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 garden 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



What I'm Listening To

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Joseph LeMay on Friday and let me tell you - it set the tone for a wonderful weekend. I've been thinking about his music since seeing him play in a friend's backyard last month and finally thought I ought to reach out and see about a chat. Nashville is real good for that. I'm never surprised, but always so grateful, when people say "yes" to coffee with a stranger. It's led me through some pretty lovely conversations, into some wild evenings, and up the stairs to the treehouse where I now live, and where I look at the leaves change each day. This is the grist for my mill of late.

Give Joseph's music a spin. You won't regret it.

Seth Godin: Hero of the Week

I listened to the unedited version of the following interview (found here) earlier this spring and was blown away. I've been a huge fan of Seth Godin's since stumbling across his blog during a time when the following entry hit close to home:

John Koenig calls it vemödalen. The fear that you’re doing something that’s already been done before, that everything that can be done has been done. Just about every successful initiative and project starts from a place of replication. The chances of being fundamentally out of the box over the top omg original are close to being zero. A better question to ask is, “have you ever done this before?” Or perhaps, “are the people you are seeking to serve going to be bored by this?” Originality is local. The internet destroys, at some level, the idea of local, so sure, if we look hard enough we’ll find that turn of a phrase or that unique concept or that app, somewhere else. But no one is asking you to be original. We’re asking you to be generous and brave and to matter. We’re asking you to step up and take responsibility for the work you do, and to add more value than a mere cut and paste. Give credit, definitely, but reject vemödalen. Sure, it’s been done before. But not by you. And not for us.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but maybe it's also ought to take timing into account. It's easy in an age of speed, information, and saturation, to feel like many of the good ideas have already been taken. Joni Mitchell already played in open tunings and her lyrics far surpass what I imagine I might write one day. But the originality of what I make doesn't ever so much rouse me as the interpreted efficacy of - and need for - its message, as well as the process/community/connection it seeks to cultivate. Maybe it stems from an upbringing in the theater. Maybe it's just my current process. My hope is that music will always be made, heard, and used in that endeavor.  Why do it if it doesn't connect you to a feeling that you are not alone? Even aloneness is experienced by everyone. Perhaps a more streamlined question asks, What can I do to connect myself to others in this work?

I'm meeting a ton of beautiful people this week and experiencing much of my life from the position of being new - new in town, new to the cultural and topographical scenery, new to unemployment, new to these tribes, and even new to myself - the old friend I have ignored and who knows me by heart. 

Grab a glass of something, sit back, and enjoy.

Monday Night Inspiration

I had wild plans to get to a dance party in town tonight but there is a thunder storm outside. Before moving to Nashville I had a pretty strong aversion to thunder, or rather, a pretty strong aversion to dying. The overpowering clap and roar make me think of my most recent transgressions and I usually end up running in panic, despite the distance counting my dad taught me as evidence to my safety. I was recently sitting in the Kroger parking lot mustering up some courage to remove myself from the vehicle and walk through said thunder to purchase my dinner. The realization struck (for lack of a better term) that at least if I died during this walk I would be working towards something I was truly passionate about. That was a nice revelation. 

Still, my pace was brisk.

Every now and then I stumble across something or someone that takes my breath away. Today it's Lenka Clayton. Check out her amazing project, Artist Residency in Motherhood

Here are a few of my favorites from her work:

The Distance I Can Be From My Son (Back Alley)

2013 / video series / 1:53 min

100 Bananas 2014 / thermal paper / 23" x 3" / checkout clerk; Meghan K.

100 Bananas

2014 / thermal paper / 23" x 3" / checkout clerk; Meghan K.

Women's Intuition (standing men) 2013 / 20" x 10" / found photograph, permanent ink I named the 51 men depicted in this anonymous group portrait using only women’s intuition. I isolated and concentrated on each face until I felt certain of the name of the man.

Women's Intuition (standing men)

2013 / 20" x 10" / found photograph, permanent ink

I named the 51 men depicted in this anonymous group portrait using only women’s intuition. I isolated and concentrated on each face until I felt certain of the name of the man.


 

I especially love the description on the tail end of "Women's Intuition (standing men)." It inspired me to think of this time in Nashville as its own little residency, with an outline of terms & conditions coming down the pike tomorrow.

 

Good night, ya crazy dreamers.
 

Questions I Am Asking Today

In a moment of hump day realness (#hdr) today I found myself sitting at the Frothy Monkey, a place where I have had some solid writing sessions each visit past, but this time in a sort of desparation wondering what the hell I was thinking moving here. I constructed a few lists, as an anxious soul often does when confronted with discomfort of the unknown, including such hits as:

  • "Overarching Goals for the Next Three Months & Beyond. No Wait Just Three Months For Now"
  • "Poems That Have Made Me Feel Better About My Life, My Choices"
  • "Things I Feel I Have Failed"
  • "Ways In Which I Become Distracted"

And finally, this list of questions that flowed quite organically from hand to page. I knew some of them had been simmering on low-burn in the pit of my belly, but others took me by surprise and didn't really demand an answer, just an acknowledgment of their presence. It takes some amount of vulnerability to write most of them here, but I wonder how many other people are asking these same questions, and if perhaps we might be able to share in our living of them:

  • What do I hear when I am quiet?
  • Do I like who I am?
  • Can I be happy by myself?
  • Who am I without the structure of work and forms of continuing education?
  • Am I worthy of taking time away from working society? What pressures does this create in terms of the need/hope/expectation of creative output?
  • Do I have something unique to say + is it necessary + is it time?
  • Can I build a life around this path that allows me to be present for the people I love when they need me?
  • How will I measure my growth in the next few months?
  • How will I know when I've succeeded or failed?
  • Will I be disappointed if something doesn't happen + what would that be?
  • Am I a good enough artist be part of the professional community eventually?
  • Why am I here, standing in the midst of fear and aloneness, if no one forced me to do it? 

So in the spirit of the great adventure, let's get to it. 

 

"I Go Down To The Shore"

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

-Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings