The Tao of the Sweet Spot

DSC_1802 For the house concerts I host featuring artists like Chris Smither, Aoife O’Donovan, The Black Lillies, and many others over the years, I now have a large canopy tent so there’s no longer any anxiety about weather. The tent is a gift from a late friend bundled with donations from house concert regulars, but that’s a story about community for another time.

This isn’t one of those accordion tents you set up while tailgating. It’s 30 feet by 50 feet, a huge erector set with a heavy white canopy. You put it together on the ground and then three or four or five very large men basically clean and jerk one side, holding it above their heads while the lucky helper runs around and sticks posts in the corners. Then you repeat with the other side. It’s heavy. Very heavy.

So I usually have a handful of guys from the tent company that sold me the used tent slip by and moonlight helping me raise this monster.

However, there are festivals everywhere this week and my guy said he didn’t think he could send over a crew to raise the canopy for Saturday’s show with Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs. I have put the tent up with help from friends, and those friends will be called upon this week.

Work — the writing — could wait this morning. I always feel better, the earlier I get ready for a Saturday show. I decided to see how much I could get done solo, partly as a foolish exercise in strength and problem-solving.

DSC_1801It proved to be a lesson — a reminder — in focus, patience, and making subtle adjustments.

I started by laying out the pieces for the perimeter, as I always do, the four corners, the two 15-foot end poles on each end, the two 15-foot and two 10-foot poleson each side. Then, using a combination of ladders, I began building the crown of one end, first attaching the long corner struts to the pinwheel at top, then working my way to the side struts. Each pole slips over the connector and is secured by slipping bolts through the matched holes.

The poles flex a little. The holes don’t magically line up. There’s play in some pole-connector matches and friction in others. Try to muscle a connection, though, and you end up getting stuck.

So it was slow work, climbing the ladder to cajole a pole to twist this way, then going back down to adjust it at the other end. Cause and effect. Again and again.

Then, sometimes more anguished than you’d like, sometimes more quickly than you expect, your patience and subtle, attentive nudging earn their reward. You unlock the sweet spot, the pole finds its proper place, and the bolt slips in, securing the connection.

DSC_1800 A simple task, but a subtle metaphorical reminder to focus, relax, and let things unfold.

By lunch, I had worked up a sweat and persuaded the five crown poles and all the perimeter pieces to slip into their assigned spots.Another couple of hours and I’d have all the erector pieces in place, ready for help from friends attaching the top. Now worries about being ready for what’s ahead.




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