Musings: A Beautiful Forest

Sunday, February 7, 2021


Hello all. Hope everyone had a good week, and is having a good weekend. 

We're expecting more snow tomorrow here in Boston - not a lot by local standards (3-5"/7.5-12.5 cm), but we had a storm earlier in the week that dumped over 16 inches in the town where I live, part of a trend of above-average snowfall so far this winter. One of the few positive things about working from home continuously since last March is not having to deal with commuting in bad weather. Small blessings, and so on.

As mentioned in my posts from last weekend, I'm determined to write much more often this year. One of the ways I'm going to encourage myself to follow through on that is to say up front what I want to actually write about. I'm generally a pretty determined person when I set a goal for myself, but I can get derailed when my depression flares up. When that happens, just getting through the day is an achievement.

That being said, I already mentioned the first thing I want to write about in my last post: my GCS (Gender Confirmation Surgery), which I had in Septembr 2017 with Dr. Brassard in Montreal. I'd planned to write this a long time ago, but, well, see above. So, that is first on the agenda.

After that are two topics - projects, really, given their size and complexity - are things I've had in mind for some time - since I started this blog in the first case, and in the past year for the second. So, this is just a brief post to get myself on the record, with witnesses (virtually speaking) for those times when I need to push myself.

For more, follow along below the jump. :c)

The first topic is something I know I've needed to write about as soon as I started my transition.  I've written a series of posts (The Chronicles of Cass) that are a sort of quasi-autobiography, but it's been missing the most important period: my childhood. 

Like many of us, I suspect, growing up was a confusing, painful time, one that I've obviously been less than eager to revisit. I can recall how difficult it was to write most of the posts in that series; I think of them as exorcisms, really, rather than posts. 

That being said, there is one post in that series that opened my eyes to the power of documenting  something I had never told anyone - anyone - for over twenty years. Getting those thoughts out of my head by writing about them was catharic in ways I never anticipated. 

For that I can thank M, my brilliant, compassionate therapist, then and now, who helped me finally put those events in perspective. 

I would also be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Kelli Bennett, of The Good, The Bad, and The Blonde, who gave me a critical boost just when I needed it. If you read this, Kelli, thank you again, and I hope you are well. Miss you! :c)

***

If you're curious, here are the three posts I wrote about those events.

The first is an introduction, to provide some background: And Another Brief Explanation

The second is about the events themselves: Why Can't This Be Love?

And the third is about that crucial next-morning session with M that I now recognize as perhaps the turning point in my transition: The Healing Game

Anyway, for anyone interested, reading those will give some idea of what the forthcoming writing about my childhood will be like. Consider yourself warned (she said semi-jokingly :D). 

***

As for the second project, I can only speculate about in vague generalities at the moment. 

It's not because I want to be mysterious, or withholding. It's because I don't really know what form it's going to take, ultimately.

It's a creative project I've been thinking about for some time. I can say that it's semi-autobiographical, and it will (necessarily) be in part about my transition.

I've been struggling with how to approach this project for nearly a year. It isn't writer's block that's holding me back, fortunately. Rather, I have too many ideas, and I'm not quite sure how all of the pieces fit.

I suspect I won't be going into specifics about that project when the time comes to start writing about it. Instead, I have a hunch those posts will be more about the process of sorting out those ideas and finding the path forward. 

One thing I've learned when writing these kinds of things is that where they start often bears no resemblance to where they end up - in a good way. I've learned to trust the process, and let the ideas take me where they want to go, trusting that the way forward will present itself. It's happened more than once in the past. It's happened with some of the posts of which I'm proudest in this blog. And it happended with this one, in fact. :c)

***

Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, two legendary musicians and producers, spoke about this very subject for a documentary film Lanois made about ten years ago to explore the creative process called Here Is What Is.

Eno and Lanois are certainly qualified to talk abou the creative process with some authority. Listing their career highlights would take hours, but here's a very, very brief list.

Brian Eno co-founded Roxy Music, then left to release a series of critically-acclaimed albums. He also served as producer on three landmark albums by Talking Heads (More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), Fear of Music (1979), and Remain In Light (1980)), and collaborated with David Bowie on his legendary Berlin Trilogy (Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger (1979)). And he did all of this just in the Seventies. (He also invented ambient music during his spare time in that decade.)

It was while working on Apollo:Atmosphere & Soundtracks, one of his ambient music projects, that he met Lanois. They went on to co-produce a series of U2 albums, inclduing three classics (The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Achtung Baby).

Daniel Lanois also produced masterworks by, among others, Peter Gabriel (So, 1986), Robbie Robertson (Robbie Robertson, 1987), Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy (1989) & Time Out of Mind (1997), The Neville Brothers (Yellow Moon, 1989), Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball, 1995), and Willie Nelson (Teatro, 1998). 

And like Eno, he's released critically acclaimed solo albums; his first two, Acadie (1989) and For The Beauty of Wynona (1993), are among my favorite albums of all time. I saw him live with his amazing backing band, Spyboy, on the Wynona tour in the summer of 1993 at the late, great Nightstage in Cambridge MA. To this day it's the single best show I've ever seen. (He remarked several times from the stage during the show that it was a very special night, so he obviously sensed it was well.)

All of this is to say: these guys know what they are talking about when it comes to creativity. Which makes what Eno has to say about it, in his quiet, humble way, all the more remarkable. And encouraging, for anyone engaged in any kind of creative pursuit:

I think what would be really interesting for people to see is how beautiful things grow out of s***. (laughs) Because nobody ever believes that. I think what's so interesting, and a lesson that everybody should learn, is how things come out of nothing. Out of nothing. The tiniest seed, in the right situation, turns into a beautiful forest.

I think it would be important for people to know this, to give them confidence in their own lives, that that's how things work. If you walk around with the idea that some people are so gifted, that they have these wonderful things in their head, but you're not one of them, you're just sort of a normal person, who could never do anything like that, then you'll live a different kind of life, you know?

But you could have another kind of life, one where you say, "Well, I know things come from nothing very much, and from unpromising beginnings. And I'm an unpromising beginning.'"

Reading it on the printed page doesn't do justice to what he has to say. See and hear for yourself.

And then go out and grow your own beautiful forest. 

***

I had first one, and  then another selection of songs intended for this post, but, well, it had other ideas. lol Hopefully I'll use those selections very soon in another post.

First up is Roxy Music performing their first single, the remarkable "Virginia Plain" single on Top of the Pops (8/24/72). It was recorded and released several months after the release of their debut album Roxy Music, but was asubsequently added to it after the success of both the single and album in Great Britain.  It's difficult to imagine how utterly alien this must have sounded in mid-1972; it still sounds fresh and vital today, nearly 50 years later.

(That's Eno at 1:07; a self-professed "non-musician," he would take the sound of the band as they played and manipulate it using his synthesizer, resulting in what he cals "treatments.")

 

Next is a track from Apollo:Atmosphere & Soundtracks (1983), mentioned above as the first project on which Eno and Lanois collaborated. It's also a great sample of what ambient music is like. (It's also the first Brian Eno album I ever purchased, and the first time I ever heard ambient music.)

Next up is Emmylou Harris, backed by Lanois and Spyboy, performing "Where Will I Be" (written by Lanois for her Wrecking Ball album), on David Letterman's show in 1995:

 I was lucky enough to see them shortly after this performance at the Paradise Theatre in Boston, sitting in the second row just a few feet from Emmylou. It was, needless to say, quite a night.

This is "The Maker," one of his best-known songs (The Dave Matthews Band does an excellent version), from his 1989 debut album Acadie. That's Aaron Neville on backing vocals:

And finally, my favorite Lanois song, also from Acadie: "Ice," simply one of the most beautiful, haunting songs I've ever heard. You would only have to listen to this once to know he's Canadian:


He has one of the most distinctive "sounds" in popular music, does he not?

***

Incidentally, the entire Here Is What Is documentary is available on YouTube. It's well-worth the 90 minute watch time.

See you soon; stay safe 'til then...

3 comments:

Leslie Ann on February 24, 2021 at 2:45 AM said...

Great to have you writing again, Cass. In the past few years, you always mentioned how you had posts almost ready to go, then disappeared for six months. You were only fooling yourself, the same way I have. I no longer promise more, just hope the mood strikes. Your tone now is different. I believe you this time, and I'm eager to read what is coming.

Acadie was a big record for me, too. I still pull up "The Maker" regularly. I have no God, but the song gives me an idea of how it might feel to have faith, to be sheltered in the arms of the Maker. Goose bumps every time.

Love ya!
Leslie

Cassidy on February 24, 2021 at 6:48 PM said...

Well, hello! So great to hear from you too, Miss L!

It's funny - and aggravating - now that I look back, but I really *did* have versions near completion several times. Writing was never the issue for me; perfectionism was. (And depression at times, to be completely honest.) Bruce Springsteen once called himself "a thinkin' fool," and I can relate. :D

That being said, it *is* different thsi time, but I can see now that I had to write those earlier attempts to get here. The key for me is to just show up. To sit down and start, and to not censor myself. That's what I'm doing, and that's what's different this time. And I hope you'll do the same, Leslie! I miss seeing your name in my feed. Get writing, girl!!!

Take care, Leslie! Hope to see you on T-Central soon!

Love,
Cass

P.S. Daniel Lanois is absolutely amazing. I still play both Acadie and For The Beauty of Wynona pretty regularly. I saw him on the Wynona tour at Nightstage in Cambridge, and to this day I would rate it as the best show I've even attended. He was transcendent. And yes, "The Maker" is pretty remarkable. (It doesn't hurt to be able to call in Aaron Neville as a ringer, of course... ;D)

Cassidy on February 24, 2021 at 6:49 PM said...

Sorry for the typos; I'm a bit punchy right now. Long few days at work. :c)

== Cass

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