstacles to your Doing of the thing, don’t waste time blaming them, just remove, or find a way around.  Complaint and self-defeat have never once written a song or painted a picture:  dump them.  You’ve got better things to do with your time.

swimming-dock

St Lawrence River.

Jump in.  Do the work.  It’s warm.

Oh, and if you see someone else who’s doing the work, love them for it.