The View Beyond Beginner

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I am in my 2nd year of learning tenor guitar – in my mid 60’s.  I heard Richard Durrant play “Skye Boat Song” on the tenor guitar about 1 ½ years ago.  I was smitten. Something was rekindled down deep within me and I knew that even though late in life, I had to start playing music again on the guitar. 

I traded my standard (now vintage) guitar that I played as a teen for a beautiful tenor IMG_1543guitar handmade by the local music store owner. (See my post “Breaking up With my Guitar” for the backstory.)  With a neighbor, roughly the same age and in a similar situation we signed up for guitar lessons and attend alternate weeks in the same time slot.  Finding we both had a love of traditional folk tunes, we got over our shyness and started playing and singing together. Now we have a repertoire of about 8 songs that we have memorized and informally have played with other folks.

We are still not too polished but looking back but hey, I know the chords and the notes on this instrument.  I am learning music theory, am learning how to sing harmony and am performing with another person. It’s a musical adventure.

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A sweet beginner! Wintergrass 2020

The most difficult part of being a beginner is getting over the myths of learning as an adult, some of them being- I’m not talented enough, I can’t remember anything, or it’s too late for me.  I’m not “good”, (yet) but I am sooooo much better than when I started.

We just returned from attending Wintergrass, a huge 4-day music festival in Seattle that had the best of the best in this genre and beyond.  It was inspiring to hear all these fabulous musicians and then amateurs (including children) jamming in the hallways. There will be no fame in the future for us but that’s not the point.  It’s but there are fun and joy of the

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Hallway jammers- Wintergrass 2020

process of playing music that is what truly is important. An added benefit is keeping those brain cells firing.

Ultimately you can begin anything at any age if you have enough commitment to PRACTICE.  Show up every day and you will improve. having a buddy will help but is not necessary.

Don’t ever think it’s too late to begin and just know that the first step is the hardest.

P.S.  The best investment in life is in yourself

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The Barefoot Connection- Wintergrass 2020

 

 

My Words for 2020

A good intention is like the seed of a tree whose fruit we do not know.

George Bernard Shaw

It’s become a personal tradition to rather than make a long list of resolutions to pick a word to live by for the year. Last New Year my word for the year was “courage.” Looking back I believe I did the word justice (to the point of perhaps overdoing it?)  I put myself img_2915out of my comfort zone by making a new body of work, participating in the Art Harvest Studio Tour, completing a printmaking residency, traveling Scotland to walk with friends & then to Ireland solo to attend Craiccean a week-long bodhran (drum) camp on one of the Aran Islands.  Then there were a series of health issues that had to be navigated that took a different type of courage.  I am happy to report things are much better!

Ready to give courage a bit of a rest, my new word for 2020 popped into my head during last week’s yoga class when my teacher asked us to think about and intention for the New Year.  That word is “acceptance” with my secondary word being “focus”.  I find one word can have quite a few layers to it and I am eager to explore where these will take me.

Last night I read the following poem I wrote at a gathering of friends as a toast to the New Year.  I am very optimistic for better times and wish all of you the best for 2020.

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Images by Alanna Pass

Continue reading “My Words for 2020”

Paying Homage to a New Year

calendar-3042204_1920This is a reblog of a poem I wrote for New Year’s Eve last year when my blog was brand new and had few readers.  I read it at a gathering of friends. We were all still reeling from the presidential election fallout.  As the poem as it was read caused a hush in the room.   Later, several friends told me how much it meant to them.  Feel free to share this at your gathering on this New Year’s Eve as we hope for change in 2018.  What better way to start the New Year than with poetry?

On This Last Eve

There are no more squares to fill

Nor pages to turn

Nothing can be changed

But how we act tomorrow

And how we think about the past.

It is done

A tapestry of memories woven in our minds

Events left to history.

In the morning

A new calendar will grace the wall

Waiting to be filled with commitments & adventures.

Let the glasses clink with their bright sound

Among this circle of friends & family.

Let us toast to the warmth of love & friendship,

A better tomorrow

& the chance to begin again.

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Why I Meditate

606-to-507-028For many, the word meditation conjures up images of Buddha- like figures sitting in lotus position, hands in prayer, dressed in monkish robes or yoga gear & chanting Om in long breaths. Find me in meditation & you would see a disheveled middle-aged woman propped up in bed first thing in the morning, legs stretched out under the covers, hands upturned in her lap, eyes closed & silently breathing.  It’s an unglamorous but serene picture.  This is how I prefer to start my day.

Meditation has been a part of my life off & on for over 20 years. I turned to it, as many do, during a period of great upheaval in my life. The liberal minded church I was attending at the time offered a free class.  It was a simple procedure.  Close your eyes, scan your body for tension, & then breathe observing your thoughts without judgement.  The teacher suggested picking a 2 syllable word, known to some as a mantra, to focus on while breathing.  This could be something like “om-sa”, “breathe in-breathe out”, “I am” or something that holds meaning to you.  You can visulaize a peaceful scene. That was it.  No need for a guru, a specially assigned mantra, or shelling out lots of money.  The deal breaker for me was the suggested 20 minutes twice a day.

I did start on that schedule & then could not stick with it.  Rather than throw out the entire practice this is what my practice looks like now- 12 minutes before I start my day.  It really helps for me to throw in a late afternoon practice before dinner but that is usually the exception than the rule.  Sometimes all I can muster is observing my breath 5 to 10 times during my day.  It all helps.

This is what I’ve gained from meditation- focus, grounding, & insight.  Previously I had the mistaken notion that meditation was about controlling my thoughts. I was wrong. It’s about observing the mind & body without judgement. If you find your mind wandering, just come back to the breath & note what you were thinking about.  This will happen over & over.  Eventually you will gain an awareness of your thought patterns throughout your day & a habit of self- correction.

One of my first realizations was that my default body position is with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears.  That may not sound like much, but relaxing my shoulders has helped relieved me of back & shoulder pain. Then, being a creative soul, my thoughts tend to be all over the map often wrapping themselves in a tight knot than constructive recognizable paths.  Now I am more able to develop ideas in a more constructive way. I can think in a more positive manner. It’s a defragging for the brain, a reboot for the thoughts.

Meditation is the ultimate reality check.  Slow down, stop, and go inward.  If you think you don’t have the time, all the more reason to start.  You will not regret it.

Why I started to Write

Odd things can happen in your 60s. I feel like that kind of yucca pant that blooms once a century or a prehistoric seed given the right environment germinates and starts to growwhy-i-started-to-write. All of a sudden this last year I felt like I had to write. It started out with an occasional poem, then frequent poems to some short essays to now a blog. Probably what has contributed to this perfect set of conditions is now seeing more time behind me than before me- the need to document my experience on this planet. Then there’s the fact that this winter in Oregon has been so cold I cannot seem to motivated to work out in a ceramics studio that is heated only by space heaters. I needed a creative outlet. Whatever the reason, here I am, a writer.

In the past, I have written for classes & have kept a journal. But write for the sake of writing at 4 AM? Years ago I would have shut my eyes, pulled up the covers and waited for the impulse to pass. Experience has told me though, that unless I heed my heart, its whispering will become shouting and that ultimately leads to unrest and irritability.

This is the start of my writing journey. It’s surprisingly one of the most grounding things I have ever undertaken. I have benefited greatly from the writings of others. Now I have opened myself up to critical eyes but also to those that will benefit as well. It’s worth the risk.

The Last Eve

On This Last Eve

There are no more squares to fill

Nor pages to turn

Nothing can be changed

But how we act tomorrow

And how we think about the past.

It is done

A tapestry of memories woven in our minds

Events left to history.

In the morning

A new calendar will grace the wall

Waiting to be filled with commitments & adventures.

Let the glasses clink with their bright sound

Among this circle of friends & family.

Let us toast to the warmth of love & friendship,

A better tomorrow

& the chance to begin again.