Saturday, February 23, 2008

Strings Attached

The Universe delivered me a guitar last night.

I’m working a lot with the ideas of Louise Hay, Wayne Dwyer, and others, about living with affirmations: the things you want in life are manifested by your thoughts. They claim it is so easy to simply create all that you desire by belief. “The Universe loves gratitude”, they say, and rewards abundantly.

Due to the incredible wisdom and foresight of my sixth grade teacher who taught the entire class to play folk songs on guitars as a bonding tool, the lesson stuck with me and music became an anchor in my life. For many, many years, I usually had a guitar in hand. One accompanied me daily and celebrated so many adventures. I carried them on planes, up mountainsides, and onto stages of all sizes.

Unfortunately, in need of cash in later years, and finished with bands, I sold a beautiful Gibson SG electric to pay the electric (and other) bills. It was sad to part ways, but I could live with the decision. When I needed to play, my more treasured acoustic kept my callouses in shape and my heart singing. I did not often miss the Gibson, but every now and then, usually around the beat of a Grateful Dead tune, my heart fluttered and my fingers itched.

In the past few years my son has learned to play clarinet in his Middle School band and slowly found his way to the bass guitar. He has not been blessed with as much live music in the household as I have known in the past, but we have played variations on the 12 bar blues to the point he can recognize it in much of the music he likes.

In the last year, more often I have missed that Ol’ SG. Glimpses of it appear in old pictures of Bob Weir, or on TV. I’ll always point it out. Taking my son to the music store, he’ll oogle all sorts of instruments and gadgets, but I linger by the guitars, eyes roaming the racks just in case mine might miraculously be available.

Last week, on an impulse of gratitude, I called my teacher in Seattle. Though it has been 42 years since that year, and 20 since we last talked, we agreed it had been an exceptional year. We talked about music and guitars and where others in the class lived, then I thanked her for her gifts and her spirit and her creative energy that she had shared so freely.

And so yesterday, when I was in a basement to lift a floor back into alignment, I spied an old guitar (name unknown), abandoned and missing strings, lying on a pile of storage. A hollow body with “f’ holes and forlornly, profoundly alone, it attracted me, so I commented about it to the owner. He hesitated only long enough to honor that it had been a gift to him, then he gifted it forward to me.
New strings and a dusting later, I tuned it up and plugged it into my son’s amp.

Tentative and scratchy were those first notes, but clearly was the sound decent and true, the fingering easy on my unpracticed fingers. Soon, I could hear the subtle difference of touch there plays between acoustic and electric, the one resonating from within, the other surrounding and enveloping from without. This is no incredible guitar—one volume knob is useless, and the switches decidedly low tech—but it feels like a blessing to me.

And what a wonder it is to hear my son’s fingers figuring out the patterns that create a scale late into the night through the wall between our separate rooms, our separate lives.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Even machines need warmth at the end opf the day

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Inversed Logic

Unfortunately, there is a lot of turmoil in my life, numerous large questions to be answered. Contemplating the sale of our house, one very basic unknown is what and where our shelter will be in the coming months. Such a looming disorientation makes it hard to focus on this day, this morning.

After concentrated effort on a particular job all last week, I begin this one with options before me, numerous sites to visit and loose ends to retrieve. Regaining the details of these other projects is difficult and inefficient. Finding the motivation to choose one and dive in is elusive when all are equally pressing. And,
like the puzzle that needs a piece moved to the open space before sliding another into the new space, purchases need to be made, certain tools retrieved and redistributed, and the urge to stop for another cup of coffee to better ponder it all is too tempting to resist.

On this Monday, I am finally to a site and ready to open the can of paint. It sits before me, awaiting the screw driver to pop the lid. I pause again to realize I forgot the little step ladder needed to reach my cutline along the ceiling. That is solved by standing on a sheetrock bucket.

Still I pause.

At last the lid is off, the soft color poured into the roller pan, the bucket and pan brought upstairs. Yes, I think, it is all a matter of one step in front of the other. I need only cut and roll this few hundred square feet of wall and I can cross this job off my list, move up the street to the next and the next.

Thus do I get my check and pay my bills. Thus do I use the time wisely and accomplish tasks, so that by the time my house sells, we have found another. The disorientation is resolved by constructive movement forward, productive goals met one after the other.

Yet, still I pause, something still not right with this solution that has guided me over the past 30 years. Methodically, meditatively, I have pounded nail after nail into home after home, moving forward from Oregon to Pennsylvania to Vermont, from one marriage to the next, started a company, worked for another, started another, yet all the while, the financial turmoil and emotional stress continue to plague my soul.

I was raised to be a remodeler (. the Artisan Builders Workshop: Foundation), but fresh out of college with a novel in hand and ideas swarming in my head, I intended to use my hammer just to pave the way towards a career as a Writer. I accepted that the independence and freedom that would enable me to meet my dreams of writing required a flexible effort to flush out the bills. So I began my steps one in front of the other, one nail meditatively driven home followed by another, replacing hammer with a gun, until suddenly so much time has gone by, so many more nails driven than words to fill a blank page. I have completely lost sight of the dreams that once motivated me to awaken with excitement.

This morning, the paint lid is off, the can open and ready, the wall awaiting the roller strokes. I reach instead for my other tools: this pen, this empty page which letter after letter, word after word is slowly covered, until I have my latest blog entry, the one which has eluded me for a week, perhaps even for 30 years.

Now I can start painting.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Knights of Dull Satin

Insight and understanding may surprise us in any form. My sister has taught me that pulling a Tarot card at certain moments has an intuitive power that can comfort and heal better than the most sympathetic ear.

Today’s card for me is the Jack of Wands, reversed. “Picture the young knight, [the inexperienced warrior] at every opportunity, needing to prove his courage and strength, to himself and others…easily thrown from his horse…fragile…the reversed knight sympolizes confusion, disrupted projects, breakdown and disharmony."

How profoundly apt!

Easily my life can be thus personified. The last 30 years—all of my adulthood—has me choosing one of the largest horses in the coral and galloping off, repeatedly remounting, ignoring the bruises. With thin armor, I chose another and another, different horses, different saddles, different corals, continually thrown and bruised.

Intending to hurt no one, only wanting to save the day, I’ve still caused a lot of pain, an errant knight who needed to be reigned in.

It is not all so bad as I write it today, of course. The defining word of “Midlife Crisis” paints it so. In truth, I have wonderful children, have won the heart of a passionate woman. I appreciate that friends and family are in generous support. I have glorious tales of chasing the Grail.

In fact, pages of journals sit in a box in my cellar, untouched and inconsequential. They are thoughts written down which probably have no need for the light of day, no need, in fact, to even rot in damp darkness, but should be burned into memory like the events that inspired them. But I have held onto them as if someday I might achieve some sort of importance that would render them valuable. At the very least—having read letters between relatives in Texas and Pennsylvania discussing their fear of an impending civil war—my own great grandchildren might be interested to know some personal context for the events of this time in history.

A curious phenomena has appeared in this blog process which brings to focus this particular knight’s tale of needing approval. The number of advertising hits is laughably not lucrative (I just broke two dollars!). In the course of the month. Oprah has not sought me out to appear on her show. It contributes little to my daily life , in fact, steals precious hours from the business of providing for my family, or remuneration to my creditors.

Still, several times each day, I peek at the hitlist and celebrate quietly to see that one or two more people have taken a look. A tiny thrill of satisfaction rages through me, something perhaps, like that little boy felt with each bucket of water (of Fathers & Sons).

Then this knight realizes that, by themselves, words fall silently in that cold snowy deserted forest (or rot in the basement). An EMAIL of encouragement is like hot chocolate warming me to write some more. Perhaps these words, this willingness to be an open soul might touch another, might inspire a little more openness, might be just one more snowflake in an incredible avalanche that changes the world. Then would we all be transformed from knights to kings and queens.

And so, once again, I get up on my horse and ride off.

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