Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary

When she was about twelve, my youngest daughter, now a mother of four and an as yet unpublished novelist, was one night sitting across the living room watching me write in my journal. I began that common custom of writers in 1957, jotting my first self-conscious lines as I sat on my bunk at lunch time in my two-man explorer style tent on the banks of Moseley Creek, the western tributary of the Homathko River. The entries were skimpy that summer, then of some length in 1958 as I was both writing a lot and converting to Catholicism, and on and off after that until the 70's, when they became fairly constant. The shelf is now about three feet long.
This daughter's name is Rebecca, and she will show up a fair bit in these blogbits, if only because she is the mother of Ian and Galen, the young hot rods who currently know more about Grandpa Ken's system than the good folks in the guitar book business.
Rebecca said, "Dad, why don't you just publish your journals?" I think by this time I had tried printing and selling the first three chapters of "Contemplatives". Printing on a Xerox, one side of the page. Two bucks for three chapters.
I said that novelist's journals were often published, but only after their novels. Or maybe their deaths.
But in this case we have something completely different. An entry from Sunday, May 11, 1980.

"Yesterday a drive out to Wildhorse with Carol. A lot of time spent looking at trees, enjoying the solitude and beauty of the valley. Wonderful stream. And Carol had a kiln full of pots. Lying down after tea in her house I began to think of a sort of Walden Pond public journal, and kept thinking about it with great fondness. You approved, when I mentioned it to you coming back in the truck. The emphasis was to be on my observations of, and appreciation for, nature. By tonight - your Mothers' Day supper - I had 3 or four hard-won pages.
You dug today the second level in the garden. Yesterday I cut up more of the wood in the lane. Not much left.
I don't think any story I've ever thought of was born with more deep response and self-validation than was the idea of the public journal. This is an interesting distinction from the fictional process. More personally mine, perhaps, or a closer experience of the full picture of oneself we will experience in a happy death? Also , as the idea was very much a result of my studies on birds and trees, tentative as these may be, I felt myself more honestly akin to nature.
As I write now, after supper, smoke rises from the backyard incinerator."

It's always nice to be able to go into the files and pull out something that can fill up part of a page without stress to the imagination, but the entry also shows how long ago the owner of the still, small, voice had the current exercise in mind. That too is reassuring.
On this Mothers' Day, this afternoon, the living room was filled with female relatives, two of whom were Marianne's nieces and a smiling little grand-niece. Two granddaughters regaled us with backstage anecdotes form the dance showcase, I held off talking about tomorrow's lesson with the piano researcher and my number three daughter talked a little about her upcoming release of an extended play, recently mastered by a chap who mastered a Grammy winning album by Herbie Hancock. And a kind-of daughter-in-law, also a singer, talked about a song that described a poor old chap whose life was full of the opposite of all this, simply because he kept walking away from his women. Out on the porch one of the nieces and I talked sound track for a virtual exhibition about the stern wheelers on Kootenay Lake.
I actually had read very little of Walden Pond, but thanks to some cash from a singing student in 1983, plus a book store customer walking away from the complete two volume edition he had ordered in, I have it now. As one of the town's philosophers, I was offered a deal, and the two volumes took their place among the other 3000. Not as large a private library as the Pope's 40,000, but good enough for us.
How goes the keyboard?
Actually, I took some of my own advice since the last notes and just worked all over the piano with my right central digit. In C sharp minor, Beethoven's key for the Moonlight Sonata. If you look at the thing in a text, it's a nightmare to all but the really proficient. Four sharps. And every accidental available. Good Lord. But if you know the numbers and what to do with them, it's a piece of cake. And that is exactly how it will be treated in the upcoming chapters of "The Yacht", book two. As we sit, young Paul Cameron is walking home to address just this challenge to a pair of adolescents.
Oh, Good Heavens! This man must be mad! Let him go back to Wildhorse Creek and teach the birds! The Moonlight doesn't even appear anywhere in the first ten years of the Toronto Conservatory syllabus! That's far too demanding! What a saddist! Arrest him! This is the worst thing I've ever heard of since I read Dolores Umbridge's treatment of Harry Potter! Are there no police in Nelson?
Oh, shut up and try it. Five, one, three; five, one, three, and so on, then it shifts to six, one, three and stays there for a bit and then gets more complicated. But you can sort the numbers out if you think about it. Just don't try to read all those fingering notes. They're good for down the road, but for now they just get in the way. You're a beginner, everybody is a beginner, until they see and hear how well this works. Just experiment with how much sound you get with one finger. Besides, that reaching all over the keyboard is good for the shoulder and back muscles. It should feel as nourishing as a stretch. Yoga at the ivories. Put your right foot on the gong pedal, your left on the damper if your cook just around the corner in the kitchen is showing signs of stress, and enjoy the genius of Ludwig. He was the first rocker. If you doubt this, get a copy of the Mondschein and study the left hand for a while. You can either play the octaves or just the top note. In fact if you work the middle finger of each hand with just the left doing the top note and the right playing LvB's arpeggios, you start to get a hold on counterpoint.
You also might get a hold on the throats of all those beings who made you feel as if you didn't understand music. There are a lot of them around. Some of them are real devils, who hate to see anyone having a genuinely good time, and others are musicians and music teachers who really do not understand how it all fits together.
I've yet to return to jogging, but I did get back to the stump and its roots. There's a lesson there too. I've never used a maul before. A maul is a six pound sledge with an axe blade at one end. It's not especially sharp, because some of the genius of a maul is its ability to deal with the little vertical sub roots that go down deep and would like to prevent me from liberating the main root. Part of its job description is to run into stones. It's a timely addition to my arsenal. Four wedges now. The old spruce is a formidable challenge, and thus a damn good gym for the next few weeks. The trick is not to try to do it all at once, as my personal trainer regularly reminds me.
Same thing with music. One step at a time, but ah, how few teachers really know what that means.
Thus, tomorrow, or whenever the Muse lets me back into this, Margaret Mitchell and I will discuss the raising of the Georgia Volunteers, a regiment such as has never been seen heretofore on the face of the earth. Nor heard.

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