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

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.12.09
Cobden, Ontario


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."