Beginning & COVID-19

We’re living in the beginning of the time of the Corona virus and I had my first performance gig in seven or eight years last night. It was such a high experience: I felt like I was fulfilling my soul purpose. And I’m afraid at the same time.

Earlier in the day I left early on the bus from Raleigh where I work to Durham where we live. We were advised to work from home if possible and this may be how things are for a while. When I got home I just had time to change and briefly chat with Lanya and the boys before loading the car. I drive the 25 minutes to Chapel Hill where the venue, Imbibe, is located.

It was easy to find parking and the traffic was light. UNC-Chapel Hill was in during break and administrators were asking students to stay home. I was feeling nervous in a bad way about the sudden awareness that I was in the early stages of wheat was going to get bad. I was feeling nervous in a good way about the gig.

Brian and Lexy were already there and set up the PA. They play together in Neville’s Quarter and had invited me to join for this Tuesday’s Songwriter’s Night.

Imbibe serves Cajun food and has a Mardi Gras vibe in it’s decor. Is that a stack of canning jars awaiting labels on the back table? I ordered a beer and met Bryan Toney the singer-songwriter from Greensboro who was playing too. I extended my hand and withdrew it quickly when I remembered all of a sudden. Elbow bump.

We watched Neville’s Quarter together and I was appreciating the feeling of positivity. Like detoxing from fear. I was up next.

After the briefest of soundchecks, I was in it. I took a deep breath. I imagined a night time fire. I reached for a shamanic experience. I felt really on. Even as I made mistakes, they were small beside the enveloping feeling of being in the flow.

I talked between songs about playing around a fire. One of the wait staff approached me later to let me know that the image had stuck. And when I mentioned that I am Orange is my psychedelic song and with be engaged by eating mushrooms, a trio — I assumed to be a father and daughters — left soon afterwards. A gregarious fellow in a tie-dye encouraged my harmonica playing. Audrey Lorde, Paul Gruchow, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti made appearances and the set ended with a cover of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

Afterwards, I reached for Brian’s elbow and told him how much the evening meant to me. First time playing out in 7 years and it was sweeeeeeeetness. And I’m also afraid at the same time.

Looking up

Last Saturday when arriving home in Durham, Ari pointed out Orion’s belt was missing a star. When I looked after closing the car door, sure enough, only two of the three were visible. Must be a cloud.

Last week I saw two shows: Alice Osborne playing at Kababish and OM at Motorco.

Ari and I kept looking at Orion imagining the belt, the bow, in the cool air. Then I pressed the button on the car fun and we crunched through the leaves and into the warm house together.

Alice is president of the N.C. Songwriter’s Coop and has been a strong and encouraging presence. I see her everywhere: bushing, open mics, Songwriter’s Circles. Look up and she’s there. I picked up Alice’s card at the Kababish gig and am looking at it now. Americana, Folk, Singer-songwriter.

Everybody was taller than me at Motorco and the place was packed. As Lanya and I made our way closer to the stage, I saw Emil getting himself and his drum kit ready for the show. The bouncer told me to wait. Emil drew back to take me in when we exchanged a few words. “20 years, huh?”, he said a couple of times. Later when OM was in their third or fourth song, the bouncer turned to me and said, “He can play. Ya boy can PLAY. We left not to long afterwards and picked up two OM stickers at the merch table in the back.

One day we may witness a bright light descending from the sky. If our intergalactic visitors don’t destroy us all immediately and they are sociologically curious, they may be utterly confused by out strange ways. Stoplights? Jobs? Pets? Ownership? And why don’t trees vote? I like to think that making music and creating accepting communities would be less mysterious. Of course they do that! Alice and Emil both are musical community organizers and the world is better for it.

The Foggy Day

It was a foggy morning today when I left the Durham bus station and also in Raleigh at the busy corner of Salisbury and Edenton Streets where the old Capitol building and the dumb Confederate monument sets. The fog had lifted just enough to show it still there, the perch for songbirds and terrible ideas. On a foggy day things feel muted and anticipatory. Something’s going to happen next.

Well, we’re in a cloud is one thing and clouds are there embodiment of change. Clouds in the sky or coming out of your mouth on a cold day are change incarnate, announcing: something different is on the way.

Do wild animals do Tai Chi? is a question I recently posted to the Tai Chi for Health group. Da Wi shared a lengthy post that represented the animals-as-inspiration theme where the practice develops by watching their moves and behaviors. Damn Marino’s response was representing the animals-are-doing-Tai-Chi thinking: Tai Chi is an alignment with nature and wild things, well, have that down pat.

One of the challenges in my Tai Chi practice is to resist anticipation. The visualizing, the positioning, the muscular tension of The Next Move. Responsiveness, a supreme principle, is a coupling of myself and everything else, so complete that the distinction becomes fuzzy. I suspect that animals — and plants for that matter — have that down pat, too.

We attach less meaning to fog than other clouds. In the middle of it, we adopt it’s essential quiet and promise that things will be different soon. Ok with the fuzziness and that most basic of rules: what goes up, must come down.

“I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethoughts of grief” from The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

Songs of the Tao Te Ching