27

As I'm wont to do, here are my reflections for year twenty-seven.

There was a lot of talk this year - politically, especially; also in my relationships, old and new.
There was also a lot of quiet - as I drove all around the country, swam underwater, looked upon the path for snakes (literally).
The conversations and empty spaces were born of each other.

My anxiety was both at its worst and most manageable, relatively speaking.

I ran away a few more times than I'd have liked. I drove away from his house in the early morning, the first coldsnap of fall, cursing myself for being open, and oh, what a stupid way to allow other people into my own shitshow. He called. "If you want to deal with it on your own, that's your choice but know it." I didn't realize how much I pushed love away until it asked me to return. 

My most listened-to artists of the year: Ethan Gruska, Phoebe Bridgers, Asgeir, Local Natives, The Staves, Jose Gonzales, Blake Mills, yMusic, Bon Iver, Bill Frisell.

There is little worse than being lied to by people you love, and who love you back amidst all of the things that makes us human.

Simple weddings are some of the best kind, and two weeks with the whole family every year ought to be non-negotiable.

Portland, ME is maybe the most charming sleeper city I've visited yet.

Don't drink the street green juice in Sayulita, Mexico. 

Shower Fresca - game changer.

Nostalgia is real, but nothing stays the same and time cannot be recreated. In fact, time is the only commodity that cannot be bought.

Nobody can do the map making for me.

 

Marrow

Oh, my heart
I have been trying to get close to you
Doing the things that you've wanted to do
Reading the books I've been told by a few
Might bring me to my knees
.
I'm dancing in shadow, finding ways through the deep
Sorting the things I release or I keep
Taking down walls that I built in my sleep
Didn't know I did that 'til I did
.
I'm taking these steps, taking the time
I'm giving it space, I'm taking mine
I'm playing in some paradigm
Of being free
and
Well defined
.
Oh my heart, oh my heart, oh my heart
It's my work, it's my love, it's my art
It's the hardest part of growing
Softer and stronger
Further and deeper in
Way below where skin
Meets blood and bone

I shoot the arrow
Straight into the marrow
And pray and I practice each day to become
More of what makes me
Me.

Back in Nashville after a beautiful summer in California (San Francisco and Los Angeles) and Kauai (Hanalei, but perhaps more aptly the Pacific Ocean). All summer I dunked myself religiously in the sea whenever given the chance or whenever the chance was made. Early in the morning and late at night, I put my head underwater and I grew into a shorter surfboard throughout the course of the summer. There was always sand in the shower, a simple and gigantic joy.

Other fun summer activities included:
-watching my wonderful brother marry my wonderful sister-in-law
-family reunion in Lake Tahoe where I concussed myself landing face first into the lake while learning how to waterski
-YOGA
-writing bits of songs all summer long on a child's nylon string guitar
-hanging out with twin eight year olds I've known since they were born
-interval training
-drinking nice tequila at work

The summer went by in a flash and there are still two days left.

I am happy to be home again in this sweet little home away from home. I am happy to be back with my friends here, the Tennessee sky, the slow pace of life.

And I am wanting more. Always more.

 

Ah, there it is. That sinking feeling. That nagging that begins in the core of the belly and spreads outward through the rest of my torso like capillaries circulating the rue. Rue (n): sadness associated with a sense of disappointment; French for "avenue." In this case it's both - the road of the heavyhearted.

Two years ago I sat with these sensations a lot: the sense of idleness, aimlessness, and the constant need to quiet them with "work," no matter what that looked like. I had just moved to Nashville and had a whopping two friends, one of whom had to like me because she was my roommate and because I bought coke floats for us whenever we drove by Cookout. The other was a driver who picked me up via the Lyft app and I really didn't see him much because I had my own car now.* I couldn't avoid the empty space that was left by my lack of familiarity and social life. I felt that with each passing day that I was not engaged by a set schedule (and actively depleting bank account), I was wasting my time. I had planned and budgeted for this hiatus thinking it would be a joyful, creative endeavor and yet it was supremely painful. Until it wasn't. Still, I had to wade through a lot of personal development and fear first. That was the part that felt like pulling teeth. That was the labor that gave me my last record. And that is the labor that I am currently experiencing yet again, in its own way and on its own terms.

This, I guess, is how my creative process works.

Spring

Things I know: 
we will disappoint people people we love,
we will fail in the pursuit of our own growth,
we will be very uncomfortable at times,
we do not have control over anything,
and we are unable to know the future.

What else is there to risk when letting yourself fall in love with someone? Staring down the center of a fork in the road? Sorting this and leaving that and living the days in between?

I work on accepting these things about others (hard) and myself (harder) so that I can be more free. So that I can continue putting down the weight of my aloneness. So that I can keep changing my methods of transport through this journey and enjoy the vista points when I have the wherewithal to take them in - the mountains and valleys alike. 

How many decisions have I made trying to avoid these inevitables? It would be impossible to know but I am happy to feel a change in the wind of my sails. I am fumbling my way into a different approach with the help of beautiful people who sit with me on kitchen floors, and dog park benches, and chairs placed for the face-to-face required to look at my own heart square on through another's reflection.

It is such a gift to roam - with others and on my own.


 

Your Friendly Reminder to Breathe

My definitions of Yoga today: to connect, to yoke, to harness; a homecoming, often unexpectedly granted; an experience of the self revealed in the process of becoming more aware; a deep remembering made conscious.

I lean on, in, and through my practice now more than ever. On blocks, in my car, through the moments I feel heartbreak out of nowhere when I'm walking down the street. Patanjali's first sutra: Now is Yoga. I remember the weight of the world and the conduit I engage to connect myself to its inhabitants and the Earth itself. Whether I like who I encounter or not. Whether I like my job or not. Whether it is my fault or not. Whether I wake up feeling empowered or anxious or like Kevin Malone when he spills his chili. My yoga is a practice of connection, and its purpose is served when I see myself in all things and all things in myself. The lens of compassion cannot be reserved only for whom it is convenient. It is challenging but fuck, it is some good work.

I learned how to drive using my dad's manual 1992 Toyota Camry. It was the nail in the coffin for that car, which is really saying something as the entirety of its interior had been pecked by a parrot belonging to its previous owner. You'd turn on the car and the automatic shoulder belt would make its way along the track, coming to its final protective stop right beneath your neck. You could tell even it was embarrassed. A slight glance down revealed years of the macaw's strikes, a history of avian snackages I can only imagine were the result of long waits in the Bed, Bath, and Beyond parking lot, or a disdain for traffic. I don't like to imagine my dad weighing the need to buy a car versus the aesthetic travesty, but I digress. I killed the clutch after learning how to drive it in San Francisco where driving, like parking, exists only on hills. I remember the feel of the entire car as I learned how to shift the gas and the clutch, to balance the transition, to smooth the starts and stops. I stalled a lot but eventually I learned how to drive. I write this because I was thinking about it last night while breathing.

The poses of Yoga are merely shapes that change your physical experience, but the biggest effects I have seen in my life have come entirely from the invisible, entirely from the way I've learned to breathe. Like pedaling the clutch, I watch my breath empower my practice, help me slow down, and help me shift gears. It's incredible what happens when I lose it because almost immediately everything unravels, and I am jolted awake again. The pose, the flow, and the embodiment vanish when I stop breathing. In the rest of our lives we are often taught to hold it in, suck it in, and keep it to ourselves. Yoga teaches us the opposite - it teaches us to go inward and undo those holding patterns. It teaches us new ways of wiring our minds. It stretches and strengthens and balances our souls, and these effects ripple out into our physical beings. The symbiosis is genius. It teaches me to restart again and again, and it takes me all the places I want to go.

I write this because for the past several days my breathing has been saving me, reminding me that I am still here and that there is work to be done. One of my teachers says that if you spend twenty minutes in meditation and you remember to bring your focus back to your breath only one time, you can consider that a successful sit. I keep catching myself at the top of the inhale or the bottom of the exhale while doing everyday activities, wondering how long I've been waiting there.

This is your friendly reminder to breathe, given lovingly by someone who needs to hear it herself. Now is not the time to be an asshole. To anyone.
Now is the time to be a steward. To everyone.

Take a deep breath in, softening something on the way up.
Allow a full breath out, softening something on the way down.
Keep going.


 

Movement & Location

Disclaimer:
I would not trade this life I love for that of anyone else's. I won the lottery of friends and family and experiences in which to grow myself. I thank my lucky stars that I have a wild chance to participate in this go-around with you and with this. [Gestures to everything the sun touches.]


And:
Just now I stood in my little windowed closet where I had set to pull out the large plastic bin I keep for packing journals and sheets. I glanced out to see the setting sun lighting rain clouds on fire and promptly experienced a wave of overwhelming sadness. It felt like a cocktail of nostalgia and the blessed unrest and the full knowing of how impossible it is to know the future in the same catch of breath. Down the hatch.

It is here that I come into presence, here that I feel flattened beneath the weight of my adult aloneness. David Whyte writes about how "[we] belong to this aloneness as [we] belong to [our lives]," and I believe it could all be true. I belong to the characters and places and periods of expansion and contraction, and I belong to no one and nothing. This is where I watch myself think/act/develop in ways I can't anticipate and where I am learning what I need to learn.


There is so much I want and envision for my life. There is yearning that cannot fit in my car for a sixth time in a year and a half. There is magic and whimsy and privilege in travel and all of it can lose its sheen while standing in the confines of a closet or on my knees, putting away the few small treasures I keep to make myself feel at home in many places - a ceramic owl that fits in my hand and holds stones in its belly, a few plants in tiny jars, pens that fucking work, a photo of my hand reaching for sunshine. It's alright, I say aloud to no one. My whole life of ((things)) in the corner of the room, in the trunk of a Prius, in a few suitcases...proving again and again that the fullness of my days and nights do not come from tangible-things-I-own, nice as they may be. The anchoring is in the people I love and the things I discover and the stories I tell about it.

I'm about to drive a few thousand miles in the coming weeks, by myself, in support of my record. I'm telling myself it's a good idea because - well, because of all the things I listed above, especially the "stories I tell about it" part. Also because it's fucking fun and I'm lucky enough to work many jobs that fund my dreaming. The inner monologue kind of resembles how one might explain what Six Flags' Medusa is going to feel like to someone who's never ridden a rollercoaster: "Uh, you're going to love it; all you have to do is sit there and let the ride do the work." Right. 

But it's very possible that when I return there will be some big changes. 

The house I have called a homebase back in LA is being sold. After graduating college I moved in with three friends, and over four years the rotating family of housemates has been a real treat as we have navigated the early years of adult life. What used to be a thought I would snuff out as soon as it arose - but where and what after this - is now a definite crossroads ahead. I know it will be sad to leave but I also think that the Universe conspires to inspire. I've done it before and I will do it again.

So I think about what it is that I want next and I discover that a deep p
art of me wants a steady place of my own to keep what I have and the body in which I live; to make space for stillness and room for my friends and quiet enough to keep hearing music. Because at the end of the day, the shuffling of things from place to place requires minimal time and effort, but maximum faith in the ability to connect wherever I go - and I am growing more confident in the latter. "Where to next?" I ask my dog, a little guru who looks at me and everyone with eyes of love.   

Eve of a Record Release

The light has shifted again. After a long spell of heat and humidity, Nashville weather finally relents, surrendering its temperatures and foliage to the inevitable autumn. Each morning I rise in the three bedroom house that I share with two angels, Emily and Hope, off of Montrose. I put the tea on, feed Shakey, get dressed, and the two of us embark on a leashless prowl of the neighborhood for a quick plunge into the waking. I truly love this time to take in the streets and trees and light as all slowly arises. I do some of my easiest, quiet thinking here.

The other morning I began thinking about an old love in Brooklyn - the morning we walked with our fingers interlaced through chill in air and sun on wet ground, walking to the place he left me - and how part of me always seems to stay in the place he leaves me: the St. Pancras train station, a terminal at LAX, a porch awaiting a taxi. I remember everything sensory with a cruel memory. The rest is just story that needs no proving or disproving, the least of which being by me, and so I am forced into the writing of it. I have spent so many sleepless nights and early mornings pondering what has just transpired. I have attached myself so firmly to the story of my own rejection, and I have worn it from chapter to chapter in my weary book. While walking Shakespeare the other day, I realized how much I don't want that for my own daughter someday - how I will welcome the chance to tell her about what happened in my life to me and for me: how piece by piece I had to untease a knotted yarn until I could see the long connected thread, and how I attempted to weave a new piece of art for my life. So maybe the album has been for me, and also for her, and you if indeed it is also what you need to hear.

I've been thinking a lot about that - what I would write to my child about this time of active inner-cartography. What I would write to my child about what it feels like to be here with pen and paper trying to see the forest for the trees. How much that child is with me even now and perhaps I am reaching out to whatever might hold a future memory to see my innocence again. 

Yet again, I have another copy of Letters to a Young Poet with new passages highlighted and my scrawl in the margins. It reveals itself anew with each read. A friend recently told me that her understanding of pain is "to be alone with God." How much it reminded me of Rilke's "I want to be with those that know secret things or else alone," and how my understanding of that is connected with the sweetness of a pain as well. No matter one's belief in God, there seems such mystery to be mined in our own suffering, our processing, our development. Rilke was so often with his own loneliness, diving into the depths of his experience of waiting on some sort of arrival, all while growing "quietly and seriously throughout [his] own development." 

Quietly and seriously. How frequently do I feel my work to be solitary these days. I like it this way and I despise it all at once. The quiet is necessary for listening and tuning and refining. The seriousness is important for the discipline and foresight (or whatever is possible of it). There is also so much fun and levity. But the deep work of figuring out how to be present and discerning in the small flood of moments in a day - this is where I'm finding my own letters. 

I keep writing, and I keep writing, and I keep writing. 

Three months later we meet again.

I'm back in Nashville after a beautiful summer in California. I spent the bulk of my time with my family and friends, surfing, and working late nights at a bar in Santa Monica trying to save up money to come back and give this record a proper launch. At times it feels like such a wild, endless ride to try to support myself as an artist through crazy jobs and hard times. It is my ideal life in so many ways and in others it poses such challenge. I have to remind myself at least ten times a day to live in the moment and try to let the future unfold presently. I won't lie, it's really hard for me right now. Building the life I desire is proving to be a real financial and emotional rollercoaster and I am putting so much trust into the universe that a year from now I will have grown in my career and personal depth. I just feel like it needs saying. 

On the other side of my fear awaits an album of which I am very proud. I can't wait for you to hear it.

ALCHEMY

I’m thrilled to release “Alchemy” today off of my new record, Storm and the Fire (available 9/30/16). I had a blast co-producing this song with Jd Tiner (who also engineered/mixed the album) and am stoked to have played some new instruments on this track. Huge shout out to Juan Solorzano for playing bass/electric, and Aaron Shaffer-Haiss for playing drums. Mastered by Joe Hutchinson. You guys are tops! Download the full track on iTunes + Spotify, stream hereand share with whomever you like. Hope you enjoy!

Single artwork by Leena Culhane

Single artwork by Leena Culhane

Unmooring

"If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo." -Bruce Lee

I often theme the metaphors of my life as they relate to water. Maybe it is because it defines the majority of our physical constitution. Maybe it is because its nature is to move - to evaporate, to fall, to run, and to navigate its way around obstacles in a way I admire. Whatever the reason, I love to be near it and in the depths of it. Its presence in my life is one I recognize of great fortune: to have grown up by the sea and hence to forever be thinking of myself in relation to its proximity, which is, in so many ways, the way I've experienced falling in and or out of love with someone. Where am I in relationship to you?

Sometimes my current transition from shore to bouey to open water seems subtle and quiet. Others it rings loud and strong like a fog horn in reverse intent - to sends me out with gusto from the familiar and known.

This unmooring is such a gift, even when I scream against it.

As much as I can see myself struggling to keep an eye towards the comfort of my life, I consciously am rowing the boat away, once again throwing myself into the waves. I have since I was very small and my mother taught me how to swim in the ocean: When you are lucky enough to see the uprising, dive through it; when you find yourself in surprise, being hurled by the "washing machine," stay as calm as you can and know that you will eventually come up for air. 

Over and over again I untether and float. What else am I to do?



 

I've been thinking about trust and what it means and it ain't easy.
I've been thinking about us and giving up and flying freely.
All these thoughts without a sound
Have turned a stone to powdered ground
The sand now flowing through the glass reads time for leaving.

Some Things I've Recently Dreamt

In the dream I am standing on the running board of a helicopter and holding on to the craft through the door. I am not afraid of falling and this is new to my noticing but has lived inside of me for a long time. I am flying over the city that raised me with all of its buildings and expanses of bridge over water - entrances and exits and all that road in between. This is a living organism: it breathes and stretches. I can feel the weight of it, the heaviness and lightness. I see the places the light touches and the shadows cast depending on the hour or who lives where or how much time and opportunity it has all had to grow. It is dusk now and the fog is rolling in. It is calm and strong, and I am calm and strong, and the water surrounding this place is calm and strong, like the mother of it all and the mother always survives.

In the dream I sit for an hour each day looking out of a window whose view is now so familiar to me. I am at a table made of one long cut of a tree. The writing on the window is reversed and sometimes I feel like I am in a pet store as people walk by and peer into this little church of thought and caffeine. The trucks go by. The cars go by. The people go by. I keep coming back to watch these things moving and to sit still. I am waiting for something to arrive for me. I am waiting to say, "Oh, there you are." I sit still and watch the things go by.

In the dream everyone I know is the same person with different faces and I am one of us.

In the dream I wrote a book called The Weekend I Fell Apart, and it was a cautionary tale about not eating enough snacks. I wrote a note in my iPhone in the middle of the night that said, "Maybe eat more pretzels next time," and now I'm wondering if I'm not getting enough water.

In the dream I am army-crawling out the front door in the middle of the night and feeling very guilty the entire time.

 

What I'm Listening To

Caleb Groh. What a gem. I went to a party in his backyard last summer and three things stand out in my memory:

-He reminded me a lot of one of my California beloveds with a relaxed and attentive presence.
-I brought homemade bread and I think it wasn't fully cooked.
-Somebody put a kitten on my shoulder while I was eating a nacho chip.

Find out more about this multi-disciplinary artist here.

Some Thoughts Before I Turn 26

Well, I guess technically I am 26 today as it's already 12:16am in Nashville, TN, but for the sake of San Francisco time, I will remain 25 for another bit. It's hard to believe a whole year has gone by since I wrote my last birthday's reflections. 

This is what I'm experiencing on the precipice of my next year: humongous gratitude. The last two weeks of recording have been incredible. My toil, and my purposes, and my work has come through the sieve and into the present moment, and it has been such an enriching experience to finally see the record take shape. Those that have worked on it have been some of my favorite collaborators so far, and those that inspired my writing continue to be held with light in my heart. 

It's really a mixed bunch of emotions.

I came to Nashville nerves a-jitter, tired, and depleted in a few pretty major ways. Flash forward a few months and in two days I will leave for the winter with new tales, field findings, between 40-60 lbs of "meals with friends," and  a sense of profound love for those that have both hoisted my sails and buoyed me. I feel a sense of home here, with these friends and these artists, the sense of community, and the Deep Wells Trailhead. 

My time here (internally) has not been smooth. I spent so much of the summer trying to wrestle my own mind, trying to figure out what it was that needed to be heard, trying to understand the pains and misgivings and habitual paths I've accumulated over time. So many questions remain unanswered and so many neuroses left unturned. The summer kicked my butt every single day - except maybe the day that we all went out on a boat and drank beer on seahorse floaties. That was an excellent day.

But it also gave me so much. Friends, music, things to think about, and ideas to germinate. Allowing myself to be here financially, mentally, and creatively was the best thing to happen to me in my 25th year. At times it felt like I was pulling my own teeth, but I am freed knowing that I gave myself the time to hold out my arms, and the adventure gave itself to me.

Some Things I Learned Off the Top of My Head
1. Everyone loves a cast iron skillet dessert of pretty much any kind.
2. Discomfort is inversely proportional to lesson learned.
3. Comparison is the thief of joy. 
4. I like being employed. I dislike being unemployed. I look forward to the day when my employment is soley my artistic endeavors.
5. When people tell you who they are (and/or who they're not), believe them.
6. Ask.
7. Writing is an essential part of my life.
8. Say yes. Say no. Request a pause that refreshes. Feel good about all of it.
9. Running on a treadmill is a lot easier if somebody else is telling you what to do the whole time. I literally prefer it, and figuratively despise it.
10. Having good friends makes everything so much more palatable. I want to keep making, growing, loving, and showing up for them.

I am signing off for the evening so that I can make my yoga class tomorrow and be functional for more time in the studio.

Farewell, 25 - ya little devil, ya little charmer.

"falling" by clara lieu - my spirit image of surrender and reckoning