4-1-13 Equinox: The Triumph of the Flowers

view of swirling gulls a twilight and moonrise seen across the surface of the dulcimer

The Simple Story

snow on trees looking across the yardMarch, when the flowers bloom through the snow, letting me know that despite the cold wind and storm, Spring is coming, and the few pioneering blooms are joined by the rest, and they will not be stopped. The first migrating birds arrive in flocks and individuals. The Spring tides climb to the high water marks. The Equinox comes, the cosmic clockwork cannot be stopped.
In the same way, though the house was finally being settled, inevitably, it was still delayed for the whole month, and typically, I had to live through more craziness. But the big news is that I am getting the house, though the deal isn't done yet.
The street continues to be the street, good scenes and great ones, and strange ones, and persevering though more snow, wind, cold, and rain, but in the end I was also enjoying the first days when I could spend warm hours playing in the hot sun, before the chill shadows came, and then the cold night. The end of the month also is when the first crowds arrive, like the birds, early season tourists on pre-season discount tours, another sign that Spring is here.

The main story of the month was another major step forward on the house, as this pivotal event in my life plays out. Though it took all month, I was finally able to sign a contract to buy the family house from my relatives the first day of April. I'll take possession mid-month and start work, and the sale will close before the middle of May. This is the crucial fork in my road ahead. Now all the dominoes start falling. I'll have to start all the work on the house as the clock starts ticking on my cash reserves. I can start on the music, from dulcimer building to booking gigs, setting up the studio again, though I have balance that against the house. I have to keep working, but not get distracted from the house, which has to be rented before I run out of cash for mortgage payments, though if the music pays me to stay, I can, or at least rennovate slower. In the end, I still probably need to leave to pursue the music, the question is, do I maintain a base at the house to tour from, or is it better to rent entire and go back on the road? I need to make a plan for the next few months, first, and then options for the Summer and Fall seasons. I need to see how things work out over the next few months, how the house goes, what I can afford to do, if I can find good housemates, and mostly, what is best for where the music is taking me. That I'll only learn with the future. This month I spent still just waiting, trying to be productive without commiting myself to anything or investing any money, but in the end, I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel approaching.

The chaotic demands of the last few weeks kept me from finishing the webjournal entry I'd planned to put out on the first, the "thoughts and feelings&quot side of the story. Even now I have to force myself to put things aside for a day and get this one done, just to keep telling the story, keep the story continuous. This is not as interesting a story as when I am travelling and touring, playing music many different places, or raising a sunken sailboat, sailing blue water, or mining gold north of the Arctic Circle. But I have documented this life so long almost without a break, and feel like I have to keep it up, as a unique documentary record of the life of an American folksinger.

The Full Story

I started the month playing the street in snow flurries. So the next week I re-installed the woodstove, moving it over a couple feet so I could run the pipe straight up, the way it should have been done originally. I should have just done this when I installed it the first time, but I didn't want to do anything major, as my brother had asked me at the beginnng not to "move in" again. My brother has been great, all along, and to please him, I would do a lot, and I did. So I suffered through the winter living in an empty house, with everything I needed stored away, for no good reason. But I've reached the point where I had to recognize the unreasonableness and stupidity of their demands, and in the case of the woodstove, frankly dangerous, as I couldn't clean the chimney properly. I also started moving things inside, though not unpacking, just getting them safe and dealing with the water damage to my belongings, after too long stored on the roof of the van, which was suposed to be just a few months, not almost a year.

rum, cups from my parents, and the cup of rememberance on tha cabin floor in AlaskaLast summer I spent a lot of time reflecting on my recent life-changing experience, that was one of the main reasons I was there. A sad and painful experience was having to recognize and accept that I was being abused, and that it had to stop. So I am done with appeasement, with being abused, and giving my abusive relatives a free pass on their behavior. But there are limits, and last month I made it clear what those limits were, and that I was through being victimized, and I wasn't taking any more abuse, or accepting more unfairness and injustice. I can't do much about their disrespect and disregard, and all they've done and cost me. And even while the costs continue to mount, and I have to deal with the damage, and it will take time to climb out of the hole they forced me into. But I can refuse to accept their unreasonable demands, I can refuse to cater to their irrationality, stupidity, and sheer craziness. I am done with that. The last straw fell long ago, even as more straws kept falling. Though my honor demands that I remain fair, and just, and respond to any reasonable "requests", even if they are not presented that way. But I have no trust, or respect, or consideration left to give them. These things are a social contract, that requires both parties reciprocate. I "glazed over" way too much, a mistake, often made in domestic and family relationships.

Still, I maintain my integrity, and don't allow their lacks to form some excuse or reason to compromise my own behavior. I tried to keep my calm, even as I was reaching the my stress limits, dealing with more delay in the final stretch, everything still in range of total collapse and chaos, or final resolution.fresh, home-made bread, sliced open on the cutting board with an oiled slice waiting. During the month, I kept on with the simple routines of life, cutting firewood and baking bread. I worked in the yard, venting my stress shovelling dirt. But first, and immediately, to keep up my end, I updated the sales contract immediately upon getting confirmation that the listing was cancelled, for 3/1 as the date I would get full possession and take over the mortgage payments, and sent it out. I'd originally drafted this contract in November, to accompany the listing, and sent it to my relatives to approve, and my brother assured me it was ok. With the listing cancelled, it actually made the contract a lot simpler, removing all the language to derive a price from the results of a listing and just making it a simple sales contract pegged to the final offer I matched and the mortgage balance the day I take over. The next week I bought a blank quitclaim form to confirm the one I had drafted before was right, which it was. It was already clear I wasn't going to get a quick response, but I wanted to be ready. I made it clear to my brother that I wasn't liquidating assets without a signed contract, or starting to pay the mortgage till I had full possession. I would be absolutely fair, no more, no less, and I was done being pushed around. The house is happening, but I won't let that be a reason to take more abuse. 4/1 had come and gone, so a week later I sent new versions for 4/15 and 4/1, reflecting the changing mortgage balance.

My sisters still delayed the signing of the contract for the entire month. I spent another month in limbo, with the listing cancelled, but no contract, and no guarantee that this wouldn't descend into some new craziness. I also made it clear that I would just walk after this. I sacrificed and suffered enough, too much really after all they have put me through, to go through this final charade. At this point, if they tried to pull some new craziness, I would just leave the whole thing behind and go about my life and they would be out of luck getting me to cooperate with anything. I don't need the money from the house, and I need justice, and dignity, and I demand it. The simple truth they had to face was that my principles are way more important to me than whatever money I'd get from my share of the house.fresh firewood stacked in the driveway

Realistically, the delay was actually better for me than if they'd signed immediately. I can't start work till it is warm enough to tear the roof and ceiling open, which it wasn't in March. At the last minute, they tried to insert some irrational and unnacceptable language into it, typically enough, and give it to me essentially a day before the deadline and expect me to just sign it. I didn't. There was no reason I had to see it as a deadline. Still, I worked all day on an explaination addressed their concerns, including some additions that were right, and gave them back a contract that was acceptable, and moved the possession date up to 4/15. They returned it signed and I signed it myself April 1st.

The long wait is over, and the decision made, but now the clock starts ticking absolutely, and I need to get in gear. But this I don't mind. I have made my plans for the two main paths, and then different options down each road.

me raising my sunken sailboatI have done many big jobs, with deadlines, and worked watching clock tick, the sands slipping through the hourglass. I have lived a life where the tide doesn't wait, literally, nor the sun, nor the seasons, so I plan well, with a great sense of timing, and dance through, and it does not trouble me. I have traveled many hard roads, many tough jobs, and that does not trouble me. I can be patient and wait, when there is need and reason. But being held in an unproductive limbo for no good reason, and having it drag out from simple months to over a year, that caused me trouble. Life is short, and this was essentially wasting my time and life, for no reason. I do have trouble with that, and it was a steep price to pay for something I don't care that much about.

Though I know this is a great opportunity to gain some relative assurance of long-term financial security, well, that doesn't matter to me that much. I had my land in Alaska and a sailboat in southern waters, and felt secure enough in that, though it was not a lot, I could have gotten by, with my homesteading and subsistence skills, even comfortable and happy, living simply in nature. But I am dedicated to the music, at whatever cost, including my long-term financial security. It is a choice I made long ago. I don't intend to retire, and as long as I can keep playing, I am satisfied.playing at the Florida State Folk Festival I am satisfied to play small festivals and fairs, where they can't pay enough to cover gas money. I'm satisfied to just keep playing the street and living on the road, that does not trouble me at all. I am making great art, I know it, and the People I play for recognize it and enjoy the moment, and so do I, before it is gone. What I have to accept to be an artist in America hasn't made me happy, but I am satisfied with my choice, and accept the consequences, now or in the future. I don't have expectations or illusions. Though I still have dreams, and live for those romantic dreams, in those dreams, and hope, of course, springs eternal. But being practical and pragmatic, I have done what I could to have some place to go, when I need to, have a plan for the future. What keeps me going with the house is that I know it is the right thing to do, the best opportunity I have to have a secure future. As a friend told me, it is really about being free to continue focusing on the music regardless of the consequences. Though the internet has profoundly changed the potentials for independent, outside the mainstream artists, I can't count on it. In fact, if I could achieve some financial success, the greatest reward would be being able to put it back into the music, to record more, hire studio musicians, pay for a band, play places that can't afford to now, experiment and build more, and focus on the music more, not be distracted by just trying to survive. The street has kept the music alive, but it takes a lot of hours, and survival doesn’t always include progress. So I persevere in the plan to keep the house, not from a personal desire for some gain, but from a desire to not be a burden, and to be free to follow the music wherever it leads me, and "do more" with it.

blooming purple crocusesSo! To conclude, I begin another chapter, once again, or finally, the one I planned to begin 5 months ago in November, when I returned from Alaska, finishing that chapter. I have my work cut out for me, and it is time to get it done. But that is the future, while getting to this point is certainly the big event, the main story, of the last month. Though it was really spent waiting for it to happen and trying to be productive, and stay centered, as I poised on the edge, unable to jump, but waiting to.

It was a strange time. At the beginning of the month, just after I sent off the new contracts to my brother, we got heavy rains, and the roof started leaking again as the tarp has started to fail after a year up there. I am woken again by the sound of pieces of the ceiling falling. I wanted to do something positive, an act of faith that things would work out, yet I couldn't pragmatically justify investing any money, yet. So I compromised by continuing to work on the yard, reasoning that if things still fell through, I only lost the time and effort. The flowers were charging up everywhere, now, and green shoots showing. But we also still were getting snowstorms and wind. So I cleared and planted the first big garden bed, mustard greens and peas, with a little lettuce, and was able to find the first rhubard pushing up, ma's favorite, that I planted just for her, though I like it, too. blooming houseplants by my desk I begin clearing the new expanded garden areas that I cleared before ma died. It had grown up in lemon balm, which I transplanted, while I stripped off the ivy that had charged back in from the edges. I shoveled up the compost pile, a couple years old as well, and distributed it to all the plants and beds.I cleared the ivy from the new trees and shrubs I'd planted then, too. The ones that lived were established and starting to grow, sassafrass and serviceberry, hawthorne, crabapple, and witchhazel, and trees I'm not sure what they are, but the protective collars of screening means I planted them. I transplanted azeleas, roses, laurels, and spyrriah I'd propigated years before.

Though the house was still bare and empty, I had my desk, where I tried to accomplish what I could, an island of productivity and creativity, of continuity as well, and just to have some sort of personal place, a living, occupied space. I moved it so I was looking at green houseplants, ones that survived because I put them outside when I left for Alaska. And outside through the windows at the tangled arbor of rambling roses that I might see bloom again, and remembered well. The houseplants started blooming first, from biennial purple moneyplant that came inside with the avacado tree and decided to just keep blooming all winter, to a indoor cyclamen I found totally dired out and seeming dead when I got back from Alaska, along with all the house-plants my sister didn't water when I was gone, intentionally killing them. But miraculously, it survived, the only one, and recovered, and now is blooming massively and triumphantly. I cut a broken branch from the Apricot and bring it inside to bloom in a mason jar of water. And oregano, dug from the garden and growing inside for occasional pinches of fresh herbs in my dinner. And my bananas sit in the sun to ripen.

Here I try to feel that there is progress, despite the resistant, frustration, and delay. my deskI work, taking care of the business I have to do, write the leagl paperwork, pay the bills, keep accounts. It was here I handled the whole estate. I bought it for my ma when I set up this room for her, now it is mine. I make plans for the future, so I am ready when the time comes, multiple plans for different options, ready for whatever comes.

I write, keeping my journals, keeping up this web journal again as well, processing the images, remembering the scenes. I have my "DaVinci's Notebook" as well, noting, sketching out, and filling in ideas, concepts, and commentaries. I respond to things I hear on the radio or read in my PC world and Scientific American magazines. I am a visionary, and ideas just come to me, rising form all the knowledge I have gathered, from reading, media, experiences, conversations. Though for now, I have no outlet for them, and wonder if I ever will.

I study here, I have a curious mind, so I am constantly grabbing a book from the library to add to my knowledge, when I have time to read. Often I study what I needed to know, right now, real estate law and contracts, but also coding as it applies to my website, catching up and refreshing myself, extending my knowledge, javascript, xml, and html 5. I often don't have time to learn it all, just what I need to know for what I need to do, and the rest slips away somewhat as I don't use it again for years, or didn't apply it in the first place. And the web keeps evolving, and I balance not wasting time on dead-ends and pop fads, while still moving forward with what becomes the standard.

close up showing a book of personal accounts of the Arab uprisings, Demanding Dignity, on the corner of my deskI read economics, and the deeper story of recent history, from the details and facts behind the financial crisis. I am deeply interested in world events, so right now, when I'm catching up on accounts of the Arab Spring. It is a movement that thrilled me, and still does, and frustrated me, as I was caught up in ma's death and the estate, barely able to follow events unfolding through the local NPR station. Though late at night, before I packed up the studio, I recorded my reaction, versions of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "Find The Cost Of Freedom, with a vision of adding voices in many languages building to a chorus in the many voices and times, and the continuity I felt between the student uprisings here, and the civil rights movements, and sufferage, women's, monorities, and worker's rights, so long ago,now, and the fresh blossoming of the same tree around the world, and yes, the images of young people lying dead on the streets. Perhaps it is that I listen to it on radio, so the image I see is pulled from my own memories, "four dead in Ohio", and others, in other places. I have travelled on that road, though only a small and minor part in a great struggle, a simple folksinger, but I chose sides long ago, and have never looked back, and the solidarity I feel with the many stuggles everywhere is real and deep, my constant companion through the years.

It also relates to my personal struggles now, as I look at the note on my desk, that says "Do Not Hate" and below that "It is better to die for justice, than to live with injustice." I understand that in a profound way, what I am doing here is demanding justice, fairness, demanding dignity and respect for myself, against my abusers, refusing to accept more abuse, more unfairness, from them. It is significant to me, that while these issues are playing out in the field of politics and social movements, it is just as real, and even rooted in, the same abuses between individuals, within families, where someonefeels they have some essential right or justification to abuse someone else. It is an old story, and too common, so there is something serious and deep here, and the true revolution does start within, and the choice to demand liberty, freedom, respect, dignity, can only be honorable, and sustainable, and a true revolution, when it includes granting those things to others, yourself, and demanding those rights for all. Tryranny replaced with tyranny is still tyranny, and simply changing the seating so a previously persecuted group can persecute others is not real change, not progress.

I am frustrated often by the lack of information even on good radio, and long for the time I can get internet access again, and follow events more closely. Though there is little I can do, the web is revolutionary in that it is a two-way medium, it is communication, and potentially participation, not just passive viewing.

I am reconnecting with the world, on all levels, after so long away. Beginning with dealing with the ma's illness and death, then the estate responsibilities, then continuing and completing with the complete retreat to Alaska. Then I could leave the wilderness and return to the world, actually, and in every way. Yet I am still isolated here without much communication, in a place I know few people, unable to really move forward till I know where I am going. But this desk is one place where it is starting, where it is happening.

the Spring tide flooding the  intersection by where I playI was still playing every weekend, through wind and cold, rain and snow. Meeting the People there, connecting with the world, again. There was a night when the Spring Tides lined up with the moon and rose up to flood the street. I was playing the street, rather than the waterfront, or I would have ended up stranded there on the docks, having to walk blocks to higher ground to cross. It is funny, as the water came up to to the point where the old waterfront was originally. I told people it was because the folks who settled this place were sailors, and knew to build just to the highest watermark, that of the Spring Moon tide.

I also tried to make progress with the music, by trying to get the video studio up and running at least. At the beginning of the month I picked up a couiple old PCs I found on FreeCycle.org, and ordered some new ram and started trying to replace the broken linux desktop. I started studying HTML 5 again, though I had already covered it when it came out, a lot of time had passed since then, so I recovered that ground, preparing to update the website again. The free music tracks and sample cd tracks download page has stopped working, probably because it was set up long ago, to download and save the tracks to the user's computer to be played, and modern browsers want to stream and play through a plug-in or app, so they don't download and save, or need to be told to do so, and some just won't. Anyway, I can fix it by updating it to HTML 5, which is specifically designed to bypass all those conflicts around playing audio and video with different browsers, plug-ins, apps, and audio-video file formats.

snowstorm starting on the street at nightI started transfering the DV tapes from last summer in Alaska onto the studio computer to be edited. A odd time, as I relived the scenes watching them playback as the transferred in real time. But a small but real progress.

The week of the Equinox, the Apricot tree blooms, right outside the window. I haven't gotten fruit from it, since it blooms so early there are never any bees out to pollinate it, as there aren't honeybees, which stay active all winter, near enogh to come and do it, and the bumblebees hibernate and haven't emerged yet. Because it usually snows on the apricot blossoms. The following weekend I am able to play the first really warm day, the sun hot as I play on the waterfront in a beautiful, clear, calm day. Sunday, the clouds move in, by afternoon the wind comes cold, and by evening the snow starts pouring down. I move into the shelter of the Torpedo Factory Art Center "atrium" and have a great scene, setting up the dulcimer and doing a fast show for a crowd of school kids waiting for the trolly, echoes of the EDU shows I haven't done for too long, and miss, both because I consider it a duty and because it is a pleasure. I do a quick 15 minute show and they leave on the trolly, and I take advantage of a pause in the snow get back to the car and head home. And true enough, I wake to a world of white, and once again, I can take pictures of apricot blossoms in the snow.

snow on trees looking across the yardcloseup of snow on apricot blossoms
But the sun comes back, and the snow melts, and the flowers are blooming everywhere. The following weekend it is warm again, so fine, Easter weekend, the beginning of tourist season. I have made it through the winter, despite the snow. The crowds come off the buses, the first waves of early season tours. It is always intersting because they come from specific places, so they'll be these large crowds from 4 or 5 different countries on one day, and from 4 or 5 different countries the next. I love that about tourist towns, and especially DC, that the world comes here, and I get to interact with people from all around the world. At the same time, it sharpens my interest and desire to go around the world myself, to take the electric dulci to the countries where it is known, where it's roots stretch back thousands of years, and show them what I have done.

the dulci on the street on its wagon  sitting next to the harp and gear of another streetperformerI also think about the fact that it is the beginning of the season, and now all the other performers will soon be here. A few have been here on and off through the winter, when the weather was not to bad. Many are old friends and aquaintances, as I have played here for decades, though usually only for a limited time in the Spring as I passed through in May and June. But the hard truth is I may soon be forced to the margins by loud, agressive acts that drown me out, overpower my simple, beautiful music, whether with drums or circus acts. It is the same story in many places I have played, or tried to play. I am singing, often gently, a folksinger, I can't shout. I don't shill the crowd into making solicited crowd noise to draw a bigger crowd, or other tricks. Though the dulci is electric, it is still quiet, as my voice is acoustic and I am singing over it. Even if I could, I don't want to have amplifier wars, I want to play just for the people in front of me, and make space for as many acts as possible. I want everyone to win. As an artist, I believe we are all in this together, art is not a competition, but a community, that supports each other. It was the view of art that I was raised with by my mother, Rusty the Thespian. Some performers are like me, respectful and considerate, working together, like I'll watch the harp player's gear, or a portrait artist's setup, while they hit the restrooms. I took the picture above because I saw the visual connection of the instruments, in color and wood, and deeper, in their music and their life on the street.

I can be forced out just by sheer numbers, as too many performers arrive in a small place, and in addition, everyone who thinks they can comes down and gives it a shot, and finds just how tough an audience and hard a stage the street can be, and some find how great it can be as well. They might give up after one day, but there will be more the next. There's ones who aren't even trying to make a living, but just doing it as a lark, but taking up space professionals need and depend on. So it goes. I want there to be room for everyone, and I encourage new performers, and give advice, and sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't.

I just don't fight for space, don't compete. That's not what I got into art for. I don't see art as a competition. And I left the business to get away from the competition that is just driven by the money, by selfishness and greed. Again, I want everyone to win, and often enough, I can help others by just going somewhere else and leaving it to them and leaving them to it. I can do ok on the margins, where other performers can't survive, but it hurts me, all too true. Usually, I just move on to another place, maybe a smaller place, where they have too few performers, not too many. I left the business to escape the rank competion that is about scrabbling for the cash, not art. I feel the same on the street, and end up leaving or avoiding the scenes that attract those who are just after a buck, the panhandlers and gimmick acts, or the high end circus acts that want to play heavy crowds. Sometimes the problem is just people with egos, something I left the business to get away from, or new performers with misconconceptions about the street and what works, that believe that louder music is always somehow better, or that they have to dominate the scene with their sound, or just want to, to "fill the street", which also means driving out anyone else.

I want to play someplace I want to play. I can play anywhere, and after decades of performing have nothing to prove, and am too tired of dealing with bad vibes to want to deal with more. It is easier to go away and find another place to play, someplace beautiful. Aesthetics could be defined as my great motivation, the foundation of my world, making great art, and being in a scene that is beautiful, practicing the art of life, living a life as art. That is why I play on the waterfront, even when it is not always the best, and set up so I can look out over the water, and the light on the water, the circling, swirling clouds of gulls in the twilight, the rising full moon. This is the beauty I seek to be part of, to come from, the energy I want to be in harmony with, flowing through me and the music. So I am part of this picture, as much as the water, the birds, and the moon, singing harmony with the universe, "good vibrations, here and now, you and me".

spacerthe dulcimer setup on the waterfront, facing out at the view of swirling gulls at twilight and moonrise seen across the river

I know I need to think about alternatives, other places to play so I have somewhere else to go. From alternative street scenes locally, to local venues now that I know I'll be here long enough to book, to other towns and going back on tour, as I usually would, if I can get done with the house. Though it is already too late for a lot of festivals, I can try booking into smaller summer fairs that don't work as far in advance, and look into Fall festivals. As a streetperformer, a gypsy, and a bard, I have always said that there's always another place to play. I have a gift, a talent and a skill, that can serve me, and the people I play for, anywhere in the world. And my stage has always been national, and sometimes international, and my plan is to focus on that stage in the next chapters. My cup says "All my world is a stage", and another bard wrote a simple truth, "all the world's a stage", I know all the world is my stage.

The weekend ends in rain showers, but it is warm rain, a Spring Rain. I play in the atrium again, and it is a good day. The next morning it is in the 60's. April 1st, and the contract to buy the house is waiting for me to sign.

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