Sunday, April 30, 2017

songs in the key of me

I had the distinct and unique pleasure last night to accompany Mr. Green and his dad to an Arlo Guthrie concert. To be honest, I dared not admit my deep ignorance of folk music in general or the Guthrie family legacy in particular to my dates given their 6 months of anticipation. I don't know why, but as soon as Mr. Green mentioned the concert to me in October I knew I wanted to be there. And I'm so glad that just 6 weeks into 'catching up' with Mr. Green I said yes to a concert that was 6 months away. For that yes I got a lesson in melody, history and being human. 

According to Arlo, when he was a kid folk music was just his dad (the legendary Woody Guthrie, whose iconic song "This Land is Your Land" I thought was Canadian until I was at least 30 and even when I heard the other version I thought "the damn Americans would steal and wreck something that so beautifully tells the story of Canada") and Woody's friends sitting around singing sea shanties, working songs, and other assorted folk songs from around the country. What set these men apart was that they were the first ones to begin recording those ancient tunes. Apparently, they weren't necessarily songwriters, though of course there are notable exceptions. In Arlo's words, folk music now mostly seems to be "songs in the key of me." What a line. As an opening statement and commentary on modern life, in general, that'll make you sit up and listen. 

I know the picture is fuzzy. Pretend it's the blue haze of Woodstock. 
One highlight of the evening for me was the keyboardist, who we eventually learned is Arlo's son Abe. I don't think I've ever seen such a consistent scene of joy as Abe Guthrie making music. His face was both serene and excited - I've dubbed it "resting bliss face" and hope it catches on like the more usual version has. 

At one point in the evening, I was reminded why I watch and re-watch The Waltons - for the peace. For the reassurance that what has always mattered - kindness, honesty, truth - still matters. It all felt so homey and familiar despite my not knowing most of the songs. I suppose that's the point of folk music - to wrap you in a warm, soft blanket while teaching you again to be human. It was poignant and political. Subversive and holy. I cried to "When a Soldier Makes it Home" and sang with gusto to the encore, the CANADIAN VERSION of "This and is Your Land." 

There was so much great music and story that I wish I could recreate it all. I can't, of course. There was plenty of Bob Dylan, both stories and songs. A fleeting reference to Johnn Cash and the "Train Song Genre" before playing "City of New Orleans." "Mr. Tambourine Man," after a memorial tribute to the man who inspired the song and passed away a week ago.

I can't say Arlo Guthrie's voice would be my normal preference - I like my big over-singers - but that magical blend of melody, history and humanity. Oh, I wish you were there. If you ever get the chance for one of Arlo Guthrie's musical life lessons, seize it. Seize it and smile.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

the #bestlife backlash

I read a piece on CBC this week that articulated fully something that's been bouncing around in my brain for a while. Given the post's popularity on Facebook, I'm guessing I'm not the only person it spoke to. There's really two parts - the surging trend of quasi-inspiring #bestlife fitness, travel, dream job social media streams, blogs etc. and the self-editing nature of social media (Facebook in particular) that ensures we only ever see each other's highlight reels and never the struggles, drudgery or pedestrian magic of the rest of life.

I wrote about one edge of the problem in 2015, but it's continued to deepen and shift and fester since then. Let's be honest. I'm part of the problem. My home is a gallery of pinsta-gramish fauxspiration seasonally available at HomeSense: my hallway is lined with photos and art collected on my journeys (and a stunning mask my son brought me from Costa Rica), my dining room yells inspiration to grow, even my new shower curtain drips with #BESTLIFE urgency - adventure, explore, dare, freedom, wander .... 

My other blog is peserved for sun-drenched moments far from my Westcoast home, and posts pining for the same. On Instagram and Pinterest I like, pin and share cutely designed mojo-boosting mottos. I am a part of the #BestLife social media pressure squad. I've attempted to paint on a smile and ended up creating a creepy clown nightmare.  

Some of it makes me smile. Sometimes it has the intended effect of reminding me to choose what I want my life to be instead of letting my life happen by default. Sometimes, but honestly not that often.

I follow endless twitter feeds and Instagram accounts by people who have made the leap to full-time travel and berate myself that I'm not doing the same. I look at my quest list and pick only the low-hanging fruit, then chastise myself for not 'really going for it.'

My #dreamlife goals have turned into pressure and robbed me of joy in my current life. Which, truth be told, is pretty dreamy itself. Yet for months I've acted as though there's something wrong with all of it because I'm living it here and not under palm trees. because I'm not as fit as I was a year ago, because ... because ... because. Basically I've operated as though the only life that matters is an idealized #bestlife.

This exhausting striving has also tarnished the joyful memories of my time in Jamaica. I have been telling myself that those 6 months were the best my life was going to get - the best I was going to get - and it's all downhill now. Or that I can do that again but only at the cost of this life - this love, this home, this work.

Honestly, I'm over it. Which is not to stay I don't still have those goals, but they are not the ONLY acceptable life. I'm ready at last to be grateful for this life. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

for miss lady

I went to my first writing group this week. For the last month I've been actively letting go of things that no longer serve me and being curious about things that might move me in the direction I want to go. And, since it's been more than 14 months since I was gainfully employed, moving forward is getting to be a bit of an urgent matter. So, I attended a writing group. 

It was interesting. I'm not sure that I'll go back regularly, but for $20 it was a nice evening out with other creative women. The reason I wasn't over-awed was just because most of the evening was free-writing from prompts, which is something I already do a lot of on my own. That said, it was neat to hear what some of the other women wrote and to share a little of what I came up with. 

As it happens, I was chatting before the group with Miss Lady and she was even more excited about the writing group than I was. And, as is her tendency, she said "maybe the homework will be for you to blog every day!" Hope springs eternal for Miss Lady. In fact, my goal was to get writing in a more profitable medium, but ... baby steps. 

So, with a couple of great Miss Lady conversations running through my head, and my on-the-spot mantra for the night of "Looking forward. Letting go. Cutting anchor ties. Sailboats. Hot air balloons. I am not a stone," here's one shareable thing I wrote: 

When I grow up ... 
When I grow up I'm going to stop needing you so much. Look forward more than back. Stop caring what certain women think or what the gossips say. 

When I grow up I'm going to be less mad/sad/angry/suppressed. I'm going to say what there is to say without malice but also without censorship. They said I'd start doing that when I turned 40 and now I'm almost 50 and finally see the light. 

Not caring is the greatest gift I can give myself. Or perhaps it's more caring about the right things - joy, my own voice, what I know to be true for me. Caring less who likes me and my words. 

Apparently words scare the boys away. That's okay. I don't want a boy. I want a man. 

When I grow up I'll know that growing up is not so much doing what I want but being who I want. 


There are no shrinking violets in this garden. 

When I grow up I hope you'll grow with me. I hope you'll challenge my fear and celebrate my honesty. When I grow up I'd like to grow old with you. Scratch that - let's never grow old. 
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