Howdy my friends,
Despite my long silence, I really have been
thinking about writing to you. I've wondered if you ever got around to
tossing out that crispy Christmas tree and if you're going to take down
the outside lights or just leave Œem up Œtil next year. I think it looks
real classy to leave those icicle lights collecting mildew and drooping
off the porch roof all through the summertime, don't you?
Personally, I didn't decorate at all this
year. Well, that's not entirely true, I did tie a big wreath on my little dawg and teach her to bark Jingle Bells on command. It was jolly as shit
around here Œtil she ate the wreath and
processed it on the couch. I sure wish I'd have seen
it in time, but hey, what’s a folkslinger like myself doing wearing
thousand-dollar slacks anyway?
I’ve been thinking about the
strange, chaotic state of the world lately and trying to figure out an
appropriate way to start the New Year. Having just watched the evening
news, I decided it would be most fitting to celebrate by having various
of my teeth drilled by a dentist - but perhaps just a few of them by my
own self with a dremel tool. (you know how hard it is to get in to see a
Handy Tip: if you ever yearn
for that sweet drilling sensation but cannot get in to see your favorite
dentist, simply put a piece of rebar in your electric drill and chomp
down on it. Now turn it on High! Whee! I’m telling you, if you can bite
hard enough to keep that puppy from turning, you either have jaws like
vice grips or you bought your drill at the Dollar Store. Either way, I’m
saluting you for that torque, podna. Here’s to yer jaw muscles.
I was just about to get started but fortunately, at the last second, my
left hand had a change of heart and forced my right to veer and miss my
molars. Whew! What was I thinking!? No matter what insanity is going on
in the world, it suddenly seemed foolish for me to be wasting good
enamel like that. I put away my dremel tool and decided instead to write
you this letter.
All winter I've been taking long walks almost everyday. I drive to
different parts of Seattle, park my truck, and walk four or five miles,
wandering through neighborhoods, getting lost in cul-de-sacs, taking
however long it requires to find my way back to my vehicle. My little
dawg, Bungee, enjoys these long walks as long as I am willing to carry
her each and every time she requests it. The way she does this is to
suddenly run toward me from behind, touching her cold, wet nose to the
back of my calf. This signifies that it is now time to pick up the
little Princess dog and give her the royal treatment. She is so small
that I can carry her on my wrist, tucked up under her belly and my
fingers cupped forward around her front legs and chest. Her four legs
hang down on either side of my wrist and forearm. We make quite a sight,
a six-foot man and a seven pound dog touring the neighborhoods this way.
These walks have been a blessing for me. As I mentioned, I’ve thought a
lot about the troubles in our world lately, people jobless, the little
care that we provide poor folks being taken away in many states, and
more than anything, the possibility of war. Sometimes it feels that
there is nothing that I can do about any of it - nothing that any of us
can do. Then I am given the grace to remember that finding peace and
love in my own life is the greatest thing I can do to promote it in the
world. Whether I understand how this works or not is irrelevant, I guess
that's what faith is for. As I wander the streets and sidewalks,
enjoying yards and houses, stopping to talk to strangers and of course,
carrying on a steady discourse with my dog, I usually start to feel more
hopeful. I see toys in a front yard and flowers budding even in this
early time of year. The sun cuts through the clouds for a few minutes
and bathes Seattle in an amber winter light. It’s a hopeful light and it
reminds me that there are always miracles at work here.
Two days ago I was at the post
office mailing some CD orders. I was in a quiet, introspective mood,
feeling kind of sad, actually. As I often do, I stood in line wondering
why we tax payers have paid for post office counter positions that never
seem to contain a clerk. It’s bad enough that we wasted our money
building the empty counter positions, did we actually pay for those damn
“Next position, please” signs, too? I contemplated this in the same way
I have for years, reminding myself to breathe deeply, trying not to let
post office rage get a foothold in me. I maintained quite well even as
one clerk stood off to the side doing nothing, refusing to acknowledge
those of us in the long line, and looking at her watch to make sure
every last drop of her break was officially spent before opening her
I got so involved watching this potential-clerk keeping time that I
didn’t notice when another clerk was free and ready for me. She called
out in a loud voice, “Next!” as if I was being commanded to step
forward and receive my caning. When I got to the counter she turned out
to be surprisingly friendly - for a postal clerk. Which means that she
didn't frown and roll her eyes when I answered that no, all five
packages were not the same. I have learned over the years that postal
clerks much prefer it if you bring uniform packages, exactly the same in
weight and size. Ideally, they should all be going to the same address,
as well. This is difficult for me because people from all over the world
order my CDs. How would you like it if you received a bunch of other
people’s orders with your own, and a note asking you to please deliver
the others to the correct addresses? I don't know, perhaps if you
weren't busy you wouldn't mind.
As I was watching the clerk weigh my packages, a
woman in her sixties, with reddish, upswept hair walked past and spoke
to her. They were apparently friends.
”What is your daddy going to do with his birds when he moves?” she asked
the clerk. This is how I deduced that they knew each other, because most
people would not know that her daddy was moving, or particularly, that
he had birds of any kind, I certainly didn’t. She must know this clerk
and her daddy very well, indeed. But on the other hand, if she knew her
daddy that well, why couldn't she just up and ask him herself what he
was doing with his birds. Maybe that is considered uncouth in bird-owner
circles, I have no idea. I thought how tough it must be, moving with
birdies. Having a small dog, I myself was familiar with the hassles of
finding a home to rent that would allow pets. How much more difficult it
must be for a man with, well, I don't know him, so I really cannot say
what his bird situation is.
The surprisingly cordial clerk replied, “Oh, he got rid of most of them
a while back. The parrots are a problem, though. He hasn't told me what
he¹s going to do.”
Well that explains it, if his own daughter couldn't ask him outright
about his parrots, he must be mighty damn sensitive about whatever it is
he's doing with those birds. This was starting to concern me but I said
nothing, staring intently at the remaining envelopes yet to be weighed.
As I stood at the counter minding my own bidnis, they spoke of birds for
a few more minutes and then the sixtyish woman with the reddish hair
surprised me to no end by deliberately including me in the conversation,
looking at me and addressing me personally. This caught me off guard, I
hadn't been paying close attention, my eyes glued as they were to the
clerk, prepared to stop her if she attempted in any way to fold, spindle
or mutilate. The lady even reached over to make a point and laid her
hand on mine for a long second, and said something about cockatiels and
how these particular birds had such hilarious personalities. Though I
hadn’t retained every word, I had gleaned that her father had dedicated
the entire garage to his birds, screened it in and given them the run of
a space normally dedicated to two cars and a mower. I thought of my
garage at home and wondered if I should put my convertible outside under
a tarp and invite the pigeons inside for the winter.
What astounded me about being included in this conversation was the
unabashed openness of a person I didn’t know reaching out to touch me
and speak to me at length. How strange that we live in a society where
you are amazed to be physically touched by another person.
After she walked away it left me in a bit of a daze, thinking about it.
It sounds silly to say, but something about her genuineness and trust
surprised and moved me. When I walked outside she was just leaving the
outer door, having stopped at her personal mail box for a moment. I held
the door for her and she continued talking about birds and again lightly
touched my arm. I don't know why this moved me so much, but something
about her trust surprised me. I tried not to get too lost in my inner
thinking and said that I'd never had a bird but that I feed all the
birds and squirrels in my neighborhood everyday.
”Oh, those darn crows! she said. “They just take over everything.”
I didn’t comment because I love the crows and make sure to feed them
plenty of peanuts so that there is something left after the squirrels
are through. She talked a bit more about crows and told me that she had
two that were “resident” crows. I had never seen a crow that spent the
night - if that’s what she meant - and was surprised hear it. Where I
live in Seattle, the crows from miles around fly to the Arboretum every
night, thousands and thousands of them, to sleep in the trees like
hordes of black Christmas ornaments.
She talked some more and probably wondered why I was looking so intently
into her eyes. It had occurred to me that she wasn’t concerned in the
least about crows or birds - at least in that moment - but was there to
share some spiritual message with me, some reminder of something I had
forgotten. Maybe it was simply love, compassion for a neighbor, another
human being. It seemed to me that she had picked me out to touch and
share some human compassion with. Maybe when she had passed behind me
inside the post office, something in her was awakened by a need in me to
be touched, to be spoken to with genuineness and trust.
As we parted on the sidewalk she said, “I enjoyed our conversation” and
walked away. I watched her leaving, then turned toward my truck,
thinking of the times in my life when a stranger has turned to me as if
I was family and how it has always moved me and surprised me. What had
so touched me was that in this time of so much crime and war and
predation, she had instinctively felt trusting toward me. It doesn’t
happen much in our world anymore - that a woman touches a man she
doesn’t know, especially when it’s not a flirtatious thing, but just a
human expression of love. It made me aware of several things - mostly of
my own true kindness and trustworthiness. But even more beautiful was
that she was simply a trusting soul, a loving person who did not see
people she didn’t know as strangers. She probably had no idea how much
hope she gave me with that simple touch of her hand on my hand, and how
much she made me want to turn to others and share that gentle, genuine
gesture with you.
I appreciate that you check in on me now and then. That too, is a kind
gesture and I like to send you away with a chuckle or two and a reminder
that there is much in the world that is good. We can breathe our way
through this time on earth, listening to our hearts, speaking honestly
and compassionately and sharing what we feel with each other. In fact, I
think that is why we’re here: to make something loving out of what seems
to be falling apart around us. I am grateful that you’re out there.
Thanks for visiting me.
Yer ol’ fren,
PS, I have concerts coming up
in Colorado and California, the Pacific Northwest and maybe a few other
places. Check back now and then and I'll have notice up on my site.
As for my book, I work on it several days a week
and it’s actually coming along in a form I’m pleased with. Thanks for
your patience, especially the 300 or so who have bought it in advance. I
promise you it will be worth the wait.
Howdy my friends,
It's hard to believe that Groundhog Day came and
went already, I look forward all year to my favorite holiday and then
snap!, there it goes and I'm all sad and let down, counting the days
until the next one.
Perhaps you think it strange that I put so much
emphasis on a holiday that many people don't even notice - and the ones
that do mostly make fun of. Well, it goes back to my childhood, spent
mostly in a cave among small mammals.
Well, I didn't actually live in a
cave, but I had a predilection for small, cozy spaces and could
frequently be found hiding in the wheel wells of trucks, underneath
porches and despite severe warnings from my folks, inside abandoned
refrigerators. ( I know my way in and out of all the mid-model
Frigidaires) In those halcyon days where it was much more common for
folks to toss old appliances out on the side of the road, I found no end
of contraptions to lock myself inside of, spending hours in blissful
seclusion, away from the hordes of little children who, though they
seldom noticed me at the time, would someday be stalking me, tracking me
down and begging for autographs. I don't know how I knew this at such an
It was along about this time that I first
heard of the ancient religious holiday called Ground Hog Day. Living on
the Texas plains, I immediately translated it in my mind to mean Prairie
Dog Day, because prairie dogs were numerous in the Texas Panhandle and
I'd never seen a ground hog. There was a place called Prairie Dog Town
at the Amarillo Zoo. It had to have been the cheapest zoo display ever
created. No fake rocks or plaster trees. Just a large round enclosure on
the plains with short brick walls that apparently went down a couple of
feet below the ground so the doggies could not dig out. There were
thousands of prairie dogs yukking it up out there on their mounds, yet
none outside the enclosure. I wasn't yet aware of the rampant
little-mammal-sex-drive in those days (other than my own) but I did
wonder why they played jump-frog constantly when we were there. Who
taught 'em that? I wondered why they didn't try the Hokey Pokey.
Watching their poor attempts at jump-frog, I thought they were just not
very good jumpers and that once they got into position they couldn't get
their little hind legs to propel them up and over. So they kept trying
over and over again real fast. I'm embarrassed now, recalling that I
used to stand there in my little striped tee-shirt, the sun burning my
scalp through my crew cut, and holler out "Come on! Try harder, prairie
dogs! Yall can do it!" Adults all around the enclosure would snicker and
nudge each other knowingly. This is something that I don't understand to
this day. Oh, not the part about the rodent sex, of course I get that. I
just don't understand why someone didn't explain to me that those
prairie dogs had no intention of hopping over anybody.
There's more to the story but then someone might read my site and send
some men in a truck to get me, so I believe I'll leave the rest to your
imagination and just say that I really do love Ground Hog Day and all
that it stands for.
It's been mighty foggy here in Seattle the
last week or two. Every morning starts the same, first it's dark
outside, then it looks like the sun on the horizon is promising a
lovely, sunny day, then when it actually comes over the rise it hits the
cool air and turns the atmosphere to dense fog. I'm not complaining, I
actually like stumbling around my yard looking for my little dawg. I
refuse to put a bell on any animal and so I must walk around like
Frankenstein, lunging in the white-out, grasping at every little sound
in hopes of capturing the little Bungee Dawg. Many a time I've grabbed
an angry raccoon and wished I hadn't. As wonderful as they are to look
at, you just don't want to cuddle a mad one. You'll see what I mean if
you come out to my next show. I'm healing up pretty good, though.
Despite the fog, it has been an inspiring time for one main reason - The
Days are Longer! Yes! It doesn't get dark until nearly 6 pm now. It's
like a whole new life opens up when darkness doesn't fall at precisely
4:30pm. To celebrate, I've been standing on my porch and hollering out
"Five-forty-seven and all is well! - Five-forty-eight and all is still
well!" etc., etc. I can't tell if my neighbors are happy about it or
not. I have noticed when returning home, they duck more quickly than
usual from the car to the house. I doubt its me, I think maybe they just
need a drink after a tough day.
Some Thoughts on Peace
I read something recently that
profoundly moved me and reminded me of what I already know deep
will experience war as long as there is war in the human heart."
What it reminds me of is
that, as long as I am judgemental and blameful, unwilling to ask
what my part is in all things, then I am also participating in the
creation of all things - including war. Much of the time I'm as
confused as the next person, one day listening to an argument
stating one point of view and seeing much in it that makes sense,
the next day hearing another, opposing argument, and seeing also
the truth in that. It seems to me that the answer does not lie in
these external arguments, but inside of myself, inside of all of
us, where there is the opportunity to seek truth and real change.
When I think of a world where we must forever be on guard against
attack, afraid of those who are filled with blame and hatred, I
see a life that I don't want to live. Is there any fathomable
reason that we would have been born to kill each other? There is
no "them", just us, the human beings on this planet who are here
to learn to live together, to experience love and healing and joy
together. We can never kill or imprison all those who hate, we end
up imprisoning ourselves and we endlessly continue the cycle.
Temporary measures have never worked. Have you ever truly solved a
problem by killing another human being? As alien to our learned
behavior as it may seem, temporary answers just delay the
inevitable - pushing it away to deal with at another time, usually
by another generation. The more long-lasting, authentic path is
always going to entail love and forgiveness, wisdom and patience,
releasing judgement and blame, learning a truly new way to live.
It's the last frontier - the one within. We've used the planet up
and now all roads point inward.
I'm not writing any of this to make a stand or take a position.
Like I said, I'm often as confused as anybody, feeling deeply in
favor of peace one day, thinking that war is inevitable the next.
But I most trust the knowing inside me that rises when I am not
threatened and heated up by rhetoric and sensationalism. When I am
quiet and calm, clearer reasoning comes to me - and a belief in
things that require both faith and determination. There there is
something inside me that feels hopeful Lately, I've been making
more space for this calmness, a room for hope and insights and
love to grow. I will share some of what I feel and believe and if
it calls to you, perhaps you can find your own way to join me.
Begin your day with a moment of quiet. If
you are in a rush in the morning, set your alarm five or ten
minutes early - it will be worth it. Even one minute can change
your life and the world. If there is an exercise, yoga,
stretching, anything you do that calls to you, do this for a few
moments. If possible, look out a window at trees and plants and
the sky. If not, close your eyes and imagine them. Better yet,
walk outside for a moment. Listen and feel what is around you, the
miracle of birds and plants and the morning sky.
Sit in a comforable place, back straight but not strained.
Breathe. There is no way to do it wrong, but most of us never even
think of it at all. A little attention to how you do it and what
happens when you do can bring about an amazing sense of
Inhale, take a slow, deep breath and hold it
in for a few moments. Then slowly exhale, sucking in your stomach
and pushing out all the air you can. If it's comfortable, breathe
in through your nose and out through your mouth. However, any way
you can breathe is fine. You will probably be in a hurry - that's
okay, just allow this and remind yourself of patience. Breathe
If there is a shape that calls to you, a sphere, a pyramid, or
egg-shape, the wings of an angel, anything that feels right for
you, imagine that this form of light is around you, a shimmering,
glistening chrysalis of light, containing nothing but the essence
of love and peace, healing and high-spiritual intelligence.
Imagine that this shape is around you always, as you work and
sleep, protecting you by keeping your spirit glowing, your energy
charged and your mood elevated and peaceful. From this place of
well-being you can now ask for what you desire to come into your
heart. If you ask for love and a release of judgement, that is
what will begin to grow there. My process is taking my entire
life. Perhaps yours will come in a moment. Whatever it takes, I
can feel that my intention is more powerful and clear when I hold
it in these quiet times. What has been happening lately is that
I'm more aware all the time of my intent and the love in my heart.
I'm not consciously there always, but even in times of stress I
find myself quicker to remember forgiveness and to release blame.
Much sooner than I used to, I see the tenderness in people and
feel compassion for how difficult life is for everyone. It's a
tremendous change in life when you see this happening in yourself.
If you make this commitment to breathe consciously, to keep
refreshing your intention to love and find peaceful ways to solve
problems, you will find that you are given clearer information
about your life and what to do in all situations. Your intuition
is much sharper when you are at peace and breathing deeply than
when you are emotionally distraught and holding your breath in
anger, fear, pain and confusion. Where there is clarity, there is
release from chaos and confusion.
One of the most beautiful results of this practice is that the
peacefulness inside yourself elicits peace in those you come in
contact with. What if your breathing and your clear intention to
share love and forgiveness affects the person next to you? You
know this is possible because there are people you enjoy being
around precisely because you feel at peace in their presence. If
your peace affects your neighbor and his affects his family and
friends, and each of their's affects the people around them, isn't
it possible that the world can be changed by this?
I'm not presuming that we can have one day of peace or one
meditation and it is all done. But I do believe that a consistent
way of life that involves consciousness in our breathing and
intent can evolve into a way of life that includes consciousness
in all matters and activities, and that this will spread person to
person around the world. Not only will it spread person to person,
it will send a wave or healing beyond our understanding,
exponentially affecting millions in ways we can't yet understand.
In the same way that a song can bring joy to millions of hearts at
once, so can the phenomenon of many people loving at once. You
know it's possible.
Because this is the one thing we know for certain we can do -
beginning these moments of peace in our own lives - shall we do
it? Is there anything at all to lose if we are wrong? If my
finding peace in my heart for a moment or a day or a week or a
year seems to fail to keep us from going to war, doesn't the peace
in my heart still matter? Isn't the healing beginning already?
Thank you for visiting me and for allowing me my stories and songs
and ramblings. It means a lot to me.
Yer ol' fren,
March 20, 2003
Howdy my friends,
I'm just sitting here in a coffee shop on a
rainy Seattle afternoon and wondering what I might write you about. As you
can surely tell from my previous ramblings, I almost never know what it
will be. Not even a clue until my fingers happen to type out something
that makes me laugh or touches me in some way. Let's see how long it
This place sits only a block from where I used
to spend many hours of my life, back a decade or so ago. The Honey Bear
Bakery used to reside a block from here, churning out pumpkin muffins to
die for. People would line up out the door every Sunday morning, driving
from Bellevue and Kirkland to eat a muffin or piece of cake and have a hot
cup o' coffee. Now they're putting in a brewhouse in the Bear's spot. I
guess I'm glad to hear it. Not sure if I'll ever make it by for a brew but
I like the idea of a small pub with lots of laughing people carrying on in
the space left by the ol' Honey Bear. So many old landmarks get destroyed
that you hope, if they have to tear it down, that they'll at least put up
something that keeps people chuckling and getting together in a neighborly
I'll have to drive by some night this summer and take a look at it all
full of folks. People will have no idea they're quaffing beer precisely in
the spot where I once placed a fresh slice of marionberry pie in the chair
of one of my friends. I'm serious. Can you believe I wasted such a tasty
thing? It was still steaming and I guarantee would have been dee-lish. But
the result was so worth it. Have you ever seen a man with marionberry pie
smeared across his ass, walking around town, in and out of stores for
hours before he realizes he has a chunk o' berry pie stuck to his hind
quarters? I couldn't believe he didn't feel it, his butt must have lost
all sensitivity at some point in the past. (I wondered if you could stick
it with a nail and get any response but I wouldn't allow myself.) Anyway,
it was truly a gem of an experience and I highly recommend that you run
out and get yourself a slice of some type of seasonal berry pie and give
it a try with one of your dearest friends.
The older I get, the less likely I am to go in
search of some old landmark that I used to love. They're mostly gone or
not much like I remember them anyway. I just hate to spoil the memory and
so I generally try not to mess with it.
I feel the same way about my concerts. Many times over the years I've been
presented with tapes of my shows that I didn't know existed,
surreptitiously recorded without my knowing. After a time the culprit gets
nervy, thinking I won't be upset over such an ancient infringement, and
wants to know if I will autograph the thing and send it back to him. This
type of thing actually does happen to me and people come up with the
strangest excuses for how they ended up with the recordings. It's wacky.
Well, I guess I lost my focus. It must be this Ling Chung green tea. The
sign says, "Special Grade" and I'm starting to wonder if there's something
more than tea in it. (should my keyboard be grinning at me like this?)
What I was about to say is that I don't like to watch videotapes of my
shows or hear recordings of my concerts because it spoils the version I
recall so dearly.
It's very rare that I don't enjoy one of my concerts, yet I have an
entirely different perspective from where I stand. You may think the show
sucked and at the same time, I will think, "Boy Howdy! That was some fine
singin'!" My point is that when you like how something has settled in your
memory, the shape and feel of an experience, why the heck would you want
to mess with it? Generally speaking, I'm not even a picture-taking person
for the very same reason. I'll just stick with my own version of reality,
Now that I've been writing a book these last two years I've discovered
more clearly than ever how malleable memory is. Just wait 'til my friends
find out all the shit they did that they don't recall. Actually, one of my
friends, who has read a few chapters, commented that my friends all come
off as "adorable." (obviously, this is a woman who said this. I don't
think I've ever in my life had a male friend who calls people that) Still,
when I'm re-creating a conversation around a campfire from ten years ago,
it's all guess work. Who can possibly recall just what was said and who
said it from so long ago? So I make up dialogue to fit the spirit of our
experiences. It was only this last week that I sheepishly realized that
I'd been giving myself all the witty lines and clever comebacks. (Dang it!
I was starting to believe I really was that sharp-witted fellow.) Now I
have to go back and take a few of the better phrases out of my mouth and
give them to my buddies. This is difficult because I'll have to think of
other ways now to write myself as a super-human being. Perhaps I'll write
about the cars I've lifted off of families pinned beneath and near death.
Or that time I rerouted a river (just a small one) when a dam broke and
threatened to take out a quaint Cascade town.
Believe it or not, I actually have a real and honest story to tell you
about something that just happened to me last weekend. Brace yerself.
On Saturday night I played a concert in Southern California at The
CoachHouse in San Juan Capistrano. Where the swallows supposedly return to
every year - thought I haven't seen one in the fifteen years I've been
playing there. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but I've got a pretty
good eye for birds and I ain't seen any, is all I'm saying. I love playing
The CoachHouse, the management and staff always care about the experience
of both the artists and the audience, making my time there pleasant and
professional. The folks who come out to listen always bring new people and
make me feel like I'm family. Many of them have been coming to my concerts
all the years I've performed in California.
In the weeks building up to it, the concert was on my mind, an
undercurrent that I was aware of but not thinking too directly about.
Since I am not much of a rehearser, it was not a thing that I was
preparing for by practicing my songs so much as it was something I was
thinking about in the way of what I could offer in the way of peace and
comfort in these troubling times we are living in. In recent months I've
been taking the time most days to sit and breathe deeply, sometimes
meditating, sometimes praying. I also do a yoga-like series of exercises
called Tibetan Rites, and since I'd been doing these I've experienced a
beautiful current of peace moving through me, leaving me more calm and
loving that I've felt in some time. It's not that I haven't been troubled
by personal and world events - I have been, but I also have felt a
calmness at the core of me that has nurtured a sense of purpose in my life
and music, a feeling that if I can share whatever peace and hope comes to
me, then maybe others will feel calmer and the experience with ripple out
to friends and neighbors and passersby.
I've been working on many new songs and was refining some of them in hopes
of playing them at The CoachHouse. I always fit in a few new songs at
every concert, but I was feeling drawn, called from within somehow, to
play more of my new and recent material rather than the range of songs
that I almost always play. I had one real problem with this: If I play a
broad mix of songs, some from each album, I sell considerably more CDs. At
this time in my life, it would make a huge difference for me to make more
money. Still, I kept feeling that I was getting the message to play this
newer group of songs. So I ignored the part of me that said "Hey, wait a
minute. You've got rent to pay, you'd better play the songs that will sell
some CDs," and went with my heart.
The afternoon of my concert I sat in my hotel room and made a songlist
that felt good to me. It is the first time in my life that I've done a
concert and played only one song from my earlier albums. I explained to
the audience what I was doing and why and then played my new songs and
really loved the feeling in the room, the sense that folks were receptive
to me and enjoying my choices. But sure enough, during intermission I sold
only about 1/3 of the cds I'd normally sell there. My business manager,
Michael Munniks, was selling my CDs and later told me we'd sold only
$60-$700 worth..At the time all that I knew was that I wasn't signing
nearly as many CDs as normal at intermission. No problem, I hardly gave it
a thought. What was happening felt right. I got to talk with lots of
people and enjoy some hugs and hand shakes and laughter.
I went back onstage and played my last set, reading from one of the
chapters of my book. I ended with the song One Breath, and felt truly
pleased at the healing feeling that seemed to radiate in the room.
Afterwards, I said goodbye to several folks and was about to pack up my
guitar when Munniks called me over to the CD table. He looked rather odd,
as if something unusual was going on. When I got there he explained that
the gentleman at the table would like to offer me a proposition. If I
would record one of my new songs for him, one he'd really loved, called,
The River in Your Eyes, he would buy all the CDs I had left at the table.
Obviously, this surprised me, yet in some way it didn't. I said, "Of
course, if you want to do that, I'll record the song for you this week."
The man then pulled out his credit card, and to Munnik's astonishment,
bought every one of the one-hundred-and-sixty-nine CDs on my table. Nearly
As I packed up my guitar I couldn't help but think of the choice I'd made,
opting to play the songs that I knew would make me much less money, the
songs that my heart had called to me to share. And then this generous and
benevolent man had been moved to buy every CD I'd brought with me. Can you
imagine a more beautiful affirmation for following my heart?
I share this with you humbly, as a story of something beautiful that
happened, at least in part, it feels, because a message came through my
heart and I trusted it and followed it. I don't always do that but I'm
getting better at it. Of course, it took a good hearted person to reach
out and respond with great love and generosity. But that is the exactly
the kind of thing that can happen when we are trusting and filled with a
sense of wonder and gratitude. I hope this inspires you to listen to what
your heart is saying to you, even if you cannot imagine how to do it. If
your heart calls, there is a way.
I guess I'll end this thang and get back out to my truck where my faithful
seven pound dawg awaits my return, wondering why the heck I was gone for
so long. She must think I'm seriously hooked on caffeine.
Thanks for visiting me, my
friends. I wish you well and leave you with the lyrics to my song, One
Breath, from my Watching the Storm Roll In album. Just a friendly
reminder to take some deep breaths in these troubling times and follow
the song your heart sings. Thanks for visiting.
Yer ol' fren,
© 2001 Michael Tomlinson
Over night a lot can change
You can go from cloudy grey
To the morning brilliant blue, it's all for you
The purest part of the sky and the ocean, too
There you are, there it is
Everything that Life has to give
I'm not talking about a dream,
And I'm not singing of something that lives in a fantasy
There are wonders in our lives, worlds we don't even know
Eventually, even all these will be revealed
Here, sing these words and feel
All this pain and fear fall apart at last
When we take one breath and we just forgive again
Breathing out and breathing in
Mystery secrets of the wind
Blowing in and out our lives, breeze in a sail
To bring us closer to Love with each inhale
Every wind, every breeze
Every single breath that we breathe
Over night a lot can change
You can go from cloudy grey
To the morning brilliant blue, it's all for you
The purest part of the sky and the ocean, too
There you are, there it is
Everything that Life has to give
Here, sing these words and feel
All this pain and fear fall apart at last
When we take one breath and we just forgive - ourselves
April 22, 2003
A few days ago a friend and I were lying on some
park benches on a sunny spring day. We'd walked some miles alongside a
river and I felt a sudden afternoon nap coming on - as I've said before, I
must have my nap or I can get testy. I suggested that we call out the
shapes we could see in the clouds, partly because it had been a long time
since I'd done that, but also because her attention on the sky would give
me a moment to rifle through her purse for candy. I don't know what it is,
but sometimes I've just got to have a little bite o' sweetness. If it's
stolen, well, you can't get much better'n that.
Unfortunately, all she had in her purse were
some bitter Fisherman's coughdrops. I had to have something, so while she
was still looking at the clouds, pointing out cute little lambeys and
shit, I settled for a tube of lip gloss and took a quick bite out of it.
Not as sweet as it smelled but it would get me by. Chewing on cherry lip
gloss and gazing up into the spring sky, I thought of the countless, lazy
times in childhood when I'd dreamed away an entire afternoon with my mind
adrift in the wild blue yonder. How amazingly long ago it seems. When
you're a kid you cannot imagine that there will ever come a time when you
do not commonly lie on the grass and stare up at the sky, but I guess it
happens to the best of us.
The sun bathed the towering cumuli in such a
bold and brilliant way that the shapes seemed rendered in blown glass
rather than accumulations of moisture. I spotted two images in particular
that were just delightful as all git-out. One was directly above me and
appeared to be the most deeply moving, incredibly poignant sack of money
you ever saw. Surely it was an omen and I could expect to be deluged with
wealth any day now. The second vision I saw was even more
fantastic. So wonderful it bordered on the spiritual. Molded into the
shape of those fluffy clouds was a flock of Victoria's Secret models,
precise in every imaginable detail. I swear, I'm serious as a Texan outa
bullets, there was a whole bevy of 'em struttin' around and puckerin' up.
I started hollering and flailing away wildly with both arms and legs and
well, with other stuff too, so my friend wouldn't miss this astonishing
sky show. Inexplicably, she claimed to be unable to discern them. I
couldn't believe she could be that blind and frantically tried to point
them out, directing her insistently to the one that seemed most clearly
interested in me. I know that sounds stupid but hey, I'm just being
vulnerable and honest here. I leaned over to her bench so she could follow
the line of my arm to the goddess above me.
"Right there, see? The gorgeous brunette leaning forward and about to kiss
me?" I felt self-conscious and amended my phrasing. "I mean, about to kiss
someone. See? She's wearing the little turquois teddy?" Man, when
I'm envisioning something, I go for the details. I was certain that she'd
see her now and be happy for me.
"Michael, I'm staring at the same cloud you are my friend, and I can't
make out anything but your wishful thinking."
Oh well, I guess it is possible that I just got hold of some bad
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There's a little old lady that lives on one of
the many varied routes I regularly walk around Seattle. I can't figure out
if she is psychic and "knows" when I'm going to be walking by, or if she
is standing there for days waiting for me. I think the latter would be
most impressive. Or maybe there is a third scenario: perhaps she is
willing me to walk by and I am unavoidably compelled to choose that path.
I've got a friend who keeps dating women like that.
Whatever the case, she appears magically at her upstairs window just in
the nick of time, all smiles and white, fluffy hair, greeting me like I'm
one of her favorite people in the world. She praises my little dawg
Bungee, and then tells me about other wonderful small dogs that she has
known. She repeats many, many things every time, possibly not remembering
that she has told me these same stories before. Or then again, she may
just like the stories enough to repeat them.
Today she pointed at some dandelions on her lovely lawn and frowned
slightly as she pretended to whisper from the second floor window all the
way down to me on the street. She claimed in her loud whisper that two of
her neighbors just don't take care of their dandelions and the result is
her tremendous heartache at being forced to watch her own lovely yard go
to hell, bursting into as many as three or four nasty yellow blossoms at
once. To her, it is as if someone has tossed empty Jack Daniels bottles
onto her lawn.
This sweet lady is 89 years young, (three years
older than me) spry, happy, filled with the need to engage people in
conversation. So I happily stand below her like a six foot tall ear and
listen for fifteen minutes every time she catches me striding by. Often, I
am laughing not at the things she thinks I am, but at her sheer energy,
her hilarious repetitions and the great burst of heart and humanness she
exudes from her perch above the neighborhood.
Even on days like today, when I looked over my shoulder and saw that the
sun was swiftly being obscured by heavy rain clouds approaching to drown
me miles from my home, I just stood there listening. It's easy really, I
need not say a thing to keep the conversation going because everything she
says reminds her of something else and there she goes, sailing on in a new
direction. I am enthralled by her conversational dexterity. Without taking
any obvious breaths, she can go from dandelions to vinyl siding, her
deceased husband, his remarkable work ethic, her daughter and adopted
grandchildren, rototillers, little dogs, my obvious good fortune in life
(not sure why it is obvious unless it's just that I still have all my
limbs) and finally, just as I was feeling the first icy drops of rain, the
impending storm. "You should get that little dog out of the rain, young
man!" (Young man! Now you know why I hang out there so patiently.)
I looked around startled, pretending that I'd never even thought to leave
that spot ever again. "Yes maam, you're right. I'd better get going."
I waved goodbye to her and continued on my walk. As I walked past the tall
hedge at the border of her yard, her neighbors were bent over laughing in
delight at my having been held captive for once instead of them. It was
pretty funny to see them hiding there, laughing quietly at the one-sided
conversation they themselves were usually ensnared in. I'm sure if you
lived next door it might be inconvenient to be stopped every time you step
outside, but since I'm only there once a week, hey, I'm quite happy to be
her audience for a few minutes.
Actually, it's not me doing anything for her, I feel like I'm her student;
she's lived a full live and is passing on some of the good parts. She's
showing me what it is to live long and still be vital and passionate and
truly alive. It's quite a lovely gift to offer someone - even if it gets
them soaked with spring rain.
I hope you've got someone in your neighborhood to remind you how good it
is to be alive.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thanks for checking in on me now and then. I took
longer to update my site than usual this time and I must admit that the
war had a lot to do with that. It's been a confusing time in many ways,
but I always try to remember that from any current point in time, there is
always the opportunity for healing and a new burst of consciousness, love
and compassion. Sometimes all you can really do is love yourself, love the
world and bless all living things. I hope you're doing that, we need all
we can get.
May 31, 2003
Howdy my friends,
What a beautiful Memorial
Day Weekend it was here in Seattle. Today was a sparkling sunny day,
bejeweled with every color of blossom imaginable. Seattle is at it's prime
this month with spring blossoms and foliage and I walked several miles
through winding neighborhood streets, listening to folks laughing and
talking in front yards. It seemed like there was a picnic or cookout going
on at nearly every house. I kept thinking that if I could find a family
reunion large enough I could slip in unnoticed with my little dawg and
have some tater salad or at least a tofu-dog. (Don't put 'em right in the
flame, they blister like the dickens!) Anyway, I could have found
something to eat, I'm sure. I was tempted to try out my party crashing
talents but I'm rusty. Many years ago I conceived of the brilliant idea of
stepping boldly up to some large family reunion at a park and simply
picking up a plate and digging in. If anybody noticed me I could simply
wave in a big friendly way, look out past my interrogator and holler "Hey,
Uncle Bob!", then waltz over and eat my fill, no one ever the wiser. If
the questioner was to still persist I could claim I was a second cousin to
"Li'l Ricky", who couldn't make it this year 'cause of the measles. What
large family reunion doesn't have an Uncle Bob or a Cousin Ricky with the
I spent all of Memorial Day proper in a garage in Snoqualmie. Now some
people might think they'd rather be having a picnic or flying a kite or
something but no, not me. I'd rather be helping my friends Rick and Ruth
clean out years of accumulated crap that they should have thrown out a
long time ago. But that's just me. About every three months they find
their garage so overwhelmingly stuffed with boxes and bicycles and camping
gear, baby buggies and power tools that they frantically seek my
assistance in gutting the place so that they can start immediately
collecting more shit. They know I operate with tough love when it comes to
gettin' stuff done. I'm the king of sarcasm as I hold up various
ridiculous items for approval to go into the trash bin.
"Rick, how 'bout this table with three broken legs that you told me seven
years ago you were going to fix? Are you on the verge of getting to it or
can I finally burn this thang?"
Rick looks on, his mind a veritable salad spinner of ideas as to the many
ways a man could possibly use a broken table. To my utter shock he said,
"Oh, okay. Toss it." That's how effective I am. I've only tried to get him
to see the light about five or six times over seven years and suddenly, he
was my man. Next I had to try to convince Ruth to toss out a chair she
brought home from Africa twelve years ago. It's ugly. It's uncomfortable.
It's large and in the way. But most of all, it's been stuck in that garage
for many years.
"Ruth, about this chair that people in Africa to this very day are
laughing about having managed to sell you, can we toss it?"
She laughed and said, "Oh, I know it's ugly, but maybe I'll use it
someday. Oh, what the heck, let's get rid of it."
I couldn't have been more stunned. This is exactly what six years of
marriage and two kids will do to a couple. They lose their sense of
values. Nearly a dozen times they'd fought me on these very items, now
they were like putty in my hands. I was tempted to see if I could talk
them into the title on their house but then I remembered, "oh yeah,
they're my friends."
As satisfying as it was to see boxes organized and labeled, set neatly on
shelves and room to walk in and out of the garage, I didn't get too
excited. From my past experience I'm certain that after I left at least
half the garbage pile was reconsidered and loaded back into the garage. I
did the best I could.
~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~
I've been traveling a bit lately. I played a
concert in a lovely little venue near Denver in Evergreen. It's called The
Red Barn and sits just off a scenic mountain road near a large pond with,
as near as I could count, about 50,000 frogs habitating it. They
accompanied me for most of my performance until I went totally berserk and
flung my guitar stand into the pond to shut 'em up. Man! What's a guy got
to do to get a little peace and quiet out in nature? The audience seemed
surprised that I would be so irate at a few thousand frogs while singing a
romantic ditty about ladybugs and slugs. All I can say is that I'm a
After a few days in Evergreen I flew down to Dallas to rent a car and
drove to Tyler to visit my mom. I hadn't seen her since my father's
funeral last fall and I was a much welcomed visitor. It's been a year of
so much change in both our lives, she lost the love of her life and her
partner of over 50 years, and I lost my father. One of the tremendous
gifts he left us with was a healing of our relationship, both the one
between my mother and I and the one between her and my brother. You just
never know the miracles that can happen in this life, do you? There was a
time when neither of us could have imagined the peace and goodwill and
love that is beginning to flow between us and we're both very grateful for
After several days with my mom I came back home to Seattle and then took
the ferry over to Whidbey Island to spend a few days at a friend's family
vacation cabin on the beach. Often, a large group of us go up there but I
was alone with my little dawg for several days this time, wandering the
beach and taking hikes. I spent one afternoon replanting the garden in the
rowboat that sits in the front yard. I'm hoping my wild flowers grow
insanely profuse and beautiful this summer so I can sit on the deck
drinking margaritas with my friends and take personal credit for the
natural beauty of the place.
That Friday morning just after sunrise, I paddled a kayak up to Fox Spit
Point. The water was so perfectly still it was almost hypnotic. I've
kayaked in some wonderful places, Glacier Bay, Alaska, Parau Bay, New
Zealand, various bays and lakes in and around Seattle and in Puget Sound.
But last Friday morning the waters off Whidbey Island were about as
beautiful as any place I've ever paddled. Fortunately, the fact that the
kayak had a leak in it and I was crotch-deep in icy ocean water within two
miles, didn't lessen my experience at all. In fact, it was oddly
stimulating. I don't mean sexually, more like if you settled your crotch
into a jug of iced tea, that kind of stimulating. I had to pull the
boat out of the water and turn it upside down on the shore or it would
have been like paddling a bathtub all the way back to the house.
Now I'm home and it's the end of May and I'm kind of grieving the end of
spring. Since we've had a cool one it will last a little longer, but I
live for these colorful, blustery spring days and wish they could last a
few weeks longer. After my long walk this afternoon I got out one of the
many camp chairs I keep in my truck (when you own a little fuzzy purse of
a dawg you never know when a crowd will form - I try to keep plenty o'
chairs with me at all times) and I'm sitting here now at a park under a
chestnut tree full of new leaves. I thought I'd work on my book awhile but
decided I felt more like writing a new rambling for my website. I know
quite a few folks check in every few weeks and I thought for once that I'd
have something new up by the first of the month.
I've got several ideas rolling around in my mind concerning my next CD, a
raffle you can enter to win a concert in your very home, and some
songwriting workshops and classes. I haven't sent a real paper newsletter
in nearly three years and I'm thinking of taking ads from folks on my mail
list in order to be able to send one out. If you're interested that or any
of the events I mentioned, you can scroll on down and read more about
them. Thanks for checking in on me now and then, I get the most amazing
messages, letters and emails from folks around the world and it means a
lot to me that you have let me know that my music is a good part of your
life. My next batch of songs is almost ready to record, knowing you're out
there listening makes me more excited about getting started.
Thanks for listening. Don't forget to take some deep breaths and keep your
heart open. We all need each other's help.
Yer ol' fren,