“Out of the Absolute” – A Year of Coming In and Out of Focus.

Two weeks ago I bought my second painting by my friend and Symphony Nova Scotia colleague, First Horn player David Parker.  Since the Pandemic started people have been doing different things to keep themselves sane.  David has turned to painting, and as you can see, he’s a very talented fellow.  This painting immediately spoke to me with its colours, texture, and image of looking at the Dartmouth shoreline from Halifax.  It reminds me that this year I have been moving constantly in and out of focus.  The title of the painting “Out of the Absolute” reminds me that what I thought was my absolute life, is actually just an illusion: life is never absolute, and boy has this year ever taught me this. 

At times I have found myself able to focus and concentrate for short periods of time, and actually feel like I am making some sort of progress with my goals.   But more often I just feel like my life is a blur, when things smudge into one another, and I can’t seem to get anything done, or make ANY progress!  Then I ask myself…”well, what is progress??  Do we need to make any during this Pandemic??”  I feel this pressure to still try and get things done, even though professionally I am severely handicapped because of the virus.  Often I will make a progress list at the beginning of the day and try to hack away at it for the week  Here is a sample list: 

  1. Do taxes (O M G) 
  2. Make sure Kyla has sent in all her university applications. 
  3. See if I can improve my website photos 
  4. Sort out my TFSA 
  5. Plan next summer (?? will I be able to get home again??) 
  6. Get contracts sorted out for the gigs at the end of March and in April, which in the end may get cancelled. 
  7. Get the artwork sorted out for my new album with Jude 
  8. Keep editing the album with Jude. 
  9. Try and set up a video game schedule with Eli (an on going battle I can assure you) 
  10. Practise for the upcoming online captures coming up next week. Practise always comes last it seems! 

This is just a small list, and usually there is a lot more stuff on it.  I find the less busy I am in my professional life (I have done a total of 3 concerts this year, one streamed and two live), the less able I am able to get stuff done!!  You know the old saying, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person.”  Normally I have an average of 2 to 3 different concert programs to play in ONE WEEK, and I admit that was CRAZY.  Now, I am at the polar opposite end of the scale in that there is more space in my life (like, extreme space) where I find myself in sloth or blurry mode a lot of the time. This Pandemic has taught me I don’t do well with absolutely NO schedule.  I can’t see me going back to my insanely busy symphony schedule once we finally crawl out of our rabbit holes, but I also know that doing relatively nothing isn’t good for me either!  I have gone from “out of the absolute’ to “into the liminal life”. 

Last weekend I left my liminal life to do a live concert with my nyckelharpa syster, Binnie Brennan, also a good friend, and colleague from SNS.  After not having prepared any live shows for months, suddenly we were playing a set of nyckelharpa tunes at the Carelton, for the Community Engagement Concerts that the Symphony has been presenting all year.  The prospect of playing “live” for people was fun, but also daunting because we hadn’t done it for so long!! What a BIZARRE thing to feel suddenly.  It was a fun show in the end and we were really happy to play our nyckelharpas for the very attentive audience.  I do love seeing the looks of total amazement when I play my nyckelharpa, it’s a real buzz 

Preparing the show and practising was fine, but when we actually played, I found that I expended a lot more energy than I normally do, and was completely wiped out afterwards!  We were only on stage for an hour, but it certainly demanded a lot of concentration and focus, which was more challenging than it would normally be for me.  Just like keeping in shape, the mental and physical performing muscles have to be used in order to feel good.  Mine have been in disuse for a long time this year, and I really felt it at that little show.  I think performers will have to be gentle with themselves as we eventually come out of this Pandemic.  Moving from “Out of the Absolute” back “Into the Absolute” is not going to be easy.  David, maybe you should make a new painting, “Into the Absolute” and I’ll buy that one too!