Table of Contents


Calligraphy. I lived in the slowly warming waters of Harmonizing from 1979 to 1991. Except for the very end I found ways to keep my sanity, to keep a foot on the ground outside The Community, kinda like keeping my fingers crossed behind my back: I'm not really here, I'm just playing along. Two Boulder businesses were especially helpful in this regard: Mataam Fez and Naropa University. At Naropa I studied calligraphy and book arts.

The great hands. Not Tibetan calligraphy, though they did teach that; mainstream Western calligraphy. Over the course of a year I did a cycle of classes that moved through the great European hands in historical order: Roman capitals, Roman rustics, uncials, half uncials, merovingian, carolingian, gothic blackletter, rotunda, humanist and italic. Barbara Bash was an excellent teacher: clear, encouraging, demanding, and humble. She's also a world-class calligrapher, among her many talents. All her classes were hands-on. We learned about calligraphy by practicing letterforms and creating projects.

Apprenticeship. After I finished the yearlong cycle I took on an apprenticeship of sorts: I volunteered to design flyers for all-campus lectures given by Naropa faculty and visiting dignitaries of Buddhist studies. These happened several times a week so I got lots of practice. At the time I was considering calligraphy as a part-time career. I did try that for a while, but I soon realized I don't have much talent for graphic design. I had fun at Naropa. I developed an artistic skill at a basic level. I let myself have the freedom to do something in Boulder that had nothing to do with TH or Harmonizing. It was a godsend.

A waltzing fool. As a volunteer poster boy I had the perk of auditing Naropa classes for free. I was drawn to Bill Douglas's music classes and sat in on many of them. I even learned a couple of his rock etudes. One day Bill played this song for us.

I was transfixed. I fell in love with Chet. His wistful cover of Mel Tormé's Born to be Blue came back to me over a decade later when I was getting Waltz etcetera going. I knew I wanted to dance to that song, to that kind of music. It didn't fit any of the dance rhythms I knew. It has a slow beat, about 70 bpm, but each beat has a triple pulse. There's an underlying 1-2-3. Much later I learned about compound meters like 12/8. In compound meters each beat is divided into three microbeats. In most cases these microbeats are way too fast to waltz to. But the music begs to be danced to. I was determined to figure it out, and I found a way to dance to compound rhythms based on slow quick quick, a rhythm I knew from foxtrot. You have to time shift the quicks a bit, pulling one and pushing the other. We called it blues foxtrot or blues rumba and taught it for years. When I made my way to tango I found a more developed version of the same thing: tango vals, tangoing slowly to fast waltzes, mostly on the ones but with lots of sophisticated musical play on the other microbeats. Waltz (including tango vals), 12/8 blues and 12/8 anything else are my home ground in dancing. I am a waltzing fool, in love with triple time.

Content. Calligraphy is an empty art. That's a contradiction in terms, in my understanding of art; it's not noble. So maybe craft's a better word. Calligraphy is decorative, and decoration has no content; the content is whatever gets decorated. The content of calligraphy is the message someone cares enough about to take the extra step of decorating it with calligraphy, whether that someone is the calligrapher or a client. Barbara taught us we should never obscure the content.