Tuesday March 16th
Today we set out on a 47 day adventure which will take us around the country and to many new places. The van is clean and organized, my voice is clear up to the highest register, my heart is light and ready to go. I take my mini yellow highlighter and draw a line across “Max’s Place” on the tour agenda (which is three pages long), aware of all the black and white lines below it – days waiting to be lived. We haven’t come up with a name for the tour yet.
Friday, March 19th
Predictably, Terre Haute’s St. Patty’s Day celebration at The Verve was off the hook. Six shots and 2 sakes later I was sucking down water to save my life. Yesterday was sheer recovery for all of us.
Kind people have been giving me gifts – an Irish man in Bloomington gave me a copper bracelet, twisted into a Celtic knot. A girl named Plaire gave me a turquoise and coral bracelet she made to break, with a wishbone charm on it, telling me that the luck begins once the bracelet breaks. A girl who has been bulimic for 13 years poured her heart out to me, letting me know that our music has taught her how to dance. Another man posted a Facebook comment about the music setting him free. All these gifts sustain me – the kindness of so many strangers fills me with joy.
Saturday, March 20th
Last night was a real victory show – so much love and enthusiasm – so many mouths singing along! It was a free show, but The Mousetrap in Indianapolis was at full capacity.
Part of the victory is that I managed the Indiana smoke of the first three nights’ shows without losing my voice. (well, I did lose a few notes at the top, but the rest are solid!) Reverend Peyton gave me the best advice a little while ago for touring with healthy vocals (and he does even more shows than we do each year!) He told me to always warm up the high register, to cut out drinking alcohol, and to do the neti pot daily. Staying sober and hydrated keeps me above the smoky drunken mess. Staying focused and connected to God through my prayer book (The Divine Hours) keeps my heart smooth and peaceful, and reminds me to ask for help instead of complaining about the little (and huge) problems that come up on the road.
My longtime friend Angie gave me a sinew necklace braided with a Petoskey stone and three tan beads. I gave her an e-clip (hair clips I make out of feathers, faux flowers and buttons) which looked like it belonged in her long curly brown hair. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now that I made that one for her. Our friend Shotwell let us stay at his house with his sweet puppy pit bull and his girl Ally taught me how to hoola-hoop at 4 in the morning.
Monday, March 22nd
It’s the Spring Equinox, everything is in balance here in Kansas and we made it successfully to our first day off! The sun is having its way with the last stubborn patches of snow. Flocks of birds fly high above the potholes.
After our show at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence we crashed on the floor at a house full of boys. The walls were lined with glass tanks housing lizards and snakes of all sorts, including a boa constrictor named Ginger. Randy, Evan and Max made friends with her, letting the 6 foot long beauty slither around their necks and shoulders.
Travis did a wild dance in the kitchen with a pair of spoons while boys jammed on a banjo and jaw harp.
Suddenly Max appeared with an over-sized Nixon mask on, with peace signs flaring.
Then Travis one-upped him!
In the midst of this chaos, I got online for a minute and looked up, out of burning curiosity, the man we had met in Indy the night before, who claimed to have been Jimi Hendrix’ guitarist. His name is Al Young, an old black musician whose words and presence really shook and touched me. I was so engrossed in his big, enlightened spirit as he held my hands kindly. He said that he sees bands all the time and he doesn’t even really listen. But he thought I was really special and he encouraged me to keep it up. When I finally googled him last night I found out that he was the one accredited with teaching Jimi Hendrix how to play with his teeth!
Tuesday, March 23rd
We are climbing up a mountain with all our wheels rolling upward into the dark sky, braving the snow and wind of a freak March storm. My love is driving and all my companions are in peaceful little private worlds, sitting side by side, as if alone. I had the worst dream last night, full of darkness, fear, penance and revenge. I think I went to bed with a head full of horror images thanks to The Decemberists’ new album. I have a very vivid imagination and normally try to avoid horror movies, but I would never have thought a record could have the same effect. I really let it under my skin. I’m trying to drink my coffee and not look up at the white roads which blend right into the blustery sky. I’m listening to soothing music and breathing and praying to God for safety. Trusting. Letting go of last night’s dreams and today’s fears. It’s all I can do when I’m at the mercy of the Mother – there is no stopping or going backward. There is no control, no work to be done, no plans to make that are not already laid before us. I have only the things I packed. I have only the tools I have been given, the boots on my feet, the food in the cooler and the songs on my tongue. The moment has arrived and I am ready to let it happen.
Wednesday, March 24th
I really don’t mind this life at all. Cold brown rice and half a PBJ comfort me from the snowy cold mountain air. I woke up and wrote the beginning of a melody for 3 violins, then I got to the business of washing, packing and rushing out of the hotel room and I seem to have forgotten it. I grieve every time that happens, but I feel that if I’m meant to write it, I will eventually remember, so I pray for the tune to come back. I’m aching for some alone time with my songs and instruments all around me. I wish I could eventually invest in a little recording station to take on the road with me. I’ve been dreaming up a new show lately and writing many songs.
Thursday, March 25th
And so I woke in the grip of the shadow that is the curse of Eve. Tangible, palpable gloom soaked me through as sudden as a bucket of water thrown on me. I asked the Lord to hide me in the shadow of his wing until I am myself again. I love that imagery and often find myself begging to be hidden there, when I don’t want to face the world, or when I feel there are men glaring at me with evil intentions. It is a prayer that I cling to – I think of it as my “cloak of invisibility” prayer. So I stuff my ears with the music of wise women and glue my eyes to the blank page and write, stroking my heart like a wounded kitten. This feeling will pass, like all feelings do. In the meanwhile we play Steamboat Springs tonight.
Monday March 29th
On Palm Sunday I had feathers woven into my hair by a fairy girl named Ysabel Blu. She told me that having a bird’s energy near your head chakra keeps you light and free. Every time I look in the mirror and remember my new feathers I feel so happy – like more of my true self is shining through. It was so fortunate and random that I met the only girl who does “Feather Luxe” and that she could squeeze in an appointment with me on the only day I happened to be in town. (Boulder, CO). We had an overly-packed show at Mountain Sun Brewery and it was the most exciting finale to our 6-show Colorado run.
We stayed with our Michigan friends Pockets and Cole, and they let me use their tiny apartment kitchen to cook food for the next few days. Lentil tabbouli, Pintos and rice, Potato Salad and all sorts of sandwich supplies got packed into waterproof tupperware and stacked into our giant cooler. Sometimes when little fights come up, my dark animal bares her teeth and scares me a little. I have to admit that I have a violent nature when left unchecked. Without God I am not a good person. My skin gets so thin – I swear I can see veins in my face. My filter melts every time my blood gets hot. But with meditative prayer, yoga, deep breathing and focusing on the positive in every situation I get that beast under control and become my true self again.
The front range of the mountains are clear and stoic as we drive out and away from Colorado. It reminds me that God will not be moved. When I am a raging with emotions like lava, God remains at peace, like these mountains. None of my little storms can shake Him, my rock, my foundation.
Tuesday, March 30th
I am back to center again and Cecelia (the van) is back to health after a brief stint at Dr. Mechanics’ office this morning. We are so blessed and fortunate to break down in the middle of Kansas in a town with a cheap hotel and a kind (and thorough) mechanic. For less than $400 we are back to rolling with a new alternator, and it’s early enough in the day that we can drive the many miles to get to Little Rock, Arkansas. I pinned my hair up in pig buns and worked the feathers loose so they dance in the wind blowing through the open windows.
After a cheering conversation with our booking agent Joe, I can see that the Lord is blessing the work of our hands (and wheels). Music is medicine and God is the Great Physician. I am just a vial to deliver the dosage. I hardly even know what it is I am carrying or how it works. But everywhere we go I see its power and strangers report to me the results, bearing witness to God’s great love and mercy (whether they know it or not). I have been writing worship songs lately out of a desire to give back an offering of my gifts to God.
Sunday April 4th
It’s Easter Sunday and I’m wearing a bright yellow wrist band from the Keel Family Function on one arm and a bracelet of peace (another gift) on the other. I praise God today that I am full of life and health as I remember the Passion of Christ (I’m not talking about the movie). I painted the hard boiled eggs in our cooler with markers for everyone to share. (Not that it has anything to do with the Passion of Christ part!)
The Georgia sunshine illuminates my mind as I remember all the joy of yesterday. Larry Keel, Jeff Mosier, Colonel Bruce Hampton, Charlie Wooton, Duayne Trucks, Donna Hopkins, Grayson Capps, Guthrie Trapp, Caroline Pond, and Zebulon Bowls are just some of the amazing musicians that I met, shared a stage with and got to know through the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. Also music promoters and tapers and fans from all the southern cities that we are about to be playing in including Z-Man, T-Dawg, Pete Sobel and so many who hugged me, shook my hand and welcomed me into this new sweet Southern family! I am trying to hold it all in my heart as we drive away. I’m praying that all of these seeds that have been planted today will be watered and continue to grow into lasting connections and that our touring efforts will meet continued success.
Colonel Bruce said that success = showing up. He once said that if he had 3 terrible shows in a row, he would quit. He also said the same if he had three amazing shows in a row. “Musicians are mentally insane by the time they reach my age”, he said (he’s 62). “Instead of throwing me in an institution they put me on stage and pay me!” He said that he never knows what will happen when he steps onto the stage – it’s completely out of his control. I think it’s the emotional roller coaster ride of performing that drives so many musicians to drugs, alcoholism and all sorts of insanity. It’s also just the lifestyle of the road. It’s hard. Really hard. And it’s understandable to seek out comfort wherever it can be found. The old mechanic that fixed our trailer wheel two days ago was commenting about how many bands there are now a days and he said he thinks it’s because it’s easy. I told him that’s not the case, but I could never convince him. Everyone thinks this life is easy. Fun all the time with perks on the side. Colonel Bruce knows the game and throughout our long and rich conversation he emphasized the point so many times. This life is hard. He really was so sweet to me, full of many compliments, encouragement and advice. “Just keep showing up and eventually you’ll get there!”