artist educator, singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
I have always been attracted to patterns, any kind of patterns. I seek them out in music, in art, in nature, in the way we speak and even in physical habits and behaviors. It’s gotten so that now I see them everywhere I look. And there are other larger patterns around too, patterns that affect our lives. There are weather patterns and symmetry and other types of patterns that we never notice. I’ve used pattern awareness to learn and remember things. When learning a new piece of music, I try to find the patterns and learn those first, making it much easier. Practice works that way, too. Because you repeat one small section over and over until it’s learned, it’s become pattern, which is easier to remember. When I try to create a new habit, I think of it as part of the pattern of my daily routine. Some people say that there are invisible patterns that act on our lives, sending us signs or otherwise guiding us. This is sometimes referred to as synchronicity, the law of attraction or kismet.
graphic credit: https://livinglovelee.com/2017/05/10/signs-universe/
I enjoyed reading “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It’s written as a novel but is a very spiritual journey. It is all about synchronicity, the importance of being open to it and noticing when it does manifest. I know that I have experienced this phenomenon many times in my life. It shows in the stories of how I met the important people in my life and many random opportunities. They say that the more we notice these occurrences, the more they seem to happen. That may be true. I’ve gone to Germany and Switzerland to share music because of a random connection, and this May, I’ll be going to China because of another one. I could write pages and pages of synchronistic events but will only share a few here.
In the mid-80s, I was working at The Albany Free School in Albany, NY. My husband and I had been looking for a keyboard player for our band, General Eclectic, so I started saying what we needed out loud. Not much later, a family who was relocating to the area, came to check out the school. I took one look at the man and thought, hmmm … I wonder. I went up, introduced myself and quickly asked if he was a musician. He played keyboard, guitar and sang. He became a great band member for many years. Another time we needed a rehearsal space and had no money to rent a place. Once again, I spoke to the ether about what I needed, and we soon were offered a free basement space. Then there’s my Fender guitar …
When I was leaving my 20-year marriage with my first real love. It was understandably a very hard time for both of us. In addition to having loved each other and raised a family together, we had been bandmates during that time and co-songwriters. Being in the band, even when it was just the two of us, was like a separate marriage because sharing music is such an intimate and bonding thing. I had always been the lead singer, also playing percussion and occasionally keyboards while he was a phenomenal rhythm guitarist. Although I had trifled with guitar when I was young, I gave it up when I started playing with him. I knew that I now wanted to be musically independent and decided I needed my own guitar. I was dirt poor, but I knew I was getting paid $200 the next day, so I stood out on my front porch in Stephentown, NY and said out loud to no one in particular, “I need an acoustic guitar preferably with a pick-up in a case for $200. Oh, and a tuner would be great.” I came home from work that next day, starting fixing dinner when there was a knock on the door. It was my neighbor with his cousin’s guitar, checking to see if we knew anyone who might want to buy it. It was exactly what I had asked for, right down to the random addition of the tuner, for $200.
One of my favorite events was when I bought my Kia Rio. It was in 2011. I had been driving an old Volvo that really was a lemon, causing me to pour thousands of dollars into it every year. It was given to me to drive at a time when I really needed something, but its time was nearing the end. I had to figure out what to do. My partner at the time kept encouraging me to buy a new car. He kept insisting that I could get a car loan easily. I was resistant because I had a bankruptcy on my record from when I unexpectedly my raised one-year-old granddaughter, incurring childcare and other extra expenses. Also, I still didn’t make very much money and didn’t think I could afford a loan. One week, I started hearing commercials on the radio about leasing cars. I also heard about Kias for the first time on the radio that week, not knowing anything about them. Then there were ads about credit ratings and loan options. I figured I’d better pay attention to these patterns and look into it.
My Credit Union just happened to be having a big car sale in a few days. They approved my loan, understanding my bankruptcy and acknowledging the growth of my business and my efforts to reestablish my financial credibility. The morning of the sale, as my partner was yelling upstairs to hurry so we could avoid the rush, I felt compelled to pick up the local paper. I can’t explain why I needed to do that, but I did. I opened up to a random page and saw an ad for the movie, Rio. I shook my head, thinking myself very silly for taking the time for such an unimportant thing and raced out the door. We arrived at the lot and started looking around. Everything was so expensive, and I had only asked for a small loan. There were lots of luxury cars and SUVs, not at all what I was looking for. I was feeling discouraged, and my partner was done. He started heading for his car when I stopped. I just had a feeling. I shouted, “Wait,” and quickly walked to the far end of the lot where I saw my car. It was under the loan amount approved and as I realized what model it was, I suddenly understood everything. It was a Kia “Rio.”
Whether or not you believe in a higher power, what harm is there in trying to notice? How many times have you heard a certain song in a few days’ time? Or heard about a certain topic or person? I went looking for a graphic for this post and the one above is the first one I found. It prominently displays 11:11. My husband was born at 11:11 am on 11-11-55 and always had an attraction for numbers. We try to think of him at 11:11 am or pm when we notice, which happens often. Isn't that interesting that this graphic came up first? Why not pay attention and see what comes your way? Certainly, you could also drive yourself crazy trying to find the meaning in everything, but hopefully you’ll let go of some of them. I learned that sometimes, I’ll never know what something meant, if anything at all. After all, there are also just coincidences. Or, are there?
It seems to me that the science fiction future is approaching faster than I realize sometimes. For example, I’ve read about self-driving cars and seen them in sci-fi movies, but never thought I’d actually be on the road with them. However, they are coming soon. Some predictions have them coming as soon as 2025. To me, that sound like a futuristic date but in reality, it’s just around the corner. They’ve been testing these cars and found a few glitches that have delayed their release and there are a few funny predictions about what will change when they do finally appear on the road. USA Today suggested yesterday that self-driving cars may lead to more sex on the road. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2018/11/23/self-driving-cars-could-lead-more-sex-road-study-finds/2090758002/ I’m much more worried about computer failures than what people are doing when they’re not behind the wheel. Then there is the risk to cyber security. Can hackers reprogram your car? I hope I don't have any enemies. https://phys.org/news/2017-02-cybersecurity-self-driving-cars.html
Last week, I had a computer failure in my normal car that caused it to suddenly accelerate while having the brakes fail. I have had more than my share of bad and frightening car experiences, but this topped them all. It’s made me nervous to drive at all, something that I used to love and thrive on. The scariest part wasn’t that the car went from 25 mph to 55 mph in a matter of seconds, or that the brakes failed. The scariest thing was that there was no rhyme or reason to the glitch. The brake failure had happened before leading to multiple trips to the garage where they replaced everything but were still unable to find a reason for it to have happened in the first place. The sudden acceleration was new. Plenty of other people have driven my car, but no one else experienced any of the problems.
My well-meaning daughter, who is a science fiction fan, said it sounded like a sci-fi story where the computer bonds to a certain person and is bent on destroying them. Yep, that pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling about this “demon car.” The mechanic has been driving it everywhere trying to find some kind of pattern, driving at high speed, driving for hours, sudden stops, etc. He finally found a computer sensor failure. The computer told the car to speed up and the brakes to fail simultaneously. I’m glad he found the problem and has assured me that it will be fixed, but do I want to get back into that car? I’m not sure. He said it was a question of whether or not I trust him. I say it’s a question of how much science fiction I’ve read and believe. Can a car bond with a certain person? Can a computer really think for itself? Remember “HAL”?
I’ve been driving another car for now, trying to get over my fear of driving. It’s okay, but I really miss my real car. It has its eccentricities, but I know them. It’s an older car but has less mileage than this other one, and my mechanic has replaced almost everything at this point. So, I’m leaning towards trusting him and hoping that not all science fiction comes true, though much of it has. But that takes me back to self-driving cars. If this car was not self-driving and could have killed me due to a computer failure, can’t we count on the same possibility for these other cars? How can they assure us that there will be no glitches or unexplained breakdowns? I don’t think they can.
So, once I overcome my fear of driving my 2002 Toyota again, I will someday have to decide if I want to be on the road at all with self-driving cars. What if one of them doesn’t like my car? What if one of them decides to run me off the road? It’s way too creepy a thought for me after this last bizarre experience.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I feel a little bombarded by the frenzy of the season. Everyone is busy, and everything is bustling. Today, we got our first real snowstorm of the winter season which adds a little more frenzy but is also an opportunity to take it easy and notice what’s around us. I love winter. I love having an excuse to hibernate a little. I love the snow. I do recognize that I’m not the one removing it and appreciate those who do that job. I love the light at this time of year and the exquisite blanket of stars on a clear night. I love the way the wood fire heats my bones like no other source of heat. I could just as easily be saying that I’m thankful for those things, but I think being thankful is a little different than loving or appreciating something. I can be thankful for a gift, but I may not actually love the gift. It seems important to me not to trivialize love. Love may even be the greatest gift of all.
I also love summer and fall. I enjoy spring with the plants, and some of the animals, awakening and the birds returning, but I’m not sure I love it. I always feel a little longing for my hibernation, wanting more time to accomplish the too long list of things I assigned to myself. But that doesn’t last long. Soon, I’m getting my fingers in the dirt and watching for every new blossom. Did I tell you that I love gardening? I love the way it connects me to my surroundings and relaxes me. I love the feel of the earth in my hands. Friends try to encourage me to wear gloves, and I probably should.
Sometimes I wear one glove, but eventually that gets pocketed with its mate or dropped randomly. I need to hold the dirt and rocks in my bare hand. I need the sensation on my skin. It soothes me. So, I save my gloves for the unforgiving thorns.
There’s no gardening outside for me now, so I have my indoor gardens. I have herbs in the kitchen window and window box including a huge rosemary and a Bay Laurel tree that I have had for many years. There is a Christmas cactus (actually a Halloween cactus), an African violet and a bromeliad in the bathroom. Then, upstairs in my room, I have a mix of flowers, herbs and ornamental plants. This summer I bought a pepper plant. I was told that, under the right conditions, it will actually grow peppers. I also decided to try keeping my lavender indoors this year. Although I’m not getting my hands in the dirt much, I’m pruning the dead leaves and picking them up off the dirt where they’ve fallen. I get to touch each plant as I water them. I love my huge windows with the east and south sun coming in for most of the day. I love the skylight that lets in even more light. I really love this room where I do most of my writing in its natural light, writing blog posts, memoirs and music.
When the outdoor gardens are sleeping, I spend much more time with my biggest love. You already must know that I love music. It’s the thing that has saved my life, time and time again. With more inside time, I rewrite and rearrange songs, write new ones and resurrect old ones too long forgotten. There are a couple of those assigned to this winter. Sometimes I work on instruments that have also been forgotten. Maybe I’ll even manage to do a new crankie roll in the next few months. Winter is also a time for me to go over all of the things I learned during the summer and fall at Summersongs, Falcon Ridge and NERFA and move my music forward a little more, working on my website, promo and honing the programs I offer to children. I will also be prepping for China. Oh yeah, I love that I’m going to China.
So, what do you love? I would really like to know the things others love. We may share similar things or very different things. We may find that one of us loves something that the other hates. Don’t you love people’s differences? I think that’s one of the things that makes life so interesting.
This is the only photo I have of my maternal grandparents. It was taken at my parents' wedding, before the reception, which apparently didn't turn out to be as beautiful as it should have been due to my grandfather's drinking.
Every year, on November 1st, I find myself thinking of people in my life who have passed on. Last year, a former partner of 20 years passed. This year, I gave a homeless man some money and found myself thinking about my maternal grandfather. As far as I know, I never met him and know very little about him. My mother never wanted to talk about him, but one day she shared some difficult things with me that I’ve never forgotten. It also explained a lot of things about Mom and some of her behaviors and reactions.
Mom grew up in Hempstead, Long Island. Her mother was an Irish immigrant, traveling alone to Ellis Island when she was 18. I don’t know how she met my grandfather, but he was a settled U.S. resident and citizen. The only positive thing my mother ever told me about my grandfather was that he was a gardener, more of a small farmer, raising enough food to feed his family throughout the entire year. In addition to the two adults, there were four large and growing boys and my mother. My grandmother processed everything that he grew and they had enough left over to help out their neighbors. This was one reason they didn’t struggle during The Great Depression the way other families did. I learned to garden from my mother who learned from her father, so I feel some connection to him in that way.
The early part of Mom’s life with her dad were great. She adored him and loved go out to the garden where they worked together. However, when she started high school, her father stopped being a “closet” alcoholic and became the “town drunk.” I don’t remember the context of our conversation, but one day Mom told me about her relationship with him during and after high school. She confessed that she was always afraid to go out in public in the evenings for fear that she and her friends would accidentally run into him. She never brought friends home because of the same embarrassment. She also confessed that every night, after stumbling home at around 3 or 4 am, he would sit on the edge of her bed and cry about what a terrible man he was. I suppose it could have been much worse but for her, it was bad enough. According to my mother, he eventually died (literally) in the gutter. That was the only time she ever talked to me about him. Whenever I asked, she would always reply, “There’s no sense in talking about it anymore. I’ve put it all behind me.”
When she told me that story, it explained why, when visiting me in Oregon, she was horrified that all of the homeless people knew me and my family. I tried to explain that we were street musicians (buskers) and often met them in the park during our lunch break. She didn’t want to hear it and gave me no chance to tell her the whole story. My husband had left an abusive home when he was 14 years old, living on the streets until I met him at 18-years old. He and I hitchhiked across the country, having a very hard but grand adventure. We depended on the kindness of strangers and felt compelled to repay that kindness to others in need. We always picked up hitchhikers and gave travelers a place to stay when they needed it, often donating warm clothes to them.
We taught our children to be understanding and respectful of people who seemed different, whether they were homeless, disabled or of another race or sexuality. When we played at the market in Portland, if I packed too much food, our kids would often share their lunch with the homeless men in the park. This kindness was repayed to me by these same men at a time of need when I was stranded downtown with two small children and volcanic ash falling around us. That day, they pooled all of the money they had collected that day and gave it to me so that we could go into a cafe and escape the ash.
I will never know what demons my grandfather couldn't face or what trauma he suffered in his lifetime. I will probably know nothing about him except for my mother's disturbing memories, but I can take solace in the fact that I care about every human and try to help out when I can. I have loved men who could easily have gone that way and knew it. They both gave generously to the homeless for that reason, probably hoping that, if it ever came down to that, they were building up their good karma. I have always admired that.
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