Music For Dinner

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” 
~  Victor Hugo

 

Last night we were so churned. We couldn’t eat. We couldn’t sleep. After a while we turned off the lights and lay in the dark, side by side, dogs snuggled up beside us, and we played music until our hearts were full.

All the feelings we couldn’t put into words floated up and out of us, carried away on the voices of artists and instruments.

Something happened there in the dark, as the music wrapped around us. All the worry emptied out. Peace came.

And then we slept.

Requiem For These Passing Moments

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”
~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

“It all goes away. Eventually, everything goes away.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

 

Sometimes, life is so exquisitely painful that I can scarcely breathe.

Is it odd then, that I find those moments compellingly beautiful too?

I’m not talking about the human me. Not the me who is down there on the floor sobbing in great ugly gulps, or stumbling endlessly through the paddocks with eyes streaming and a great big hole inside me. Or the me sitting silent, numb from shock and horror.

Not, not that me.

There is another me. An eternal me. A me filled with wisdom and kindness and so much love that if all of that soul energy were to dwell within me I would burst open and be nothing but sparks and flame.

That eternal me sat with me last night and held my hand. As I sat at my kitchen table and wrote, earphones delivering me a steady stream of musical novocaine, tears blurring the screen, the keys, the outside world, I was able to slip into that wise observer me and see how alive I was in my pain. How aware I was of the fragility of life. How humbled and overcome all at once. How connected I was with all other souls in this journey of joy and suffering.

Oh lovelies, this is such a wild and mysterious and crazy ride, this thing we call life.

We are, all of us, okay. Even when we’re not.

Holding you in my prayers and meditations,

Nicole <3 xx

 

Bluesfest 2016 – A Little Ray of Sunshine

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“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
~ Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems

 

This Easter I’m spending some time with Ben and our friends at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest.

Bluesfest is one of my favourite music festivals. The atmosphere is always so friendly, it’s full of music lovers, and there is a delicious diversity of new bands and musicians to discover.

Here are a couple of my favourite acts so far:

St Paul and the Broken Bones

 

Elle King

 

Blind Boy Paxton

 

 

Plus you can buy vinyl records, and enjoy Chai and Byron Bay Organic Donuts and lovely food from my friends at Doma Cafe, among other delights.

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Maybe I’ll see you here next year?

Lots of love, Nicole xx

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An Afternoon Concert for My Cows

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“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 

The first time I heard Albinoni’s Oboe Concert #2 in D Minor I was seven, a little girl sitting in the music room of her primary school, eyes closed as instructed by the teacher who placed a record on a turntable. Suddenly magic was in the room.

Somehow I knew that music. I knew the sound of the oboe. I thrilled with recognition. The way the strings sang and danced their sweet rhythms up and down my skin. The reedy tone of the oboe with its jaunty clarion call. I wanted to dance, to slide and twirl along sprung wooden floors, toes pointed and skirts swaying. The pictures it brought to my imagination!

But I’m sure I’d never heard that music before. Not in this lifetime anyway.

After our class I determinedly stayed behind to ask the teacher what the strange and beautiful music was, and she obligingly wrote it down for me on a scrap of paper. Years later, as a young adult, it was one of the first music CDs I ever bought for myself.

Yesterday afternoon I played that same Albinoni concert again. I cranked up the stereo, and let the music seep deep inside me.

Shortly after the music began, the cows all looked up. Transfixed they came closer. Closer.

After which they settled themselves down and for the next hour we all sat together, quietly listening to a selection of Albinoni’s music.

sit in

When it was over they all stood up again and wandered away.

What a magical sharing we had.

I never knew that my cows were fans of Albinoni too. 🙂

And I wonder – thinking back to my first encounter with the music of Albinoni which left me with tears streaming down my cheeks in a class full of seven-year-olds who were all otherwise fidgety, bored and bothered, – has that ever happened to you? That you’ve heard music, or eaten a particular dish or gone to a certain unfamiliar place and thrilled with recognition at a soul level when by rights this thing should be strange and unknown? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Here’s a little snippet of the music we enjoyed yesterday:

A happy dancing tune…

A reflective and deeply emotive piece…

 

Rain, Mud, Blues and Gumboot Dancing!

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
~ Hunter S. Thompson

 

It just hasn’t stopped raining here at Bluesfest, but with our trusty gumboots on we are still whooping it up and having plenty of fun. I’d forgotten how freeing it is to be muddy and soggy and dancing in the rain. Plus there is fantastic chai, lots of good eats, and plenty of spots to get under cover for a while. And we get to come home to a warm house, hot showers, clean sheets and two dogs who give us a joyous welcome each night.

Here are some of our musical finds of Bluesfest 2015:

Pokey Lafarge sings the La La Blues. I love these guys – they sound like something straight from the old-school deep south. Makes you want to chew on a stalk of grass and get those feet stompin’.

 

Melbourne Ska Orchestra have a  big feel-good sound, as you’d expect from a 26 piece band. These are the guys who used to crowd the aisles of school buses with their trumpet and trombone cases, and who were maybe not the coolest kids in school. Hey – look at them now. Musos rule! But you knew that. If you read my blog you were probably one of those kinds of kids too. I know I was. 🙂 The other great thing about these guys is their vocal support of the charity The Thin Green Line, assisting International Park Rangers as they protect endangered species and ecosystems, and giving aid to the families of those rangers who are killed in the line of duty. During MSO’s set buckets were passed around to collect donations for this charity, raising over $3000 to buy mosquito nets for rangers and their families.

 

Counting Crows are a band from my youth, and their music is still as resonantly beautiful as ever. Ballads that touch your heart, make you smile, cry and everything in between.

 

Last, but not least, Diesel N’ Dub is a collaboration that features Australian and international reggae and roots artists performing covers of Midnight Oil songs – songs with political and socially conscious messages. This is a project dear to my heart, supporting and raising money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and bringing a focus to issues that need awareness and consideration within our community. And the music? Fantastic!

 

I’d forgotten how much music means to me, and I am grateful for a weekend filled with music that fuels my soul. <3

 

Image from hdfbcover.com

Image from hdfbcover.com

 

Magic – Byron Bay Style

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“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”
~ Plato

 

After a few days of being housebound I was looking forward to an early Saturday breakfast yesterday at a favourite cafe, so with the weekend papers tucked under our arm off we went, just after dawn.

The morning started out overcast and cool. We went for a quick walk on the beach but decided not to swim. Coffee was calling and rain clouds were lowering in the sky above us.

Uplift Festival is on in Byron right now so the cafe quickly filled with diners, all of whom sat solo or in small groups, sipping their fresh juices and hot drinks, lost in their own little worlds. It was a quiet and thoughtful group of paper readers and journal writers. Rain began to fall, the temperature dropped, and all the while music played softly in the background. It was a restful and relaxed vibe. And the coffee was sublime.

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The cafe uses Pandora for their music, which often gives a quirky mix. Yesterday it seemed to be mostly Eighties playlists. A few times I caught the sound of someone quietly humming or singing along to a particular tune while they ate their breakfast, seemingly unaware of where they were. It made me smile.

But then something magical happened.

Queen’s beautiful and very long Bohemian Rhapsody came on. One by one the voices joined in, softly singing the familiar words. One of the staff cranked up the volume…

Dip Cafe in Byron Bay

Dip Cafe in Byron Bay – Photo by Trevor Scott

Soon every person in the cafe was singing along.

The cafe owner, standing behind the counter, caught my eye and we smiled stupidly at each other, after which he played some awesome air guitar. Truly, this song lends itself to air guitar.

We all sang louder. A few more air guitars and some hand drums joined in.

By the time the song finished we were collectively cracked open with joy.

No one said anything. The music got turned back down. We all just smiled and went back to drinking coffee.

The happiness was tangible.

I love my town!

 

Requiem For A Lost Poet – #Lyme

Photo of Heather Askeland

Photo of Heather Askeland

“I don’t need a cloak to become invisible.”
~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 

I found out earlier this week that a fellow Lyme sufferer in the USA took her own life. I never met Heather, but I know her journey. All late-stage Lymies know, and understand, because so easily, that could have been us. The news of Heather’s death made me sad. So very sad. And angry. But anger won’t bring her back.

The news of Heather’s death made me feel helpless too. I never knew of her struggle until it was too late. This wretched disease that has wreaked havoc and destruction in the lives of so many, including mine, became too much for this young woman to cope with on her own. People need to know. It isn’t right.

Sadly, Lyme disease, like most ‘invisible’ illnesses has a very high suicide rate. Sufferers get worn down by their illness, by the cost of treatment, by the contempt of friends, family and many in the medical fraternity who don’t believe that they are sick. When you are desperately ill, and you can’t work, and you have no money and no safety net of family or friends (or you wore out your welcome, or spent your family’s last dollar) and you can no longer take care of the most basic survival tasks in your life, you run out options pretty fast.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing to honour Heather Askeland as a poet, and an artist. I wanted to share her work with you. I wanted her to be remembered with the fullness of who she was.

This is a poem she wrote about selling her beloved violin to help pay for treatment:

the sold violin by Heather Askeland

the A string keens, a notch flat, lost
songbird carrying morning.

the sun is a steak knife slicing dust.
you crouch, release the zipper’s

low whine. case like a toothless mouth.
there is no music here.

no wooden neck to cradle
like a newborn’s head,

no thin steel creasing prayer
into fingertips. no satisfied tendons,

no sweat
other than the nightly fever.

you used to play Tchaikovsky.
your fingers were silverfish,

the audience thunderclap your
favorite drug. now bright lights spin

you like a top. snap you in two,
a severed dandelion.

you are lucky. illness is expensive.
you trade horsehair and childhood

recitals for antibiotics.
how many centimeters of soundpost

for homeopathic injections? for the
metronome of an IV drip?

how much varnish for hair loss?
for the skipping stone

pulse, for each battle between gut
and bread? which Bach sonata

for the skeleton memory?
your neurons are sunken ships,

the dead fish sing you lullabies, let meat
rot in cupboards and crackers grow freezer crystals.

for a moment you panic. wonder why
the case is empty. check the windows. the cats

are two otters in their sun pools.
you remember: the violin is gone.

the violin is everywhere.
it is white cells, methylation pathways

morning yoga sessions. medication three times
a day and herbs that taste like molding twigs.

the 1812 Overture blasts its cannons
with each push of blood from chest to toes.

no one can hear it but you.
your arms are warm.

the music never left, is waiting for you
to turn it up.

Image from wall alpha coders

Image from wall alpha coders

And this is the final video Heather made, her one last shot at trying to find help. As you already know, it never came.

 

Spare a thought for Heather today. Say a prayer, send a blessing, wish her peace. Honour her short life for the artist she was – not as her disease, not as a lyme warrior – honour her for her poetry and her caring heart.

Heather Askeland

Heather Askeland

Music, Smiles and All Good Things

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“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 
~ Confucius, The Book of Rites

 

Ben and I ventured to the Mullumbimby Farmers’ Markets yesterday morning. We got there a little later than usual, about 8.30am, because after my pre-dawn meditation I sat down at the computer and hammered out some more words for my memoir. The reward for all my toil? Breakfast at the markets – whatever I wanted, plus a good local coffee.

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Normally I’d race around first and grab the things I want that always run out – kale, certain kinds of bread, organic free range eggs, hibiscus and ginger kombucha drinks, but the weekly busker was so engaging, his music so mellow and warm and inviting that we grabbed a coffee, stopped at a table in the middle of the markets and sat down to listen.

So, it seems, did just about everyone else.

The tables were packed, and people found spaces on the grass to sit in the early morning sunshine and listen to the performance too. It was like being at our own private concert.

There was lots of smiling and clapping. Little toddlers danced blissfully, friends hugged, and strangers came together to share in the magic that is music.

Such simple pleasures, but oh so good!

The busker’s name is Mark Heazlett. He’s a local musician from Brunswick Heads here in the Northern Rivers. He sure did make the market a wonderful day out. If you’re ever round our way I can thoroughly recommend a trip to our Friday Farmers’ Markets. Maybe I’ll see you there! 🙂

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Lucky Dip #2

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” 
~ Bob Marley

 

It’s one of those ‘not coping very well’ kind of days. I’ve been enduring nights of no sleep, constant pain, fevers, sweats and anxiety. But that’s okay. It’s all for a good cause. And I’m prepared for days like these.

This morning I reached into my bag of Love Letters to Myself and got this:

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Perfect. Music is one of those powerfully magically soul soothers.

And so’s the message on the back of the card…

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You know, those messages might just work for you too. And you’re welcome to my choice of songs! Here’s my Playlist:

Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabrielle and Kate Bush

Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush

Cloudbusting – Kate Bush

and we’ll end on an ‘up’ note with

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves

Wishing you magic, music and miracles in your day today, Nicole xx

Stormclouds, Music and Melancholy

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“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

The air is tinged with cold and that strange electricity that comes before a storm. I am watching from my upstairs bedroom, stuck in the city and longing for home.

The new meds I am on to treat the lyme and other bacteria are having brutal effect these past few days.  Seems I have my own storm raging inside me.

I am wracked with fever and with pain. My eyes are fogged and my brain has turned to cotton wool.

It’s hard to type. Hard to think. Hard to read.

So I am mostly lying here, watching the sky and listening to music.

And somehow, there is so much beauty here.

I am profoundly grateful for my life.