Archive for the ‘memory’ Category

music and memories   10 comments

I haven’t written a post here in almost three months. Sometimes I contemplate over whether to continue on with the blog, but it seems worthwhile to be able to go back and look at what was happening in my life on a certain day. One thing that blogging has made me particularly aware of is how quickly time passes. For example, today is the fourteenth anniversary of my father’s death. In my mind, it seems like it could have been last week that I was sitting in his room talking with and caring for him on his last day. However, several times over the years, I’ve written a blog post about him on March 17th, so that’s a concrete reminder of how much time has passed.

I’ve addressed the topic of time and memory occasionally over these years of blogging. Now more than ever, I find that the distance between one event and another often seems very short even though many years may have passed. A blog is useful as it reminds me that a lot has happened in the spaces between some of the major turning points in my life – Don’s death, my father’s death, living on our farm, selling the farm, five continent-wide meandering journeys over five winters, the buying of the old place in Nova Scotia, the seasonal work on the house, the annual changes to the new gardens I’ve been putting in, the death of Sabrina, the getting to feel part of several different regions of the world where I started over not knowing even one person. I can’t really convey to others how it feels to have had so much of my past obliterated through losses, then to travel alone with my dogs for five years, and then gradually rebuild a life that seems foreign and peculiar – even to me. It has been quite a solitary journey. Without meaning to be too maudlin, I often think of how well the line from the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin'” seems to apply to the past few years of my life:

Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

It has.

Well, anyhow, moving on to today’s post. If you know me on Facebook, you are probably already aware that I’ve been playing a lot of music over the past couple of years. Music isn’t a new thing for me – I played a lot of guitar and 5-string banjo when I was young. However, I let it slip away to the back burner for about thirty-five years while working and also caring of all the different livestock that we had on our farm. Recreation time was mostly spent hiking, snowshoeing or canoeing with Don. Sometimes my guitar would sit in its case under the bed for more than a year before being dragged out to pick a few tunes some evening, then stashed away for another year. Then, about two years ago, while casting about for something to interest me in my solitary life, I purchased a fiddle, a guitar and a very cheap mandolin with the proceeds of a photograph that was licensed for a company’s packaging. I worked on the fiddle a bit that winter, but mostly played guitar and picked at the mandolin a bit. That has changed over time – I do play more fiddle now – not exactly wonderful, but probably somewhat better than a lot of the other bow-scratchers out there. However, it seems that it has been the mandolin that has captured my interest. I’ve always wanted to play one, and in fact, I have owned one since I was a teenager and there’s kind of a funny story about that. My parents knew that I wanted a mandolin and during one of their trips down to the U.S. they saw one for sale in a music shop down in Syracuse, NY. It was originally a decent model, but was reduced to a very cheap price as the neck was split just back of the nut where it goes up to the tuners. My dad, always being a fixer-upper kind of guy, decided to buy it and fix it up to give to me as a xmas present when I was about sixteen. He did a pretty decent repair, but unfortunately, it just didn’t hold that well and the mandolin constantly slipped out of tune within a minute or so of tuning up. Eventually I got too frustrated and put it away. I still have it – stashed at the old house in Round Hill. The funny thing about having the damaged instrument was that it kept me from buying a new one for so many years. I would always think, “Oh, I should get that mandolin fixed” but never did. Then there was that photograph licensing and it was like found money falling from the sky, so I spent it on instruments – including the cheap asian-made mandolin.

Flash forward to this year and things have changed some more. I became increasingly interested in playing the mandolin and ended up purchasing the two vintage flatbacks in the photo at the beginning of this post. The one on the left is an old 1920s Harmony that came to me from Jake Wildwood at Antebellum Instruments in Rochester, Vermont. You can read more about this mandolin here where he wrote a blog post about it. Shortly after, a 1920s Stella (the one on the right) came to me from Claude Bernier at Guitar/Lézar in Rimouski, Quebec. This winter, a c.1925 Weymann tenor banjo (photo below) joined the other instruments – it too came from Jake at Antebellum Instruments, and you can read more about it here if you’re interested in vintage instruments. Just recently, I arranged to purchase a c. 1930 Regal tenor guitar from Claude at Guitar/Lézar. That will probably round out my collection of stringed instruments, at least for awhile – I think.

So, you may be wondering about this sudden interest in music. Sometimes it even surprises me. I’ve had a lot of interests in my life and have always enjoyed learning new things. I suppose that playing music is just another avenue that I’m wandering down at the moment. Perhaps the interest will fizzle out in time. I don’t really know. My guess is that I needed something new in my life as I have not really been much interested in anything since Don’s death. I used to shoot several hundred photos of insects a week, and now it’s really just moths at night. Don and I used to hike or canoe many miles each week, and now that burning desire to find every new trail and navigate even the most tortuous backwater creek has almost dissipated. Yes, I still enjoy going for walks in wild places, but not in the obsessive way that he and I once did. Sometimes I think that doing the things I used to enjoy are just attached to too many memories, making them too painful to experience more than occasionally. For me, playing music doesn’t have so many associations with my past life and so I can seem to do it without dredging up some memory or another.

The other thing about music is that, if you want to jam with others, then it gradually brings new people into your life. That’s probably been a good thing for me as I’ve spent so much of the past five years alone. One thing I know is that it doesn’t take long to make friends when you’re making music.

Making music has become an integral part of my life — at least for now. Who knows whether it will continue or where it will go — but then that’s just how life is in general. I’ve been through enough of life’s twists and turns to know that you can’t predict where any path will lead and whether you’ll still be walking it in a year, a month, or even a week.

Well, as mentioned up above, today is the fourteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. I have about the same things to say today as I did here on this date last year. This year, I’ll be spending the evening playing celtic music with friends at a St. Patrick’s Day jam session here in Bisbee. Somehow, that seems like a fitting way of celebrating his memory.

If you’re curious about the music, I’ve begun making little videos to put on Youtube. They are for Mandolin Cafe’s “Song-A-Week” group where a tune is chosen each week. You learn it – usually rather quickly – make a video recording and put it up online. For me, it’s just a fun thing – I don’t put as much work into making recordings as most people. This is my latest attempt. I played both the tenor banjo and the bodhran drum as a backing track before recording the mandolin (see video below).

A couple of weeks from today, I’ll be on my way back north – I suppose I could say I’ll be on my way home, but I rarely use that word these days. Where is home to a nomad? I suppose it is wherever I am at any given moment — in which case, I’m already there.

Written by bev wigney on March 17th, 2013

five years on   19 comments

Posted at 10:48 am in being alone,Don,future,loss,memory

As I have written more than once or twice in the past, photographs work like time machines for me. A moment’s glance and a whole scene, conversation, or even an entire day or week can be recreated. Today’s post involves some jumping around through time. If you will bear with me, I’ll explain where I’ve been and where I am now – body and mind – which as you might guess, don’t always inhabit the same sphere.

As you may recall, my last post contained an update on my travels. I have been in the southwest for a few weeks. My random wanderings are now ended and I am somewhat settled in Bisbee – about as settled as I ever am these days, which isn’t saying much.

Today is my birthday. It’s an event I no longer celebrate and acknowledge only as the anniversary of the definitive diagnosis of Don’s cancer. I was going to write something about that today, but then I went back and read the post that I wrote three years ago and thought, “Wow, this says it all and I can’t do any better.” By the way, the above image is of the birthday card which Don gave me during his stay at the hospital – as described in the above-linked post. I keep the original card safely stored in a filing cabinet at my home up north, but always carry a photocopy among my personal effects in the van during my travels.

There are a few things that I would like to write about today as I think they are worth saying. The first has to do with time. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that I have something of a fascination with time. To me, it is a fluid medium that flows first one way and then another. In my mind’s eye, it’s like one vast ocean that laps upon one continent’s shore while simultaneously lapping upon another. Events and memories float within its swell, occasionally pushing up in one place and then some place else. As I have discovered over the years, there is no means to predict or control such appearances. They just happen. When they do, they can awaken powerful responses – some pleasant, while others might best be regarded as malevolent demons.

Back in September, I wrote about an annual hiking trip that Don and I made on our anniversary. While back home, I planned to do that hike. However, in spite of my best intentions, some poor weather and other obstacles prevented my hike. Although I am not much for omens, I decided that perhaps this wasn’t the year to repeat our hike alone. Instead, I returned to one of our other favourite places – one that always seemed magical in many ways. In the above photo, my van is parked in the meadow above a spot where we often launched our canoe. For those who remember my old Burning Silo nature blog, this is the site of the boiling rain which I wrote about and linked to a video clip back in this post. One thing that was not mentioned back in that post was that our visit was about the last of the good days before Don became too ill to leave the farm.

So, a day or two after our anniversary, Sage and I set out on a favourite old trail. It felt strange to be there alone without Don or Sabrina. As I watched Sage inspecting each object along the trail, I had to keep reminding myself that she had never been to this place and knew nothing of its history or importance to me. It’s a sensation that is with me almost constantly – this confusion over who was or wasn’t with me when I was here or there. Many times, I feel Don or Sabrina moving about on the periphery of my senses. In the past, I struggled to keep it all sorted out. Nowadays, I just let everyone come and go as I realize that it doesn’t much matter to anyone other than me.

Of course, I encountered many familiar sights during our circuit of the lake’s edge. I stopped to rest awhile at a spot where Don and I would sit and talk any time there was something troubling in our lives. It is a place where we could gaze across a peaceful bay to a little treed island with a large osprey’s nest atop a tall, slender snag. It still stands there, so I took this photo from about the usual place where we would have sat watching osprey come and go as they fed their young. On this day, the nest was abandoned for the season.

I also stopped to lay my hand upon the skin of one of the great Beech trees along the path. Unfortunately, much as the cool, smooth bark felt good beneath my palm, I looked about at the many fallen Beech now decaying on the forest floor – struck down by a disease specific to these trees. I recognized one beautiful giant that I last saw standing during my final hike on that trail a little over four years ago.

The sight of the dead Beech made me feel quite sad for all the losses – both personal and more universal – that have marked the past five years. Over time, I have come to understand what an impact such losses have had on my thoughts and outlook. I no longer regard anything as permanent or enduring. To me, life resembles something slippery and elusive – a thing that appears solid and tangible, but that glides quickly and easily through your fingers like a fish wriggling to return to the water. You may believe that it is yours for keeps, but that is only an illusion.

And so I ended my hike about the lake. I had brought a lunch and the fiddle along, so found a shady spot to sit beneath a gnarled apple tree that was probably part of an old orchard on the farm that is now returning to nature. I ate and played a few tunes in this place away from the ears of anyone other than Sage and the birds and insects that rustled and chirped about me. Five years on, I am still here – vastly changed, greatly worn, but at least marginally recognizable.

Written by bev wigney on November 29th, 2012