Archive for August, 2011

Floating along

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

[IMAGE] gulls on a log

…click to listen:

…about the music

Nothin’ but time.

There are few things I dislike. But I will tell you right now that the final day of August is one of them.
Hate it, hate it, hate it.
If I were Queen I would declare that summer is to last one more month. While I was at it, I’d also institute three-day weekends and clocks that make time stand still when so desired, so y’all may begin the civil revolution right now to get me on the throne as soon as possible, for everyone’s sake. Did I mention that every Wednesday would be free ice cream day?

By the end of each August in recent memory, I’m finally primed and ready for that precious stillness between the flow of summer’s socialness, and the push of the other three seasons’ urgency. It’s August, usually somewhere woefully late, like the final day of the second week, in which I stumble upon a certain, calm sweet spot: a slack tide in my work-intensive year that’s filled with promise, but untouched by stress. Such delight, yet so fleeting. Sigh.

So here I am, like one of these nicely balanced log-surfing birds, lining up my gulls in a row for the coming autumn, placing concerts and residencies and speaking gigs and meetings and travel travel travel indications in my calendar’s little white boxes, and wishing I were a lot farther down my naively giddy June list of “things to accomplish in this faaaaabulous gaping block of time I have in my studio this summer” than I actually am. Notes have somehow sneaked onto the page without me looking, but oh, if only I owned that clock! I’d use it. Maybe you would, too.

Well, at least I can go to the freezer for some ice cream. It’s Wednesday!

[IMAGE] Seagull
I’ll take two scoops of the chocolate herring flavor, please.


Sunday, August 28th, 2011

[IMAGE] house sparrow

…click to listen:

…about the music

Music for bird brains?

Well, this gives new meaning to the name, “house sparrow.”

I’ve had to rescue an over-eager bird who ended up inside my bird feeder a while back, but that’s a piece of cake compared with coaxing one off of a 29 foot-high window sill and out the door.
Any door.

It happened like this, the little avian drama moment du jour:

1. I lovingly sprinkled birdseed on the deck railing (it can get really windy on this part of the island, so I’ve given up using hanging feeders that turn into seed torpedoes).
2. I opened my door wide to let the warm sea air in while I worked. Or, procrastinated from working. It matters not which.
3. Cute little birdies descended toward the railing for the free buffet. Awwww.
4. After a little while, so did an eagle.

[IMAGE] bald eagle

5. All the cute little, potential birdie crudités instantly, chaotically scattered.
6. One went the wrong way.

[IMAGE] jailbird
“Uh, bake me a cake with a nail file in it, okay guys?…”

And so, it became a waiting game. Lacking any 30-foot long objects that just happen to be lying around, I briefly considered gently lobbing rolled-up socks at the poor fella with my good pitching arm. Of course, I’m a musician nerd and I don’t have a good pitching arm, but why should that stop me? Anyhow, before I could get upstairs to my lingerie closet (let’s see, would he prefer lace, or just a simple tube sock?), the birdie took off on a self-guided tour of my interior decorating. Every door and window that I could swing wide for his easy escape from prison had been opened, and yet this guy managed to wildly flap around in circles while I just prayed he didn’t leave droppings on my gear. There’s nothing in my insurance policy that covers repairs due to bird poop. Although if anyone were to comment that the piece I’m working on sounds like crap, I’d be able to smile broadly and proclaim, “Why, as a matter of fact, yes it does. Thank you!”.

His aerial tour went on for quite some time. We were both getting dizzy.
Then suddenly, a terrible thing happened: after making yet another full-speed lap inside the house, he bonked himself right into a window. Yikes.
I watched as he plummeted in slow motion, hoping that he was just stunned.
Which thankfully, he was.
Which thankfully, gave me a momentary advantage.
With his tiny feet clinging to a sofa pillow, I carefully maneuvered him toward an open door.
He fluttered, paused, fluttered some more, and then whoosh! Out the door he went, to settle on a rock two feet away. I brought him seed and a little water while he collected himself (my mothering instinct kicks in at times like this, and only at times like this), lectured him on the use of turn signals (see? I shoulda been a mother), advised him to get his Global Positioning Sparrow unit fixed (okay, if not a mother, then maybe a mechanic), and went back to work (or procrastinating, whatever I was doing before all this activity).

A few minutes later he was gone. My jailbird flew the coop, and I’m hoping his recidivism rate is very, very low.
Because my ceiling is very, very high!

Back on the farm

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

[IMAGE] Sea horse

…click to listen:

…about the music

Yee ha, hee haw; thank gawd I’m a country grrrrrl.

Welcome to the San Juan County Fair! The lead photo of this post truly sums up island life. The only thing missing on this horse is a snap-on dorsal fin.

Having flogged you, dear Kelpville readers, with endless pix of orcas, foxes, eagles, raccoons, alpacas, squishy sea creatures, and furry critters, I thought it would be a nice change to show you some basic farm animals from last week’s rural roundup, since the San Juan Islands have a significant agricultural community. And, one helluva lot of hay this time of year. Come with me on a guided tour…

[IMAGE] goat
Got milk??

[IMAGE] pigs
Next time your kids are driving you bonkers, think of this momma of ten. Unless you happen to have ten kids, in which case, my condolences.

[IMAGE] chicken
This one apparently was jailed due to a drinking problem.

[IMAGE] eggs
Now we know which came first. The chicken, above. At least on THIS blog.

[IMAGE] cow
Having a bad hair day? This gives new meaning to “cow lick.”

[IMAGE] cow and sign
I strongly advised this cow not to look up and read the sign.

[IMAGE] sign
Yup, THIS sign. Hey, don’t look at me: I don’t eat meat.

[IMAGE] ducks
Or, birds.

[IMAGE] cow rumps
And that’s what they have to say on the matter.

[IMAGE] sheep
Halo, Dolly! I’ve never before seen such an angelic sheep.

[IMAGE] jailed ducks
More jailbirds. Doesn’t look like these duckies are rovin’ anywhere anytime soon.

[IMAGE] cavy
I’m a city girl. I’d never even heard of a “cavy” before. This fair is fun AND educational!

That about sums up this (and every) year’s collection. The only other tame farm animal exhibit that failed to make the photo essay was me, slurping up a sno-cone as I wandered around the warm, dusty stalls. Ok: TWO sno-cones, because I had to have one each day I went to the fair, because 1. I love them; 2. it’s part of my patriotic duty, and 3. nothing says “county fair” like shaved ice in three colors and a bunch of unidentifiable sugar-glop at the bottom of the cup as it melts. Well, “corn dog” says “county fair” just as effectively, but since I don’t eat meat, rather than assault my body with grease, I choose instead to flirt with keeling over from a diabetic coma. I can see it now: as I fainted, I’d be smiling broadly all the way down, no doubt keeping my sno-cone from hitting the ground much like a shortstop protects a precious fly ball. OUT! But, happy.

Under the rainbow, over the moon

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

[IMAGE] rainbow over the cove

…click to listen:

…about the music

Under, over, and through.

This has been a particularly restorative summer for me. I’ve had the joy of staying put here in Kelpville, and being entertained by the endless parade of wild creatures you see in these blog pixels, plus many [slightly less wild, in most cases] friends who have joined me week after week exploring this magical little spot on the planet. Music has been made, laugh lines have been deepened, and a few wine bottles have been emptied (ok, more than a few). A general sense of well-being (and where I live, whale-being) due to a high dose of introspection and calm and not taking myself too seriously, has landed me in a damn good mood, renewed for the work year ahead.

With the exception of a three-day jaunt to a small neighboring island lacking plumbing and electricity to visit a dear, exceptionally talented friend, my body remained solidly planted on San Juan Island for two and a half beautiful months until now. After several years of seemingly continual travel, I’m becoming a bit more circumspect in my choices about when to leave this asylum of personal joy.

This past weekend offered a worthy reason to jump the rock. I traveled back to a place that in retrospect, turned out to be what more-than-obliquely inspired my move to San Juan Island 4.5 years ago: a historic artist retreat called The MacDowell Colony, in Peterborough, New Hampshire. I was a fellow there in 2003 (a state of residency, not gender reassignment, although my name is awfully convenient), and my fruitful weeks in a wooded cabin amidst wild turkeys (the birds, not shots of the bourbon in this case) were life-changing. Of course, Wild Turkey has been life-changing for plenty of folks, in both good and less than ideal ways, but I’m more of a Woodford Reserve or Maker’s Mark kinda gal, and if feeling particularly flush, I prefer to temporarily change my life, or at least my immediate take on it, with a glass of Blanton’s. But I digress.

Anyway, since last year I’ve had the honor of serving on the organization’s board, which convened there this weekend (for the record, the Board is quite separate from the admissions panels). It was giddily wonderful to return to the former scene of my artistic crime against innocent notes (the Colony’s incessant cicadas that summer had a bizarre influence on the flute quartet I penned there. Fortunately for my police record, the statute of limitations has passed). The board meeting was set to coincide with “Medal Day,” an annual tradition during which the normally über-private (darkly mysterious to some, even) grounds are opened to the public, and a distinguished creator is honored. This year playwright Edward Albee was the guest, and the speech he offered was both hilarious and very touching. Who knew that had it not been for a chance encounter on the Colony grounds with Thornton Wilder, Albee might well have remained a poet and never penned a single play?

[IMAGE] the cabin
My composing cabin at MacDowell: bucolic, to say the least. Turkeys were around the other side, making funny sounds at me. Everyone’s a critic.

I remember very well the new perspective that followed me home from Peterborough to Los Angeles that September eight years ago. Taking stock of the noisy, neurotic, 73 MPH environment that encroached upon my speck of slow-motion sanity on the Malibu shore, I became possessed by the idea that since I had been so happy and productive living in a rural, fairly isolated natural area, then perhaps my life should look and feel like that: every single day.

I’m the kind of person who, if I ever actually had “good china” that I really loved, would use it constantly until each piece was chipped beyond hope. I don’t believe in saving things for special occasions. “Life is short, eat dessert first” is a workable description of my less than pithy religious philosophy, and since 1993, I’ve chosen to live in places others covet for their vacations. Malibu. Santa Barbara. The San Juans. I will omit the ten years I spent in my 20’s living in the San Fernando Valley. Trust me, no one vacations there if they have other options. Although, I did admire the endless row of gi-normous palm trees on the boulevard where I lived, leading the way to tacky fast food restaurants and garishly painted gas stations weighing down all four corners of every intersection. But I digress.

Anyway, with the advent of the internet, and a composing career that found itself well supported by that technology, it dawned on me that I could live anywhere in the world that had electricity and DSL (I wouldn’t do well on my pal’s island). After all, I’m not a gigging performer (I prefer to make all the other musicians who play my stuff do the hard work). It matters not where I am, as long as I can hit the send button. In fact, I’m certain that lots of players would prefer I stay put, kept at a safe distance by my seawater moat, and not bother them.

[IMAGE] Chipmunk and bicycle
When I was at MacDowell in 2003, they loaned me a bike, and a chipmunk.

Four years after my residency, having finally had enough of the crazed mania that redundantly describes southern California, I moved 1500 miles north to this remote floating paradise. The experience in New Hampshire had turned out to be deeply significant to my future, in a way that I could not have foreseen at the time. The MacDowell Colony offered me a distraction-free glimpse not only into my art, but into my life. I ran with that ball of internal observation, and ended up creating a personal, year-round artist retreat for myself (and the occasional, GPS-challenged sparrow who flies into the house when I keep the door open too wide). I’ve never been happier. What I lack in lunch baskets thoughtfully delivered to my doorstep, and engaging discourse with other creators over after-dinner ping-pong, is made up for in all you see––and hear––on these blog pages. The gift of time at an artist colony is precious. What has resonated long since I gathered up those cicada-inspired note-filled score pads and brought them back home, has been profound.

When I left L.A. for this funny little place that few had ever heard of, I warned my other composer friends that hey, if my career suddenly takes a nose dive, don’t do what I did. Amazingly, the opposite has been the case. So now I tell my friends to trust their gut instincts, and to be aware that sometimes we have more choice and more power over the look and feel of our lives than we may have previously realized.

Eat dessert first. Have some more, a little later. Do the work that compels you, obey your heart, smile a lot, and just maybe, the Universe will give you some unexpected rewards: turkeys, chipmunks, whales, and joy.

[IMAGE] June moon rising
June’s rising full moon over the sea, from my island doorstep.

For the birds

Monday, August 8th, 2011

[IMAGE] gulls

[IMAGE] gulls

[IMAGE] gulls

…click to listen:

…about the music

Blues veena to preen by.

Morning. Strong coffee at hand. A good counterpoint to the even stronger red wine the night before. Both beverages are helping me with the counterpoint I need to be composing shortly. I sit and inhale the kelpy/salty/invigorating/warming air, watching artfully contorted gulls as they preen and groom themselves for the new day.

Me? Maybe I won’t even get to the shower today, and just scramble around these rocks like a tomboy until my muses are pleased with the notes that fly around my head. Unpreened, ungroomed. The muses, the notes, and me.
But not these gulls!

[IMAGE] gull on roof