Silent Film Music and other Sounding Off

Talking about music, consciousness, silent film, Italian food, travel, good books, married life, kids, and more

Friday, August 17, 2007


Hollyhock. Cortes Island, British Columbia

Just got out of the hot tub, watching the sun rise over the pine-covered hills, with the gentle water inbetween, and the distant snow-capped peaks tinged with a soft pink. It's been amazing here, and I feel that I have been given a great gift, getting to know Paul and his wife Julie Portman, a consummate actress, writer, and director who coached us on performance one afternoon. I have met people that feel like way old friends, and the songwriting group itself, nine of us, were a happy compatible bunch who supported each other in our work and in the barrage of emotions that came up in the process of listening to each other tell stories about our lives and turning them into song.

Hollyhock itself is a small place like the Omega Institute or Esalen (though not a gated community like Esalen-it welcomes visitors for meals and various events), can handle 100 visitors, has a radiantly beautiful garden of many varieities of flowers whose names I have yet to learn, but among them are gigantic hollyhocks and a different and larger strain of clematis than we have at home. I've been tenting these past 5 nights in a quiet area surrounded by ferns, and the sound of strange birds.

The food is mostly vegetarian and lovely to look at in its presentation. But we also had some great salmon the other night, and another night an appetizer of both raw and grilled oysters down by the beach. I have never liked oysters before, but these were scrumptious. Guess I'm spoiled now.

Yesterday was the end of our workshop and we each presented the song we had been working on for the past few days. I had heard the story of a 19-year old boy from Duluth who has just moved with his family to this area. And a guy from Victoria who works with disabled people singing songs for them wrote a song for me based on my telling him about playing board games with Nick. Afterwards I asked Paul if he bought stock in Kleenex. Saying goodbye to everyone (I'm staying this one extra day and they all left) was equally emotional. It was as powerful an experience as leaving music camp the second year and knowing I would not see these people again for a long time. But of course, now we all have email, etc. and have promised to keep in touch, and there has been talk of inviting me out to northern California and elsewhere to do films.

Concurrent with our workshop there was a yoga workshop with about 30 attendees, and then people who wanted to come and chill for however long they could. A number of the people I have met here are residents of the island, transplanted New Yorkers-families or singles my age who find Cortes Island an ideal place to either vacation or do their artistic work. Total population 1000 plus an equal number of summer folk. Very laid-back, no locks, no police, just fishing, a lot of boating, camping, being. Last night there was a concert up the road by a teen program called Power of Hope which brings inner city as well as yuppy kids together for a few weeks to work on empowering themselves, expressing themselves through poetry, dance, song, art. The level of abilities was very, very high. Poetry reminiscent of Alan Ginsberg by a 15-year old lashing out at Bush and the establishment and hoping for an apocalypse. Merlin and Cosmo, the almost college-age sons of Rupert Sheldrake, the noted British biologist. Cosmo did beat-boxing with his mouth and layered a bunch of different rhythms on an electronic loop device so he was his own one-man band, then played jazz over it. Merlin played stride piano with a style that I have only heard from really good people like Dick Hyman. A 250-pound girl with Downs syndrome doing a sexy dance in a flowing purple gown. Folk songs, tangos, and finally a song that Paul had written with a group of them about their camp. A great event. People said I should come back and work with them, too. Maybe next year...

Well, off to meditate, then breakfast and a morning debriefing with Paul, who would like to do a lot more work with me. He gave me a chance to assist him in many of the classes, teaching harmony or chord structure, and I also led a small group each morning before the official workshop for people who wanted to learn to read music. Paul was very appreciative, and I was very grateful for all the praise and acknowledgement that was heaped on me. It was a chance to be who I am and do what I do best and it connected in a deep way and transformed and uplifted me. I cried a lot, during, afterwards. We all did.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyous August and hope to see everyone soon.

God bless you all,




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