Sunday, October 30, 2011

Prepared or Paranoid?

** For an entire month this Fall (2011), Deborah Henson-Conant and I threw ourselves into a joint traveling adventure of performances, workshops, and the ongoing development / implementation of fantastical ideas and dreams. **

It was 41 degrees Fahrenheit when I pulled the harp out of the car today.

This wasn't a surprise -- I was prepared for this outdoor wedding, unlike the other one.  It's why a huge heater was set up on the covered bridge and I had the prized seat right next to it.  And it's why my hands were cloaked in awesome fingerless gloves (thank you Tammy of Red Panty -- yeah, that's what I said!), and why I donned my big black coat over my dress clothes.  It's why the harp was tuned to itself and not to the digital perfection of a formal mechanism.

Prepared vs. panicking.  There is a fine line between being ready to meet head-on whatever might be thrown at you, and having so many "just in case" resources available you're literally drowning in them.

Purge vs. pile.  I won't say what was which & when during the tour, I'll just lay out the facts.  The van was stuffed with possibility -- interpret that as you like.  We lost many items in it, and gleefully and repeatedly "found" others.  We unexpectedly "gifted" items in random places.  When we sold out of product *twice* at the same show, raking in more $$ than ever thought possible, high-speed high-heeled black boot sprinting after intermission yielded quickly-replenished stock.  When a venue's sound system wound up being unable to handle a Camac 32-string "DHC" electric harp accompanied by looping and distortion pedals, we had a thoroughly road-tested Fishman "Loudbox" amplifier and Fishman SA220 (Solo Professional system) we could set up in minutes that more than fit the bill.

We had bags of food supplies, including dozens of containers in which to store what we didn't throw out (fermenting bananas and apples, anyone?).  We left one back seat in the van for napping, but never had time nor the space to use it that way; instead, it became the home of the SKB.  At the beginning of the tour, we were overwhelmed.  By the end of the tour, we had a system and a process.  We had both mess and perfection.

That isn't to say we didn't occasionally slide into terror over what was (not) happening.  Why do each of our fifty thousand maps tell us to go a completely different way? Why are all the doors we so crucially need to pass through right now hopelessly locked? Where is the pre-prepared promised food when we're famished? Why, when tired and halfway hungry at the foot of the mountains, the very last peach yogurt we saved tastes "like a blanket"?

Sometimes, you have no choice to go in trusting you will have exactly what you need, at exactly the right time.  You find the apple knife.  You locate the third hand-held recorder and there's room on it for another brief but imperative documentary.  You are stuck on the floor and Trista both gets it on video AND helps you up.

Sometimes, the "Do Not Enter" is exactly the place you must go.

You go in cold.  You come out warmed by knowing, hey, that was a temporary hell, but it all worked out.  Again.

Other tour posts (in non-chronological order):
Firsts -- How the Tour Began
Sense of Place

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Another imperfect post, this time accompanied by:
Vampire Weekend's "Giving Up the Gun"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Firsts -- How the Tour Began

For an entire month this Fall (2011), Deborah Henson-Conant and I threw ourselves into a joint traveling adventure of performances, workshops, and the ongoing development / implementation of fantastical ideas and dreams.

Very early on an uncloudy day, I was dropped off at the airport to catch a flight to Boston.  I was to play with Deborah Henson-Conant and Katya Hermann at the Regent Theater that afternoon, as a sort of kick-off to the month-long fall tour that DHC and I were embarking on together.

And then I got stuck in the airport for over twelve hours under clear unfettered skies.

I chose a sunny window spot to camp out with my new Mac laptop, my snacks (almonds, raw raisin oatmeal cookies, chocolate), and my journal.  Fine, I thought, I'll use this time to catch up on all I said I would do but conveniently haven't.   

I dove in with zeal, not accounting for eye strain as a result of staring at the computer too long, nor for feeling sick after eating only said snacks, nor for being just plain frustrated that there had been so much anxious preparatory buildup to this tour and I still hadn't even left the ground.

And then, slowly, it became a day of Firsts.

It was the first 25th of September in many years I didn't feel a painful simmering anniversary ache.

It was the first official mention of being "a harpist on tour" and it yielded me complimentary cabfare from the Boston airport to DHC's.

It was the first tour veggie sandwich I admitted I needed, which became the signature staple go-to meal for both DHC and I for the next 30 days.

It was the first time of many on the tour that I held the contradictory -- or dichotomous? -- thought that my current situation was incredibly insane and perfectly fine.

It was the first time I consciously and clear-headedly asked for help and support.  I composed a message to everyone I knew and invited them to sign up for my newsletter, and provided ways they could contribute to this adventure if it felt right.  Stepping out into the belief that I was not alone, that people might be interested in what I was doing, especially while stuck for hours on end by myself in the airport, felt both bold and stupid.  And worth trying.

And people responded.  They sent me notes, they sent me money, they sent me pictures, they sent me blessings.  They bought my handmade items, they signed up for something I wasn't sure I could follow through with, they shared my postings, they held the light while I stood on the shadowy shifting edge of the Unknown.

And I hadn't even left the ground yet.  (Thank you).

How will you step up and out today?

Another imperfect post, this time accompanied by:
Reverie, the new deliciously gritty basement-produced album by Joe Henry.  Link to NPR interview here  -- "and... this person who feels very alone starts imagining the expanse of the world outside of his small little encampment."
Other tour posts (in non-chronological order):

**** The tour schedule:
Sept 27 -- Fireworks workshop w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Pottstown, PA
Oct 1-2 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Denver, CO
Oct 4 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Liberal, KS
Oct 7-8 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Gallipolis, OH / Point Pleasant, WV
Oct 9 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Efland, NC
Oct 14 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Lake City, FL
Oct 16 -- Fireworks workshop w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Greensboro, NC
Oct 17 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, New Bern, NC
Oct 18-19 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Asheville, NC
Oct 20 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Waynesboro, PA
Oct 21 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Westminster, MD
Oct 23 -- w/ Deborah Henson-Conant, Clearfield, PA

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sense of Place

One thing I love about staying in five different places in one week is discovering how the morning sun shines in.

For as long as I can remember, my first step in visiting anywhere new was to venture out and explore the territory. Place is everything to me -- where am I? What is around me? Where am I in it?

I keep any space where I am neat and tidy, especially on the road. It's an outward expression of claiming sanity and order amidst chaos and confusion. When we moved to Ohio decades ago, I was convinced that there would be pockets of quicksand on our new-to-us six-acre property. Understanding that we were moving to a humid, high-foliage deciduous valley, I navigated the property to ensure my baby brother or father wouldn't accidentally fall into a pit of mire and be lost forever (apparently it was a male-only concern). By looking for quicksand, I found precious getaway spots I'd use for years to reclaim inner peace -- the playhouse, the streambed, the downed tree across the shale gnome house.

We moved to Ohio from Colorado, where I never found any quicksand, either. It's where I've spent the past five or so days and yesterday, Deborah Henson-Conant and I -- after our 3-day Kolacny Music (thank you, Dave and Debbie!) "residency" in Denver, Colorado -- drove through Franktown, where I had spent some very formative years.

I wasn't prepared for the flood of memories. There is Franktown Elementary School, brand new when we attended. There is the nondescript bus stop at the junction of Huckleberry and Ponderosa. There's where I attended a weird Halloween party where I felt the dark side of possibility. And there is where that boy lived that told me about.... yeah. There is where that snarling vicious German Shepherd was fenced-in. And there is that other person's house that had a small stream or pond and a tree in the middle of it, now a brick red with bright green trim. There are the pair of pine climbing trees that my sister and I claimed as our vertical escape hatches from the menagerie of daily childhood unfairness -- they were giants when we lived there, and now they are now only a hammock's width apart.

There is our house! Our HOUSE! Right there!

There are the dirt roads that we treacherously meandered down on our green and white girl bikes in an exhilarating rush of risk and speed. Together with our neighborhood friends we monopolized that space under the wide open blue sky. We claimed our voices and our bodies and our relationships with wild and reckless abandon. We sported a bravery in a pocket of Colorado that moved us beyond our years and Douglas county.

Oh that bursting of my heart! All the cold tears for how physical space and my relationship to it infuses who I am today. Oh that rushing of awareness that I created a new story when I moved from this space, one that I still wear in all its age and tatteredness. And the richest part of all -- the realization that parts of that story are no longer true, and other parts are so true they ring out as clear crystal gonging bells in my soul. Those are what I'm listening to now.

Today we travel to Liberal, Kansas for Deborah's show tonight. Travel + music + inner work = outer bliss.

Another imperfect post, this time accompanied by:
Heart of the Sunrise (Yes)
Wild Horses (Gino Vannelli)