The Rhythm Method

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Those of you who have listened to Keith Jarrett will understand when I say some of the most evocative rhythms are made of smaller rhythms piled and tumbled and laced and linked and…

If you haven’t listened to his Köln Concert album set, yes we still speak album (and even pop and click and wow), you have missed something exceptional in human expression. We first heard these wonderful expositions in 1983 in Monterey, California aboard a friend’s boat while dining on Fluke Provençal with a few bottles of J. Lohr.

Because our turntable cartridge gave up the ghost (and blew the computer sound card in the process) we bought CDs which reproduce (as well as they can) the vinyl sound. One is playing now.

This trip has been a tumbled pile of links and lacings. It started staccato, with the desire to make miles in the direction of warmth. Go-go-go. It slowed into a friendly 1-2-3, 1-2-3 during a visit with Paul & Joyce, Elizabeth City friends. Then the long pause, with a threnody of angst underlying all, came next.

When we left River Dunes winter had seized the rhythmic meter; it had become wind — right direction-wrong direction, too much-too little, often cold, and warm meant wet. Then 72 hour cycles of rain took over the back-beat. We can’t see well enough for safe waterway navigation when beads of moisture turn our view of the world ahead into something a dragonfly would recognize. It’s worst when the world is painted shades of gray.

Through it all came the tinkling chimes of hand stiffening, nose running, ear burning cold. Weather we would have been shedding clothes to ski in instantly became too cold to stand facing into attentively for hours at a stretch. Our tapping feet and standing jog at least were free of chattering teeth.

From time to time, the deep dub of a bass note has been set by commercial traffic. We did a rondo to dodge some leaving Whiteside Creek. The barge and tow, pushed by the flow needed the space.

Yesterday, we had just fired up Yanmar-sama* for the trip west from Charleston, and Janet called up from looking at the AIS. We had commercial traffic (“Island Pilot”) headed for the narrowest part of the waterway with the worst current, Elliott Cut. A quick calculation and a call to them by name on 13 (thanks to the AIS info) led us to shut the engine down and adopt a little toe tap of impatience (Think of Billy Flynn as he enters his tap-monologue in Chicago — but not as good.) – Brilliant Star and Island Pilot were marching to different drummers, but would arrive at the same wrong place at the same wrong time.

We arrived at Church Creek (a Wadmalaw Sound favorite) an hour later than planned. Further progress was not possible. I checked the weather forecast; it had changed again — 50% chance of rain tomorrow followed by days of sunny chill.

Suddenly, instead of fuming about a gray, twisting, droning day spent darting into the cold rain to wipe the dodger clear, we said let’s zip up the enclosure and move on day after tomorrow.

Just like Jarrett with his fingers hovering over notes that would signal an inventive and evocative new rhythm section, We had hovered over complaining about a new setback and chose a new rhythm instead.

As much as we have things we want to do farther south and sooner than later (and warmer), we think we will be thinking more about enjoying the natural rhythm of getting there than trying to march when a waltz is called for.

[Oops, had to stop for a basil-mozzarella frittata and pan toasted rye-swirl, accompanied by steady rain.]

Tides and currents, moon phase and the sun rise and set will always provide the natural metronome, but the interpretative sections are perhaps better experienced as they come, than forced to fit anxious demand.

*Our Yanmar used to be Yanmar-san. It has earned Sama status by virtue of its reliability.

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