Trust Your Compass
When I was a kid, my dad made an excuse of rewarding us for our good grades at school with a trip to Death Valley. Though I suspect, we received some minor evaluation of “satisfactory” or “excellent,” I always secretly knew that my dad wanted to take us anyway and fabricated a reason for doing so.
Despite the name, Death Valley brought much inspiration and warmth during our mid-winter sojourn.
Dad flew us down in our old Piper PA-28 Cherokee airplane, which had dual
controls. With any luck, dad would let me fly part of the way, and with even better luck, my sister, Betsy, wouldn’t get sick when I did. My favorite exercise was pulling the yolk in and out making us fly in a parabolic shape on our way down to the desert. Poor Bets!
We stayed in a low-key motel with a pool, and took hikes in the canyons, where I collected clay. At night, we’d make our way up a mountain canyon to a luxury hotel that made Caesar salads at the table, and even served palette cleansing sorbets between courses. ICE CREAM during DINNER?! Kid heaven!
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” - Henry David Thoreau
a desert muse
Each trip to Death Valley, we also attended a show at the Amargosa Opera House, a quaint and unexpected diamond in the desert. In the late 1960s, Marta Becket, a classically trained ballerina, who danced on Broadway and at Radio City Music Hall, arrived in Death Valley with her husband by a serendipitous flat tire. She peeked into a dilapidated building and decided, at that moment, to relocate to Death Valley and revive the building into a magical opera house.
She painted the walls with portraits of a Renaissance audience to watch her as she performed her one-woman show.
For years, Marta danced alone, the way she wanted to dance, in front of all those painted faces: the King and Queen of Spain, a cast of other various nobles, a bullfighting family and even Marta’s first two cats, Rhubarb and Tuxedo.
Eventually, a real audience came. Her love of her art manifested its own creative oasis in the desert.
As a wide eyed six year old, I took in the lesson that artists can just do what they find interesting, regardless if anyone else is interested. Play. Create. Do what you want to.
Marta danced through her old age and passed away in Death Valley in 2017 at the age of 92. Her opera house and legacy continue to bring inspiration to new audiences today.
Though I now live in Seattle, an antithetical climate to Death Valley, I find a similar attitude in the grunge movement.
Grunge musicians didn’t care about traveling to LA to be “discovered.” They stayed in the rainy Pacific Northwest and played the way they wanted to play. Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana and many more created a movement simply by creating what moved them.
Kurt Cobain knew it well, “Punk is musical freedom. It's saying, doing and playing what you want. In Webster's terms, 'nirvana' means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world, and that's pretty close to my definition of Punk Rock.”
“No one is you and that is your biggest power.” - Dave Grohl (Founder of Foo Fighters and Drummer in Nirvana)
Seal of the Week
Agitée Mais Constante (Wavering, But Constant)
This seal from the early 1800s reminded me of a similar truth. We each have our own compass. As we wander, the needle may appear agitated but in actuality, it reflects a constancy, a knowing of its own true north.
We all have needles pointing in different directions. The key is to honor YOUR own compass. Trust your inner guide. Dance like Marta Becket. Embrace the freedom of punk. Do what you want.