Fearless Challenge, Somatics

Abandoned Tunnel

A few years ago I found out about an abandoned train tunnel in Clinton, Massachusetts. I read it’s filled with graffiti, and reputably haunted. Obviously, I wanted to go. I forgot and remembered it at least three times, but today I made the road trip out there. 

My wife came with me.  It was an hour drive out listening to Sarah Jarosz and Chris Thile. When she got out of the car and hiked to the tunnel entrance balked.  

I walked in the first twenty or thirty feet. It was a bit like entering a damp, dark cathedral. The temperature dropped 15 degrees as I walked out of the reach of the sun. I called out to her. My voice rippled and buzzed strangely along the walls. I walked back out.  “You go can, I’m going to wait in the car;” she told me.  

I was on my own. Just me, and gaping abyss of about 1000 feet. I could see the light on the other side.

My footsteps crunched. Water dripped. My body was not happy. The tunnel wasn’t that long. There wasn’t anyone else there I could see. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and walk. I constantly wanted to turn to see what had crept up behind me in the dark.   

Obviously, I started to relate my uncertainty walking through the cave to the uncertainty of the creative process, if only to give myself something familiar to focus on. 

At the far end of the tunnel I met two frogs and the long since grown over hollow that had once been blasted out to make was for a trains also long since passed. It was beautiful. I snapped a picture with my phone.

As I made my way back I found myself thinking of Orpheus’s return to the surface from Hades. How would anyone not look back to see what was following them, or to see if their lover was still behind them in darkness like that? Looking behind me was the only thing my body wanted to do.  

Yet it had always seemed like a reasonable challenge to set man to before I walked through that darkness.  

My wife was sitting in the car when we got back.  “How was it;” she asked.  “Really cool!”  Late over a coffee stout, I showed her the picture I took from the other side. The sun was starting to set on behind us. It was the first meal we hadn’t eaten in our kitchen since March. A different darkness and a different uncertain tunnel that we’d made it through together.    

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Imperfection, Inherent Self-Worth

Fixed Gears

About ten years ago, I bought a used bike. The bike I owned was stolen out of my apartment’s foyer when my landlord left the door open. I didn’t want to invest in another new bike, so I bought one used bike.   

Because the old one had been stolen out of our foyer, I locked the new one in the closest convenient place. Outside. On a “No Parking” sign. Summer turned to fall. Fall turned to winter. At some point the bike was left out on the pole in the snow. 

In time, it’s gears locked up and they could be switched in only one direction. After a while of course, the bike ran out of options in that direction.  

I took it in to the bike shop to be looked at. The bike mechanic’s prognosis was he couldn’t fix the gears but he could turn into a fixed gear bike if I liked. I wasn’t super happy about it, but I was still feeling crunched for cash. I could have no bike or a bike with one working gear. I went for the fixed gear. That’s when I discovered that there’s a kind of ease with having one fixed option.   

I thought of all this today as I listened to Tim Ferriss talk to Debbie Millman about her experience working with habitual patterns in her life. That after thirty years of therapy, she said she would have thought perhaps she’d be done with some of the issues that come up for her. She also, how she wouldn’t really be who she is without those issues.   

She’s basically what she was saying was in certain aspects of her life her options are basically fixed. That’s when I found myself thinking about my old bike again and how there was a kind of freedom in knowing what I had and never having to shift gears.  

This is a simplistic metaphor, and our lives are complicated—still there’s something there that I think could be worth exploring further.     

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Songwriting, The Song Well, Tunesday

Tunesday: Sept. 15th: Where the Mountain Used to Be

Every Tunesday I post a boldly imperfect, one-take song draft of a song. This was written from the prompt post on Saturday, September 12th: Where the Mountain Would Be. (You can receive a new prompt every Friday in time for Happy Hour by signing up here).

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We’ve been inside
Empty highway long haul ride
Fallow fields feeling fraught
Wander aimless what’s been wrought

Flatland level waxing tides
Hermit crab no place to hide
Sidewalk walks empty shells
Quiet days just humming

Water dried up in the well
Hollow echo where the bucket fell
Not even the bump of an anthill
Where the mountain used to be

Wound up strings without a tune
On the floor endless room
Orchestra playing the same old note
No wind for the sails of this boat

Wonder how long we’ll be afloat
Drifting sideways going rote
Concrete grey of cloudless sky
Quiet days just humming by

Boundaries, Imperfection, Self-Care, Writing

No Really, How much Time Does it Take?

I’ve been living by the seat my pants in terms of how I do The Work the last few weeks. At first when I returned to my job, it felt like I could handle everything, (my job and all the whims I have regarding The Work), and indefinitely. But no one can really function that way. It makes a body moody and resentful.   

Over the past few weeks I’ve been beginning to reconfigure the whole operation. There are some questions it seems I have to come to terms with, (and figure out realistic answers to). 

What do I want to do? —I always want to do everything. 

What can I actually do? —I can’t actually do everything, though I often want to believe that I can.

How long will it take to do it?  —Probably longer than I suspect, but in general any task I set if front of myself is finite and can be completed in some amount of time.   

No really, how much time does it take?  —This usually requires doing it a few times to get a rough estimate so I can schedule it out. 

What is enough?  —It’s my work, I get to decide. And there has to be an enough. If there isn’t I’ll never stop, or more likely burn out.  

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Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Where the Mountain Would Be

Community has always been one of the most important legs on the stool I rest my songwriting on. It should be a no brainer. The more people that join in, the better music gets. But community also to be one of the first things I forget. I was reminded about the importance of community again in an email this morning.  

My friend wrote briefly about how timed writes we’ve done togetherhave helped her. I met Allison this spring over Zoom when we were getting together every Saturday at 1:00PM because how else were we going to ride out Covid-19 and social distancing? I stopped hosting those Zooms because I returned to work, and my time got tight. (That’s also when these emails started). 

We have a nice little community of folks getting these emails right now. One way we could strengthen the community would be simply to post the song on the Fearless Forum after you’ve written, and check in with what other people have done over the weekend.  Another way, would be be to set up a time to write together (at a distance) with a friend or someone in the community, and check in on that.  (Here’s a place to do that on the forum). I’ve taken part in some great video work groups over the past few months where people will check-in at the start and then just dive in and write for a set amount of time while.   

Here’s a link to Edward Curtis’s Canyon De Chelly

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