Sweat and Sound #thinkkit

This post is part of the SmallBox Think Kit project. An annual month long (January) blogging event where people from all over the world reflect on the past year and the one to come. Get a prompt every day and blog as much or little as you want. Learn more and sign up at thinkkit.org

In response to the 1/3/15 prompt: "No screens, no technology – what did you do with your hands this year?"

This past summer I took off the month of July to see what would happen. I wanted to rediscover my natural state of being. What would I do with my time when I didn't have a calendar or business to answer to? It turns out I tend to gravitate towards mechanical, manual, analog activities. 

I spent a week working on my house. The hard work, and sweat, felt cleansing. I ended long days feeling tired and ready for sleep but not drained. While my body did the "work" my mind was free to wander. Ideas appeared, connections were made. Sometimes clarity arrived. I felt strong, mentally and physically. 

I also spent a week alone in a cabin in northern Michigan. Well, actually two cabins. My intention was to use this time to work on a book. But I kept being drawn to my guitar. By the end of the first day I'd written and recorded three songs. Another three came the next day. I felt guilty for not getting much done on the book. But I couldn't stop the songs.

Songwriting and recording used to be a huge part of my life. But between family and business, the last 10 years haven't had much space for it. And it needs space. Wide open solitary space. At least for me. I need to be alone and know that I won't be disturbed. It's a pretty vulnerable experience to write and record music. Especially if you are using your voice. I don't have a great singing voice so it's particularly challenging for me to get into that safe space. I love my life but it doesn't have many solitary spaces. People are always around. 

Back in the cabin, around day 3, I gave up and accepted that the project I was there to complete was an album not a book. Over the course of that week I wrote and recorded 16 songs. They formed something of a song cycle. I was processing new ideas from Alan Watts lectures I was listening to during that week- Alan was my only companion, so to speak. I was working through my relationship with my dad, my wife, my kids and, most of all, my "self". I shared the recordings with a few friends when I returned. They are pretty primitive since I didn't have much more than a guitar with me. I plan to re-record them this year. I decided to post them online despite my hesitancy in sharing something as personal as this. Maybe other people might find meaning or beauty in them. I certainly have. It was like having a much needed conversation with my self. One that continues. 

I end this year knowing a little more about what brings me joy and happiness. It's working with my hands and creating things. It's long conversations with fascinating people. I find great joy in seeing others do what they love, to stand on the side of the stage and see them shine. To know I had a hand in helping them do what they love. But I also enjoy building the stage, setting up the sound system and getting everything just right. I love manual, mechanical work. Work that I can see with my eyes and touch with my hands. Laying a physical foundation for something new is what I love the most. The more virtual something is, the harder it is for me to care. I need to feel to feel.