Monday, November 4, 2019

Keeps Falling On My Head

I don't know that I always loved rain...  There is a lot of my childhood that has gone hiding and I find that there are certain details I don't often have.  I DO remember that while lightning was boomy and scary for its awesomeness, I don't know that I had a fear of it in general.  New Mexico is known for lightning, and south New Mexico is known for having some of the highest occurences of ground strikes.  So thunderstorms are common and nothing particularly unusual there.  In fact, thunder was often the quick harbinger of a big dump of rain.  One loud crack, and the sky would open up.  We'd get rain heavy enough to drop 2 inches inside of half an hour.  Drops spreading on the ground the size of tennis balls.  Unlike the PNW, standing in that kind of rain would soak you to the skin in seconds.  Very different experience.

I remember a time when I was in the basement watching TV during a storm, and heard the lightning strike on the ladder of the neighbor to the back.  It was propped against the house.  I don't know if YOU learned it, but I learned that you could count seconds between the flash and the thunder burst to get a rough idea of how far away the stike was.  There is something a little unnerving having the flash and the boom happen at exactly the same time.  Nobody was hurt.  Nothing damaged.  Just the sky needing a little release and taking advantage of a likely but unintended path.

As weather goes, rain was not something we saw a lot in Albuquerque.  We'd have what we call monsoon season in the spring, but generally the weather was hot and dry, so rain was a bit of a treat.  I still have memories of the petrichor. 

I do know that when I decided to leave New Mexico, I knew the PNW was the plan, and for all the rumors of rain and gloomy weather, I looked forward to it.  Part of the appeal became obvious long before we reached Seattle on the road trip up where everything started turning green the further away from NM we got.  I remember being amazed at the trees and the undergrowth.. and the lack of bare dirt. 

Bare dirt doesn't last long here.  I know this first hand this year having cleared parts of our flower bed, and watching anything and everything attempt to take root there.  In New Mexico, even dandelions struggle on unkempt soil, but here, it is easy to get the ground covered in all sorts of stuff.

As I appreciated the green, I appreciated the rain that fed the ecosystem.  And rain and clouds also mean cooler weather, which is something I've always cherished.  I'll take damp and cold over hot and sticky any day of the week.  So while I don't remember if I've always loved rain, I know definitively that I've always loved the rain and overcast weather in Seattle.  I realized as I got settled in that I have summer Seasonal Affective Disorder.  The heat and the bright sun really mess with me.  But the cool overcast days and the rain and the way the filtered light brings out the blues and greens I find to be delightful and happy-making.

So I like rain. :-) 

Monday, March 3, 2014

How does this piece go again??

So apparently I'm a musical performer now..  :-)  It's weird to say it like that.  The road here has been kinda long and wind-y. It is weird to think of it in this perspective because playing music had been absent from my life for any meaningful amount for well over half of it.  And now it is almost a daily part of it in one way or another. Perhaps some history might be beneficial for this story.

A long time ago... in a state far far away (ok, only 1600 miles, but when you want to stay away from where you grew up, you'll take every mile you can get), I, like many middle-income suburban kids my age ended up getting lessons in an instrument. My instrument of choice (or in this case, chosen for me) was piano.

I think I want to side-step for a moment to point out that, as I remember of a lot of my childhood, most of these sorts of choices of activities were not mine.  I don't know if it was that I was so socially stunted or that I just didn't find interest in things presented at the time, but I remember ending up in the middle of a lot of things that I never chose to do that often I never enjoyed.  But in my family, choice wasn't something I tended to get very much, and I hadn't yet developed enough in my position as an individual to provide adequate foundation for my refusal. :-)  Piano, soccer, fund-raisers, dealing with the neighbor-girl who both wanted me to be her boyfriend while simultaneously wanting to kick the crap out of me.  Interesting the things you remember, and the speculations of how they set things in motion for later. :-)  But more stories for another time.

Piano.. yes.  From the time I was 9ish, I took piano lessons from this wonderful teacher.  She was part of the National Federation of Music Clubs and her students were part of "Friends of Schroeder".  Once a year, we would meet at the music department of the University of New Mexico, along with other performers from the state, and we'd perform privately for judges at what the NFMC called Festival. I remember the first few times I played pieces for the judges.  I was petrified and I was always impressed that I managed to get through it without seriously screwing up or just completely losing it. Generally, it was considered good form to dress up for this event, and to carry yourself in a certain manner befitting the "seriousness" of the competition.  We didn't compete against each other.  More, we competed against ourselves.  Teachers were given a list of several approved performance pieces appropriate for each level, and teachers and students would pick out a piece to learn and perform for that Festival.  Judges would rate you on your performance and you'd receive a certificate with an overall rating.  Highest to lowest, the ratings were: Superior, Excellent, Satisfactory, Fair, Needs Improvement. My first year, I received a Superior for my efforts.  The subsequent two years, I received Superiors as well, and garnered my first 3-win Cup.  Three more years later, three more Superiors and my second cup (Six consecutive Superiors).

By my 8th year, and my Sophomore year in high school, I had two more Superiors behind me for a total of eight.  Keeping up with the trend, I would be on track for my 9th and third award cup my Junior year.
What  I remember as I went along was not that the music challenged me so much as the overall experience of being judged and the psychology of working through those emotions and my feelings about them.  In fact musically as the years went on, I found myself less and less challenged by the required pieces.  
I would presume from all this that I probably had a fair amount of talent at the time, and the lack of challenge and growing disinterest really distracted me from taking things seriously and doing anything useful with my talents.  As the years moved by, I found myself less and less interested in putting forth effort into my studies, and even though I had started to challenge myself by finding difficult pieces that I wanted to play and spent some time working through them, I had lost a lot of ground and momentum, and things really started falling apart.

My junior year, I was given a piece to learn, and I made a half-hearted attempt to learn it.  When Festival rolled around, I had gotten really bored with the whole process and didn't take it seriously in the slightest.  I recall driving myself  to the university.  My parents didn't attend that year.  I drove with my girlfriend at the time, and I didn't bother dressing up. I awaited my turn, walked in when I was called, sat down at the piano, played the piece flawlessly, was excused, and then went home. That year, I was awarded my 9th and final Superior along with my 9-year cup.  That was the last time I ever attended, and quit lessons almost immediately after. Somehow amidst all this, I missed the greater message of it all.  In typical teenager form, I thought it all about me, and felt it was a huge joke that it seemed too easy to get perfect marks on my performances for something I really cared so little about.

Not long after high school, life got complicated for various reasons, and I gave up on playing.
Even with all that talent, that was all it ever was.  Playing.  Never performing.  Somehow I never stumbled on, or cared to look for an outlet for my piano playing all those years.  My parents never particularly encouraged me that I recall, and I never took it upon myself to find opportunities.  I don't remember deliberately turning anything down, but I seem to remember piano and music not being something I considered a part of my identity.  So  I never worked to make it so.

As the years started rolling by, I'd have opportunities to sit at a piano and plink.  I never considered it much more than that, and I never really developed a repertoire.   I had about 3 or 4 pieces that I learned well enough to at least plink around with, and I remember fits and starts involving moments of trying to drag those pieces out of memory and play around with them for my own amusement.  Never with the intent to perform.. Just to fulfill a need that I didn't fully understand then that I had. Those pieces were: Time Out by Paul Desmond and the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Bourree by JS Bach, Feur Elise by Beethoven, and Prelude #2 by George Gershwin.I learned to play most of all of those back in those last years of my lessons, and those four stuck with my like glue even though, for example, the Geshwin I never finished learning the piece and would repeat the parts I knew over and over hoping to find the momentum to learn the rest.Years turned into decades, and that was about as far as I ever got.  I never really associated with anybody for whom musical performance was an important part of their life, and I just never really took any of it particularly seriously.

In recent years, having had pianos and keyboards come in and out of my life over the past 20 years, I found myself without, and by chance, friends were in the process of moving, and had an older keyboard that was taking up space that they weren't using anymore.  They were happy to get rid of it, and I remember being excited to inherit it.  It was beat up and a little worse for the wear, but it played well enough.
Around this time, I also ended up with a couple of guitars and a budding interest in doing more with them, but the frustrations of 20 years ago really talked me out of really deciding to devote time to them.  Or the keyboard.. Or anything else musical.

Always funny how life changes will send you off in a new direction or will help you refine an existing one.
A little over 3 years ago, I had the privilege to get to know someone whom I had only ever known as "that gorgeous gal who plays in that band".As luck (or as I prefer to consider it, destiny) would have it, she was very much a musician and performer, and as I got to know her better, and ultimately fell in love with her, I saw that we both shared a fundamental perspective on music. It moved us in very distinct and similar ways, and early on, it served as a means for us to bond. Later, it demonstrated the undeniable link of our souls.
Music now became a part of my life if just in support of my performing sweetie.  I started attending her concerts and helping her set up, and became a familiar face. And there were talks of possible distant collaborations of things.

About this time, I got tapped to be on a stage-forward role for a group that I work with called Eleusyve Productions.  They are a theatrical production company that produces esoteric rock-opera renderings of the plays of the Rites of Eleusis.  Typically, I have served a more backstage role which included set building and prop making, and helping our stage manager, lighting crew, or sound guys with various off-stage things.  But for that year, I played a singing role on stage.  I found it challenging and rewarding to work with an ensemble, and it gave me an opportunity to decide how I felt being on the business end of the stage.  I apparently didn't suffer from acute stage fright which was good to know.  I recognized that I didn't seem to find that performer's high that I hear about, but it could be that I hadn't yet found my place yet on stage to allow for that to happen.  But I enjoyed working as a team and had fun with our group.  I also discovered that I had some raw material of value musically, and took that away as something to pursue.

As always time moves onward.  My sweetie was tapped to play an important role this year at a musical festival here in Seattle called Conflikt, and these sorts of things sometimes mean that the person in question gets time to perform a concert.  As she was building sets and writing songs, guitar players, cello players, singers, and other violin players were all accounted, but at least two pieces would require a pianist.  With a little bit of trepidation, I volunteered, and the rest, as they say, is history. This then led to me also playing brushes on snare for a piece in the set, and that led me down a path of playing drums for not only my sweetie, but others as well, and other sets for other concerts!

The drums are a bit of a surprise on one hand since I've never taken the opportunity up until recently to study them in particular.  I have always had a certain rhythmic sense, particularly in a way that I expressed through my hands by tapping or clapping or otherwise creating a beat, and I think that helped a lot with jumping into percussion.  I have a whole lot to learn, but I was pleased that I was able to provide something with the tools I already had.  And I have plans to develop more as time goes on.

My recent piano performances were a little rough.  It's one thing to practice hard and have a piece memorized, but it's another to perform it under the stress of a live performance in front of an audience when such a thing is a new experience.  Given more opportunity to perform, I'm confident I'll be able to get over the issues I experienced while playing these last few times.

In the meantime, my interest in playing is renewed and coupled with an interest to perform.  I've started working on a few original things and covers, and of course some more collaborations.  And given all things, I'm sure I'll find more opportunities to perform, be it voice, drums, or piano.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to practice!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Getting Back On The Horse

"The grade that you receive will be your last, we swear!" - Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog

So...  I realize it has been over 3 years since I've written about my spiritual progression.  I thought it worth noting that in some ways, things have..   become better defined.

Ultimately I think I still identify with a more humanist perspective than a particularly informed or uninformed religious perspective.  I can only count myself Agnostic in the sense that nobody really knows what the deal is down here, and it is entirely possible we may never know.  And until I get shoved in front of the physical train of $Deity and let it run me over, I can't imagine this sort of perspective would change.

What I have done is become more aware of the things that give me some of the spiritual grounding and inspiration that some others find through religion.

One example is music.  I have been joking for some time now, but I say that live concerts are my church.   Music captures me, transports me, and shows me things through its strains that I didn't see before.  It brings me comfort and hope.  And through it, sharing it with someone whom feels similarly is one of the most fulfilling experiences I know.  I have recently gotten more opportunity to do so lately, and never is my heart lighter.  Never do I feel more at peace and at home in my skin.  The connections built through music are strong and powerful, and inasmuch as it is shared, never are the bonds greater.

Nature too is another chapel.  And while some might take a purist idea of what nature should be, I tend to allow myself the flexibility to say that nature means being outdoors interacting with the life that is outside of me.  This could be at a park.  In the woods.  In a little grassy spot down the road.   Even standing before my own container garden on my deck. It is an opportunity to be reminded of my place in the world and that even as I travel my own path, so does everything else.  I'm taught that even as other paths cross mine, they all deserve their space.  They all are important and valid.  And as a part of my participation, I learn to be cautious of those paths and to be thoughtful with my interactions.

Things continue to evolve.  I find that I continue to eschew my religious roots.  Less about the religion as a whole, and more about the bad taste I was left with regarding those who claimed to represent what Catholicism was and meant.

I know that organized religion in any form can be rewarding.  There is an element of tribalness to it where you bond over learning and feeling and trying to find your own path side by side with common goals and structure.  At least that is the enlightened end I take from it.  Using it instead as a way to isolate others and use one's own dogma to either belittle others or in some way make and live by assertions that one is better than or superior to others because of differing choices is something that makes me unhappy with it.  It happens a lot.  And realistically, it has happened a lot over the life of humanity.  I think a lot of the major events in human history have been either motivated by or at least colored by religion.  The need to step on our pedestal and claim ourselves more righteous is a very common and communicable disease.

I think regardless of the path we choose, the preference I have is that we follow it with some sense of conviction.  It's very easy to float through life and let others make the decisions for us.  But we each are individuals and responsible for our own choices.  We are more fruitful and productive when we take advantage of that.   If you choose to identify as Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Pagan or Thelemite or any other system or school of thought, live the life.  Take time to learn for yourself what it means to live that life and do it.  Make it a part of who you are.  And if it means taking some time to realign and reassess, then do it.  It may mean making scary choices.  I may mean change.  It may mean finding out that all you've been brought up to believe is not what you thought it was.  It may mean you already have your "home" and you are strong when you step up to it.  Do it.  Find that moves you.  Find what centers you.  Find what brings you hope.  Do it.

I think those that do find that the message we get from the universe is the same, no matter what language is used to bring it to you.  A message that calls to us to treat ourselves well, to treat others well, and to do what we can to make life better and easier for ourselves and those around us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So as the years lately have passed, I've found as the end of the year nears, I get whispers from the Universe. Tidbits about the coming year and general moods and swings.

I've been told, looking back, that some of my "predictions" have been scary accurate.  and I've seen evidence even in my own life of the validity of these things.

You can find them on my calendar on LiveJournal starting 2010 and heading back right about or near Dec 31st/Jan 1st.

This year, the whisper has been more an affirmation of the prior year, and a reminder for the coming.

The message is very simple.  Don't let the world pass you by.  We have control over our destinies.  We have the ability to architect our futures.  Hoping for the best isn't good enough.  You must decide that your life WILL be the best.

Fear is not a good enough reason.  Boredom and disinterest aren't either.  Get off your butt, put on a brave face, and take that first step.

Find a new job.  Ask that person out on a date. Chat up that person you see every morning on the bus or at the coffee shop.  Go see that show you keep putting off.  Take that trip you want to take.  Break with that thing that is causing you grief.  Chase those things that might bring you love and happiness.

Make a promise to view every day as a new opportunity to pave your path.  Take a step.  Move forward.  Know that if you decide your fate, the path will always yield good things.

And don't fear failure.  If you've decided to take those steps, even if you stumble, you aren't failing.  You only fail when you don't move.

Make life what you want it to be.  Take every advantage.  And help others do the same.

We are the music makers.  And we are the dreamers of dreams.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

As I was leaving the grocery store the other night, I was walking to my truck, and as I passed the row of cars on the way to mine, I heard that unmistakable sound.  At least unmistakable to me.  A car attempting to be started.  But instead of turning over, that characteristic "clickclickclick...."   I couldn't tell which car it was, but I knew somebody was going to be in a bind.  Dead battery.

I did a mental checklist in my head.  Got a good battery.  Have jumper cables in the back..

I hopped in my truck.  Still not sure which car it was, but knew it was close by.

Sat there a minute.

Saw a woman about my age exit her car with a look of frustration on her face.

Thought...  "I wonder if someone else would help her..."  Put my hand to the key of my ignition.  Paused.

She hopped back in.  Fiddling with something..  Hopped out again.  Door open.  Hand on her steering wheel.  Slowly trying to edge her car out of its parking spot.

Me still watching.

She struggling.

I finally gave in, and hopped out of my truck and locked it behind me, and walked over and asked if she needed anything.

Said she was ok..  was just trying to push it around to see if she could pop the clutch in 1st and start it that way.

I waved off her comments about being fine, and got behind her car and began giving it a shove with her.

Together, we built up some speed..  "You're so strong!" she says..  I chuckle to myself thinking.. yeah.. sure...  If you only knew...

She hopped in as I continued to push and popped the clutch and got started right up.

I waved to her through the rear window as she motored off.  She came around up the other aisle and honked and waved back to me, appreciative of what I had done.

I hopped back up into my truck and sat there again.  Thinking to myself that that was interesting.

I helped her out.  And it felt good to do so.  But...  I realized that I had truly hesitated.  That I came very close to driving off.  And while she had a plan and really might have managed on her own, I'm guessing she appreciated my help.

I felt frustrated that it took effort on my part of overcome some desire to stay un-involved in order to help her out.

It made me wonder about others who may struggle.  Or worse, others who don't struggle at all and don't even give thought to things around them.

While it is good that I acted.  And good that I won the internal battle this time, I felt very sensitive to the idea of how I would feel about a future situation.  How much should I help?  Should I always offer?  If my offer is accepted, how much do I help?  Should there be a line?  Am I doing it for them?  Am I doing it for me?  Why does it feel so unnatural to do it?

Food for thought.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Long Distance Relationships (or How I Almost Got Shot in Spokane)

It's funny when you forget interesting adventures in your past and then something kicks off the memory and suddenly you're enveloped in it like it just happened.  And then of course you run off and share it with people, because chances are, it's been ages since you've told it.

Today is one of those days....

About 18 years ago, I had started a long-distance relationship with whom became my girlfriend who I ultimately moved up to Seattle with some 4 years later.  She was living in Moscow, Idaho at the time, attending the University of Idaho, and we had met some months earlier when she road-tripped down to Albuquerque where I was at that time.  

We opted to spend Thanksgiving with her parents in Ellensburg, so I flew up to Spokane, and she borrowed a car from friends and drove from UofI to Spokane to meet me where we hung out for the night before driving to Ellensburg.  

One of the things I did for my gal given that she was a poor college student and didn't often keep basic medical/medicinal supplies around was to build her a kit with various stuffs...  Tylenol, Midol, Perioxide, Alcohol, band-aids, etc.  Basic stuffs.   I put it all into a square Tupperware bin, and I took red reflective tape and made a cross on the lid along with black vinyl lettering that said, "Kimmi's Health Kit".  She found it amusing..  At least.. at first. :-)

Being youngin's, the best we could afford for the night was ye ol' trusty Motel 6, so we got a room, settled in, did the things two new lovers do, and settled in for a nap.  

Around 12:30 or so, we both woke to a loud crashing noise.  We weren't sure if it was even in our room or something else, so I got up, kicked on a light, and listened at the door.  Didn't recall hearing anything in particular.  I turned to the bathroom to use the facilities and noticed that the big wall-size mirror in the bathroom was completely shattered and there was glass strewn everywhere.  I think I remember laughing about it, but also confused why the mirror would just have given way and shattered.  My girl crawled out of bed to come look at the mess with me, and as she was contemplating calling the front desk, I started looking closer at the issue.

On the wall on which the mirror sat, there was a fair sized hole in the drywall at about waist height or so.  I looked at the far wall, opposite that hole next to the door, and saw a small hole in the drywall there too.  Followed the hole to the wall outside the bathroom, and followed the trajectory of a scrape in the ceiling, a smaller dent in the opposing wall in the hallway, and to a copper jacketed slug sitting pretty on the carpet right where the path suggested it should have landed.  
At that point, laughter changed to nervous whispering and crawling around on the floor to get to the phone to tell the front desk to get us TFO!!

Local police showed up quickly while the manager on duty nervously escorted us to another room and helped us move our stuff.  All but the gift I had given Kim, which in our haste to leave the room remained on the floor near the bed.

After the police cleared the room, they discovered that a young man next door had been "cleaning" his gun on the toilet in his room when the gun discharged.  Accidental, they say, but I believe he ended up getting held, and the cops made him write an apology note to us.

As the cops headed our way to take our statement, one exited our old room with a big grin on his face, and as he walked up to us, he turned to Kim and said, "So... You must be Kimmi."   Never did get forgiven for that one...  :-)

After all was said and done, we settled back down, and that was the moment when I realized that if I had been up at 12:30 taking a leak, they would have found chunks of my sternum along with the slug on the carpet outside in the hallway.

Made for an interesting way to start the trip.  And wasn't exactly the last adventure of it, but on the way back out, we stopped again at the Motel 6 given that the manager had of course comped us the room.  And with as straight a face as we could muster, asked to have a room.  Preferably without a bullet hole in it.  The front clerk's eyes got huge when she realized that we were the ones from the room with the shooting.  :-)  Had a strange bit of celebrity that evening.  Was a fun way to wrap things up.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh the humanity!

I was reading on my social networking sites about a friend who is in a bind, and a fellow community member reminded them that the tribe always provides.

I think the years of self-providing parents and the long history of being a social outcast taught me at a young age that I shouldn't depend on the tribe, and a part of me has become really prejudicial towards other people whom keep the tribe as a viable fall-back plan.

Somewhere along the line, I realize my viewpoint is a little too far to one side, and that I do myself a dis-service both not personally having faith in my own tribe, but also having that attitude towards others as well.

I think yet another part of that I've seen too many people take advantage of the system.  People who really don't make a great enough effort to do for themselves, and end up apparently depending on the tribe regularly.  That alone pushes me even harder to do my damndest to cover my own bases and to build in acceptable failures for when even all that effort doesn't pan out.  And all that based on the impression of things I see in others that may not necessarily be reality at all.

With all that resting on my shoulders, I should be a nervous wreck about the unknown and the possibility of instability that is part of life.  And yet, a part of me LOVES having my plans tested.  It is almost like a science experiment to me, and I get giddy when I have to put a plan in motion because of some oh-shit moment that cropped up.  I get all analytical, and mentally take notes on how to improve the process, and  revel in the things I did well and feel a sense of pride that even if I didn't manage to cover every base, inevitably, I covered a lot, and even though an oops is still an oops, it's not a HOLY CRAP.

Another piece of that puzzle comes from the fact that I accept the understanding that by nature I am not a unconditionally compassionate person.  I have standards and expectations, and people who do not meet them are not afforded the emotional response that perhaps they should be.   I don't always know how to reconcile that.  Again, I see a lot of people who really seem to need a good swift kick in the pants rather than some warm fuzzies or acknowledgement.  I question things in the sense that if I can power through much worse, how is it that "you" are floundering over so much less?  Why are "you" so resistant to biting into your own problem and instead seem so willing to let others take over?  Where is the sense of pride?  Where is the drive to succeed?  Why is it that I see these things as failures of character rather than just responses to stress?

I was recently accused of eschewing emotion when it comes to these things, and I realized I wasn't in a position to truly and fully counter that statement.  I just couldn't.

I've come to recognize that a part of that is a response to aspects of my childhood, but that my continuing dismissal of emotion is more of a habit now than any active response.  A habit I'm not sure how to break.

I find it exceedingly difficult to look past those prejudices and see the humanity of people.  To find the balance and to really respond in a constructive and accepting manner.

I mean at this point, I have at least learned to keep my mouth shut most of the time.  But that's not really changing anything beyond the fact that I'm just not always out with my opinion.  I guess on some level, it's a step in the right direction, but it really doesn't solve the problem.

So somewhere along the line, my continued goal is to spend more time letting people in.  Letting in the idea that I really have no idea what I'm thinking or that I even vaguely have a reasonable idea of what someone else is going through, and that accordingly, I'm in no position to judge or to withhold basic human emotions based on this perceived knowledge I think I have.

Rough goal for me.  Definitely have my work cut out for me.