Catching Up

Take a second and think back over your last two months of existence, and, if you’re like me, it all just appears like one, big amorphous blob of days. Minus something completely out of the ordinary (a weeklong trip to some faraway place, say, or your house burning down), even special times worth remembering get rolled into the blob, to the point that answering the simple question, “What have you been up to?”, becomes like trying to explain the theory of relativity.

A couple of years ago, this void in memory made me sad, that I could live days, months, an entire year, and only come away with a few lines. There were special moments during time’s passing to be sure, but damned if I could remember what the hell they were. So I started writing everything down as a reference. Good thing, too, because when I look back on Spring 2016, my fickle eyes can’t see much beyond a day or two. Everything beyond that is just hazy, indefinite shapes dotting the timeline. Even squinting only gets me back a week or two. Our animal brains aren’t fit for this kind of mental storage. Thank god for pens.

Family: Lindz and I have been to Geneva (NY, not Switzerland), back to Olean for my grandmother’s 90th, out to Keuka Lake and Waneta Lake, and out to the Hudson Valley for a weekend. This Saturday, we’re heading back to Olean for a birthday, and, later this month, it’s out to Vermont to meet up with friends for a little vacation. We celebrate our one-year anniversary in July. Things are great. Both of us are trying to establish this daily habit of dedicating at least one hour of each evening to our respective crafts – she holes up in her studio to work on an ongoing project; I tinker away on guitar, songs, piano, or whatever. The activity is symbolic in a way – after all responsibilities are handled, the day ends with meaningful work that charges us up for the following day. So far, so good.

Our dog, Ada, is an ornery little shit, though. Two walks per day, an extended run, soccer in the backyard, and she still follows us around the house, grumbling about her little dog problems. C’mon, dog.

Music: I’m in gigging mode recently, driving out to Rochester on two separate weekends and Corning on another. This month, I’ve got three gigs in Ithaca. The shows have been fun and, at the very least, have been lessons in taming my anxiety leading up to gigs. I can’t really explain how gratifying it is to battle through that dread, drag my ass onto a stage and sing even as my out-of-control brain is in a state of meltdown – “Run! Run now!” If I’ve learned anything these past few months – and this goes beyond music – it’s that my feelings are really not accurate most of the time. My moods, my feelings, change with the direction of the wind. Silly, then, to be guided by them.

The barn: Our sagging, 100-year-old carriage house is fixed and ready for another century-long fight against gravity. Most everyone for whom we sought guidance advised us to simply tear it down and build something cheap and practical. We just couldn’t do it, though; we had to find someone out there who could bring our carriage house back to life, and that someone was a barn restorer named Seth. Inside of five weeks, he and a partner jacked up the barn, tore out the foundation, paved a new one, braced all the walls, and replaced what needed replacing. The roof line is actually that – a straight line. It’s damn magic.

Et cetera: I’ve been taking piano lessons with a guy named Noah since February, and the challenge of learning a new instrument has unearthed some of that old excitement I had when I first picked up guitar as a teen. In many ways, I’m flying blind – I visualize shapes on the guitar’s neck, and that helps me remember chord patterns and scales. But there are no mental maps on which to draw from with piano, where all those keys are laid out linearly in front of me. In two weeks, I’m playing a recital (adorable, I know), where I’ll play Chopin’s “Prelude in E minor”, a piece that has taken me months to master.

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