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travel

If you see a pretty building from inside a van while it’s still dark outside and you’re on your way out of town, have you really seen it?

Happy Monday.

AM

obstacles

Don’t we all find our way around obstacles one way or another? I’m inspired, every day, by the persistence of those who know their purpose and pay it the proper attention. Stay warm. Love, AM

PS – Clearly my purpose was to practice alliteration in the second sentence of this post. And maybe even this post script. Okay, I’ve been inside for too long.

routine/ritual

For most of us, the days have a certain order. We rise, wake ourselves up through whatever means, and go about our lives doing what we do. I certainly have my routine. I go so far as to write it down in a big notebook that promises if I employ ultimate discipline to what I do with my minutes, I will see subsequent increased creativity and productivity. It promises me that if I don’t veer off the path I’ve set for myself then I will get all of the little things done and out of the way and my mind will then be clear to be my most creative and even loving because I’ll be happier that I’m not wasting my time. Of course, there are spaces for writing down what I’m grateful for, what I’m excited about, and at the end of the day I’m supposed to write down how I won (this is a little C. Sheen for me but I go with it) and also how I can do better the next day.

I like the notebook. It keeps me on track, aware of how I want and need to spend my time, and keeps me from getting bogged down in emails, little tasks, and the things that can suck the juice right of me and my day. I’d like to keep clear from the distractions of what can sometimes feel like a ridiculous, misguided world obsessed with the wrong things. It also allows me to see the shortness of every day and yes, life. Hence, I have started to not quite but almost obsessively protect my time and the notebook is my security guard. I block out time for meditation, exercise, writing, cooking, even thinking, and it all seems to flow better. But I wonder, have I become an utter bore with this mess? Am I becoming inflexible? Was I ever flexible to begin with? Is all of this necessary? Because I am a human with wide interests and a magpie soul, I think yes for now. I can imagine an older, wiser me that doesn’t need blocks of time allotted for all of the things I need to do in order to not be a failure at life, but I’m not old and wise yet.

Most successful people have a routine, we know that. Even creative people need one in order to be ready to be creative when the notion strikes. We must keep in good practice with our skill sets — for what good is lightning if you have no bottle? Good work is more often than not steady work. One of my favorite books is Mason Curry’s “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.” But today I’m wondering about the difference between routines and rituals. Routines are thought of as boring — activities we do by rote that carry us mindlessly through our days. Ritual is imbued with religious and spiritual connotation. But can routine and ritual meet? I ask myself if I might dig deeper into every activity in order to first, bring real meaning to it and second, figure out that if something doesn’t allow for real meaning if I should really be doing it. Maybe all that is needed to bring meaning to something is to be fully present while in the process of whatever it is. If I am making a cup of coffee or washing a dish or writing this sentence, can I keep the same level of awareness from one thing to the next? Can I have a present spirit and mind while I’m feeding the dog? And if I’m reading a newsletter from some “improve yourself” website because it came to my inbox and I’m zoning out, then shouldn’t I hit unsubscribe?

I’m going to get to my early afternoon ritual of making my favorite winter health tonic and maybe think further about this. If I’m thinking about it, am I doing it?
Oh, how the mind spirals.

Here’s the recipe for you:
Combine the juice from a lemon, about an index finger’s length of peeled, sliced ginger, a tablespoon of bioactive or local or raw honey, a teaspoon of turmeric, and a little cayenne pepper if you please with as much hot water as you want. I usually make a teapot full and sip on it all afternoon when I’m home. It not only tastes good but will also, I think, ward off the scurvy and whatever cold is waiting to jump on you. The cayenne will rev you up in all kinds of ways.

Happy Monday, Y’all.
AM

growth

H. gave me Ursala K. Le Guin’s “No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters,” the other day. We’d arrived in Nashville for a short holiday break together, so I put it in the small stack of books I’d planned to investigate during the time we were there. I was intrigued — I’d never read her before. LeGuin is primarily a science fiction and fantasy writer, and since I’m not particularly taken by either of those genres, I’d only come across her name.

I don’t know why he chose to buy it for me, he couldn’t remember, but I’m glad he did. It’s a collection of Le Guin’s blog posts, a forum in which she apparently finds freedom to air her concerns, thoughts, often very funny opinions, and obvious truths. Somewhere in the first 10 or 20 pages she off-handedly and elegantly suggests that the idea of economic stability co-existing with economic growth is laughable. That you can’t have both. We have a saying in my family for overlooking something that’s right under your nose. “Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a snake ’cause it would’ve bitten me.” I don’t know about y’all, but I love almost nothing more than someone showing me something that I was missing for whatever reason. Even though I’m often embarrased by my obliviousness, it’s such a relief to finally see. In this case, something I’ve heard on the news or read in the paper all of my life, and something that I accepted as a real possibility because the words were familiar, changed. I silently thanked heaven for the ability to read and remembered that’s why I do it. So that I can see a new way to think, so that my world opens up.

I then immediately applied the concept to personal matters. You can’t be stable and grow. You can’t stay the same and change. In this season of resolutions and declarations to improve, it strikes me why it’s so very hard for anyone to stick to consistent forward motion. We cling to what we know, and what we know is often the most comfortable thing. We want what feels safe, even if it’s not good for us, even if it keeps us stuck, even if it tamps down the spirit and ultimately makes us loathe ourselves for not risking happiness and fulfillment and instead taking the well-worn path that might not allow us our complete potential. I don’t happen to think the well-worn path is wrong for everyone. Somebody’s gotta stay at the house. But why are we sold a notion that compromise is spritual death and also told that adult life is, at bottom, about compromise? How can we live as if we’ll die today and also plan to live forever? The cake and the eating it too… (Le Guin also examines this saying later on in the book but that’s another topic…) Do we accept stability and growth as suitable partners because the language is familiar? Do they really go together? Can they?

I’m going to listen to “Always on a Mountain when I Fall,” and wonder why Merle thought climbing wouldn’t be a risk. I’ll just leave this right here.

quiet

I enjoy this time of year, when there is space to sit still, to think, and to breathe. I took this photo last spring while in Colorado, a place that inspires thinking and breathing for me. I was compelled to look at it this morning after I woke from a thankfully lengthy and much needed rest, probably so I would go through my day with a reminder of how much I need quiet in which to do that thinking and breathing from time to time. I hope you all are enjoying some quiet as we look toward a new year. 2017 has been a devil. But aren’t they all devils in some way?

format

Yesterday, I took a photograph on my iPhone of a stack of polaroids I’ve taken recently and posted it on Instagram. It struck me immediately as an exercise in some sort of redundancy, a picture of some pictures, but I humored myself and let my Sunday morning dalliance in art monsterism slide. I captioned my post by saying I was thinking of all sorts of new formats for 2018. I do love the polaroid as a format — it is immediate, but cool in a way that a digital image isn’t and just can’t be, no matter the filter applied. I am no photographer and don’t know the science, but I have eyes and I see that the light is captured differently. And I do think of the polaroid as a harbinger to the instant gratification that is at our fingertips now — except — the images are not deletable. We cannot say that the captured moment didn’t exist just because we may not like it. We can throw away an image we find undesirable, but it will still exist somewhere, even in the trash.

This isn’t about digital versus analog. But what I am thinking of this morning is change, and how much we have to do with deciding what is kept and what is thrown away. I’ve changed so many times in my life I’ve spun my own head around, and not always by choice. It’s ultimately been a good practice, though, and I appreciate having honed the skill, because at this point, I find that I am able to adapt, to pivot, to make it work, whatever it is, most of the time. However, I am no shapeshifter. I am also blessed because there are parts of me that have been so forged in fire, they are as solid as steel. I think about what those things are. The things I like — such as my capacity for love, my curiosity and tendency to ask why, my strength — I hold close. The things that I consider less desirable — my sharp tongue, my impatience, my tendency to isolate in a bid for self-protection — I try to work on losing. But like the polaroid, even if I try to trash an undesirable image of some feature of my personality, it will still exist, somewhere, even if it’s been bagged up and ferried out to a waste dump barge.

Joan Didion said in her famous essay, On Keeping a Notebook, that, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” I suppose that has something to do with staying honest with yourself, not getting above your raising, keeping it real. Sometimes it’s interesting to go back to read an old journal or letter, just to remind yourself who you were, where you’ve been, and who you’ve become. Are we not all moving forward, whether we want to or not? It helps to keep perspective, to sometimes take in the broader picture while we do it.

In my constant quest for improving this or trying to keep up with that, I sometimes forget to keep perspective. So my desired format change for now is, as I realize I am looking at the end of what has been yet another rollicking year, to take things in as more of a whole, to consider every experience and every facet valuable, to quit trying so hard just to get to the next thing and make it all look like I planned it. Even if I don’t like something about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, or who I’ve become, those things can’t be discarded and shouldn’t be. A format is how something is arranged, how something is presented, or made available, right? So ultimately, I have to think that how I feel about something is all about the light in which I see it.

Not Dark Yet coming August 18 on Silver Cross Records/Thirty Tigers

The best relationships between singers are symbiotic yet mystical. They bear the demands of the song and revolve around what it needs without discussion. Whether it’s a shared sixth sense or finely tuned intuition, no one has to ask who takes what part. It doesn’t matter anyway — they are of equal importance when two voices nestle seamlessly into a melody, almost imperceptibly gliding across each other when it’s time to switch. It’s not a trick but a sacred dance.

Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, now with twenty-four albums and Grammy, Oscar, and many other kinds of awards and nominations between them, share that kind of transcendent musical bond. It’s as deep, haunting, knowing, and beautiful as the Alabama woods they once called home. Both sang as soon as they could form words, but music is the only language they have ever needed to communicate with and understand each other. “Not Dark Yet,” offers a glimpse into that understanding for the first time and finally, after years of trying to get it made, at the right time. Produced by Teddy Thompson and recorded in Los Angeles during the summer of 2016, the album provides a potent look at their individual and collective artistry through eclectic song choices from writers ranging from the Louvin Brothers, Nick Cave, Kurt Cobain, and back to Jessie Colter. Shelby and Allison wrap their arms around the past, plant their feet in the present, and nod toward what’s around the bend with a co-written “Is it too much,” to close out the ten-song set.

“Not Dark Yet,” is not a duet record. It is no ordinary collaboration. It is not a creation, but rather a celebration of something that has always been, two voices becoming one and finding home within each other.

THE SISSY RECORD IS COMING IN 2017

Allison and her sister, Shelby Lynne, have finally recorded the album they’ve been talking about for so many years. Stay tuned for more details!

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photo by Sarah Ellison Lewis