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

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

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

Faith in a Seed

You may be familiar with Henry David Thoreau’s classic, Walden: A year in the Woods, but how many have heard of Faith in a Seed?

The title itself is something of an enigma. What is the object of the sentence? Who is holding this faith? Is it is or the speaker observing the seed and having faith that it will grow into a large, productive plant. The faith is in the abundant corn, the acorn multitudes or sheafs of kale stacked high.

What do a guitar and a metal detector have in common?

I have this guitar…

15-501 is the road that runs from South Carolina to Virginia, cutting through the Piedmont, passing through and connecting Durham and Roxboro. You can count on it being cleared off snow quickly. Remember when we could count on snow?

A few months ago, I spotted this six string Alvarez guitar when passing a roadside yard sale and stopped even though I was already late for my Tai Chi and pushing hands class. A teenager minding the sale told me his father was a pastor and the guitar was $20. I bought it and continued my drive to class.

I’ve played it very infrequently. I don’t like the feel of steel versus my usual nylon strings. Nylon offers more ease. Any suggestions for nylon string brands to try that are easiest to play?

It too a while to get awesome neighbors who stayed in the duplex next door. Serah and Alesia are in our lives and hearts even a year or so after the landlords converted the duplex into an air b and b.

Now there are lots of new faces next door and more dog poop around, too.

I met Charlie standing with his dog Arlo when I was taking out the trash on a cold evening three weeks ago. Nod. Howzit going? We were soon talking about music and telling each other about our respective projects. Charlie recently put out a record on bandcamp called atonal apples.

After talking for about 30 minutes, I went back inside and got the $20 Alvarez which I loaned to Charlie.

My wife is engaged in a dispute with the landlords next door about the location of the property line we share. My wife and I have thought the line ran through the middle of a driveway between out house and the duplex and the landlords thing the driveway is entirely on their side. The online country tax maps seem to support their claim, but we are convinced we will find a metal stake in the middle of the driveway. Lanya posted a request for metal detection services on her online swap group.

John came out the following Saturday. He was eager to try out a new detector he got recently. We hit it off — I really enjoyed spending time with John and we made a connection. He gut a signal in the middle of the driveway and after digging found the bright neon orange flag tape but didn’t find a pin.

We chatted as he prepared to leave. John came back from his truck carrying his old detector which he offered to me. I was so touched I immediately asked him if he played guitar. When her said his cousin did, I offered him the Alvarez.

He seemed genuinely appreciative. Then I remembered that Charlie had it and said I’d get the guitar to him in a month or so.

$20 well spent.