BY SIRI BARDARSON
September 26, 2014
There is a floor-to-ceiling window that runs the length of the pool up here in Oak Harbor and, just outside, there is a huge oak tree. Out of the foggy left eye of my swim goggles, I glance up at it and then away with each breath and stroke I take down the lap lane. A few days ago, the giant tree was backlit by a summer dawn. Now, it is a dark profile in the early morning.
Fall is here.
Natural time is the big, round, chrome gauge on my instrument panel of life. Time and life on this earth—the spinning of the planet with its huge system of environment and ecology of species—drives the transition of seasons with remarkable power and character.
I love the reliability, the unstoppable march and the confident nature of the seasons. It is a comfort and, at the same time, in some corner of my consciousness, it is oddly daunting—like being pregnant with the realization that you are just along for the ride. My anxiety about what I am doing, my creative life, creates a rub and chatters like the brittle leaves in the wind.
I don’t know what I am, but the big oak tree outside the window knows what it is.
The Garry Oak trees in Oak Harbor are magnificent. Did you know they are indigenous to our area and thrive on drought and simple soil? They are host and habitat to many species of flora and fauna and they thrive on natural disturbances such as fire. A 300-year-old oak tree is impervious to the welcome fire that clears away the understory and the competing rabble that devours the oak’s meager resources.
One block over from my new place in Oak Harbor, there is a park with an oak forest. When I visited Bulgaria last year, we took a walk every day in an oak forest. Those woods are so different from the ones I know here in the Northwest. Oak trees have strong, straight-up and-down, black trunks and are the perfect setting for archetypal fairy tales and all kinds of imagination.
Djangofest is a local harbinger of fall. There is a ton of virtuosic ability at Djangofest—the stuff that one achieves by tenacious application—a lot of hot dog players, playing fast. These versions of the manouche genre are very disconnected from the music. Technical virtuosity is not the same as talent, although both can have the same level of ability.
I made the ticket splurge to see Tcha Limberger after a chance listen to him at the final concert of last year’s fest. Hearing him play might be as close as I ever get to the manouche or gypsy jazz genre.
Limberger’s artistry defies definition. The word “talent” is insufficient. It’s like calling the 300-year-old Garry Oak a tree. Whether Tcha sings, plays the guitar, the violin or the clarinet, you can’t separate this person from the music that he plays. The performance was absolutely mesmerizing—the gypsy feel, swaying and swerving and bulging rhythmically outside of time. It was campfire opera on LSD filled with deep passions that were both religious and vernacular. His music was infused with the whole world, attached to the deep history of a people but alive with the current season of now and creative freedom. It had soul. Yes, it had soul.
And is there anything more inspiring than art with soul?
When I was in Bulgaria last year, I heard these sounds, although I didn’t intentionally hear any music. But the landscape had a sound—the religion, the hardship, the nature and the culture. I didn’t understand any of it specifically, but I experienced a kind of cosmic fellowship.
The magnificent Garry Oak tree will always be exactly what it is—welded to the cycle, the only subtle changes made haphazardly by evolution. But we, as creative individuals, inhabitants of the same world as the oak, we have different opportunities and challenges: to put the old and the new together in a new way and find the soul.
What a place to be—the soulful place, the beautiful world and its soulful song. The place where the very old and the very new merge.
The leaves are going to fall from the Garry Oak and my tan feet and hands and sunny hair will disappear under layers of wool. I will listen, play and sing more music and write more words and love life even more strongly.
Grab a sweater and come with me.
Siri Bardarson is a musician who writes a lot. She is ecstatically happy when she makes stuff!
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