Friday, March 28, 2014

"Live your art"

I read this today and I think it's really beautiful, and so want to share it.

Live your art


More thoughts on learning an instrument. Speaking as an adult learner.

It's hard.

It takes time -- and patience!

For me, it's all about reclaiming parts of my body, finding ways to jostle the freeze out of muscles that haven't been used in the way I need them -- giving me back lost awarenesses.

As I've mentioned before, I believe there is a strong connection between musclular tension and emotion ("Bioenergetics"), so part of my work as a musician is sifting through the emotions that bubble up (sometimes erupt) from my work at the instrument. Memories from long ago that need to find resolution and peace. I believe this is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls "observation meditation". For me it is engaged when I first awaken in the morning, while I'm still in bed. The previous day's work at the piano and cello, having stretched my muscles and mind -- which has had the night to regroup -- the latter now needs my attention.

My om (observation meditation) moments can be intense, painful, sometimes euphoric, often cathartic and releasing. And finally, relieving. Relief that another stickler that has plagued my psyche for so long has been laid to rest.

I remember years ago I spoke with a therapist who told me it got easier as one progressed. It seems to have taken a long time, but now I would agree with her. It seems to be getting easier. I've reached some important depths, my back is freer, my neck is freer, my head is higher--albeit there's more work, isn't there always?--and my mind seems clearer. And music making seems less laborious.

I think a lot of the difficulty we speak of when playing an instrument involves gravity. To play freely the center of gravity needs to flow about the body with ease. If there is holding in some part of the body, then this center will be impeded, and it takes brain power to figure out how to make the arm or hand or fingers move about the obstruction. That's brain power that would otherwise be focused on the bigger picture of making music, and in the case of the cello: The bow. Bowing is not the breeze one imagines it to be when observing a pro. So, working on the obstructions, that's the work.

I think I'm getting there. I've had a good year musically. In my opinion, lots of progress. More to do--isn't there always?

In a few weeks I'll be playing in my first student cello recital in Manhattan. That'll be a new experience. So different from playing the piano in so many ways. Yet, basically the same principles: Ensuring that the center of gravity can flow from finger to finger, arm to arm with ease. I'm wondering how my nerves will be? I've made a conscious decision to not think about it too much. I have a feeling that sometimes in the past I've tried to "cope" with my nerves so much I stirred myself into a tizzy! I'm going to try to let it flow this time. I'll be nervous, for sure, I just don't want it to be debilitating.

I'll be playing a duet with my teacher, and the 2nd part of the Minuet from Bach's Cello Suite #1 solo.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Trying to catch up ...

Hm. I've had slow times in the past so it's nothing new, but the blog has been slipping away from me just a tad these past weeks. I would like to catch up and perhaps keep abreast of things.

Firstly, the 'towel' got finished. It works so well as a placemat for my "Liberty Blue" dinnerware, I'd love to make three more -- if I can find the same color cottons somewhere! Liberty Blue was produced for the US bicentennial in 1976.

Secondly, I've moved on to another mosaic knit called "Maze" which I found in Barbara Walker's "A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns". I'm making either 1) a stole, or 2) a pillow. Haven't made up my mind yet, but leaning towards stole. If so, I'll add fringe to the ends when finished. An enjoyable knit and it goes fast with bulky yarn on large needles.

In spite of the calendar saying it's spring, we're still experiencing rather wintery weather. I drove back from NY last Wednesday evening, unbeknown that a storm was hitting the northeast -- until I was just getting ready to leave the city. Rain was falling on my trip until somewhere in northern Massachusetts where it slowly turned to snow. The driving at Brattleboro, VT was tough. The car was fine (I'm quite fond of it--she handles so well in bad weather), but visibility was difficult. I was thinking that the brightly illuminated flakes, whooshing--relative to the speed of my car--against the deep dark of night, would start giving me hallucinations; but keeping my eyes moving cut down on the steady, unrelenting movement of the snowfall and made progress possible. The best was when I had someone to follow, letting them pave the way made it all the easier. About half hour up from Brattleboro the snow was less severe and visibility improved. In fact, it went quite well until the very last leg of my trip: From Canaan to Groton, NH. The disadvantage of these 13 or so miles was a lack of traffic--which I had relied upon to track out the route. On this stretch there was but one set of tracks, made by some earlier traveler, and the path was getting dim. But I made it home -- only half an hour later than expected. Don't ask me, I have no idea! It was another memorable evening. The truth is, it was really quite beautiful, and the big 18 wheelers with their lights lit up looked like Christmas. Life is grand, isn't it?

I heard today--twice--that we have a storm due this coming week. Also, I had to shovel myself out of a snowbank today... in my driveway!! Well, better there than somewhere else! Best I get some experience digging myself out while I'm within the confines of my own property; I now have a good sense of what I'm in for should such a misfortune occur when I'm not at home. It appears to me that we now have more snow on the ground than at any prior time this winter. My little garden angel is completely covered, for the first time.

One year next month! :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gingham ...

I had to start a new project, one to work on in social settings. The 2-color brioche scarf is just a tad much to handle while carrying on conversations. So I started a cotton, gingham patterned multi-purpose kitchen-picnic-bread-whatever towel. Although it's 3-color, it's in a technique called "mosaic" knitting which makes it pretty easy to knit and keep track of. It is knit one color at a time--a full row in one color. Sometimes 2 rows in the same color. You wouldn't know it to see the results would you?

I'm going to crochet an edging all around the perimeter of it, with picots. It'll be a romantic little towel.

Since it's nearing completion, I've also cast-on and knit a handful of rows for a new throw also in mosaic technique. I won't show it because -- well, there's not much to see yet. Soon.

It does feel great to be knitting socially. I've been going weekly to Artistic Roots in Plymouth for their Sunday afternoon social, and beginning a few weeks back, I started going to D-acres for their bi-weekly fiber night. And here's something wonderful: this week there were 3 men in the group! Hurray!

I'm taking my spinning to the D-Acres group. The wheel has sat sadly still for the past 3 or 4 months--egads! Just feels really good to get it spinning again. I'm spinning a warp for a scarf. I'll then spin the weft in a gold colored wool. Looking forward to getting this warped up.

In other news, my monthly NY trip has been postponed 3 (that's three!!!) times. Twice due to work requirements, but this week it was delayed due to ... the weather! Weather which should be leading us into spring yet by all appearances is taking us back to winter. I'm pretty sure yesterday was the winteriest day yet up here in the hills. What made it especially brutal was the wind, something we were spared most of the winter. Several more inches of snow--and yes, it was absolutely, splendidly gorgeous as it fell and blanketed the earth--and very low temps gave the wind something to play with. It was bitter.

I am ready for spring. Last week I purchased several packets of seeds, some starting soil, and pots. I'll start the tomatoes and a few others next week under lights. Dreaming of gardens, bird song, bees, butterflies, and the joyful warmth of spring and summer. Not dreaming of mosquitoes, gnats, and flies. Funny that.

It'll all be here before we know it. For now, I'm pretty sure we just witnessed winter's last fling.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dazzle, frazzle! ...

One more try! That's it.

The "dazzling" brioche scarf project has me frazzled. I have had to repeat every single one of the last 3 rows. Grrrrr.

The trick, I realize, is to be clever enough to discern exactly what is causing the mis-stitched glitch in each of these rows. This means being attentive to the mistake in those rows to see if there's a pattern in my erring. I believe there is, which is why it gets another attempt.

There is a subtle difference between the slip-one, yarn-over of the purl rows and the yarn-over, slip-one of the knit rows. I've been getting at least one of the wrong kind of yarn-over on my purl rows. I believe this stems -- at least partly -- to the class I'm taking where both maneuvres are named the same, even though they are not the same. Very interesting.

The way we name things can make or break a project.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On a roll with Brioche ...

I love brioche, especially warmed up and served with butter. My favorite! I should learn how to make it.

Yes, I'm on a brioche kick in every way!

The latest project is another scarf in 2-color Brioche. The pattern came as part of the Craftsy class I'm taking and is quite dazzling.

At the moment it's taking some concentration. I had to frog and repeat 3 or 4 of these rows but it should settle in after another repeat or so.

Continued adventures With Brioche Knitting ...

Whew! I made it... made it through the past few weeks. A bit stressful these times, but like all things the tumult is moving on and all is returning to "normal", whatever that is. Normal, for me, means crises are over and equilibrium descends upon life. It means balance is returned, more or less. Such an important word: balance. "In all things, moderation", etc., etc.

Despite the pot holes of the recent past I've managed to make further explorations into Brioche knitting. (I shall have to remember to talk about the literal pot holes appearing on Halls Brook Road!!) And believe it or not, I even took an afternoon walk. Trying very hard to get back into that habit. It surely will be easier once the weather warms up a bit. Brrrr! On the particular afternoon, I met up with a "U turn".

The day following my last post was made up with a bit more snow. It was certainly a wintery time, and my little snow blower was starting to struggle getting the snow high enough to clear the banks. Sure was pretty though.

On to the knitting. I worked this pattern in a cousin of Brioche stitch, which I know as "knit one below". It is currently my favorite hat. Isn't it colorful!! :)

On the night before I took the above "selfie" (as they now say), the hat looked like the following. I had washed it, blocked it, and it was almost finished drying--over a casserole.

On the following morning the big moment arrived and I tried it on. Too big! So half an hour later it looked like this:

I had taken it apart down to the 'pancake' so that I could remove 2 rows and shorten the rim. By the following morning it was once again finished and it fit!

In a local thrift store I found a little oil can to go with my Singer foot powered sewing machine. Sweet and perfect.