December 2008
snowy thoughts

I keep running into people that remind me uncannily of people I already know. Not necessarily their their features and physical looks, but their gestures, their expressions, the WAY they say what they say. Maybe it's that I've been around the world that many times that it's just become a big game of global concentration, matching people to their particular doppelgangers!

Today at the doctor's office there was a lady dressed in matching knitted ski pants and tops, and a crazy elf hat. She was muttering to herself, and wheezing and grunting as she got dressed in the tiny cubicle where we were all stashed. The rest of us were giving each other knowing looks as we waited. But then she  shuffled out and busted out this maniacal fabulous smile, "happy holidays, and good luck in there, sheesh!!" she huffed. We all laughed. My niece has that same nutso smile, and that same "sheesh."

This was a part of what happened for me at the SQUAM ART WORSHOPS  last September. One of the assignments in Andrea Scher's superhero/photography workshops was to spend five minutes quickly photographing someone you had basically just met. It was revelatory to me how much you SAW of someone in those five minutes. I felt I could see deeply into these faces and personalities without saying a word. Their essence was in there, so close to the surface really.

Ever since Squam I've taken more time to really notice people, their gestures, to acknowledge them. Draw out their stories (and photograph them!) And especially this time of year, I find I'm opening doors, I want to know what might make people tick, I'm asking "How're you doing?" So many of us are completely stressed and scared because of the daily gloom and doom. Small kindnesses are such a relief!

Maybe it's my dad the journalist in me looking for a good story. Maybe it's that I just spent some time with my mother. But it seems to me that all any of us really wants is to feel we've been truly SEEN. And that someone is listening for our answer when they ask us how we ARE.

My beautiful crazy niece Hilary!

The snow continues in New York. Cabbies are careening everywhere, slush is slapping faces at crosswalks across the city, but the park is wicked pretty in white.

Stay warm out there, hot chocolate for all.



Post Tour Musings

I'm still brimming with gratitude these days.... that I have a job, that I love my job, that I get to see old friends along the way, and make new ones every day.

Chicago was just a revelation. Cozy, brimming with joy and just a gas. I got to see Ingrid Graudins there. She of the sublime voice that sang on 'Plumb" and "ten cent wings" and schlepped around the world with me for a couple years.

Then Minneapolis. The new Guthrie (not Woody!!) Theatre is incredible and we got to share the stage with a beautiful set resembling C.S. Lewis's library. About fifty of my husband's extended family showed up and represented. Thanks to all the Donneys and Rainses and Malones, and anyone I've forgotten, and happy birthday again Gene!!

Milwaukee was fab. as I got to be guest deejay on WUWM there with my pal Bruce Winter. If this singer-songwriter thing doesn't work out, maybe I can get a gig there!

Milwaukee... the "Historic Turner Theatre" was vibey and cool. Ok so the ceiling is falling down, so there are nets everywhere to catch the plaster, but the candlelight is enchanting and the gig was super fun.

On to Madison. It started getting really chilly, the gig was freezing, we huddled around space heaters back stage, we had to drive to Chicago after the show, arrived around 1am, needed to get up and out for a 7am flight, and then, sure enough, the fire alarm went off in the hotel at 4am. I think it was maybe 5 degrees outside..... These are the moments when you think, "this is NOT OK!!"

Ann Arbor. Dreamy as always. I am treated like a princess there. The Ark does a great job of bringing people in for the shows, and the space is just gorgeously intimate. Every note hangs deliciously in the air. The graffiti on the walls was pretty rich this time too:

Nice to see that Bitch and Animal are still making the rounds. They were on a gig in Northampton once after us. I just remember a little boy backstage, so desperate to pee that he peed in a beer bottle that he proceeded to spill all over our stuff. Oh road life.

This is better!

Next day, a lovely stop at WCPN, the GORGEOUS Cleveland NPR station. I did an hour long webcast with Dee Perry. Thanks to Dave De Oreo. Now that's a class operation.

On to Kent, OHIO. Colder still. Oh so cold. Did I mention how cold it was? Again, we huddled backstage around space heaters. The only warm place was on stage. But that was fleeting. God bless RAY's down the street where I got warm for a bit and tried the Pork Loin. The lady next to me at the bar was eyeing it greedily so I offered her a bite. She said, "Oh, no, wish I could but i've gotta stick to the mashed potatoes and meatloaf. I just had oral surgery today." She was feeling pretty damn good as far as I could tell! Couple of percocets and three beers later, she ordered a nice rib eye!

And last, but not least. PITTSBURGH. My friend big John and four pals, Bob, Courtney, Melissa and Kate, schlepped all the way from Louisville, KY. Should have been a 6 hour drive. Turned into 11. God bless. Beaver hats off to you hearty explorers!!

courtney, bob, melissa and kate 

Johnpoleon, fearless leader.

The sock monkey hat, sadly is on it's last legs. The pom pom is frayed, the seams are splitting. So the Queen's Beaver (that's what I've dubbed it because I bought it in London) is standing in:

Glen Beaver

Spankyman Beaver (long story)

Beaver in headlights

Thanks to all and to all a WARM Holiday season.


Order in My Mother's House

My mother is a poet. She self-published her first book of poetry just a few years ago when she was 68. She is published from time to time in the Castine Patriot in Castine, Maine, and the Christian Science Monitor. 

As she's gotten older, she's become more and more single minded. "I just want to finish some more poems," she'll say. "That's all that matters." She is working on her "tract" about the mindless waste of war. And just this past weekend told us about a new idea she has: more poems about family and raising children; "Poems born and raised at home." She is getting very forgetful these days, and struggles with a "gammy leg." But everyone in her small town knows who she is because of the poems:

The guy who came to pave her driveway got one. When he was finished with the balck top, she handed him a crisp white page with her "thanksgiving" poem on it.

The innkeeper at the Manor Lodge on the hill proudly showed us the "winter" poem mom had given her when she brought us our breakfast the second morning of our visit. She keeps it tacked to the wall in her office.

My mom's big social outing of every day is her trip to the post office. So, of course the postmaster got the "Christmas Poem" recently, probably for the third or fourth time. 

Over the past fifteen years, I've gotten a steady rotation of the same twelve poems in the mail from my mother. Some are hers, and some are the poems that she wishes she had written. Poems that William Stafford, or Mary Oliver or Adrienne Rich "must have snuck into her den and stolen."
I am re-framing my pictures of my mother. Literally and figuratively. We are transitioning in to a new set of conversations. Not easy ones. But picturing her as the town's pied poet takes some of the angst out of those conversations. She is quirky, and stubborn, but she is doing what she loves. Now I just laugh when I think of her at the grocery store asking the goth/pierced/tattooed clerk if she's given her the poem about her mother yet.

Order in My Mother's House

Each time I visited she took me on the tour
around her house naming her treasures
and their origins as if they were close
friends; Seth Thomas clock,
brass candlesticks, a walnut table
with square legs, two Queen Anne chairs,
thirteen plates (Italian,)
grandmother's desk.

I scarcely played them well
those scenes recording order
in my mother's house;
polite but inwardly impatient
with reviewing histories
of the need for being needed.

Alone at eighty-three
she set her table for two
people once a day
walked out a mile
renewed her kindnesses
by letters, phone calls,
visits from the family.

Here in these rooms without
that voice and touch
I dust the objects
of her closeness;
clock, the plates,
old desk, feeling at last
the continuity 
she understood

yearning to hear her say,
"Before you leave, there's
one more thing I want
to show you dear..."

The tears fall
out of order in her house.


Darren Stone

so many things

So many things

I've been in Los Angeles again, trying to take stock, thinking about what my next step might be musically. I've been reading an old worn favorite called "You Must Revise Your Life," by William Stafford. I'm also working on ideas for a songwriting class I'm going to teach next year at SQUAM ART WORKSHOPS. And whenever I start digging deep, I remember the seemingly random events that led me to my beloved job.

I've always been musical. I sang along, played along with whatever I could. I was a huge fan of whatever my older brothers would bring home. My dad got me a guitar for Christmas when I was thirteen; my science teacher in eighth grade had a McCartney bass and a great sense of humor so we started a band called "Science Function." (our big hit was "She's a Fool to be Cool")  I was in the choirs, the a cappella groups…. But my sophomore year of college, I took a composition course with the coolest professor on campus, Dave Reck. Our first assignment was to choose an e.e. cummings poem and set it to music. This was struck-by-lightning revelation. WRITING. I could corral all the crazy notes in my head into new choreography, perfect little three minute dances of songs. I found a poem called "love is more thicker than forget." And it evolved from that moment.

These little pieces have all led me back today to my fierce belief that random things can be THE thing. And also, it may be our most galling limitations that make us unique. Our quirks and stumblings lead us to our exact voices. I am untrained as a musician. I'm actually technically more qualified to be a dancer. But when I teach I always come back to the serendipity of the writing being at the core of who I have become. This poem – I've read it a thousand times, but today it's the right one:

You and Art

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face – 
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

And you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

William Stafford

On the completely other side of the spectrum. I was actually here in LA to shoot a video for the song I wrote for the new Joss Whedon show: DOLLHOUSE.
The lovely Vicki and Avalon made me feel so pretty even after thirty takes in those kickass high boots that seemed like a good idea at the time. OWWWW!

I also got a chance to visit the sweet gallery: Peachtree Pottery in Venice, CA. They have gorgeous hand made ceramics, jewelry, books, woven, luscious scarves. I couldn&8217;t resist, I mean it is Christmas!

Here is Barbara Ryan, the gorgeous weaver:

And, of course, her trusty assistant, "sweet pea."

Linda Mechanic is the ringleader and main potter at Peachtree:

me, Linda, and Christin Mason Miller of  ORDINARY SPARKLING MOMENTS

(another great gift idea!!!)

On to the wilds of Maine in the middle of an ice storm. More soon. Travel safe, stay warm!!