This first day of May started out chilly and rainy. Happily, it was not raining hard as the kids and I waited for the school bus, so we didn’t need to huddle under an umbrella. As we waited, the water drops on the pine trees along the driveway caught my eye, as they have before. I tried to get some photos with my phone, but in the low light of the dreary day, I could not get the camera to focus where I wanted it. I kept trying for long enough that Phoebe asked, “why do you take so many photos of raindrops on pine needles?” I found myself thinking, “why wouldn’t I?” But I probably said something like, “because they look so cool.”
After the bus came, I had about 45 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment. The plan was to eat breakfast and take a quick shower. Instead, I went back in and got my camera and macro lens set-up, and went back outside. It was raining lightly, and my hair got wet, so I figure this is practically the same as taking a shower.
(While I may not have taken a real shower, I did take quite a few photos.)
Here are 5 standpipes (or sets of standpipes) that have caught my eye. Some caught my eye for their reflective shininess, and some for their weathered patina.
As I put these together, I saw that the 5 photos were neatly from 5 different years. (I had a 6th photo that was also from 2011, but it didn’t fit as well, so I didn’t include it.) Would you believe that it bugged me that I didn’t have a standpipe photo from 2012? Further, I noticed that it should have been of a weathered (rather than shiny) standpipe, in order to best complete the pattern. I actually started to look through my photos from that year before realizing that it was crazy to do so, especially given that I have more work to do tonight before bed, and it is after 11 p.m.. (This is the sort of compulsion that I’m talking about.)
I’ve been taking violin lessons for quite a few years now. (I’m not really sure how to count the years, given the big interruptions. I started 11 years ago, but maybe missed 4 of those years I also don’t know how my progress in those “on” years counts, given that there have been quite a few slowdowns and interruptions.) In any case, I consider myself to be an intermediate player. Mostly, I have played classical music with my teacher. Last year, after my experience playing fiddle along with the American folksongs performed by the elementary school, I felt the urge to explore fiddling a bit more. I bought a couple of books: 1 on Celtic fiddling, and one on bluegrass fiddling. Each came with a CD. I started with the Celtic book/CD, and it was complicated enough that I decided to just stick with that. I’ve been enjoying playing songs from it for the past year or so, on my own, in addition to the classical music that I work on with my teacher. I never got around to cracking open the bluegrass book.
A few weeks ago, a musician friend of mine sent an email asking if I had any interest in taking one of the workshops offered as part of a bluegrass festival in Cambridge. I was so very tempted by the intro to bluegrass fiddling. At the same time pretty intimidated. I’d never taken a music workshop before, and have very rarely even played the violin in front of other people. I have performed in front of others now, a few times, but only after much preparation and practice. This would be going in cold.
I decided to do it anyhow.
So, today, I went to a workshop on intro bluegrass fiddling. It was a lot of fun, but a little overwhelming. It was a 2-hour course, but after about an hour and a half, I found that my stomach was empty and my brain was full. I muscled through, though. And I think I learned a lot, some fraction of which I may even be able remember. One thing that amused me was that the instructor described a lot of what he taught us as tricks, including how to play along when you don’t know the music. I’m hardly ready for a bluegrass jam, but I think I now know how to fake my way through at least one bluegrass song.
For added flavor, here is a bluegrass band playing Angelina Baker, the tune that we used for much of the lesson¹:
¹ And one which the other 3 participants all seemed to know. I felt good² that I could make the other students feel better about their knowledge by being the one who didn’t know much of anything.
² For some definitions of good.³
³ I’m sorry if this isn’t very coherent. I’m actually completely wiped out. It was a long day, given that I had an hour plus commute each way, and stayed for part of the bluegrass show that followed. (Which, by the way, was excellent.) And I think I am fighting off a cold. But when I commit to blogging daily, by gum, I commit to blogging daily.
Once, when I was 16, I broke a nail in gym class. The class was divided into small groups of 3 or 4, and we were doing basketball drills. The ball had made contact with one of my long, carefully painted nails and snapped the tip right off. (It seems so alien to me now, that I had invested time into the appearance of my hands, but what can I say? I was 16.) I shrugged off the broken nail and kept going. Another girl in my group of 3 had noticed me dealing with the broken nail and said, “I’d cry if I had nails like that and one broke.” I laughed. Then, before I even realized it, the tears started flowing. To all appearances, I was crying because I’d broken a nail.
The girl who’d made the comment looked embarrassed for me. I was glad that third person in my group was my closest friend, but she too looked baffled and embarrassed for me. I couldn’t explain why I was crying. I know I was lovesick for a boy who had no interest in me, and that was the explanation I gave. But really, my life had just gone through some major upheaval. It was nothing too dire. My mother had recently remarried, and had moved to France to live with her new husband. I had opted to stay in California, and finish my junior year, before joining her in France. I moved into my best friend’s house to stay with her and her family for 2 months. My sister, who was 19, moved into an apartment of her own. While much that was going on was happy, it was a stressful time full of transitions. I hadn’t even realized that I’d had tension building up until I broke a nail.
The trouble with being strong through a stressful time is that my emotions don’t actually go away. I bottle them up until I have time to deal with them. That broken nail in high school was just one such instance. I have had other equally messy and embarrassing episodes, always a few weeks after some major stress.
The past month has been a trying one. I have dealt with one crisis or ordeal after the other and kept going, because there was still more that needed to be done. I have packed my grief away and have carried around crankiness instead. Now, though, the crises are letting up. The pressure from outside is easing, and I sense that my internal pressure is still high. I can’t help feeling that the flood is coming, just waiting for the right catalyst.
I just hope I won’t make too much of a spectacle of myself.
Yesterday, the kids and I spent some time playing out in the front yard at my in-laws’. Phoebe had collected some pretty leaves, and I found myself joining her. Fall comes a bit later here than at home, so the big maples in the yard were still leafy and bright. I kept finding interesting individual leaves, with interesting patterns and color arrangements. Of course I had to photograph them. First individually, then in groups. Before you knew it, I realized I wanted to spread them out and arrange them by color.¹
I was channeling Andy Goldsworthy, one of my favorite artists.
I found I had to hunt around to find more of the brightly-hued freshly-fallen leaves among the crinkled older leaves, which had turned a fairly uniform shade of brown as they dried. I paced around the yard, poking at the leaves, looking for more oranges and reds. I was enjoying myself immensely.
I was somewhat startled, therefore, when a woman from across the street yelled across: “Did you lose something?”
“No,” I replied. “We’re just playing with leaves.”
The neighbor took my explanation, with a nod and a slight look of confusion, and went back into her house.
I was reminded a little of that time I probably confused (or amused) some passersby back at my house by my rather unusual approach to shovelling snow.
Do you ever confuse your neighors?
¹ Much like I once did with tomatoes.