Clean Cut Kid – Inside My Head

(Listening to this song while you read this, is strongly encouraged)

A while ago, I was digging through some random playlists, and I found Woman.  Track three, from the 2021 album, Mother’s Milk by Clean Cut Kid. I listened to it dozens of times and thought I might write about it. But I kept listening, and eventually decided I needed to know more about these amazing musicians and took a headfirst dive into a Clean Cut Kid rabbit hole.

When I came up for air, HISS was on repeat, and it still is. HISS is their 2022 release and it’s a ride. Their lyrics brought smiles and a sense of deep heartache. Their musicianship is sweet and intelligent. It is a ride… I will be listening to this album for the rest of my life. I might write about every song on this album, it is really that good.

This post is about track five, Inside My Head. This song is exactly what I needed, right at this moment.

After I have written all the songs inside my head
Will I be an average son
A mediocre husband and, a pretty shitty friend
Not much use to anyone

Mike and Evelyn Halls, along with Ross Higginson and Gareth Bullock are making magic. They create a beautiful dance of lyrics, filled with emotion, and enveloped by beautiful music. Clean Cut Kid helped me back to joy.

The last few months have been a battle. Covid kicked my ass at the end of November and just when I thought I was good again, I got the cold that never goes away… then my back…. I am not ready to feel this old.

My joy slipped away.  

During these months I didn’t write at all and for a moment I forgot why I write. For a moment I forgot that writing gives me the energy I need to be a good person.

Inside My Head is about life, and it reminded me that I still have things to write. This song whispered to me to go and write some joy.

I’m an average son, a mediocre husband, and a perfectly shitty friend. But I’m not fading from being of use to anyone. That is just the lie of getting old. I am still finding stories in my head, and I can’t wait to see what they become. This song reminded that I create…

This is the magic of music.  

Writing is my way of exploring my weird and fantastic relationship with music. Clean Cut Kid have figured some of theirs out and I am so grateful.

After I have written all the songs inside my head
Will I like what I’ve become
Or wake without the reason for to rise up from my bed
Burn like a vampire from the sun

I was the “clean cut kid” ... I distinctly remember a fifth-grade friend’s mom telling me how happy she was that her son was spending time with me. Every time I saw her, she said, “You are such a good influence Rusty.” I never knew if it was because I was smart, or that she knew I couldn’t see very well so I wasn’t. Either way she was wrong.

I was an average kid that did stupid shit, just like their kid… trying to steal a cartoon of camels so I would be accepted. Mom was disappointed in me when the policeman brought me to the laundromat she worked at. I don’t remember any punishment, other than her disappointment. I knew what my parents wanted me to be, there were just some days that I didn’t do it.

I did an adequate job as a parent but poured too much of myself into the jobs I had. That created gaps and canyons in the moments I had with my kids. I was their only parent, and I did my best, but it really wasn’t enough. I was called to greatness and managed to get only part of the way there.

Pay attention to every moment you have. They will fly away, and they won’t ever return. Care less about your job and more about what you get to taste in life. Embrace who you are, so you can love who you become.

Today, you are right where your next adventure will find you. Be deliberate in how you love and know that every single human around you deserves to thrive. Strip away your privilege and be a good human.

Some men have their greatness thrust upon them
Some are snakes and con-men
But what I am is worse
Hitch myself a ride on each bandwagon
Just to hide me dragging’
My belly though the dirt
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work


In a few weeks we will see the third anniversary of the Covid lockdown.

Do you remember where we came from? It was only three years ago that we entered that place of dread.

Do you remember what it felt like to have to stay home?

Do you remember the millions that died?

I remember how it looked on your face…

You were looking for motivation to get out of bed, trying extremely hard not to be a vampire just burning in the sun. We all had those days where we felt like our bellies were being dragged through the dirt. It was a long few years… and we are not the same.

We are not the same…

I remember how excited you were to go grocery shopping. I wrote about stepping up my game for you. We were the place you got your food, and I was that week’s social experience.

All of us were all looking for someone with greatness to walk us out of this shit and we made it. Not because of any one person, we made it out because so many of us chose to. We made it here today and we are relevant. We navigated con-men and snakes to get to this place, we need to hang on to it.

I see people every day that have slipped right back into the routine. I can see that you’re tired and I know that you are not writing down the songs inside your head. Finding your joy is more important than the next quota or title. Take a breath, listen to this song and dream of the day when you can do some real work.

Every one of us has something we create that brings joy. I don’t know what that means for you, creating simply means bringing what’s inside your head to life.  Are you making beautiful sourdough bread, are you building the most complex formula that will reveal the origins of the universe? Find out what it is, and then do it.

Did all the cool projects and shit you started during the lockdown take less than a year to slip away? Write a song down, whatever that means to you. Grab some joy and thrive.

After I have written all the songs inside my head
Will I still mean as much to you
For what’s a downtown boy without, the ink inside his pen
Besides a classless fool
.

I am still at your neighborhood grocery store working with some of the best people on earth. I love every minute of it. Every single day I get to see a beautiful story and if I am paying attention, I get a chance to give away some joy.

I have stickers…

The best part of my job is the stickers. I don’t care if you’re three or eighty-three, it’s just our silly little piece of joy, just for you. Giving out a few stickers has shown me the most amazing moments of being human.

Who cares for the voice of a man in his 50’s
Still dragging his wife along for the ride
Each stage getting smaller along with the riches
Still no sign of the kids, by their sides

Every single day, there is at least one bright eyed youngster who has nothing but love for everyone around them and everywhere they look, they see wonder… Nothing should ever steal the magic of being young. They should get their stickers. The joy and squeals of their delight gives me energy that can carry me to Neptune. I have walked the streets of Algiers, with its white streets and white buildings that lead to the azure of the Mediterranean Sea… I have seen lightning strike thousands upon thousands of times around me in a single night in the high desert… but the joy and wonder that I see from the future leaders of this world brings me immense joy and so much hope. Every sticker is a chance we get to win. It doesn’t have to fade away after this chapter…

I don’t know the roads that inspired Mike Halls to write these songs, I may never know his story, but I really like this guy. He is writing, singing, and pouring his creation into our universe. That takes courage and the willingness to put your whole ass self out there. It is because of the courageous ones like him that music still carries its magic out to us. The last verse of this song hit me with sorrow and regret, but it also inspired me to write about the joy I get from the kids that come through my line.

Music can change us if we let it, the power of music that inspires one human to another is simply astounding. I am so grateful to Clean Cut Kid for putting their magic into the universe. We find ourselves in dips on occasions where we wander through sadness, anger, and frustration. If we are listening, we get to hear some angels, throwing us a line in their music that opens that thought of how it makes it really cool to be you….

I will always be working my way through my relationship with music. It is my guidepost and marker. Find your guidepost, whatever that might be, fix your eyes on it and never let it out of your sight.

Listening, learning, and growing…

Katie Pruitt – Normal

(Listening to this song while you read this, is strongly encouraged)

Why is a sixty-one-year-old, straight white male writing about a song celebrating being queer? I am writing because being queer should be celebrated by straight white males. I am writing because I want my fifteen-year-old granddaughter to know she is perfect just the way she is… I am writing because this song is magic.

I discovered Katie Pruitt a few months ago when I heard her EP, “Ohio/ After The Gold Rush”. When I heard her sing After The Gold Rush, I felt like it was the first time I had really heard that song.  And then I fell into a Katie Pruitt rabbit hole. I listened to everything she has released, multiples, of multiple times. her music has been front center for a few weeks now.

Normal, is from her album, “Expectations.”  This entire album is a gift, every song has its own magic and story, I can’t wait to hear what she does next. She is a part of something really cool happening in Nashville.

I had completely forgotten the pull that Nashville could have on my heart… fourteen-year-old Rusty’s crush on Tanya Tucker. Listening to Tanya those many years ago is what helped me through my parents’ divorce and over the last little while I have found beautiful reminders in Joy Oladokun, Brandi Carlile and Katie.  Each of them have dropped little goblets of magic into my soul. The power of music can help you face or unlock things, it can help you learn, and it is awe inspiring. Even at my crazy old age, I am learning.

I recently watched Katie on an episode of “The Caverns Sessions”. What a beautiful setting, and while she sang “Normal”, the tug of words began to swirl through my mind. Words for my granddaughter, words for my younger self and words that heal.

Wasted and worn out and wonderin’, “Where do I fit?”

And scared as hell ’cause I knew I was different

I think that most of us have experienced the hammer of society trying to pound us into shape over the forge of normal. There are some of us who no matter the pounding, could not find our way to normal. I have never felt acquainted with normal; I may never understood normal.

What’s it like to be normal?

To want what normal girls should?

God knows life would be easier

If I could be normal, then trust me, I would

Trust me, I would

There was one time in my life when I believed, I knew what normal was. It was in 1969, I was eight years old and living in the most barren place you could imagine. There was no kindergarten. I went to first grade in a two-room schoolhouse. My first-grade class was me, a third grader, two fifth graders and two sixth graders, one of the sixth graders was my older sister Roxi. She is the one who took this picture. That’s my mom, my sister Robbi is in front of me, and Renee is on my mom’s left. None of us have any idea what was on her hand…

Rusty's mom, Rusty, Robbi and Renee in 1968. Northeastern Montana. Outside their tiny house on the plains

That was it, that time, a little slice in my life where I felt like I was normal.

Not long after this picture was taken my parents took me to visit the School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls, MT. I remember making my dad mad cause when we stopped at a stop sign in the city and then started off again, I yelled STOP, which he did. I opened the door I was sitting next to and closed it again. My dad asked what that was all for and I responded, “I had to let Paul in.”

Paul was my imaginary friend.

At the Deaf and Blind School, I found out I was different. I found out that most people see the world much differently than I do. I was born with an optical nerve disorder that prevents it from properly aligning the images that each eye is sending to it. I have a very distinctive squint of my left eye that resembles something of a perma-wink. I have figured out ways of coping and how to work with the tools I was given. But I have never succeeded in being normal, this world was not designed for me.

But when that picture was taken, I had no idea that I was any different than you.

Marchin’ in line in the halls of my Catholic school

Seven Hail Marys if I copped an attitude

And God was a word I had spoken but I hardly knew

Kneelin’ down at the altar with no clue who I was talkin’ to

Stumblin’ ’round Athens with frat boys in hot pursuit

Left me starin’ at the ceilin’, pissed off and feelin’ used

In second grade I had to ride the bus to town. School was a huge building and had every grade, some grades even had two classes each, instead of six students there were at least a hundred… I was the only kid who could not close his desk because his books were four times the size of everyone else’s. They were bigger than coffee table books. I was humiliated but I was also grateful for those books, they made it possible for me to try and keep up. Even in the front row I can’t see the board, but everyone in class knows when you pee yourself. It didn’t really matter though, we moved after third grade, and after fourth grade… I never had access to those big books again and I was both relieved and disappointed. It made it easier to blend in and look normal but lots of things went by without me seeing them, lots of things. I spent a lot of time being scared as hell because I was different.

When I watched Katie singing this song, it struck me that her struggle with “normal” was not that different than mine. She cannot change who she is any more than I can. She should be able to live in a world that is designed for her. No one’s story is the same as another’s but neither of us knows what its like to be normal.

Did they want what’s best or did they want what’s easiest?

‘Cause I tried my best, but God damn, was I curious

And she had me high as the sun on a Saturday afternoon

With no way to unsee this side of me that she introduced

I have never really talked about my eyes, not in depth, with anyone. I have tried but I am so used to trying to compensate, that I just hide it, even from myself. Writing it here, right now. Scared as hell cause I know I am different…

We lived in twenty-nine places by the time I was sixteen and in some way that may have saved me. I blamed being new for not fitting in but honestly, I didn’t fit in because I can’t see. I am not blind, I just can’t see a baseball until its about ten feet away, the time it takes my eyes to focus eliminates most sports. When given the tools I excelled academically but those were tiny windows that closed soon after they were opened. Through it all I have joy. I overcame all of that, I have had several weird and wonderful careers, and I am writing the next chapter now. This may be the best of them all.

The world told us to fit in, but we did the opposite

The world told us to fit in, but we did the opposite

I thought of my granddaughter Sophie as I watched Katie sing. Sophie is fifteen and just starting to write her story. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be fifteen, right now. Sophie reminds me so much of myself, smarter than most people, trying to embrace her differences and trying to fit in. I want her to know that her differences are her strengths. I don’t want the world to force her into their version of normal. It took me decades to understand that our beauty is derived from what sets us apart from normal. I will continue to encourage her to write her story in any way she sees fit and ignore the noise and the pounding to conform.

I thought of my daughter as I watched Katie sing. I can never go back and be the dad that I should have been. I can never erase the rigid life I tried to convince her was real. I can never encourage her younger self to forget about fitting in and just be Elaine. I remember the joy she faced each day with, but my rules got stricter, and her joy grew quieter… her dad was so busy keeping them alive he didn’t see how much Elaine trying to fix things cost her. I want to be a part of her atmosphere as we grow older. I will remind her that I named her after Evenstar and she just needs to shine… Trust me, I would.

Trust me, I would

Trust me, I would

I would

I thought of Atlas, Emily, and Taya as I watched Katie sing. They are all striving to understand their place while grasping for all the beauty they can find. None of my friends are “normal,’ and for that I am grateful. They put up with my way of using way too many words, but hopefully I give them a bit of hope in pursuing who they can be. They are brilliant lights that give me hope for the stories to come. Here’s to ignoring normal and embracing the perfection of how perfectly different we all are.

Thank you, Katie Pruitt, for making this old man cry. Thank you for giving me a piece of your magic that let me open a door that has been closed for fifty-two years. Thank you for being your best self and telling us about it. I am a different man today because you followed your dreams.

I have watched so many people try and avoid being normal and so many of them gave up, myself included. Today I could care less what the world thinks of me, and I am content to just listen, learn and grow. Life can be joyful and full, regardless of how normal you are. We are all just the way we should be…

Embrace that and shine…

Listening, learning, and growing…

Sweet Symphony – Joy Oladokun (with Chris Stapleton)

The perfect love song…

(Listening to this song while reading, is strongly encouraged)

This year I celebrated twenty years with the most beautiful human to ever grace my path and she chose to live these twenty years with me. Nothing in my life is as precious as this. Nothing is as sweet as the love I have from this friend and partner.

I let my walls down, and daily… I lay my weapons on the floor and there she is, loving me. She has never wavered, and my heart still trembles at the sound of her love for me…

Do you know anyone who believes they deserve love, really? We never feel quite good enough to be loved. So, when you find it, you want to shout and then you do anything you can do to sabotage that precious love.

Every day is a miracle, and every day she is here.

I keep listening, I truly hope I am learning, and I believe, I am growing…

I get weak
Whenever you’re around
I let my walls down
Lay my weapons on the floor
Fight
Every day I used to fight
Dream of real love at night
Well it’s reality now

Sweet Symphony” is the perfect love song.

Joy Oladokun. I am so grateful for the beauty you have brought to my life. Thank you for pouring your soul into your magic.

Be relentless in your obsession to weave your magic into music.

Loving you’s a sweet symphony
That all of heaven and earth join to sing
My heart trembles at the sound
Even if the world that we built falls at our feet
We’re still right where we’re supposed to be
Together through ups and the downs
Dungeons And ivory towers

Loving my sweet Susan is a sweet, sweet symphony.

The life that I have walked has led me through so many valleys and so many dead ends. But I found Susan.

I remember that night, wondering what she wanted for the future. My life changed forever when she wanted to be a part of mine.

My heart trembled at the sound…

We have walked through one crazy battle after another, and we are still here, the love of my life is still right here.

She is my sweet symphony.

Wrong…

We’ll get things wrong
But as long as we keep, еvery promise we makе we’ll stay whole
I know
There’ll be heavy days
But in every mistake
There’s a lesson to learn so stay here with me

We walked through grief together and we walked through the terrors of life together.

We still walk, right next to each other.

We all get things wrong. I have had days when I thought that the world would be a much better place without me. But here I am, and, in every mistake, she has been right here… loving me.

She has never wavered; she has never turned away… she is my sweet symphony.

Loving you’s a sweet symphony
That all of heaven and earth join to sing
My heart trembles at the sound
Even if the world that we built falls at our feet
We’re still right where we’re supposed to be
Together through ups and the downs
Dungeons and ivory towers

Joy Oladokun is a star. Her songwriting, her singing, her weaving of magic., everything about her music is magic. She is a warrior, writing like this takes courage.

She was born for all generations, and she is magical…

Chris Stapleton is so smart to bring his voice to this beautiful, perfect, magic. I love how this magician finds himself singing “Wrong

simply brilliant….

I discovered Joy Oladokun last year, but it feels like I have been listening to her all my life. She gave me strength with her album, “in defense of my own happiness“.

I have never really been afraid of working in that neighborhood grocery store through this pandemic, but I am old. I could have stayed away. But I wouldn’t know Henry and every other kid that made me smile over the last three years.

Love is truly a sweet symphony…

Every soul that I worked with through this little slice of horror will forever be etched in my memory. Joy’s music helped keep me smiling and ringing up your groceries. It kept me loving you all enough to get over feeling dirty and part of the problem and just focusing on being the one who can make you smile.

Loving all of you is a “Sweet Symphony“.

The world has truly fallen at our feet, and we can decide how we rebuild it. Will we accept what brought us here or be critical of the little pieces that don’t matter?

breathe…

No matter where you are or what you are doing… stop, listen, and take note of this beautiful soul, Joy Oladokun.

Listening, learning, and growing

Unraveling Me

This post was inspired by three completely different songs, all of them are magic. While you read this, I recommend you listen to them here. As each of these appeared in my life, they were exactly what I needed. One gave me a smile and way to respite, the next song helped me look through some of the doors in my past and be honest about what I saw. The last one helped me to understand what to do with all of this and so I write.

Don’t It Feel Good by Mt. Joy

Ugly Faces by John Moreland

After The Gold Rush by Katie Pruitt

I have been wrestling with the faces of my past. I have had some small victories, but I have not won. I am, however, no longer ashamed of being who I am. Part of the battle was letting go of the things I was told I was. I am determined to grow and to understand where I came from and what I can do about that. I am a sixty-one-year-old straight, white male and that carry’s some baggage and some responsibility. It has taken me far too long to come to this place, but I am here, and I am listening, I am learning, and I am growing.

 We told ourselves we’d tell it true…

But I learned how to lie watching you…

I grew up believing that racism was dead, and that John Wayne had a hand in killing it.

I believed that.

I was a senior in high school when I found out the United States was not a democracy. One of my teachers took a detour into describing the electoral college and I was struck numb. It did not matter what the popular vote was, if certain criteria were met, you became president. That shook me, and for a time, I started asking questions and shaking a few of the more obvious trees around me. Racism leered right into my view, and I stared at it, I was angry about it, I really did not understand. I was raised by one the strongest women I have ever known and had a front row seat to the inequalities of the seventies. But then life took her and that shook me so hard, I simply drifted and that quiet awakening that had started was quickly snuffed out. I bumbled my way through my twenties and thirties, riding all the while on the back of privilege. Eventually, I embraced the root of patriotism itself, the church. There is nothing that separates the church from our state. It is richly and warmly embraced in every detail, “In God We Trust.”

I don’t know how I built this boat
Or if it’s always gonna float


From my first breath, I was taught that this was the day the lord hath made…. I am still unraveling the threads of those bindings. I have unraveled enough of them to wonder at how incredulous we are. We will let fear rule us. We will and we have. I have always known that what I was taught from birth was wrong. But I went back, and this time I took my two kids with me.

All the ugly faces look just like me.

Every road that brought us here, happy tears under a chandelier
Proof that there’s no map, so there’s no point turnin’ back
Yes, every note I ever sung melts into another one
So I won’t pretend that I know when
But I know all good things must end
So where do we go when everyone knows
Someday our hearts explode

I understand the roads I walked were choices I made, and I know that some of my choices were right. But so many were wrong and because I look like I do, I got to keep walking. If you do not believe that this nation is designed to empower the white European male, you just are not looking. Everything this nation stood for is a smudged scorecard that no one wants to read. Take some time and study our history, and I mean the real history, not the pretty picture of pilgrims having dinner. I am talking about our history of eradicating thousands of cultures and millions of people from this continent. Be honest in understanding what slavery was and what is left of it that we have refused to deal with.

Our forefathers eliminated the very voices we should have listened to.

We committed genocide, and in the end, it was suicide. We have all but used up the raw value of our mother, the earth. If not for her, none of us will breathe, we will not be… she is about to expel us….

All the ugly faces look just like me…

Well I dreamed I saw the knights in armor comin’
Sayin’ something about a queen
There were peasants singin’ and drummers drummin’
And the archer split the tree
There was a fanfare blowin’ to the sun
That was floating on the breeze
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 1970s
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 1970s

Every single person has something you will never have. They have their story. Their road is their own unique path and you have not walked it. Please accept that, then you might see the beauty in the weaving of all our stories. I do not know how you built your boat, or if it’s always gonna float. But I am here, and you matter.

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver space ships flyin’
In the yellow haze of the sun
There were children cryin’ and colors flyin’
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loadin’ had begun
Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed
To a new home in the sun
Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed

To a new home

People keep asking how many more? What will it take… when will we have allowed enough lives to be stolen before we decide what to do with this mess? The planet we exist on is preparing to reset itself and its current inhabitants are so deluded by power and wealth that they have devoured every beautiful thing they should have saved.

Elementary school children are massacred, and we keep asking, what will be enough? The few who could change the direction of civilization will not because they simply do not care. I am not being cynical. This is just an observation built on sixty-one years of watching the power of colonization devour everything in sight. Sixty-one years of watching people use God as their reason to kill, rape and destroy. Manifest destiny, Doctrine of Discovery… unravel the deep.

Does it even matter? Does it ever last?
I didn’t want the answer to the question that I asked
Can I kill a monster? Can I be a man?
I can’t afford to give a damn if you don’t understand


The more I understand the depths of our history the more I struggle with my anger at who we have become. We have been the greatest nation ever. My father and his six brothers all went off to war, four in the great war and the youngest three went to Korea. They all came home, some with medals and some were completely ruined but they could see an enemy and they understood. Today we are so fragile and divided that we do not see that we are ripping ourselves apart from the inside out.

I am disappointed. This war for who America will be is destroying us. My own family is divided, and I see my nation unraveling and it unravels me. Within my disappointment I am grasping for hope. I find hope in the people I work with and hope in the folks that buy their groceries from us. I gather hope from the amazing music all around us, so if I can give you one thing with my words, I choose to give you hope.

Hey, don’t it feel good? Don’t it feel alright?
To get a little stoned, and push the mess aside
But there’s an endless highway in our crowded minds today
Or you could hear the ocean as the cars parade

I had the pleasure of watching Mt. Joy a few weeks ago at Woodland Park Zoo and they give me hope. I cannot remember ever seeing a group of musicians this talented. Every single one of them has a magical gift and they moved me. I believe that a world with Matt, Jackie, Sam, Michael, and Sotiris in it, has a chance of healing. The energy and vibe amongst the crowd of people that watched them was what I would hope we could get to. We all danced, and we all were moved by the magic of Mt. Joy.

I know that just being joyful will not fix this world alone, it will take great painful changes. Our reliance on fossil fuels is not only impacting our future on this planet but it also is an example of our perpetuation of fear. We must conquer fear, we, who have privilege must be the ones to take a stand. Let your mind get quiet, think about your role, and go start writing your story, do not believe the lie.

But I’m a lonely shade of bluе
I don’t know what else to do

John Moreland gives me a vehicle to work through the ugly faces that crowd my dreams. His voice carries his soul and the words that it writes. This is the magic that I always look for. A weaving of lyrics and tune that allows me to unravel something a little further than I was able to before. I am not sure where I would be without artists like John. He is giving us his voice and soul in this album (Birds in the Ceiling), it’s a beautiful journey… this is a songwriter.  

I was lyin’ in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes
I was hopin’ for replacement
When the sun burst though the sky
There was a band playin’ in my head
And I felt like getting high
I was thinkin’ about what a friend had said
I was hopin’ it was a lie
Thinkin’ about what a friend had said
I was hopin’ it was a lie

When I first heard Katie Pruitt’s cover of Neil Young’s After The Goldrush, I just listened, I just kept playing it over and over. I found something rich and beautiful in Katie’s version of an epic song. Somewhere in those repeated plays I knew I needed to just write. Writing is how I process, and it is how I give.

My relationship as a fan or listener of Neil’s music is as sorted as my many twists and turns in the life I chose to walk. Today I appreciate him deeply, as an advocate, as an artist and as a man who is honest. I laughed when I read that he did not remember why he wrote this song and then I was grateful. I found my way through this song and what it meant to me in my own way and through a beautiful voice and artist who I hope to enjoy for many years to come. Listening to Katie’s music is an indication she has a lot of magic to give.

Writing brought me to this day. I chose a long road to get to this place, but I am here. I will adamantly pursue the art of writing. If my writing can make you smile or avoid making a misstep, then I am happy. My joy comes from the simple act of writing. Sitting in my thoughts and pulling out stories gives me immense joy. My hope is to give as much of that back to you as I can. I will still be giving you all the joy I can find as you come through my checkout line, but my greatest hope for you is that you find your joy. Pursue the magic that you make. If you tie-dye, then tie-dye… If you write, then write. If you design then design, if you cook then cook. Whatever it is that lets you bring magic forth, go after it. Do not let them tell you this is just the way it is. It is the way you make it, nothing more nothing less.

I believe in you

Listening, learning, and growing….

The Band Plays On – Bob Schneider

“After you fell out your chair

Strawberries in your hair

After you fell off the face of the moon

Well, I thought I’d let you know, just in case you’re listening bro

What happened after you were gone”

In 1981 I lost an extraordinary friend, and his name was Dewayne. Dewayne died of leukemia, and he died with style. He fell out of his chair with strawberries in his hair and was one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever known. This song reminded me of how long it has been since I visited with Dewayne.

The band played on

The band played on

Dewayne came into my life at a time when I was mostly alone and utterly adrift, he made me feel unique and loved. I had never kept friends, but Dewayne and I bonded and there has never been another friendship like this for me. I knew when I met him that he was dying, and he knew that I knew. He showed me what joy looks like. Walking through those days, he knew his fate, but he chose to dance his joy into everyone around him…

So many years have passed since the last time I saw his face or heard his voice. I believe I had forgotten what that face of joy looked like. This song took me back there and I am so grateful. Dewayne accepted who he was and where he was going in the most noble of ways, he lived with nothing to lose and those who knew him were given joy, he was uniquely kind, and I miss him.

Well, you meant the world to me

You were all I’d ever need

My one true love until you were gone

But you left me here to rot

Left me with all that I’m not

But what I found before too long

He threw a party in Seattle just to celebrate my visit, we had such a time. Someone even tried to steal my guitar, but for an impassioned plea from my friend Dewayne… the guitar just reappeared. I really didn’t know how incredible this friendship was at the time, but I really do now. All his cheering gave me hope. He taught me to have wonder in living my life even as he knew his own was ending. I wish I had clung harder to that hope that he had shown me. It has been a long time since I have visited with Dewayne… I didn’t know how much I missed him. I let life walk me away and I fell off the face of the moon.

This is the magic of music. It allows you to go and walk among those memories. It can provide an understanding to a dilemma you have wrestled with for years. Occasionally a song happens that speaks just the right thing and opens a hidden door.

Bob Schneider has proven yet again, that there really is magic… some of us create through music, some of us by serving and yet others by making. The magic lies in the energy we pour into whatever we are creating. Every one of us can create, we choose what or where we pour our energy into, and I truly hope that you find it beautiful…. This is your magic… you should enjoy it.

It is through Bob Schneider’s magic, that I was reminded of the love that friendship brought me. “The Band Plays On” is from his most recent album, “In a Roomful of Blood with a Sleeping Tiger”.  I have listened to Bob Schneider spin his magic for decades, since another one of my friends gave me “Lovely Creatures”.

In a Roomful of Blood with a Sleeping Tiger” is a beautiful piece of magic. “Joey’s Song” is a tender note given to a child, friend or family member; it is simply beautiful. Contrast that with the hilarious romp through a demi-gods life in “Thor” and you will see the energy of Bob Schneider’s magic. This album is a quirky masterpiece that you really need to sit down and listen to, it is truly magical.

Thank you, Mr. Schneider, for taking me down this road, I really like what you do man, Dewayne would have liked you too….

So, what did happen after you were gone bro… 

You were a hero and a friend

The whole world loved you to the end

They put a statue of you down in the square

And when I heard the news, you see

Well, it really got to me

I even learned to play one of your songs

I remember when Dewayne called me towards the end of his life and made me promise that after he left, I would watch out for Candy. I knew she was laying there next to him, and I knew she was crying, just like me. That was the last time I talked to him. Dewayne had decided to be done with any treatments, he just wanted to smoke some pot and enjoy the moments, so he did. He sailed into the next life not long after that call. There are a lot of things in my memory that are fuzzy and flawed, but I will never forget that call from Candy, it was shortly after midnight, and she let me know he was gone… it was quiet for a bit and then I told her I loved her, and I would be there for whatever she needed. She was so strong… she told me she was ok, and she would be good, he has his teddy bear.

The last time I talked to her was at Dewayne’s memorial service and she insisted, I should go my own way and not worry about her, she really didn’t need me to take care of her.

So, I did, and I am so sad… I just let the band play on.

Oh, I hear the bell it tolls

It takes bodies from their souls

It’s tolling now

I hear it on the wind

And it ring’s as if to say

That we only have today

The only day we’ve got until we’re gone

Believe in affecting today, don’t wait for your next chance…please just live… today. Dewayne gave me his best version of how you do that, and it has taken me far too long to figure out just how incredibly he lived. Hopefully, I can utilize the rest of my days to show just how much he gave me, the joy, the laughter, and the willingness to love.

The bell is tolling, this is a time of deciding how we will make every breath count. The bodies all around us are filled with souls who long for a friend., and the band plays on… we live our life.

I have spent so much of my life flailing around but over the last few years I am doing a little less flailing and instead, I’m being deliberate. As I gather myself for this last long walk into wherever we go from here. I know that I have given love, I have found joy and I’ve given it away. This is the only day we’ve got until we are gone.

I could use the rest of my days replaying what I did wrong, or I can choose to use the days of this walk to pour my energy into something I find beautiful. Dewayne was the friend who gave me his gift of belief, belief in who I can be. I loved that he believed in me, even as I type I know I am just beginning to unravel the marvel of the life he lived.

I remember the first time I visited Dewayne in the hospital, his condition, and the smell of the hospital took my breath away. I felt faint and disoriented, I thought I was going to be sick… people came here to die… I had to leave his room and I sat in the hall outside his door, I wondered how much he would hate me for this, my utter weakness to look for one day of what he consumes with every breath. After a bit, I regained some composure and went back into his room. He smiled at me and said, “its alight man, I saw myself in the mirror this morning” and he laughed. Then he lit a joint, took a hit and offered it to me.

We got high in that hospital… we only had today, the only day we got until we are gone. And the band played on….

You meant the world to me man….

The story goes that Candy’s family had walked away from her for marrying someone she knew was going to die. The love I felt from my generous friend, was only eclipsed by Candy’s love for Dewayne. She loved him completely. I wish I knew where you were Candy, I would like to say thank you. Because of you, I know what love is. I saw how you loved my friend Dewayne.

I hope you found love again and you have had a beautiful life.

I only had that day, to say I would still be there, and its gone.

The band plays on

The band plays on

Here I am now, a man, growing old, and my friend Dewayne has pondered the universe from a completely different vantage point for the last forty years. I can’t wait to hear what you have learned bro. I hope I have a few things for you when I get there.

Every single day is a chance to pour your energy into something you love and then, find it beautiful. Every single day is a chance to give someone joy. Our greatest challenge is to make each of those happen more often than we keep them away. Sometimes I forget how incredibly lucky I have been. The things I have seen and the friends I have found have made me so rich. I know that when I am done the band will play on, but hopefully I will have left a bit of my muse in what they sing and play.

Listening, learning, and growing…

Stay Wild – The Bones of J.R. Jones

I am Rusty

When I was born my parents named me Russell Lane, I was their second child. They had five kids, three girls and two boys and every one of us had RL, as our initials. I guess as naming quirks go, theirs was as harmless as they come.  I can still remember watching my parents wrestle through the process of naming my little brother so that he would have the RL too. This is one of the jewels that I carry from my childhood. We get a few little oddities that mark us as part of a family. The RL is just one of the odd little eccentricities from those days. It is a precious part of Rusty staying wild…

My dad wanted me to be a cowboy, so instead of Russ or Russell, he called me Rusty. Through my younger days I lived as you would expect the son of a cowboy to live. I could ride a horse before I could ride a bike. I knew the difference between a bull and a cow before I knew what school was. For the rest of my life when I think of Rusty, it begins with being a cowboy. In many ways I had a fairy tale childhood, I lived away from most of the cares of the world, and I was in an environment that allowed me to let my imagination stay wild. I had my best friend, my little sister and we had our dad, the greatest cowboy of them all. He was our hero, and he could tell a story that would make our minds run wild and then ease us into sleep.

Rusty became my weird. 

I don’t mind the night

And the dark it brings

To my skies

As with all lives, there are high points and there are lows, but Rusty stayed wild through each twist and turn. But as you grow up the trappings of becoming an adult conspire to take the wild away from you. That can happen in many ways, it can be a deliberate action of your own that says I want to comply and sometimes it is a moment in time that changes everything.   A “moment in time” can be a day, a week or even a year. It is a moment of your life when there is a shift, it could be anything that triggers one, it could be an amazingly great thing or a disruptive thing, for me it was my mother’s death. She left suddenly on a Sunday, when I was eighteen.  It was an accident and it left Rusty completely adrift. There has never been another time in my life that I felt so completely lost. Not long after this, I, decided to start going by Russ.

I left Rusty behind, and I didn’t look for him for a very long time.

Cause the beauty of it all

Is in the terror

The danger of the fall

Rusty believed that music was the greatest magic on earth.

Russ became a parent when he was twenty-one, and then again when he was twenty-four. Russ became a single parent six months later.

Rusty always had crazy dreams and believed there always was a way, he listened to the trees, and he knew he was going to be a rock star….

Russ trudged through life and it is nothing short of a miracle that his kids became reasonably functioning adults.

Rusty stayed in the way way back, never really causing a fuss but occasionally he was very frustrated with Russ.

Rusty let Russ take his wild away.

I want to be

 a storm raging

I want to believe

In the American Dream

Many of us were taught that when we were born, we were broken, that our only hope was to acknowledge our brokenness, and seek a savior. For some of us it takes decades to find out that the only thing broken is the idea that we should not believe in our own wild.  Walking through life believing that you are broken can give you the excuse to fail. Walking through life believing you are the storm raging gives you permission to fly. You are not failing because of a fall from grace, you fail because you try. You do not have to be good, just be wild.

Cause the beauty of it all

Is in the terror

The danger of the fall

I am walking my sixty first turn around the sun and I am just now beginning to figure out how to grab on to the wild I set aside all those forty odd years ago. The things I have seen up to this day have shaped me and given my life beauty.  I am eternally grateful for the hard days and the falling on my face that set me on the path that I stand on now, immersing myself in the wild and relishing the beauty in the danger of the fall.  

Take every bit of me

Take what you need

And I will thrive

Working in a grocery store during a global pandemic has given me a special seat to the show of mankind and just how beautiful and ugly that show can be.  Every time I get the chance to give away a little bit of my wild joy, it overwhelms me in how wondrous that can feel.  You may have just stopped by to grab some milk on your way home and as you made your way through the checkout line, we got to trade smiles. In a world surrounded by death, we need each other, we need to stay wild. I am so unafraid of the night and the peril of being on the front lines. I am given joy by giving you some of mine… come on momma stay wild.

Come on Momma Stay Wild…. Momma Stay Wild

Rusty, full of wonder and the belief that a life was a matter of destiny. Russell, full of the belief that he had a purpose, and he could make a difference. But without Rusty, Russell found himself lonely and never entirely successful.

I want to lay you down

And hold it in your soul

I want to hold you down

And feel it in your soul

 

Momma Stay Wild

This idea of writing about Rusty has been a part of the process for me to bring him back into who I am and what I do. I have found many reasons to bring Rusty up into the driver’s seat, to remind Russ of who Rusty was and why I want to spend some time with him.  This song, “Stay Wild”, gave me the real reason, in a very beautiful, entirely magical song by “The Bones of J.R. Jones”.  Taking the best of what you learned as a wide-eyed child and combining that with the wizened old eyes of a man who has seen some shit, you find wild.  I am struck completely numb by the beauty of my life. It is mine, the whole of it and the pieces I give you are but a taste of that beauty. I am the one the universe waited for, and I am the one that will never be seen. Every one of us has the potential to glimpse the beauty of their life, you must grab hold of the wonder and joy that breaths for you and dig deep to make a safe place for your own Rusty, don’t keep him in the back seat. The universe is waiting for you to stay wild.

Stay Wild” is one of the most beautiful lyrics I have heard, ever… This is about embracing the wild of you and then flying… It is some crazy wild magic that led me to this song.  I set out to write about Rusty a while ago, but it wasn’t until I was deep in the writing of this that I found “Stay Wild”. I have never tried to write a post referencing a song that didn’t get started by that song. This time, Rusty was the topic and then came “The Bones of J.R. Jones”, and so life is perfectly organized. You seem to find a formula and then the universe says sorry, we have many pathways… go explore. So, I did…I have spent a while walking my way through his catalog and letting this magician’s music seep into my soul and tell me what I needed to hear at the time. That is after all, the magic in music.

I love the story of Jonathon Robert Linaberry, The JR in “The Bones of J.R. Jones”. I love how he ran into the wild of his craft and sought out the joy of its magic. I love what he does with an old acoustic six string guitar. His music is the kind of music I could play my bass to for the rest of my life. There is a depth to what he writes and sings that is born of hanging on to the wild of our youth and hugging his Rusty close all the days that life gives.  “A Celebration” gives a great idea of who this guy is and what he feels. This is one of those albums that I need some days with, JR’s voice is such a beautiful thing to take in, the fact that he writes the words that can seep into your soul is just joy. To say I fell in a rabbit hole is kind of short sided, this is just Russ, letting Rusty show him some stuff.

Lately when I look in the mirror, I see Rusty, that makes me smile. I also see my dad, the greatest cowboy that ever lived… that is wild….

Listening, Learning and growing

In Praise of Home – Rura

Finding Home

I’m going home.

I still think that… which is, maybe people think your strange but it’s a funny feeling.

And I did…A place… you felt safe, comfortable, they knew everything about you,

You’re a… everything was familiar to you.

And it made it easy for you, to stay there.

There was nothing that would put you away from the trose.

That’s why there were lots of people that I knew when I was a boy… are still there,

you know that didn’t go away at all, that was my impression of it was…

Home

Home is the fire you feel alive in, it is a state of being that washes you with hope and then surrounds you with joy and peace. Home is the things remembered, the anticipation of what may come and the warmth of all the love you have gathered in your life. Home is where you thrive.

The greatest challenge you have in this life is finding your way home. Some will seek it through power, wealth and fame. None of those will take you home, none of them. Home is the place where you create, every living being is meant to create and home is that place where you give your energy back into this universe. All of us have that power within us, the trick is finding our way home.

One of the ways I get home is by writing. I can work on a post for my blog or churn out another thirty words for my fantastical biography, it does not really matter, they both take me home. You might be writing code or sitting on a mountain top or smoking some herb and pondering the complexity of the galaxies, all of those can take you home. Regardless of the path that leads you home, it is a path you should walk often. When I write, I find a joy I cannot explain. I could analyze it and evaluate the results, but it still tells me that it is just home.  “In Praise of Home” is like the call for dinner that my mom used to raise. Her call signaled the end of a long summer day of playing in the bunk house or blacksmiths shop on the Conrad Ranch and the anticipation of what kind of miraculous food my mom had created from the empty cupboards in that huge ancient house… cooking was her home…

I’m going home.

Rura is Jack Smedley, Steven Blake, Adam Brown and David Foley. An incredibly talented Scottish band that has given me the gift of creative fuel. The song, “In Praise of Home” is a truly majestic alignment of the pipe and the fiddle, it is like nothing I have ever heard before.  It is a magical road to home for me…

Every single track I have listened to from them is a remarkable achievement in musical magic, they get it, they have found their home. What an incredible gift of joy, prose and wonder… go wandering through their catalog and get lost… they will fill your soul with magic.

Steven Blake’s grandfather, James Russell, is the voice you hear talking about home in this song. He is talking about the memories and the friends he had from Montrose, in western Scotland.  He is all of us when we have found out what home means. Thank you, Mr. Russell, for the words you gave to this magic and the path it revealed for me.

You go down a hill.

And you see the basin, and you see the steeple

Soon as I see that.

I’m goin home…

When Mr. Russell says “I’m Goin Home”, electricity runs through me… every single time I hear it. This is the magic I have been writing about. This song may very well be unique to me, it may be a good song to you, but you may not feel the same magic that I do and that is fine, it just illustrates that each of us has our own definition and view of what home is. It is not a place that I can build for you, it is not a place that your partner can provide for you. Only you can unlock the door to home, my greatest hope for you is that you find it and then you learn how to find it again and again. It is its own kind of freedom.

Over the last few months, when I have been writing and had Rura’s beauty flowing into my soul, the words have just poured out of me. This song has been a creative bonfire… like no other. Rura plays and I write…I do not mean a paragraph or two, I mean a constant stream of words, pouring out of my soul like a hydrant on a hot sunny day and it is simply glorious. The power of creating something from within yourself is what I call home, it is the place we find joy and this song has been a source of creativity for me.

Let me be very honest about my own ability to find home. When I decide to listen for the dinner bell and turn away from the current little thing, then yes, I find my joy and I thrive. But so many times I ignore the call, and I run away from home and into a wilderness of despair and pain, not only for me but for the ones I love the most. There are so many dark roads that I ran headlong into, shouting and braying like a mule that has no idea why he is there or what he needs from the hole he just arrived in. I am so blessed to have found my way out of each one… we run into them, we don’t blunder in or get pushed in, we run into them and if you are honest, you know exactly what I am referring to. Find your home, and find your way back, time and time again because we are so good at walking away from joy….

Home is where we create, and when we create, we leave a signed copy of the fire that we are born with, and those who find that fire can be nourished. This is not a religion or doctrine; this is the real magic that lives in our world. It lives within the music I write about or the image you just painted. It is the meal that was just shared by friends and the words of the poet who just made you cry. Everything we create is from our home and if we choose to share it then we are richer as a species. I do not know about where your spirit is at right now, but I can use some hope, I need to believe that we have value beyond destroying each other and the planet we live on.  Find your home, create what you were born to create and leave your signature to nourish the world. You may be convinced that you are not creative but that is a lie, every single human is a creative. Find your home and thrive.

This is about the honesty of looking in the mirror and knowing that the man I see is so incredibly flawed, but that is who I am, and I can only survive if I come to terms with who I am and embrace the gift I have found in finding home…. So, I write, I write to you, I write to me, and I write to get home.

I remember… home…

Listening, learning and growing

The Music That Binds Us

Six months before the pandemic, I started working at my neighborhood grocery store. I took this job to have a flexible schedule so I could write, I did not expect to find such an immensely beautiful example of all the good in humanity. There are literally dozens of people that I have worked with that have shown me the value of being human. Some are still here, and others have moved on.  I have made some of the best friends I have ever had in my life due in part to what we just went through and in a larger part to the goodness in these people. I am humbled by the depth of these people, and we are bound for life. I have discovered for every connection I have made with another soul, there is a song that wraps it up and keeps it in my spirit forever, especially for those that have moved on. Yet one more reason that I am eternally grateful for the magic in music.

Let’s be honest, 2020 changed us all. In one way or another it changed us deeply. The challenge we face now is to try and understand what those changes mean and where we go from here. I am convinced that more than a few of the people I have worked with through this thing will go on to change the world…they are giants. I cannot be dismayed or hopeless, there is so much good in the world, I have seen it. I see it in these people that work hard to ensure that you have groceries on your table. Every day we work to give you food, we have risked our lives and the ones we live with, so you can eat. In the end it has been a long and dreadful year, but it has also been one of the best experiences of my life.

“…we did this, through all through this shit, we survived this…”

I did not get a lot of chances for friends when I was growing up, we moved around a lot, I mean a LOT. New schools, new nicknames…I got so tired of being the new kid that at some point I just gave up trying to make or keep friends. I knew we would always move. Then I grew up, I had kids, they had kids… Over that time, I made a few friends that are good and so true. Honestly though, I think I am just beginning to understand what “friend” means.

This thing I do for a daily wage is a gift. This thing I do has shown me the heart of humanity, the things that have made me weep with joy over the goodness of what I saw. The people I have worked with are like the mountains I wish I could climb. I love what I have learned, and I love these people, we did this. fuck yeah, we did this.

If we are fortunate, we will meet people in this life with whom we exchange something. It might simply be the love of the outdoors or cooking, it could be anything, but most of us will find someone with whom you can share something. Occasionally we find someone with whom we can share our spirit with and in turn they share theirs with you. I am not talking about a physical exchange, or even an emotional one, this is something that goes far deeper than flesh or psyche. This requires an authenticity and depth of love that not everyone can bring to bear. If you are fortunate, you too will meet your “people” and if you do, I am willing to bet that there is a song that will bind you forever.

“These are the spirits that are connected to me, they are my people, and I am theirs.”

My friends, the sojourners, the wanderer’s, the ones who took a brief pause and gave me some of their light. I will love them forever and I will carry their love with me into my next life. They loved me despite my scars, they are hope, wrapped in painters and poets, in encouragers and storytellers. These are the spirits at your local grocery store, the people who sometimes are invisible to you. These are my people…

If you have found your people, then take the time to celebrate that you have five minutes with them. You might get a year, you might not. If they are your people, then when you get to talk, it will be just like the moment you last spoke. It won’t be awkward, and it won’t involve guilt, no matter how much time has passed. This is friendship, no one is promised tomorrow, and we all have a path to follow. We will laugh with them when they find joy, and we will weep with them when they are hurting…. Find your tribe and love them right where they are today, you never know, it may be that awkward kid you just met.

In finding my people I have found that for everyone there is a song or sometimes even ten of them and when that song plays, I can immediately see their face or hear their voice. This is the magic I have talked about so much and it serves to keep me connected to each one of my people regardless of where they are right now, figuratively, or physically.  Whenever I hear “Bronze Radio Return” sing “Still Wandering” I can hear Adam tell me he is still wandering and it warms my soul…whenever I hear “America” sing “Sister Golden Hair” I am immediately laughing with Mattaya. When I hear the “Eels” sing anything, I am playing my guitar with Fran again. When I wrote about my first friend, my sister Robbi, I used “Novo Amor’s”, “Keep Me” but I could have used a hundred different songs that bring her to my mind, a lifetime of experiences will do that.  With my very best friend, my Susan, I could also pick a hundred different songs, but I will always feel her love and beautiful embrace when I hear “Van Morrison” sing “Into the Mystic”.

I hope you find your people as you navigate your way back to your normal. You don’t have to work at your neighborhood grocery store to do it, but you do have be authentic and willing to give as much as you receive.  Cherish the music you share together, that will stay with you , just like their love and their support of who you are. When you find your people, you have found a path home.

Listening, learning, and growing…

Accumulates – David Gray

Being Sixty

David Gray gave me my sixtieth birthday present…amid a pandemic. My family would have normally done something cool, but I chose to stay home and stay safe, and I had a fabulous birthday. I took a few days to spend time with my sweet, sweet wife and contemplate the null value of age. You live, and each day rolls by and on every single day, you find you arrive at today.

I could fill pages with the tales of Rusty and Russell Beard, I have lived a very disorderly life. Only recently have I been able to look back into the eyes of Rusty, the one who lived my todays as a kid and then a teenager. He had it all figured out and at the same time, he had nothing figured out, but it all lead from one to the next and they were all just today. It accumulates, one day after another and if you can, just try and live today, it is simply always today. When I grasp this and take all the memories of the things that I have seen, walked, and completely fucked up. I realize that I am so flawed, yet this is me.

I am honest with myself about the who, that is me…I have looked down from the high rise and stared back into my own eyes. I have seen the greed in this world, but I also saw the deep unabashed beauty of this world. From working in the asparagus fields in eastern Washington, to fixing computers in a kindergarten classroom. I have lived a full life and I am not even close to done, that is what being sixty means to me today. On May 29th of this year, I will see my twenty-two thousandth today. I have absolutely no idea or attachment to that, it will just be today. It accumulates…

I have had so many amazing days in my life, but there was one I had with David Gray. Well not just him and me, it was more like he played Marymoor Park in Redmond WA, and I was in the audience. That night I witnessed the deepest magic of music.  I have never left my seat when I am at a concert, but on that night, I did. I went for a pee and decided to have a smoke. While smoking, I saw a woman weeping. I really wasn’t sure what to do so I asked her, “are you ok”, she nodded yes. We talked for a bit and she told me that her friend told her she was going to an EDM show and that she had never experienced music that brought her soul up so close for her to see…she had never felt the magic of music and how it can reach all the way in. She was so moved by David’s music, all she could do was cry.  We just hung out for a while until the tears were replaced by the joy of what she had discovered, she gave me a hug and went back to her life.  It was not long after that, I was back in my spot and David gave the stage to Caroline Dale.

That night, I experienced the magic of the music in a way I had never known before. Surrounded by the mighty Pacific Northwest, the lights went down, save one, that settled quietly on Caroline. She was sitting center stage, her arms wrapped around her cello, and she played. She gave me a beautiful glimpse of eternity that night. At one point I was convinced that the trees themselves were singing to me… Caroline played, and her notes rode up into the branches of the trees, her voice surrounded us. It was a roar of quiet beauty that sang a song that will be etched in my memory forever. It all accumulates.

That was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life…

“Well, it grips, and it grins
It cavorts, and it gyrates
And it whispers from the wings
Knowingly insinuates
Shines a certain light on things
Emphasizing your least likeable traits”

Being sixty is weird, it shakes you and laughs at you…it grips you, and yes it grins…. Being sixty means the world can swirl around me as it propels me across a threshold, one that allows me to look back at all my failures along with my successes. I am just beginning to understand what the accumulation of all those things adds up to. They can grip you; they can whisper to you and shine a light on things, especially your least likeable traits.  I have accumulated so many whispers and some I have listened to; some were important to my survival; most were just noise. I do not consider myself that special, I am just a strange version of the man I expected, but I am content. Joy is an accumulation of these things that whisper from the wings.  I have accumulated so many tiny moments of joy and they are sustaining. I have also accumulated a vast number of todays filled with pain, many of my own accord. But today, I learn from those todays and I walk into the next choosing joy and the hope that it can bring.

“In the depots, in the silos
On the pallets, in the crates
Down the aisles, wreathed in smiles
In great mountains, on our plates
Like the love of God, it enters you
In all kinds of amorphous states”

We walk through this life wreathed in smiles, the joy from those smiles guide us down paths that have nothing to offer. We never want to hear from those who can see where we really live. That’s where we wrestle daily with the truth of who we are and ask ourselves, what will I ever be? Then tomorrow becomes today and over the years, if you watch and learn from those around you, you might find a love that enters you and accumulates. I am blessed with people with whom I share a deep love and I am blessed with an inordinate desire for music, I am a rich man.

Caroline’s cello playing on this song is haunting and takes me right back to that night. It was not unlike meeting god, that evening in Marymoor… that is the magic in music. When David sings about the amorphous state in this song and I hear her strings in the background, I hear magic. This is the magic of music, it’s like the love of God that enters you and it sings in all kinds of amorphous states.

Her cello will haunt you; it will amuse you. It is the voice of the trees.

“Mindless need is loosed among us
In our homes and down our streets
Singing like some mythic creature
Of great Edеns, through the gates
you can have butter structure
Even wanton destruction
And all of this at very competitive rates”

Brilliance abides around us, but we focus on the dingy bits that lose us and betray our joy. Don’t settle for the structures of Eden or strive for the goals of that mythical place.

It Accumulates… every day that you wake up, you can walk, and you might get there. It accumulates and it is still today…

With Accumulates, David Gray has written something that encourages you to sit back and immerse yourself. Let his beautiful weaving of the album Skellig seep into your bones and lift you. He has been a safe place for me since my sister sent me White Ladder twenty years ago. There is a very comforting familiarity to his voice and how he arranges music and I hear years of thought and a renewed sense of his value for life, today. That resonates with me in a deep way. Like me, I think David is just living today, not “for today”, just today. When I write, I find joy, when I write about music, I better understand myself and what I want from today.  In all my life I spent very few of those some twenty-one thousand nine hundred and some odd days living just for this today. There has always been a tomorrow and it always just turned out to be today.  It can grip you, and if you are listening to its whisper today, you can reach for hope. Today you can breathe a new breath, you know the competitive rates.

I have lived a life that some would say is unredeemable, but I am me. I am the one I was one when my little sister and I laid in our beds and listened to our dad tell us the tales of Indian Jake and what his travels across Montana showed him. I am the same one who saw the people of Casablanca stream to answer the call of prayer on the banks of the Mediterranean. I am that one who lived every single today that brought me to this day. If I have learned one lesson, it is to live for this today, not the one that might come as the sun rises but this one. Who can I give a small piece of hope to, who can I grasp a small piece of hope from? You can suck on the teat or you can give life, this is reaching for hope.

Looking down from the highrise
Staring back with your own eyes
Playing games with the numbers
Messing ’round with the dates
Altering its positions
Muttering sweet propositions
Doing its damnedest to get you
Between the sheets
And you might start out
Kicking and screaming
Pretty soon you’re gonna wind up
Sucking on the teats

My experience and appreciation of music has changed so much over these sixty years. There are so many today’s that I was so blind. I’ve had experiences that changed my thinking right at that moment, but others that I kicked and screamed at, and their changes accumulated over the years, subtle changes in the way you see things, hearing the stories of those around you… seeing the world…it really does accumulate.  Recently, my soul was shaken at how weak and close minded I have been in my life. I watched the HBO documentary about the Bee Gees, and it showed me how foolishly closed minded I was. I had kicked and screamed at the idea of disco versus rock, just like the fools in Kaminski Park. As I look back on it now, I realize just how foolish I was and just how much I missed on those todays. Please do not put music in a box of your own design, let it be whatever it needs to be for those who can hear it. What you think is noise, may be a lifeline for someone who needs it today. We all can point to a time that a song gave us a light and gave us one step forward today…

It accumulates…

I am looking down from that highrise and staring back with my own eyes. I can see when I succumbed to the sweet propositions and how that only led to sucking the teats. If you have had the great fortune that I have found, you will get the chance to at least acknowledge your mistakes, but most importantly you can learn from them and keep listening and then grow. Music is one of the loves of God, it enters you, it can give you a moment in today. It can free you and transport you, just like the stories my dad told us. But you will still wake up to today. You will still have the life you lived and only you know the truth of who you are. Reaching for hope is the one thing you can do with today, you might be able to change one thing or twelve, it just depends on where your today takes you. It could emphasize your least likable traits. But it’s still today, reach up and smile…

Listening to this song I can easily envision a summer night, in the not too distant future, in Marymoor park, David regals us with the beauty of Skellig and when they get to Accumulates, Caroline will let the trees sing once again.

Listening, learning, and growing

Two Shades of Hope – Foy Vance

The Cult of Fancination

If I could choose a superpower, I would choose the ability to give you the sense of wonder. I want you to sit back and gasp at knowing what wow looks like… your eyes wide with the hair on the back of your neck alive and waving. To believe that there is no limit to anything you hope for.

it was from my own sense of wonder that I stumbled into this notion of the Cult of Fancination.  

Fancination, that is my word. It is a sense of awe, a sense you get when you chase the wonder that sets you heart free…. It is that fantastic moment when you realize that you understand. This cult is a place for those who are looking for the fantastic. We are led by the Minister of Wander, and so… we wander. There is no tithe, we do not have any services or sacrifices…. we just ask that you grab hope and come wandering with us. Those of us who find our people in this cult believe the power of hope is a healing force of awe and wonder.

Over the last year the only thing that kept my nose above water was hope. I have seen the deep loving goodness of my fellow humans, and I have felt the cruelness that humans inflict on one another and I am glad that goodness still outweighs that cruelness. I have shared something with the incredible group of individuals that I work with. It has been such an honor to work alongside of them, to learn from them and to throw them my own bits of nonsense when I can. These people have shown up every day to give you a smile and a helping hand with your groceries. They do not see themselves as heroes, but they take a risk every time they come to work. The Cult of Fancination is an idea born amongst these people of mine, it is the embodiment of hope. If there is one thing that I know, when you hope, you can get up tomorrow and find a reason to do it again, even with the risk.

Cults are ubiquitous, one cannot exaggerate that statement in the slightest. The definition according to Merriam-Websters, is really long and includes things like, great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work; the object of such devotion; a system of religious beliefs and ritual”… just to name a few. If you process that, you can then look around and realize that almost every formal organization that we humans associate ourselves with, are indeed cults. I find it ironic that I was warned about cults while sitting in the pews of a cult… If you have read any of my wandering thoughts, you know that I center on hope. I chase it, and I do everything I can to give it. I do not believe we will fail if we have hope, but we are doomed without it. Hope is a monumentally hard thing to try and hold onto but before you can hold it, you have to reach for it, and there lies the risk.

“There’s one thing that I know
It is the two shades of hope
One the enlightening soul
And the other is more like a hangman’s rope”

I discovered Foy Vance in 2012 and I have even managed to see him a few times. He is a once in a generation singer/songwriter. Spending time wandering around his music will take you on a magical ride that I have been riding for almost a decade now.

“Two Shades of Hope” is from his 2007 album, “Hope”, it is a perfect example of his magic.  I have heard this song so many times, but as I worked through the thoughts of what I needed to write, I found solace in his message and a deep truth aligned with my own wandering mind. Hope deals the hardest blow, yet we cannot help but hope.

As I have watched the news play out, I am saddened by the despair we have slipped into. Not only are we ravaged with divisiveness, but families have been ripped open and are bleeding because of the lust of the powerful. When I saw the footage of the breech of our capitol, I wondered how it would be to see your son or daughter in that footage. Could you still find hope, what if they had placed their hope in some misguided leaders? Would you still love them enough…?

“When the world stole our young and preyed on the old, well
Hope deals in the hardest blows
Yet I cannot help myself but hope”

These things that plague us go so deep and are tied to the very roots of this nation. Stop telling me that this is not who we are, this is exactly who are and who we have always been. We must cling to the long hope if we think we can heal. These overt racist actions that we have witnessed are just a smattering of what boils beneath the surface. Any place you live within this country has some attachment to the system that drives and maintains the racist structure. It will not be unraveled quickly or ever if you do not decide to have a long deep hope for this, only then may you see the light of justice prevail. Calling yourself a liberal does not make you exempt from pushing into the hope, some of the “liberals” I have known are the laziest and most bigoted of them all. When you choose to ignore this problem, you are exercising the privilege that you deny exists.

The Cult of Fancination is for those who are willing to invest in the long hope, taking the risk and chasing the fantastic wonder of wander.  We believe in hope and we are fantastically aware that hope can hurt as much as it heals. We will hold each other, and we will carry each other when hope has dealt you that hardest blow.

“I guess that’s why love hurts
And heartache stings
And despair is never worse
Than the despair that death brings
But hope deals the hardest blows, dear
The hardest
Hope deals the hardest blows”

If we spent even the tiniest portion of our time chasing the fantastic, we might get lost in its wonder and thrive. Sometimes hope is quiet and succinct, sometimes it is a loud and raging wind that pushes change through your lungs like a fire. Poet, Amanda Gorman said “We need that cacophony” and I agree. That cacophony is the burning of the cancer, it is hard and painful, but it will lead to a more hopeful day. Decades ago, I chose a cult that fed my need to believe there was a god that cared about me and my kids. I was so wrong and I have spent many years sorting out what are my thoughts and what was placed there. Decades later I watch my kids using the same playbook and now our belief systems have grown so far apart that we just simply cannot talk about it. It does not diminish the love I have for them, nor the pride in their beautiful families. But hope does deal the hardest blows.

“And now all these truths are so
With foundations below them
They were dug out in a winter’s cold”

Your own perceived wealth is an exacting measure of your sense of entitlement. I have seen an abundance of entitlement over the last year as I work to stock and bag your groceries. But I have found hope to be my anchor in just being able to smile, regardless of your anger or entitlement. There are so many of you that have been nothing but kind and grateful and I will always honor you with my work. There is a great deal of human beauty on this planet and I am grateful to be amongst you. I see those who are grieving or just angry and I am certain that somewhere at the root of it is the dealing of a blow from having hope. You are probably trying to figure out if you should ever hope again or maybe you just want some retribution, I do not know your story, but I will listen and I have hope for you. It will deal you another blow, but having hope means you are extending your energy into the wild unknown and sometimes it will slam you against the wall and walk away laughing, but sometimes it explodes into something beautiful. In the Cult of Fancination we will not coddle you, but we will love you so fiercely that you will hope once more, and you will take one more shot.

“There was once someone I loved
Whose heart overflowed his cup
And his shoes got covered in blood
Oh but he never knew cos he only looked up
Well he was in trouble and so
Had known pain more than most I know
Yet it was hope that dealt the hardest blows”

I hope that you will keep looking up, no matter how much blood you have on your shoes. I know what pain is, I know what love is and how much it hurts to lose it, but I will be here, waiting for you to join us. The Cult of Fancination is a place of wandering broken hopeful humans like you and I. Come and learn with us and join in that long hope, we can get there, but only together.

Listening, learning, and growing