Behind the Fear

This piece was written more than a year ago, after my wonderful voice coach, Lynn, accused me of hiding behind my fear.  She invited me to play with the idea, and this is what I came up with.  I do not claim to be a poet by any definition, and my apologies to those of you who truly are poets. 


Behind the Fear

Fear makes me do weird things.
Knives no longer write my fear on flesh;
Fear carves treachery into my own heart,
Letting cowardice and procrastination ooze out
like so much crude oil spilling into Prince William Sound,
Despoiling the fragile ecosystem I called my soul.


I feel shadows in sunlight, taste marble in cotton candy
Until friend becomes enemy, becomes lover, becomes God
and I can’t remember what freedom sounds like.
Somebody tell me what to do with this.

Because it’s heavy.

I’m made into someone I’m not, someone I despise,
Who clings to the fragrance of shit on your shoe
because I can’t bear the loss of even imagined interest.
Makes me question every word I’ve ever uttered, every hurt I’ve ever bled,
Mixing pain and longing into a stew of angst, and loathing.

And why?

Because the idea that I can soar above the fate my history would have me play out?
The notion that I am not defined by my past nor bound to its lies?
The possibility that I am the pearl of great worth?

Scares the hell out of me.

One Word 2017: Energy

Until a few years ago, I had never heard of a word for the year.  I’m now heading into my third year of selecting a word or concept to help me focus, to try to put a context around the choices I make, the paths I journey, and the challenges I choose to face.

My word for 2016 was “valour,” and I thought I had done a poor job of living up to my word (and my ink).  There were no specific highlights where I had made a principled stand, or had done something very far from my comfort zones, although there was that time in July. . . .

A couple of days before Christmas, I sat down on a bench overlooking Crown Hill Lake, and thought about the work I had done, the steps I had taken, often unawares, to dismantle the crappy models I had inherited, the efforts to do things differently because God knows the usual way of doing things wasn’t working.  I gave thought to the advances I had made in my personal life, the refinements of some the revelations of two years ago, the clarity I was beginning to get.

You know what?  It takes a lot of courage, integrity and honour to examine your life and heart, to be willing to face truths it might be easier to overlook, and to make the effort to change the things you don’t like.  I’m not saying I did it perfectly, but I was a lot closer to living a life of valour in 2016 than I was to living a wild life in 2015.

And so I came to regard 2017.  Like many people I know, I have found my confidence in the institutions of this nation rocked severely.  For the first time in my life, I feel almost paralyzed by dread, and apprehension.  For the first time in my life, I realize that my voice is one that could be silenced, that I am well beneath the power band.  Yet, even as that thought crosses my mind, I realize that there are those who will lose very much more if, as many of us fear, the worst-case scenario ends up being the best-case outcome.

Hodie Christus Natus Est” by Jan Sweelinck is a song of incredible jubilation and reverence.  It’s a piece I have loved since the first time I sang it.  It’s also a piece that has scared the pants off of me.  The second soprano line is sprinkled with these bold, high Gs, and there’s no way to hide from them.  Before this last December’s concert, I had approached those high Gs with a mixture of foreboding and dread.  My shoulders would start to climb around my ears, my throat and jaws would tighten, and what sound squeaked out of my mouth was invariably thin and flat, and that’s if anything came out at all.

This December, however, I had learned to trust that my body knew what it was doing.  I had learned to relax into the high Gs, let the breath fill me, and let my body do what it needed to.  And when I opened my mouth to sing, the high Gs were there, solid, steady, and strong.

“Fear is energy.  That’s all.”  That’s what Lynn said to me when I tried to explain this wonted mixture of inadequacy, consternation, and near-panic and its subsequent alteration.  “The question is: What are you going to do with it?”

And so my word for 2017 is “energy.”  How will I spend the energy gifted to me?  How will I nurture it?  What will I do to create enough space in my life that I can take the fear, the rage, the joy, the love, the strength, the weakness, the mystery and the certainty and DO something with it? How will it remake me, and I it?

I am still filled with a great deal of trepidation, but for the first time in weeks, I’m beginning to feel something akin to hope.  I just need to make space for the energy, and then get out of the way.

Happy New Year, friends.  Let’s do something constructive with our energy, whatever form it takes.

30 Days of Thanks Day 7 – Guest Post by Carryl Robinson

Today I’m privileged to be guest posting over at my friend, Denise’s site, DeeScribes. Each day for the month of November, Denise shares a post of gratitude and thanksgiving for the people in her life. I was thrilled when she asked me to be a part of her month-long expression of gratitude. Join me over there?


Today’s post is written by Carryl Robinson. Carryl and I “met” in an online writing group where we connected over a shared love of music and hockey. Besides writing, what else do you need? Carryl’s writing fills me with hope and makes me consider how I can make my own writing more lyrical. I was thrilled when she agreed to be one of my guests during this year’s 30 Days of Thanks. You can read more of Carryl’s work by visiting her blog, Echoes From The Cave, or by following her on Twitter @CarrylRobinson

For Lynn
(With Gratitude)

It began with sorrow, a gift from a dear friend who was moving half a continent away.  A business card emblazoned with a treble clef staff, and, peering through the “spaces” of the staff, a pair of eyes.  I felt them pierce through me, as if the person connected to that…

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Of Redemption and Grace

Redemption: (noun)

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  5. repurchase, as of something sold.
  6. paying off, as of a mortgage, bond, or note.

It [grace] is unearned love – the love that goes before, that greets us on the way.  It’s the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you.  Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually as grateful as you are to be there.
– Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith


How did I get here?

I have asked myself that question many times.  Maybe you have as well.  Or perhaps you are asking “How do I get there?”

Oh, my heart, I don’t have a good answer to offer.  Sometimes you must wander in the wilderness for a long time before you find that one, overgrown track that you follow because you have no reason not to.  Sometimes a fellow traveler, a sojourner says something that causes your heart to leap in recognition, and you just know where you must go.  Sometimes you stumble onto the path.  Sometimes it is handed to you, as a gift.  Sometimes it comes as the answer to a question.  Sometimes it is the question.

All I know is if you seek the path diligently, you will be given clues, hints, and help where and when you least expect it. You find companionship and support and encouragement in the most unexpected of circumstances.  You will be surprised. Seek.  Set your feet to the path.  And do not give up.

Redemption begins with grace.

Of Redemption and Hope

Redemption: (noun)

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  5. repurchase, as of something sold.
  6. paying off, as of a mortgage, bond, or note.

Bringing good news is imparting hope to one’s fellow man.  The idea of redmption is always good news, even if it means sacrifice or some difficult times.
– Patti Smith

Hope.  It is trust with regards to the future.  It is the expectation that what is to come is worth the hell you’re going through now.   I do not say that lightly.  I have a very uneasy relationship with hope and her kindred: love and trust.  I do none of them well, but I’m trying.  And so must you.

You are stronger than you realize.  You are more than the sum of your scars, your pain.  But do not despise the lessons they have taught you.  This, too, is strength and beauty and of great worth.

A superior blossom, you, and more than worthy of a resurgent season.  That, I promise you.

But first, you must endure the winter.


Zelinsky, Dean


It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

Zelinsky, Dean

Dean Zelinsky, founder of Dean Guitars and, more recently, Dean Zelinsky Private Label, is another fairly recent entry into the ranks of guitar manufacturers, but has he ever made a splash in the world of heavy metal and hard rock guitar.  Dean Guitars are characterized by very distinctive headstock and body designs.  In addition to the more “standard” shapes made popular by Gibson and Fender, Dean has designed some very aggressive designs that have become iconic for the brands he’s been associated with.

Dean ML

Dean ML

Dean Zelinsky left Dean Guitars in 2008 to form DBZ Guitars before forming Dean Zelinsky Private Label in 2012.  The same edgy design that characterized Dean Guitars and DBZ Guitars is evident with his Private Label brand.  He has also introduced an innovative neck design (the “Z-Glide“) that is said to allow the player’s hand to slide up and down the neck with greater ease.


His designs have wound up in the hands of the likes of Dave Mustain (Megadeth), Dimebag Darrell (Pantera), Zack Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Billy Gibson of ZZ Top (anyone remember the fuzzy guitars in the “Legs” video?).


DBZ Bird of Prey

DBZ Bird of Prey

I have to admit, his designs aren’t my cup of tea.  I am an acoustic girl at heart, all curves, warm tones, and soft caresses with enough bite and spice to keep things interesting.  A lot of his designs are far too aggressive for my taste, although his Private Label models are much more organic and I like them very much.  I can see how his more aggressive designs would appeal to a certain kind of player, though.



Dean Zelinsky Private Label Lavoce

And so we come to the end of the A to Z Challenge.  I thank you for indulging me while I drooled over my favourite players and manufacturers.  If I have done nothing else during the last month, I have reminded myself of how wide the world of guitars really is.  There’s room enough for all kinds of tastes and styles and players.  And isn’t that absolutely wonderful?  Thanks for coming along for the ride!



X Bracing



It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars.  Care to join me?

X Bracing

So I’ll have to do a little remedial guitar anatomy to explain this one.  If you remember from Guitar Anatomy 101, I mentioned that what gives the acoustic guitar its “voice” is the face of the guitar.  The face is very thin piece of wood, as thick as a nickel or as thin as a dime.  When the strings are plucked or strummed, the face vibrates, and, voila!  The thing is that the strings are anchored to the face of the guitar by way of the bridge and, consequently, the face is subject to a great deal of stress, which would tend to distort the sound.  To counter the stresses on the face, it has to be supported, but how to do that without dampening the resonant qualities of the face?  This has been the question luthiers have tried to answer ever since the first gut strings were stretched across the face of the earliest instruments.

The strings of classical guitars aren’t under quite as much tension as their steel kindred, so the stresses exerted on the face aren’t as great.  If you could turn a classical guitar inside out and look at the bracing under the face, you would see a series of “fingers” extending towards the bottom of the guitar, much like the ribs of a hand fan.  Not surprisingly, this is called “fan bracing”.

Fan Bracing

Fan Bracing – common on classical guitars

There are two additional problems when considering steel string guitars.  The first is the significantly greater tension the steel strings place on the face and the bridge, which will tend to torque the neck significantly.  The second issue is that steel strings have small balls at the end that help anchor the strings to the guitar (remember that the nylon strings of a classical or flamenco guitar are tied to the bridge).  These “ball ends” have a tendency to damage the underside of the face.  Definitely not a good thing for tone quality or overall sound.  Strengthening the face of the guitar enough to protect the face from both of these stressors would seriously diminish the tone quality of the instrument.  That will never do.

Widespread use of “X bracing” has been attributed to the C.F. Martin Company, who first utilized the technique in the mid 1800s.  In X bracing, the sound hole sits in the cleft of the top portion of the “X” and the arms extend down almost to the bottom of the guitar.  The bridge plate, a kind of reinforcement for the bridge, is “hugged” by the lower two arms of the “X”.  This configuration gives the face an enormous amount of support while minimizing the dampening effect.  There have been other variations on this design, but X bracing seems to be the industry favourite.

X Bracing

X Bracing

What this bracing pattern has done is to allow the guitar to endure greater tension on the face without distortion, instability or damage.  Without this bracing design, the modern steel string acoustic guitar would not be possible.  The instrument would sound very different and not nearly as resonant as we’re accustomed to.