Archive for January, 2008


Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

…about the music

Changing chakras.

Above is one in a series of spectacular views as I floated back to Friday Harbor on the ferry on Sunday afternoon. The snow had only just stopped and the sunlight pushed against blue skies. If you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes. That’s our motto.

My beloved snow has melted.

White has been replaced by the vibrant green it temporarily shrouded. Very pretty. And almost warm. The winds have picked up this evening and a moment ago it was just invigorating, not cold, being outside wrestling with a too-large pile of recycling that awaits a trip to the “transfer station” north of town. Others call such destinations “the dump,” but on an island, everything gets shipped over to the mainland. What those mainlanders do with our rinsed, flattened and squished items is anyone’s guess, but I keep high, imaginary hopes for the endless re-uses of all those cardboard boxes and happily emptied wine bottles.

Transferring one existence, to another: moving boxes morph from tree to container, and travel from there to here; grapes morph from fruit to beverage, and travel from bottle to belly. Snow melts, and I ferry back and forth at will. Life, in all its forms, is in constant transit.


Monday, January 28th, 2008

…about the music

Tweet tweet.

It’s not uncommon for islanders to head south for the winter months and join the other snowbirds, even though the season here is very temperate. Most days are in the low to mid forties, dipping into the 30’s at night. There isn’t the bitter cold of the Minnesotan or New York winters that Charles and I grew up enduring. The air here is crisp and fresh and pure and invigorating, and tromping around outside to chop wood or spread birdseed is a joy. This dark-eyed junco is especially pleased that I feel this way. It rarely snows and when it does, the powdery fluff is gone within hours, melted into a memory.

But yesterday as I was headed home from Seattle, it did indeed snow on San Juan Island– and the snow stuck! A couple of very pretty inches that have turned everything in view into a work of art. I’m loving all phases of winter here and can’t imagine why others flee for Arizona, Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii and Central America. Ok, well, I can– but I’m so completely at home in this, that staying here seems like a vacation in and of itself. The weather here is so much better than where I grew up. Is there a word for feeling even more at home than where your original home was?

Going to America

Friday, January 25th, 2008

…about the music

Busy busy busy.

Well, it’s off to the big city again for this country bumpkin.There are a slew of contemporary music events in Seattle this weekend and an equally impressive slew of living, breathing composers and musicians taking part in them, many of whom I enjoy seeing, hearing and reading (ah, the newfound blog life. How did we all ever bond before the internet?).

The 8:05 a.m. boat will get me the most scenic part of the way. I’ll put my car in the ferry line by 7:20. Which is about 30 minutes later than when I go to bed most nights. This is how you know my level of commitment: a 12 hour internal clock switch in the name of music. Living music, specifically. I adore Mahler and Brahms and Beethoven, but they wouldn’t get me to make this trip. My far lesser known peers do.
The thrill of the unknown.
The tribal pull of like-minded spirits.
The after-concert hangs that are just too much fun.

And now you know why I don’t suffer from jet lag. I do this sort of thing all too regularly.

I’d nap on the ferry, but as you see in the pix scrolled down this page, it’s too beautiful to sleep through.

Sleepless in Seattle


Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

…about the music

A waltz for a pinniped.

One of my most enjoyable errands is a trip to Eric and Brenda’s fish market. An open houseboat structure that rests on a floating dock halfway down the main harbor walkway, it’s where you’ll find the best and freshest gilled and shelled offerings on the island.
Popeye knows this. And it’s where you’ll find her, too.

She figured out quite a long time ago that this was a good deal. Show up, act adorable, let people take your photo, and get some entrails in return for the effort. Oh, and being blind doesn’t seem to hurt business, either. We’re all compassionate suckers. She had a pup last year, and I’m hoping to catch a glimpse soon.

Harbor seals are usually somewhat social and well adapted to life amidst humans and bilge discharges, but Popeye is everyone’s pet. You don’t have to wait long for her to come right over and surface between the dock and the neighboring ketch (artistic photo, eh?). And she doesn’t have to wait long to get what she wants.

But I do: the market is closed for a few weeks while its owners take a winter vacation somewhere very south of here. So I wait. So does Popeye. Except that she’s far better at catching her own fresh fish than I am!

The tooth ferry

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

…about the music

Early morning waters.

On Monday I ventured off-island as it’s called here, and went over to the mainland for a mundane dentist appointment in Bellingham. The ferry ride takes just short of two hours to reach Anacortes, with stops at other islands along the way, and the crossing is followed by a 40 minute drive east and then north. Throw in the mandatory ferry line wait time at both ends of the day, and it’s about a seven hour round trip. Normally, my first comment would be “good incentive to floss more.” However as you can see from my photos, the commute is nothing short of magical. Rather than being a deterrent, it’s something to look forward to.

On the occasions when the boat traveling from Friday Harbor to Anacortes originates just over the border in British Columbia, all passengers must clear U.S. Customs. As a U.S. citizen leaving the U.S. and arriving in the U.S., the first time I had to do this felt quite bizarre, and I immediately understood why locals call leaving the San Juans, “going to America.” It’s sometimes a little bit like no-man’s land here: not quite Canada, despite sharing their archipelago, and still not feeling entirely attached to the United States, despite our passports, license plates, voter registrations and love of Netflix subscriptions.

In contrast to this geography of independence, since moving here I’ve met more true American patriots and activists than I had in a long time in Los Angeles. An unusually large percentage of our small full-time population (hovering somewhere around 6,000 on this island) deeply care about the planet, about this country, and about their neighbors, and best of all, they get involved. The amount of philanthropic and community supporting activities in Friday Harbor is heartwarming, and someone without a busy career can make quite a busy one just from local participation. There must be a hundred organizations and groups one could join, serving every concern imaginable except, from what I’ve seen, the desperate need for a good Indian restaurant (someone, please help! I need my fix).

San Juan County, like the majority of Washington State, is Democratic (although many Democrats here also label themselves in part anywhere from Libertarian to Socialist to Progressive), and the last Democratic Caucus had a turnout of over 500 people. Even more are expected at the upcoming Caucus on February 9. This is an astounding percentage, considering that not everyone on this island is a Democrat, or of voting age. Voter turnout is equally impressive; I’m told it’s about the highest in the whole state. Small island, big voice! Proportionately, at least.

Do more intimate environments such as this one naturally attract people who care enough to get involved? Is the relative lack of anonymity a trigger for speaking out and trying to effect change? Does being detached from the mainland give islanders a sharper perch perspective? Will fish tikka and palak paneer every make it to Friday Harbor? Next ferry ride, these questions will give me something to chew on.


Sunday, January 13th, 2008

…about the music

Still reflecting.

The scene here an hour ago at sunset.
My brain and spirit are infused with the positive sonic chaos of a new piece nearing the double bar (another single malt, puhleeze?). How good to be able to sit quietly at this place and collect… no, herd, actually… my thoughts.
The new year begins. Again.

I’m a Capricorn

Friday, January 11th, 2008

…about the music

Music for mythical sea goats.

Given my astrological sign, I thought this pic I took of very young goats and their mom at the San Juan County Fair last August was appropriate for today. Although, many say that the constellation– one of the dimmer ones up there– is actually a sea goat. Having neither underwater camera gear, nor faith that sea goats actually exist, I’m opting for their gill-less equivalents. I’m guessing that I could put all these cuties in the water and they’d do their best for the photo shoot, but they wouldn’t appreciate it very much. The water right now hovers at around 50 degrees. So land goats it is, much to their relief.

I didn’t realize female goats had horns, but hey, I was raised in a farm animal-free environment and am still playing catch-up all these years later. And there’s an increasing number of all these years. Today is the demarcation and declaration that my body has completed yet another full orbit around the sun. But the view this January looks a lot different than last, due to my latitudinal shift.

I suspect there’s been an attitudinal shift, as well. I especially noticed this when I was in New York for the conference last week. Yes, I ran around and did a lot of things. Busy busy busy. Fun fun fun. But it was a somewhat shorter, less frenzied list of things than in years past. At first I feared that maybe I’d lost my edge; maybe my endless energy was finally waning a bit. There were even more activities that I could have jammed into any already full day and evening. But when I mentioned this observation to my very dear friend Alvin as I forewent a concert and calmly packed up my exhibit boxes on Sunday, he smiled at me and said, “Editing. It’s just editing.”

And he was right.

There’s something very wonderful that occurs as ones brain gets a little dizzier with each solar rotation. We learn what’s important and what’s less so at any given moment, and yes, we finally learn to edit.

I look forward to becoming an old goat, and one who is as good an editor as she is a spewer of things that need editing.

Today’s audio clip in my continuing pixelsonic presentation is performed by another good friend, clarinetist Gerry Errante, whose orbiting sea goat also aligned itself on this very same day of the month. The farm was busy nursing musicians that day!

Back where I belong

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

I’m most comfortable as seen above, peering through driftwood on a brisk day, red nose and clear eyes gazing slightly past the camera to the exquisite coastline of the Canadian islands directly in front of me:

But I have just returned from that chamber music conference in Manhattan, where I spent several days standing proudly by my offerings (51 scores, 16 CDs, 5 rubber duckies, 4 shells from my beach, 2 listening stations, 1 rubber snake).

…about the music

Onward and upward.

I had a terrific time. Saw oodles of dear friends and colleagues, did a really enjoyable interview with the completely delightful John Clare for his WITF-FM radio show, Composing Thoughts, and drummed up lots and lots of business from the helm of my exhibit table at the Westin Times Square. In my line of work, there tends to be a thin line between the business and the social, so the whole shebang is a ton of fun. But this former Manhattanite is exceedingly happy to be home on another island on what seems like, after 16 hours of travel, the other side of the world. In so many ways!

A new wave

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

…about the music

And another rolls toward us.

In with the new.
Happy 2008.

Today is also worthy of personal celebration, as it’s the second anniversary of the particular alignment of pixels that you are reading at this very moment. I started my algae-laden blog January 1, 2006, and have been having a great time sharing the beauty of my surroundings– first in Malibu and now on San Juan Island– with anyone interested in clicking. And, in listening. I’m not sure whether to call it photosonic, or pixelsonic, but it’s my version of scoring music to my own photos and it keeps me entertained. Maybe you, too!

For Auld Lang Syne, use the time machine on the right and visit some of the earlier posts. Occasionally I do, and it’s as though everything I felt and smelled and heard when I took the snapshot surrounds me, once again. Past, meet present. Wait– it’s already the future. Which just became the past. And so it goes. We ride this wave as long as we’re able, and have as good a time as we can!

Peace to all. I’m off to New York City for a week, to exhibit my humble wares at the national Chamber Music America conference. Should you be there, be sure to stop by and say hello. Meanwhile, I may not be blogging this week. Stay tuned for more deer, foxes, mushrooms and island life when I return. Maybe this year I’ll even include… gasp!… buildings and people!