reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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i am an artist. [two artists tuesday]

i read it on a thread. someone commented to an author i follow. “never be shy about your work,” she encouraged. i took a screenshot.

never be shy about your work.

humility is a virtue, we are taught. desiderata reminds us, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” always.

but somewhere in there – in the spectrum between meekness and arrogance – is the space to be proud of what you do, to stand in it, to share it.

“what do you do?” people ask. many people can answer that in a word. as artists, it often takes a paragraph, all run-on sentences with no breath so as not to get that lost-in-space glazed look on the asker’s face.

when i broke both of my wrists, the medical staff wrapped up both of them, casting and explaining the possible ramifications of the breaks “at my age”. when i fell the second time on a wet floor and re-injured my right wrist to the point of it having a frighteningly small amount of range of motion, the specialists asked questions and each politely said, “i heard you play the piano” as if i sat around noodling, surrounded by porcelain figurines and teacups, playing chopin-light or maybe little easy-piano-pop-hits. i was literally hesitant (!) to speak and qualified my statement-to-come by saying, “i’m not saying this to be self-aggrandizing, but….” and then i continued, “but because it’s a fact that i have 15 albums out in the world and piano is my major instrument and this could change my life work.”

those specialists had no qualms about saying they were specialists. none. i wondered why i hesitated, why i was apologetic.

never be shy about your work.

i have worked hard in my area of specialty. i have struggled like any artist, have written on scraps of paper and flimsy napkins, have squeezed out time in-between everything else that takes time, have stood in the rain playing and singing on flatbeds, have lugged boxes and boxes and boxes of cds. i have also sold thousands and thousands of albums and have millions of streams. it doesn’t equate to any kind of riches except the kind that is the deep satisfaction of doing something you love.

i used to be much more aggressive – and assertive – about “getting the word out” about my music. though i recognize that vocal styles come and go, instrumental piano is not irrelevant…it has no shelf life. it’s just as peaceful and evocative today as the days i composed it, the days i recorded it. so that would mean that 14 of these 15 albums still have some sales merit, not just the $.000079 cent so “generously” royaltied by online streaming.

never be shy about your work.

in the last church position i held, i was in a meeting with two of the leaders. they were streaming the services and i was commenting on the level of professionalism we needed to try to achieve. i wasn’t willing to link my personal and professional social media to this online streaming until the sound quality (in particular) was indeed much better. one of the leaders stared at me, clear disdain on his face, and told me he had no idea why i would say such a thing or hold such a stance. i explained that i am a yamaha artist and that only PART of my work in the world was the job (which he deliberately pointed out was part-time) i had at that place. for the umbrella of my life i was an artist and that i have always strived to bring the best quality to my work. i told him that it was important to me to make sure that nothing i did musically in the public arena was schlocky (including at that place) and that, as a yamaha artist with fifteen albums, i would hold to my position of not-sharing until there was something more professional to share. i would not undermine my own artistry because mediocrity was ok with him.

never be shy about your work.

he – eventually – found a way to fire me. in the deep dark cloak of covid. with no one really knowing why, including me. well, except, maybe, for retaliation. que sera.

never be shy about your work.

i am proud of the albums that will eventually find their way into antique stores around the country. i see them on resale sites now.

but i also know that – from time to time – someone writes to me. and in their writing they tell me that my music has meant something to them. my music has helped them, given them a sense of serenity, made them think, made them dance.

and that is what counts.

so before the vintage-store-influx i guess it’s my job now to not be shy.

i am a composer. i am a pianist. i am a singer-songwriter and recording artist. i am a writer. i love being on stage, telling stories, playing music. i love the feel of wood under my feet, a boom mic in front of me. i have fifteen albums and a few singles. i’m researching how to get more out of pandora and itunes and all the streaming devices out there. i’m 63 but i’m thinking i might still be relevant. i may need your help because no one gets anywhere in a tiny bubble; no one walks this path alone.

i’m pulling up my not-shy-boots.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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ten thousand wishes. [two artists tuesday]

“it is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” (mary oliver)

really, truly exquisite. the last few mornings have been exquisite. we woke up early-early on saturday and sunday morning, nowhere to be, sat and sipped coffee and listened to the quiet world outside. our impulse was to be home, to read together, to write, to go slow, to exercise in the basement, to sit on the deck and watch the birds, the squirrels and the chipmunks, to cook good meals. we felt no need to go anywhere. instead, feeling the sun and breathing in a cool breeze, we reveled in the staying-here.

as headlines point out, the pandemic is heating up. again. the prediction that there will be 300,000 diagnosed daily in mid-august is stunning. so much sickness, so much loss. we feel fortunate to be vaccinated and we are dedicated to continued safe practices. we want at least ten thousand more exquisite mornings, at least ten thousand more days, ten thousand more sleeps. to sacrifice now, we feel, is to bestow upon ourselves a chance at those ten thousand wishes. it IS a serious thing just to be alive. and, even in moments of taking it for granted, we don’t take it for granted.

if i could find a four-leaf clover or blow the puffball off a dandelion or spot a shooting star or spy a haywagon from the back, i would issue a hope for each of us to recognize the gloriousness of this very day, each very-day. to stand in responsibility for each other and to seriously choose to mend the tiniest piece of this broken world for the rest. to stitch together the biggest quilt honoring the inhabitants of this good earth, each thread an acknowledgement of gratitude, each piece of fabric a choice to take care of each other, to live in community the best we can, to do everything possible to keep each other healthy.

just to be alive in this broken world takes some chutzpah. sacrificing for the whole takes some humility. bowing to safety guidelines in a pandemic takes some love.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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the wisdom of the white trout lily. [merely-a-thought monday]

when my big brother died, i was lost in a maelstrom of emotion. it was hard for me to wrap my head around how the world would go on at a point he could no longer feel it. it wasn’t like i hadn’t experienced loss before. at that point in my life, i no longer had any of my grandparents present on this earth with me. that just felt like a more natural thing – to lose those we love who are elderly, who have lived long and full lives. my beloved brother, on the other hand, was merely 41 and there were so many hopes and dreams he still had for himself and his family. i am still struck by the fact that the world does, indeed, go on. the sun rises and sets; the moon lingers in the night sky. and my question, both existential and somewhat obvious, remains unanswered: how it can go on if he can’t feel it anymore. how it will go on – someday – if i can’t feel it anymore.

at some point a few years ago, i played for a memorial service at a synagogue. one of the meditations before kaddish made me weep. penned by merrit malloy, it reads: “when i die give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. and if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. and when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. i want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. look for me in the people i’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind. you can love me best by letting hands touch hands and by letting go of children that need to be free. love doesn’t die, people do. so when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.”

the white trout lily humbly bows on the forest floor. much like people, though on a different scale, their presence is ephemeral, fleeting. on sunny days, their petals will curl back, up, towards the sun; on shady days these small flowers may not even open. their simple beauty a mystery to the passerby, their faces shyly downward, they fill the underbrush on the side of the trail, dotting the landscape with fragile white blooms. i trust they are not concerned with the impact they make on the world nor do they wonder about their footprints once they are gone. they are simply there – love – dressed in white floral.

as we have moved through the pandemic and the devastating myriad of even just this past year, it is inevitable to think of all the loss, the loved ones who have died, the families and concentric circles left behind in grief, questioning. it is also – yes – a reminder that we are still here.

my dear friend sent me a link to a new york times op ed by charles blow. she drew my attention to the last line, words of perfection: “when i am gone, and people remember my name, i want some of them to smile.”

yes.

that.

smile. and give me away.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY



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the bow. [k.s. friday]

the bow: sculpture – duke kruse **

at the very end of a concert, out on the apron of the wooden stage, as close up and personal as can be from a proscenium, head tucked down and adrenaline coursing through your body, the final bow is sheer gratitude. it is a humble thank-you. it is an exhilarating release. it is a moment when time dissipates into slow-motion and suddenly you realize that it is over. it is full of you-are-exactly-where-you-are-supposed-to-be. it never ceases to amaze me. and then, it is the moment to tuck back behind the curtain, head to the green room, breathe a prayer of thanks, and start the running review in your mind’s eye.

it matters not the size of the audience. a few people in folding chairs, a park filled with thirty-thousand, a few hundred seated in upholstered comfort. you bring the same program, the same dedication, the same commitment to your art, no matter how many people are there. the give and take of audience energy makes a difference, yes, but any performing artist can tell you that delivering the work is the same, regardless. one must actually work harder with a smaller audience.

you can feel it. the minutes your delivery resonates. you can feel it. the minutes you know you need to rapidly move on, change the course. you can feel it. in the perfect pause between lines of a story you tell, laughter waiting in the wings. you can feel it. the heart of a story falling into the hearts of those gathered to watch. it is a dialogue without dialogue and your bow at the end of the concert acknowledges their participation in it.

i would say that the things i miss most about the-job-i-no-longer-have are those moments of resonance, the moments that don’t find a place in a job description, the moments that cannot be measured. they are the moments birthed through expansive experience, through study, through empathy, through intuition, through gifts given to you that have no names, no deservedness; instead, just the compelling imperative to be used.

the times in the choir room when, in the middle of starting to rehearse a piece of music, a story surfaces and i must tell it. that laughter opens everyone; the piece of music has four-part heart. the times when i direct others performing together, joy on their faces, their breathing different because of that which they have created together, that which we have rehearsed together, the spirit which we have sown in the music. the times in the chancel, in the middle of a particularly poignant song, standing at the piano and singing into the boom mic, glancing at jim playing guitar and singing harmony and telling him with my eyes to make another go-round, looking out into the gathering, eye contact, and seeing the song fall upon them, touch them, engage them, speak to them, tug at them. those are moments when music connects faith-dots, moments of doing the work, moments of shaping a journey, moments in which i bow internally to that which guides me.

there have been many: many prosceniums, many aprons, many black boxes, many chancels, many flatbeds, the floors of wholesale, retail, television studios, the creaking floor under my piano, the patio out back. they each bid to the imperative. they each elicit my gratitude.

the stage echoes under my boots. as i walk to the center, take the bench at the piano, place my hands on the keys and my face up close to the mic, it is always with great anticipation. it is the culmination of planning, designing, writing, practicing, rehearsing. it is lighting and sound and balance. it is storytelling through song with lyrics, through song without lyrics, through song without music or lyrics, through narrative and through rests. it is the forerunner of a deep bow i will hold onto until the next time.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

listen to music – bow included – in my little corner of iTUNES

** this stunning sculpture’s home is next to my piano in my studio


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the icefall. [two artists tuesday]

ice castle 1 copy

the icefall was in front of us.  we had our crampons on and the ropes were secured.  ladders were stretched across the crevasses and we had weighty backpacks filled with dehydrated food, protein bars and water.  we were ready.

ha!  in our dreams.

we climb mount everest regularly.  now, don’t get all particular about whether this is literal or not.  i am a giant fan of all-things-everest so we lose our breath watching others climb on video clips, movies, in books.  we are soooo there.  but, no, not really THERE.

i can’t imagine climbing everest actually.  the perils, the training, the cold, the cost, the crowds (!) all point to the fact that i won’t be climbing everest.  but we can climb other mountains, literal and figurative, and stand at the summit shooting selfies with a triumphant expression, realizing a dream.  on our way back down we pass others on the way up; some linger on the ropes, unable to move.  we offer encouraging words, but, in our conquest, we have already forgotten what it felt like to hang, even momentarily, on the rope, paralyzed.

we all have icefalls in front of us.  they are insurmountable.  they are surmountable.   perhaps some crampons, ropes, ladders and a backpack filled with food and water will help.  believing we can realize a dream, overcome an obstacle is the first step.

and, even more,  remembering that bit of humility toward others, vulnerable on their way up while we are on our victorious way back down.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

icefall website box

 

 

 

 

 


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for the new year. [merely a thought monday]

NYE copy

on this day, the last day of 2018, i am deeply humbled and perspective-arranged reading the attached and feel that there is no way i could possibly add any wisdom or profound emotion to it – it is all there.   please.  read this writing:  A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY A THOUGHT MONDAY

trinitychristmasphoto website box