Moon Joy Blue Gold Silver Red

as red as red I remember how you ran

your fingers round my ear

tucking my long locks away from harm

 

teaching me red blood could once again be warm

teaching me what detonation might be for

teaching me how limited the time

 

silver between each start

and each next beginning rising

each as though a phoenix

 

rising from the silver fire of the last

how limited this given glimpse

between our every rising and our return

 

gold is the color of the hours in which

our lips were met and joys were joined

in resonance we shook each the other

 

emergent golden melody built into the strata

of the motes and dust embedded back of every surface

in the time and shapes and violence we shared

 

blue were the truths you taught

captured in the patterns

of the way you shook the world

 

in the blue shiftlessness of uninherent being

as each plastic surface yielded

to the exploding secret that you wield

 

yielded to the rainbow eruption bleeding

no harm into each heart of hearts as each

condemns itself to joy and joy

 

This is a circle poem, in which the last line wraps around to the first, combining so:

condemns itself to joy and joy

as red as red I remember how you ran

 

This is one of those cute things I like to do with words every now and then.

 

My Self, in the Center

driven rain

the quaking glass

window my head nodding

near the lamplit

 

pages

 

heat my desire

to sleep chill

my desire to read

myself in the center myself

 

my Self

 

in the Center my head

nodding near the lamplit pages

driven rain

the quaking glass

 

pages

 

lamplit the near

nodding head my window

glass quaking the

rain driven

 

Technical info: stanza line lengths = 4, 1, 4, 1, 4, 1, 4. The single-line stanza "my Self" is centered in the poem, with three stanzas before and three after. The first and last stanzas mirror one another in reverse word order, and there is a large chunk of the fifth stanza (yes, we’re counting single lines as stanzas; if you don’t like it, suggest something more elegant) – specifically, the phrase "head nodding near the lamplit pages" – that is echoed in the seventh and then sixth stanza, reading in reverse.

I don’t know what these textual fugues might mean at any deep conceptual level but they seem to me to add a certain fatedness to the poem, and add a little ballast to the poem’s rhythm and musicality.

This is an old, old poem that has seen very little revision in the last forty years. Which isn’t to say it’s seen none. It has definitely grown and changed a bit, while staying the same poem.

If you compare early and late versions of some of my poems, you wouldn’t know the original and current were related. With this poem, it’s different. Not just the bones, but a lot of the flesh and fur and feathers of the original persist in the current version. It’s recognizably the same critter.

I like that.

I like to think it’s a better poem now. That the changes have been sculptural, and aesthetically justifiable, that the poem strikes more deeply now than it did then.

I know this implies some standard against which I measure the two poem versions, and of course I have such a standard. It’s all caught up in very personal ideas (and in no way anything like expert ideas) of balance and surprise, beauty and meaning.

Just like anyone else’s aesthetic judgment.

And of course, feeling is tied so intimately into aesthetics. Feelings are the heart of aesthetics. As they are the essential heart of life.

Most especially, the feeling of nonfeeling is at the core of meaning. This is because the only way to achieve nonfeeling is to pass into the depths of feeling and survive that chaos and escape without drowning. To finagle an exit, and emerge intact from the flood; and not just intact: anyone exiting that ocean does so with an understanding of it – an intimacy with it – that could never be achieved by one who never risked the plunge.

 

The Unattested Litha 2017

Litha can be perfect, or it can be a hopeless mess of expectation unmet. It’s really up to us. In that way, it’s much like any other holiday; recall the extended family horrors of your last Thanksgiving if you need a reminder.

But Litha (at least in the Appalachian mountain valley which is my neck of the woods) has something going for it that Turkey Day lacks: it has the wonder and miracle of a temperate zone Midsummer. Which is as close as we embodied mortals can ever get to paradise, I think.

Summer Solstice, or Litha, occurs on or about the 21st of June, when the Sun hits zero degrees Cancer. It marks Midsummer for many cultures. It is the longest day of the year, and the shortest night, when the sun reaches his apex in the sky, and the days will now grow shorter as the light begins to wane. Litha is centered on the Summer Solstice and the religious celebrations that accompany it. Midsummer-related observances occur with almost boring regularity around the world and into the depths of history – no culture can claim this celebration as its property – it is truly a gem in the crown of every human society.

Litha is one of the eight solar holidays or sabbats of Neopaganism. The holiday is considered the turning point at which Summer reaches its height and the sun shines longest, but at the same time it reminds us that the days will now begin to shorten. Among the Neopagan sabbats, Midsummer is preceded by Beltane and followed by Lughnasadh.

The difference between the Julian calendar year (365.2500 days) and the actual year (365.2422 days) has resulted in slight discontinuities between traditional holidays and the actual solstice – the day associated with the actual astronomical solstice moves forward approximately one day every seven centuries.

On this longest day of the year, light and life are abundant. At Midsummer, the Sun God has reached his moment of greatest strength. Seated on his greenwood throne, he is also lord of the forests, as seen in archaic church architecture, peering from countless foliate masks.

Some legends explain the solstice as darkness triumphing over light, with the light residing in the underworld until it is time for it to return again and rule for the next six months. The stories of Lugh and Goronwy, and the Oak King and the Holly King are two of these legends.

Although Litha may seem at first glance to be a masculine observance and one which focuses on Lugh, the day is also dedicated to the Goddess, and Her flowers are most typically the white blossoms of the elder.

Wiccans see the Goddess as heavy with pregnancy (from the mating at Beltane) and this is the first time in the Wheel of the Year when matron honors are formally extended to Her. The Sun God is also celebrated for His approaching fatherhood, as the Sun is at its peak in the sky.

The Litha Sabbat is a time to celebrate work and leisure; an Eden-like time – a time for children and childlike play, as we adults recall our own innocence or feel our way back into the eternal garden living in all our hearts. It’s a celebration of the ending of the year’s waxing, and the beginning of the year’s waning, in preparation for the harvest to come. A time to recognize the fall that lies at the core of every rise. Midsummer is a time to absorb and utilize our star’s warming rays – another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals.

Faeries are thought to be pretty thick on the ground at this time, too, and it is customary to leave offerings such as food or herbs for them – most often in the evening.

Litha Etymology

Although the name Litha is not well attested and is almost certainly a recent coinage for the Midsummer holiday, the word does have deep Old Norse and Proto-Germanic roots. The 8th-century monk Bede gives the Anglo-Saxon name for June and July as Litha.

Also known as Alban Hefin, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Feill-Sheathain, Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide, Vestalia, Thing-tide, and St. John’s Day.

Xtians converted this day of Jack-in-the-Green to the Feast of Saint John, often portraying him in rustic attire, sometimes with horns and cloven feet (like the Green Man, or the Greek demigod Pan). Saints in the church are typically remembered for the day they died (especially if their death was a martyrdom) so it curious that John the Baptist should be recognized on his natal day.

Litha Harvesting

This is a good time of year to harvest magical and medicinal herbs – many plants reach their peak efficiency about now, and are full of whatever it is that makes them… whatever they are. Harvest herbs with a sharp, clean blade.

Harvesting is done preferably by the light of the Moon, which helps sap rise and makes the harvested herb more potent – but that’s not going to happen at Litha this year, is it – the New Moon is in just a few days. So just do the best you can.

It would be courteous to chant something appropriate while harvesting – some incantation specific to the purpose for which the plant will be used, or something general by way of thanks, or as an offering for the balance of the plant. Plants are very sensitive to sound, and chants or song will help both the potency of the harvested herb and the chances for the remainder of the living plant to survive. There are many songs associated with Midsummer, or you can compose something of your own.

Try not to harvest more than a few sprigs of any single plant. This will help the remainder to remain viable and vigorous. If you must harvest roots, only harvest a third or less of the plant. The rest should thrive in the empty space you create. Harvesting a branch should be done where the branch joins the main plant. Be careful not to damage the remaining plant.

The Sun is entering Cancer (a water sign) as Litha begins, so this is a good time to gather water for use on an altar or in spells for the balance of the year. Midsummer seawater is particularly laden with energy, but if you don’t live near the ocean, an excellent source of magical water is thunderstorm rainwater. Plenty of thunderstorms occur at this time of year. The more electrically charged the storm is, the more energized the water is.

Collect water in glass or porcelain. Avoid metal containers, which are as a general rule too reactive – the energies inherent in the water will quickly dissipate in metal containers. Store your glass containers of Litha-water on a wooden shelf or other insulated surface so the energy doesn’t ground.

Harvesting Litha Fire

Litha fires possess great power. Prosperity and protection for oneself and one’s clan can be garnered by jumping over a Litha bonfire. It is common for courting couples to join hands and jump over the embers of the Litha fire three times to ensure a long and happy marriage, financial prosperity and many children.

Even the charred embers from the Litha bonfire possess protective energies – they are included in charms against injury, and embers are sometimes placed around fields or in orchards to protect crops and ensure a good harvest. Carrying a living ember of the Litha fire into your home hearth is a traditional way to transfer the protection to one’s home; decking the home with birch, fennel, St. John’s Wort, pine, and/or white lilies offers blessing and protection.

Litha Mating Rituals

Since the grand union between the Goddess and God happens in May, at Beltane, it is traditionally thought to be unlucky to have mortal weddings in May, and the pent-up demand explodes in June, the most popular month for weddings. Since the June Full Moon is the "Honey Moon", the term is used for the time following the marriage ceremony.

The Unattested Litha

 

Reliquaries

 

nature rings

the spirit like a bell

in fey communion

in planet-healing divination

 

love and protection magicks

in ritual play join the battle between

the Oak ruler of the waxing year

and the Holly ruler of the waning year

 

scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

become a rededication of faith

a rite of inspiration

and we applaud with our hearts in our throats

 

bonfires and processions

all night vigils and singing

contests of bodies and minds

all feasting is a celebrating with others

 

cut our throats

or cut the necessary divining rods

and dowsing rods

and wands

 

our needfire leaping between two hale fires

like a maiden of light walking in nakedness

through our garden under a razor thin moon

ensuring fertility for the season’s crop

 

herb gathering

handfastings and weddings

mistletoe from the hidden groves of lithe young oak

berryless mistletoe woven into protection amulets

 

 

Herbaries

 

we honor the Mother’s fullness

her richness and abundance

with tokens of the same our own

in love placed where she may see

 

garlands of Saint John’s Wort

over doors and windows

and add a sprig to the car for protection

we celebrate the older mixtures of

 

mugwort and vervain

chamomile and rose

honeysuckle and lily

lavender and ivy

 

yarrow and fern

lavender and fennel

larkspur and nettle

elder and wild thyme

 

daisy and carnation

lemon and myrrh

anise and yarrow

wild rose and cinquefoil

 

mistletoe and hemp

vervain and heartsease

rue and wormwood

pine and heather and oak and holly

 

the sun in the birch and fir branches

sunflowers as playful love amulets

seashells mixed with summer fruits and flowers

feather wreaths and flower wreaths

 

 

Beastiaries

 

sun wheels and fires

circles of stone and sun dials

swords and knives

feathers like a witch’s ladder

 

blue green gold

yellow and red the light

of the warring oak and holly

of the wren and robin

 

watch the horses groom the cattle

the kittens provoke the pups

listen to satyrs and faeries

teasing the firebird

 

while dragons tell the old tales

to the children

of the children

of the invisible thunderbird

 

while lapis lazuli diamonds

stare into the tiger’s eyes

as green as jealous gemstones

emerald and jade

 

consume the heliotrope and saffron

bath in orange and frankincense

inhale the cinnamon and mint

burn the sandalwood and pumpernickel bread

 

pour the mead across the sanded altar preparing

since we kissed our beautiful Beltane goodbye

and watched her sail between our door posts

into the threadspinning past

 

 

Nurseries

 

we will all make of it what we will

this timeless spinning

we will all learn what we must

be we demons or demigods

 

the year is a scythe approaching

and we are the harvest

 

through bountiful waves

 

and we are the chorus

brave before the encroaching

 

army of the spoiled rods

pure as the irradiated dust

we become as we become a new beginning

until we have had our fill

 

The first three sections are made up of seven four line stanzas each, while the final section is a rhymed ABCD EF G FE DCBA section in stanzas 4, 2, 1, 2 and 4 lines in length.

Kind of pretty, and close to the feeling Litha gives me.

 

Eden

I remember

exactly the way

one might recall a lost Eden

the glad embrace of my child

the impossible perfection

of unassailed love

the boundlessness

of perfect trust

 

heart shattering

 

indescribable

as it is unforgettable

 

his craft of trust

foundered long ago

in chaotic waves of maturity

 

now I wander

in wilderness

lovely and rough

unprepared

for the wild hunt

on which I am embarked

I’m all shot and no powder

with night falling

and no end

to this tracklessness in sight

 

who would have guessed

I would be so naive

I might end up food for wolves

who could know me

and not expect

that at least

I would find a grave

in my own quiet garden

not in these fields left empty by war

 

still

even now

in this cratered incognito land

I can feel the arms of my child

and catch the warm baked bread scent

of his scalp

 

I would kill the universe

if I could once again toss him high in the air

and hear his uncontrolled laughter

 

I would

burn the world

in brutal

selfish

glee

if he could once again be him

and I could once again be me

 

What a world, what a world…

 

All Babies Cough

All babies cough diametrically

every fourth graduate hellraising,

invoking just kermit-like lackadaisicality –

mastering nothing

(or perhaps quite radical stuff)

through unlimited versioning,

while xylophones yammer zither-like…

 

I’m beginning to think I’ve exhausted the ABC sentence constraint; at least for a while; it’s probably time to move on to some other form of constraint… speaking in terms of sentences, of course.

What might we try? In the past, I’ve converted random samplings of the NY Times into rearranged and still-coherent sentences – that was always fun. Rearranging passages from Shakespeare, or one or another of the various holy books I usually have lying around is a similar exercise.

These are all different classes of "puzzle", and they are all examples of a type of puzzle I enjoy… in my obsessive, dogged fashion. I also like growing plants, which is similar in a way – all these things have a longer rather than shorter tail to them, stretching over years or even decades without concluding.

It’s not critically important to me, but it is a mark of civilized living (to me) to have a table somewhere in my dwelling devoted to a chess or a backgammon board, or a jigsaw puzzle – something like that. I like having a dozen or so projects of greater and lesser moment spread out around me, so I can always drop into something or other, when my primary projects pall. It’s even helpful that some of these exposed projects be of little moment – it allows me to treat them casually.

The constraint texts I like to play with are like that – whimsical and meaningless but a valuable (if minor) source of inspiration and/or provocation that help keep my mind revving.

 

Artful Dodgers And The Clouds

They never seem to land, or even light,

and (when the moon is at its fullest whole)

they flutter with a silent skill – the night

demands their flighted mastery. As though

 

the two were rivals, placed across a board

and joined in acts of discipline and will

by merely visionary iron cords,

they overpower all, as they fulfill

 

the testimony of the shadowed dark

(become the acrobatic incense burned

on altars of the arcing meadowlark)

and teach bright lessons to the sky they spurned.

 

The mockingbirds both sing their evensong;

insisting I should join, and sing along…

 

Sonnet-like, ne c’est pas?

Does it have fourteen lines? Check. Does the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG fit within the sonnet form? Indeed it does. Do the metrical pretensions of the poem fall within the bounds of iambic pentameter…? Yup. Does the poem conclude with an heroic couplet? Oh yes. Uh-huh – suspiciously like an English-form sonnet…

The past two years, I have been companion to the same pair of birds (at least I think they’re the same birds) each summer – me sitting in my window, they sitting in an old maple twenty feet out from my building.

I don’t think it’s typical mockingbird behavior to sing in the evening, but both of these seem to chatter on long after the sky has turned that deep, deep, royal blue that precedes full night.

I like the idea that they’re the same birds I enjoyed last summer, and the year before that. They look the same, as best I can tell, but mockingbirds don’t often have very distinguishable individual characteristics, and my eyes aren’t what they once were. I could be mistaken. Then again, mockingbirds can live four or five years, as I recall, so there’s nothing unusual about them if they are the same pair.

I doubt they’ll last another year, though – they’re starting to look a little scruffy. Which may be true of me as well, now I ponder it. I, too, am looking a little scruffy…

 

Happy Birthday Gerry!

Gerry! My Man! Happy birthday! I’ve whipped up a spell or two in which you might be interested: one brings people back from the dead!

Interested?

I got to warn you though – I’m not sure what condition the revivified person will be in. Classic gotcha, right? Damned folktales fuck everything up for everybody, right?

But the Gerald Gardner I never knew is probably the kind of guy who’d take the chance. He’d probably jump at the chance to return to this life from beyond the grave, even if jumping did shake a few rotted metacarpals loose. I figure Gerry Gardner for exactly the kind of guy who couldn’t really move on.

We’re talking about a guy with a very eccentric orbit and not much gravity who still managed to capture a few hearts and minds before he achieved anything like escape velocity – people are still orbiting the empty space that his mind once occupied, hoping to glean a few kernels of truth. But I don’t think Gerry Gardner was ever anywhere near the truth.

 

The Golden Fleece 9 – Standup

Read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 to understand what’s going on here.

Booze holds little allure for me. Psilocybin is my drug of choice – something entirely other, but that’s a different story that takes place out in the country at our performance art farm. This is the story about how drinking gets people in trouble, specifically me, but it’s a morality play in several acts that can be applied generally to anyone’s life, and that’s what matters, right?

It’s so important to leave these little lessons behind, so when I depart this insignificant dust speck of a planet I can feel that I did my part to make it a better place, right? That’s what counts.

Right?

I almost never drink, partly because I hate the taste of booze, partly because I so seldom socialize with a drinking crowd, and partly because the immediate and longer term consequences of drinking seem to me to be almost exclusively negative. The euphoria I have heard described has never come to me through alcohol, either.

Every now and again, though – usually through the good offices of the mating game – I’ve managed to snooker myself into too much of something or other. The results have been uniformly terrible.

The night before Zeetz put a contract out on me, it was a beautiful Sabra girl named Allie that got me in trouble. She was my perfect woman – dark-haired, lithe, wearing glasses and talking Proust. She carried a tiny little eight shot .22 in a bra holster just for fun, and had a hundred gobies up each of her bare arms, gobies being a fashion fad in Israel which of course was where she was from – they were kind of like rubber bands, and were used to hook a box ammo feed onto the side of a machine gun or something, I never got the details.

What happened wasn’t Allie’s fault, though. Believe it or not, our date was chaperoned, and it was her damned chaperone (Jason was Allie’s guardian while she was in L.A. – can you believe that? He insisted on a chaperone) who most definitely did not approve of me – I figured out later that she spiked my punch every time Allie and I stood up to dance.

She apologized later, when she found out it almost got me (and maybe Jason’s whole team, and herself) killed. But it was a grudging apology.

Allie being young and gregarious, we were dancing in a club I would otherwise never have entered, one of those brightly lit post-prom sorts of places with lots of primary colors and a whimsical name, kitsch on the walls (for that instant-heritage feel), and… activities.

If you have a choice, never walk into a bar with a social director.

Long story short, they had people getting up on a stool under a spot light on a tiny in-the-round stage, describing their most embarrassing date nights.

I don’t know how I ended up teetering around on that stool (I suspect the chaperone of course) but there I was with a mic in my hand, and somehow, when the tongue gets disconnected from the more critical brain centers, one finds one’s self saying terrible things.

I ended up telling the story of how Jason tried to buy one of the Night Girls for me, and how unhappy it made me feel. I don’t know from personal experience, since I was in orbit at the time, but Allie told me later you could hear a pin drop sometimes, as I rambled on. She also said the dead silences alternated with laughing uproar.

Apparently, when drunk, I have the gift of gab.

"Ramble" is the right word, by the way. I did not confine my muse to the Night Girls. Probably encouraged by the periodic laughter (again, I do not know what I did that night, much less why), I also described Jason’s business, his magic tape of mooches, and… his business associates.

And that was what got me targeted. Drunk as a skunk and with no thought at all, I mentioned Zeetz. Apparently, I described him in great detail.

Even the sharkskin joke came up, Allie told me.

His name alone, spoken on a stage from behind a mic, would have been enough to earn me a beating and maybe a bullet, but I had to put a cherry on top and turn him into a joke.

Zeetz’ sense of humor is legendary, of course, but only for not existing in any way. Before the hangover was history, Zeetz had arranged that I would be too. My date, too. I think Moon talked him out of killing everyone who had been in the bar that night, although I know he had acquired the security camera footage.

That’s what booze does for you. Every time.

When we left the bar, Allie and I checked into a dusty little motel on Pico, against the strenuous objections of Allie’s chaperone, who left in a huff to inform Jason. It was a good thing the chaperone made that call – it meant Jason and Big Neelie showed up before Moon did and got us out of there.

"What’s going on?" I asked. "Why are you pulling us out of this really, really depressing motel? Did the postal inspectors land before schedule? We’re all on the lam?"

"You really don’t know," Jason muttered. He was purple with rage. I’d never seen him like this.

"Can this wait until I’ve eaten my first bottle of aspirin?" I asked. "That bitch you had watching me last night with Allie spiked my drinks, I think. I’m really sick, man." Allie, with the resilience of nineteen year olds everywhere, was not hangover prone and was with obvious pleasure eating a bag breakfast in the front seat with Big Neelie.

"Be glad you’re sick, and not dead," Jason said. "Zeetz has Moon gunning for you."

"The fuck for?" I asked. "I knew helping that grandkid of his was going to turn me to roadkill."

"Ths isn’t about Theseus, you idiot. It’s about you getting up on stage in a candy bar and telling stories about Zeetz."

"What?"

"You fucking asshole," he said. "I’d leave you here if I wasn’t waiting on the rest of my mooch data," Jason said to me in his limo.

"I guess that’s one of the great advantages of procrastination, then," I said, still somewhat drunk as well as hung over. "Procrastination can save your life. Now tell me what’s going on."

From Jason’s and Neelie’s confused and overlapping narratives, I managed to understand the basic outlines of the shitstorm I’d stirred up. Jason figured it was all my fault, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t.

"Tell me, Jason – did you order our chaperone from last night to get me fucked up?"

He didn’t say anything.

"I thought so," I said, after a minute. "Did you not believe me, when I told you I couldn’t handle booze? Or was that the point, and this is just a bad case of unintended consequences?"

"He’s got a slug for Allie, too," Jason said.

"This is so fucked up," I said. "Allie, but not that damned chaperone? Not you?"

Jason looked sort of sideways out the window.

"Fuck," I said. "He did contract you. Didn’t he."

Jason didn’t say anything.

"So where we going, Jason? You delivering me to Zeetz and saving your own skin?"

"Allie’s skin too," he said.

"That’s good," I said. "I’m glad you thought of someone other than yourself."

"You think I like this? You think this isn’t costing me? Who’s going to iron out my mooch list? Anyway, I’m not delivering you – I want you to talk your way out of it. But if you can’t, you got anyone you could recommend? I really need someone with your skills."

That was probably as close as he’d ever get to apologizing for anything, ever, so I took it at face value. I shrugged and didn’t say anything for a minute. I was willing to talk to Zeetz – someday. But only if I was coming from a position of some strength.

Going there now didn’t fit the profile.

Out the window I could see we were just minutes from the freeway. Once on the freeway we were just minutes from Zeetz’ place, and I was just minutes from a ride into the hills, and a slug in the back of my skull.

"Got one of them cheroots?" I asked Jason.

"I thought you were cutting that out," He said. He passed one to me and I lit up.

"No point to taking care of myself now, is there?" I asked.

Pretty soon, the back of the limo was choked with smoke.

"Neelie," Jason said through the intercom, "Crack the windows back here. Six inches, no more." He turned to me. "Not enough for anyone to jump through."

I smiled.

And at the next light – the last time the limo would slow before we were on the freeway, as it turned out – I threw the stogie in Jason’s face and broke the window glass.

If it had been rolled up I could not have done it, but being down a few inches made it weak enough to break when I rolled around and kicked it as hard as a desperate man can. I was out that window and rolling down the sidewalk before Jason could unlimber his piece, and then I was off into the shadows between streetlights.

Chances were, Moon would find me pretty soon, but I figured I might as well make it interesting.

 

RIP Bridget

Rest in peace, Bridie. The Salem witch trials are a long time gone, except in our memories.

Bridget Bishop was probably not too much fun to be around; she was about sixty years old when hanged, and probably suffered from the usual maladies of her time and place, which is to say she was probably ignorant and bigoted, indifferently clean, toothless, and a pox on her neighbors.

Which is only seldom an excuse to hang someone.

The testimony and indictments and trial transcriptions are all online, and they make grim reading: she hadn’t a clue how to extricate herself from the nonsense of the accusations, and knew she would likely be executed.

It was all quite hopeless.

It was also 325 years ago, and the value of the Salem Witch Trials as a cautionary lesson seems to have been lost over the centuries. Humanity seems to enjoy witch hunts, whether literal or figurative.

A shame, really – this sort of culling doesn’t serve our best interests. Ignorance and self-indulgence will be the death of us, in fact, and what does a witch hunt consist of, if not ignorance and self-indulgence?

 

Strawberry Rose Honey Moon Music

So we got us a Full Moon, right? This is the Strawberry Moon.

I’ve also heard it called the Spinach Moon, which of course is another of those early just-post-Spring crops, although not nearly as romantic sounding as strawberries. Some people call it the Rose moon.

Sometimes I’ve heard the June Full Moon called the Honey moon, although I have a hard time with that one. Can’t see any real-world sense to that.

But pretty images, right? The Strawberry Rose Honey Moon? I like that. Hold the spinach.

I’d like to be doing something special for this moon, but I probably won’t. I’m still too busy translating my music hardcopy into my digital backup, as I mentioned a couple blog posts ago…

In addition to a lot of mad typing and a lot of squinting as I reconciled song versions, and a lot of playing to verify what I was doing, I’ve spent quite a lot of time since I got my hardcopy back in looking over my song spreadsheet. Once I finish updating my songs from the long-lost hardcopy, I’ll be updating that spreadsheet too.

Maybe a spreadsheet sounds like an odd sort of thing for a catalog of songs, but it isn’t. It’s what I use to see where things stand comparatively – you know – which songs are complete, which aren’t, how many are in the key of G, how many were written in August – that sort of stuff. I have lots of check-off columns and pie charts and so on, and it all helps me see my music as a whole. Which sometimes seems silly even to me, but isn’t, really – not really; it’s good to take stock now and then.

It does require a lot of work, though, keeping all the rows and columns shipshape. Bean-counting, amirite? But sooner or later, almost everyone who pursues any passion gets into the recordkeeping end of things to some degree. It’s good to be able to think about your entire body of work as a whole. Look at this:

Sample page from my songs worksheet
20170609 Full Moon Song Worksheet

This shows a few rows from one of the tabs in my "songs" worksheet. I can see at a glance which songs needs the most work, and what kind of work is needed, and as you can see from the row of tabs at the bottom left of the image, I have other tabs in the spreadsheet that help me answer other questions.

There are dangers in bean-counting, of course – you can’t let the bean-counting get in the way of the actual passion. I’ve seen people do that – get so caught up in recordkeeping and progress tracking and pie charts that they never have time for any actual work. I know a lot of music gearheads (of which there are many in the music world). That’s a similar pitfall, getting so caught up in having the perfect arrangement of tools and instruments you never get around to playing. People sometimes get too caught up in acquiring the next bit of recording gear or the hot new toneshaping toy. They lose track of the music…

Anyway, I was into my spreadsheet songlist again, and I added a few lines for the songs I’ve created since it was last updated, but mostly I just looked, getting a sense of where my musical stuff is at.

The numbers aren’t good. I probably have arrangements for half my songs, and some of these arrangements are pretty primitive. I have fakesheets for almost everything except a few dozen synth-based instrumental tunes, but fakesheets aren’t good enough. A fakesheet really doesn’t give you a good sense of a tune at all, unless you already know it. If you do, you can fill in the melodic blanks, but not if you come at a tune cold.

I would like to get at least scratch audio recordings of everything. Sheet music would also be nice, but I’ve never been comfortable enough with musical notation to effortlessly create sheet music for my melodies and instrumental parts. I do have sheets for a few songs where it’s truly critical – mostly instrumentals – but because I rely so heavily on fakesheets and my memory, in a certain very real sense, most of my songs don’t exist – really, I mean it – if the music is mostly in your head, then the song is just a dream, right? In the absence of an audio recording. Not real. Fakesheets full of chords and structural notes aren’t enough.

I imagine an AI could analyze my completed songs and extrapolate well enough to come up with good approximations of what I might create for all the songs I haven’t finished. A sort of fill-in-the-blanks approach. But that’s not quite as good (to me) as having my actual melodies and harmonies and instrumental arrangements actually recorded.

It’s probably too late in life for me to do anything very interesting, musically. I have this weird old-person palsy thing in my hands, and I haven’t really sung seriously (which is to say, for beer money in some bar) for a while now. It’s a long time since I was playing a couple hours or more a day. Because it’s so frustrating being unable to do what I once found easy, I tend to avoid playing altogether. Oh, I keep my hand in, and I still write a few things every year, but I don’t have the easy musical facility I once had.

Still – I might get back to where I can at least make a reasonable record of my existing tunes – if that doesn’t get to feeling too much like homework, that is…

I may be a terrible musician at this point, and I was never very much of an instrumentalist, but I have composed a number of pretty little songs, and I’d like them not to be immediately lost when the light goes out in this old skull. I’d like them to have some chance of survival, however slim that chance might be.

I really should do this…

I will. Jeepers, I only have a few hundred songs, I should be able to knock out scratch versions of every one of them inside a year, if I’m steady about it. Half of them are already recorded in some form or other, so the job is even easier.

Why haven’t I done this yet? It’s so easy and obvious…