Archive for June, 2008
Of wood, water, and touch.
I like how the branches frame the sunset with a heart shape.
That’s the lure of this spot on the globe. It pulls at the emotions and possesses a serenity that will calm you, no matter what your day may have been like.
It’s hard to have a stressful day here.
The view above is what accompanied my eyes at dinner last night. Charles and I went over to our friend Mark’s magical indentation in the land on the northeast shoulder of the island. His home clings to rocks that cling to tree roots that cling to more rocks that cling to the sea. Water rhythms beat quietly under the deck and my gaze cannot help scanning beyond the humans next to me, out to an ever-shifting palette of space and color.
A brilliant entrepreneur and scholar, Mark is also a fabulous cook who takes the same care with every detail of an ingredient that I do with each detail of a note. Phrasing, tempo and dynamics of flavors are assessed and balanced. They arrive on our tongues as a big, double-forte grin. An invitation to dinner with him is a gift; a guarantee of compelling substance, in both food and conversation. He could easily be a pro chef if he so chose, but is wise enough to know that it’s more fun to cook on delight rather than on demand. I know some composers who would agree.
My first glimpse of this view was when I stumbled across Mark’s blog almost two years ago. He wrote of his move here and what it meant to him. I stared at his photos, entranced, for long periods of time as I prepared to relocate my own life to this latitude. Months later in a Friday Harbor coffee shop, peering over my laptop I noticed a fellow working at his own. I remembered the face from a fleeting blog photo, and walked over to say hello. Dumbfounded that anyone would recognize him, I think Mark may have even blushed as he enjoyed his 15 minutes of local fame.
The blogosphere does more than connect me with clients, patrons and colleagues; it creates a serendipity of connection that nourishes me with wonderful vistas, food, and new friends. I think a lot about the meaning of technology in my life as an artist, and how easy it is to allow people around the world to become familiar with my music. But I’m constantly struck by the pre-relationships the internet fosters: the feeling that we “know” someone before ever having met them, due to the words and pictures they share with anyone willing to observe.
Every single time I traveled this year to speak at or participant in a music conference, I invariably met people with whom I already had pre-relationships via the web. Perhaps we were MySpace friends who enjoyed each other’s audio clips. Perhaps we had emailed a few times about one of my chamber works. Perhaps they were avid readers of my blog, or I was of theirs. Perhaps we had spent time perusing each other’s websites or, in that most post-modern pursuit, commenting on other blogs about each other’s blog comments. Enpixelated representations of people I “knew” on Facebook, LinkedIn, Classical Lounge, or any other social networking site, suddenly blossomed into life and three-dimensional pheromones, right in front of me. Everywhere I went, it would seem that someone would come up to me out of the blue and introduce themselves with the same knowing delight as I did to Mark last year. And like Mark, I would take a moment to get used to the idea that this person already “knew” me in several significant ways.
The digital interconnectivity we share has changed the manner by which we learn about each other. Upon hearing of someone, many of us immediately launch into a little game of due diligence by Googling them for context. No longer do we wait for someone to unpeel themselves slowly; we are all social onions with many layers, and the outer ones have already been exposed. I like the efficiency of this, but even more, I like the surprises that come with getting to know someone after you think you pre-know them. Just as with life in the physical plane, I’ve learned to take in a great view and resist making assumptions about the layers beyond the last wisps of clouds.
I feel terrible.
I had to make a choice.
And it was not in this creature’s favor.
I noticed this, uh, lovely Japanese lantern dangling from the patio table umbrella. It had not been there the day before. Apparently, with the onset of summer, a team of stealth decorators had rifled through the Crate & Barrel, West Elm and Pottery Barn catalogs and decided that my outdoor dining set up needed a little panache.
What caught my eyes first, before seeing the new lighting fixture, was the decorator herself clinging to it and making sure it met all electrical and wiring code standards. Clearly an accomplished and professional sub-contractor, this Bald Faced Hornet had not missed a meal, and was nearly as large as one of my hummingbirds.
Even I, a wannabe entomologist, was intimidated. My thoughts quickly turned from the possibility of a feature in Architectural Digest, to the possibility of a really painful bite and a trip to the ER with Charles, who is allergic to stings. These nests can become as large as a basketball and house more team members than will ever make the NBA Finals.
I had to make a choice.
And it was not in this creature’s favor.
The pest control guy came over within the hour, magic tube of menacing white powder in hand, and gave this talented artist The Final Spritz. I shouldn’t have watched. She fought, and recoiled, and crumpled, and fought again, and cringed against the poison.
I cringed along with her. Offering my meaningless and hypocritical apologies as she convulsed, I was reminded of the essay I wrote a few years ago about a similar episode with the same result. One which left me with the same, sad emotions.
I had to make a choice.
And it was not in my heart’s favor, either.
Another business trip, another thrilling puddle jumper flight! Returning home yesterday afternoon from my stint at the National Performing Arts Convention, I was welcomed by a spectacular summer day and a perch perspective even more so. It’s impossible to take this flight without my camera clinging to my palm, and my heart clinging to my throat. In a very, very happy way.
In the leftish-middle of the above photo is the wooded peninsula on which my little house rests, and the small wildlife preserve island that I claim as my personal front yard each time I kayak to it with a few short paddle strokes. Beyond to the east looms my volatile buddy, Mt. Baker. Should it ever decide to erupt, baking is precisely what its neighbors would be doing. For now, just like my own kitchen abilities, it sits blissfully dormant. Having returned from an energizing conference teeming with inspired peers, I sit here anything but.
Neither muddy nor hot, these two.
Gee, do you think the metal one in my yard has any idea what’s behind it??
Off to Seattle today to hear dear friend Larry Karush perform his magical and truly unique music, and then down to my home away from home, SeaTac, to fly to Denver. I’ll be moderating and speaking on a panel about the arts and technology for the enormous National Performing Arts Convention, where I’ll spend four days surrounded by other equally [if, uh, delightfully] insane artist comrades in search of inspiration, enlightenment, professional schmoozing and free wine. It’s open to the public, so if you happen to be in Denver, come join us! Just leave some wine for the rest of us.
Back Sunday night, at which point the e-kelpfest shall resume!
Music for specimens.
On Wednesday I spent a few hours at sea once again, on the marine science vessel Centennial, a significant tool for University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories. How I, a wannabe marine biologist and oceanographer, was so lucky as to end up living nearly walking distance from one of the world’s greatest research facilities, is beyond me. But here I am (in a couple of pix taken by my dear friend Laura). The people who work and study at the Labs are a great bunch; warm hearted, curious, fun. Over the past year I’ve gotten involved with FHL’s wonderful K-12 Science Outreach Program, and have also let peers know about their amazing Whiteley Center for visiting scholars.
We had a bunch of very sweet third-graders on board, and while I’m always tempted to use small humans as chum to attract the big sharks that would be really fun to study, I resisted the urge to toss any of these cute kids overboard. Instead, it was a delight to watch them enjoy the thrill of running their little hands through the muck and life forms brought up by the dredger from the bottom of the sea floor; about 30 fathoms at the point where we stopped. I get as much of a kick out of this as anyone. There’s an immediate, primal connection when one is holding bivalves, worms and crabs that only moments ago were oozing around in a far different world. My apologies to them all for bringing them momentarily into the light for our own edification.
Part of the Labs, as we left the dock.
The dredger delivers its payload.
Yes, the sea really is this blue here.
Happy as a clam. Or any mollusk, for that matter.
A friend of ours on the north end of the island enjoys this sight each time he walks in his front door, as do I each time I visit. This was the view from his deck two evenings ago: an archipelagenous melange (I love making up words) of boundary water humps ruled by the U.S. and British Columbia in theory, and by the glaciers of yore in fact. Even on an overcast day, the serenity is unmatched. Perhaps, especially on one.