December 31, 2016

On Golden Point

[IMAGE] Wow.

…click to listen:

…about the music

Making a point.

I’m hardly the first person to swoon over Dave Grusin’s deeply touching, melancholic theme and score to the multi-award-winning 1981 movie, “On Golden Pond.” Click to listen to its simple perfection.

Here on Golden Point, Grusin’s music resonates as beautifully as if it had been composed for this very San Juan Island spot. Without question, in the past nearly-six years in which I’ve lived and worked abutting historic American Camp (fortunately, it’s never butted me back), many of my own pieces have been influenced by the stunning water-and-wildlife views from my writing desk. The long wooden table is pressed up against the huge [leaky] windows, and I keep my snorkel gear handy when a windstorm hits (a concept you can fathom thanks to islander Mark Hetrick standing on the opposite bluff at just the most dramatic moment):

[IMAGE] home wet home

In my musical world, that film’s bucolic loons have occasionally been replaced by Humpback whale songs, and the expansive Salish Sea takes the place of Golden Pond.

The house in which I reside and work [and in which I bang my head against the wall when work is not going as quickly as I think it should] has an extraordinary purchase on the rough edge of this floating island rock. Turning my desk chair to the east I see Golden Point. Beyond that are Lopez and Whidbey Islands, and the astonishing geologic backdrop (aka, all those pointy snow-capped peaks), is the Cascade mountain range:

[IMAGE] the Cascades

There’s much more to this panorama. While attempting to come up with musical themes that hold my attention– not to mention that of a paying audience– I gaze straight out to the south to famed Mount Rainier. Then, turning my skull to the right, my eyes and muses are met by the towering Olympics. The glow of B.C.’s Victoria illuminates the sky to the west (as if to taunt me and say, beyond here lie the best notes).

The expanse of a 300 degree view far surpasses the show-and-tell ability of any meager blog. In future posts, I’ll share these southern and western vistas. But for now, I’m going to highlight some of the many faces and moods of Golden Point.

Why? Because I’ve been as in love with this ever-changing visual parade as any vista I’ve ever been lucky enough to set my eyes upon, and I WANT TO BRING YOU HERE.

[IMAGE] Neighbors at the Point

As the sun appears over Golden Point, it’s welcomed by a kitty on one side of the glass resting on my desk, and a foxy on the other. And, by me, behind the lens!

[IMAGE] Sunrise

So, you ask: why is that peninsula called Golden Point?

[IMAGE] Very Golden

This, above, is why.

Backlit by sunrises and enflamed by sunsets, there’s no better moniker.
Golden, indeed.

Guess what? Until a couple of years ago, this geographic coordinate had no official name at all! In 2015 my intrepid friend and neighbor Judy Chovan set out to rectify that, and applied to the Washington State Board on Geographic Names (who knew?!), pleading the case that this magical location deserves a marking on every map. The U.S. National Park Service graciously agreed, and the name we neighbors collectively selected, Golden Point, perfectly suits an outcropping that compels us to grab our cameras daily, attempting the impossible: to convey the majesty of the constantly changing light, weather, and wildlife.


[IMAGE] ooooh


[IMAGE] moon rise

And every rainbow in between,

make the heart jump.

[IMAGE] rain-booohhh

Through storms,

[IMAGE] shelf clouds

[IMAGE]  ka-boom!

And during calm;

[IMAGE] pastel clouds

[IMAGE] a painted sky

Through weather,

[IMAGE] snowscape

And through the sturm und drang of an endless struggle between the dark and the light,

[IMAGE] snowscape

The Point endures all.

And, so do we.

The deer,

[IMAGE] deer

The foxes,

[IMAGE] fox

The gulls,

[IMAGE] gulls

The killer whales,

[IMAGE] orca

and the harmless composer,
(often supervised by an equally harmless sleeping fox),

[IMAGE] Alex finding notes

are connected to each other by something magical from above.

[IMAGE] light

And, well, we all just figure it out.

I’ve noted here before that if you’d like to get more regular glimpses into this magic island world, my Facebook page, my website, and— particularly relevant here— the dedicated Facebook page for San Juan Island’s Golden Point, are all yours to explore with me!

Here’s to 2017.
May we each raise our voices,
expose our hearts,
make our points, (golden or otherwise),
and just figure it the hell out.

December 31, 2015

Ten very kelpy years and counting

[IMAGE] ears

…click to listen:

…about the music

Listen up!

Despite the [ahem, cough] hiatus between 2015 postings, the reigning Queenie of Quelpville has not been dethroned. Not even voted off the island (not yet at least). Just, well, giddily consumed with life, music work, love, and admittedly, the immediate gratification of two-way, real-time-or-nearly interaction with thousands of people on that social media spot that involves lots of faces and not nearly enough books.

[IMAGE] Fox does Facebook
Deja vu-finder: a fox enjoys 15 minutes of fame on Facebook.

My cameras remain within reach at almost all times, and you can peruse some of the watery, wild, and occasionally weird results on that aforementioned page and within the photo albums to which it links. Like WiFi in a friendly coffee shop, I have an open door policy, and offer a reliable connection to the public (whether two-legged or four-pawed).

[IMAGE] Fox at door
We have an open door policy at home. The foxes often take advantage of it, and it’s fun to photograph Dan photographing our visitors.

A leisurely, loooooong scroll down the AlexWorld website will solve any mysteries as to what’s kept me either tethered to my composing desk or seated in airplanes and board rooms this past year, and the fun is destined to continue onward through 2016. As will this blog, my love letter to the beauty around me, which began January 2006. I ain’t stopping now.

[IMAGE] Fox at door
Don’t you dare stop. I’m always ready for my close up!

[IMAGE] Fox face
I mean it.

This sizable collection of essays and observations is my ongoing virtual coffee table book, with the multimedia bonus of giving you something from inside my head to hear, while you see what my eyes saw, and read what I think about the whole shebang. Granted, Facebook (for now) and any engagement-driven social media sites of the future, offer a sense of tribal community to a greater degree than the formality of comments on a blog like this one. The latter, however, is a better space in which to share a more developed story line, and for this reason I intend to keep these pixels burning. Composing my thoughts on this tiny spot amid the bustle of the inter-tubes is much like composing a piece of music with rhythms, themes, and a sense of purpose.

[IMAGE] Five baby swallows
The tribe awaits. Impatiently. If I do not provide bugs, I have no purpose.

Looking back to random posts from the past decade, I’m struck by how current most of them remain. Entertaining, even. The timelessness of squishy things rather than weekly politics and news (squishy in their own less attractive ways), has long-term benefits when it comes to relevance. Like the nearly 200 pieces in my catalog, there are none of which I’m not proud. That’s ‘cos I know where the delete button is. I’ve never 86’ed a post. Writing music, however, is a far more murderous occupation. The gum eraser that rests on my piano has gotten about as much use as the mechanical pencil next to it. As with most of life, knowing what you don’t need in a piece is as important as knowing what to keep. Probably more so.

[IMAGE] Bald eagle taking off
Eagle on a mission: a salmon is soon to be deleted.

Failing sheer obliteration, change is usually a very good thing. After all these years, I’m going to search for a new layout for Notes from the Kelp; the current 400 pixel confines are just too limited for the sights I catch in my lens these days. Yup, that’s been another attraction to social media: the photos can be larger! And so many of my larger-than-life experiences deserve to be shared in a way that can at least attempt to offer Kelphistos some sense of the the scope.

[IMAGE] On the water in the San Juans
This view from the boat cabin should be seen larger!

[IMAGE] Crabbing in the San Juans
These unlucky Dungeness crabs should be seen larger!

[IMAGE] Dinos in the San Juans
The trusty crew of my vessel should be seen larger!

Ok, maybe you don’t need to see my plastic dino collection any larger than it is. They do make excellent– and buoyant– company on any voyage, though.

And so, 2015 comes to a close, while much in this life feels as though it’s endlessly, beautifully, opening. Cheers!

[IMAGE] Autumn equinox at South Beach
Looking forward, to beauty!

March 21, 2015

Spring is here

[IMAGE] yellow jacket under cup

…click to listen:

…about the music

A romantic theme for any lovers.

Well, Spring is finally here, and love is in the air.
And, on my window.
And, as in the pic above, under glass, until the trusty crew at Shapiro Insect Relocation Services, Inc. releases the hapless wanderer to the correct side of the viewing area.
Which, in the case of yellowjackets, is whatever side I am not on.

While taking the gazillionth photo out my window of yet another gorgeous day’s vision of sparkling seas and blue skies, I cursed at the big dark splotch of gunk on the left of my viewfinder.

[IMAGE] view splotch

Stepping back a few inches, I was embarrassed to discover that I had been an unintentional voyeur into the sex life of whatever kind of fly genus these two lovers belong to.
I was a larva lookie-loo.
A pupa paparazzi.
An imago imager of flies in flagrante.

Far more fascinated than ashamed, I offered the couple an entomology apology (an entomapology?), and stepped closer again.
This time I focused.

[IMAGE] insect love

[IMAGE] insect love

Kelpville readers know of my odd delight watching the creatures around me hunt and eat.
Add another normal function to that list.

Oh look: they’ve changed position.

[IMAGE] insect love

December 28, 2014

The yolk’s on me

[IMAGE] egg carton with tally

…click to listen:

…about the music

Another eggcerpt from an eggcellent duet.

If you ever wondered about my mental state as a nature-loving worker-bee new-music composer (I’m sure you haven’t), you may find the following post to be illuminating. In a, “gee, maybe it’s better that I don’t know her in person” kinda way.

Perhaps I chose a solitude-intensive career because from early childhood onward I’ve always been adept at amusing myself. As you will now witness, this task demands very little of the world around me.

I am neither a creative, nor a good cook. I suppose I could say that I’m a creative bad cook, because in blazes of random artistic inspiration, I often throw ingredients together in bizarre combinations just because… well, because they’re sitting in the fridge or pantry, and if they taste pretty good by themselves, then surely they’re gonna be awesome together.
Um, not necessarily.
Somehow, the principles of reckless abandon that make my music popular, utterly fail me the kitchen.

The need to keep my brain functioning (or whatever one would call what it does, which is open for debate) means I fill my house with fresh, non-processed, organic-when-possible foodstuffs. I often make a decent lunch for myself in between tearing my hair out at the composing desk. Sometimes I even use the stove.

Which brings us to eggs. They are among the very few food thingys I know how to cook. As with music, I can even come up with many engaging variations on the theme. Fried. Omelet. Fried omelet. Scrambled. Frittata. Hard boiled. Freeform. Onions. Cheese. Avocado. Spinach. Salmon. Pineapple (oh-oh, random artistic inspiration trouble ahead). You name it. Almost anything goes well in an egg dish, except maybe chunky peanut butter (which, when paired with an island-grown apple, is another favorite that I can manage if the jar lid isn’t too tight).

So there I was, standing in my kitchen, making my lunch.
Step 1: melt a big pad of organic butter into the frying pan.
Step 2: crack open an egg.
No problem; I got this.

[IMAGE] 1st egg

Well looky here: Siamese twins!
This doesn’t happen often. As in, virtually never. I know, because I crack open a lot of eggs; as I said, that feat is on the very short list of “things I know how to do in a kitchen (involving food)”.
I couldn’t recall ever seeing this phenomenon before. Being the investigative person I am (aka, nerd), I looked it up.

My suspicions were confirmed:

“Roughly one in every thousand eggs (about .1%) is double-yolked. Since commercially-sold eggs in the United States are sold by weight and also candled prior to packaging, any double-yolkers are discarded… and you could go an entire lifetime eating store bought eggs and never encounter one.”

Frankly, I’m hoping that I’ve only gone roughly half a lifetime so far. It would be painfully unfortunate if the dumb luck of having cracked open one of these gems signals the end of the game. Just to be on the safe side, I’m getting my will in order.

Gazing in amazement at my frying pan (which, stupefied by the mysterious effect of heat beneath food, I’m often found doing regardless of what’s in there), I grabbed my camera and snapped a picture (mental state clue #1: what kind of weirdo takes a picture of an egg?).

I’m a three-egg kinda gal, so having quickly done the math, I thought to myself, “well, this carton will last a little longer, since now I only need to crack one more egg.”
I may be weird, but I’m also pragmatic and budget-minded.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you: Egg Number Two:

[IMAGE] 2nd egg

Whoa! Another twin. Oh my. What are the chances of this?
100 percent, apparently.
Good thing I got my camera out.

The resulting meal tasted fine. I was not poisoned by any noxious egg-twin bacterial goo (I had briefly considered the possibility. Hunger won out). My lunch was identical to that made from normal, single eggs, just… more yellow on the plate. Much more.

The next day, being entirely unimaginative about my dining choices, I opted for eggs once again.

The first egg (#3 on our scorecard):

[IMAGE] 3rd egg

Wow! Twins again! My mother is an identical twin. Maybe this is genetic.

And, the next:

[IMAGE] 4th egg

Aha! A normal, single egg! I broke the streak!
Still, I fetched my camera.
I also fetched my Sharpie, and began a tally on the end of the egg carton.
Because this is the way a weirdo-nerd nature-loving worker-bee new-music composer gets her thrills.
I mean, really: who knows what the next crack will bring?
Suddenly, lunchtime became very eggciting.

And so it went, for the rest of the carton, lunch after lunch over a ten-day period (I did eat salads and other moron-proof things in between egg days).

I never entered the kitchen without my camera, imagining that maybe I’d halve a pistachio and find two nuts inside. Or that upon splitting open a peach from a neighbor’s tree, 50 earwigs would cascade wildly from the now-eaten pit, their shiny, wriggly, pincer-armed black thoraxes streaming outward in all directions.

The pistachio thing has never happened.
The peach thing DID, this past summer.
And damn, I didn’t have my camera handy. I was just relieved that I happened to slice the peach open over the sink. Bye bye nasty earwigs. But seriously, EWWWW. I was lucky I didn’t happen to bite into that fruit. Oh, the horror. EwwwwwwwWW!

So, back in my kitchen, another lunchtime that week:

Egg 5:

[IMAGE] 5th egg

Soon accompanied by egg 6:

[IMAGE] 6th egg

Ok, someone’s messing with me. This is unbelievable.

Egg 7:

[IMAGE] 7th egg

But surprise! Behold egg 8, in its monk-like solitude:

[IMAGE] 8th egg

By this point, my mind is going all Stephen King on me and I’m envisioning some lone, demented egg-packer whose job is to “candle” the eggs (see link above) and toss out the twins. In a spiteful fit of renegade insubordination to a cruel supervisor, or possibly an enraged response to an unrequited crush, s/he goes rogue and crouched in a dark corner of the warehouse, quietly fills a carton with these ovo-dyads. For added effect, s/he carefully places a single-yolked egg where the buyer, now stunned by the bevy of yolks, will least expect it. The worker’s sole regret is that s/he won’t get the pleasure of seeing the astonished look on the unsuspecting consumer’s face.

Steve Buscemi stars as the disgruntled and devious egg-packer, doncha think?

Egg 9 was yet another twin, marred only by my own pitiful failure in shell cracking technique (I told you I’m incompetent in the kitchen):

[IMAGE] 9th egg

And egg 10 did not disappoint:

[IMAGE] 10th egg

I realize that at this point in the blog post, you’re questioning the sanity of a weirdo-nerd nature-loving worker-bee new-music composer who obtains her highest moment of joy for the day from a carton of eggs.

I also realize that at this point in the blog post, you’re questioning your own sanity for having even scrolled this far, egg photo after egg photo (and yes, since you were wondering, that’s a 10″ Circulon pan. Great for eggs, whether twins or only children).

At the same time, you’re admitting to yourself that you are nearly on the edge of your seat with suspense as to how this all turns out. So I know that you’re going to keep reading. I dare you not to keep scrolling.

Egg 11:

[IMAGE] 11th egg

See? I told you you couldn’t look away. It’s like a train wreck, but with more protein.

And, drumroll, puh-leeze:
Egg 12:

[IMAGE] 12th egg

Twelve eggs. Ten of which were twins. As per the 1-in-a-thousand statistic above, it’s remarkable enough for anyone to end up with a carton like this. But I have to add, with apologies to Humphrey Bogart: of all the markets, in all the towns, in all the world, this carton arrives into mine.

And of all the egg shoppers on all of San Juan Island, I’m the one who buys it. Miraculously, I may be the only person weird and nerdy enough to have immediately grabbed my camera from the start, to document the entire damn carton’s worth of Siamese eggs.
And to add to the cosmic perfeggtion of it all:
I have a blog and can share my amazement with The World.

I think the disgruntled (or at least mischievous) egg-packer would be proud.
Through my appreciation and scribing, that quirky employee has created a personal… leggacy… from an eggspression of defiance.
I hope s/he is having a better time at work these days.
I hope s/he has found true love.
I also hope that s/he continues to fill random cartons with all the Siamese twin rejects from the warehouse,

if only to give weirdo nerds like me a reason to look forward to an eggceptional lunch.

September 23, 2014


[IMAGE] equinox sunset

…click to listen:

…about the music

Composed for a metaphor of the setting sun.

Such an islandy thing to do.
Friends. Beach. Fire. Ocean. Sky.

The end of summer.

Presented no alternative,
we celebrated.

A small group of us welcomed Autumn at a favorite beach that’s walking distance from the house. We offered heathens’ prayers to the sun as it fled our view, that it would be kind to us in the coming months. I doubt our pleas will make an iota of difference, but hell, they sounded and felt good, paired with a beverage.

[IMAGE] picnic spot

These islands are temperate during winter. A steady 45 Fahrenheit is the norm, save for an occasional rogue snowstorm that hurls snowflakes sideways and strands our cars at the top of steep, icy driveways we don’t dare attempt. It’s very, very beautiful when it is white here; perhaps because that isn’t very often.

[IMAGE] snow at Eagle Cove

Our September campfire was warm and unnecessary on this balmy evening. It was also a poetic metaphor for the wood stoves that will heat our houses in the coming darker, colder nights. As small puffs of its sweet smoke rose, deer, foxes and many, many… did I mention MANY rabbits watched from behind the tall grass.

[IMAGE] campfire

With organic farmers and fishermen as pals, I eat embarrassingly well here. Our picnic meal was the result of fertile gardens and good lures. Plus, my sole talent at these gatherings: a keenly trained hand at the corkscrew. Since I have almost no clue as to how to cook food in a manner presentable to people I actually like, at least I’m good for something.

Awaiting its star appearance was our guest of honor, plucked from the waters in front of us not very long before.

[IMAGE] guest of honor
Rural still life with salmon, wine and chainsaw company ball cap.

As the summer’s final sun kissed the rocks, an 8 year old girl happily sprawled across eons of geology as she communed with the changing tides. And a 52 year old woman was overcome with gratitude for days like this. In nature’s moment of perfect balance between the day and the night, I ponder the balance of love, art, work and play in my life. I smile at my own, very personal equinox of existence.

[IMAGE] child on the rocks

August 15, 2014

Now, with fifty percent more kelp!

[IMAGE] kelp

…click to listen:

…about the music

Electro-aquatic music for my favorite sea vegetables.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any photographs featuring the actual kelp that surrounds me, and from which all my notes– musical and otherwise– appear to spring (at least, per the title of this blog). Thus, dear reader, I humbly submit this slippery, salty offering.

One of the great things about my beach is that order to get onto the sand, you’ve gotta walk down a narrow trail lined with dense Pacific-Northwesty vegetation. No matter how brightly the sun shines above, it’s always mysteriously dark and cool here. Trees, ferns, mosses and dirt compete for space alongside a little creek, and the smell is indescribably green green green. That’s a smell, isn’t it? The uninitiated might ponder littering breadcrumbs in their wake, just to find the way back.

[IMAGE] path to beach

But by the time those Big Bad Wolf thoughts appear, your eyes are greeted with a sudden expanse. This usually happens just after you remind yourself that phew, there are no wolves on San Juan Island.

[IMAGE] path to beach

Every shore I’ve ever seen in this archipelago is laden with an astonishing amount of large driftwood. Each is a piece of evidence divulging the tale of wild storms and endless high tides that shoved these heavy logs allllll the way to the base of the hillside. Try lifting one of these puppies sometime, and you’ll be in awe of the sea’s power to alter landscapes.

[IMAGE] entrance to beach

Or course, not only the sea, but a few short neighbors, have also been known to be beachfront property real estate developers.

[IMAGE] real estate development

Any Northwest beach visit begins with a hazing ritual to be endured in order to reach the sand. I do my best to gingerly step on, over and in between the rickety driftwood and avoid twisting an ankle. Or two. Been there, done that; please remind me to post an entertaining account someday of how, on a Malibu beach in September of 2002, I managed to break both of my feet in three places, simultaneously. That’s right. No mere amateur can pull off that stunt; only a well-seasoned professional klutz like yours truly.

[IMAGE] oops
You can’t make this stuff up. I stayed amused at the expense of the dignity of my toenails.

So yes, I try to avoid maiming myself yet again (lemme tell ya, life in a wheelchair for a month results in a sobering sympathy for those seated there permanently). I also try to appear like the experienced local I am to anyone else who might be watching. Except that in all my many years living on beaches in So Cal and San Juan, tromping amidst wood, rocks and tidepools, I will never quite look like the mermaid sprite I wish I were. Just the awkward nerd I truly am.

[IMAGE] habitats

Having cleared the terrifying hurdles of the driftwood blockade, my mud boots and I are rewarded with the security of a smooth beach (oh, those boots not only keep my toes warm in the 48 degree water and declare that I’m a local, but scream that I’m the marine biologist I aspire to be when I’m not aspiring to be a mermaid sprite). I walk toward my favorite kelp-encrusted rock, beyond which I can see my favorite roof.

[IMAGE] habitats

Beyond this rock at low tide, are my favorite patterns of the sea’s artwork.

[IMAGE] sand view

Onward to more kelp. So many kinds. And yup, I can name most of them, but I’d prefer that you keep reading so I won’t bore you to tears with my wannabe marine biologist bad self.

[IMAGE] kelp garden

[IMAGE] kelp garden

[IMAGE] kelp garden
I love how the curl of the clear sea magnifies the plants for a precious moment.

I try to be careful where I trod,

[IMAGE] kelp garden

because the kelp protects its small, squishy neighbors, like these anemones,

[IMAGE] kelp garden

and sometimes unexpectedly serves as an elegant display stand for a skyward visitor,

[IMAGE] kelp stand

and once in a while, balances delicately, with no one other than me to protect it.

[IMAGE] standing kelp

Last week a dam in British Columbia burst, and millions upon millions of gallons of toxic waste from a mining operation suddenly flowed freely into some of the most pristine waters in the world. It’s entirely possible that now, on the eve of their migration back to the Fraser river, the largest run of Sockeye salmon will be devastated.

Not to mention the effect of the toxicity on every other life form in the area, kelp and all.

One could string together many of my blog posts over the years and create a chain of love letters to the sea and its diverse life forms. I share these little moments of appreciation, hopeful that my viral delight is contagious through your screen, and that you too will feel as protective as I of those creatures unable to fend off the abuses of our thoughtless bully species. Here’s one more link in my chain of adoration, and hope. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday, human societies evolve into a culture of awareness that is as careful where it trods as any lone, klutz-prone beachcomber.

[IMAGE] just missed
Lucky sand worm!

July 1, 2014

Company’s here

[IMAGE] Orca and Mt. Rainier, July 1, 2014.

…click to listen:

…about the music

I’ve posted this excerpt before, but now it’s finally entirely appropriate.

It was an other-worldly sound.
I’d never heard anything like it before.
And it was CLOSE.

My face was staring deeply into a 27″ monitor, as my brain was staring deeply into a new electroacoustic piece for double reed choir. Throughout the day, the sounds in my head had been accompanied by the sultry blows of killer whales. They glided past my window in tight duos and trios, first up the coast, and later, down the coast. And, back up again. Islanders call this “the Westside Shuffle.” I call it a welcome distraction from all my work.


What the hell was THAT???

The sudden sound was twice as loud as any blow before it, and twice as low in register.
Very startled, I looked up.

And there, lumbering gracefully past my nose, was a Humpback whale, hugging the kelp line.
It was no more than 50 yards away from me.
And it was huge.
Although they’re known to traverse these waters, I’d never seen one here before. It absolutely took my breath away.

I only managed a handful of shots before s/he took a deep breath and submerged until well out of view.

Here’s the unmistakable dorsal that puts the Hump in Humpback:

[IMAGE] Humpback dorsal

And the fluke:

[IMAGE] Humpback fluke

I was in awe.

Photos– particularly my pitifully amateur ones– cannot do justice to a natural world experienced in all dimensions. But to give you an idea of scale, here’s what I’m used to seeing in front of me on a very regular basis each summer: a 25 foot Orca, next to a 26 foot fishing boat:

[IMAGE] Orca and boat

Or next to a few [slightly intimidated] kayakers:

[IMAGE] Orca and kayakers

Or, next to my friends who were fishing (for salmon, not Orca despite what it looks like) in a 16 foot boat:
[IMAGE] Orca and boat

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Now, imagine a mammal at least twice as big in all directions.
Unspeakably wonderful.

[IMAGE] Orca and three sea birds

Editor’s Note (yup, that would be me, Alex): I post photos on my Facebook page far more frequently than I post to this blog these days. Nope, I’m not resigning from Kelpville, and I plan to blog more frequently this summer now that I’m in one whale-filled place for a while. But I invite any of my Notes from the Kelp readers to “friend” me on Facebook if you’d like to see more of what I see. If you don’t think I know you, just mention something about kelp, and I’ll approve the request!

May 31, 2014

Welcome home

[IMAGE] balloons afloat

…click to listen:

…about the music

Unabashedly thrilled.

Someone unwittingly sent me balloons. Or perhaps they knew that I’m celebrating: after many months of travel– all very wonderful– this coming week is my final business trip of the season. Very soon I will be home, sweet and salty home, for three solid months.

Oh no, I’m not complaining about the insanely fortunate life that I have created which regularly places me virtually via Skype, and physically via claustrophobic metal tubes hurtling through the air, in front of countless fellow artists and arts lovers (and others who have no idea why I’m talking so passionately, yet politely tolerate me nonetheless). But after two and sometimes three body-vaulting trips each month since last autumn, boy, do I appreciate the joy of staying in one place to compose, run my business, and commune with the humans and animals I adore who also call this rock, “home”:

Like this juvenile Bald Eagle,

[IMAGE] Juvenile Bald

headed back to the mound where his brother (and, um, the entrails of some unfortunate but tasty creature) awaits.

[IMAGE] Juvenile Bald

Like this raccoon,

[IMAGE] Raccoon

who knows that home is where you put your paw prints. And where the birds are, happily, really messy.

[IMAGE] Raccoon

Like the Orca, returning each May to the San Juans,

[IMAGE] Orca and Olympics

checking to see how her summer digs fared over the winter.

[IMAGE] Orca

Like this giant male Tenegaria house spider on the prowl for some hot love,

[IMAGE] Tegenaria

happy to be scooped up and released back to a waiting mate. Well, he hopes.

[IMAGE] Tegenaria

Like the foxes,

[IMAGE] Foxes

who know that someone’s bound to open the door if they knock.

[IMAGE] Fox calling

Like Bella, excited to see her house at the bottom of the road,

[IMAGE] Bella driving

so she can settle in and do what she does best: procrastinate on her work (you don’t think *I* write all this music, do you?).

[IMAGE] Bella procrastinating

And like me,

[IMAGE] Flying home

so damn happy to be home all summer long, as I admire the sun and the moon and the sea and the stars alongside my flippered, feathered, finned,

[IMAGE] May moonrise

and multi-legged companions.

[IMAGE] Dan and Alex at home.

I am celebrating being home! Thanks, whoever you are up the coast, for those pretty balloons.

March 25, 2014

500 and counting!

[IMAGE] otterly staring at me.

…click to listen:

…about the music

Music that’s otterly fun, and very busy.

Well hello!
It’s been a while.
Yeah, I know, I’ve been a bit scarce around here.
Not my norm, as seasoned Kelphistos know! I’ve published this pixel-sonic blog for eight full years without stop [she says somewhat sheepishly as she guiltily glances at the sidebar calendar]. As I logged on to write this entry (geez, finally!), it was either ironic, or just one of those “mystical signs from the Universe” that my skeptical self prefers to chalk up to “random odds,” that the words, “500 posts” greeted me.

Wow. I’ve written exactly 500 posts. Since 2006.
Welcome to number 501.
Not bad for a composer chickie who just blogs in order to share all the beauty/funny/bizarre/breathtaking/mundane things that my website and Facebook don’t show you.

[IMAGE] Lenticular cloud on Mount Rainier at sunrise
Okay, I admit that I did Facebook this pic of aliens landing on Mount Rainier, in all its otherworldly color one sunrise as I awoke. Sometimes I spread the fun around.

I had never before gone quite this many weeks between posts, (um, seven). Sure, entries have slowed down over the years from the initial blog-frenzy of “A New Post Nearly Every Day!!”, to, “A New Post Three Times a Week!,” to “Well… Twice a Week!” to, “How’s Once a Week Workin’ for Ya?”. And finally, more recently, I joined the calm, sedate, “Blog O’ The Month Club. “Yessiree folks, each new month you can anticipate the joy of some weird offering from Ms. Shapiro in between all the weird offerings that people pay her to create!”

That’s about the right pace for me at this point in my wonderful life. Once, maybe twice a month… but always with INTENT. This is the key, for any artist.

[IMAGE] Bella
Bella insists: Free Tibet!!. A kitty with intent.

So indulge me in a little reflection, at this 500 post mark.

From time to time I’ve perused my past offerings, and I will unabashedly admit to you that happily, I don’t feel that I’ve totally wasted anyone’s eyeball efforts. Whether a short handout, or a longer one, there’s always something of pith and personal meaning (well, at least to me!) within these screen dots. I’m just not someone who can waste screen dots on something that’s NOT worthy on some small level.

Much as I’ve been an early adopter of All Things Social Media and Tech, and in fact, am professionally known for mastering this happy affliction, I hereby admit: I am not now, nor have I ever been….

[IMAGE] Alex and sea stars

…a person who can be in the intense throes of LIVING and CREATING and EXPERIENCING and BEING, while able to simultaneously post ABOUT these events, in real time.
Nope. Not me.

Sometimes I can come close, by being a sequential, serial life-liver/poster (that reads like something from the abdominal disease ward), but almost always, it’s one,
and then,
the other.
In this case, seven weeks apart.
But: with intent.

So, what’s been riveting my monkey brain attention and thwarting my post-modern e-life? There’s been lots of travel– often every ten days I’m on a plane to somewhere else. In four months I will have been in Chicago, San Antonio, Kansas City, Kona (don’t feel sorry for me, not like you would), Vancouver, Los Angeles, and New York City– twice. And there’ve been lots of pieces being written under deadlines, and each gets the full and undivided attention of my giddy muses the moment I return to this sacred island I get to call home.

[IMAGE] home
Sometimes my house gets a little damp. Ok, yeah, this pic made it to Facebook too.

There’s been lots of contact with the wonderful music-makers around the world who add my notes to their fantastic recipes. There’s been lots of speaking and presenting at huge conferences. There’s been lots of service to forward the work of my colleagues in our challenging field (and this newest appointment is a biggie). And, yes, in my still-balanced existence, there’s lots of love and an immensely happy home life.

[IMAGE] Turkey Vulture couple
Me, and Dan. You get to guess who is who.

500 posts, and more to come. Promise. The balance of the busy, with the blog, is achievable!

January 31, 2014

Happily, again

[IMAGE] hawaii sunset

…click to listen:

…about the music

A syllabus on how to realign your chakras.

It’s become an annual tradition for Dan and me, with conveniently placed 1/10 and 1/11 birthdays respectively, to fling ourselves into the balmy tendrils of the Hawaiian islands. The first year we went for 5 days, and kicked ourselves for not carving out more time from our schedules. The second year: 10 days. This year: two weeks. And we’ve already planned to spend at least three weeks and possibly a full month, on one of Hawaii’s islands next January. What can I say: we’re both self-employed and had the dumb luck to be born at a time when business is still digesting from the bloat of holiday scurrying. Our physical absence is less noticeable this time of year, and I can keep up with most of my work remotely, as you’ll see below. Put another way: no one really needs us around, and damn if we’re not gonna take full advantage of that.

Among the many benefits of living in a gorgeous place on the planet to begin with, is that in order to get to this:

[IMAGE] hawaii sunset

we must pass by this:

[IMAGE] Rainier
Mighty Mount Rainier!


Once we arrive, we always look forward to being greeted by this:

[IMAGE] baby gecko

While watching the local evening news the first night, when much of the U.S. was crippled by the sub-zero degrees of the dreaded Polar Vortex, we realized that our idea of cold temperatures is somewhat different than that of Hawaiians:

[IMAGE] weather report
We were particularly amused by the icy-font lettering used to stress JUST HOW COLD IT REALLY WAS!! BRRR! Shouldn’t she be wearing long-sleeved flannel?

Everything is relative.
We managed to endured the frozen tundra-like 80-degree temps of the Big Island.

So, in between this:

[IMAGE] the Alex fish

and this:

[IMAGE] beach walk

there was usually this:

[IMAGE] umbrella drinks!

Which, regrettably, sometimes led to this:

[IMAGE] hula grrl gone bad


Almost as colorful and entertaining were these creatures:

[IMAGE] boxfish
Among my very favorite cartoony pals: the female spotted boxfish.

[IMAGE] snowflake eel
The snowflake eel, aptly named for those chilly 80 degree days.

[IMAGE] weird fish
Note how both the male and female of the species employ tropical coloring highlights for aquatic camouflage. Darwin was on to something.

But truly: for as much as there was of this:

[IMAGE] ahhhhh

there was actually a great deal of this:

[IMAGE] oh yeah


Once one has figured out how to do one’s work on a remote, bridge-less island in the middle of nowhere (aka, San Juan Island), it matters not from which island in the whole damn world one might work. So long as The Smiling, Kind and Merciful God of The Internet shines down upon me, I can earn my living.

Fellow hedonist geek composers of the world, take note: here’s how it’s done, baby:

1. MacBook Air running Sibelius 7
2. Data colostomy bag (aka, 2 terabyte USB external drive)
3. iPhone running a wireless MIDI polyphonic controller that inputs notes (no need to pack a large keyboard)
4. Mini USB hub because there aren’t enough on the laptop:
Port 1: camera cable
Port 2: mini usb trackball mouse
Port 3: iPhone cable
5. Bose noise-canceling headphones (damn, those crashing waves are loud)
6. Binoculars
7. Camera (not shown, since in hand)
8. Glass of decent red
9. Aforementioned crashing waves in a balmy environment (shown here: Keauhou, Hawaii).

Each day, I accomplished three or four hours of real work, in contact with clients all over the world, as enormous green sea turtles loped their way onto the shore in front of my toes, sternly suggesting I reconsider my enharmonic choices.

[IMAGE] honu

I remained supervised at all times,

[IMAGE] gecko

but the boss was really cute so I didn’t mind.

[IMAGE] gecko head

Two weeks was not enough. Our island winters are very mild– mostly mid-40’s– but it felt great to bask in that chilly 80 degree weather and swim in water that wouldn’t plunge us into hypothermia in eight minutes. The consolation for leaving Hawaii of course, was that we were returning to another version of paradise. Once again we gazed at the beauty of Mount Rainier from the other side of the plane, as the tendrils of our own native archipelago called us home.

[IMAGE] Rainier

Here’s to next time!

[IMAGE] gecko with a view

December 28, 2013

The paths I choose

[IMAGE] kayaking toward Saltspring Island

…click to listen:

…about the music

Bang the drum loudly.

Mine is a happy life filled with many hellos,

[IMAGE] Hello, sea stars

[IMAGE] Hello, fox

and seemingly endless welcoming paths.

[IMAGE] southern San Juan Island

[IMAGE] island woods

Sometimes there are structures pointing the way,

[IMAGE] bridge

[IMAGE] dock ramp

[IMAGE] dock ramp

but more often, the sole path is my imagination.

[IMAGE]Alex at island's edge

I’m easily tempted by paths of beauty,

[IMAGE] Lavender farm

or shrouded mystery,

[IMAGE] False Bay

or even a little danger.

[IMAGE] Lava cave

[IMAGE] Lava abyss

[IMAGE] collapsed lava

[IMAGE] dangerous umbrella drink
Drinking an umbrella drink underneath an umbrella means there are TWO ways to poke your eye out. Very, very dangerous!

Almost always, I’m happiest when I make my own path.

[IMAGE] Alex in the road grader
What? You’ve never seen a Manhattan chick in a road grader before?

Sometimes a path leads me to say goodbye,

[IMAGE] leaving on the puddle jumper

in order to say hello somewhere else.

[IMAGE] Alex in Hawaii snorkeling

But that path always returns me back home,

[IMAGE] home

where my hellos begin all over again.

[IMAGE] Hello, Mr. Fox

Here’s to a new year, in which everyone’s cup is filled with as many colorful paths of their choosing as possible!

[IMAGE] Hello, Mr. Fox

November 17, 2013

Oy, vey

[IMAGE] mossy ride

…click to listen:

…about the music


Well, it’s official: one glance at the photo above, and it’s clear that my car and I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for quite a while now. Going on seven years, in fact. I hang my hoodie in a place where 1. it rains more than it did in my former home base of southern California, and 2. there are no fancy-schmancy events to attend on San Juan Island at which one’s sparkling clean ride is a sought-after status symbol. Yes, back in the day, I tooled around in a sexy teal Porsche 928S for nine of my fifteen years in Malibu, before I switched gears (so to speak) to a convertible 4WD Jeep Wrangler, prior to inexplicably turning into a super-boring-but-reliable compact SUV chick (what my vehicles suggest about my various life phases is worthy of an altogether different blog post).

[IMAGE] otter
Face palm, otter: “‘Save the rainforest’ doesn’t mean carry it around with you on your SUV. Sheesh!”

I suppose I should be embarrassed that not just a touch of green scum,

[IMAGE] car slime
Ok, this is more than, “just a touch.”

but an entire bed of forest-worthy MOSS, has taken up residence on my spare tire cover (apparently, moss-sprouting is what the lettering is intended for).

And I haven’t even shown you the photo of the lichens growing on the side moulding.

[IMAGE] car lichen

Well, okay, I guess I couldn’t resist.
My car is rapidly becoming a Chia pet.

What can I say: with the promise of rain on a regular basis, very few people up here wash their cars. In fact, all of our vehicles, whether white, silver, red, or blue, share the local distinction of being “island color.” Which is varying, mottled combinations of mostly rainforest slime green and dirt road grey (hey, these could be this year’s new fall fashion colors for the style-conscious country bumpkin). Since my driveway is not a proper driveway at all, but more akin to a stony, rutted dry creek bed kicking up either dust or mud, there’s just never any point in bothering to hose things off. Heck, I probably get a tad less mileage per gallon due to toting around all these natural resources.

[IMAGE] sea lion
Face palm, sea lion: “I can’t believe what this neighborhood is turning into.”

The car is a lot like me when I’m home composing: basically stationary. When I’m not traveling for work, I instantly morph into a happy hermit in loose fitting pajama-like togs just weird-looking enough to scare the dickens out of anyone who dares to show up unannounced. And, I hole up. For days at a time if possible. Even a simple trip into the tiny stress- and traffic-light-free town of Friday Harbor is a disruptive undertaking to be staved off until supplies are perilously low. The dire need for peanut butter… eggs… wine… cat food (not for me, I promise)… chocolate… becomes so urgent that I have no choice but to put on “decent” clothes worthy of public appearance (an enormous effort right there), and hop behind the wheel to take myself and my volunteer plant life collection on the 15 minute jaunt into civilization.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, but a working composer might end up like her car if she isn’t careful. Happily, I’ve just checked and I can proudly report that nope, there is NO MOSS growing in any of my nooks and crannies. Yet. [Phew]. There are, however, a lot of musical notes sprouting up, and I’ve been tending this garden of muses with great care. Which is a lot more than I can say for how I tend to my poor terrarium-on-wheels vehicle.

[IMAGE] kitty
Face palm, house cat: “Over and over… and OVER again. Of all the people out there, I end up being adopted by a composer. How many more times do I have to hear that @#$% passage until she gets it right???”.