Thursday, December 16, 2021

Henry and Red Head Fred


I see this a lot these days. Gotta conserve energy - his bursts of silliness may not occur as frequently, but when they occur they're as silly and as fun as ever. I love my dogly dog!

Friday, November 12, 2021

"And this, then, is why music — of all the arts — is the most meaningless art."

Alan Watts, Future of Communication

"And this, then, is why music — of all the arts — is the most meaningless art. After all, music is a major industry in the United States. The money invested in orchestras, in operas, in the recording business is fantastic. It’s — horse racing is a very great industry, but music, I think, probably absorbs more millions than horse racing. And you could make a case that this was a complete dissipation. It solves no useful purpose, it doesn’t help anyone to survive, it is a noise; meaningless noise, endless meaningless noise going down the drain. And all these energies of orchestras, or all the power of electronics that delivers this, is total waste! And people get hooked on it. They get the thing called chorditis, which is addiction to harmonics. And they have to have this repeated day after day. Some people get up in the morning and they can’t function until they’ve had cup of coffee. But many more people get up in the morning and can’t function until they turned on the radio and got some music.

“And what would you say, then, of a culture which took this standpoint: music not allowed. Music is a diversion from reality. You know? That kind of awful, utilitarian attitude—but really, one of the basic things, you see, that we live for. What makes it worth surviving and going on is there can be such a thing as music, there can be dancing. In other words, that we can do things that are absolutely irrelevant so far as mere survival is concerned. Now, we have the proverb that ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Dull for work. And people who play — justifying their play by making it a means to that end — those people never play. Because you don’t really play until you get so absorbed in the music — or the dancing, or the whatever you’re making; the part of doing, the calligraphy — until you get so absorbed in that there is no reason for it other than what you’re doing. The sheer delight of that. Then — because you are absorbed in something for which there is no ulterior motive, and which is pure play — this, by way of a byproduct, produces sanity. In other words, if you play in order to be healthy, in order to be sane, you’re not playing. But if you play just to play, then, as a byproduct, as something you couldn’t aim at directly, you are sane.

“And so a culture which allows for this, which allows for this sort of goofing, is a healthy culture. This is not the culture that we live in, because it is extremely anxious about play. Everybody, when they play, they have to find an excuse for it. They say, ‘Well, this is culture.’ You try and persuade the city of San Francisco to support its opera. What sort of propaganda do you have to use? You can’t say, ‘We should have a good opera house because we just like going to be opera.’ You say, ‘This improves the city’s image.’ After all, they have it in New York.

“And that is because we do not allow ourselves the idea that life is not serious. Because somehow we feel if you aren’t engaged in something serious you’re a loafer. You’re not contributing to the social welfare. And so, in this way, the artist has a peculiar role in this society. Very, very interesting. Because the artist is a very deceptive fellow. He appears to be the supreme luxury, the irrelevant fellow. You can afford an artist, you can afford to buy paintings, if you have surplus money. That’s a luxury. So you can support an artist, and we call it ‘fine arts.’ The completely useless person who makes paintings—which are sort of big labels or posters that you stick on your utilitarian walls to decorate them.

“But on the other hand, the artist is the man who shows you the future long before everybody else sees it. The artist is the eye opener. Just because the artist is distinct in role from the preacher and the philosopher, the artist can get away with all sorts of things. For example, in our culture, if you’re a university professor, a doctor, or a minister — these three professions: teacher, doctor, minister — you have to be very careful about your private life. Because the moment you have any alliances that are not quite regular, people’s tongues begin to wag. And why do they wag? Because they say, ‘The way you behave is inconsistent with your profession, with what you profess. You are teaching people the good life, the healthy life. And you live in this disreputable way. You have a mistress. You have something or other going on.’ But the moment an artist should take a mistress, this is what is expected of him. Everybody says, ‘Oh, he’s an artist.’ In other words: he doesn’t matter. He’s irrelevant. He is an entertainer; some sort of clown. But on the other hand, if you belong to a high culture, you patronize artists. See?

“So the role of the artist is very fascinating. Because he appears to be the clown, the jester, the absolutely unimportant and irrelevant person. And yet, it’s actually through the artist that we learn how to live. Not through the preacher, not through the philosopher, not through the professor. It is the artist who teaches us, whether he does it visually with painting or sculpture, tactually, or whether, above all, in music."

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Homeowner Anniversary

So one year ago today I put some ink on a few lines and became a homeowner once again!

It came at the end of a long, drawn-out process – almost six months! – that was weirdly complicated, but I’ll spare the details on that. It finally happened, and that’s all that matters. The house needed some upgrades and repairs, and some of the things I’d really like to do will take years. But the excellent news is that none of the needed repairs/upgrades was necessary before I could move in.

First order was to remove all the old wall-to-wall carpeting. 

Discovered pretty hardwood underneath! 

A couple of days of crawling around on hands and knees to remove carpet staples, some buffing and a coat of wax, and here’s the result:

Check out that front door while you're looking! Pure '50s! 

A closer look, but don't look too close! I have a dog, after all.

After removal of the carpeting, and its years of accumulated dust and inevitable decay (no judgment; that’s the nature of carpeting) and it was time to clean and move in a few essential pieces of furniture, like a bed, a couple of chairs, and this really cool dining table with benches that I’d spied in an antique store.

The chairs had been forgotten by the previous owner, and coordinate oddly but well with the “new to me” table.

Over the months, and with help from various friends, I’ve converted what was intended to be the master bedroom

Into a music room

Closet doors removed and I can have a small library and a place to store instrument cases. Really excited about that!

Complete with orange wall.

I’m pretty thrilled to have a fireplace, even though it doesn’t “work” – that unsightly and rusted out, inoperable Buck stove had to go, and the chimney needs MAJOR attention before it’s safe.

But no matter. I never had a fireplace before, and it comforts me just to look at it.

I’ll keep painting and upgrading/repairing as the months and years go by, but for now I’m happy and content. Almost as happy and content as Henry-Dog.

My patient pet has supervised every moment of removing, moving, cleaning, painting and making messes and cleaning again.

Brigid's Cross. Properly hung above the entry door.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Pennies from Heaven?


I believe in guardian angels.

Unlike a lot of people, though, I've never believed that our guardian angels are loved ones who've passed on. But I may be rethinking that ...

SO many times as I've faced a "situation" or felt down, I've found a penny on the ground. And I've ALWAYS picked it up because "Find a penny; Pick it up; All the day you'll have good luck." My father was always finding pennies and every time I find a penny I think of him and think he left that penny for me, or maybe guided me to it.

Seriously. And it doesn't even matter if the day's outcome was ultimately positive. What matters is the reassurance that I'm being looked after and that I'm loved.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

I Bought A Bowl

 I bought a bowl yesterday.

It’s 4½ inches in height and 9¼ inches in diameter, so, much bigger than a soup bowl or a salad bowl. I might use it for a serving bowl sometimes, or maybe it’ll sit on the table keeping a few apples. (It’s nice to have art you can use everyday.) It’s turned from burl maple that was sourced from a local (Mitchell County, NC) forest and allowed to air dry.

Those are its specs, but they’re not the reason I bought a bowl. A closer look at its inside reveals the reason I chose this particular bowl:


It’s easy to see its imperfections. The grain has grown in an irregular manner due to some kind of stress – maybe injury from insect infestation or a fungal infection. The discolorations in the wood suggest mold – yes, mold can have some pretty interesting color. The irregularities are part and parcel of a “burl,” an unsightly, bulbous malignancy that often is attached to the tree’s roots, though sometimes is attached to its trunk.

Oddly, among artists burls are highly prized for their beauty and rarity. Burl wood can be very hard to work with; because of its twisted grain it can chip and shatter unpredictably. But the very thing that makes it difficult to work with is the thing that makes a high-quality end product: the twisted grain makes the product resistant to splitting.

The burl can probably be a metaphor for many different aspects of human life, but I don’t really want to overthink it right now.

I’ll just content myself with admiring it as something beautiful and useful that came from something initially devastating. Maybe from time to time it'll symbolize something I am experiencing in my own life. Either way I’ll bless the kind, gentle, and imaginative soul who was able to recognize potential, and then use his talent to fulfill that potential.

I bought beauty and function and life lessons, all in the shape of a bowl, yesterday.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Walkie Time ≠ Exercise Time


I've quit thinking of Walkie Time as having any exercise value for me. But I remind myself that it's great mental exercise for Henry as we take four steps and he stops to snnnifff ... take three more steps and he stops to leave a "message" ... take ten running steps to examine where a cat might have walked yesterday ...
#ilovemydog #goodboyoldman

Monday, March 29, 2021

Baby-Steps Back to Normal


Just got home from a fun night out with friends - I can count on one hand the number of times I've done anything "social" like this in the past year.

It was exactly one year ago that I left Florida to "shelter" with family in North Carolina. It was a good move. Living alone as I do, to spend days and weeks at home in Florida "isolating" with Henry and going out for groceries only every other week or so, would have been dangerous from a mental health perspective. Living with my cousin Sally and her husband, and their three cats, was a lifesaver for me (and the cat situation was only mildly challenging for Henry).

Over the past year, a few friends/acquaintances and relatives have been sick with COVID, and a couple were lost. I've been vaccinated; everybody at tonight's gathering had been, as well. I'm very hopeful for the times we can safely gather -- even in large groups, like festivals! 😁 -- again!


Wash your hands.

Wear a mask. 

Practice social distancing.

Get yourself vaccinated when it's your "turn."

Be kind.

(I threw that last one in there because I wanted to. It has nothing to do with physical health, but it'll help someone feel better ... and make you feel better too.)

Be kind. Even long after COVID is a bad memory.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Big News!

I’ve moved!

Over the past 30 years, perhaps even longer than that, I’d given serious consideration to relocating from Florida to North Carolina. Call it bad luck, or bad timing, or just Fate, but each time I started making inroads toward a move, one thing or another always got in the way. When I came up to Carolina in March 2020 to shelter with family against the uncertainty of the pandemic, I had seemingly all the time in the world to find the right situation.

And find the “right situation” I did! A cute and somewhat quirky house in a quiet old neighborhood in the town of Spruce Pine – 3 bedrooms, the largest of which is now a music room, the smallest of which is now an office. A yard big enough for Henry (my 13-year-old dog) to ramble a bit, but not so big that lawn maintenance will be a huge chore (I hope!). A previous resident had planted purple crocus and daffodil, and I’m delighted to watch as they spring up! I think there’ll be tulips in April, and across the street there is a virtual wall of rhododendron that will begin showing off sometime in May.

One of the biggest bonuses of this move is that, after cutting the driving distance between us in half, I’ve seen my brother more in the past 6 months than I’d seen him in the previous 6 years.

I’ll continue performing and producing festivals in Florida with my company Celtic Heritage. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of experience planning events from the road – “taking care of business” from various locales such as coastal Maine, northern Ohio, and even Calgary, Alberta – so nothing really changes in that department. Plus, who knows? Perhaps I’ll once again find myself producing events in North Carolina.

I’m super-excited about this new chapter of my life! 

photo taken January 8, 2021

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Tripping Mines


Late February/Early March is apparently an emotional minefield for me. Birthdays of my beloved mother and grandmother, now both departed, plus the anniversaries of Greg's entering hospice and his death all fall within a week. Although I've long since grieved the passings of mother and grandmother, and Greg's death occurred six years ago come Friday, still my mind somehow goes into a sort of -- I don't know how to characterize it, exactly -- a sort of limbo at this time of year.

I’ve been pretty listless the past few days, and today I feel like I'm slogging through quicksand. I didn't even understand why until I put my hands on something that had belonged to Greg and I consciously realized that "It's that time of year again." It's like my subconscious is working to slow me down; during most of the year I'm barely aware of the calendar, yet at this time I come into a somewhat painful awareness ... even without actually looking at a calendar.

It's pretty weird, actually, and kind of fascinating in a way. Don't worry about me! I'm just going to sort of give into it and be easy on myself for a few days.

But I mention it because it may be the one facet of my life experience that I had absolutely no inkling of, prior to its happening. I mention it today because I'm aware of it today ... but also because maybe it's happened to you or maybe it will one day happen to you. Sure, everybody walks their own path, but when you trip one of the emotional mines in your way, it can be comforting to know you're not alone.