I’m buying a guitar today. A used one, nothing fancy. Acoustic. From a woman on Craigslist, you know how that works. I’ve been wanting to buy one for a while now, even though I don’t know how to play- my plan is to teach myself. Last winter I “collaborated” with a musician friend of mine, as I’ve written lots of words that are melodic in nature and in my head they are songs and we did pretty well. Then he became fussy and whiny and a hostage to what I learned was his low self-esteem and claimed some sort of existential angst about “what is talent?” and  “what does it all matter?” and don’t ask and blah blah blah.

There quickly came a point where the cons of being a party to all that far outweighed the pros, and it was in our mutual best interest really if I just learned to do for myself.

Walk the crooked trail.

This way I could write and play my own music while I sing what I’ve written, and loudly too, and over and over if I want (or softly if need be), and put the whole hot mess out into the world exactly as it exists and sounds in my head, unabashedly too mind you, as if it were my last day on earth. A scary proposition eh? For you yeh, but for me even more so.

A new can of worms.

Not that you asked, but I’m gonna tell you anyway:  it’s all about the risk.  The risk of failure and things not working out as planned.  I can’t help being most comfortable when being called on the carpet. I have high and usually spot-on expectations and am always enthusiastic and eager to STRETCH myself. It’s good to try something new, right? I’ve been that way as long as I remember and always hope to be and am not satisfied if the effort I put in today is the same one I gave yesterday.

The fear of a predictable redundancy in this life is my worst nightmare.

Teaching myself to play the guitar and setting my writing to music is a matter of fulfilling today’s drumbeat of a muse in motion and creative endeavor- exactly what the good doctor ordered.

Hey, the guy’s even throwing in some picks!

A good challenge and why not?  I’ve got time. At this point, the outcome is not even a consideration or matters. It’s the joy of the journey. It’s the excitement of the experience. You don’t think this sounds like some latent rock star fantasy, do you? Please. If I did have a rock star fantasy it might go as far as me being the low-key Bernie Taupinesque guy to some yet-to-be-determined, wanna-be Elton John somewhere. A somewhat modest fantasy really, and simply all about the art. But I have started regularly recording myself reading and singing my words.  I’ve learned there’s a natural progression here, so I’m running with it. Although first intended as an attempt at that horrid and to me ghastly “spoken word”, the recordings unintentionally came out of my mouth as music and I couldn’t help it. Singing has always been a part of my makeup.  But I never intended to be a songwriter in addition to whatever the hell it is I am now. I’m savvy enough to see that’s what’s happened and that being the case, I’ve a strong hankering for some musical accompaniment!

Hence the guitar.

Which reminds me: A few years back I was the unadulterated and self-proclaimed water sports king! Not the kind of water sports you MAY be thinking of (I mean if your mind heads that way without much provocation), but the swim, fish, kayak water sports kind, emphasis on the kayak. In a number of locales and over a number of years there were convenient places I went to rent them, and did lots of times-of-your-life transcendental river time where I truly grew as a person. It was a part of that “living life to the fullest thing”, ya know? I was set to buy one of my own (which made sense), but procrastinated and overthunk it as my left-brain just wasn’t gonna have it:  “It’s too impractical,” it said, “you’re no boater,” it teased and, “you’re really gonna wanna lug that thing around on your car?” All kinds of taunting and “why spend the money?” too.

Damn left-brain.

Similar to what I’ve been doing with the guitar- thinking t’s a fluke or indulgent. I suspect it’s anything but. Why do we think it’s okay to apply what we’re convinced is logic and reason, then wind up overanalyzing and paralyzing ourselves to almost the death?  Why are we fearful and so often skittish when we can’t predict our outcomes or how events will play out?  Isn’t there a particular success in the “doing”?  Why do we have a need to jibber jabber so much and doubt our own good intentions and integrity? I don’t know about you, but I’ve done it. And I’m curious, that’s why I ask. Lots of hot air is how I see it.  I just happen to be a true believer that sometimes it’s best to throw caution to the wind. We so often get busy writing a new narrative.

I never bought the kayak. But today I’ll buy the guitar.

At two o’clock.

And go for a long, LONG hike tomorrow. Well, about six hours- three out and back. It’s been a while as I haven’t had a good “partner”, although I’d never say that long hikes alone aren’t fun. I’ve done many, MANY of them on my own, and in many far-flung places too. But that’s long since gotten old.  Tomorrow I’ll have someone along who can always be counted on to be my best hiker-person-to-have-along.  It’ll be great to be outdoors, that’s for sure. And great to hike through the hollow and follow the meandering Moormans River up the mountain, although the day will be chilly. Currently I’m not in the best shape of my life, although I’ll no doubt be motivated and certainly do well. This hike could only be considered arduous and something akin to boot camp on a number of levels.  But this time of year the views will be stellar on top of the Blue Ridge—360 degrees—the best time of the year and so worth the getting there. I haven’t had a good all day hike in as long as I can remember, so it’ll all feel new again. The best part is looking forward to calling myself on the carpet, ya know?

And seeing things as they are.

View from Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park Milepost 92


23 thoughts on “NEW NARRATIVE

  1. I don’t think there’s much risk of failure here Pete, your poems do have a lyrical quality to them, like songs already. Learning guitar and putting the music behind them (music that’s likely as not already there) is just progression. Looking forward to it.

      • Why do we talk ourselves out of things and put up obstacles and add our two cents when we ought to do things for the sheer experience of it? And because it’s natural and right and good? 🙂 What the need to rewrite and fuss with the script?

      • Hmmm. I thought you were more talking yourself into something, so good on you Pete. There are many things that are natural and right and good, but that confluence is not always apparent and if you have better eyes to see where they mesh than others, then you must be happier than most. I think that’s a good thing, a very good thing.

  2. The risk of not following your heart, of not trying new things far outways the risk of doing them and not liking them, after all; or not meeting your own standards. Hope you include some of your songs in a post sometime.

      • I can’t ever stay comfortable for long – I always have to be learning something new or I feel like I’m sitting in sludge. I see it as a good thing, but I am glad that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to stick with things longer. It’s a lot more cost effective!

  3. Great photograph Pete and your water sports comment really amused me! 🙂 I have a guitar and I love to play although I’m not very good. I think you’ll have fun learning to play, there are loads of great videos to help you on youtube, so have a good look there. 🙂 Stick with it and do it whatever way works for you. Have fun! 🙂

  4. I bought a guitar 3 years ago with dreams of being a songwriter (no singing – I know my limits there – haha). I can write lyrics, but infortunately can only play one chord and that’s it. It seems I don’t have the perseverance when it comes to practicing this. maybe someday…

  5. The fear of unpredictability is bad, but the fear of predictability is so much worse. It seems like we really don’t have much choice but to at least try to overcome those fears. I don’t have any “rock star” dreams either. Haha. I would just like to be a good musician. I can really relate to a lot of what you’re saying here.

    • Thanks I’m glad you can relate. And the guitar is really so very excellent! 🙂 Much more than I thought it would be even!

      Yes, trying to overcome and not fall into the rut of the predictable. An ongoing challenge no doubt. And we were just talking about this!

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