The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Springing Forth April 5, 2015

Never in my four years at the helm of this blog have I passed so much time in between posts. But there are many good reasons for such a break. Too many, most likely, to accurately recount here.

The digest begins like this: Two weeks ago the logging job stopped, and with it came not only the money from the harvest, but the work in earnest began on the Studio (thereby spending all of the windfall in short order.) The logging site was left with a lot more mess than we’d agree upon, and I met with the forester to discuss cleanup, a task I knew would be very hard to enforce once the big machines had left the premises. I’d seen the gear there on Sunday, but by the time I’d finished my early morning rehearsals at school on Monday morning, I returned not only to find every last piece of earth-moving equipment gone, but huge heaps of dirt, stumps and stone ringing the work site. So not what we agreed upon. But then again, they were there to get the timber, not to leave me with a squeaky clean parking lot. But still. One more thing on the list to make right.

Meanwhile, there were decisions to be made about materials and finishes and such, while daily life continued without slowing down. Lesson plans, rehearsals, paperwork for the Studio, meetings, meals and homework all kept going, much to my frustration. I’m not a great multi-tasker, and as such the past month has been a bit trying for me. Panic attacks have been kept at arm’s length (thanks to the miracle of Xanax I can avoid them almost altogether), and as if a perfect bipolar patient, I swing back and forth from one emotional extreme to the next several times in the course of a day. One moment I’m brimming over with hope and visions for a successful future, the next I wonder what in hell it is I think I’m doing here and I’m just about ready to take a job at McDonald’s and excuse myself from the whole affair. Exhausting stuff.

One week ago Elihu and I drove to Philadelphia to meet my cousin (my late father’s nephew), his wife, his sons and one wee one too. It was the first time I’d ever met any Conant relatives as an adult, so it was an important visit. My cousin also took us to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra – box seats, no less – where we heard not only Mahler’s 5th, but also a new concerto written for tuba (!!!). Serendipity came through for us after the concert and we found ourselves walking backstage, escorted by the composer of the piece himself. Elihu was beside himself with the thrill, and I’m afraid that I caused him no small amount of embarrassment as I lost my cool and fell into something of a star-struck stage mom in the presence of both composer and soloist. We chatted with the tubist, and offered to meet up with her again in the summer, when the orchestra (of which she is a member) makes its summer residency in our hometown of Saratoga Springs, New York.

For me the trip involved a lot of driving – more than twelve hours in the car for a brief, weekend stay (and with panic attacks threatening the whole way it was a bit more stressful than it might have been otherwise). But it was well worth it for the new relationship we now have with our family, not to mention the memories we made that will, to use the most trite but accurate expression, last a lifetime.

Since our return from Philly everything at the Studio seems to be happening without pause; decisions I might like to have labored over a bit longer need to be made ASAP; purchases, while modest, are still adding up to steeper totals than I’d imagined, and the reality of our lot in the wake of now-absent loggers still has me concerned. But it’s all good, as I must remind myself. Sometimes even hourly. I’m tempted to cry almost daily with all the money that’s going out… It feels surreal to live on food stamps and state assistance and then turn around and pen a check for several thousand dollars as if it were business as usual. I can’t wrap my brain around the discrepancy between the commerce of the new business, and the lack of commerce here at home.

In an effort to drum up some income (as well as play music again!) I’ve begun to make some plans. Since Elihu is now old enough to be left at home alone for more than a quick run to the convenient store, I’m starting to think about getting something together for the summer tourist season and actually finding some work. Breaking into the local ‘music scene’ (there really isn’t one – it’s just a summer extravaganza of wedding-esque cover bands) is proving to be much more difficult than I’d thought. In spite of knowing a handful of musicians, I can’t seem to find a single job. Not even a freebie – and Lord knows I’d be happy just to sing. My gear is as out-of-date and out-of-the-loop as I am, and my now-ancient (make that vintage) Yamaha S80 won’t cut it anymore, even if I should find work. (Yes, I do still have my Rhodes and Wurli, but those are in dire need of work and require an extra pair of hands to move.) The days of lugging a 70 pound board around – plus amp and gear – are just plain over. Some of my pro friends might pooh-pooh my desire for a lightweight keyboard with, gasp, builtin speakers, but that’s the way this gal is headed, I’m afraid. I found a candidate for a new board on Craigslist, and when this income-free week of Spring break is over and students resume, I hope to make it my new piece of gear. Let’s hope it ends up paying for itself in the coming months.

Sometimes it feels as if I’ve taken a giant hiatus from my life after having become a mother – and a single one to boot. When I stop and look at the stats, I realize that I haven’t worked as a musician since shortly after Elihu was born. That means I’ve been dormant for over a decade! Not that I have any regrets; being present for my child as he’s grown up has been a blessing that many are never given the option to experience. Yeah, being broke has been a drag, but even so, it’s been acceptable, because I’ve been able to be here for my son (plus, when in a true pinch, grandma has always had our back. The significance of that cannot be understated.) I have an amazing child in part because I’ve chosen to be with him and not farm him out to daycare while I grind out a minimum hourly wage. It’s all worked out ok thus far, but I pray things will be changing soon. I’m tired of just getting by. They say do what you love and the money will follow. God I hope. People ask me what my business plan is with the new place, and honestly, I can say that I still do not know. I know what I intend to achieve, but the hows are still the struggle. Lists are being made and ideas being created – and tossed out just as fast. Something will take shape, I know. Just not sure how. But whether I make music myself, or make music possible for others, as long as I can somehow glean an income in the process, I’d be the happiest gal around.

Today it’s Easter, and while this year my son may no longer truly believe in the Easter bunny (can’t help but think he maintains his belief to please his mum!), outwardly his show of enthusiasm doesn’t let on. Last night we watched the old 70s TV special “The Easter Bunny’s Coming to Town” (with Fred Astaire narrating) and today we quoted our favorite passages from the show as we dug into our colored eggs. To my chagrin, when his little half brothers called this morning, they had Elihu turning the house upside down for hidden eggs, which the Easter bunny had not bothered to hide at 3 in the morning when he was filling the basket. The Easter bunny can only do so much. ! And now, I think my kid gets that. But no matter whether he believes or not, it’s still been a special morning for us. We’re both happy to be at home, together. That makes it a good day, no matter what.

Soon we’ll gather the last eggs from the coop for the incubator, and after that we’ll take a long, leisurely walk around the property. We’ll visit the fox’s den in the side of the hill, we’ll check to see how little snow is left in the shady spots, and we’ll see how our mom-and-son cairns by the lightening-struck tree have weathered the years. We’ll shore up the piles of rocks, agree that it was a fine walk, and head home to await an evening meal with grandma and Uncle Andrew.

I’m not sure how things will pan out in the days to come, but today I’ll try not to worry too much about it. Instead, I’ll continue to do what I’ve done for the past ten years of my life – I’ll enjoy watching my son as he makes his way through his childhood and towards his future.

IMG_5592The family! Yay for the Conants of Philadelphia!

IMG_5573Big ones and wee ones…

IMG_5577…and funny ones, too! Just look at that chicken purse! Love it. We’re definitely related.

IMG_5696The Kimmel Center, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Elihu just kept expressing his amazement over the space. He’d never been to a concert hall like this before. A night he will never forget.

IMG_5683The hall, gorgeous; the Mahler, rich; but Carol – beyond anything he’d expected. Elihu was simply transported. He loved the piece, and he was given a new appreciation for the virtuosity needed to play such music. Suffice to say he aspires to much more than the common polka these days. Thanks, Michael and Carol.

IMG_5699Chatting backstage with tuba soloist Carol Jantsch and composer of “Reflections on the Mississippi”, Michael Daugherty.

IMG_5697My son and Mr. Daugherty, whom we later learned shares a birthday with Elihu!

IMG_5700Elihu is psyched. !!!

IMG_5616Philly by the light of day. I was interested to learn that the sculptor of this famous bronze figure of William Penn atop the city hall clock tower was by Alexander Milne Calder, the father of modern sculptor Alexander “Sandy” Calder.  There’s even a plaza which is home to works by both father and son.

IMG_5625City of brotherly love…

IMG_5627… and lots and lots of art. There is literally a large piece of art on every corner. Loved that.

IMG_5629So what does lil man want to do when in this historic, all-American city? Eat Vietnamese food, of course! (Wing Phat? How appropriate for my little aviator!)

IMG_5632Hello, cousin Matt!

IMG_5637Tasty quail! We had Pho, too….

IMG_5649Thanks to Matt and Stephanie for taking us to this sweet Asian grocery store (oh, and lunch, too)!

IMG_5648Helpful signage.

IMG_5655Fish heads?

IMG_5659We liked this one… We all agreed it mighta been worth $10 to watch the staff running around trying to catch a loose bullfrog…

IMG_5663Spring-loaded and ready to leap.

IMG_5606Headed back home we can see the famous Boathouse Row across the river.

IMG_5566The whole area is full of boulders and hills. Most of the local houses are themselves made of stone.

IMG_5556A jam-packed weekend had my lil man zonked out.

IMG_5721In the morning, it’s scrapple for breakfast! A Philadelphia delicacy!

IMG_5728Cousin Dave, waving goodbye in front of his stone house. Thank you for the hospitality!!

IMG_5745One last look at the Philly skyline…

IMG_5794… and then it’s on to the New Jersey Turnpike. The language of roadways is different all over; one travels by highway, expressway, turnpike, thruway, freeway, tollway and parkway. Phew!

IMG_5787Next time.

IMG_5914This tells us we’re getting close to the end of our trip…

IMG_5916And so our wonderful little adventure comes to a close as we return home. To snow. !

IMG_5969Sadly, I saw this hairy woodpecker being hit by a car. He lived long enough for me to bring him home. We admired his beauty, then buried him along with our other birds under the flowering quince bush.

IMG_5997Elihu had his buddies over the other day. They had a blast.

IMG_6021Elihu and Sawyer enjoy the hens.

IMG_6025I took the boys for a walk down the road to see how the Studio was coming along.

IMG_6028The sign will need to be moved to mark the new driveway and parking lot, a couple hundred feet to the east.

IMG_6056Mud season begins.

IMG_6032The boys have fun in the room that’s almost prepped for its new floor.

IMG_6030A kitchen will add greatly to the building’s functionality.

IMG_6043The view from the Studio’s balcony. The boys are enjoying the last of the snow.

IMG_6072Elihu got a little asthmatic after all that running around, but it was worth it.

IMG_6195Easter morn.

IMG_6197Digging for treats.

IMG_6120Elihu gives Thumbs Up a good smooching.

IMG_6149Elihu and his chickens.

IMG_6152The bigger picture.

IMG_6317A sight we seldom see; neighbors out for a walk on the hillside road. They wished us a happy Easter as they passed.

IMG_6322Mom and son cairns.

IMG_6291The lightening-struck tree. Still looks the same as past Easters.

IMG_6356I found a kite under the snow and we had fun watching it whip in the wind.

IMG_6393Our own Calder-esque bird sculpture by friend and Vietnam vet Ace, and our garage’s dove behind.

IMG_6377Almost home. A perfect Easter day.

Happy Spring to all our friends around the world, and may good things blossom anew for each and every one of you.

 

Marching On March 14, 2015

A lot of things are happening around here all at once. Progress is being made at the Studio, the logging job is almost wrapped up, and the snow has melted a good foot since last week. Martha’s been admitted to the hospital again, a friend turns 90 today, and the birds are making more noise than they have in months. Frustratingly, technical difficulties follow me; a new desktop computer which I purchased in December is rife with problems and is still in the repair guy’s shop some two months later. My printer’s out of commission now too. Personal costs (like a crazy $411 electric bill for last month and the unexpected computer repairs) are adding up and I’m getting worried about my financial future. But regardless of these stressors, there are happy and hopeful moments along the way. The air has begun to smell like promise and freedom, and it gives us the resolve to keep marching on.

IMG_3959Just last week the snow was this deep…

IMG_3139 The weight of it required a shoveling of the Studio’s roof, as seams inside had begun to widen under the burden.

IMG_3140It’s a pity we had to spend money on this job; within days it was all melted.

We watch as the loggers move trees like they were twigs.

And they load em up like they were nothing at all too.

IMG_4095The cutting has come to an end, now the wood needs to be loaded and trucked out. Next week they’ll turn their attention to cleaning up and leaving a level surface behind.

IMG_4214Another load goes out.

IMG_4301From my kitchen window I can see a truck full of our trees disappearing down the road. (Look to the left on the horizon.)

IMG_4183 I left for a couple of hours and came back to find they’ve taken out the exterior wall and begun to frame in the new kitchen! Hoo haw!

IMG_4195A closer look from the outside in…

IMG_4189… and now from the inside out.

IMG_4353Garrett’s making progress with the interior of the main hall.

IMG_4271Where there were huge cracks a week ago, it’s all sealed up, primed and ready to paint.

IMG_4372A view from the rear of the hall towards the stage area.

IMG_4363Behind the stage area are these doors through which my father moved harpsichords to be stored in the greenroom. Mom and I never liked the look of the wood in the background – and although I do hate to cover up natural wood, we’re opting to paint the doors to match the wall.

IMG_4342Look! Rick and Scott have the outside wall up already! They’re moving fast. In the far right corner is the new door leading out of the kitchen to the north side of the building.

IMG_4345The new exit, the future kitchen wall.

IMG_4338The Studio’s all sealed up and taking on its new shape.

IMG_4288Mom called and told me Martha was needing help, so I drove over to the farm.

IMG_4296For me, this is my life’s epicenter. I’ve known this place longer than any other.

IMG_4292I arrive to find the ambulance has just taken Martha to the hospital. Masie, her hound dog, remains behind in a big, empty house.

IMG_4293Mike straightens out the pictures on the kitchen wall. Martha’s leaving this place to Mike and his family after she’s gone; without children of her own, he’s the closest thing to a son she’s known. He’s planted his vineyards in the field that we hayed as children. The Farm has a bright future.

IMG_4321At the hospital.

IMG_4332The nurses ascertain that Martha’s too weak to sit up on her own.

IMG_4313Elihu visits with Martha.

Elihu recites the poem “Ozymandia” by Percy Bysshe Shelley for Martha. Missed the beginning, but it’s still impressive.

IMG_4336He tells her he loves her and says goodbye.

Later on, Elihu does his impression of Martha. She is known for giving her helpers incredibly detailed instructions on how to do every last little task. A knowledge of one’s cardinal directions is imperative if one is to assist her. Elihu cracks me up here. He’s nailed her perfectly.

IMG_4399At the end of our day we make a pit stop at Saratoga Guitar to get some advice from Ed, the resident guitar tech, bass and tuba player, friend and maker of gourmet hot sauces and other goods.

Elihu gives an impromptu performance…

IMG_4411… and enjoys himself a little longer.

IMG_4424Maybe one day we’ll add one of these to the collection…

IMG_4427The campaign for Saratoga’s Banjo Man, Cecil Myrie, is not forgotten. I’m leading the efforts to erect a memorial plaque for him downtown (should have progress reports soon).

IMG_4425Love an old-school music store.  Always a nice end to a busy day.

 

New Groove February 25, 2014

Not even out of the gate and things are already getting tricky. Thought the radiant heat thing was a done deal. Electric radiant heat, that is. The water delivery method, not so much. It’s twice as expensive, requires its own shelter external to the building for the boiler, the pumps and such, plus it’ll raise the entire floor a good five inches, requiring all doorways to be raised, making the ceiling shorter at the stage end. I realize that this system runs much cheaper in the long run, and its an efficient one, but it’s just not what I want. I don’t want the stage cramped and low. I don’t want to change the space. Just heat it.

I’d thought the heavens had opened up when I heard about these magic, wafer-thin (that’s my Monty Python-esque way of describing them) pads that one simply rolled out over the space and then covered with a lovely wood floor. (Wood, that by the way, is being cut from our Greenfield forest just behind the Studio and milled locally. That’s the romantic plan, at any rate, at this idealistic stage of the game, but I can just see my dreams being dashed right and left as I make my way through this process…) But in a single email my heart is broken again. The kind fellow who’d come out today to write up a bid on the heating system told me in one short sentence that the system I want ‘will not put out enough energy for that sized room’. And so the manufacturers of the electric radiant system he sells will not agree to it. Crap. I haven’t even started the demo and I’m off to a rocky start. Not the way I envisioned things so early in the game. Come on stars, I thought you’d planned on aligning for me here?

So I do a little online searching and find a system like the one I’d imagined in my head, and I dash off an inquiry… I feel a bit like a patient going from doctor to doctor in hopes of finding the diagnoses I want to hear rather than the honest one. Am I fooling myself? Or is this indeed a big world and might there be someone out there who won’t see my problem as unsolvable? I was feeling too blessed, too hopeful for a moment. Gotta breathe. And hell, how on earth am I going to make my living at this? How can I offset costs like these? One lousy payout by dad’s VA insurance will barely get the place demo’d. Shit. Wow, I am sounding a bit manic. Cuz yesterday – hell, even a couple of hours ago (before the heating guy emailed me the disappointing news) I was beginning to coast on thermals of excitement… man, things were just feeling so hopeful, so possible, and I was lifting, lifting….

But as with any self-respecting manic episode, I found my heart descending to the very floor – literally – as my old friend Jim (and one time assistant to dad) shook his head despairingly and said to me  “In the end, it’s just an oak floor that needs to be replaced.” No romantic salvaging and re-purposing of this very wood – wood which Jim knew the meaning of in my heart – no point for all that labor. I searched, but saw no light of inspiration in his woodworking eyes. No, this was a tear-out and haul-it-away job. (In the back of my mind I continued to search for a meaningful good-bye, maybe instead of a burning man fest, maybe have a burning floor fest? I don’t know, something? All those memories, all that music… If only we could bring it to life again in some way. Or… maybe not. I must remember the object is not the memory…)

Ok. So now I can see around the corner, into this next, not-so-sexy phase. As the demo guy warned me several times “It’s gonna get a whole lot worse before it gets better”. Yeah. I think I get that – but it looks like pretty soon I’m about to really get it. It’s just that I know how I want things – but in the end, it’s probably going to be settled by cost. The re-build can’t happen without grants, gifts and donations, so I’m already in new and frightening territory. I can commit to a demolition of the existing damage, but beyond that, it’s still just a dream. I guess that’s what part of this new chapter is going to have to be about: dreams; keeping them inspired and alive no matter who says it’s not practical (and that would include my own inner naysayer), keeping the dream growing, adapting, interacting, improving… I have a glimmer of a vision, but as soon as I look at some slick website for another arts center, or as soon as I realize that this might mean I never make it out of town for the next ten years (these are the last of my good years I fear!!) or as soon as I realize that I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, well, then that kinda kills the buzz. So that’s when it’s time to bust out some tasty homemade Pad Thai for supper and then make a little music with kid.

Who, by the way, is kickin some ten year old butt on that big ol bass of his. We got to his lesson a little early today, and his teacher obliged him by giving him a longer lesson. Did they review the same-old same-old? Not so much. No, instead, my man Mr. F turned lil man onto a bit of walking bass stuff today. And even if it did finally end up in some out-of-the-blue mom and kid scene, tears, tantrum and all, at least for a good half hour we had a really sweet thing going. What he’d begun to learn in his lesson, we finished off at home. I gave him some more of that chromatic stuff he was searching for but couldn’t quite find… And when he got it – that had him just laughin and grinnin ear-to-ear. I remember how exciting is was to finally demystify that left hand walking stuff. So much fun to learn new tricks. The tears, it turned out, were not so much his frustration with my teaching as it was just his ‘turnaround burnout’. (Not the kind of turnaround that happens on a five chord.) Elihu was still in that midway-zone; having Daddy yesterday, having Mommy today, but never having the two together. Before long he was sobbing, his arms around me, face buried in my tummy. “It’s not fair” he said over and over. “I want my Daddy. But I want my Mommy too! I want them both at the same time!” All I could do was hold him and tell him I understood. Maybe the old man felt the tug of his son’s heartbreak all those hundreds of miles away, because the phone rang, and it was him. About to board a plane for Indonesia, but he had a moment. Thank God.

I turned to wash the dishes as I cursed the situation for the umpteenth time. Honestly, I was still pissed as his father for doing this to his son – at his choice to start two other families at the same time, to act without thinking any of it through. But then again, it was the consequences of those unplanned moves which then opened the way for us to live our life here. I very likely would not have been present for my father’s death had I been living in Illinois with two kids and a touring husband. And being with dad as he died – that was always on the short list of things I needed to experience. I did, and I am lucky. When I see my son’s heart so heavy, it makes me mad, but it’s tempered by realizing what we have right now – what we wouldn’t have had otherwise. As I finish up in the kitchen I hear Elihu laughing again from the other room. Think he’s over the twenty-four hour mommy/daddy hiccup. Think he’s settling back in again. Over the hump and back to the routine.

Think we can both settle in to our new grooves now. Lord knows I got a lot ahead, I gotta keep my thinking clear and my pace slow and steady. But man, so much unknown where I’m going. Hell, I guess there are a lot of unknowns in front of all of us. Best thing might just be to lay down a groove and keep on moving; everything around you might be going crazy, but you’ll be still be there, just layin it down, letting everybody know that the ship is doin just fine, and we’ll all arrive exactly when we’re supposed to. Both of us, my lil man and me, bass player and captain, it’s on us to bring the ship safely into port – and all in good time.

 

Sans Solo February 8, 2014

Not a single event, discovery or achievement has ever truly been a solitary endeavor. Whether someone’s climbed a treacherous mountain peak, invented something revolutionary or done something for the very first time – none of it happened in a vacuum, apart and unaffected by the world. No matter what Miss Rand claims, we people here on Earth are absolutely interdependent of each other. Our personal triumphs ride on the experiences of those who have come before. You can’t beat a record unless one has already been set. You can’t build something unless something similar has already been built (and likely failed, hence the innovative re-build). Coaches, teachers, guides, the opinions of friends, personal opinions, the disregard for opinions of any sort – all of it goes into the pot. (Kinda reminds me of that saying ‘if you decide not to decide, you’ve still made a choice’.) There aint no way an achievement of any sort stands on its own. In part, maybe, but certainly not entirely. Try to back-engineer, understand and then make for yourself the handful of items you use in the first five minutes of your day today. Nuff said.

And here is where I need to let go of the illusion that this burden is all my own. This is the thinking I need to assume this morning, at the beginning of the path immediately before me. Yeah, I have a lot on my plate, and yes, I will be ‘directing the troops’ as it were for the time being, and I understand it’s important to have a vision for the future, but I can also see that the project I intend to set in motion will be by no means exclusively my own baby. Even my father’s incredibly successful and long-running music festival was not his alone. It might have seemed it – he certainly did a hell of a lot of the grunt work on his own – but he could never have pulled it off had my mother not been there to feed the many musicians and their families, to keep track of who ate meat and who didn’t, who had allergies, how many beds needed to be made up, when folks were arriving, when they needed to be at the airport… Then there were the assistants – one every year – to help run the administrative side of things. And, of course, the musicians themselves who made great expenditures of time and energy to participate. One could say the whole thing was very definitely inspired by the vision of one man at its core – but in the end, the Festival of Baroque Music was a huge group effort. And from the get-go, I can see the same will be true of the Studio in its new incarnation.

In a few hours I will meet some younger-bodied folks who are going to help us begin the long and un-sexy process of cleaning up. Not meaning this to sound like a sour grapes excuse for the way I let things happen, but I don’t think we (again, not me alone, but me and my artist partner, Ceres) would have ever made such a thorough cleaning-out of the place had we not been forced to. Many times I’d walked the place, shaking my head in frustration at all the stuff that needed to be assigned new homes. Many times I’d pushed it to the back of my mind. I’d made a few feeble attempts to remove an item or two – even tried to sell some paintings at local shops – but in spite of them having been hot tickets once-upon-a-time, I couldn’t find any current interest for the art. So I brought it all back, to languish in the Studio as I waited for a plan to come to me. I still have no idea what we’ll do with the contents of the place or where it will even live as I find homes for it all. In my basement, most likely. I have the space, but I don’t relish the idea at all. It’s ok, eventually things will sort themselves out.

There’s sentiment floating around some of this stuff too, like for my dad’s harpsichord tools. What to do with them? Which items do I keep, which should I give away? Posters of past concerts, expensively framed (a Christmas gift from me and my husband one year), certificates signed by famous, long-dead musicians, awards given to my father from local institutions, and many various original paintings. Not to mention my Rhodes, which lived here as I hadn’t the room in my own place. Guess I’ll have to make room now. (I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I had secretly hoped to learn how to successfully sell on Ebay this year – now might be a good time to take that project on.) Yeah, there are things here that could very likely find appreciative homes somewhere in the world, and while it’s hugely daunting to me to know how to find those homes, at least the process has begun. Here again, it can’t be just me. I don’t have these skills (yet), so the theme of the day has now become ‘delegate’. It’s time to enroll others in the mass project. Get rid of stuff, demo, choose new materials, rebuild. And then, at long last, move forward…

I still don’t know much about the future of this place. But I do know enough to recognize those first chills of excitement, hope, inspiration…. It’s a challenge for me to move past seeing this place as my father’s, to move past all those exquisitely nostalgic memories. The other day, when Ceres, mom and I were discussing our next move, when we got to the part about the floor, mom had said something about making sure to duplicate the amazing acoustics of the first floor… but suddenly aware of what she’d said, she stopped herself short. Ceres pointed out that mom, like me, had a hard time thinking about the space in a new way. (Ironically, the place had been too live a room in which to do any other types of music besides acoustic chamber music. Yes, an audience sops up part of the sound, and yes, it’s better to start a room too live than too dead, but still…) Our objectives are going to be different now, and for me it’s still a challenge to see this old building in a new light. I understand that where dad is now, it doesn’t really matter. He saw his vision come to life, and he saw his creation come to a perfect close. He surrounded himself with all the right people to realize his dream, and now it’s my turn to do the same.

This will be an ensemble piece, with just the occasional solo.

 

January’s End February 1, 2014

So is this what dad had in mind when he mused “when beautiful January comes….”? I mean, really? I can’t imagine he meant to imply anything so specific as the tumultuous events of the past few weeks, of course, but I wonder if he might not have had a clue – on some level – that things were about to change. That the course of events in my life and at the Studio were about to shift and gain momentum in a slightly new and refreshed direction. That things would soon be very different. Personally, I’m not good with change, or ‘different’; things were just fine as they were, thank you. (At least they weren’t scary.) A major event was needed, apparently, to get my full attention and suggest we might try looking at things in a new way. Ok already. Got it.  Now I’m listening….

I haven’t had the time to visit the Studio again since my heart-sickening discovery the other day. I need to take photos, I need to remove items, to spend more time truly assessing the damage. Maybe today. I’m a bit weak at the thought of it. But strangely, at the same time I’m just a bit invigorated. Already I’ve shared my experience with people, already I’ve begun to make plans, to imagine possibilities that never would have occurred to me if all of this ‘tragedy’ hadn’t happened. I think that I really am beginning to believe in the possibility of surprise, happy endings. Note: I am still cleverly offering myself an out; I’m not entirely convinced there’ll be a happy ending here, just more inclined than a couple of days ago to think there might be one waiting for us not far down the road… Just to be clear. ! Gotta cover my butt. I mean, how stupid would I look if I got all excited about this great new future of the Studio, and then – nothing happened. (It’s the dimmer vision of the two, but I can still see that possibility, too.) Because the huge to-list ahead, frankly, just doesn’t seem possible when I think with my brain from last week. This week’s brain, however, seems to think there’s hope… Hm. Crazy? I still don’t know what’ll end up happening. I’m as curious and eager as anyone to see the outcome.

At first, in those hours shortly after my epiphany regarding the new course of the Studio – the flash of inspiration that involved radiant heating, re-purposed floor and all, I’d felt divinely guided. And even now, in this moment, I do believe in that concept on some level. But in spite of the wonderful and loving support of friends – and the confidence I have in a larger force at work here – I’ve still felt that familiar shadow of doubt creeping in on me again… “Come on, silly. You’re thinking way too big here. Sounds great, but, really? Ya really think you can pull a project like this off??” The voice of ‘reality’ has begun already. The magic is so soon under threat of realistic goals and most-likely outcomes… I stop myself for a moment, and let it all just settle. I sit and think. Consider the road ahead. Really and truly, can there actually be a future for this vision of the Studio that I hold close my heart? I can surely see it – hell, I envisioned it when I’d moved here five years ago – but still it’s hard to place my faith in it. I mean, when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture on paper it really doesn’t look like a plausible scenario. After all, we live with the help of food stamps, we run out of heat a time or two each winter and I have to work full-time plus teach on the side and be a mom (oh yeah, and take care of a bunch of chickens and a ornery gander. Not to mention get in a garden). As things stand right now, this Studio thing is pretty much just on me, and I already have so much on my plate. Or am I forgetting something…?

I pause again to digest, to consider the resources within my current world of friends and acquaintances. One thing I learned in running a cafe and nightclub was to delegate. That is probably the most important aspect of any successful business; that the captain of the ship delegate tasks to those who are talented in what they do, motivated, energetic and most importantly, get your vision. So I guess the most immediate task before me is to clarify what it is that I see happening in this new Studio. I need to get it down on paper, I need to think about it, turn things around in mind, cull, distill, get down to the core goals. I need a mission statement. I also need a board. And before I can do a thing as a legitimate NFP, I need to transfer dad’s Foundation identify to our new one as The Studio. Can’t get weepy now, it’s as it must be. Both dad and his dear friend who’d set the Foundation up in 1959 are now gone, and there is nowhere to go but forward. So there’s a list before me. Not as if I don’t know what to do next. And I suppose the more witnesses I gather here before me (that would be you) the more accountable I become. Yeeks. Raising chickens is a smelly pain-in-the-butt of a job at times, but easier on the whole and more predictable, I’m guessing, than what’s about to come.

Got a wonderful family lawyer who can help with this, got a logger who’s willing to front me some money before the harvest, got a dozen or so folks on the sidelines, waiting for their work to begin. It’s beginning to look like the train is slowly moving already. I need to keep my destination fully alive inside my head, I need to share the vision as much as possible, I need to sow the seeds. Then I need to get in the soil and get to work. Ok. Psyching myself up here. I’ll need a lot of re-starts and re-psyches along the way, I’m sure. At the end of the day, knowing that I’m keeping dad’s life’s work alive, and moving it into the future – that’s the stuff that makes me want to ignore the fear and keep plodding ahead. I can so imagine it. Concerts, classes, lessons, recitals, kids, adults, super-old adults, baby and mom movement classes, eurythmy, ballet, sculpture, clay, mosaic, drawing, painting, yoga, modern dance, Baroque dance, theater, classical and modern, early music, jazz, trad, folk… Structured concerts and jam circles… Moneyed folks and non-moneyed folks, arts available to all. No elitist crap, everyone’s welcome. It’ll be a supportive atmosphere…. a place people are excited to visit, a meeting place of all sorts, a place where you’re safe to start from knowing nothing, a place where you can begin to learn, a place where you can hear and see the works of artists at the top of their fields…. oh boy. I get it, just gotta get it down on paper. Streamline it a bit. But here is where it starts – a storm of the brain on paper, the great master list of possibility…

So now “beautiful January” has come, and gone. A hard, hard month for me. The first days without my beloved father. (Yesterday in the car I lamented out loud that I missed dad so very much now that he was gone. Elihu spoke up from the back seat. “He’s not gone, he’s just not here.”) It’s been one of the most aesthetically beautiful winter months that I can remember – days of snow-covered woods and fields, days of white-on-white magic, the purest-looking January ever. Clean and new, patient, cold and waiting for the changes soon to follow. Such a month of extremes, this beautiful January has been, and with it has come start of something unexpected and new. Thanks for the heads up, dad.