The fiddle, the field, and killing me softly 

This is an extract from my journal entry I wrote this morning, which I thought I might share. It’s about playing my fiddle, and singing “killing me softly” on repeat, and how turning 30 has welcomed in so much more self-acceptance, and banished so many old fears to the far edges of the field in my mind. That field now has an abundance of different plants growing in it. Exuberant flowers, climbing things, leafy stalks, modest ground covers. They are all here because I have learned how to stop pulling them out, and let them grow. 

I had an interesting experience a couple of weeks ago, when my partner and I were on a trip around South-Western VIC. I was playing my fiddle again after a very long time, in a room in a house we were staying in. The room had wooden floors, and lots of glass windows, and the dimensions and reflections of the room were such that as I played, I could feel the sound vibrating, almost groaning in my chest. It was a feeling I’d had before in other wooden-floored, live spaces, but I had completely forgotten about it in all the years my fiddle had been in its case. 

Fast forward to this Monday, when I was sitting home alone with my guitar on my lap. Out of the blue, a song came to me - one that I’ve always been curious about, but that I had ultimately dismissed as being “daggy”, something you’d hear in the background as you wander through the supermarket, wondering what to get for tonight’s dinner. 

But here it was. I looked up the chords and found Roberta Flack’s version on youtube, and played and sang along. The chords washed through me, and calmed me right through to my core. I’d never properly heard the verses of the song, and they now revealed to me what “killing me softly with his song” meant. 

The verses describe the experience of going to a live gig, and being completely transfixed by a performer, who seems to know exactly what’s at the heart of things that you have experienced yourself.  

That connection that happens at live gigs, between you and the performer, and you and your soul, is something I and so many of us have missed so deeply this year. 

This song made me feel that deep connection again, and it was a similar feeling to the one I’d had playing my fiddle. At the very roots of it is no longer being ashamed of myself, and allowing myself the freedom to play whatever song or tune comes into my head. Not worrying about being heard or judged. None of that stuff matters anymore, especially during this time of having been starved of live, in-person musical experiences for so long. 

So I’ve got my gardening boots on, and my magic watering can, and I’m walking out into that field of flowers and grasses. Everything I see, I’m going to water it. I’m not going to worry about what anyone else thinks of the plants. What matters is that they are growing, and I’m growing with them.

Wildness 

“Where does wildness begin, and how far does it extend?” - Esther Woolfson, in Corvus: A Life with Birds 

The above question is plucked from a book about a family living with wild birds that had been rescued as chicks, fallen out of their nests or abandoned. Woolfson writes beautifully about how people in Western society relate to wild animals, the wilderness, and wildness itself. Her question fascinates me, and sends off sparks of other questions in me. 

What is wildness? Wildness is a judgement made of a person, animal or place. It is a measure of how much something should be feared. From childhood, we are taught to be afraid of wildness. When in the bush, we should never stray from the path. When a child is judged as being wild, they don’t fit into the neatly laid out boxes that contain what a child “should” be like. When an adult is judged as being wild, they are somehow immature, irresponsible, or outrageous. 

Wildness is not only feared, but it is also fetishised. “Experience the Wild” the road signs say as they point us to a national park or holiday destination. We visit ‘wild’ places as a taster, a teaser, of what it might be like to live alongside nature. The places we deem to be wild add spice and excitement to our lives, but ultimately we live separately from them.  

Western society’s obsession with containing and controlling wildness has enormous consequences for the natural world. In Australia, like many places in the world, habitat for native animals is quickly shrinking as neatly manicured houses and lawns eat further and further into native forests and grasslands. The myth that we are separate from the wild also makes it possible to turn a blind eye to the continual logging of our native forests, the increasing volume of plastic in our oceans, the worsening of deadly bushfires throughout Australia resulting from climate change.  

To make a judgement that someone or something is wild is denying or hiding the fact that you are wild yourself.  

Growing up in a family band that played at folk festivals across Australia, I’ve had a lifetime of trying to fit in and completely failing to. Being picked on and excluded for being different in primary school led to me being hyper-vigilant in high school. I spent my busking and pocket money on the right shoes, the right clothes, to hide my wildness. I rejected people who were seen by my friends as weird. It was painful, keeping up appearances, and not being seen for who I really was. For as much as we strive to be, we are not all the same. The daily striving to be perfect and normal causes us a great deal of harm. 

If “tame” means to fit the mould, to go along with the seeming stream of normality – then to be “wild” is to be different, to be intrinsically unique. 

I’m so thankful for the perspective that growing older brings, and how the things I cared about when I was young matter less and less. I’m turning 30 this year, and there’s a feeling growing in me, that I’ve run out of steam for putting on a front, for presenting myself to the world in socially acceptable ways. “Will you take me as I am?”, a line from Joni Mitchell’s song California comes to mind often. But first and foremost, I think I need to ask this question of myself. How would life be if I really did take myself as being enough, as I am? 

I wonder what would happen if I, and we all, made an intentional effort to recognise, accept, and love our innate wildness? Would the fear of difference, the fear of the “other” -  be as much of a factor in the shaping of our social lives? In our social interactions, rather than wondering: “In what ways are we the same?”, could we ask: “In what ways are we different?” What can we learn from one another, in all our differences? Could an acceptance, an embracing of our unusualness and our real tendency to be different to one another, actually help us to become a kinder, more humane and resilient humanity? 

Maybe this time of social restrictions can be seen as an opportunity to really get to know ourselves, and make an effort to not just accept our quirks, but to appreciate and love them. Once we do this, we might allow ourselves to accept and love other people’s quirks too, the things that make them really who they are. Maybe the fact that we are different is what we all share in common. 

Here in regional Victoria, Australia, this second lockdown has me missing seeing my people. But I also wonder at the possibilities it might bring up. I wonder if it will allow all of us, at the end of this, to approach social gatherings with more curiosity, more openness to the unusual, the out-of-the-ordinary. It might change the questions we ask of one another in our conversations. Instead of “what do you do?” maybe it can be “what are you growing in your garden?” We might be out of practice, we might stumble on our words. We might forget what’s appropriate or inappropriate to say at a particular time. We might even rock up to the party in our trackie dacks, forgetting that when you go out, you're meant to dress up. It would be a smile bringer. A conversation starter. A means of connection. Allowing a little wildness to shine through.

Young Gum 

My heart goes out to my friends in Melbourne, who have just had tighter restrictions imposed upon them for another six weeks.  

Along with that news, we heard that the state of Victoria, where my partner and I live, will be in lock down again, for six weeks. 

My mind is going back to something that a dear friend of mine said once, when we were sitting by the Loddon river in Newstead two years ago, long before covid. I had been telling her of my anxieties about achieving enough in my life. She looked at me and said that it’s okay not to achieve anything, and that in fact, passing the time is enough.  

For the past five days, I have been participating in a nature connection project (guided by another friend of mine, Jane Ormonde), which involves sitting or standing in your nearest patch of nature, and breathing, listening and observing whatever draws you in. The other morning I stood by my favourite tree near our house. I will refer to it as “young gum”, as I don’t know its proper name yet. I started to sing to it, and realised I was singing into a tiny spider web, making it dance a stretchy dance. I blew at the still leaves, pretending I was a gentle gust. I heard a rustle and looked towards the creek, and two rusty-red foxes leaped silently across our backyard, diving straight through the rectangles in the wire fence. 

Then I brought my gaze back to the young gum. I thought about how the tree is taller than me, but I still see it as a baby tree. Maybe it’s like how as an older sibling, it’s hard not to see your younger sibling as younger, or greener, than you. When really, young things have their wisdom too. 

I reached out and felt a new leaf, the softness and roughness at the same time. I felt an old dead leaf, its weightlessness. Soon I didn’t have to blow at the leaves - a soft breeze started a light trembling through the tree. The frosty morning had been so still, but the sun had pulled the day awake from its sleep, and the day started to breathe, all on its own.  

It’s not a grand, impressive thing to do, standing by a tree, or a flower, or a pot plant. It’s not really achieving or changing anything in the world. But it’s a simple and beautiful way to pass some time. I highly recommend it. 

I hope you are all okay, and staying safe. 

Love, 

Lucy

A Small Musical Offering 

It’s a clear winter day in Malmsbury. The sun is taking its time to shine through each leaf, each blade of grass. In between zoom lessons, I'm sitting on the edge of the verandah with a cup of tea, thinking about the state of the world, and what it all might mean for artists, their wellbeing and connection with community. 

It’s difficult to sit with the uncertainty of these times. Not knowing when I’ll get to see friends and family who are either locked down in Melbourne, or living interstate or overseas. Not knowing when house concerts, bush dances, community potluck dinners and festivals will be able to happen. Not knowing how to express my affection for a friend or family member without giving them a huge hug.  

It was only the other day that I realised how much of an impact it’s had on me, not being able to catch up with my wonderful folk music family at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, which was cancelled this year because of the pandemic. Attending festivals as a performer is such a thrill and an incredible honour. Being steeped in music and deep, old friendships, even for just five days, brings me such joy and inspiration to keep going with my craft, all the way through to the next year. Although I realise this is the way it has to be for now, I’m yearning for those times, and hope they will come back around next year. 

With it being so different at the moment, and without any touring coming up in the near future, I am taking some time to work out more ways to keep making music, and to stay connected with my community and with everyone who has supported my music over the years.  

I’m excited to be recording again. It’s a daunting but great process to delve deep into some new subject matter - adjusting to rural life after 10 years in the big smoke, social anxiety, deception, death, the sweet comfort of old friendships.  

I am going to be releasing my next album one song at a time over the next year, and do a series of videos and live streamed concerts. I’ll be posting more about it all on my facebook & instagram pages as well as in my newsletter in the coming weeks. You can follow me / join my email list below. 

For now, I want to share with you a handful of songs that were recorded live at my show with Ari & Mia at Club Passim in Boston this February. Playing with Ari & Mia on our Northeast USA tour this year was such a delight, and because we didn’t capture much video or audio of the music we played, the memories and these recordings are precious to me, however rough and imperfect they are.

You can hear these tracks below, or at my Soundcloud Page.

I hope that as you read this you are well, and warm.  

Love, 

Lucy

 

 

Slow 

The word ‘Slow’ used to have so many unconscious derogatory meanings for me. Unproductive, or lacking, lagging behind, stupid. I used to turn my nose up at slowness, because somehow along the way I learned that going slowly went against all the things I had been taught about how I should live my life. 

A silver lining of this strange year, for me, has been that slowness is actually a really really important part of my life. Going slowly has helped me to learn how to listen to my heart more closely, allowing me to make better decisions. And it’s also helping me to be more present with others, which has really been helping me to feel more connected and less anxious. It’s also been helping me to let go of my perceived need to always push myself to achieve. And it’s got me doing things I’d been neglecting, like gardening and cooking and playing my guitar. I realise that going slowly may not be the right thing or even possible for everyone at the moment. But it’s been a beautiful change for me that I’m really thankful for. 

I hope that you are all finding your rhythm through these uncertain times. 

Love, Lucy