In praise of doing what we love…

Apr 07 2014

imageI am back in the Westmount conservatory/greenhouses; there is STILL snow everywhere, and it is April, but the spring bulbs are flaunting their poignant smells indoors and outside the air is bright and fresh, the sunlight’s intensity heightened by the reflecting snow.  I know snowdrops will raise their bell-like heads any day now — fancifully, I hope they ring in celebration of this long awaited change of season!

I have had a very full March and am reflecting on — not snow, though I could say there has been an awful lot of it! — but on how I handle challenges and what feels like the need to Remember to Take Care of Everything.  To exemplify these thoughts, let me tell you about leading a lovely workshop with relatively little anxiety one night last week in Ottawa, and the next night being half of a sing-along concert where I was more inwardly nervous than I had any idea I was or would be.

The first night/event was not one with a predictable audience, and it evolved into a different kind of session than I had ever led before.  I was presenting as a part of the new Spirit Art Studio programs being offered in Sandy Hill (  There was time to centre in quiet meditation, then to play my dulcimer and sing, talk about my Heron Spirals book and share some of the springs of creativity with a small group. I had vaguely planned what I might sing and a poetry-writing exercise we might do, but I was totally open to what unfolded and how I instinctively felt led to orchestrate our activities.  The end result was satisfying, creative and much appreciated — and I felt confident it had gone well.

IMG_2599The second evening’s event was held at the Abbotsford Community Centre, also in Ottawa, where my song circle friend Maura ( runs a coffeehouse called the Log Drive Cafe.  In contrast to my Spirit Art group of eight, this program was much more planned in advance, and there were maybe 40 or 50 people gathered there.

Now I not only love to sing, especially chorus songs with a group of willing singers, but I also relished the chance to regale my audience with some favourite songs I don’t often perform. Yet I was tense about the opportunity, after so many years of not doing school or library concerts as I once did, anxious about my voice being strong enough for long enough, and worried that my memory is definitely not as good as it once was (though those songs I learned back in my 20s and 30s are pretty indelible).  So I knew I was excited yet tense, and yet perhaps i did not realize how much I had invested in the singing going well.

Also I found it oddly unnerving that my singing partner for the night, David Baril, a lovely baritone-voiced man who treasures the old songs as I do, has the same first name as my late husband David Parry.  Somehow the concert was more redolent of the old days when my David and I lived and sang together than I had anticipated, and in its way that was also stressful.

When the current David and I finished our two sets, I was surprised at how little of the evening I could remember — AND surprised that I couldn’t think of anything else to sing at a pub afterwards, where many of the cafe audience gathered for beer, good cheer and more songs. In the past I could always think of another song, but here, this time, inner buttons were “pushed” and my memory went blank.

Now, over a week later, I am still singing a lot of that evening’s repertoire internally, and thankful for what was truly a joyful, harmonious night, but aware that somehow I didn’t have the confidence I had enjoyed at the Spirit Art workshop.  Was it perhaps because I was too fixed on it all going just as we planned, on the words all coming to mind exactly right, and my voice being “perfect”?  With the perspective gained after everything’s over, and after several restorative nights of sleep, I’m glad I had the chance to sing!  Additionally, perhaps I’m wary of big audiences, and certainly aware of of aging, which I do want to accept as integral to the spiral of my life, even as I protest the process!

After coming home from the spring-filled conservatory and a couple more days of my life, I heard that singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester had died, and though I never really followed him, these words from his song “Do It” touched me.  Don’t they make a good coda here?

If the wheel is fixed, I would still take a chance/
If we’re treading on thin ice, then we might as well dance.
So I play the fool, but I can’t sit still/
Let me get this rock to the top of this hill.

Do it, til you’re sick of it.
Do it, til you can’t do it no more.

If you want to hear this little snatch of wisdom, I found it here:

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