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availability

 

When I return home from being out of town playing shows, I often want to batten down the hatches. I can’t wait to cook so I can eat something I made instead of something from a restaurant, I relish the comfort of my own bed and bedding, I want to immediately unpack my suitcase and launder my clothes, to put all of the little things I carried with me back in their proper places, like eggs in a nest. I want to close the door and not open it for a while. I want quiet. I want stillness.

 

I am not agoraphobic. I like the world, getting out in it, and even quite enjoy meeting new people. But there is a limit. I do extend, but always find myself pulling back, protecting, struggling to find a way to replace what has been spent. As an artist, that’s difficult. Artists spend our lives mining inner territory, making things out of what we find, and offering those things to the world. Once we let them go, there are no conditions on how we will allow them to be accepted. Once we’ve given, we can’t take back. But what comes with that giving? How much is enough? After we’ve done it, are we allowed to limit what is known about us to the art that we make? And are we allowed offer the art only and not have to then expound on it through incessant talking about it, endless cutesy social media posts, and revealing, soul-baring appearances?

 

I think there’s a very good reason why some artists become reclusive and defensive. When one offers everything they can muster from that mined inner territory and allows it to be consumed by anyone who wants to give it a passing glance and, let’s face it — possibly little to no respect, there is a need to keep some things safe and unknown, a need to keep some things highly personal.

 

Why must we always be so accessible? I’ve always, despite putting myself in a position to expect such, been a bit taken aback by an unknown person approaching me for a conversation, photograph, or to recount a story to me in a situation that isn’t in context with my job, as if I am a friend. There’s a paradox at work — I offer myself through my art and if I am successful, I make the audience feel as if they know me. If they then want to act as if they know me, I am taken aback and wonder why they think so. I’m thinking quite a lot about this as I have just completed work on a memoir of my childhood — with any hope people will read it and will then know more about my family than they probably ever wanted to know. I will, in turn, then have to deal with everyone knowing, and acting accordingly. How am I going to live with that?

 

I nod and smile a lot. I pose for photographs and sign things and sometimes absorb what I know probably aren’t meant to be offensive or inane comments, and then I go cover up and bolster myself to do it again in whatever way. I am so lucky to be able to make art for a living and have always considered myself so. I am thankful. I am not supposed to tell you that sometimes I don’t feel like giving more than I decide to. I’m not supposed to tell you that sometimes I don’t want to be asked for more. It’s just one of those push and pull things. And the older I get, the more I find that I have to do a lot of giving in so I don’t give out.

intuition

 

Defined as “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.” The etymology says it comes from the latin word intueri, which means consider.

 

While reading the definition I was surprised to find the word feeling at almost the very end of the second sentence. When I think of intuition, feeling is the first thing that comes to my mind. What is it to intuit? To feel, right? We hear about gut feelings all the time. Isn’t that what intuition is? Something inside of you nudging you toward or away from something? Take this road and not that one. Trust this guy. Don’t trust that other guy. Don’t go down that dark pathway. Don’t answer that email just yet, think about what to say a little bit longer. Sleep on it. Say yes! We use our intuition all the time. We get funny feelings about things just because we do. But are we tuned in as much as we could be? Is it possible to trace the origins of those feelings, that intuition?

 

I told myself that I wouldn’t make any new year’s resolutions that were about producing tangible results this year. No goals have been set for new records, new books, improving my physical body except that I plan to give it more rest than is my natural tendency, no big plans to learn how to knit or even grow roses. What I planned to do, and what I’m working hard at learning how to do is to improve my mental health, to strengthen my relationship with myself and my center, my intuition if you will — to tune in to that inner voice that I sometimes ignore because either I or someone else tells me it’s wrong — so that my actions are aligned with my intentions. I have begun to meditate every morning (mostly every morning, sometimes it’s afternoon before I get to it but I try for the AM), to give myself at least 10 or 15 minutes to be quiet, to reflect, and then to do some quick writing about what comes up. I try to go back and look at what I’ve written through the day. I’m learning to visualize my third eye. I’m learning to breathe (God, it’s hard). I’m learning to take my time and am trying to get used to acting instead of reacting. Of course I’m still a quivering mess quite often, but I’m making progress, however small. I haven’t pursued Buddhism but who knows, I might. I’m still trying to figure out how non-attachment works — I get it, but do I get it for me? Regardless, the most rewarding part of all of it right now is the tuning in. Tuning: “bring into a state of proper pitch.”

 

If I can learn to bring myself into a state of proper pitch, and to better feel and therefore understand my unconscious reasoning and honor it, well, I think I could stay out of the ditch most days. Sounds like the best resolution I’ve had yet.

 

By the way, I’m reading Mark Epstein’sAdvice Not Given: A Guide To Getting Over Yourself.” I love it. It’s all about the ego and how it gets us in trouble. Check it out.

 

Happy Monday.

AM

color

I did the yearofcolour.com thing this morning. My friend Kay, who has a brilliant knitting blog called Mason Dixon Knitting posted hers on Instagram yesterday and I thought it was such a cool reflection. She said that her colors were drab. Knowing that my closet is pretty monochrome and could be considered less than festive, I wanted to see how my year of color looked according to the photos I’d posted there — the tool somehow takes your pictures and analyzes them. Would it be black, grey, and white like most of what hangs on my clothes rail? As it turns out, the answer was no.

I’m intrigued by color as something we react to in a sensory and emotional way. If I think too hard about it, I can begin to be emotionally affected by color by imagining that they themselves have feelings about how much light they can absorb and reflect depending on, sometimes, what light they’re in. Do colors get sad when they’re closed into a dark closet or suitcase because they can’t send themselves out into the world? Color fascinates me and references to it in my everyday language provide endless ways for me to describe my environment both internally and externally. But do I see a different shade of pink than the person who is standing beside me? When I tell a guitar player that I’d like his tone to have more blue in it does he or she think I mean grey or purple? Do you think I’m crazy if I say a sentence is red? Do I need more time with a therapist? Could be…

So what do I see when I look at the circle of dots that appeared in a browser window after I gave this interesting lure by Makelight (and of course I subscribed to their newsletter because it looks like they’re doing something creative though I’m not exactly sure what yet) that I know is gathering data about me permission to look at my Instagram photos? I suppose it could be read as a sort of Rorschach. The first thing I see is the grey in the middle — grey for the winter sky, for the project that I finished last year but has not yet been put to rest, for the way I feel about my professional trajectory at the moment, for the sofa in my apartment, for some of the hair growing out of my now 45-year-old head, for the answers to most philosophical questions. I see more than 10 shades of blue, which must be for my sweet son John Henry, the hue of our eyes, the denim jacket that I sewed patches on for him, the way I feel when he’s away from me for too long. I see just as many splotches of red. Red for heat — we’re a passionate bunch around here though we do try to be measured, red for heart, yes, always red for heart. I want more red. I want more heart. Pink — a color I’m warming to and find sneaking into my wardrobe little by little most recently in the form of velvet ankle boots that make me swoon. There’s black. Black is definite, certain, secure, never ending, solid, and allows no questions. I like black. White is there as well — the color of possibility, also never ending — the fresh, blank page, the brand new start, the dewdrops on blades of grass, the cloud you want to float away on, my sweet almost 12-year-old chihuahua, clean sheets, starched napkins at a fancy restaurant. Black isn’t even a color, they say. Black is the absence of light. When there is no light, everything is black. White is the blending of all colors, but is colorless. But we know black and white are colors, physics be damned.

A few weeks ago I picked up what looks like a fascinating book that I can’t wait to dig into. The sides of the pages are dipped in the appropriate shade for the information the page holds and I just love details like that. But what I love most, so far, having just thumbed through it a bit (I can never resist doing that with a new book even if I can’t begin reading it immediately) is this, by John Ruskin: “It is the best possible sign of a color when nobody who sees it knows what to call it.” When I look at my year of color, I don’t know what to call it but good, and I don’t know what to say about it but lucky, lucky me.

down to believing

egg #2

It’s hard to believe that my first album came out in 1998, almost seventeen years ago.  I’m not even sure I can take that in.  All of those songs, all of those shows, all of the time spent writing, recording, trying to get it all just right…

All of the miles traveled, the inhuman wake up calls, the jokes and the laughs, the sights seen, the wondering if I would ever see a girl again (as surrounded by male musicians as I have been), the utter tedium of the road, the utter adventure of it, too, the broken strings, the broken hearts, the tears of joy and sadness and relief and exasperation, the leaving it all on the stage, the sweat, blood, and insecurity of it all.

What a gift.  What an honor.  What a triumph and a heartache.

It’s not an easy thing to get up and propel yourself to make art every day.  We’re supposed to make it look easy, we creative types.  We’re supposed to make it look like anyone could do it, and truth be told, most people probably could given the right circumstances and inspiration.

Which begs the question, what is it to be inspired?  What makes someone sit down at the piano or hold their guitar and feel like they have something in them worth saying?  I guess artists are a self-centered bunch.  We always feel like we have something worthwhile to say.  It’s our job, really.  To hold up things to the world, to show, to shed light, to share, to join, to induce feeling, and then relieve it somehow.  To get to the very essence of what it is to be human.

I’m happy to still have something to say, and to still have the job, no matter what form it takes in my life.

I guess you could say I’m just so proud to be here (thanks Miss Minnie).

“Down To Believing” means a whole lot to me.  Thank you for letting me share it with you.  Thank you for still letting me share at all.

Love,

Allison

december 14, 2014

I’ve never quite known what to do with myself during the holidays.  As I’ve said many times in my life, when you have no parents alive in the world you’ve got no one to answer to and nowhere to go for Christmas.

I can tell that people hate it when I say that.  They bristle noticeably in reaction to the bluntness of the words that are designed to remind me, and yes, sometimes even them, of the trade off.

Because sometimes my friends complain about their parents.  At times I stay silent when they do, at times I don’t, but the more tuned in ones always look or sound a bit remorseful when they realize they’ve bitched and moaned about something that must seem like a luxury to me.  I don’t want them to.  I get it.  Families can be a pain like no other.  But there is an altogether different kind of pain you get when yours is gone and you have to figure out, for the rest of your life, how to build another one.

I get into the spirit of this time of year really easily.  It’s happy.  I love it.  It’s emotionally loaded for sure, but I’ve gotten used to the lack of tradition surrounding my own holidays.  At the end of the day it just makes me want to celebrate another year lived and to give whatever I can of myself to those that I love.  One of my favorite things in life is to give a gift that is meaningful and thoughtful, or that might have been created by my own hand.  I spent hours yesterday embroidering sweet little hearts onto sets of linen napkins for those close to me who I know would understand such a thing.

I hardly notice anymore that neither my Mama’s or Daddy’s name appears on my gift list.  And that still doesn’t sit well with me.

I was reading the paper this morning when my eye caught an ornament on my tree, a little red haired angel that I bought six years ago almost to the day.  I bought her to represent the baby that I lost just before Christmas that year.  I don’t know when the pregnancy slipped away, but I knew she was gone on December 13th.  I took a minute to breathe and think, sitting as still as a stone, holding my paper, lost in that place that time travel takes you to to.  I then looked for what sparkly things might represent the other parts of me that have flown away, and there were none.  I have no box of ornaments that were passed down to me from the tree we decorated when I was a child.  A lot of things got lost back then.  So now I’m making my own heirlooms.  I quickly reminded myself of that.  And then I did what I do a lot.  I got out my needle and thread.

Just their initials in the red thread, of course.  The red thread that binds us together.

Thank you to those who have kept their red threads tied to me.  I have spent countless December 25ths at others’ tables, decorating others’ trees, waking up somewhere other than home.  Family comes in a million different ways and I’ve experienced at least fifteen or twenty of those.  But my son John Henry is now four years old, and what I do know, more than anything, is that I want him to always know where his home is, who his red thread is tied to, and to always feel the love and spirits that are kept alive and connected in it and through it.  I made the simple heart ornaments with the red initials for him, too.  They are part of his story, they are part of his home, they are part of his Christmas, past, present, and future, just as they are mine.  And they will go in the box of ornaments that I hope to pass on to him one day, that I won’t let get lost.  Because now I have him to answer to.

Happy Holidays Everyone.

Love,

a.FullSizeRender

Blues for Dixie #2

31 August 2014

 

I just got back to the city a couple of days ago after spending a few weeks down south in Tennessee and Mississippi.  I wrote a bunch of songs in Nashville and also caught up with some of my oldest and best friends.  It occurred to me, like maybe never before, that Nashville is home to me.  No matter where I go or hang my hat, it always calls me back.  My people are there, and the songs are there.

 

I recall a conversation I had with a few songwriting friends about what state names sing the best.  I decided that they were Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, maybe sometimes Texas if it’s coming out of the right mouth, and California.  I’ll be singing about some and maybe all of those places next week at Joe’s Pub, on Wednesday, September 10, at 730pm.  Come join me.  It’ll be fun.

 

Allison Moorer

 

 

love,

allison

makeshift may 15, 2014

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.

 photo 1

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.

photo 2

makeshift may 14, 2014

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.

photo

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.

makeshift may 13, 2014

ImageHe 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.

Image 1

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.

Makeshift 2014

Allison is happy to take part in Makeshift 2014, and will be sewing at lf8 in the afternoons from 2-4 on Tuesday, May 13 through Friday, May 16. Not only because she likes to, but because she wants to take part in a conversation about connecting hands, needles, and thread, to make a living art instillation of a person making something, and to also celebrate the work and artistry of her friends Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin and Lisa Fox of lf8. She would love it if anyone who wants to join her would do so.

http://lf8elevate.com/

http://www.alabamachanin.com/