Thursday, October 31, 2013

Structure and Function.

It is difficult to do anything when you're sad.  

It becomes impossible to focus.   Reading becomes drifting about, mid-page, lost in the magnetism of self-absorption.  What book is this again?  Studying takes very careful timing and much more energy than it should.  I find myself wishing for more mornings.

Sleeping and eating properly, or at all, can seem insurmountable.  Even breathing.  Especially in those moments when I am suddenly, yet again, freshly reminded.

And then there's that thing where you experience the universal, tangible show of pain that cannot possibly be denied: You are suddenly crying, and you're doing it alone in your car, or in the morning on the way to coffee, or right before the phone rings, or right before class, or when you finally have a quiet moment, or tucked into any little nook.  The unwieldy little grief-bomb is convinced it belongs, and you have to invite it in, you have to just accept it, because what else can you do?   If you fight it, it will come back, and it will be bigger and it will be meaner and it will be hungry.  As Levertov said, simply:  Ah, grief...  

And then you wonder if your feelings can even be trusted, because maybe normal people don't get this sad or upset about things of this specific magnitude.  And then you decide maybe you're crazy, and you don't know what's real.

But at least that's nothing new, and at least you can still laugh about it and know that, most of the time, it really is okay.

And at least you can cry about it, too.  Because every instance of sadness, numbness, grave imbalance, et al, is excellent practice for next time.  And you need to be able to not only get through this stuff, but to really experience it.  Because, quite often, that's where the energy is, and that's where synthesis often occurs of things like, art, and love, and trail running.  

Shortly after Matt's decision to move across the country, Cinder Conk was nominated for "Best World Music" in the Portland Phoenix music poll things.  First of all, you're too late, Portland.  Second of all, this is a fine publication in a lot of ways, but it is also one that has repeatedly blown us off and ignored our press releases.  This has been going on for years.

Also, competitive music is almost always bullshit, doing absolutely nothing for the quality of the music itself.  I can't imagine it would significantly increase listenership either, and, as a listener, why on earth should it?   People should listen to what draws them and what sounds great.  Not whatever else.  I don't mean to sound upset or to take for granted that someone liked us enough to nominate us; it is very flattering to be liked, but the timing hit a bit of a nerve, by no fault of its own...!

At out last appearance, my friend, pianist Tom Luther was in the front row of audience in a huge (and mostly empty) concert hall.  After our short set, I scampered down to hang with him for a few minutes.  "That's your music," he said. "You're a different person when you play it."

Alas.  I know, Tom.  I know.

I thanked him and then told him that he'd just seen the last (well, last for a long time) of Cinder Conk.  I knew he'd at least sort of understand.  Piano players often understand these things -- the inseparability of the one hand from the other.

Early this morning, I had yet another dream involving water.  In the beginning of the dream, my good friend Rosalea and I were mountain biking up this hilly, forested trail.  Maybe we were on tall bikes.  The colors were deep and bold, as it had just rained.  Giant green and gold leaves, heavy with moisture and sap, were brushing against us as we headed up the path.

It was just beginning to get really cumbersome when suddenly we emerged from the forest at a giant lake of the brightest blue.  The frightfully steep bank was familiar; this I see often in dreams.  There were a couple of stepping stones, perhaps, partially submerged, and then unfathomable depth soon thereafter.  We stood on the bank, gazing at the pristine beauty of the water.  It looked almost glacial with its teal glint.

Although there was no development along the piney shores, we observed a long highway bridge in the distance.  In every instance of beauty, in dream or non dream, I can't help but be aware of whether the scene is "natural" or has elements of "anti-nature".  Yes the summit is gorgeous, but it has a fire tower.  Twelve demerits!  Stuff like that.  So the bridge, though distant was quite significant in a sad way.  Overdevelopment even plagues my dreams, eek!

And  then another peculiar fact cropped up.  As we stood, warily admiring the lake, we realized a complete silence except for the distant traffic.  We then understood that the lake had been fished to death, and not a single creature lived within its waters.  It may as well have been a replica.  It was beautiful, and it was dead.

Mountain Ash - thanks to Danielle for the id.
I revisited Chocorua a few weeks ago during a rare cloudy day.  I used two poles and wore a rather heavy pack.  It is odd to think much of pack weight now.  I had always liked the physicality of carrying lots of weight but now my spine seems to have a mind of its own about such things.

Summit view, of sorts.
Dustin had never been above tree-line but wanted to come along and I was glad for the company.  In times of duress, I taught him Tim and Pete's method of seeking out places to succumb, and we reached the summit with Dustin still speaking to me, although I think it was a close call.

Who knew that my roughly-measured version of "almost there, just a little bit more to go,"  and his idea of "almost there, just a little bit more to go," were totally not remotely similar in implied amount...!

Ornaments, clinging, holding, letting go.


  1. this -- "Piano players often understand these things -- the inseparability of the one hand from the other."


  2. Sadness is natural, but regardless, all things are typically nicer when we're happy. Wishing you cheerier thoughts in the days to come. As always, love reading your writing, Xar.

  3. love Ann's comment. yes, trek for peace. love that you have something that precious to feel so deeply sad for. i wish i was running with you now

  4. Thanks so much for reading my humble words, and for the kindness. I am well. Sadness can be cathartic.

    At my feet rests a beautiful accordion, one that wouldn't fit in Matt's car (because, no doubt, it was so full of other accordions...!) Zon-Rio, as it is called, will be spending the coming months here with me. Although the task is gigantic -- and I am sure I could never play like Matt, nor am I as fine company -- the ball is technically in my court at this point.

    Balkan music lives. And one way or another, it shall continue, in some small way, to live and be loved here in Maine, at least by me...!

    There is a chance that Cinder Conk will reunite sometime next year for a bit, that is, if I do not become incarcerated in the interim for disrupting the neighborhood peace...!


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