Studio Journal 11-1-10 Stories To Tell

Alaskan mountain

November 1, 2010
1213 Shenandoah Rd
Virginia, USA

I'm back! And it is pretty strange, all told.

arctic campfire
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Just a month ago I was 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, hacking through the ice with an axe to keep the sluiceway open, making my morning coffee over an open fire, living at well below freezing. I get here to Virginia and it is in the 70's and everything is green. Though in little more than a week, the leaves have started to turn and fall, and it drops to near freezing. I've been living alone in the wilderness since mid-August, now I am here in the urban world, like some surreal dream. I've been gone almost two and a half months. Some things are just as I left them, as if I never left, as if Alaska was a dream. Or is this the dream, some crazy fantasy world everyone is living in, and I have come from the real world into the dream? Either way, it is all too familiar and normal, for me. I have to shift gears fast, get traction on new ground and keep moving. I get to work before I get to sleep, checking things off the list while ignoring the surreal, unreal dream-world I am moving through. Good enough, I can deal with strange and crazy. Having lots of experience with it helps.

dulcimer on stage
I've been working on the Alaska 2010 tour journals, loading photos and video into the computer, and starting to write up the story. I made the extreme routine once again, the routine extremes, following my well-worn trail to and through Alaska, playing at the State Fair, returning to the mountains north of the Arctic Circle, returning to dwell in the foundations of my life, digging to bedrock in more ways than one. I walked out of the wilderness a month ago with almost 5 ounces of gold for my efforts. Not that much, but enough to help pay for the new CDs. From there, once again, I start my travels, go on tour once again, follow this road I'm on. I head south with a storm, as usual, making the first stops to play at the first places along my way, Wiseman, Delta Junction, Anchorage, Seattle. Three weeks later I have made it to DC again, and here I am with stories to tell. It was a good trip this time. It wasn't easy, not at all, or perfect, but many things were simply Right.

A lot happened, so it is a long story. While it is important to get this journal rolling again, and to tell the story of this latest trip, I can't be distracted from the here and now, which has to come first. I am determined to open this window on my world, but I have to live it first, from the music to the mundane realities of fixing my sister's well to cutting firewood, sending in my absentee ballot to doing car repairs. I have to think ahead and start lining up festivals for next summer, and start looking for local gigs,.or I'll be back to working the street again for want of somewhere else. Though I can depend on that at least. My highest priority has to be recording and dulcimer building, the next stage of this long-term project I’m on, from which this trip was a major distraction and a nescessary break. I told people that while I was irritated at being interupted, once I was up in Alaska, I realized how much I needed a break, and how much better my work, my music, would be when I got back because of it.

The last time I did a video tour journal on the road, in 2000, so much was happening I made one every week and had to talk fast to cover everything in three minutes. The studio and tour journals I started here were going up every couple weeks. I've decided to break up the Alaska trip into a series, pairing the text-picture journal that tells the whole story that video can only outline, with videos that show the scenes words can't capture. There's just no way I can do it immediately. There are too many pressing things to get going here, but I can post them as a series over the coming weeks. Right now all I can do is let you know I am back and getting started on everything, including posting the Alaska 2010 stories, and tease you with a few photos!

gold nugget in hand
Truck at Arctic Circle
small cabin

I want to keep this journal as current as possible, but this trip is a good example of the realities of the life I live. There are places I go where getting internet access is impractical at least, if not impossible, especially with my limited resources. Then there's just limited time and energy. I am committed to telling the story, as much as I can, as soon as I can, though I may not be able to post like clockwork. I have to live the life first, keep focused on what I am doing. I am not a journalist, I'm a folksinger, and I have to live the stories to tell them. In the end, though I have taken on the role of telling the story, my role in this world isn't about telling stories, but living the life, staying focused on the music, and the dulcimer, and this road I'm on, and the way of life that led me here. Though as a folksinger, I am certainly a storyteller as well!

The trip also emphasized the need to invest in new hardware, mobile gear, so I can do this journal on the road and maintain this window on my world. Being on the road, and on the plane, I thought a lot about the international travels I am going to start. A serious part of the idea is to use this webjournal and the video gear to maintain a connection to anyone in the world who wants to follow me as I travel. Though I still have to complete the first round of recording and dulcimer building, and it is critically important to the overall plan, the trip reminded me that travelling and playing music is what I really do, and this pause here in the studio and workshop is just temporary.

But! Now I am here and have to hit the ground running. I'm juggling getting caught up and getting back in gear. I have to balance getting the webjournal caught up with focusing on the present. I can't let myself get lost in writing and producing video, which is easy enough! I am here to make progress in the studio, and I'll be back on the road again in a few short months, with untold distractions between here and there, both nescessary and optional. Reality includes a leak in the roof and a very large oak branch that fell on the shed, and house plants that needed to come inside before the first frost and firewood to cut, cars and plumbing to fix, bills and accounts to catch up on.

I did go out to a party on Halloween Sunday organized by Jane Chua, the international promoter (and great singer) I met last year. I didn't have time or energy to deal with a costume, so I went as a gold miner!, came as I what I am . Though to the crowd here, I was wearing a costume. So it goes. Very strange way to begin. Though it felt good to dance, it has been months at least since I had a chance. I would have liked to talk more, really, and be productive by meeting people and talking about music. Am I obsessed or what? To be honest, I'm not much into going out unless I can jam or perform, or work on the music somehow. It's hard to justify going out just to have fun. There's just too much to do and so little time. Though it is my idea of fun, playing and singing with other folks, jamming. Though this trip also emphasized the need for some R & R, but for me that means getting away from the noise and crowds, going out to some place natural. I think about repairing one of my sailboats up here and getting out on the river. But really, it is a distraction, all too true. Well, the lists of what I have to do are too long. I am struggling just to prioritize, choose what must be done from all that needs to be done, and what will have to wait, maybe for years. It will be time to pack again too soon. I want to be creative, but I have to do it all myself, and here it is, getting on 4 am again, the life of an indie musican.

dulcimer on stage

More seriously, I do need to start making local connections now that I am here. I did meet a local Indian DJ there, and some local musicians. India is one of the countries on my priority list to visit because the dulcimer, know as a santur, is well known there, though they have never seen one like mine. It could be a start. You never know, just got to keep trying to look for a connection, an opportunity, a song to sing and a place to play. The Soundry's open mike was tonight, but I stayed here in the studio to get this done instead. I'll try to make it next week, it is livecast on the web now. There's other open mikes and jams as well, though like last summer, I have to focus on performing, since I am a professional, and this is what I do for a living, and even more, it is what I do.. open mikes and jams aren't enough. But the OMs and jams are a way to meet the musicians I need to work with. I have to start making things happen. Whether looking for places to play, musicians to play with, or contacting festivals about performing months from now, no one else will do it for me. I have to balance getting set up and rolling in the studio, recording and dulcimer building, with getting out to places to make connections and network. I have to balance what I have ready to do, with all the possibilities and potential opportunities I have to keep open to and looking for. Do I look for potential session musicians or just do it myself and get it done, maybe not as well, but more certain, here and now? But things should get more settled in another week, I hope. Another thing I learned on this trip is to get a routine going and depend on it to move me forward without having to make decisions or deciding what to do. Like making coffee in the morning, I do that while I'm still asleep, more or less.

Well, I put the pickups back on the dulcimer yesterday, though I haven't tuned it yet. And it was my mom's 81st birthday as well. In the last week I saw my sisters, and my brother came up from Austin. I've been here just over ten days and am still just overwhelmed, trying to set priorities, trying not to let opportunities slip away, or miss important tasks, and not get distracted. The fact is, I can't do it all, so I have to let some things slip. But I just have to let them, or put them on the list for someday, if they can wait. I got the chimney cleaned and the woodstove going today, and I'll post this first journal. I hope to start making steady progress soon, but now I have to sleep, if I can. Actually, it’s not even midnight yet, in Alaska! But seriously (can I do that?) my road is pretty clear ahead, just have to keep moving and I'll get somewhere.

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delta homestead driveway
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