3-1-13 The Promise of Spring

Daffodils blooming

I'm keeping to the new pattern of writing two entries, one to dwell on something that has been on my mind, and a short story of what has happened over the time since the last entry. Though instead of posting two posts at once, I’ll try alternating posts, and posting more often. So! This is that simple story of the month of February.

A hard month is behind me, in many ways, a repeat of the hard and frustrating month of January.

All I can really say is that I have made it through, counting down the days to the end of winter, trying to stay positive, but not always succeeding. The music helps a lot, as I play every weekend, through cold, wind, rain and snow.

I work, as always, constantly and steadily, without any break. I struggle to make progress, and do manage some small steps, but it is not much, realistically. Almost all my time is taken up by the demands of simple survival, the work relating to the situation with the house, preparing to stay and to leave simultaneously, and more unexpected emergencies. I still survive on a absolute minimal budget. I still manage to do it. I feed the birds and feed the fire, and remember this is a temporary situation and to have patience and everything will be better come Spring.loaded dulcimer wagon with winter coat on top with ducks standing on frozen river in the background

But the simple story is that I have made it through this hard winter, and March will certainly bring Spring, the cosmic clockwork I have always followed remains inevitable. The signs are showing with the first silly early blooming flowers, and the while the rest are springing up everywhere. Much more significant, there may finally be resolution on the house, and the long, hard, frustrating and costly wait in a limbo of not knowing what direction my life is headed, may soon be over, finally.

The Story

It has been brutally cold, and the ice builds on the river waterfront where I play on weekends, and still I play, and I still have good scenes, great scenes, and still suffer in the cold. While I haven't been able to keep up with the minimum I set to keep my reserves from dropping, I have only been losing by $20 a week, an accomplishment in the circumstances, and even making my goal one week.

brian playing on the waterfront at night, taken by the Bromely Family
I still love being on the street. I've started getting the first responses from the asking people to send in their photos or links to videos or galleries they post. Soon it will be warm enough to take my video cam out and shoot. As always, there's great scenes interacting with people I meet, playing for the kids, letting them try the dulcimer, maybe inspiring them to play themselves, maybe I am just making them happy, which is enough. My role is to bring positive energy into the world, into people's lives, make them smile, or ease their pain, open their hearts and minds when they have become hard-shelled or just understandingly glazing over in a world that is too often shallow, superficial, and just a facade for impersonal commercial interests, or ulterior motives. But I am "the real thing", and when I make the little children dance, well, that is more than I could ask for, and makes me smile, too. Even as I know I should be making plans and efforts to play other places, move off the street, past it, in some part, to "do more". It is also that I can’t depend on playing one place, I need alternatives, when my usual option, moving on, isn’t available when I have to stay here. It is also the simple fact that winter is passing and I need to plan for the normal Spring and Summer festival season. Since I won't be heading south at this point, and since I'll be heading south as soon as I can in the Fall to deal with the boat, I can assume I'll stay on the East Coast this Spring and Summer, and plan accordingly. Having a plan means I can try booking festivals, or house concerts. Though mostly this has been a waste of time in my life, it is still something I have promised to do as part of "doing more", but I have to start now as things book months in advance, and I am already probably too late for any major festivals, "there's a million little festivals everywhere if you follow the seasons". Including other street scenes, locally, and on the East coast generally. I just need to look into other options, other than the one place I have been playing, other street scenes, and possible venues, and any opportunity I can find, as it seems more and more likely I may be staying here and working on the house through the summer.dulcimer set up on the street with snow falling and people walking in winter coats

Beyond the music, and the stage, and the People, in this difficult and isolated time the street is my social world, the only time I am able to be out in the world, spontaneously interacting with people, the few friends and the many strangers. Except for going to the store or the library, and my limited time on the Internet, it is the only time I get away from the house and the endless work there. It is still the center of my life, because the music is my life, and it is a constant, familiar, and dependable energy in my life in a time of uncertainty. Though it is a frustrating situation, at least I am able to play. Though I also tire of the unchanging scene, I usually am more mobile, not staying one place so long, having time to develop new music, take breaks to renew my energy. Now, am constantly fighting the anger and disgust, the overall negative energy, not at the street itself, but at being forced into this stupid and painful situation of playing here through the winter cold, the frustration of being trapped into not making progress for months, once again. I know that forcing myself to play this way is bad for me and my music, making it a painful thing, more by far than it should be.dulcimer covered with a piece of clear plastic, covered in snow and sleet

I've keeping my weekly food and gas budget at even less than before, $10-$15.
My stash of bulk food has dwindled and disappeared, but it helped me make it through. I have finally had to start buying rice, and I'll soon need to buy some flour to keep baking bread, and there's only a couple handfuls of dried herbs left. I used a few $20 bills I also stashed in better times to handle extra expenses, to buy more birdseed, and to send the last gift packages to relatives, CDs full of pictures from last summer in Alaska, along with a small nugget to add to their collection of gold I've given them over the years. I make it through.

I work on the last major job here at the house that I need to do either way, that's clearing out the big storage shed out back, throwing away junk and garbage. If I stay, I'll need to repair the shed so I can use it for storage again. If I am leaving, I'm sorting out things that are mine, so they are ready to pack up.

crystals in singles and chunks laid out on a big screened frameMostly it is boxes and boxes of quartz crystals I left here over the years, emptying out the van or jeep whenever I came back. Mice have been in them, taking the tissue paper for nests, and the boxes themselves have rotted from years of damp and wet. I empty the boxes and spread the crystals, rocks, and shells out on screens and chunks of plywood to be cleaned by the rain, sun, and wind. It is a strange time, a repeat of the hard and strange job of clearing the house itself. All the memories that fill my mind, the places I gathered these simple and beautiful things, from the mountains of Montana to the deserts of Arizona and the beaches of the Florida Keys. My mind wanders through the memories, good and bad, from a sad and painful experience in my life, the last time I tried having a woman in my life, decades ago now, and seeing it now as the last time, pondering the ways it caused me to live the solitary life I have led, and now seems will be my whole life, and the other things caused me to end up with a life without a woman in it, never knowing "the name of the rose", one of my great regrets. I work in the sun, but my heart and soul are shadowed and troubled by old and new thoughts and emotions, as I touch these old stones and bones.

A first few daffodils burst into bloom at the beginning of the month, for some reason, way ahead of the rest. It is the promise that Spring will come, and the notice that Spring is almost here. A warning that the yard needs to be dealt with, the leaves raked up before they smother the flowers starting to push through everywhere. By the end of the month, green shoots are coming up everywhere, the early ones begin to bloom. So I spend some time working on the yard. Even though I still don't know if I am just going to leave and any work I do is useless. But the plants can't wait, and I am sensitive to them, as all nature, and hear them struggle, and can't stand by and just watch them, and the work I spent years working on just die. piles of woodchips piled on the path along the side of the houseI tell myself that it doesn't cost me money, and if it makes me feel good to spend a few hours transplanting ornamentals I propagated years back, doing something positive and hopeful, then it is OK. A crew cuts a tree across the street and I decide on the spur of the moment, for better or worse, to have them dump the wood chips on the well site next door to the house so I can spread them on the walking path there that connects the two streets and do more landscaping there, as I did for years, but hadn't since ma died. But in the end, the community water manager came by and said the committee had decided they didn't want to do it that way anymore, the sort of casual voluntary efforts I've managed for years. Now there's committees and politics to deal with. I could have called the association president and maybe gotten permission to leave the chips where they fell, and to keep putting chips on the muddy path. But I decided I didn't have time to go through channels, so I worked into the night, shifting the whole pile into the yard. By the next morning, there wasn't a trace left. And I have a lot of wood chips to spread around the yard, probably a better use of my time. I'd wanted some, to put on the paths around the house that were turning muddy with the thaw. Now I had so much I'm ending up doing the whole yard, which I haven't done since before ma died. If I do keep the house, then it will help as I can focus on the renovation, rather than yard work. The plants just can't wait, in any case, but there is also the underlying assumption that I may stay, will stay, while I'm not really committing anything more than my work, no money, so I am still pragmatic. And it just feels good to work outside on the first sunny warm days after a hard winter, take off my shirt, working with my hands and my back, with the earth and plants, doing something connected to life, something visually obvious, something simple and simply productive.

It is significant because I have been deciding that I have to start assuming I will keep the house, that I can't keep not knowing hold me back. There are things I can do, like the yard, that only take time, not money, but will save me time if I get the house and need to move fast. It is a positive thing, as well. I am a gardener, and it hurts me not to care for the yard when it needs it. purple crocus blooming through the old Fall leavesI can try to start dealing with some of the damage my sister did. I can't repair butchered plants, but I can start reconnecting to the slow natural process I had practiced here, natural landscaping, playing harmony with nature, going at it's pace to use it's strength and momentum, propagating and planting, finally spreading the compost pile I built before ma died, reconnecting to a long term perspectives where plants will regrow and some wounds will heal, cause less pain than they do now. It is an act of hope, or reconnection, of confidence, even faith, or just a pragmatic acceptance that I will probably get the house, and I need to stop letting technically not knowing keep holding me back from making progress.

I am desperate to make some progress with the music projects, but nothing is working out. Last month, I had set up the audio-video studio gear I dug out of the trailer and van, but something is wrong with both the dedicated studio computer and the Linux desktop partnered with it for networked storage and secondary processing. I spend some time trying to get it to work again. The studio computer boots, but the video production software crashes, something has gone wrong, but I hope it is something simple. The linux desktop turns out to be terminally broken, the motherboard video chip has failed, and as an early all in one design, there's no AGP slot option. It was an old one I got free to begin with, with a failed audio chip, but it worked. So I think about whether to find a new old free desktop, or consider buying the components to make a cheap but up-to-date desktop, or even a high end replacement for both the old studio computer and the broken Linux box, since a modern computer could do the work of both easily, and more. brian in 1981 in a coffeehouse parking lot with guitar in hand and reel to reel in a packing box in backgroundBut it is money I can't feel comfortable spending right now. As a stopgap solution, once again, I try to get the laptop setup to replace the broken Linux box, setup a LAN with the studio, but can't get that to work either, and in the process, the laptop develops a problem with it's file browser. I still haven't gotten it to keep working, and the next step may be reinstalling the whole OS. Not huge, as the laptop is old and I keep no data on it, but still a problem, especially with everything packed away. Though I do spend a day digging in the van and finding computer parts and tools, as well as the box of DV tapes so I can start archiving them again, when I get the studio working again. But the fact remains, instead of working on progress, I am making repairs, though I had just started finding time to research and contact opportunities through the web. A very frustrating situation, and I move on to other things, though I don't give up.

Though I also dig out a box of old reel to reels, of coffeehouses I recorded in the late 70's, that someone contacted me about digitizing and posting to their site on the web. I had been planning on digitizing them myself, but I found my old reel to reel had stopped working when I returned to 1213 and set up the studio, so postponed that project, till circumstances forced me to pack it all away again unstarted. So it is a positive development that this long delayed project can be completed, and in a way, better than I could do, as they have a website dedicated to these coffeehouses, and an interest group connected there, and the money and time to get it done right now. And I can check it off the long list that always remains in my mind, as I can't forget something I have know I have to do, no matter how many years go by. Though there are still a lot of old VHS video tape, and even a couple reel to reels that need digitizing, along with the DV tape archive, that need to be archived to DVDs as well. It is still a small but positive step to move these coffeehouse tapes along, and in a way, better than doing it myself, and much needed simple step forward, even if it is outside the focus of my life, it is significant in that it is a definite piece of the pile of long delayed projects, finally resolved, giving hope to that the rest will be, one day.dulci set up on the street with a light scattering of sleet

So finally, one day, I follow through on the idea of potting (soaking in wax) the rest of the coils since I have everything out, just to get something done. As well as the practical reality that even though I replaced the working pickups by making new ones, I still have only one working set, and if they break, I have no replacements ready. And I am still playing out in the snow and sleet, wind and rain, and the sun, and rolling and bumping down the street atop my wagon, and generally exposing the pickups to the reality of the hard conditions a working set of pickups has to deal with.
So I melt the wax on the wood stove, prep all the coils, and pot all I have, though it amounts to only enough for one more set and an experimental coil. I wound a coil where I stopped the machine every 2500 winds and pulled out a loop, which will allow me to wire it up to selector switches to create a pickup that can be switched into different configurations, as two or four coils out of phase (like humbuckers) or in phase, essentially as a single coil that can be switched to between 2500, 5000, 7500, and 10,000 winds. This is how I did the step coil during the process of experimental development of the first pickups, where I built a coil with steps every 1000 winds from 1000 to 10,000, and recorded test patterns, and ran them through my spectroscope to see where the best frequency response was, which was about 5K to 6K winds.

Then, even as I am in the middle of soaking the last couple coils, I get a call from the real estate developers. They have a final offer that my sister has accepted, so according to the terms of the listing, I have to accept it as a seller, then I have 48 hours to respond, to exercise my right to match that offer and buy the house myself.

With hot wax on the stove, I have to finish the coils. The real estate agents keep calling, though technically I have time, I am trying to cooperate, so I finish a quickly as I can, get to the library to sign the offer on line. It is high, right at the top of the rational value for the house, actually a good bit beyond it, unfortunately for me. But still within my ability, though it will cut into my cash reserves, and uncomfortable thing to do. But I can still do it, so I call my brother that night and tell him I am. The next day I call the real estate agent to tell them, and to clarify what I had figured out the night before, how I had been trapped by a technicality, one I missed being pressured to sign. I should have known something was up when the Realtors kept calling me, pressuring me to sign, asking if I had questions about the terms. I have been on top of this, but still fell for a slick and dirty trick. There was a clause that would have allowed the developer to back out of this "final offer" after a structural inspection. So it really wasn't a "final offer", though it didn't say so outright, so I missed it, hidden as the technical definition of the purpose of that type of clause. The structural report would have detailed the structural damage to the house, the developer would then withdraw the offer and submit a new, lower, and more realistic one. brian sailing his small open sailing kayak Horse, standing in white tropical pajamas, with his white wolf-dog on deckBut it was technically a "final offer", so I had to match it or lose my chance. Stabbed in the back one more time. But at this point, it seems worth it just to get this over with, and move forward with my life. The long delay has already cost me so much in money, time, physical and emotional pain, that it is worth it to put an end to it.

I ran the numbers last week, before I got the call, and felt very confident about the big picture. And while it should be a relief, but now as I am stuck at the last step, I am troubled by anxiety, normal enough I suppose for such a huge, potentially risky, and irrevocable decision. But its also just the surfacing of the stress and strain I have been keeping under the surface, keeping a lid on. Yet I am still pinned at the edge, wound up too tight, but unable to resolve or relax. More extreme stress and craziness once again. I dream one night of living my simple life as a vagabondi on "Horse", and lie awake dreaming of going away and leaving it all behind, though I get up, make coffee, and get back to getting it done.

I have always believed that "one can make more money, to replace what is lost, but if you lose your honor, no amount of money can buy it back." I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have maintained the highest ethics, dealt in good faith, done so much for them, and been abused over and over. I knew they were going to try something, and I did my best to protect myself, and still slipped up and got forced to pay an inflated price for the house. Though this type of thing is unfortunately too common.

I have often wondered how some people sleep at night. I guess I'll never know. To me the Way is clear, sometimes too clear, and undeniable. path beside other end of house with wood chips spread and raked smoothAnd it is also clear and undeniable that many in this world, too many, don't seem to have that problem. I guess if you don't have honor or ethics, they can't bother you, and the fact is, people live in their own world, with their own righteousness, and feel justified in their actions, often don;t feel they are doing wrong. Most people don't consciously do wrong, I think, but believe they are justified, or have the right, or are just right, even when they are doing wrong. I just can't imaging living without ethics and honor, with such an overwhelming selfishness and ego, such disregard and disrespect for others, such callousness and heartlessness. But people certainly do, somehow. That isn't my problem, I am just the opposite. And I lie awake at night, many nights through the years, troubled in mind, trying to know what is Right, troubled I may have done wrong, inadvertently and unintentionally. So it goes.

Yes, the path is clear, but it is not done yet. Though I have given all the proper notification, I still wait for confirmation from my relatives that they will actually live up to the bargain, even now. I have no faith or trust left, sadly. But still, it seems it will happen, sooner or later, maybe. I have started to shift to that acceptance.

A result is I go to work in earnest on the yard. purple crocus blooming through the old Fall leaves in a patch of sunlightIt provides a release for the pent up nervous energy, so I work in the yard, and work fast, the way I like to do, and work is done, obvious changes, and things that need to be done. Plants I propagated, moved and replanted on a cold rainy day, followed by a rainy night. On the following day of sun and warmth, I rake off smothering leaves and spread wood chips, clearing flower beds, the small meadow of violets, just springing up green, with some natural shade grass. I am just in time. Crocuses bloom immediately, exposed to the light. The slow explosion of Spring is beginning.

And I hold on to great scenes from the street, to fight the stress and anger I feel, to remember how beautiful the world and life can be, the good people out there, hold it in my mind as a shield. I met this cool elder couple, Max and Ginger, Hurricane Sandy refugees from Long Island, who stopped by to listen outside the ice-cream shop. I'm able to play an old song I love, that I played a lot for my ma in those last weeks in the hospital, "Dream a Little Dream of Me". And Ginger starts dancing away, and Max lights up. Max is a poet, and we talked of art and being an artist, and the art cultural world that encompassed New York, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, Western Massachusetts, and New England generally, and the Folk scene, and the maritime. He came back later and got a CD and I played "The Hills of Isle Au Haut" He told me that I'd made their evening, the best reward I get, what I always hope to do, and so they made mine, and gave me what I treasure, memories. So I hold to that memory, to remind myself of that despite all the trouble and stress, even in the hard times, the world can be a beautiful place, full of beautiful things, scenes and places, and better times. And Spring is coming.

Dulcimer set up to perform on the streetspacer
brian looking up and smiling while playing on the waterfront at night, photo contributed by Bromley Familyspacer

spacercloseup of quartz crystals laid out in the sun

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