Monday, September 20, 2010

Wrestling with it

This week marks the last of the major tour excursions for this year as I travel back to Beaumont, Texas for a show at the Logon Cafe this coming Saturday night and then carry on to Austin for a show there (while staying with Scandinavian dulcimer virtuoso Mark Gilston) and finally wrapping things up in Bennington, Oklahoma at the Winter Creek Reunion for an unprecedented second year in a row.

Besides my regular Wednesday night gig at McWell's and two more festival gigs in November, I'm pretty much done for the year 2010, which means a few very important things. More time spent at home with the family, in the garden and catching up on all the new projects that have been brewing over the past year. Honestly? I'm behind on my list of things to do. But this has been the busiest year of my career and a highly rewarding one - I just wish I had staff! Working for myself is highly rewarding, but you begin to reach a diminishing law of returns; a cap on what is eventually possible because one person can only do so much. Between making music, teaching, keeping tabs on all the administrative stuff, booking shows and festivals, shooting and editing video, etc., it feels sometimes like I'm wrestling alligators.

That's why I've slowly been removing things from my plate all season and trying to find a way to delegate some of what I do to others. That began in earnest this week as I discovered someone to take over designing reigns on my oh-so-cluttered website. What a blessing that is! I've also made a pretty big decision, though it wasn't too difficult. Except for my own productions, I'm no longer doing any videography work. It just takes too much time away from music, which has largely been the main focus for a couple of years. I may do the occasional outside project, if the price is right, but for the most part it will all be internal shoots and edits.

That frees up even more time to write, rehearse, teach and otherwise continue to "become." It's been incredibly humbling and flattering to have students, festival organizers, fellow instructors, performers and fans of music lay kudos on me, some with the idea that I've reached the top of my game. However, every day that I live and breathe is spent climbing the mountain because, as an artist, plateaus aren't the way to go. It should never be "it" - you should never have "enough." There's always room for improvement, clarification, imagining the possibilities. That sort of thing takes time and effort, continuously pushing for better. Every once in a while it's good to sit back and reflect upon the journey thus far, seeing how far you've come and what you've accomplished. Then, when you've caught your breath and become appreciative of your trip up the mountain, it's time to grab ahold of some rock and start climbing towards the next ledge heading skyward. Does the ascent ever cease? Not while you breathe, it shouldn't. The zenith isn't so much insurmountable as it is taller than your dreams. For each level you attain, your dreams shift and change, grow more vivid and include bigger things. And while you can always sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors, there's always just a little something else that will plus that experience.

This fall is going to be a serious sort of mountain climbing - Half-Dome in scope. So many things I still wish to accomplish and won't be able to until I take slow, methodical action to engage the side of the cliff and put some sweat into it. Some of that may involve sitting down with an instrument and studying. Some parts may be simply existing with others, sharing life's moments and gaining inspiration from the day to day, or weeding in the garden and gathering wisdom from the soil. The School of Life is everywhere and all we have to do is look and apply.

But first, we have to make room for it in our rucksacks, or it will just fall down the side of the mountain. And at the bottom of the mountain are just a bunch of alligators, ready to be wrestled.

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