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John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
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is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.12.09
Cobden, Ontario

JOHN MAHONEY

On blowing my brains out, daily

Earlier this year I tried to reconnect with my inner flute. It felt so good I began to do it every day.

Up front, let me say I am not a musician, although I own a beautiful Gibson Southern Jumbo guitar that I cannot play.

And in my life I have built half a dozen rustic instruments, including a mountain dulcimer, 5-string and 4-string fretless banjos, a banjo ukulele, a guitar-style dulcimer, a Native American flute, and, most recently a Shakuhachi flute from a plastic pipe.

The best I can say is that, although I don't pretend to make music, sometimes I can make a joyful noise.

What happened a couple of months ago was that I found my end-blown, two-chambered NA flute that I built years ago from western red cedar.

The pentatonic scale sounded just as lovely as it had back in the late 1980s.

I started listening again to NA flute music, particularly that of master flutist R. Carlos. Nakai. Which led me to YouTube.com and the wealth of Native American music there.

I moved on to Google, and flute makers, etc. and became obsessed, which is my way when I get interested in something.

Short story: I bought a new F# red cedar flute from Tom and Erika Stewart of Stellar Flutes in Shelton, Washington. It is a beauty.

I now play -- and I use that term loosely -- daily, at least an hour.

At the same time, two other related events occurred.

I bought a small saxophone-like instrument made of bamboo, and I reconnected with Zen meditation.

The sounds I make with the sax -- putting the best ear on it -- are horrible. But not bad enough to quit.

Lotus-position Zen is brutal on my old football knees and I cannot comfortably do it any longer, but the practice of suizen -- Blowing Zen -- with shakuhachi and flute is doable, and wonderful ... just being there and playing your breath. Or being your breath.

I recommend the record/CD Music for Zen Meditation by the late Tony Scott -- clarinet, shakuhachi, and koto. I've owned it for forty years and find it the most peaceful, most centering music I have ever listened to.

No better way to start and end the day.

I think this is my attempt in my seventh decade to connect with the universe -- not to ask for forgiveness or understanding, but simply acknowledgement:

"Yes, there you are, Johnny -- now go blow your brains out."

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