Friday, March 31, 2017

Chasing butterflies

Butterfly - photo by Pants

The Butterfly Effect is the name of a film, a band and, weirdly, a self-esteem programme for girls. Most famously, it's used in Chaos Theory to describe a seemingly inconsequential event that causes a big impact. In the world of Pants, it's also one of the terms I use for the marvellous moment when an idea in search of a host chooses to land on me. This quite often happens when I'm out walking - a fairly common occurrence for creative folk. The artist Agnes Martin said,

'Inspiration is there all the time, for everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts, whether they realise it or not.'

As you can imagine, it isn't difficult for me to empty my mind. Especially now that I've divested myself of almost all worries and complications and settled in a seaside hamlet where everyone is semi-comatose most of the time. Still, there is no setting more likely to yield ideas than a quiet woodland when there's no one else around for them to bless or bother.

A while back, I took the big Nikon for a trek around Larrikin Forest and got lost. On a straight, single track. I was chasing actual butterflies and ended up on a road miles from the camping area where I'd left the trusty Subaru. Happily, a van was coming down the hill as I reached the road. I offered my best old-lady-in-distress wave and the driver stopped. Neither of the two young tradies within could locate with their 'smart' phones either our present position or the car park where the Subaru patiently awaited my return. I, naturally, have refused to get one of these fangly things because my five-year-old 'dumb' phone still works, costs very little and plays the radio. In any case, no phone works in Larrikin Forest. Which makes signposting on forest tracks still fairly important IMHO.

While I was waiting for the tradies to decide to rescue me - far be it from me to ask - a middle-aged power couple Lycra-peddled their way towards us. She powered on up the hill while he stopped to see if he could render assistance. Which he duly did by offering the important information that the car park was 2.4 kilometres back down the track. He said he would have walked back with me but his power wife had already powered ahead. Then he berated me for not having the kind of phone that would not have helped anyway. I tossed the tradies my best I'm-completely-exhausted look. Which I was, btw. It was a hot day and I'd already walked the track twice looking for the exit I'd obviously missed. We set off in the van and got lost again. We had to follow the road all the way to the highway and then track back until we found the road I'd come in on. Half an hour later, I was reunited with the Subaru and the big Nikon contained some photos of interesting leaf patterns and butterflies.

I've been working on a musical for the last 25 years. The ideas fairies have been slow in finding me for this one. But they've showed up in Larrikin's End and my daily walks around Lake Larrikin have yielded great chunks of tune lately. Progress has been good in the last year or so. Fortuitously, I've also acquired a new friend. Caroline has a music room and a, (somewhat grouchy but beggars can't be choosers), piano. I have an old stage keyboard which is good for working out melodies and harmonies but I want to play the songs on a real piano. All the time in London I had a baby grand, literally at my fingertips, but the tunes for the musical refused that invitation. That's how it is sometimes.

Classically trained flautist Caroline and folkie banjo-playing Bruce wanted to learn some jazz. I don't know much but I do know a bit more than nothing and I have a lot of sheet music and that seems to satisfy them. Once a week I drive out to the farm and we play together. It's been a long time between tinkles for me but muscle memory has sustained us so far. Caroline is also acting as a first listener for the songs for my musical. She read the finished script a couple of times, so she knows the piece well. Such dedication. She genuinely seems to like it. I imagine that helps. So far I've played her ten completed songs. The next in line had been sitting on the music stand for a couple of weeks. Shy little butterfly.

Bruce and Caroline have a lot of native foods, or bush tucker, growing around the farm. Last week, Caroline gave me a bag of riberries, fruit of the Lilly Pilly. Walking is one way to entice musical ideas. The other tried and true way for me is to set my subconscious the task of trawling for them while I sleep. This method works for poems and sagely gobbets as well. Often they arrive in dreams. I call these 'pillow ideas'. The day after Caroline gave me the riberries, I found a tub of cooked rice that I'd forgotten about in the fridge. It passed the sniff test so I put it back. I hate to chuck food, even into the compost bin. In the morning, my pillow idea was,

Make riberry rice pudding.

Lovely, I said, but where's my tune?

I made the riberry rice pudding. It was delicious. The first part of the long-awaited tune came as I watered the vegetables at my allotment the next day. There is order in chaos.

I've just had a text message from my phone-services provider asking me if I would provide feedback on my 'recharge experience'. Er, no, I won't be doing that. I will tell you instead. I went to the supermarket and bought a voucher along with my shopping because that means I spend enough to get discounted petrol. Then I filled the Subaru, came home and punched a few numbers into my phone. It went smoothly. It always does, which is why I won't be changing anything until I absolutely have to. 

Trouble-free minds attract more butterflies. You heard it here first. Well, probably not, but at least be reassured. It works.