artist educator, singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Wise words from an amazing man, a percussionist with the Grateful Dead who travels around the world collecting indigenous music. I was lucky enough to meet Mickey Hart very briefly once. This quote is so meaningful to me. I have always tried to fill my life with sound - not necessarily music, but always some kind of sound, whether it's the sound of the wind in the maple tree outside my window as I write this post, or the sound of the birds. The last few days and nights, I've been aware of the beautiful sounds that the rain makes. When my daughter was 5 years old, we lived in Tillamook County on the coast of Oregon in a mobile home for a while. She liked to put various pots and pans or plastic bowls upside down in the yard outside her bedroom window so that she could listen to the symphony of sounds that the rain made. She even drew a picture of it with a caption about liking the rain because it makes music that, sadly, has been lost along the way. But, I can still see it in my mind, and I think of it everytime I listen to the rain.
Sound is so important. I often have insomnia. It's so frustrating to lay in bed, knowing that I have to wake early, wishing that I could just fall alsleep, and getting more and more stressed the more I think about it which doesn't help me fall asleep. I sometimes get up and read for a while then try again, but lately I've been remembering a tip that my former partner gave me. He told me to just listen intently to all the sounds. He said that if we focus on the sounds, it takes our minds off of other things and relaxes us. When I can remember to do that, it always works - unless I've had a lte cup of coffee. Then, all bets are off. :-)
Because I'm a songwriter, I often don't have music playing at home. It interferes with the music in my head. Also, I'm a very active listener. I find it difficult at times to hold a conversation when there's music playing. I have to dive into the music fully. The exception to this is music I am very familiar with. For that reason, I have a couple of go-to CDs for when company is over. They are CDs that are so ingrained in my psyche, I don't have to listen intently. I listen to music when I am looking for new songs to cover or learning something new. When I'm learning a new song, I immerse myself in it totally, listening to it over and over for hours at a time over the course of many days. I listen to it until I can hear it in my sleep. Then, when I go to play it, I already know it. It's just a matter of training my fingers. It drives others crazy, but it works for me. Thank goodness for headphones!
In my job, I am always trying to convince people that everyone can sing regardless of the quality of their voice or even whether or not they can sing in key. It's about the act of sharing the music within your family or with your community. It's the same with sound. All sound is music, at least to my ears. I've had friends whose music was "industrial noise". It was creative and innovative. I loved going to their shows and hearing how they turned "noise" what some might think of as cacaphony, into music. It wasn't for everyone, but I admired it. I encourage you to think about that the next time you are feeling bothered by some ambiant noise around you. Maybe you can find the music in it.
Photo: Lori Van Buren
A friend recently posted a picture on Facebook of F.W. Woolworth’s Five and Dime, a now defunct low-cost chain store that was established in 1878 and finally went under in 200. I loved shopping there, and the picture reminded me of one of many Woolworth experiences in my life.
When my youngest son was 3, I was newly in love with my second long-term partner, Dick. We had taken a day trip to the Catskills on a Sunday to go hiking on a beautiful warm late spring day. On the way home, we passed a little church fair and decided to stop and let my son go on a few rides. As we strolled through the fair, he spied one of the many games and started clamoring to be given a dime to toss on the plate and win a goldfish. The last thing in the world I wanted was a goldfish and said so. As we watched all the dimes slide right off the slippery plates, Dick turned to me and said, “What’s the harm in letting him try once? He’ll never land it on the plate anyway.” Looking at my son’s crestfallen face, I reluctantly relented then watched in horror as his one and only dime landed right in the middle of its intended target. Ugh, we walked back to the car with him clutching this plastic bag with one sickly looking goldfish.
On the ride home, Dick lectured him about pet responsibility cautioning that, if not card for properly, the goldfish would surely die. I kept insisting that it would probably die anyway given the fact that the pet stores were all closed, we had no food or bowl for this fish, and it didn’t look very healthy to me to begin with. I had previous experience with goldfish that were won at fairs, which one of many reasons I didn’t want to give him the damned dime in the first place. We got home well after dark and put the fish in a jar. As we left for school the next day, the fish was still alive, and Dick once more cautioned about pet responsibility.
As you can imagine, when we returned, the fish was floating on top of the water and my son burst into tears. He was wracked with guilt, saying repeatedly that it was all his fault for not taking better care of his fish. I was furious but decided, forgetting for a moment how much cleaning is involved with a goldfish, that the best solution to this dilemma was to get another fish with the proper equipment and give him a fair chance at raising a pet, so we drove off to Woolworths.
As luck would have it, the store was closing with everything marked down to almost nothing. We managed to get two goldfish, one of which died within a couple of days, a tank that came with gravel and filter, decorations and extra replacement filters, water purifiers, a light, net and food for under $1.00. I couldn’t believe it. They were giving everything away. We went home and settled our new pets, hoping that we would finally have success and a good lesson learned about pet responsibility.
The one surviving fish started to grow, and grow, and grow. Before long, he could barely swim at all in the tiny tank I’d bought. Dick, always soft-hearted about animals, started pestering me to buy a larger tank. I asked if he wanted to take that on since it was his fault we had this silly fish in the first place. He wanted nothing to do with it, insisting it was my fish and my responsibility. I was getting really sick of hearing that word but, bought a larger tank. Before long, the fish grew into that tank and I had to get another and another. Since we had such a large tank, we tried other tropical fish in there with him, but he ate them.
Goldfish are dirty fish and require their tanks to be cleaned often. It was a huge job now that we had such a big tank, but I grudgingly did it, my son being too young to take that on. That fish grew to be over a foot long and lived in a 50-gallon tank. Eventually, we were able to introduce catfish and bottom feeders in there with him to keep the cleaning down a bit. As resentful as I started out, we all grew to love the fish, and he was a source of much oohing and aahing by visitors. He would even let us pet him, though he was slimy, and I wasn’t interested in touching him much. He lived for over 10 years, and we all cried when he died.
That’s what I think of whenever I think about F. W. Woolworth’s, that damned fish that eased his way into the hearts of many including my own so rigidly hardened against him.
Standing with one foot in France and one in Switzerland.
I have always loved traveling and have managed to travel to all but four of the United States. They are Lousiana, Alabama, Alaska and Hawaii. I've also gone to Mexico and Canada. Then, in 2009, I was lucky enough to be given a trip to Germany for a music event. Because my flight and lodging was laready paid for, I was able to help my partner at the time pay the extra it would take for him to come, too. We extended our trip longer than the original portion I was hired for and organized a house concert in Switzerland, driving from Berlin through Bavaria and Western France. It was a dream come true. I'd always dreamed about going overseas but had never made that happen and, because I've always been so low-income, I didn't see any possibility of it happening in the future. Germany would not have been my first choice, but I was very impressed and loved the whole experience. I really fell in love with the country and the people.
It was a total fluke that I got involved with this group and, at the time when the first performances happened in the Woodstock/New Paltz area, I had no idea I would eventually end up in Europe for 12 days. I recently found my passport and wondered if I should renew it, since it expires in November of this year. Then, I got an intriguing message through a business related social media group. Now, before I tell you about the message, let me tell you what I think about social media.
Like many of you, I've had a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I've been sucked into it with silly games, memes and (omg) the ads. However, I've also found long lost friends and family, rekindled friendships and basically stayed closer to many people than I would otherwise have been able to do. I also realized early on that it was going to be the cutting edge of promotion. I can easily say that the majority of people who come out to my shows come through Facebook. The numbers of people who have watched my videos because they found them through Facebook is astounding. My "In Winter" video views just keep on climbing, and I know many of them have come from social media.
Because I've had so much success with Facebook, I joined other sites, Linked-In, Alignable and more. Some are more social and some are purely business sites. Either way, I keep getting contacted by people looking for what I do and have found me online. And recently, I got the very intriguing message I referenced earlier. It read "... have you ever performed outside of the US?" I replied that I had performed in Germany and Switzerland. I was then asked if I'd ever performed in China and could this woman come visit one of my classes? One thing led to another. She has now visited two very different classes and has asked if I will come to China for two weeks to perform at some daycare centers that she runs with her partners. My answer was easy. This is another unimaginable dream come true. I guess I'd better renew that passport, which has been sitting on my desk insisting that I notice it.
People often ask how I can have such a positive outlook all the time. It's because good things happen to me when I least expect them. I believe that if I think positively, positive things will come my way. I may not know what they're going to be, and there are always bad things in the mix, but I've been pleasantly surprised more times than I can count. Like with the trip to Germany, I never even considered the possibility of going to China, but it looks like I'll be going next spring. And ... how cool is that?
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