Dragonflies made from old silverware
Analysis, Observations, Reflection

Metal Dragonfly Minuets #1

One morning, I returned

to my chrysalis of sheets

and slept another half-hour.

I dreamed two scenes~

In the first, I filled a bathtub so full that I could not enter without spilling water onto the floor. People walked in and out asking me what I would do. I was not phased, per se, but I hesitated to undress. I asked an elderly lady if she needed to use the bathroom first but she shook her head and gestured to the tub. I wanted to bathe: the water was warm; the tub was extremely deep and long, perfect for a tall person. I used a small pail (a child’s toy) to skim water from the surface (a film of scum appeared, as if to justify the bailing). I entered the bedroom next-door and noticed water permeating the wall abutting the bathroom tub. The hot bath slowly spread through the carpet…

A genius is the one most like himself.

-attributed to Thelonious Monk

The show-room at the music store in Holland glinted from every wall: lacquered-brass, mother-of-pearl, and nickel-silver. My lips singed and blackened the shiny rim of my 7C trumpet mouth-piece, over the course of five years, and it had finally eroded to coppery raw brass — and tasted like an old penny. I brought that old “Jupiter” with my horn for comparison’s sake. They had no 7C mouthpieces by “Jupiter”; the clerk brought a buffet of “Bach” and “Schilke” mouth-pieces. The Bachs were in familiar sizes but I didn’t like them (period). I speed-swapped between the ‘old penny’ and the new Schilkes as I played a barrage of scales, slurs, and quotes from jazz standards, trying to decide which mouthpiece was best. There was a third “Schilke” in an exotic size. I tried it (just to be thorough, just to eliminate it); the difference was instant and obvious. I continued rifling between the ‘old penny’, a reasonable contender, and this exotic. It sounded, felt, and performed… …well, it still performs differently– it is shaped differently in at least two-dimensions. I sense it can change how I play higher notes. I favored the exotic over the reasonable contender. I can’t say my mind worked this way six months ago: if the other mouthpiece were lack-luster, I surmised, I would be back for “the weird one” regardless.

After many phone calls with doctors and insurers, Golden Adder found her way into my veins for the first time. I was still on the beans as well: coffee. I expected to become a consummate super-ego: a laser-focused best-self who behaves ‘regularly’– whatever that would be. Instead, I flew happily into euphoric reflection. I could only be a best version of me, only “more like [myself]” in a heightened state. I expected to waken in a new reality where my artistic pursuits were silly and bid dreams goodbye with no hard feelings. Instead, I finally wakened to this reality; my eccentricities are precious, they distinguish me– our limits become our outlines, true virtues are vices displaced, and value is rooted in possibilities unique to each. My existence felt significant; The proverbial trunk pops open and self-destructive thoughts bounce free and tumble backwards onto the road, getting smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror — disappearing. So, reader, if the doctor prescribed you a stimulant and people stigmatize you, pity their imagination and persevere. We can spare no energy for stigma: there is creating, connecting, and synthesizing to do. With acceptance, we can be EXPANSIVE.

Low, huffy hoots reached my ears as I nestled into the pine-needles: barred-owl fledglings bantering with their parents. Not wanting to cause distress, I continued sketching my thoughts without trying to find the nest. Much later, I hiked to another part of the woods and found an adult owl perched in a tree. Immediately, I sat on the ground (to be less threatening) and brandished my binoculars. I inched toward the owl, alternately sitting with my binoculars and rising to shuffle forward. I found a good spot and we gazed into each others’ eyes. I was so content.

In our semi-precious moment together, I suspended other life-concerns so I could feel present with my spirit-animal, watching me with chestnut-onyx eyes. I lingered. The owl’s eyes became sleepy, narrowing, disappearing into luxurious fluff. The owl felt comfortable enough to nap; I felt wise to not ruin the nap. Later on the curving trail, its tree returned to view and I raised my binoculars to see its back– but no: zhe swiveled zir face to watch me leave.

The contradictions are not hard to understand: dialectics, not paradoxes. I knew that “everything” would not change in an instant but I still wanted a clear inflection-point. I went to a meetup and felt disappointed I was not instantly dynamic with people I don’t know well, as if loving myself wholly would also dissolve the uncertainty surrounding how/how-much to share what makes me unique. I was also tired from bouts of insomnia. I decided that I needed to quit the beans until I learned how the new medicine was affecting my body. After 48 hours, I grappled with how coffee had affected my body for a decade. If I hadn’t researched, I might not have known I was in caffeine withdrawal. If I hadn’t researched, I might have questioned my golden revelation and reversed my trajectory, looking for the morbid ideas that bounced out of my trunk. But ‘I did the reading’, so to speak. The doubts were passing chemistry, hopes came from my core. I relaxed and allowed the depression to engulf me but tried not to swallow any of it. Like body-surfing gone wrong, caffeine withdrawal tumbled me and scraped me against the beach but my mouth was clenched shut. The misery ebbed over several days until I was “just fine”. After getting my blood-pressure readings, the doctor cleared me to drink tea. Now, I begin the process of calibrating myself for “more than fine”.

‘Things’ are not going perfectly with the new mouthpiece. There was a brief honeymoon phase but the ‘exotic’ affects my embouchure differently; my facial-muscles need reconditioning. Sometimes, I sound fucking ragged (I won’t go into detail; using the f-word encapsulates the sentiment well). I could write a cautionary tale on the matter but that is not how I want to use my powers. I sounded ragged on EVERYTHING at some points in the past. Rather than believe I made a mistake, I choose to appreciate how the challenge improves my play. Maybe the advantages will not out-weigh the handicaps, ultimately, but the benefits are coming to the fore with patience. What I felt in the showroom has to be possible– it happened in the showroom! Likewise, feeling that total sense of acceptance toward myself: it happened in the woods, so I know it’s possible. I can mostly make music on the new mouthpiece; I can mostly love myself at any given time. And as for the future?

Practice makes happy.

[words inscribed next to a mirror
in the Katzen Arts CEnter at AU]

…in the second part of my dream, I am working as a lawn-technician. It’s already Autumn in Michigan (not Maryland) when I arrive to do a work-order on a property near a state park. The forest is dominated by deep greens but rogue tree-limbs have changed colors. I sense a lake beyond the woodlands abutting the property. A well-worn trail is visible, dammed by fallen-branches full of brick-red leaves. I want to clear the dead-fall along the trail and follow it to the shore. Yet I see a the bright-orange stick demarcating the property boundary. “It’s not my assignment to clear the trail,” I sigh. Turning my back on the trail, I awake in bed. I wish I had gone– into the bathtub, onto the trail– I don’t want to forget: I can leap while there is still time…

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