Since my forthcoming album, Far Side Of The Sea, was successfully Kickstarted back in August, I have been up to many things, very little of which, unfortunately, have had to do with recording. I managed to crawl across the finish line of another season of mowing lawns (for those who don’t know, I started mowing lawns a few years ago in order to supplement my main income as a musician/artist). After five years, I have—with no small trepidation, I might add—decided to shut down this side biz, Good Neighbor Lawncare. RIP, GNL. As of this writing, I don’t know how I’m going to supplement my music income, but the thought of enduring another exhausting, strength-sapping season of pushing a lawnmower is something I can’t stomach (even though that same labor prevents my gut from bulging into a tire around my middle-aged waist). Belly fat being neither here nor there, let me, instead, tell you what I have been up to.
Andrew Peterson, one of my best friends on the planet, graciously invited me to be the guest act on his Burning Edge Of Dawn release tour. The time spent with he and his band (Asher Peterson, drums; Nathan Johnson, electric guitar; Greg LaFollette, bass; Nolan Rossi, sound/road manager) was an oasis for me. An oasis in the sense that the tour was A) a reprieve from mowing grass, B) a rare opportunity to play with a band, and, perhaps most importantly, C) a chance to be on the road in community rather than alone. After three good but lonesome years of touring my last album, Birds Of Relocation, my soul needed that mercy: the chance to be on the road with kindreds.
Once the tour ended, I dedicated the looming winter holiday weeks (AKA, seasonal unemployment for most musicians) to working on my art, to digging in my heels, to seeking refuge in Christ’s gentle shadow, to, in the words of Charles H. Spurgeon, “search the mystery of His wounds,” hoping the Lord might show me the work of my own hands. When it’s not been unbearably cold, I’ve spent hours out in my uninsulated shed creating folk-art sculptures (The Daily Piece) using/re-using found materials, allowing my mind the freedom to be curious, to tinker, to piddle. Like my father before me, I am a piddler. Piddling is an underrated pastime. As with my songs or paintings, I never know what I’m making (or saying) until it’s actually said or made. Even then, part of the learning process of art is knowing when to walk away, when to call it complete.
It’s a little known fact that my wife and I are scavengers. If, while meandering through our neighborhood’s alleyways, we happen upon a piece of furniture or a wooden shutter that has the potential to be repaired or repurposed, we lack the dignity to leave it behind. Over the past year or two I’ve come to appreciate woodworking. So much so that when a friend told me he’d been given permission to plunder a hundred-year-old, three-story tenement before its being torn down, I jumped at the chance to spare what bones of the house I could. Armed with crowbars, drills, hammers, and flashlights, my friend chiseled apart massive pieces of Bedford limestone adorning the foundation, while I unscrewed old doors off hinges, found an abandoned Hebrew Bible and musty poetry collection, absconded with rolls of old U. S. Army Corps of Engineer cartography maps, and pried off numerous linear feet of filthy, rough-hewn, century-old oak siding. I’ve since put many of these items to use in a variety of my folk-art sculptures. It’s a pleasure to offer new life to old, rusted, dirty, abandoned objects. I have since planed many of those oak planks, and they now act as book shelves for the library adorning the walls of my 100-sq. ft. backyard office (The Asylum). The bones of one razed dwelling are now Ebenezers in a new sanctuary. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.
Until Far Side Of The Sea makes its entrance into the world, I will continue to work at my art, to enjoy the work of my hands, to seek to be unafraid of failure, or at the very least to, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s words, “fail in good spirits.” May our Lord, in his unfathomable grace, bless the works of our hands. Happy new year to us all.