There is an Eastern legend called the red thread of destiny, or fate. The myth is that there is a red string tied around the ankles of people who are destined to meet or aid each other through life in some way. It may tangle or knot, but will never unravel or become untied.
Interesting that I chose to sew with red thread this week, and am drawn to it constantly.
I didn’t get to sew for as long as I wanted today, but still a stream of people came in to see what I was doing in the window with my red thread and turquoise jersey.
Later this evening, a group of women gathered on 7th street at the home of Lisa Fox for a potluck dinner to celebrate Makeshift and community. Lisa’s home is the defacto clubhouse for a sewing circle of six women who come together as often as possible to stitch, talk, and slow down for a minute together. I am happy to say that I am part of the group and these women bolster me in a manner that is rare. They are smart, soulful, experienced, talented, and most of all, full of heart. They are tireless in their individual searches for what really matters in this life. We share losses, victories, questions, laughter, warmth. We share our lives together when we are brought together by thread, no matter what color.
I work the red thread for them this week, and for every woman who has stood behind me, beside me, or pulled me along in this world. For all of my many blessings, I count this one of connectedness among the greatest.
I’ve been working on a swing skirt in cream on cream facets since last summer. It’s four panels and I’m almost to the end of the third one. I’m usually quicker to finish projects, working away diligently until I’m done, but I’ve had a lot going on lately so I’ve limped along on this one. However, it is completely out of character for me to begin a new project before I’m finished with the last one. But there I went yesterday, starting a coat kit in turquoise before the cream skirt was done.
I wondered what had happened to me. Where did my sense of order go? How dare I put even one stitch into a new project?
Then I realized we’re never finished, we just stop working. Or maybe we sometimes just need to move on to the next thing and let in a little color. Sometimes we get bored with cream.
Oh, I’ll finish the cream skirt, and soon. It was never my intention to let it sit there, neglected and incomplete, languishing in my sewing bag. But I wanted something brighter for my project, so out came the turquoise. I wanted to sew the turquoise with red thread in Lisa’s shop window. Lisa’s shop window called for color.
People like color.
Four-year-old Lily liked color today when she walked by the window with her Daddy who owns the coffee shop four doors down. She picked up my red tomato pin cushion. She handled my silver stork embroidery scissors that I tied a length of light blue ribbon on so I don’t lose sight of them. She held my spool of red thread in her tiny hand and looked it over. I asked her if she’d like to learn to sew. She said yes, then she left and pulled her Daddy back down the street by the hand while he stood on his skateboard.
A lady with a camera hanging around her neck liked color today when she passed by, stopped and gave me a huge smile and thumbs up and said “Hey! That’s nice!”
Redheaded Ellen liked color today, too, so she came in and told Carrie and me about her idea for a modern day version of chastity panties. She said the hook was “giving in without giving it up.” She said there’d be a jewel here and a high-waist there and seams and all kinds of things that made me blush and reach for the $2 fold up fan I keep in my bag for just such moments. I’m afraid I’ve got enough southern belle left in me to sometimes need to collect myself and feel a cool breeze on my face upon hearing certain words. She asked me if I’d make the prototype. I politely declined, but told her where she might get such a thing done.
We’ve all got color in us. And some days, when it is required, we put the cream down and pick up the turquoise.
He walked in looking for the cigar bar that used to occupy the space where I sat just inside the door, right at the window, making my quilting stitches. He seemed confused. He asked Carrie, who manages lf8, where it had gone. She did her best to direct him toward the new locale for the stenchy establishment, and as he turned to walk out he took a quick look around the shop and at us and said, “so what is this now, woman’s work?”
Carrie and I both laughed and said yes, we supposed it was.
Woman’s work. Work for a woman.
I don’t know about y’all, but I work pretty hard and spend very little time being pampered or sitting on my tuffet eating truffles. And the same goes for every woman I know. I’ve got a four-year-old son that has made me physically stronger than I’ve ever been before in my life, and I’m a singer/songwriter, so that means I’ve spent years throwing instruments around and have moved my share of amplifiers and cases, and have even loaded a van or two. I may not look like much but I’m no delicate flower. Yes, my hands are nimble. I can make nice, even stitches. But they can also wrap around the neck of a guitar, wield a hammer or wrench when they need to, be firm guides for my little guy, or solid sisters for my friends.
They do woman’s work all the time.
I suppose I could have been mistaken for someone not quite so dimensional, as I sat in the pretty blue chair that Lisa Fox, proprietress of lf8, put in the window for me to sit in while I worked the red stitches into the turquoise Alabama Chanin DIY coat kit. The cigar-hunting man didn’t know that I was finding rhythm in my labor of supposedly feminine art as I loved my thread and worked it in and out like I was taught to do by previous generations of women. Women who did woman’s work. He didn’t know that I was finding songs, poetry, and most importantly, quite possibly, a few non-gender specific thoughts there. But I was quiet as I sat and sewed. I was serene. I was being seen and not heard.
Woman’s work. Work for a woman. I could make the woman’s work list right now but I’m not going to. I’m just going to shake my head, smile, and know exactly what a woman’s work is as I remember that sometimes it’s just when you think you’re getting somewhere that someone comes up and wants to blow smoke.
There’s something about being born in the south that you just can’t shake. It never leaves your blood, no matter where your life may take you. I’ve been all over the world and still have Spanish moss hanging all over me. It’s in my vowels and dropped g’s, in my gestures, in my tendency to want to monogram anything that will stay still long enough, in my longings, in my music, and in my dreams. Someone asked me once how long I’d lived in New York City, and when I replied that I’d lived here for years, he asked me how I hadn’t lost my accent yet. I told him I couldn’t if I wanted to and that just for the record, I did not want to.
I’m celebrating it all with 75 minutes of music at Joe’s Pub on May 22nd. I’ll have a killer band with me and we’ll work out some of the best songs about the south, new and old. I love where I live, but I’m proud of where I’m from, and I want to sing about it.
I’m so very happy to report that my new album, my eighth one (that’s hard to believe somehow) is all recorded. There is still plenty left to do, but the part I have the most to do with is done. I’m calling it “Down To Believing,” because not only is there a song called that on it, but it sums up everything the record is about. It all just comes down to whether you believe or not in the end, doesn’t it?
Stay tuned for more news as I get it. I’m hardly in the driver’s seat of the record company decision making vehicle, and honestly, I don’t want to be. I’ve heard for years how much more money can be made if you start your own label, if you do this, if you do that, but the truth about me is, I don’t want to run a label. I think I might know a little bit about how to at this point (emphasis on the little bit), and I give major propers to those artists who want to take it on, but I guess I’d rather take a lesser share and leave time in my life for other things. I’m so blessed to have both a way to make music and those other things. Thanks to all of those that help me in both regards.
Happy almost spring.
I’ll be going into the studio in Nashville next week to hopefully finish up work on my upcoming album. Kenny Greenberg, who produced my first two albums is at the helm along with me this time. We’ve gotten a lot of good stuff in the can already and we’re excited about getting this one done. Stay tuned…
Oh! A song that I wrote with my friend Jeffrey Steele has been in “Nashville” for the past 3 episodes. It’s called “This Time,” and my version is up on the new side of the music page.
See y’all soon.
Hi & Happy Sunday.
Thanks to everyone who came out to my shows this past week. I had a great time reconnecting to you and to myself musically in a way that I hadn’t in a while. I’m going quiet again until after the first of the year, but there will be more shows soon.
I’m so happy to say that I’ve been invited back to 30A this year. If you haven’t been, it is such a good time. Great writers and music and food, and who can argue with the beach in January?
The 30A SONGWRITERS FESTIVAL is a three-day music festival featuring more than 150 songwriters and over 200 performances in venues ranging from intimate listening rooms to spacious outdoor amphitheaters amid a backdrop of brilliant white sand beaches and turquoise waters along scenic Highway 30A in Northwest Florida. For more information and constant updates, please visit the website: http://www.30asongwritersfestival.com/
The new song on the music page is one I wrote a few years ago. The story behind it is kind of amazing, if only to me. I was on tour somewhere in Germany, in a bottom bunk of the bus curled up with my son John Henry, who was about eighteen months old at the time. Touring with a baby was fun but stressful, and I was bone tired.
I don’t know what woke me, most anything can now that I have that mother hear-a-pin-drop ability, but I opened my eyes and these verses came through me in waves. They were in my father’s voice, without a doubt. I felt around for my trusty iPhone so that I could get them down (what did we writers do before the memo pad on our phones?) quickly. I knew they would go through me and leave if I didn’t write them down that instant, much like he makes a visit to me every time I move into a new house; he just comes through and takes a look, then he’s gone.
We recorded it at House of David last summer. I had a 102 fever.
guitars: Kenny Greenberg
acoustic guitar and vocal: me
upright bass: Brad Jones
drums: Chad Cromwell
strings: Eamon McLaughlin
knobs: Richard McLaurin and Adam Bednarik