Lisa Markley

single post, with meta



After 33 years in exile in Texas, this child of the Pacific Northwest has returned to the north, only this time I make the Northeast my home.  Bruce and I are gradually settling in to his childhood homestead in upstate New York.

The light here is deeply familiar to me.  The rolling hills of the Catskills are not unlike the foothills of the Cascades, (under whose shadow I came of age).  The greatest difference being that, beyond the Catskills, there are no looming mountains, no Mount Baker, no Mount Rainier, (and I have now learned the difference between “eroded plateau” and “glacial peaks”).

As we edge towards the Winter Solstice, the other great difference is in the trees.  I grew up amongst the evergreens, and now am truly seeing the change in the Autumn landscape with the deciduous trees. We live in a “bowl”, immediately surrounded by mountains. Last weekend I watched the supermoon set over the mountain across the street, before the sun showed its face over Mount Guardian in our backyard.   As the moon set, (forgetting that the silhouette of the mountain was actually the tops of the leafless trees), I expected the complete disappearance of the moon. Instead, I was struck with the view of the moon through the naked trees, before it finally sunk behind the mountain.  My new life here is filled with miracles like this every single day.

Many people move to new homes upon retirement, this is nothing new. We however, while near the age of retirement, (Bruce is 67, I still have a ways to go at 53), do not have that luxury.  We devoted our lives to being freelance musicians, and our years crept up on us.  Oops.  What do you mean we are not at the beginning of this journey?  We’re just getting good at what we do.  And there is this house to fix up.  A 200-year-old farm house in need of great attention.   A house full of ghosts, and boxes, and heavy emotions.  A beautiful place, with much history in its bones.   I am truly now beginning to grasp just how deep Bruce’s carpentry skills run.  He has already reseated a toilet, downed a massive ash tree, fixed the stubborn front door, pulled down and refinished a kitchen cabinet, relaid floorboards in the front hall, taken down a rotting porch roof, and repaired a 150-year-old surface-mount door-lock.  He is frustrated at times that he is not completing any one task, because every repair leads to other repairs.  This is a lifetime of work here. But as some say,  “There’s them that can, and them that know how”. Bruce knows how.

I am here, being granted the great privilege of starting over.  It’s frightening, and yet so full of possibility.   We are on the make as much as any musician in their youth, hitting multiple open mics every week.  Actively reaching out to (and usually being ignored by) venues in the Hudson Valley and beyond.  The game is the same all over the world—

“Who the heck are you?” “What kind of following do you have?” “We can put out a donation bucket for you.”

—and so we hustle.  We rehearse.  We continue to knock on doors (virtually and in person).

I am gradually building my private practice, and joining knitting and spinning groups in the area.  I am making new acquaintances, hoping some will fall into comfortable and easy friendships.  I am good in the daylight, but in the middle of the night I am wide awake and full of worries.  I find myself missing my old friends, my old students, and the safety of a familiar life in Dallas. In the middle of the night I am lonely and scared of death, and wonder to myself, “What in the hell was I thinking?”

There is a Mary Oliver poem that keeps me going:

I WORRIED (by Mary Oliver)

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was i wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And I gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.