Monday, April 25, 2005

Sapsucker moon, and music

My suspicions were correct; the marsh marigolds are not yet blooming anywhere near my house, and with a barrage of cold fronts expected to continue through the week, they will probably hold off for now. I am reminded that the first giddy eighty degree days of April in Minnesota are just a teaser.

The bird of the weekend was the yellow bellied sapsucker. A pair of them were busy calling and cavorting among the small spruces and aspens just a few feet away from the house, apparently undisturbed by our coming and going. What an unfortunate sounding name; "yellow bellied" implies cowardice, and "sapsucker"...well, someone must have been in a strange mood when they decided to name the bird based on that particular feeding habit.

A yellow shafted flicker has been pecking at the broken top of the old spruce (See: Saga of the Spruce) the last couple of mornings. Excavating a nest cavity perhaps?

We had a wonderful evening Saturday meeting some new friends and playing music. I had been wanting to find out if there was anyone anywhere near here who played bluegrass, folk, Celtic, or other acoustic music. I had been missing the challenge and interaction of playing with other musicians as opposed to playing alone or with a recording. Ironically enough, I got in touch with someone through an Internet forum--says something about community when in your daily interactions in real life you don't get to meet the very kind of people you are looking for! He and his wife turned out to be wonderful people with whom Russ and I have a lot in common. They had also invited Tom, a friend of theirs who brought his son, Vincent's age. We had lots of good, thoughtful conversation, great food and drink, and Fred and I played some Celtic songs, fiddle tunes (though neither of us plays fiddle) and some Greg Brown, Kate Wolf, and Gillian Welch songs.

Russ mentioned that he is envious of the fact that I am able to get completely "lost" in the music I am playing. I don't know if that is completely true; to get lost in music, as in prayer or meditation, requires a degree of mental discipline, and some other mysterious element that intervenes and transforms the physical act of producing sound into a higher, more enlightened moment. A moment where I am "there" in the sound waves of my flute, a moment in which the words of the song lift my voice, a moment where my heart beats the rhythm. Annie Dillard describes this kind of awareness in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a copy of which I don't have handy to quote.

I don't have this kind of experience too often playing music, especially at home when I'm lucky to be free from distractions. We have a banjo playing friend who at times goes off into "banjo world" to explore new improvisations. I was "there" maybe a couple of times the other night; once when we spontaneously launched into an Irish tune, and I somehow had the tune committed to memory enough that it flowed without thinking. I can't even remember what the name of the tune was. Then, after dinner (and a good single malt Scotch) I loosened up, started singing Gillian Welch's Tear My Stillhouse Down, not even knowing if I would remember all of the verses. I didn't, but we rocked anyway.

No comments: