SMASH: Passing Through

I feel that sense of liminality again.

I’m starting in on participating on the fourth iteration of the SMASH virtual scavenger hunt. SMASH I was what pulled me out of my pandemic-related creative funk. It literally set me on a path of considering what I could do with embroidery, and 18+ Shostakovich-related pieces and about ten others later, my skills are at a whole different level. But it did more than that. It flipped a switch. For years, I had been living a life where passion and creativity were limited, for the most part, to my life outside of my work. I worked to fund my real life.

I was starting to realize that wasn’t working for me any more. During the pandemic, that “real life” of SCA events and travel and concerts was suddenly gone. And I started to realize–although I didn’t know it then–that I deserved to find something to spend 37.5 days a week being passionate about, and somewhere, there would be something where I could make a difference.

So now, SMASH IV is on my doorstep. For the other iterations, I drank in those silly challenges with the thirst of a desert traveller reaching an oasis. I couldn’t wait until the workday was over. I’d work on it during lunch, or on any break I could afford. This time, I’m eager–but today, as the clock ticked towards 4:30 pm, I was working on a special presentation. I had dropped in a graphic I had been waiting on, and sent a note to my manager to let him know. I left my computer on, and at 4:32 my manager called me, and we finished it up. He was surprised and pleased that I had already tracked down the graphic, and I was able to offer a perspective on a slide that had him saying “I like that!” There was no hierarchical BS. Just two people trying to make the presentation the best it could be, and clear mutual respect.

This weekend, I’ll hit the 90 day mark, and I suspect–in fact, I’m 99.9% sure (although old patterns still feed that tiny bit of wariness) I’ll pass probation. And I look forward to this work, to learning, to being creative, to presenting, and especially, to working with the people I work closely with. Every single one of them has been just amazing.

So, I started in on SMASH not over my lunch hour, but after work. I no longer need to take a break here or there to do a creative thing to keep me going. My job lets me be creative–in fact, it encourages it. And that makes so much difference.

It’s a good thing that work has been going so well, because something else I enjoy doing–writing SCA ceremonies–has been a little fraught lately. Back in July, I wrote one for a friend that was rather long and involved. It took place at an outdoor event, and, to be honest, it was a little much for that situation. The acoustics were terrible, the sightlines were awful, and that’s not what you want for a complex ceremony. And I heard about it. Some of the feedback was upfront, but some was contained in little quips and snarky remarks caught in passing. And since then, as I have learned, people are being discouraged from working with me for ceremonies. I know of at least three instances. And I know there is chatter behind my back (that’s been absolutely confirmed). It was enough for me, in early October, to swear off writing ceremonies unless I was specifically asked. I tightened up the ceremony I wrote for my apprentice in later October–and part of it was accidentally skipped. But my good friend is getting her Pelican in two weeks, and wanted Byzantine, and she asked me to write hers. There’s an extant Byzantine ceremonial. How could I not? But I’m wary. So very wary. And very much conscious that there are going to be eyes rolling unless the ceremony is relentlessly anodyne. I’m going to just have to deal with the eyeballs for the sake of a friend who trusts me. Then, I’ll step back again.

But the research? And the excuse to buy the translated Byzantine book of ceremonies? That’s been wonderful.

What else has been wonderful? Seeing Maxim Vengerov last Sunday. Oh, how I wish he would have followed his original plan to play the Shostakovich violin concerto no. 1 in Montreal. But this concert was a good consolation prize. He played a transcription of ten of Shostakovich’s op. 34 preludes that was created by the first violinist of the Beethoven Quartet, who premiered almost all of Shostakovich’s string quartets. Shostakovich is said to have liked the transcriptions so much that he accompanied his friend on the piano, stating he almost forgot they were originally works of piano only. They were short little pieces, but so distinctively early Shostakovich, cousins, perhaps, of his Cello Sonata, and Vengerov played them with warmth and brio. The highlight for me, however, was a just stunning rendition of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ sonata. The concert was sold out–and for, as it turned out, good reason.

Speaking of Shostakovich, I happened to just decided to Google “Shostakovich quartet 2023”. Google decided to plop a performance of the entire quartet cycle in April in Buffalo into my very surprised lap. I have tickets. I’m still stunned.

And I finally scheduled my next tattoo. I had figured out a design last week that is worthy of being my eighth piece of ink. I knew it had to involve the Fibonacci spiral and a cat. After a little searching, and considering commissioning a piece with one of my cats, I happened across a simple design in which the cat’s tail forms the spiral. It’s perfect, and on Wednesday–which is a Fibonacci square day, 1/25–I’ll be getting it after work.