*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine May 2017
Creative people put up with a lot of stuff trying to create. From interruptions, to computer problems to writer’s block, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all. But come springtime, when the natural world arouses from beneath whatever rock it was under, it’s nearly impossible to focus. Birds and bees and ants and all the weeds you forgot about last fall are constant distractions. But it’s actually much worse than that.
For me, it all starts when the pond at my home in Stonington, Connecticut defrosts and a couple of marlins show up. One with a pretty green head and one with brown. Having seen this sort of thing before, I know what they’re up to. Before you know it, they’ve got three or four little versions of themselves. They all paddle back and forth… back and forth… all hours of the day and night, like they’ve got nothing better to do. It snowballs from there.
Then the Canadian geese arrive, like the pond is some sort of hotel or something. Their incessant squawking and prancing around doing their business everywhere detracts from my more important art I tell ya. Go back to Canada! And heaven forbid I dare look out the window to see what they’re up to. Oh look it’s a blue heron bothering them, blah blah blah. Then I’m further distracted by Maggie the Magnolia tree with her huge pink and white flowers making a mess of the place and playing house with all the “oh look how cute I am” fowl including but not limited to: tanagers, sparrows, purple martins, goldfinches, wood thrushes, yellowthroats, meadowlarks, Carolina wrens, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, yellow warblers, quail and the stupid family of doves that comes back every year thinking they own the place. Aren’t there plenty of other trees to choose from? Don’t you have things you are supposed to be doing, like in Florida or something? I did not authorize the filming of some cutesy Alfred Hitchcock movie! Then the hawks gather by the dozens hawkin’ up a storm and it’s a REAL Hitchcock movie. Please lower your voices, some people are trying to think around here.
Oh but it gets much worse around that bordello of a pond (which is actually a man-made hole filled with water, but whatever.) You see in May, the bullfrogs come to town, or rise from the mucky depths as it were, for their big dance. These bellowing and bawling creatures of green slimy crud are so freakin’ loud even with the windows shut and air conditioners blaring it’s just impossible to think. AND THEY DON’T CARE WHAT TIME IT IS. I’m trying to work here!
And don’t even get me started on the dogs. Because they don’t have to slip and slide their way down the icy back steps they think it’s just fine to want to go out and come in, go out and come in, get a treat, wonder off, making me constantly have to check on them because of the coyotes, wolves, foxes, mountain lions and bears. Dogs!
So one year I had this grand idea to get away from all the commotion of this den of inequity and went on vacation “to create” up at Squam Lake in New Hampshire. I brought an assortment of notebooks, pens, pencils, and my guitar. I imagined myself immersed in creativity and would be like Thompson or Hemingway penning the days away, and into the night, and then I would return home with a slew of songs I couldn’t possibly whittle down to an album.
First of all, Squam Lake is where that Katherine Hepburn/Henry Fonda movie “On Golden Pond” was filmed. Yes, it’s golden, yes it’s peaceful, yes it’s romantic, and yes you can get in some pretty good fishing. Much had been made of my first introduction to the beloved, sacred, highly regarded, Kings and Queens of the Lake – the loons. My vacationing friends were all abuzz about it. It would be a religious experience they told me. Well let me tell you – THEY DO NOT SHUT UP! I’m talking about the birds, not the other wackos on the lake. Their constant whining and crying and hootin’ and hollerin’ all hours of the day and night – Geez! “Give it a rest!” I would scream. How was I supposed to create under these horrendous conditions!
So, as to be expected, I drank alcohol in an attempt to block out the darn things and to fit in with the other vacationers. Somebody said, could have been Hemingway I don’t know, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” So that’s what I did. There must be some sort of art to drinking and writing because my resulting prose was indecipherable! It was the worst combination of cursive and block lettering you have ever seen. And using a computer didn’t help. The gobbly goop typed in those documents actually shut down my spell checker. A message came across the screen: “Are you sure you’re writing in English? Would you like to change languages?” The next morning, following the rules to edit sober, I dutifully opened the notebooks or computer and began to edit.
Didn’t have a clue what I had written, why I had written it, or have any semblance of the melody lines or intended key. What a freakin’ loony disaster. I came back home with a bit fat nothin’.
So here I sit once again, staring out the window onto that house of ill repute, at the turtles multiplying by the day, sunning themselves on the mossy banks, observing the snapping turtles leisurely making their way to the high grass to drop a goodie, and I ponder things. I guess there are worse things to look at rather than my scribblings or computer screen.
Oh and Ode to Joy – here come the lawn mowers.