Monday, November 15, 2010

Week 8: The next right thing

This week, Julia asked me to think about how I use my time. Ugh. Maybe that's why I feel like I'm in a slump. I always feel guilty and lazy about not getting enough done every day, which is overwhelming and slows me down even more. Spending a whole week contemplating time and goals and every step it's going to take to get there was not fun.

But I kept thinking about the idea she introduced of just turning away from all those big intimidating ideas and fears and simply doing "the next right thing." That is manageable. That is doable. Here I go to do it. Getting a tiny step down the road is a lot better than sitting here discouraged by how long it's going to take.

I did go on a real Artist Date this week. It was cold and crowded, but I saw Chihuly at Night at Cheekwood Gardens. So magical and it surprised and dazzled me just when I thought I'd seen it all. What more can you ask from art? Here's a daytime pic of the Blue Marlins:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What happened to Week 7?

Week 7 explores issues of Perfectionism and Jealousy. I've done some work about this before, but it is always good to have a reminder. I went to Texas and back this week and got pretty distracted and pulled by all the demands of traveling and seeing tons of friends. I kept up with my morning pages, and I'm sure all the lessons were simmering in my subconscious, but in some ways I felt like I took 4 days off from the Artist's Way and that kind of concerned me. So many people have told me that they started reading the book and stopped after Week 5 or that they've started it several times and never finished it. I don't want to be one of those people! I want to do the whole thing all the way through, on time, with blogs to go with every chapter and amazing revelations every week! Wait, wasn't there something about perfectionism in this chapter?

So I gave myself a few extra days on Week 7 and even skipped a few of the tasks. I didn't worry about whether or not I made a giant step forward. I just thought about all I had done that week: played a great house concert, attended a gorgeous Texas wedding, listened to two audiobooks, saw a bunch of wonderful friends, swam in Barton Springs on a 85 degree October day, bought some hot pink feather earrings. I just trusted that it was all happening for a reason and subtly moving me somewhere great. Actually it was pretty great right at the moment. And isn't that really the big lesson anyway? To live in the moment?

One more thing: I'm looking for synchronicity all the time now (little coincidences that lead you along) and I had a funny one on my drive. I was listening to my audiobook and one of the characters served Sweet Potato Pie. It sounded so delicious, my mouth was watering and I wanted it. I talked on the phone to Alison and told her about my craving. I said I'd stop at Cracker Barrel and see if they had some sweet potatoes. She said No, No, they never have sweet potatoes at CB, it's not on the menu. Not even a weekly special? No, she said. I went to Cracker Barrel anyway and can you guess what the vegetable of the day was? (Well now of course you can because I already gave it away by saying this paragraph was about synchronicity. I need to work on saving my punch lines.) Sweet Potato Casserole! With pecans and brown sugar!  Mmm hmmm. So I was satisfied. More like really full cause I had a whole veggie plate with Mac and Cheese and cornbread and and and oops.

So I'm not sure how all this is leading me to my creative destiny, but now I know Thursday is sweet potato day and I'm sure that knowledge will be crucial at some point. Maybe I'll happen to be at a cocktail party on a Thursday with some amazing super-famous singer who says she has a craving for sweet potatoes and I'll know where to got them. We'll go eat and become best friends and write a ton of hit songs together. About sweet potatoes. Yep, I can see it all now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Week 6: Converted

I think it was in Week 3 that I decided that I love the Artist's Way and that I want to continue with morning pages and Artist Dates after I finish reading the book.

In Week 4 I "happened" to have some existential conversations with friends and family. We talked about our religious upbringing and the all-important "What happens when you die?" question.  I heard myself describing my beliefs and understanding of my existence in the terms that I had read in Deepak Chopra and Julia Cameron. Other people were talking about Heaven and Absolute Nothingness and I was talking about my consciousness being dispersed into the infinitely creative universe.

In Week 5, it struck me that if I want to practice this whatever-it-is every day, if it connects me to the metaphysical plane and explains for me what exists beyond what we see and what happens when we die, that maybe this is a religion, and maybe it's my religion. It just doesn't have a name or any particular organization. Maybe that's OK? But what do I call it? What do I call myself? And will I ever have a community of like-minded people to celebrate with?

In Week 6, I was invited by a friend to go to an event at World Music Nashville where Beth Nielson Chapman was performing, talking and teaching. It was free and they were giving away food and wine and prizes like guitars, why not? She played some really great songs, gave some helpful feedback to the people chosen at random to play for her, and spoke so eloquently about the creative process. It was right in line with everything I had been reading and discovering.

And then she talked about how creativity is God and it confirmed for me all the things I had been thinking. And I realized that I was at church. And I was with like-minded people. It was a Wednesday night retail marketing event and I was holding a plastic cup full of cheap Chardonnay and a chicken quesadilla, but I was surrounded by my people. We are searching for fame and fortune and hit songs, but also for truth and the joy and satisfaction of creating something new and beautiful. And we come together in all sorts of unexpected times and places.

And now I don't think my religion needs to be organized in any kind of obvious way. It's flexible and surprising and doesn't need a power structure or rules about who's in and who's out. I like that I can have a spiritual experience hanging out with friends and playing songs, or walking by myself through the woods, or watching kids or seniors perform their hearts out. But I still want a name for it. "Creativity" doesn't seem right. Better keep looking. Or maybe just live for a while with no name. Seems like a lot of trouble has come from naming religions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Possibilities! Week 5

One thing that I've really been having trouble with since I started the Artist's Way is making time for the "Artist Date." This is one of the key elements of the program and you are supposed to do it every week. Basically, it's spending a couple of hours doing something that seems fun or interesting, that might stimulate you or make you think or feel or want to get up and dance. It's supposed to be done on your own and it's supposed to have no real purpose or productive side to it. It's just playtime, exploration.

I have a To-Do list 2 pages long and thinking about trying to get all that done and still have a couple hours left to play, by myself, has not been easy.  In fact 4 weeks went by and I didn't really do it. I'd read magazines for 30 minutes and say that was my Artist Date. Or I'd count my walks, even though I have been walking and running forever and the main reason I was doing it was for the calorie burn, not to gaze at Autumn leaves. I realize this is all me choosing how to spend me time and fooling myself into thinking I can't spare a couple of hours. I procrastinate hours away. I have found time to keep up with Glee, exercise, laundry and dirty dishes, but not the Artist Date. I do have a little tiny side-list of potential artist dates, but when I would look at them, they didn't really seem that compelling. Museums I've already been to and stuff like that.

Week 5 was when I "moved" to Nashville. And in the Artist's Way, Week 5 is about Recovering The Sense of Possibility. When I went to the Nashville Scene website and looked at the Calendar listings, I recovered my sense of possibility in about 2 seconds. I'm in a city! There are all sorts of places to go and events happening! And the site has this great feature: next to each event is a little link that says "Add to iCal." I must have clicked that button 20 times putting concerts and lectures and art openings on my calendar. I won't go to all of them, but they are here. And I could do them. I might just wake up for the "Laughter Yoga Club" or get my black light out for the "Untitled Glow Show." I don't really have a black light, but I could get one. I could do anything and be anyone now!

For my first real Artist Date, I went to the Finals of the Senior Stars talent contest. This is a local Star Search type of talent show for people 65 and older. It was at the Ryman, which in an amazing place to hear any kind of music, and these guys had so much talent and energy and love for performing. I was tearing up at almost every act, I was up on my feet clapping along with the gospel numbers and on the edge of my seat hoping the baton twirler wouldn't miss a toss. It was overwhelming, not just because people were giving their all, but because they were older. Some of them in their eighties and very stooped and still able to produce a lovely alto sax sound or beat a mean rhythm on the spoons.

When the winner was announced, a couple of women sitting near me went bananas. They must have been related to Robert Shipp because they were jumping up and down and screaming and hugging each other like he had won American Idol in from of 20 million people. It was contagious and I was crying and clapping and screaming, too. I was happy for him. He had won $5000 after all. But also he was an old man, taking a chance,  doing something he loved and getting recognized for it. That's worth cheering for.

So I do have a renewed sense of possibility. Not just from the lengthy calendar listings, but also from the senior stars and the thought that it's never too late to chase your creative dreams. Good morning Nashville, here I come!

Y'all check out Robert Shipp's audition...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 4: No words for you

So the big activity or challenge for Week 4 of the Artist's Way is Reading Deprivation. The premise is that as blocked artists we consume other people's creations as a way to avoid our own thoughts or the scary prospect of creating something (that might fail) ourselves. So the task is to spend a week NOT reading and see what happens. Julia isn't too specific about what forms of media are to be avoided. She casually mentions avoiding magazines and newspapers and TV, but the book was written before blogs and email and social networks became such distractions. So I threw those in, too. Also, she several times suggests that you might listen to music when you aren't reading. But as a musician, I recognize that I often listen to other people's music instead of creating my own. So I decided to have musical deprivation, too.

In some ways, this was an incredibly easy week to do this task. Since I had just moved into a new apartment, there was a lot to do so I didn't have a lot of downtime to read anyway. Plus, I didn't have internet set up in the new place so that meant I had very limited access to blogs, twitter, and TV since I only watch Hulu and Netflix. So it was easy in that it didn't take much self-discipline to avoid reading. Self-discipline is hard for me. But there were several times when I'd been unpacking for hours and I sat down on the couch and reached for the latest New Yorker. No. Get up. Go tackle one more box. Go for a walk. Do something else. And by golly, I got that whole apartment unpacked. And I got myself packed up for Nashville.

That's the other thing that happened in Week 4. I packed up my car full of stuff (Not too much, though. I purged, remember?) and drove part-way to my new part-time home. And there were other people in the car and there was a wedding and a family trip to the mountains over the weekend, too. So not much time to squeeze in reading or TV even if I had wanted to. I was way too busy hiking and dancing and toasting hearing about my friends' love lives and travel adventures and job woes. I didn't have a second to miss reading at all.

Music was harder. I listened to silence in the car when I was running errands and several days while I was unpacking. But I did put on some old CDs while I  was emptying boxes. And I put on a record when a friend came over for dinner. And of course, there was lots of music at the wedding. But I think my true break-down came on Sunday afternoon when Alison and I had pretty much spent 48 straight hours together, had discussed everything we could think of, had been driving for 6 hours and NEEDED the radio on. Still, the stations faded in and out as the road winded around the mountains, so we had to talk anyway. And it didn't distract us from seeing a bald eagle swooping over the farmlands of western Virginia, so I think it was OK.

The first chance I really had to go back to consuming media was Tuesday when I had a 10 hour drive to Nashville. I probably would have gone crazy trying to drive 10 hours by myself in silence, so I was really glad I had some audiobooks and music and phone calls (on the headset!) to keep my brain alive. But I also spent some time with nothing playing, because I really see the value of being quiet with my thoughts. And when I got here and spent a day "working" with my 12 different windows open, flipping around between playing videos and checking email and Facebook and music listings, I felt like a total scatterbrain. I want to go back to that place of focus I had last week. So maybe a little bit of reading deprivation every day is in order. If you all would just stop creating such interesting things for me to read and watch and listen to, it would be a lot easier!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This is kinda creepy. And kinda awesome.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Week 3: Nothing dramatic

I was thinking that nothing really dramatic has happened in Week 3 of the Artist's Way. I mean, no dramatic creative breakthroughs. But I did move to a new apartment, so that was a lot of life drama. And it feels good. A new start.

Also, I found myself feeling very confident in my decision-making about the move. I'm declaring things. I don't want that! This chair goes there! The plates must be on the bottom shelf and glasses on top! This feels good, too. I've been so indecisive in the past and it brings me down and wastes my time. I like feeling sure of myself about something. Even if it is just that dresses are on the left and pants on the right. I'm creating my own living space, so I should make it the way I want. Baby steps in using my own power to change things.

After 4 solid days of packing, moving and unpacking, I got cleaned up and headed to the Dream Away Lodge to play. I ate a huge pork chop and a drank a glass of wine and sat in the cozy music room and sang songs. It felt sublime. I felt like me. I like what I do.

Off to donate another box to Goodwill. Then to pack for two months in Nashville. Did I say nothing dramatic was happening?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 2: BirthdayPartyTagSale

So Week 2 of The Artist's Way is about recovering your identity and figuring out how to define your own interests and boundaries. How synchronistic then, that this week we should decide that this big, expensive Victorian house is not for us, and a small 2 bedroom (+ office!) flat in a neighboring town suits us much better. And how crazy that we have 10 days to purge and pack and move. Whew!

So as I was exploring memories of things I love to do and maybe have forgotten through the written tasks in the Artist's Way, I was also cleaning closets and finding physical evidence of those things. Beading, knitting, fabric and sewing patterns, rubber stamps and a ton of other crafts. Camping equipment that hasn't been used in years. Clothes appropriate for nowhere I'll ever go. Games I don't play. CDs I don't listen to. Some of it reminds me that I'm neglecting my interests, so I'll save those things and try to bring them back into use. (I love cooking over a campfire.) And some of it shows how my interests have changed, so those things will go. (In the unlikely chance that I suddenly have an urgent need to put puffy paint on my clothes, I know where I can get some more.)

My birthday came this week, which was also a classic opportunity to look back and think about who I've been over all these years. And it gave me another chance to do a couple other things on my list of "Things I like to do:" Have Guests Over, and Bake For Crowds. Thus was conceived the BrthdayPartyTagSale. I made a huge batch of sticky buns and a big pot of coffee and all our friends and neighbors came to hang out and sift through all the things we didn't want anymore. At the end of the day, we had a sugar crash, $116 more dollars and a lot less stuff. I think I also had a little better sense of who I am. The move comes in Week 3 and I'll probably have to get rid of a lot more stuff once I see how my identity as a "small house person" doesn't really mesh with my identity as "Renaissance woman with 75 different interests." Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I survived Week 1, a hero's quest.

Worked my way through most of the tasks in Week 1 of The Artist's Way and was feeling pretty good by Friday. I felt strong from all the affirmations and because I had identified the enemies of my creativity and sleighed them in my mind. Then, I heard a couple of pieces of rejection. (I won't share them with you. I'm not that strong.)

Uhg! It felt like two steps backwards. Like all that confidence I had built up was just to make me strong enough to stand being shot down again. Boo! So the next day I had planned to attend the Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge Main Event,  a single elimination songwriting contest. I'm not too big on contests, as I've written before. I had actually played this Monday open mic probably at least 2 years ago, maybe 3, and had never been close enough to Boston make it to the semi-annual big contest with a $500 prize. Plus the whole "I'm not doing any more contests" thing. But I did want a chance to hear and meet 21 other Boston area songwriters at once and so I had put my name on the list.

But after Friday's bummers I wasn't sure that I was ready to be rejected again. I didn't think winning was the only reason to go. I just didn't want to get out in the first round. Even though I know half of the people, really great artists, were going to be eliminated in the first round. But I decided to go anyway. I set out on a quest to survive the attacks on my ego that would surely come. Got stuck in a huge traffic jam, took 5.5. hours to get the 120 miles to Boston and was 1.5 hours late for the load-in. You can bet I was chanting to myself "Just don't get out in the first round. Please, God, the power of the universe, whatever I'm calling you today, don't let me get out in the first round!"

I was chatting backstage with some of the other writers and we were having a good time getting to know each other and discussing strategy for the contest. I had been thinking all day what to play first, but had to make a pretty quick decision because my name was drawn to sing 3rd. This also meant that I wouldn't know what the other person in my bracket was going to do. So I decided to go straight to the "big guns" song. The one that I was sure could beat anything else. If I wasted it and had nothing left for later rounds, I would be sad. But I was focused on not getting out in the first round. Can you guess what my big guns song was? I think it's kind of hilarious, but I was under a lot of stress. My Miner. That sad simple thing is what I played and I made it through. Mission accomplished.

I kept making it through round after round and then I got kind of zen about it. Every time I knew exactly which song to play and I started to look ahead and feel sure I could beat everyone I was matched against. I was in the single-elimination-song-contest zone. By the time I was in the final four, I knew I was going to win. It was as clear as day.

It was getting really late, though. 1:45AM or so by the time the final round started. At this point there was a little bit more than just having a good time and not being humiliated on my mind. There was the "I'm gonna get home at 5AM and I'd really like to be $500 richer when I do" feeling added on. But whatever, it's only sleep, right?

So the other guy and his wife played first. It was kind of a political song I think (1:45AM, remember). So I figured I'd play my kind of political lifestyle song and belt it out and totally take it home. I did Grow Your Own. Maybe kinda croaky, but I gave it my all and I walked off the stage, humbly thanking the hard-core audience members and eliminated songwriters who had been drinking now for 6 hours. I gave my competitors a hug, just like the Miss America contestants do, and waited for the judges to announce that I was the winner. I was so totally sure that I won. So calm. So ready to use part of that $500 to spring for a hotel so I didn't have to drive home.

And then they ruled. 2 votes for him and 1 for me. And it was over and it was 2:05AM and I had nothing. But the best part is, I didn't care. I really didn't. I liked what I did better. And not in like a nasty "He didn't deserve to win, I'm so much better than him. Those judges don't know anything" kind of a way. Not like that at all. He was good. He was amazing in some ways. I just really felt that I did my best and for that night my best was good enough for me. And I don't wish I could play or write like him, even if he has contest-winning songs. I got applause and lots of positive feedback and I had a great time being on stage. And that is what I want when I play music, not prizes and titles. And I guess I somehow learned that in Week 1. And I think I have a jump on Week 2: Recovering Your Sense of Identity.

If you want to check out the guy who went all the way to the winner's circle, he's Tony Memmel. Super nice and deserving all the good that comes to him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back in the blog.

What is up with my lack of blogging? I guess that 5 days in a row marathon output really took it out of me for a while. I haven't been doing much on Twitter or Facebook either, guess I'm just having a private couple of months. It's sometimes nice to get away from the chatter. And to keep from adding to it.

I've been doing what? Thinking, reading, gardening, pickling, writing songs, making lists, sewing patches. Went to the beach. Went to the South. Found a place to live part-time in Nashville so I can go to the South a lot more often. Went to the Barney's Warehouse Sale and braved the elbowing and shoving and trying things on in the aisles to get these perfect jeans for only $19.75 that I love and can NOT take off. Like seriously, I've worn them 5 days in a row now.

I started reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It's an absolute classic, always-recommended major work of the self-help cannon, so I can't believe I haven't ever read it. A lot of the concepts are in other books I have read, and I have been doing a kind of morning pages things for a while, but I can already see after a couple of days, that it's going to make a huge difference in my life. I'm discovering things about myself and working through them. See, it got me blogging after a two month absence! It's working already.

Pickle attempt #1

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 5: California!!

We made it!! What else is there to really say? Just a little...

I could go on about the rest of Nevada and the exciting Agricultural Inspection Station at the border of California. Or the way we came down form the plateau, all those thousands of feet that we had slowly climbed over the long days in the Midwest, in 1 hour from Tahoe to Sacramento. But really the best part was driving up to Matt and Sara's house and witnessing Fenway's reunion with his family. 

As soon as he saw Sara (holding baby Patrick) out the window, he was barking and yowling and itching to get our of the car. I wonder if he thought he'd ever see her again. What does he understand about being left, living with new people, then living out of a car that keeps opening up to strange new places? That I can't say, but I know he was happy in that moment, and then all over again when he saw Maggie and then again when Matt came home. There has been so much barking and licking and tail wagging it's no wonder he's snoring away in his new living room right now. 

As for me, I feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. I drove all the way across the country. Not many people can say that. And I brought a dog back to his family. I feel like I should have my own pet reunification made-for-TV special or something. Cue the strings.

So far, Berkeley is really fun. We haven't done too much more than walk around and eat good food (including plums from the tree in the back yard) and look at all sorts of amazing plants that are blooming all around. And the sunset and then the panoramic night view of the city and bridges from a high lookout point. It's all beautiful and happy and I am already scared that I'll like it too much here. But you know what? I loved the Great Salt Flats, too. And if I can love and endless plain of salt, I think I can make it anywhere. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 4

We're at the hotel. Too tired to write much. Today was beautiful and
harsh. Windy, sunny, up and down. Tomorrow is the last leg and I want
an early start. So good night. Fenway is already fast asleep.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 3: Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska, and Wyoming

Nebraska really got the short end of the stick on this trip. I'd already been admiring the subtle, beautiful midwestern landscape for about 14 hours before we got to Omaha, so another 9 hours of the same wasn't particularly exciting. But somehow, with my iPod, Pandora, a new audiobook and a stop for a Runza, we made it through with high spirits. Then it was Wyoming and raining and getting a little more mountainous.

We stopped in Cheyenne for a walk and to look around. It was pretty quiet, not sure if it was because it's Sunday or just a little slow all the time. I liked the gold-domed capitol, though.

I guess we must have been slowly climbing in altitude the whole day through Nebraska because after Cheyenne, I pulled over to a rest stop and discovered we were at the highest point on I-80. It's at 8,640 feet and there is a big Lincoln Monument there. Random, but cool.

Finally to Laramie, cutie little college town, and another motel where Fenway has made himself comfortable. I got to work-out on the treadmill and get some dinner in town. When I got back, I took Fenway out for a walk and it's freezing out there! 58 degrees and windy.

Now I'm gonna sleep. Still 1,100 miles to go!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 2, 790 miles

Ahhh. We are checked in to a motel in Council Bluffs, IA. I wanted to make it all the way to Nebraska, but  the hotels were a bit cheaper on this side of the river, and I can see Omaha, so I feel like I essentially made it. Even so, that was a 14 hour day and we still didn't even go 1/3 of the way. So I'm definitely adding another day to the trip.

For the second day in a row, Fenway was an absolute travel champ.  We stopped less often, but for longer so he got to lounge in the grass, but didn't have to jump in and out of the car as much. The rest of the time he slept and didn't seem to care much that we were in the car ALL day. I'm also really starting to feel like we are on  a cross-country road trip together, not just that I am driving a dog across the country.

My day was kind of emotionally intense because we were retracing the drive I took to and from college several dozen times. It was familiar, but different form the road I've travelled so much as a musician. Then about 2 hours before we reached Grinnell, I heard a Sheryl Crow song and decided to make a Pandora station around her. It ended up being a Songs-Abi-Listened-To-In-College station full of Alanis Morrisette, Sarah McLachlan, and Natalie Merchant.

So then I got to thinking about college and all I've done since then and had my own little awkward reunion in my mind. What's funny is that this summer, on this trip, I really feel more like a 21-year-old than I have in a long time. OK, not my back, which is stiff from all the driving, but in my lack of direction right now. I'm like The Graduate just hanging out by the pool. (Better watch out for an Anne Bancroft at the rest stop!) Since college graduation, I've always had a mission, a goal, but now I'm just not sure what's next. Should I make a CD or just keep writing and trying to get a cut? Should I rent a room in Nashville? Should I buy a house somewhere else? Ack!

So I showed Fenway around the place where I asked myself all these kinds of questions the first time. He did what he does everywhere and then we got back in the car. He's got a family to take care of in California, and right now, my job is to get him there.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 1, In very few words

Can't write much because I don't want another late start tomorrow.  Fenway was great in the car. No whining or barking, perky at all the rest stops, eager to sniff whatever other traveling dogs had left behind. As the day wore on, he was less and less excited to get back in the car at the end of each stop, but who could blame him?

Looking at the map for the rest of my trip, I actually started to get worried for myself. Really? I think I'm gonna drive 800 miles a day for the next 3 days in a row? Huh. I think that would be illegal if I were a professional truck driver. Maybe I should re-think my stops.

But whatever ends up happening,  I'm really going to try to get up early to run and stretch before I leave. Early! Did I say that yet? Don't want to be arriving anywhere at midnight. Early!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Different Trip

I've driven all around this country quite a bit, but I'm leaving tomorrow on a road trip that will be a bit different. Here's why:
1.) I'm not playing any shows along the way.
2.) I'm driving straight through from Massachusetts to Berkeley. This will take me through two states I've never set foot in, Wyoming and Nevada. (I'm also not sure if I've been in Nebraska, but I'll be 7 hours sure after this drive.)
3.) I'll have a huge black lab named Fenway in the car with me. (Photo by my aunt Suzanne!)

It's not a very complicated story. My good friends Matt and Sara and their two kids moved from Great Barrington to Berkeley this month. We met in Portland 10 years ago and have stayed in touch through many moves (Maine, Mexico, Texas) over the years. It was so great that we all lived in the Berkshires for the past 6 months, but now Matt's company has relocated to San Francisco and they flew away last week. The problem was that their huge, old dog wasn't up for a plane trip and they didn't have the time (or patience with a 3- and 1-year-old) to drive across country. Since I have a "flexible schedule," I said I'd drive their car and dog across country. I'm still thinking it will be kinda fun and not absolute insanity.

I'm planning to drive about 12 hours a day and stick mostly to Interstate 80. I figure between me and the dog, we'll need to stop every few hours to pee and stretch, so I'm hoping a few National Parks will be close to the highway.  It should be beautiful from the highway anyway, so I'm excited for the scenery.

I had wanted to listen to some epic book series or the entire catalog of a certain artist, but I couldn't really decide. Right now I have 3 audiobooks and a full iPod, but I'm dissatisfied. It seems to choppy. I want something that will tie the whole drive together. A single narrative. Maybe I'll create my own somehow.

I'm not particularly worried about the long hours of driving. I've done that before. I'm mostly worried that Fenway will be stressed or hot or stiff. He is old and delicate. It's been hot here for the past few days and he is miserable. I finally set up an air conditioner in his room last night to help cool him off. I don't even have an AC in my room, but this dog needed it. This morning around 9am, I hear him yowling and howling like never before. I'd already fed and walked him, so I didn't know why he would make such a fuss. I went in to find that the AC had cycled off and needed to be reset. Really. This dog was desperate for me to turn his AC back on. Things I won't do for myself, and I won't do for my pets, I'll do for my friends' pets. That is so me.

But thank god we aren't driving Matt and Sara's old Jeep Cherokee as originally planned. It has no AC, which didn't really bother me, but now I'm sure Fenway would not have made it in the Jeep. M&S figured it wouldn't pass emissions inspection in California, so another friend drove the Jeep up to their house in Maine. Now Fenway and I are in a new car with AC and low miles and cruise control and we are gonna be fine. I hope.

Now, back to packing and prepping. Fenway needs one more bath before we spend 48 hours in the car together. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Finding a new home

So a couple of months ago there was the first-time home buyer tax credit, and some inheritance and it's a buyer's market, so we decided to look around and think about buying a house in the Berkshires. We saw a bunch of houses with our awesome real estate agent, made lists, got pre-approved for a mortgage and put in a offer on a run-down duplex. We were beat out for that house, but we were not deterred!

I was planning gardens and pricing tile options and meeting with excavators and plumbing and heating specialists. I was planning a blog entry all about it. I would say "that's why I haven't been songwriting much,"  and "I just have to have a guest room in my new house because I love having visitors, like the lovely Jess Klein who just spent 3 days here."

I'll admit that I was worried about how I would write songs, tour and fix up a house all at the same time. Especially since the plan was to try to fix it up pretty quickly so it would be ready to sell whenever we would be ready to move. But I figured that I'd figure all that out somehow. I felt scared, but also really brave and the more other people thought I was crazy, the more empowered I felt.

As I was driving off for a 3 week tour, I was actually talking on my mobile phone to my realtor and Alison about how much to offer for this funky 70's ski chalet on 4 acres of wooded mountainside. And then I drove some more and saw more of the midwest. The space! Then I went water skiing with The Ginn Sisters and felt the heat of summer that I had really missed all last year. Then I got to Austin and saw a hundred houses, little bungalows in bright colors, that I would rather live in that anything I've looked at in Berkshire County. And I'm playing music and listening to great music and seeing all my friends all the time.

Hmmmm. Maybe I don't want a fixer-upper hidden way back on a dirt road after all. There are lots of factors for us to consider that I think we were ignoring. I feel like I've been in a Berkshires bubble for that past few months and I forgot that the rest of the world existed. Ack! I hate making decisions. But this one definitely needs more consideration. I will say that I've heard tell that my greens and strawberries and peonies are all going gangbusters back home, so there is a little part of me that wants to stay there and just garden all summer. But before I do that, I have to go to Kerrville and hear some amazing music,  eat more good Mexican food and Texas BBQ, and then go to Nashville and have fun, be inspired, and get obsessed with the idea of living there instead. It's gonna be a busy week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Action before Inspiration

I can't spend too much time writing this blog. Maybe it's my recent trip to Nashville, or Spring, or listening to Deepak Chopra, but my brain is full, and lately I've been turning all my thoughts into songs. For the past two weeks I've been acting like the disciplined songwriter that I want to be. One that goes to work every morning, creating music and pushing through frustration and laziness. I'm not waiting for inspiration or retreats or that illusive day when everything on my to-do list is checked off. I'm just doing it. I'm not sure yet if any of the songs are keepers, but damn it feels good to be making them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Club Helsinki Hudson

When I decided, a bit reluctantly, to move to Great Barrington, Club Helsinki was one of the things that made it seem like life was going to be OK. In a pastoral county full of Gilded Age country manors and lots of people who want to get away from everything hectic, urban and modern, Helsinki offered some grit, some edge. They presented a constant stream of the best musicians from around the country and weren't afraid to push buttons with burlesque or punk music. And people really loved to hear music in that tiny room. I played a great show there in June to a full house during a dramatic thunderstorm with rain pounding the skylight. Needless to say, when the club announced it would close at the end of August, I was distraught. It felt like there was no place left in the Berkshires that wasn't quaint. And quaint can really wear you out.

Last week I visited the soon-to-open incarnation of Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY and even though it's a 45 minute drive, I'm really excited to frequent the new location. Deborah and Marc (with lots of help from local artisans and a new business partner) have undertaken a huge 4-year renovation on a giant warehouse in downtown Hudson. While the space is much bigger and more beautiful than the original club in GB, the intimacy and quirkiness that defined Helsinki has been carried over in the reclaimed wood interiors, salvaged lighting fixtures, and vintage booths. (Correction. The booths are handmade, too!) Meanwhile, the sound system, lighting, and artist areas are  all updated. There is ample office room, kitchen space, a recording studio, and dynamic event space and giant windows lighting up the cafe. With all these physical improvements, the variety of artists that the club will be able to present is greatly multiplied. They have already started planning classical chamber concerts and a circus. I can't wait to see what other art, be it beautifully sublime or scarily sexy, thrives there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

CYH: I'm so excited!

I am not really a super huge, camp-out-in-line-for-tickets kind of fan for anything except maybe the Dixie Chicks.  This little preview video and the tracks up at Court Yard Hounds website make me want to check back hourly for updates. Who is singing lead? She sounds like Sheryl Crow? Emily? And wow, all that was hidden behind Natalie's voice? How far will I have to drive to see the live show? I'll do it. Yipeeeee! Of course their first show is at SXSW the year I'm not going. It's just too much. I must go take a cold shower.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I miss Europe and my girls!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My friends know how to hit the town

Just got home from 9 days on the road and it's great to be cooking and doing laundry and running around my cute little town (in 54 degree weather)! But the trip was great. Living in a rural area makes touring even more fun than it was before because I get to see friends and hustle and bustle and restaurants and what's happening out there in the rest of the world. So inspiring.

When I was heading South, my friend Sarah sent me a text saying "If you can get here by 1:30, come to the Atlanta Hawks game with us." I'm not a real basketball fan, but she has great seats and I'm not turning down any event where there are crowds. I miss people around me! So we cheered and Sarah pointed out the celebs in the arena. The Hawks lost, but I feel like I know a little bit more about America and that's a good thing.

When I got to Nashville a couple of days later, my friend Emilee who has an "in" at the historic bluegrass club, The Station Inn, talked us in to the sold-out Infamous Stringdusters show. Their special guest that night was Dierks Bentley, a major label country singer with cred in the traditional commnunity. He sings "17 Cents" on the new 'Dusters album and they played that song plus 2 standards and a couple bluegrass arrangements of Bentley songs. They are great musicians all around and the whole set was really loose and everyone - on stage and in the crowd - looked like they were having a great time.

Now I'm home and that mostly means staying home. The only place I'll likely become the Foursquare mayor of is my local post office. That's OK. I gotta save up energy for my next trip.