Friday, December 04, 2015

Get Off the Boat

So very very dark. 

Decades have been spent on this very white prow.
Pulling, heaving, gasping, weeping. 

You can’t remember when you arrived. It seems you have always been here. It felt once like the right thing to do - get on, go. That’s what you heard.

You should! they declared. 
You’d better! they quipped.  
Why wouldn't you? they dared.  

This massive ship, this heavy heaving hulking mass - it has carried you for a very long time. You were up for this journey, for a long time. You trusted this boat to churn in a solid direction, for a long time. You expected to arrive, for a long time.

Early on you realized the ship was only drifting. 
Aimless. Non-directional.

Do-or-die focus: Steer the ship.

The marine steering wheel - broken. Turn and turn and turn, push and pull and strain and cry. It's a useless empty-iris eye that taunts you with its barely-there night-glimmer.

It’s only the splintered mast, one long pole upon which no sail ever flew, and you, dipping it over the edge, again. Again. Again.

Is the ship shifting? You’re putting in the effort. You feel the stress and strain coursing through every vein, feel it in every pore. Clouds pass over head, big fluffy creatures or endless woolen blankets, the sole accompaniment on this journey.

It’s always been night here. Always dark. Where is the moon? Faint stars have never illuminated a way - the distance is dark blue and empty, so dark you could be coming up on something and not know it. 

Below you can just barely make out the waves. Harsh-soft silence. Up and down, up and down, sometimes in quick succession, sometimes in almost-undetectable slow motion. Always the heaving.

Where are you going?
If you only knew. 

You chose this.
Yes, you did.
You just can’t remember why.


One day, tensed and muscled from years and years of hard physical labor as the sole attempter to change the ship’s direction -- 

One day, shredded and frayed from years and years of hard mental labor as both the inquisitor and the accused with no answers -- 

One day, tattered and hardened from years and years of hard spiritual labor as the doubter and almost-faithless -- 

It dawns on you.

You could.

The cold waves below! Surely leaving means death, a pulling under, a fatal swallowing. 

Up here, I have control. Up here, I can feel my way.

Or can I?

Use the ladder.
Or don’t.

You may have never been a sea / water person in the first place. You may have, all along, needed to feel terrain under your hands and feet.

What contract did you sign that mandated you stay here until your dying days, stay the course, suffer?


What if leaving the Trying was freedom? What if relaxing into the current took you exactly where you needed?

You decide.
You do it. 

Suddenly the churning below are not waves.
They’re soft deep purple blue velvet.

What you thought were weak stars reflected in the water are actually crystalline way-showers lit from below. “Step here,” they call out. “Follow us,” they call out. 

It is soft, warm, dry, and clear. The clouds part.

A silver sail you never saw before drifts away from the disintegrating ship. 
Airborne. Flying.

On it is an inscription faintly illuminated by moonlight:
“To arrive, you must first leave.” 

My small painting sits beside the bed as the Ultimate Reminder.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Blind Faith - Can't Find My Way Home
Related posts:
Inviting the Yeti

The Thing Behind the Thing
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — — for links to her monthly letter, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings. 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Sparks of July

The 4th of July is a highlighter of life chapters, a harbinger of exploding reminiscence.

A lot of fireworks at home - that's what the early 4th's in Colorado entail. My father and all the other fathers must have pillaged every stand for this showcase at yet another neighborhood block volleyball party. Boxes and bags emerge from the basement garage where the explosives had exponentially reproduced over the course of a year. Speeding flares, screaming rockets, buckets of sparklers, coiling black snakes. My Dad the Igniter. Oh the outdoor smells, the scent of new and old fire. 

Washington state 4th's are at the mountain home of my uncle where volleyball, food, and firework cavalcades routinely appear though we're surrounded by dry forest. Cousin numbers increase every year when you're on the upper end of this generation echelon. One year, uncool me in my black and green. Another year, skinny me in my red and white. Attempting to mingle but still holding back, even among family. Us the out-of-towners, just slightly removed, until we're there again for another short-visit vacation. These childhood holidays might be the most free 4th of July's ever.

I'm in the recording studio with my harp. It is plush dark. The mics are very very close and I feel horrifically exposed. Oddly, I also feel held and safe, and giddy about what might happen. I've been granted entire days to get down my ideas, to listen back to my creations, to hone what I hear and believe in, AND I'm painfully aware I've not prepared enough for these moments - have I not taken myself seriously. He is patient in the control room; I am paying him, yes, and he also has other clients to serve this July, other musicians, other responsibilities. And it is falling apart, right under my fingers, falling away as it is back at home where I explained I need to go do this on my own. Have I really earned the right to take up this space? Listening back years later I hear the angst in my notes, the desire for Different. I also hear what could have only been born there, then, in those very moments of quiet consternation. I hear what tension birthed, I hear my heart speaking without words. This might be the most pivotal 4th of July ever.

The stoneyard is a perfect place for downtown firework viewing and for endless tabled rows of family-made food. The invitations to this event always stretch far and wide, so in a way I shouldn't be surprised to hear my name and see him in this context - oh DID he marry her - a relic from another time deposited right here in the copper dust at my feet. I scour for vegetarian bits among platters of charred meat - I search for water among the coolers of bottled alcohol and sugar. Maybe I don't belong here, but I know how to be here. We'll keep the tradition of grabbing a cream dessert at the restaurant next door to wait out the ant-lines of cars and trucks streaming back into the suburbs. It's as much about avoiding unnecessary accidents inflicted by others as it is about buying time for my driver's repeat beer over-consumption buzz to fade. Stirred-too-hard cream fruit dessert is both my body and soul nourishment. These might be the most unsettling 4th of July's ever.

We've traveled hours to the river for a small town parade-peformance and are quite a pair, females dressed blue and red sequins with red-white-blue streamers in at least her hair, one of us liberal with the makeup and the other conservative. In everyday life, no one would peg us as sisters, but in these get-ups, they immediately do. We've already done the pool party where it's clear we don't know how to act. We hide away in the second-story guest house for brainstorming sessions, walk around town to escape laptop-laden air, and then get ready in the white-tent dressing room, one of us gearing up for the headline onstage performance while the other captures significant moments on camera because her costume allows her free pass access. The softness of the night is alive with lights and color and bustling people and there is comfort in our not knowing anyone here. Though we stand out like glittering beacons among shorts-and-sandals families who've created long lawn-chair lineups, they don't really know us, no, not really. This is a culmination of my efforts to put everything on the line for a life turnaround, and it sparkles now like the fireworks over the wide river water - here we are, both known and unknown, bound and released by music. I'm humbled by the thought that this might be the best 4th of July ever.

A parking lot feud, a hot screaming-threat scene straight out of a TV drama. The cops are called, the rights are explained, and the flaming parting of ways leaves me to gather my wits so I can attend, without tainting, a family backyard barbecue. Later, unbeknownst to everyone, I return to the scene, attempt to act rational, find words that do not incite, squelch squelch squelch, and insidiously lay the groundwork that will prevent another blowout and ease us into next steps I don't want. Thus the decision is made - it is over. Without foundations, time cannot grant improvement - in my dismay I see there is no desire for different. It has to change or it has to go. I leave for intense inner work, conduct the business from five states away, and return to both Empty and New. Begin again. This might be the darkest 4th of July ever.

Sitting alone on this multi-peaked rooftop, in my heart I know I should love this being above, beyond, alight. In a way, no one knows where I am, and I can see everything from here - the fireworks in the distance, the natural firefly light-blink in the not-too-distant tree lines, the cars below hyped up on July 4 speed-noise adrenaline and who knows what else. I can't hear the symphonic music, and I can't grasp having chosen that over this, and as much as I want to lie down right here and go to sleep, these tears won't let me. I know they mean something isn't good, I know this situation is a sign, but I can't see the shape or the shadow, I can't put my finger on it. I want to be up there, riding the bursts, shooting in a definite direction, not in the seemingly perfect temporary-quiet that is here. I want to feel cared for. I want to feel on fire rather than damped-out kick-boot ash-covered alone. I know I can shine, not be in shadow. This burning has a place, and I want to fly. Up and from the roof, right out of here. This might be the most confusing 4th of July ever.

Flying all day across the country, the snow-capped mountains looming just outside the window, the slow-move peaks are promising adventure and release. We're high on and exhausted by the time and distance - we land and load a good meal before huddling in our light weather gear on a windy crowded bridge with a throng of locals. It's the beginning of our grand west coast adventure, and the fireworks are very far off in the distance over the Willamette River. Hikes, ocean, camping, and donuts are on the long list of Must-Do's. We can't really see the color bursts, but delight in knowing they are there - they are scatter-quick borders of an illustration that has already started to be carefully colored in. This is it, but isn't really it - there's assuredly more. We are excited and hopeful, looking for signs about what this trip means for us, to us, about us. This might be the most hopeful 4th of July ever.

Alone again, but welcomed to the small gathering of long-time family friends, the excellent food is offered just outside the remodeled home by those modeling the healthiest of partnerships. The intelligent conversation turns to education, and education reform, and what is best for kids in a world where teachers and parents are more out of touch than they've ever been. I surprise myself with my outspokenness: I have opinions and can communicate them. Driving home in the new car, the moonroof open, the fireworks are THERE! Just above! It's too dangerous to stop along this winding country road where a few days prior the police posted No Parking placards. A church driveway is nearby, the car swerves precariously 180 degrees to face the river. I want to jump through the roof, touch the sky, but instead I steady myself with elbow-roof propping and barefoot-tiptoe standing on new seats. Never before have I seen fireworks so close, and they are loud and booming and beautiful and stark against the clear and perfect night sky, coaxing an answer to What Will Life Now Bring? So many unknowns. I think I know, and I know I don't. This might be the most enlightening 4th of July ever.

What does it mean to be free
Liberation. Freedom. Emancipation. Release.

Hey, baby, it's the 4th of July.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
X - Fourth of July
Paul McCartney - Fourth of July
Ani Difranco - Independence Day
Related posts:
My House is For Sale

Sense of Place
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — — for links to her monthly newsletter, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Freedom is Another Word

Here's what I remember: We almost miss the winding gravel driveway leading up to the dream place - 60 acres of quiet open airy light. We pass an ancient building that makes us wonder if we have the right address. We're not really sure what we're in for, yet we're starved for it.

They live at the top of a hill in a perfect small contemporary rectangular box whose entire south wall is floor-to-ceiling windows. The kitchen is deliciously tiny with artisan pottery that on its underside may have fingerprints permanently embedded with fire and glaze. The uber-efficient washer and dryer are corner-stacked in a hidden closet beside only-essential clothing. The sleeping loft is cozy with handmade quilts piled on one mattress that's positioned perfectly beneath a low-angled ceiling. A black grand piano, on which both jazz and classical books lie open, looks out onto the garden space with sculpture, wildflowers, and vegetables that are beginning to fade in the North Carolina autumn sun. A giant pyramid trellis tall enough to walk under and through supports hefty vines that arch up and over, leaving gigantic squash to hang like Christmas ornaments.

All photos: here

They work in a larger building across the pine tree bordered yard. Rough-hewn wood and white rooms open to a two-story-tall communal space. There are more floor-to-ceiling windows, a humble kitchen, a sturdy long exposed staircase, a pottery room, upstairs bedrooms with skylights and tight-weave wool carpet, and a gigantic bathtub. A real fireplace calls for newly chopped wood, and a cozy sofa and chairs are piled nearby. On a grey and rainy day they come home, light a fire, get quiet and warm. The lights are dim. They hardly speak. Settling into a U-shaped workstation that's wide enough both can sit and type, each works independently on what's personally important.

For dinner, the daily menu doesn't change - meat, greens, quinoa - because planned simplicity leaves time and space to do the creative good work. TV is minimal unless it's about art, and work is left behind when they head to the house for true rest.

They want an artists' colony on this property with studios for others to do their work. Focused time and energy has been channeled into creating quiet but powerful personal, artistic, and environmental impact. Right now, it's the perfect setup for performances. People sit on the floor and on the staircase, close enough there is no separation between performer and audience. The invitees feel at home in more ways than one. We sell out here, similarly but different when compared to other venues, in ticket sales and almost in merchandise.

And I can't quite celebrate. We are tired and drained and tense. While everything about this place is a dream come true, I can't seem to fully enjoy it. Matters weigh heavy enough that life and light is being pressed right out of my being. This dichotomy hurts - I love it here, AND I'm reminded my own life is nothing like this.

One morning, while all are out, I learn no one will return until later that eve.

Suddenly I feel a rush through my veins. I'm here by myself. For hours. Left behind? Yes. Isn't that delicious?!? Absolute ELATION. I am ALONE. I can take up space, IN this space. I'm irritated that my legs cannot better support my thunder-running through the gardens and down the hills, cackle-laughing loud and wild, giddy as a child. The massive dogs are suspiciously quiet, at peace more than I've ever seen them. No other human is around to hear me. I want to cry. So much to explore, on my own time, in my own way.

How can I have more of this.
How can I have more of this.
How can I have more of this.

This level of elation might mean my recent history ratio of saying yes/no - more/less - has been very dangerously off.

I'm going to get more of this.

So many hours, days, years filled with worry and stress to the point of un-seeing.

When I get quiet like this I so much easier feel love.

It's possible - the getting closer. Not at all in an expected or preferred way. Who would have chosen this crazy roundabout path?

Who would have thought the art of late-night panic-planning and cramped power-pavement travel littered with snack-attack foodstuffs would lead to the art of passive solar light space, quiet moments, solitariness, undisturbed nature, and soft and steady creative flow? Who would have thought that systematic, electronic, sequined stardom would lead to unfurling, natural, communal impact? That externals would lead to internals? The black would lead to light? Noise to quiet? Chaos to rest?

Freedom is... an experience felt as our nature shines forth, unburdened, unattached... (Kate Potter)

A day suddenly becomes delicious. Freedom might be a split-second away - a flip of a switch, a bat of a lash, another run-step toward the light.

We don't know how optimum the path is until it's behind us. Often, despite everything, we arrive anyway.

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Trista Hill is a professional harpist and fine artist, creativity coach, educator in the arts, and Board-Certified Music Therapist. What her formal degrees in music and art gave her pale in comparsion to the gifts she's experienced in working with creatives just like you. Visit her website — — for links to her blog, performances, and other fantastical creative offerings.