The things are happening (lots of photos)

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The above photo is next week’s destination, The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. My improv* instructor/friend/client/all-around-awesome-lady invited me along to help with her awesome kiddo while she participates in a short-term artist-in-residence program, Concert as Theatre. So, while not an invited artist, I do get amateur peek-a-boo privileges and will be immersed in this phenomenal artist community for over a week. So during ‘working’ hours and my off hours, I will be ingesting rehearsed and exploratory music performances, benefitting from the Centre’s amazing amenities, exploring the immense landscape (which I briefly attempted last year, albeit in the opposite season), and getting some personal music, writing and arting time (new song in progress, by the way, working to get it recorded before I hit the road). I might even attempt to ski, though I predict being swiftly surpassed in skill by my 5-year-old cohort. 

The drive should be lovely and educational (apparently I’m in for warp-speed action theater schooling). My tried-and-true, paprika-hued road beast (the Subaru) is mechanically sound and ready for the potentially treacherous terrain. My work clients are, as usual, graciously flexible and I am, as usual, immensely grateful.

After I return to Portland, I’ll be moving out of my home and bopping around here and there. It will be strange. I think I’m ready. Then again, I am the go-to lady for two of my dear, pregnant friends. Regardless, things will happen and I will be present.

I am just a human, trying always.

*(After a group vocal improvisation at my last session, everyone simultaneously agreed that we should record some of them. I readily offered to provide my mic setup, so this may happen soonish, which is extremely exciting and will be sure to be the most absurd, beautiful soundtrack to…anything. Improv has drastically helped my creative, inner, social and overall life. It warrants a blog all its own. In time.)

In primate news, get ready for much more monkey (and ape) business to be shared here. Starting….NOW.

I’ve recently started working with the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). This volunteer and networking opportunity came about quickly and I’m very exited to be helping with their website content and planning for some collaboration with their member sanctuaries. So, in the further future (5 months-ish), West Africa is happening, for which I am currently making preliminary preparations and doing research daily. In addition to visiting several primate sanctuaries in the region, I will be volunteering with a few in Cameroon doing husbandry and assisting with a community education initiative.

Limbe Wildlife Centre

Ape Action Africa

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As yet, I’m unsure of the duration of my stay there as I am planning everything as loosely as possible. Travel around West Africa does not allow for much of a strict timetable, which is just as well for me. Most of the planning is for things that need to get done here in the US like immunizations and visa applications and the inescapable finance front. Fun! For those who don’t know, I’m much more content working in places where the animal to human ratio is quite high. I have had my time of hot showers, clean clothes and posh food and am ready to go back to doing filthy, physically and mentally demanding, rewarding work, only with new species.

I take my work seriously.

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Very seriously.

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I miss this work very, very, very much.

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And hanging out with (caring for) these guys.

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The music of West Africa, highly inspired by jazz and blues, also beckons me. I look forward to discovering as much of it as I can.

Until next time, please do share any travel and/or primate-related experiences. C’mon, Oxford MSc peoples…you know you remember me:

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The Crow and Doing the Thing

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Dear dear things,

I uploaded my first original song. Not the first I wrote, or the first I recorded, but the first that I am really feeling. After thinking it was an acoustic song for almost a week, I looked over at my electric this morning, whose head was coincidentally painted as a crow when I bought it at a garage sale for $20 last year, and thought…huh…maybe? Yeah. So it finally formed a whole (albeit short, like, Bad Religion short) thing, and I finally recorded the thing and am now sharing the thing, complete with a quite serious “studio” selfie. I’ve been doing the thing all day. I forgot to eat. I’m tired. I’m happy. Thank you for listening.

Love.

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Ah Um

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Contained within: Jane leaves Portland, cries in the laundromat and car-musicks.

Yesterday morning at the laundromat, I was listening to a song I’d heard a few times before but wasn’t really caught by. When I sat down I just pressed the ‘Play’ button on my laptop, and since it was the most recent thing I’d downloaded, it started playing. Very quickly, I let loose a tear or two as my face contorted into that strange grimace that is unavoidable when trying contain a more complete emotional crumbling. I rested my mouth in my hand and stared at the computer screen, hoping perhaps to be mistaken for a woman in deep concentration rather than a distraught one. The barista (yeah, this is Portland; we have a laundry lounge with beer, coffee, artisan paninis and vintage arcade games) shot me a sympathetic look and gestured with a half-hidden thumbs up that implied the question “…you all good, girl?” I made eye contact, smirked and nodded once in reply. I was, in fact, ‘all good’, feeling something genuine and letting myself feel it, if not as fully as it deserved, whatever the surroundings or spectatorship. I don’t do that enough. (Let’s all do this from now on, okay? Okay.)

Back in my car, clean laundry in tow, I turned on a song of mine– the first I wrote and recorded on my own but haven’t shared because it’s not where I want it to be. Whenever I listen to myself, especially this song, there is always that mental battle between repulsion and intrigue and an array of feelings in between that show me why I needed to write it, and why I need to write more. And I do feel that it is a need. The frustration comes from the inevitable struggle to express what I want. The reason why I tend to write lyrics in a very naked, un-garbled fashion is because I don’t have the skill yet to express what I’m feeling through the music alone. Like everyone, I want to be understood, but what I have to understand is that I have to have trust in my perception and that of those who listen. And in my development if I commit, of course. For people who wish to feel me, I will either come through or miss the mark and they’ll reach out. It will get there. When I hear what I deem to be cutting, compelling emotion or narrative in music, I’m so envious and inspired, just totally taken. That learning curve, though. Just because the emotions and narrative are in there, in me, doesn’t mean I know how to express them justly. Since it’s such a challenge, I decided to start making some instrumental songs and also to start writing music before, or at least alongside, lyrics. (For those who don’t know, I write a lot– scribbles, seedling ideas, words or phrases that I like, notes on books that I read, commentary about someone in the café I’m working at, journaling, songwriting, poetry, little stories, memories or stream-of-consciousness nonsense to help me start to weed out what I’m truly thinking and feeling. I don’t have so much a writing “process” as I have a compulsion. It’s why start so much and finish so little. Working on that.) So I started a couple weeks ago messing around with all my instruments, jamming and recording some funk stuff. It’s so fun, and is coming along in pieces, but I’m just experimenting. I’m not expressing anything except for a sense of fun and being motivated to make a music that sounds like something I would want to listen to. I guess it isn’t something I could voice, so maybe it’s more valid than I thought. Just realizing this now, folks. See what writing does?

Then at the beginning of this week, I was working through a lot of disappointment in myself, poor choices I’d made, not taking enough care of myself. I was also thinking and feeling a lot about leaving the US for a while (which, yeah, forgot to mention, I’m departing in June, people**) and how both excited and impatient I am for it. I’m excited to sell my shit, live-trade with people, drive ’round, get creative. Then came the thought of leaving the things and people I love here. But the leaving feels so necessary for me, the going and doing are necessary, the newness is necessary. So this strange soup of emotions had me kind of perplexed and I decided to sit down at my piano. Something came to me. That usually doesn’t happen. I usually mess around for ages and maybe find one little piece of melody I like. Most of the time, ideas come to me when I’m driving or doing something else where I’m incapable of giving it the attention it needs in order to develop (great going, Muse…).

But that day I sat down because I was feeling something that I couldn’t even articulate within my own head. I played something that just made emotional sense, a progression that caught the mood, basically. But it did not feel piano-y. Like, at all. I hopped on my guitar, which I might be even less proficient at than piano, and felt it immediately. I played, poorly. Words came, I wrote. I recorded. I erased. I tried again. I closed my eyes and felt. I hummed. I played harder. My fingers went numb and I stopped. Next day, two more hours. Next day, six more hours, two of which were in the backseat of my car at the end of the night. I drove to a secluded street, parked and proceeded to flatten my back seats and get to it. (It’s pretty cozy back there, I’ve slept there—and probably will much more in the coming months– and been quite comfy.) Since I practice guitar least of all musical things, my left hand was pretty done after this last stretch. So even though it sounded like, well, garbage, I felt it getting there—to that point where it was becoming something I would want to listen to. I could get used to car musicking. (And I’d better.) I’ll post this one as soon as my I can get through it.

This whole, longwinded spouting of words has no moral or conclusion. That’s not why I write. Maybe I wanted to just say that it’s totally a beautiful human thing to cry in a laundromat, record songs in your car, despise yourself and then surprise yourself.

You guys should share with me. How do you feel music? Make it? Find it? Evasive muse problem? Spill your deets.

(For those curious who didn’t glean it, I stole the title for this blog from Charles Mingus’ Ah Um album, the full duration of which was the ‘soundtrack’ to this writing session, although not the music that I speak of in the first paragraph. It’s not only a completely genius jazz record, but the title also warrants its own praise. So perfect. And perfect for the unfocused ‘ah…umm..’ of this blog’s content.)

**Yes! This lady creature leaves her house in February and then will be bopping around the Pacific NW for another few months until going back across the country and taking off for Europe and Africa for…an amount of time. Who knows? Certainly not me.**