The new Christmas album, Midwinter's Gift was inspired by the waft of peanut butter blossom cookies. Really!!It all started when my friend, Kirstin Myers (oboist) was baking Christmas cookies for her family last December. Being a busy oboist, performing in various symphonies in the South Central Pennsylvania region, she didn't have time to bake cookies until AFTER the holidays. She had been too busy making music for everyone else's Christmas celebrations. We had originally met—because of Christmas—when Kirstin was hired to play oboe in my annual Portraits of White Winter Concert orchestra.
|Kirstin Myers (oboe, English horn), Kent Hooper (Recording engineer), Phillip Keveren (Arranger, producer), Frances Drost (pianist)|
August 5, 2022
|Cover photo and album artwork by Erick Anderson Photography, Nashville, TN|
My family is no stranger to tragedies. We know what it's like to hurt.
I am sitting in the audience listening to a teenage boy share his story. He just can't cope with life anymore. He finds it too challenging to navigate the rough waters. He wants to end his life. When he gets to the part in the story where someone rescues him from those thoughts, he has my full attention.
What did they do to talk him down from the ledge?
They asked him one simple question.
"Are you OK?"
It literally saved his life, according to him.
As he speaks, I sit there, marveling at how simple it can be to extend kindness to another human being. I appreciate the reminder that I don't need a degree in psychology or a business plan to let someone know how much I care.
In a world where information abounds in the form of self-help books, podcasts, videos and so on, there's still nothing like heart-felt compassion and no phrase offers it quite as powerfully as these three simple words — are you OK?
I've been hearing this same question from some of you, through private messages, texts...etc., and I really appreciate the sincerity behind it. You are letting me know that you care.
I realize that there are probably others who are wondering the same thing, but are afraid to ask.
So here's my answer...
Yes, I'm doing OK! Thanks for asking.
You know how many of us crave a "snow day" even if we don't like snow? We love the way a snow day forces rest on us — as long as we don't plow snow for a living. After December's big Portraits of White event, I long for a snowy MONTH. Figuratively and literally. Ha. Ha.
In the post-concert season, I look for things that will refuel my creative soul. Some years I visit local libraries and just sit by the window. Sometimes I browse through quaint shops. Walk. Write. Listen to birds.
This year, I've been painting the kitchen, making new curtains, cleaning out closets, throwing stuff away, journalling, listening to CDs from my collection, riding my bike, taking naps and not permitting myself to think about anything music related.
Yep - it's come to that. I have rules for my creative self. It probably sounds harsh, but I've learned that about myself. In a strange way, boundaries set in late December through January (and beyond) seem to lend themselves to creative freedom down the road. It's a new lesson I've had to learn.
Behind every creative endeavor there is a little soul who gives herself wholly to the dream — seeing it through to the end. It's one long season of exhaling. It must be followed by a long season of inhaling.
After six (and more) months of continual content creation leading up to December, I feel speechless. I can't even open my Facebook app. I know that some people get nervous that I must be down and depressed after the show, but the truth is, I don't feel any of those things when it comes to the post-show season.
I'm just depleted.
Deeply satisfied, but equally depleted.
After the concert, there is almost as much work to be done as before the concert as I close out the books, pay all of the invoices, prepare for tax appointments, re-do the website, organize photos, videos, file music, etc. So it's usually not until the second or third week of January until my brain can truly unplug from the previous year. I can't rest until then. By the time I feel I can truly unplug, everyone else has moved on.
So I shut down the electronics, the phone and sometimes even the studio itself. I can't think of one thing to say, write or put into a fun video. Even writing emails and texts wears me out at this stage of my recovery. I don't want to even touch my phone. That makes me appear quiet.
I think I should have been a bear. Hibernating in the winter appeals to me. I draw strength from solitude.
It feels completely unsocial and that makes me squirm, but I know that as an artist, I must have some time to recharge my batteries and do some normal kind of living. Since I write about life, I have to do some regular living in between the creative work. That's where I get my creative juices for the next "thing."
I've heard people asking for a new Christmas album. One of the many challenges is that it took me 40+ years of living life to write Portraits of White. It's not just a pile of songs. It's a pile of life, not to mention a pile of money to produce a project like that.
I guess I need another 40 years of living to write another one. I'm laughing again.
My simple goal for 2022 was to NOT make anything happen —choosing to "sit and wait" to see what might present itself to me. It's a new approach for me because ordinarily, I love to set goals and work hard to accomplish them.
I also need to acknowledge that the lingering affects from the pandemic have made me feel like a circus clown jumping through hoops for two years straight as I keep trying to find a little spot close to my sweetest spot. I know other musicians feel this too.
Speaking of spots, I didn't realize how many little spots could make up one big sweet spot. I've been thinking that perhaps it's like the pre-dawn of the morning when you see shafts of light, but the source of the light is hidden from your view. Sometimes my husband and I like to sit and just watch the light BEFORE the light.
We are usually glad when the full light of day arrives, but it's possible to enjoy the day-peep moments. There are things that can be accomplished. Like gathering inspiration.
Though I feel like COVID has been hiding the full light of day from us, I'm learning to thrive in the pre-dawn moments. I'm gathering inspiration.
I feel like I've had to go from living under a big ball of light to living in the softer hues.
Am I even making any sense?
See. This is why I think it's better if I just stay silent for a season. LOL!
So in answer to your question....yes - I'm doing very well. I know I've been quiet. Believe me, there are moments when I want to pop up on Facebook and play a tune for you or see what you're up to. But I resist because I know that I'm in a season of refueling right now and the only way to fill up is to breathe deeply in solitude.
Thanks for your understanding and ever-loving expressions of concern. It means the world to me.
I knew that I'd face some extra challenges this year when I sat down to plan Portraits of White because of COVID 19. I was hoping that by December the pandemic would be a thing of the past. As we all know, it's not.
So in addition to the regular lions, tigers and bears I usually encounter as we get close to the show, I've had to face a new monster this year.
I decided to approach it with a little bit of humor...