FOLKFIRE and HEARTHFIRE: The joys of performing and wood stacking
Maybe five pounds of carrots was more than I needed for the week, but they looked so enticing in their multicolored glory-yellow, purple, white, and of course orange (TWO shades of orange!). I kept imagining all the salads, soups and stews that I would make with them and added more and more to the bag. I stuck cash into the jar on top of the chest freezer after picking out yogurt and beef from the fridge. It felt good to put money directly into the jar while talking to the farmer Amy as she bagged up beets for her loyal customers. I have seen her hard work, I have tasted the wonderful results of her farm and cows. And she is right around the corner, a beautiful drive through tree lined winding New England roads. Done. Sold. Happy.
Happier still is where the cash came from. Hours sweating in a recording studio with passionate Piazzolla, connecting to audiences across the state, shaking hands with dozens of people, running to the post office to mail off CD’s, performing for sold out crowds in big halls and little halls. Bowing before standing ovations, mingling at receptions, and accepting the whirlwind of congratulations. Practicing with the sun slanting into my studio. Done. Sold. Happy.
In case you think this is a situation of “money for nothing” let me clarify that Amy and I both work extremely hard. And it isn’t that much money. When I apprenticed on farms for one year in my early twenties I came to realize that farmers work even harder than musicians do, and make even less money. But we musicians are a close second. Like a farmer, or I should say like a good organic farmer, there are really no shortcuts to good musicianship. My skill perishes quickly like food, and I must constantly weed the garden of my technique to keep it clear of wrong notes. This means hours of practicing each day. But because I love what I do, and take pride in my skill, this kind of work feeds my soul. It brings me joy because it is the work I know that I was born to do.
Slightly more tedious, but necessary, is the cottage industry of self-managing, publicity, sales etc that is a necessary part of being a performer. Additionally, working from home and then leaving home has a set of challenges that are new to me. I have found that I need to create a schedule while I am here that is rhythmic and logical, and then suddenly switch gears to being flexible enough to endure the unpredictability of travel, audience size, acoustics and income. I have started to grow accustomed to the rhythm of book/practice/promote than travel/perform/sell. Sometimes they all happen at once and that is when I head for the caffeine. Because the business end gets a bit dreary sometimes, my hope for the future is to generate enough success to justify hiring a manager and publicist.
Putting a whole life together that fits my skills, passions and life choices seemed like an impossible task even one year ago. But, as an idealist who has always believed in the human ability to manifest even the most implausible dreams, I took the leap of faith anyway and moved from the stability of an academic job to a rural area in New England with the intention of being nearer to family and the land I love while building a bigger performing career. The combination of trail and error, following my gut and having an intellectual vision for what would bring me happiness has guided my choices in creating my current life. And it looks like I have finally put all the right pieces of the puzzle together. The large and quiet space of my home and land offsets the travel and constant interaction with audience members. The reflective, tedious and repetitive aspects of booking, teaching and practice balance out the expansive surrender of performance. And the grungy girl in cords is also the diva on stage.
Last week I played for 300 people in a red dress with sparkling heels and signed CDs. Today I stacked wood, took a walk with the dog and mulched the yard. Done. Sold. Happy.