Leaving the Cities, and the kindness of Philip and Preston, is sort of slow going this morning. On one hand, I’m really eager to be back to the river and small-town America and the rhythm of life we have created on this journey; on the other hand, I could easily spend another week here visiting friends and colleagues, mulling over the implications of the trip so far, and maybe even making some music, now that Mary Kay has brought my DP install disk, so that I can get it running on my replacement computer.

One thing Philip said seemingly almost offhandedly the other day is really helping me think through this whole undertaking. He mentioned something about how the point of the journey is for me to have my own take on the river: not so much to gather other people’s takes as an (ethno)musicologist might. I’ve been feeling sort of guilty and inadequate that I have little or no interest in going to hear music at the State Fair, for example; I would much rather look at the hundreds of species of rabbits, listen to the auctioneers sell off cows, and study the crop art (did you catch the crop art iPhone I posted the other day?!) Philip and Preston seemed to immediately understand this, and even though they certainly know about lots of interesting music in Minnesota, including their own, they didn’t push me to explore that now. The fact is, other than at church each Sunday, I have heard no live music at all on this trip. Unless you count birds and wind and train whistles and industrial sounds. Which I definitely do.

I feel like I am emptying myself of other people’s music. And it’s a bit scary, actually, since lots of the music I have written is in one way or another a response to music that already exists. I’m not sure what music I will be moved to write. I’m (mostly) okay with this emptying even though it creates a certain amount of mild anxiety in me. It’s sort of like a large-scale version of the emptying that comes before any new piece. But Philip’s comment somehow gave me permission to be squarely in this state, not to try to escape it, and I am really grateful to him for saying it.

It’s Mac’s paddling day today, and because we have a second kayak, Heather and Mary Kay can each get a half-day of paddling with his company, which seems like an excellent way to get them started on the river. Heather started out with Mac in the morning, so Mary Kay and I wandered around Mendota a bit, which was a curious experience. Mendota barely exists now, but it was a town long before St. Paul or Minneapolis came into being, and there are a few exquisitely maintained stone structures: St. Peter’s Church, Governor Sibley’s house, etc. right near where the Minnesota RIver joins the Mississippi, not far from Fort Snelling. They are made of the limestone that creates the bluffs we have just now started seeing, and there’s something great about how local these structures are. Makes me definitely want to build my Vermont house out of stone and wood gathered from my own land.

The trade-off point for Heather and Mary Kay was a boat launch just down from the US 494 bridge: maybe one of the biggest bridges we’ve seen yet over the Mississippi, and it’s under huge construction to double the lanes. An old man was sitting on a bench there: Ken has been coming out to watch the construction every day for months now. He had worked for years in the stockyards of South St. Paul; born in 1920, he grew up here the youngest of eleven children of parents and grandparents who grew up here, and most of his four children live nearby as well. I got to thinking about how some families have one person who did the big move of emigrating and then everyone settles in the new place for generations to come; while other folks seem to have immigration in their blood and they themselves and many of their offspring end up moving repeatedly all over the country or the world. I feel like I have both sides in me: my father was a wanderer by nature (or was it an adaptation to his circumstances?), and my mother always claimed she would have been happy to live in Farmington or Plymouth (Michigan) her whole life. But of course she didn’t, and I don’t know that she could have, despite all her voiced longing for that alternate settled life she never lived.

2 thoughts on “self-made”

  1. Adaptation of Circumstance… Love this idea. Clashing worlds and sensibilities with an original voice surfacing and establishing itself. The chick breaks out of the shell; the baby emerges from the womb; the woman in a kayak paddles out the mouth of Miss River. All attuning to the next minutes/days/years… Permutation.

  2. Eve!!! Forgive my written silence, but I was so excited to hear you were doing this!!! I love road trips…it’s a delicious opportunity to live in present time, and I think you are doing this for all of us! Bless you my child!

    Re: “Emptying”…yes…the perfect thing to do…we are so compelled to “study”, “chronicle”, “appreciate”….I was in Long Island recently for about a week, during which time I read none of the 15 books I brought with me, all of which are on subjects I’m obsessed with…why? Because at no point did I feel the inclination to do so. I was inclined to rest, to “take in”, to listen…to be emptied of all that was me and my experience and my sensibilites and just be and allow that which was this place to reveal itself in all it’s green/white light (we were in a very woodsy setting), and quiet. I needed that. It was okay…very okay not to take in an ounce of anyone else’s experience in order that I might have the most complete and unique experience. I LOVE the fact that you are listening to the sounds of the water pumps….we have so overlooked the daily “music” of our civilized selves…and that, being a counterpoint to “natural” sounds is soothing… That is what allows you to be so open to those who travel in large metal containers, for they too have their own music….what is that?? Hmm…

    I’m teaching this year at Christopher’s school (Spanish…filling in for a teacher on leave)….and we have a new music teacher from Kentucky who is very open to cool new things… If you stumble across anything fabulous, maybe the kids could do one of the pieces you find (at this stage)…and maybe perform something you write later??? I would also love you to meet Luke McEndarfer, C’s choir director (National Children’s Chorus). He is fan of yours, and the kids, both in the larger ensemble and the smaller “Scholars” group, are very accomplished… Who knows, keep it in mind and see if it would serve your artistic process in some way. I would love to see them perform your work!!!!

    Lots of love, and you will have a miraculous time!!!!!

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