I was working at the circulation desk of the library at the time, fresh in my first semester at CalArts. When I told Kevin I'd never improvised before, he disagreed, saying, "Sure you have. We're improvising right now in our conversation."
Which was how I ended up at the Dizzy Gillespie Recording Studio a few hours later with an alto flute in hand. There was a sheaf of chord sheets on a music stand, while Kevin explained each song with wide expansive gestures as a trumpet player, an upright bassist, and I leaned in.
"And this one--" he pointed at the next sheet. "I'll bring you guys in and then Elaine will take over."
I felt a little jolt at that.
"Yeah, Elaine will take over and then she'll take us to the moon. She's going to go to Saturn and then Jupiter and then bring us all back again."
If you think it all sounds a little crazy, you're not far off. But this absurdity allowed for some trust (which I thought was clearly misplaced at the time) to happen. There was Kevin's (misplaced) trust, but there was also a trust on my part. Trust that he knew what he was doing, and some sort of self-trust that had to happen too.
Although at the time, I only remember thinking that it was a good thing I had been paying such close attention in music theory class. While Kevin was talking, I maintained a very calm demeanor and a thoughtful nod as if this was something I did all the time, skipping over the planets far more nimbly than Holst ever could. I was so experienced at this I always kept a packet of astronaut ice cream in my back pocket.
The whole culture of CalArts is this wonderful, strange trip that needs a lot more time to really understand than I have here. But suffice to say, I came into my own there. One of the best things I learned there was how to say yes. During my time there and when I first moved to Seattle, that was more or less my philosophy. I thought at the time that what I took away from that improvisation session with Kevin was that we need to say yes to open ourselves to situations that wouldn't be possible otherwise.
I've given some thought to the future before on this blog, and although all of that remains true, I've also recently rethought that whole slingshot around Jupiter business.
It's important to say yes in this life, but more than that I want to be someone that trusts people to go to Saturn. I want to create spaces, opportunities, relationships, and moments of trust, if that makes sense. In simpler terms, I want to be able to give more to people. I'd like to be the Kevin part of the relationship, in other words. As I grow older, it's easier to grow more elbows in my way of thinking and to become larger in my own sense of self rather than thinking of others. I believe it was Anne of Green Gables who said most people are pretty set in their characteristic direction once they hit 20 (which was a terrifying thought to me when I first read it). But to allow for growth, to allow for ideas that weren't possible in my life, and to allow for someone to trust me, I think I have to create a space, a thought, and a hand in trust on my end first.
It's a vague assertion, I know. But as I start this new year, both as a 29-year-old and in January, that's what I want to be: someone who's able to give moments that allow people to traverse heavenly bodies.
Because let me tell you, it's something else to be able to skim off Saturn's rings using an alto flute as your rocketship.