Planes

 

 

“I hope they don’t cancel the flight.”

Ha. Of course they cancelled the flight. And of course I had my day planned around it not being cancelled and everything going just as I had planned, down to the hour. Arrival, cab ride, grocery getting, sitter arriving, dinner plans.

Ha.

And of course all of those things fed into my schedule for tomorrow. Now we can’t get out until late tomorrow afternoon.

Ha.

There was a time when I’d have come completely unraveled by such a thing. But if there’s anything I’ve learned you can do exactly zero about, it’s weather and air travel. I just wasn’t wise enough to know it’s easier to give in and go with it until, well, maybe today. I would normally grit my teeth through it all and lament having to rearrange my schedule, life, and whatever portion of my brain that deals with these matters.

I told myself at the end of 2017 that I would work on becoming more emotionally healthy and getting my priorities in order instead of making any tangible resolutions for 2018, that my goals to do this thing or that project weren’t as important as learning how to enjoy life along with the doing of life. I don’t know how well it’s going really, but I am actively pursuing working a healthy dose of everything’s gonna be all right into my psyche. I am not wired that way. And I dare say that my myriad anxieties have propelled me into action – necessary and productive action – many times, so I can’t tell you that my list making and worrying hasn’t served me – it’s not all wasted energy and walking around obsessively rubbing my hands together. But I’m trying to get it all in better perspective so that I don’t end up wishing I’d enjoyed my life more when I look up and find my days in short supply (and who knows when that will be). There are already probably more behind me than there are ahead.

After I hung up with the airline, I rescheduled what I needed to reschedule, and thought about all of the ways that leaving tomorrow is really better than leaving today. Because why shouldn’t I do that? I’m grounded here either way, and this day will pass whether I’m fretting about something or not. I’d prefer to not. There’s nothing I can do about planes, but there is something I can do about me.

 

Happy Monday and happy travels,

AM

 

recess

Or reprieve, release, interim, delay, pause, respite. Whatever you want to call it, I didn’t notice that I hadn’t done my weekly post until late last Monday. When I did, I didn’t have time to stop and put my hour in — we had plans to go out for dinner. I’d gotten some big (good, work related) news that day and my attention had become a laser toward what exactly to do about it, because even if there is a delightful development, some thought usually must follow in regards to what step(s) to then take. The house was bustling with guests and John Henry was on spring break and it was a somewhat pretty day in Tennessee. A lot of life was happening, and I simply forgot.

I hate not living up to an expectation or obligation, anything I’ve made a commitment to do. Even this, that I’ve only agreed with myself to do, is important to me. What is the saying? We are what we do consistently? I’m a creature of habit like most other creatures, and I find that I constantly need to push myself to elevate those habits, even if in only small ways. In short, I don’t like to let myself up on anything. I guess it goes without saying that such a practice — of holding myself accountable and to a standard — makes me, at times, a task master. I hate that. It’s not that much fun.

So I let it go and promised myself I’d return today. And here I am. But what happened in the interim is that I tried to apply the “just because you let one thing slide doesn’t mean you’re going to be neck deep in dirty dishes and laundry and that you’ll never write another word or produce another thing and you will die sick and poor and unaccomplished,” concept to other areas of my life. Just for a week. I didn’t purposefully work on anything but enjoying my son, enjoying my friends, (really) being present in my home, appreciating the scenery, reading an incredible book, and being grateful about the news mentioned in the first paragraph (I’ll reveal soon, promise) and just how ridiculously good my life is. It felt much nicer than whipping my own ass all the time. Maybe there’s something to this concept of balance, because lo and behold, a song flew out of me on Saturday. I wasn’t even trying, I was just inspired. It was a good lesson for me, because I know there is absolute truth in the idea that if you don’t put in, you can’t take out.

Happy Monday.

AM

seasons

I like the turn from warm to cool. Fall, more than spring, makes me think of fresh starts somehow. I suppose it has something to do with my memories of school — how a new notebook and a fresh pencil can make every possibility possible. I love jackets and coats, wool socks and sweaters, curling up in front of a fireplace to read, sew, or watch a movie — I love big pots of soup and chili on the stove. I love to sit with an idea and think a while, with no sun beckoning me out of doors. There is no season so romantic and for some reason, no season that makes me more eager to hunker down and work.

But damn. There comes a time when my skin is parched and dry and too pale for even the likes of pale skin lovers, when all the recipes for heart and soul warming soups are exhausted, when the sweaters have grown limp and tired and need putting away, when I’m tired of dreading going outside because I don’t want the chill to get under my skin and wrap its metallic fingers around my bones, when I’d rather set fire to my parka rather than put it on one more time, when I need some space and air and a breeze instead of close quarters and gusts. There comes a time when I need a sliver of hope that I will see the sun shine again. By this time of the year, I’ve usually all but forgotten that it will ever come out and that I’ll soon be lamenting the hot, sticky, heat.

Then the turn comes. Finally.

This isn’t a post about the weather. Not really. Only one about there being seasons, in some way, to every situation. Micro or macro, they’re there, just as there are temperatures and colors. I am in a cool, grey/blue phase right now, for instance, incubating ideas and trying to take life as slowly as it will allow. Will my pink, orange, and red return as the days grow longer? Tick tock.

Tick tock indeed. I am not unaware of the season of my life. I’d say I’m somewhere in mid-July at the moment and I’m on my way back from vacation. Heat both rises and bears down, asking for permission to take up residence in my belly. I prepare to reach toward it from my head and my toes and to soak up all the inspiration it offers. The turn. There is always the turn.

 

Happy Monday,

AM

prime

 

Thinking about numbers for too long can make me dissociate. It’s not that I have a problem with math — I actually like math and the perfection and reliability of numbers — its the infinite that makes me nervous.

 

When I was a very young girl I started to drift away from myself in my mind from time to time, some sort of defense mechanism, yes, and did so by imagining, involuntarily, that I was lost in space and floating endlessly away from my physical body. Go ahead and have a field day with that one. The reason I mention it to you now is because I was thinking about prime numbers today and the more I thought about them the more nervous I got because there is no end to them, or any numbers really, and not every number can be accounted for, ever, and on and on. I started to feel that lost in space feeling and made myself turn away from the wormhole I was about to enter.

 

Then I thought that some people are like prime numbers. They aren’t composites and can only be divided by 1 and, of course, their very own self. They are contrary, uneven, known only to their group and don’t work well with others, especially not the rounded off, kind and agreeable numbers. Primes are hardheaded and inflexible. They are staunchly independent and never apologize for standing apart from the crowd. Can you imagine a regal prime number wishing it could shave a little of itself off so it would fit in? I can’t. Primes are beautiful and edgy.

 

I decided to turn away from that wormhole too. Shoot, it’s only the beginning of the week. But who knows? I am an admitted glutton for punishment. I may return.

 

Happy Monday.

AM

time

When the end of December 2017 came too quickly, I decided that one thing I wanted to do in 2018 was write something in this online journal once a week. I told myself I would do it every Monday — it would be a good start to the week or a good end to the weekend, a thing done, a message communicated, and a way to keep my writing muscles flexed if I wasn’t working on anything else.

I quickly decided, after becoming bogged down in post after post and trying to make them perfect, to only give myself 1 hour to complete the process from beginning to end.  That didn’t mean I couldn’t think about what I wanted to write about or how I would do it ahead of time — I make notes about topics that interest me on the regular and often look through them if for no other reason than to keep myself familiar with all of the things that run through my mind, and specifically the things that I feel are interesting or important enough to write down — but the writing process would only take 1 hour. I even set a timer to prevent perfectionism from taking over.

Yesterday’s to do list included, “online journal post,” as it does every Monday. But I didn’t ever get to my hour. I didn’t get my post written.

Mondays can sometimes be ridiculous days. One would think that the life of an artist wouldn’t be so dictated by what day of the week it is, but I suppose we’re somewhat conditioned, like most people are, to think we need to get a lot done, to think we need to get a jump on things or make a fresh start. Truth is, any day can be a ridiculous day.

I had a plan. Last week involved quite a bit of travel and stress for me so I wanted to do something grounding and comforting. I decided to delve into my new favorite cookbook, “How To Eat For How You Feel,” which is based in Ayurvedic principle, so I picked a few recipes yesterday morning and headed to Whole Foods. I normally get my groceries delivered because I can and because it saves me time and hassle, but I actually like picking out my own food and I decided I could devote myself to the whole experience — picking out a recipe, making a list, walking to the grocery store, unpacking my purchases at home, cooking, and then sitting down at the table to sample my efforts. Well, it took hours. I tend to cook a lot when I’m home, but I was reminded why I like the little app on my phone that allows me to skip a few steps on the way to supper, bruised apples or not.

There is so little time.

A text exchange with one person can suck 30 minutes out of the 18 hours or so that I am awake. Then I have only 35 30-minute increments left. Throw in all the emails, travel planning, business doing, laundry folding, bed making, suitcase unpacking, mothering, therapist and school communication, friendship keeping up, relationship maintenance, showering, dressing, hair brushing, moisturizer applying… good lord. The minutes seep out of the day. I look up to see the backsides of hours departing like high-speed trains leaving a station. Trains that will never be seen again. I want to shout, “Come Back!” at them. I want to tell them I didn’t mean to let them go. I want to tell them I’m sorry I squandered them on emoticons and pressing the delete key over and over, I want to tell them I’m sorry I didn’t fill up each one of them with deeper thoughts or at least some that would help me toward peace. I want to apologize for infusing even one of their minutes with anger or sorrow or tears or frustration. Those minutes do not deserve such treatment.

I did make some good use of the day, however. I did learn to make a delicious, warming, grounding vegetable curry and cooked my first mung beans. I didn’t use ready made brown rice to go with it but instead the kind you have to put in the rice cooker. Some things do take time. And sometimes taking time is worth it. The truth is I love to cook, especially for people I care about. I am lucky that I can cook for people I care about. I am lucky I have people to care about and that give that care back to me. But I beat myself up at the end of the day for never getting to this, this thing I told myself that I’d do, this thing that is important to me. So this morning I got up and thought about what I needed to change today to prevent my hours from leaving without having looked them dead in the eye, without them knowing I acknowledged them and gave them all of the meaning I could. And I’m not sure yet. Life isn’t like that. Just because I make a to do list doesn’t mean something unintended isn’t going to come sliding right into the middle of it, taking my focus away from what I’d planned. But I keep whittling away at it, always trying to work toward what matters, carving out spaces for the work that’s important to me and getting rid of what doesn’t serve my priorities. Yesterday I suppose my priority was cooking. It’s a good thing I have leftovers, because voila! My hour is up.

Happy Tuesday,

AM

 

PS – hourglass courtesy of The School of Life.

vanguard

When I was twelve years old, my Daddy made a cassette recording of our family singing and playing music together. My sister and I have both spoken about his recording us when we were young, that he had a reel-to-reel recorder set up in the house, and that playing music at home and in public when we were children was a regular part of our lives. But by the spring of 1985, things had ramped up. Sissy was emerging as a real vocal talent and her desire to make singing her life’s work was growing. We recorded several songs on her jambox and Daddy put a label on it, as if it were a real record, with one word on it. The word was VANGUARD. I didn’t know what it meant then, so I went straight to our dictionary, as was my custom.

 

Vanguard: 1. the foremost part of an advancing army or naval force. 2. a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas. 3. a position at the forefront of developments or ideas.

 

Hubris.

A little grandiosity never hurt anyone, though. At least when it comes to making art.

 

+++

 

My sister and I completed our touring cycle for “Not Dark Yet,” on Saturday. There is a marker there for us, not only because we both returned home musically in a way by doing the project together, but because we made the record at all, because we went through the process hand in hand, and because it brought us closer than we have possibly ever been. The release and subsequent activities plus touring came with the same old set of thrilling victories and astonishing hardships as our individual releases have, but we each found more gratitude within them, mostly because we were together. Now, having completed that process for at least the time being, my mind turns to what comes next.

 

We sat close to the stage for the 1030PM performance of The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, a group which is not filled with youngsters, at The Village Vanguard last night. They were so incredibly adept at their jobs — they are masters, really — and clearly took their work seriously. Who knows what each individual member had on their minds as they sat and worked their way through tunes that could simultaneously make me think of traffic and the ocean at the same time — I know my mind will sometimes wander to inexplicable topics during a performance — but as each one stood to take a solo, they gave it their every cell. They sweated, turned red, and turned up. I smiled like an idiot through the whole thing and can’t recall the last time I was so happy seeing live music.

 

I said on the cab ride home that the cruel joke of life is that you’re old by the time you figure out how to really do a thing. It doesn’t take only 10,000 hours. It takes openness, a willingness to turn up no matter what, even when all of the possibilities for stardom are dead and gone, even when you don’t have a thing to gain but knowing you’ve put yourself forward in a way that shows the world the heart you’ve got. If a tree falls in the forest, yes, I believe it does still make a sound. And I believe that if a horn player blows the best solo of his life in front of an audience of 98 people when he is considered past his prime, it still got played and it’s still the best solo of his life.

 

I am forty-five years old and am just learning how to sing and write. My job is harder than it has ever been. But seeing those players last night made me appreciate how much I appreciate learning and trying to get better at whatever I’m pursuing no matter the form, and appreciate how exciting it is to know there is always a way to gain ground, even if it’s just the slightest difference that isn’t perceivable to anyone but me. That is new, THAT is what comes next, that is the dangling carrot that is making art, and that is the vanguard.

 

Happy Monday.

AM

 

 

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

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

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.