Thursday, August 18, 2011

On Listening to Laura Veirs, Officiating my Sister's Wedding, and the Eternal Longing to Create

I'm feeling super depleted right now. Drinking coffee at 3:00 p.m. and hoping this will revitalize me enough to write a blog post, even if I know that late day caffeine is dangerous unless I want to tempt insomnia at night, but oh well-- without it, I'm more or less useless right now when it comes to writing, and this is the first chance I've gotten to write in way too long. Well, technically, I could have written yesterday while I had a babysitter, only by the time I "cleared the mental palette" (by first doing the dishes, vacuuming, and then getting caught up on my email and other online business), I realized I was mentally wiped as it was, even without all those pesky to-dos to get caught up with.

So I've decided that today I'm just going to write one of those rambling, disjointed blog posts that don't have any particular focus (or at least not at the onset), because I simply need to sit down and focus and write SOMETHING, not to mention to break this stretch of blogging silence-- to "clear the blogging palette" one might say, so that next time I can move on and write about other topics that actually feel like topics to me.

Anyway, I'm coming out of a month long stretch that has been more or less focused on my sister's wedding. It was last weekend, and I officiated, and so a lot of my limited free time of late has been devoted to working on the ceremony, as well as shopping for a dress, going to a bachelorette weekend in Portland, making a present for her (still not finished), packing, unpacking, traveling to Whidbey, rehearsing, and practicing for the ceremony. I'm not complaining, because it's been a great, fulfilling month, not to mention an awesome experience to get to marry my sister, but now I'm glad it's all over and I can slowly start to claim back my few weekly breaks for my own writing.

Prior to the wedding takeover, I was finally starting to feel like I was actually gaining back some time to do more than a bi-monthly blog post. I actually got my old manuscript out and started going through it again, willing myself to re-envision it's structure anew, and thinking hard about taking the first steps to self-publish. I felt some "Let's do it!" momentum building... but now I'm back to feeling depleted, and feeling like I need to just put something on this blog as a place to begin. Point of departure. Baseline. Check in.

So excuse me if it sounds like I have nothing to say. In fact, I have a shitload to say, I'm quite sure of this, only I haven't had the time to sit still long enough for the murk to clear and the themes and questions to emerge.

Right now, I'm listening to Laura Veirs, my favorite artist of late, especially when I'm in a dark, churning kind of mood. She is the artist that I have turned to each time I have actually had a chance to be home alone and blast music, drink, and dance-- and she is also an artist I have on in the background right now while I sit quietly and write. Her lyrics are poetic, resonant, and her voice has that necessary edge of longing and heartache and fierceness and gentleness that gives her music a power that speaks to me. She's like the female equivalent of Damien Jurado for me, another Northwest singer-songwriter whom I love.

Matthew and I actually got to see Laura Veirs at the Tractor a few weeks ago, and it was awesome. Not only because we were actually going on a date, at night, at a bar where I got to hear live music, loud, while drinking beer - which never happens- but because it was Laura Veirs, whose music has become a recent soundtrack to my life. One of her songs, Make Something Good off of July Flame, was also literally part of the soundtrack to a slide show that we made for Cedar's first birthday-- for the section that showed my long labor and his birth. I cried when she played that song at the show. And after the show, I felt compelled to go up and tell her what her music meant to me, as well as buy something to support her, and I am not somebody who normally goes up to singers after shows. But as an artist myself, I know it's so valuable and precious when someone really connects with your work, and when they take the time to tell you so, so I wanted to do it. Writing, hell- any art form-- can be such a sacred, solitary, lonely process, that it can feel so redeeming to hear others' praise. It keeps me going. It lifts me up. It reminds me why I do it. For myself, and for the joy in connecting to others.

That's how I felt this weekend after the wedding ceremony. So many people came up to me afterward and told me how they'd cried, or how they looked around and saw lots of guys crying, or how they'd never been to a ceremony that was so articulate, so personal, so heartfelt... and let me tell you, it felt damn good to hear this. Have you officiated before? No. Are you going to do more weddings? Well, maybe... if someone asks me, but it would not be the same to do it for someone I didn't know. And yet, I'm not opposed to the idea. After all, officiating a wedding is kind of right up my alley in that it involves: writing, public speaking, and ritual-- all of which, I am practiced at and enjoy.

I haven't always enjoyed public speaking, in fact, like many people, it used to scare the shit out of me. But now that I've had plenty of practice giving readings, not to mention some actual training with the Jack Straw Writers Program, it mostly just excites me. Sure, my hands still shake and I still get nervous, but I can override that nervousness now when I know I'm prepared. When I've practiced many times, and marked up my page with places to pause, words to enunciate, and reminders to breathe. And when I believe in what I'm reading-- when I trust that it's good, or good enough.

I wasn't really nervous at my sister's wedding, for the above reasons, but also because, contrary to my own personal literary readings where I'm showcasing my work and there's a lot of fragile ego involved, at my sister's wedding it wasn't about me and my writing-- it was about her and her fiance. So it made it that much easier to walk up in front of the 150 guests and smile and welcome the moment and all of them with my full presence and heart. I thought I might get nervous because I've never presented before that many, but the audience didn't feel that different than what I am used to. And on top of that, I had a new dress and haircut (bangs) to carry me. These things can be important.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and I rode the high of everyone's praise for the rest of the day and beyond. My mother, in particular, was especially exuberant in her praise-- and any child will tell you that we are always still eager to hear our parent's praise, no matter how old we are.

It'd also been so long since I'd written something, gone through an intense and rapid editing process (with the input of my sister and her new husband, so three editors in essence, which made the process more challenging, but also that much more satisfying when it finally clicked together and pleased us all), and then I had the chance to perform it-- bim, bam, boom! All in a month's time. So even though this wasn't my own personal writing project, going through this process gave me the same kind of satisfaction that working on something of my own does. And since the main theme of this blog (besides motherhood) seems to be pining for more time to work on my creative projects, I don't have to say more about how much this means to me.

That said, here I am, finally sitting at my desk again, with no pressing errands or deadlines or chores, other than my own pressing need to write. To see closure to certain projects. Or simply to remember again what those projects even were.

So here's to new beginnings. Here's to my beautiful sister and her lovely new husband, here's to a new beginning to this, thus far, cool Seattle summer (in other words, a prayer that the sun will keep shining for another month or two and it will actually get above 80 before the rains come back), and here's to me having some time in the near future to sit down again with my old manuscript.

I don't want to start speaking about fall yet (no, no, not yet!), but fall has always been one of the most fertile and exciting periods for me. It's when school always used to start, when the trees start getting beautiful, the vegetables abundant, and the stirring of a darker, more piercing longing starts to come into focus-- the hunger to dig into my depths, pull stuff out, and get things done.

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