As we round the bend on a year of many things, I was looking at my ring finger. Being old, it takes a LONG time to heal, and about this time last year, I was rebuilding one of my flower beds. We have a large surplus of rocks, otherwise known as living on a mountain, and they make easy garden borders. As I was placing one, the point crushed my finger – right on the nail. About 10 minutes of pain… followed by a year of the nail turning black, and being like that for most of the last year. Now, it is almost back to normal, with only a few changes… an interesting metaphor. What reminds you of what has engaged you for the last 364 days?
For us, this week marks a year of many things. Having started my business in the last big crisis (2008) the first move was familiar – turn off the TV. Very little there was helpful, or within my control… again. I had intentionally stepped away from work that I had found more frustrating than helpful – for me or others. But I had invested in a platform for “fun” – writing about my two passions – leadership and music. Started for a different reason, now it called to me as something that I could engage in, fully within my control, and gave enough structure to the day, but also called for Creativity and something that would continuously emerge: Gratitude.
Van had gone from Them to the horrible experience of Bang Records… and had hits (and money) with both. But the process had left him with unsettled questions of what he wanted now. Astral Weeks and the expert management of his producer introduced him to jazz and opened up a new creativity and joy of performing in the studio. Now he turned back to blues and acoustic music, with members of his group that could flow effortlessly with him, and blended it together into the album that would launch him into… what?
I knew I couldn’t cover Van in less than 2 weeks… and what to tie that into that would be meaningful this week? The next few days’ songs are some of the most important in the history of music, placing him as one of the key voices – singing, writing, influencing – to this day. And I wonder what he was thinking about as he started out on the docks in Belfast – what did he really want to achieve… what would have made him…. Happy? And what exactly is Happiness anyway?
This last year has been a staccato rhythm of things lost, taken away, not possible – and a year of improvisation. In spite of that, what could you actually do, control, not let go of? It is something I work with all leaders on – not externalizing control – and if there was one thing that was easy to do in the last year, it was to let that happen. If you wanted the perfect test of what you can actually engage with that is sustainable, it was that on steroids. And what I realized is that the arc of Van’s music and life through the 70’s would provide a good palate for our consideration.
Having gone through Astral Weeks, I now listen to the Moondance album completely differently. Without that “detour”, the easy piano, the light drum brushes, even the horns that play call and response throughout the album would be hard to understand where it came from. Reading about the studio sessions from both, you are struck with how at home Van was with the setting – good players, a few sketches of what to do, and empowering the players to bring their own creative juices. It is why I picked this picture – you can easily see him moving outside to catch a few private moments to work up something that he would enjoy bringing back inside, through those doors, and back to his team. In today’s offering, a song that will make lists of the greatest songs ever in rock, pop, blues, and even jaz… and inducted in multiple halls of fame.
As you are reading this, my wife is completing exactly 365 days in a row of walking outside for at least 3 miles. I made most of those, with my finger slowly returning to almost “normal”… and would love to tell you that as such, I have avoided the Covid 19 (lbs). Walking was something that was within our control, along with this writing that is now similarly crossing into it’s 2nd year of daily articles.
But even that is not what I would like to highlight today. It is a practice that we have no recollection of exactly when, but we now end the day with a simple declaration. That part of language is something that conveys a future state that may or may not be achieved, but is within reach. It was a simple statement of our intention for Happiness… “That was a good day”. Not great, but good – and it was. What would engage your own daily practice of Happiness…your own Moondance?