What is Territory? Part 1

Old Coos  Bay

On my old laptop, my screensaver says

“You’re not mapping anymore.  You’re on the territory.”

It’s a quote from my former therapist, that I wanted to see every day to  remind me that planning for an experience can only take one so far.  A good map is useful, but it is not the territory. The territory is lived experience.

Territory:  “a field or sphere of action, thought, etc.; a domain or province of something.”

In 2009, I was invited to present a concert at the Oregon Coast Music Festival in Coos Bay.  I wanted to create something special that connected to the community, so I did some research into its history, or the region and it’s inhabitants.

At the time I was in the process of putting together a new band, one that would explore material not usually associated with jazz, but music that embodied a kind of meaningful essence, music of John Lennon, Bob Dylan,The Neville Brothers and Keith Jarrett.

The music inspiration for this move was a recording by drummer Brian Blade called Mama Rosa, one of the most beautiful records I have ever heard. Brian singing his own original songs, poetic stories along the lines of my favorite songwriters, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor.

Here is a track from that album

So I started a band called “On the Territory,” and our debut in Coos Bay was one of the most rewarding concerts I’ve ever played.

The why is pretty obvious.  Because it was not just a generic performance, because it was  connected to the people and place that it occurred, it  allowed me to come to know a new place in a way I never would have had I just showed up and played.

It was a wonderful process of discovery.  Here is one  of the gems.

Coos Bay poem
Grace McCormac French, born 1881, Marshfield, OR

I live in an inland valley
But my heart yearns for the sea.
I come from a race of sailor men
And they left that love to me.
Fog enfolded all the landscape
On a cool October day
And my thoughts began to center
Round my old home on Coos Bay…

And then – I heard a steamer whistle
As it left the lower bay,
Yet I knew ‘twas the noon time signal
In a town six miles away.
But to me it seemed to say
Come back, come back you wanderer,
Come back to old Coos Bay…

I know – I’ll hear the sea gulls screeching
When my ship sails in the bay
Past the cape where stands the lighthouse
And the cliffs all wet with spray,
Then my happy heart will say –
You’re home, you’re home, you wanderer,
It’s home on dear old Coos Bay.


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