Through the velvety dark stillness of 4am, a lone mockingbird runs through what seems to be its entire repertoire of songs, calls, and impersonations to a (mostly) still sleeping audience. I awake without my alarm’s assistance and make my way to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee, gently closing doors for the still sleeping along the way. I pour the water, measure and grind the beans, flip the coffee maker on, and rub my bleary eyes. As I wait, I retrieve my laptop, plug it in and lay out a workspace at the dining room table. It seems almost contrary, as the dawn stretches its silvery arms into the morning air, but all the while I hear the words of poet Dylan Thomas on soft repeat:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I don’t always get up to work quite this early, but these are extraordinary times. My nearly five-year-old son Miles has come to visit for the summer (!) and time has once again become a highly valued and increasingly rare commodity. Hours previously spent poring over words, editing guitar takes, meeting deadlines, and attending to routine household duties are once again filled with hair knots, hugs, and Hot Wheels. I couldn’t be happier or feel more blessed in all of this, but the ever-darkening circles surrounding my eyes and the ever-higher pileup of work and responsibilities are an indicator of where I find the time. It’s not just me, of course. For all of us in this even-busier-than-usual house there are new challenges, as Jeopardy becomes Minions, salmon fillets turn to fish sticks, and a cool little office becomes a little boy’s dominion.
The last time I found myself even semi-conscious at this early an hour, I was working on an album of my own music. New to Utah and eager to put my best professional foot forward, I felt compelled to release a collection of recordings that would serve not only as a current state of my art, but also a picture of what music sounded like coming out of my first new studio in 20 years. (*Illustrative, yet shameless plug: That album is called The Sexy and is available for purchase and online streaming now…) It was then that I developed the early morning routine to which I have now made my predawn return, after a lengthy absence.
Please do not mistake this as self-satisfied gloating. Lots of people work many more harder and longer hours than I. Many face exponentially greater challenges to their life, their dreams…their very sanity. It is in tribute to the sacrifices we all undertake for life, love, and family that I relate my own scheduling maneuvers in that pursuit.
It is at this moment that Miles bursts into the room, jumps into my lap (ow) and says, “I’ll help you Daddy.”
Unabashedly happy for any contribution to the word count of my current assignment, I relent and the following dispatch comes his beautiful, tiny fingers:
lkjh hh g f ds w3e4nbvcvxzswe3=–998865444ffgjhk..///.lkk,,n m bÂ n n11 nyungffgdngggggttuythhhhhhhhjuhyt5tttttttujeelewlkaKEWUJUUYTTEWWQERRTY.
“What does that say, Miles?” I ask, expecting to partake of the sweetest fruits from the fanciful bounty of his boundless imagination.
“It says, ‘I love you Daddy. You’re my very best friend,’ he declares, as he turns to hug me and runs back to watch Sesame Street.
Okay, so that might be gloating a little bit, but context is everything.
My reason for this meditation of sorts is the fact that I’ve known so many people… gifted, talented, and learned artists that found their lives so overwhelmed by all that is so overwhelming each and every day that they eventually let their foot off the gas, took their hands off the wheel, and often just gave up on their creative passions. Although it certainly is the noblest of gestures to trade one perhaps selfish desire for one of a more selfless nature, it is not always a particularly equitable or even applicable exchange.
I’m a parent without primary custody. I readily admit that my opinions and recommendations come with a cavalcade of caveats and contradictions, the size and scope of which rival those of holy men and politicians. I do believe that we try to raise our children in a manner that nurtures and prepares them for traversing the highs, lows, and broadsides of the life ahead and also sets an example to them on how we all contribute to this crazy, wonderful world. So rage, indeed! Lose sleep. Strategize, organize, and find new ways to make the time to express and create. Strive for excellence in all things, including parenting and artistry. Be yourself and never give up on what makes the world more beautiful.
Now get out of here, I’ve got Cheerios to pour and bananas to slice!
Sven-Erik Seaholm is not too busy to produce, record, mix or master your next recording. Contact him at www.kaspro.com