We’ve been out twice this month for ten days at a stretch. First up to New York, Vermont, Maine, and Virginia, then after a few days back home in North Carolina, it's out again and up to Ontario through Indiana and Michigan. Canada really does feel like a whole ‘nother country. From our first concert at Debbie and Bill’s home in Goderich where we watched the Maitland River flow into Lake Huron under a brilliant sunset, to our final night in the little burg of Baltimore where our dear friends Steafan Hannigan and Saskia Tomkins have settled to raise their family. We had a joyful time of catching up, sharing stories, and supping on Saskia’s curry as midnight rolled around.
The day we were to play in Toronto at Taivi and Garth’s place, we were informed that someone very beloved to the folk music community there had just passed away. For thirty years Susan Lawrence had organized the weekly song circle and helped further the musical lives of countless people. Since most of the folks attending our concert that evening were close to Susan we turned the second half of the show into a singaround. A half dozen singers sang a song they knew Susan would have loved. It was an emotional and moving night, one that we felt privileged to be a part of.
These kinds of evenings sum up this work. Musicians are like mayflies who alight upon a place for a day and then are gone. In that one day an entire life is lived. The cliché is that if it is Thursday then we must be in Belgium, but we sure did live in Belgium while we were there. Every concert is a rebirth and an opportunity to witness something new, fresh, and good in a stranger’s eyes. It’s pretty wonderful. Then we pile back in the van and go. We drive quiet for a while, recalibrating our thoughts and catching up internally. Soon enough the hum of the road and familiarity of our confines restore us to the point where we can prepare for our next encounter. We may as well be space travelers aboard our ship to a new planet.
Ours is a gypsy life but with a mortgage and car payment. Sometimes we’re out a long weekend, other times for several weeks. We have friends that stay out for months on end. They lock up home and look ahead with trust it will still be there when they return. I know of others who have not a home at all. After so many years of doing this they have friends and family in so many parts of the country that they don’t need to own four walls, a roof, and a garden. Home consists of four wheels, a chassis, and window. Home is where the heart is.
As any traveler will tell you, most difficult are the transitions between the leaving and arriving home. Notably, coming home is an alternate reality hangover from a road-trip binge that really only hits when you reenter into the oxygen-rich atmosphere of civilian life. Ask any musician who has crashed and burned. Motels, road food, and road miles have a way of breaking down body and mind. As sure as an orbiting satellite eventually must fail and plummet to earth, weariness, ignored and denied in the focus of travel, will surface. This is where the phrase, “Safe Home,” comes in handy.
Perhaps what makes departure a bit easier is the promise of Fiddlers Green: the legendary place of perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing, and dancers who never tire. Its allure attracts and behaves like a drug. In the name of doing good works, catching up with old friends, intent of inspiration, and the deepening of our trade, we set sail. Maybe our friends have it right: less frequent departure and re-entry is better. Less crash and burn.
The professional traveler regularly passes through a gate between these two diametrically opposed worlds. One faces out upon a glorious and endless highway. The other gazes inward toward sanity, health, and repose. It’s like Narcissus and Goldmund, the novel by Hermann Hesse that I loved as a youth, which addresses the innate duality of the creative existence. It’s not so much that the grass is greener on either side, but it’s more about living amid the continual ebb and flow between the polarities – a sort of Bay of Fundy of the mind.
This is Easter weekend now, Equinox, and the temperature is just warm enough to allow the woodstove to die out overnight. In the morning Sue digs through the kindling and rips apart some brown paper bags to fire up the remaining embers. It takes the edge off. Nothing creates a sense of deep rest better than the slow rhythm of home where movements from one thing to another are effortless and automatic. A cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal in the morning occur without discovery or thought, and are taken blessedly for granted.
This morning in the damp of early spring the lichens and moss on the trees are stunning to behold. The silver maple tree in the yard wears it like a suit of clothes. The Green Man lives! Before they are upstaged by emerging leaves and colorful flowers, this seems to be their time to shine. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, but I rather like moss, and perhaps it’s a good thing if a stone sits still for a time. Hmm…
After a couple of days at home, with a walk around the park and a visit or two to the YMCA under my belt, I’m back to the office. Next comes the ritual of removing instruments from their cases and hanging them upon stands for easy access. I recognize how fortunate I am for being able to do this for a living. I’ll soon begin to scan the calendar, looking for our next departure date.