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mprvmnts Posts

Accidental Vampire

One night in early July, after banging my head against a different song project for a couple of hours without any success, i started flipping through my journal and found the opening line to this tune. A few hours later after a bit of guitar noodling and some inspired moments on a long walk, Accidental Vampire was born. I am particularly happy with the arrangement and the progression of the three parts. This was written prior to The Roller Coaster but i didn’t finish recording and mixing until a few days ago.

The video consists of clips from Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)


Accidental Vampire

I’m afraid that we never existed
and I’m not sure that you’re even my wife.
At the times when my heart was overfilled,
seems I was draining you, draining you out.

Oh, but when all the blood was drawn
there was nothing left to feed upon.
Oh, but when the daylight came
I burned alive in fiery pain.

I did not intend to be a vampire—
but it was so much fun, oh, what have I done?

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Experiments

After doing some observation works, my energy changes and I am drawn to further and further abstraction.

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May River and Palmetto Tree

This small painting of the May River and marshes at high tide captured the scene and the moment pretty well without overdoing it. It was my first time using the great new Holbein gouache paints that I received got as a gift last Christmas (thanks, allison!) They are really wonderful to use compared to the cheap-o stuff i was working with earlier. There is enough pigment to do supple washes and also highly saturated or deep parts. The layering is divine..

May River Marshes. Gouache on Paper, 2020

I really enjoy the act of creating observation work in nature. It helps focus my attention on the beauty and complexity of the world around me. This Palmetto tree is one of the more complex things i’ve attempted to draw recently and I like it.

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Drawing from nature

I’ve have been enjoying gardening and the specific wonders of nature this year. In the context of the confines of this pandemic, I am more aware of the small beauties in nature. There is more time, it seems, to look and notice and contemplate my surroundings. For even as the space I am living in doesn’t change, the growing things inhabiting that space are constantly changing. I am drawn into this process.

Here are several drawings from the last week that i’ve made of flowers. Two from our garden, and a few from gardens i encountered downtown on Sunday.

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The Invitation

I came back to watch
the glowing magenta lift off,
hungover with grief
and hungry to feel loved.

Not a cloud was in the sky,
just a rich haze hovering over the line.
Rainbows shimmered at my feet
as the muddy blue horizon gave way.

The geese, drifting silently,
took no notice.
The gulls, oblivious to this minor miracle,
laughed their way through yesterday’s celebrations.

I could be here, and I am.
But also I am not—
too caught up in a long-denied truth
and where it might take me.

The sun, now high and yellow and too-bright,
illuminated the edges of my pages
as the geese, now flapping above me,
honked out an invitation.

And I accepted.


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The Roller Coaster

In late June I started writing songs after a dry spell of many years. The melodies and the lyrics are just popping up and I am letting them, giving them a space to be alive and change and grow. I am tending to them as I would a poem or any writing, but the process is different—a fluid exchange between set ideas and improvisation. It often starts with a melody and a couplet or two, and then expands as the music takes shape, because the written words on the page don’t tell the whole story.

The Roller Coaster is the third “finished” song this month, the first recording I want to share. It all started out with four lines that didn’t make it to the finished work. Those (ultimately discarded) lines formed the framework of the melody, which gave birth to the first lines of the finished song (and the concept as a whole). It was written over the course of a week, and this recording (the third in the process) was made on July 31st.

Musically, I’m in a strange place. My ear is better than it’s ever been, and my vision for what I want to do is clear. But i’m out of practice, and it takes real work to get what I hear in my brain out onto the tape. When it happens successfully, It’s a true and absolute joy. One thing I’ve been surprised by is how much the skills i’ve learned over the past several years doing non-music projects have made me a better songwriter. Things like: working incrementally and iteratively, taking breaks when things aren’t working, putting time in when it feels right AND when it doesn’t, practicing, accepting where I’m at, Taking risks.

My goal is to release a record before the year is through, but right now I’m focused on shepherding these songs into the world. I have faith that they will all come together in a way that makes sense to me, and hope that I can form them into a work that resonates with others, too.

The scene of a hundred or more “rollercoaster” takes.

The Roller Coaster

I’ve been getting high again
just to come back down.
All the turns you took me in
turned me inside out.

As we fall, that’s all there is—
I can’t even see.
At the top I’m losing it,
I can barely breathe.

Feels like I am going to die
as I strap on in
to face the fear and feel what’s here,
not what might have been.

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Not now, but soon

Four nights ago I heard
the sweet call of fantastic vision.
Hope of a life well-lived and uniquely played.

And rest.

But sunrise brought a flaming terror,
and burned out the peace I had tended to
over so many previous dawns.
The pain of loss (not now, but soon)
drove me to pull what remained.

But I have begun to dig
in this new, hard ground.
Cultivating the seeds of an invasive peace
that thrives in the cracks between stones
and spreads beyond intention.

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The Pilgrimage and The Presence

A family of three skunks showed me
the way to the lake
and the shore where sailboats,
sparsely docked, stood swaying
under mountain ranges of cloud.

I waited and watched
as the sunrise persisted,
illuminating the foothills.

A window (rose with fiery peach linings)
opened above the dim red burn
and lightning splashed its fierce light,
revealing hidden crags and peaks.

All the while changing, changing.

Tiny, lapping waves watched
and whispered too.
This is not the only shore,
there is another sunrise.


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Giving beyond myself

The lump—that deep twist in my gut.
I am holding too tight, even as I let go.
Scooping out my melon of a belly,
emptying it of everything, including hunger.

She doesn’t care for watermelon
but I continue to present it, bowl after bowl.
An offering,
a show of just how far I am willing to go.

As unappealing as my misplaced entrails
and the hunger that is and isn’t.

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Everything Is Waiting For You (David Whyte)

David Whyte’s writing speaks to me.

A few months back, I wrote about anger, and my journey with it over the years. My friend Brian replied in the comments, suggesting I pick up a book called “Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words” by a poet named David Whyte.

I have long respected and admired Brian’s thinking process and philosophy of life (even when we’ve disagreed) so I did the most obvious and easy thing to do: I bought the book, read the short essay on “Anger,” remarked to myself how poignant it was, and put it on the coffee table book pile never to open it again. But the name David Whyte gained a place of esteem in my head, and I’m glad that it did, because when I saw that Sam Harris had a conversation with David Whyte in the Waking Up app (which I use for daily guided meditations and recommend), I took notice. Last week I finally listened to it and it absolutely blew me away. Within the hour long conversation, David read two of his poems (“The Bell and the Blackbird” and “Everything Is Waiting for You”) and an essay on the word Vulnerability from “Consolations.”

Have you ever had the experience of hearing someone plainly, succinctly describe a concept that has been tumbling around in your head, amorphous but forming, slowly slowly solidifying? For me, as I listened to David and Sam talk, it was like bombs kept going off in my brain. David’s words turned a plethora of personal inklings into fully formed, fully realized (and actionable) concepts. These types of moments are unique, but not entirely rare for me, and I realized at once that something significant was happening.

Like a fighter pilot who has been hunting down it’s target, circling and chasing, David’s words through the hour were the missile lock, the final poem he read flipped the safety cover off of the firing pin. Locked and loaded, ready to fire. Insight, ready for action.

Here is the poem, which I share as a window into my experience, an incredible moment that was years in the making. Read it, but also take a moment to hear David read it in the video just under the poem.


Everything Is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

By David Whyte, from River Flow: New & Selected Poems.


I’ve begun reading David’s book, “The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship” and I am certain I will write more about how David Whyte speaks to me in the coming months.

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