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Milestones

Updated: Aug 13

It's official: I have recorded, mixed, and released my first song!


Over the past month, my friend Adam and I have been collaborating on a Lockdown album. For the first couple weeks we each wrote songs, and are now releasing one song a week as we continue to write. It's been a welcome exercise in not getting too precious about my process, and getting a lot more practice writing and playing as a result. I'm having a lot of fun.


It's very difficult to hold the giddiness I feel at having hit a creative milestone with the circumstances under which I achieved it. In some ways, this past weekend was one of the best creative moments in recent memory. I persevered through new technology, inexperience, and insecurity to make something and have fun doing it. It helped that my partner assisted me in recording, getting oriented to the new software I had to use, and also offered his guitar skills on the track. But it was also so much fun to watch this song come together. The more I worked, the more the song seemed to have a life of its own: what had started as an idea sketched over some chords now had its own direction and will, and I was just there to usher it along its path to make sure it didn't veer off any cliffs. When the mix was done, I felt positively jazzed to hear something I wrote, recorded, and mixed coming out of my speakers. That joy in making something had been lost to me for quite some time, and in some ways that's been an even more meaningful milestone.


Me when I heard my song on our speakers


On Sunday afternoon, my family and I celebrated another milestone, as we gathered (cautiously) to celebrate my grandmother's 100th birthday. Donned in masks and keeping at least six feet apart, my parents, partner, dog and I met outside on the patio of her nursing home. Facing us, my grandmother sat inside in her wheelchair, with the french doors between us propped open to make it easier to talk to each other. We sang her happy birthday, I played her a couple songs on the guitar, and everyone got a little cake that was served very carefully by the staff to make sure we didn't contaminate anything inside the facility. The whole thing felt incredibly precious and paltry at the same time. Our faces were obscured behind masks, we couldn't hug her, or hold her hand or give her a present or serve her a scotch. My grandmother couldn't tell you the name of our current crisis, but she understands that there's a disease that's making our interactions so restricted. She understands why these precautions are important. Nonetheless it was easy to see she was sad at the distance we had to keep. I think she already had mixed emotions about living this long, and I think understandably the even lonelier impositions COVID has put on us calls into question what kind of living she's doing for the 100th year running.


This weekend also marked the first full month of lockdown in Seattle, and we're barreling towards the month's end when rent will be due for a second time with record unemployment. I can sing a song for my grandmother's birthday, and drink a celebratory beer after finishing a song, but I don't know what to do with these other milestones. Even though the COVID album is supposedly a container to process all this, there's only so much a song can hold. Like all of us, I've got a lot of loose ends and extra bits and bobs of feeling I haven't figured out how to carry or digest.


Even though the word has positive associations around them now, milestones were originally just road markers."You are here," the milestone says: 15398 miles from wherever you started and 14732 from wherever you're going. But the milestone doesn't specify much else. It doesn't say whether "here" is a shit hole bog with leeches or a mountaintop with a vista of the sea. It also doesn't tell you what it should feel like to be "here." It doesn't tell you whether you'll feel elated or tired or confused, encouraged or discouraged at the distance you've traveled and the miles you have left. And that's the tricky part: the real value of that milestone is different for everyone. Some people may be thrilled to live to be 100, while others may find the state of the world so baffling and confusing they're looking for an exit. Some people may finish recording a song and immediately delete the whole thing, while others may dance around the living room. Some milestones feel like an achievement, while others...others we may not know what to make of yet. We may even resent them, mourn them, or lament them, but have no choice but to keep going. This weekend's personal milestones felt fantastic, while the global milestones felt oppressive. I don't have a song for that yet. 


Some artists are already creating beautiful things that are helping me process and survive these experiences though. Most recently, I wrote a review of a recent dance performance I saw in Seattle by a local company, one that helped me start to shape some meaning out of this very ambiguous, strenuous time. You can read that review HERE, and read about the company, LanDforms, HERE.


And then of course I always have these diaries. Finishing one, long or short, deep or cursory, always feels good. Not necessarily because I arrive anywhere profound, but because through them I stay connected to others and I make sure I hold space for reflection. Right now, in addition for looking for ways to help and stand with others who are suffering or struggling, I'm not sure what really I can do. Speaking of staying connected, if you clicked that link to the review you'll see that I'm now archiving all of these diaries on my website. While some of it is still under construction, the Dumpster Diaries entries are all up-to-date. So if you missed prior diaries or want to refer friends, I think this is a much nicer way to view the content than in the Tiny Letter archive. 


Wishing everyone a healthful month, and raising a glass to your milestones big and small, however far or close you are to home.


-G.


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Gedney Barclay is a writer, musician, and artist based in the Pacific Northwest.

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