Some creative folks work like laser beams, cutting a clean and straight line. Mark Rothko worked in the studio as if going to the office, arriving at nine in the morning and working until five (with a lunch break). His evenings were free for meals and conversation.
I know studio engineers who get up around noon, have breakfast (or is it lunch?), show up for work at two or three in the afternoon and pull faders and twist dials until midnight or later. I did that for a while. Didn’t like it.
I sometimes wish my life were filled with one focused activity. I guess I have too many squirrels climbing too many creative fences.
Yesterday, I got up at four thirty, just as the rising sun’s glow kissed the mountains to my east. I took my dog, Ginger, out for her morning constitutionals, brought her back in, poured a cup of coffee, and was in my studio soon after, revising my second novel. I wrote until ten, took a break and walked my orchard while drinking a cup of coffee (the apricots seem to be setting nicely), threw the tennis ball for Ginger (she’s incessant!), wrote and answered some emails, and had a bite of lunch around noon.
Along about one, I was in the orchard tending to a row of long-neglected grape vines that needed weeding and barrier put down to prevent the same weeds from coming back. While doing this, I had the irrigation system going, checked to make sure the emitters were open (one wasn’t and I hope I don’t lose that vine), and talked in reassuring tones to the black-capped chickadee pair nesting in the nearby birdhouse that I wasn’t going to harm them or the kids they must be raising by now. All this time I’m playing in my head the wind ensemble version of the second movement from my first symphony, composed some years ago for twenty-four trombones in the seven different Moravian keys. That performance (only one, dagnabbit) by the best studio trombonists in Los Angeles, is one of the highlights of my life. It needs a new life in a new instrumentation.
I finished the grapes around five, took a shower (woah, did I need one!), drank a mint julep to celebrate Bob Baffert’s expulsion from Churchill Downs, ate dinner while watching the local and PBS news, then had way too much fun for an hour or more at my piano preparing for playing church service this Sunday. The pastor chose some of my favorites: some hymns from Mexico, an African-American Spiritual (I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me, on which I will try to split the difference between Lutheran sensibilities and Little Richard’s version), and a few traditionals, including Be Thou My Vision, one of my father’s favorites and, in a nod to the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives that really do Matter, Lift Every Voice and Sing!.
I was in bed around nine and read Ed Douglas’s rich book, Himalaya: A Human History until I fell asleep a little after ten.
A day like that is crazy for some, I know. For me it was perfectly balanced: writing in the morning, afternoon in the garden and orchard, music in the eve.
I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.