Monday, December 29, 2008


Today, midday, I went over to my parents' house for the last time, to say farewell. Farewell to the house, to all the years we lived there, together and separately. To walk through it one last time, and release all the memories, both good and bad. The house is being sold, and this was my last time there.

It was a bright cold clear day after a major melte, after Xmas, two days of dense fog, temperatures well above freezing, even raining heavily at times. On Xmas Day we had 14 inches of snow on the ground. After two days of melte, there is not much left, except where the plows piled the snow especially high. You can see the grass in spots. This morning it turned cold and clear and sunny again.

Last things:

My last visit to my parents' house, where I lived and they lived, before it is sold. I will be on the road to Michigan when that happens, later this week. So, this was my last chance to say goodbye to the place I used to call home. Last visit, last chance, last farewell, last walk in beauty.

When I walked around the back yard, one last time, the river was flooded all the way to top of the banks: between the melte, and the ice dams at the bridge downstream, the floodplain across the way is filled with water and ice, and the river is running fast and grey, water and ice lapping at the high bank on this side. The bare trees casting long black shadows across the snow and ice. Turkey tracks, deer tracks, rabbit tracks, and the random flicks of small birds, crisscrossing the lawn and and woods.

As I walked through the house, taking some last photographs, I noticed how the light was coming through the windows and spotlighting places on the walls and floors. I made some more photos, but I have thoroughly photographed the house over the last year, to document the move and sale, after my parents' deaths, and my own moving out, so these new photos are different. More inward, more quiet, just images of light and shadow, and more tightly focused.

When we emptied out the garage at last, last summer, we realized we had a huge empty room with a large echo. I had never heard such a reverb in the garage before, with the doors closed and the shelves emptied out. We played with that reverb, that echo, a little bit last summer.

Today I brought over a couple of small bamboo flutes, in addition to my camera, and I recorded some music around the house. I recorded a little in the empty sun-filled living room. But I mostly recorded in the garage. New pieces, improvised into fixed compositional structures, the way I often work; finding a line or phrase and letting it become an entire piece, developing as it progresses, inventing itself, shaping into a form so that I know when the piece is finished, and I stop playing.

This music was my farewell. I was feeling emotional, as I have been all month. This is at last the end of the process. After this, the house will be gone: no longer my problem, no longer our worry. Closure, and completion. Titles for each piece of music came to me as I played and recorded. And the titles are memorials. This too is part of the ritual of remembrance that I am undertaking for a year and a day. Each piece of this ritual, when finished, frees me to be who I am, and from now on, to do what I want to do, all obligations and expectations finished, ended, cycles completed, process forever engaging, but ending this part of each cycle. Now, I can move forward with my own life. Now, I can let go of the past. It is emotional, which is tiring, by night's end; but it's not bad feelings, just strong and compelling ones.

Farewell, for shakuhachi

Remembering all who have lived here, and who have gone before. Remembering the good times. No laments, but farewells. For now.

wood block, for suling degung

A walk-around the space, slapping the wood of the shelves on the walls, and walking through the room's center, playing the flute. A slow dervish of memory and mood and deep feeling.

Clearing, for shakuhachi

A summoning of focus. A clearing of the air, of the energy of place. An ending. A closing. An emptying. Kenosis.

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Blogger John Ettorre said...

May they rest in peace, Art.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, John, very much.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Will said...

I think a chapter just ended. A beautiful way to say goodbye.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks very much, Will. (And nice to hear from you!)

2:50 PM  

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