Wednesday, December 4, 2013

John Pierre Barnaby, my Salish Father took his spirit journey this year…   it seems clich├ęd to say ‘there are no words’ for this man, or my relationship to him… but it is true.  There were never very many words between us, only the most important ones.  Idle chat was not part of the dialog ever.  So many memories of lodges, of songs, of prayers, of stories, of time spent without a sense of time.

It is true that there is an ‘Indian time’, but the definition is not what most people think.  It is the absence of time, no watch or clock will tell the sun to come up or go down… and so it is with the soul of Native people who will not be constrained by artificial means.

I learned never to wear my watch or ask ‘how long will this take’, ‘when will we be back’ or any other ‘nonsense’ question.  He would look blankly at me with no reply… his speechless meaning would be ‘we’ll be done when we’re done’.  

In fact, I had to ‘un-learn’ the white world’s way of always asking questions!  Engaging in curiosity is part of our culture that is helpful and innovative.  But in matters of the spirit… there should be silence.  The only way to learn from spirit is to shut up.  If you are still, you will listen with your ‘other ears’, see with your ‘other eyes’ and learn with your heart.  Experiential learning was a deeper learning for me than any school room or test taken.

Now he is gone, and I’m back to the current culture ‘alone’…   without his reminders to pull me back into his world of natural truths.  I am alone, to recall the lessons learned and see if I can remain true to them on my own.  I will do my best, Father, I will do my best.

My memory traveling
Is all that keeps you with me now
The visions of you
The contrasts of you
Gather in that deep place
Where you and I
Are the only dwellers

I cannot know
Who holds you now
I can only suppose
That those in your midst
Cherish you as I do
And you are cradled in love

And so

The rise and fall
Of the sea
The moon
And my aching chest
Will be my reminder
Of the space
Where once you dwelled
And you
Companion of my soul
Will linger in my beating heart


Sunday, December 30, 2012

A new year...

It seems I have not written HERE in over a year... I have written so much in other places less substantial, mainly Facebook and emails, little spiral notebooks, napkins, sticky notes, receipts, and even my hand.

The 'view' from a blog, seems dark, hidden, loamy, inaccessible and private. While I see that overall there have been nearly 2,000 views of this dot in cyberspace, I can't bring myself to sit and concentrate on a verbal dialog with invisible beings... so I concentrate on the immediate gratification of Facebook and email, where responses are short, response time is short, but responses actually happen... I'm not just 'talking to myself'... which I do all the time anyway, so not sure why I don't do it more HERE? 

However, it is nigh on another year passing... it is more than just a season of other people's traditions, it is a season of our own music tradition. That of readying for the LONG tours, the COLD tours, the MONEY making tours, the stretch of time away from home that is harder to face the older we get. Adoring each moment in our wee home... washing dishes, listening to the wood stove, watching the birds, even the rattling of the windows in the winter wind bring a sense of joy and peace, gratitude and homesickness for the leaving that is at hand.

And yet.
It is our life journey to always be on a journey. To always be leaving, for in that leaving there is the 'unknown' of going and the 'known' of coming home. This last week in here, in our own bed among our belongings, we are trying desperately to finish recording number 10.

Why? We keep asking ourselves... just to hit the magic number? To prove that we did it? To get down on plastic the last few songs and tunes we love just before we are too old to do it at all?? CD sales are dismal at best. People our age are not buying and the generation behind us does not appreciate our music, nor even think of buying CD's, they download.

So why this push and stress? We've looked at other aging musicians and said "they should have quit when they were still good!" But now... we are the 'oldsters'. The fingers don't quite work they way they did 20 years ago. The voices falter with sagging vocal cords. The tone is rough and hearing gaps leave us wondering if we can even trust our ears any longer. But we are trying anyway. 

A last hoorah? Maybe. A 'swan song'? Maybe. Reaching for some sort of reinforcement that we aren't dead yet... of course.

When you live and breathe a direction, a goal, a passion, a dream... it is REALLY DAMN HARD TO STOP! How do we stop. We have so loved this job, so loved the teamwork, the road life, the simple adventures, the wonderful people, the laughter and the tears... working side by side for two decades... it seems impossible that we could NOT do what we do. But our truth, our age, our reality, is catching up with us... we soon will no longer be viable in this business we have dedicated ourselves to.

So the reinvention begins. I will never stop writing, poems, stories, songs... but the focus now will not be 'what will sell', or 'what is performance material'. it will just be molting of language for my own sake. Maybe I'll find more creativity in the landscape of freedom rather than the constraints of what others will hear or like? Hard to say. At this point, we are evaluating the diagnosis... breathing heavily with the dialog of aging... weepy with the memories we've made... laughing at the silly battles we've waged... and hoping there is morphine for our souls as the end nears...

So there is my end of 2012 dialog... and a poem from last year...
maybe I'll write here sooner than another year?

I wear my music like a loose garment
Hoping to find myself comfortable in it
It never leaves my skin

Baggy enough to hide the flaws
Tight enough to flaunt
My landscape

Color doesn’t matter
Color is only a distraction
Of each threadbare fold

It is raging red one day
When I want to quit and be a courtesy clerk
At the nearest market

Blue the next day
When I’ve heard a great musician
And know that I’ll never attain such skill and perfection

Yellow on the playful day
When I get it right
And someone enjoys it

Green on the creative days
When melody invades every cell
And lyric commands my attention

And then there are the white days
Blinded by the dream of the welders torch
Melting the iron will into doing the biz just one more time

I wear my music like a loose garment
I am naked without it
I am naked without it

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cyber Stew

It has been brought to my attention, that there are actual humans out there reading this blog! I’ve not written since November 2010! With dizzying schedules, the constant attention to website management, and now the more prominent social networks… booking, scheduling, family communications, accounting and other ‘online’ endeavors have kept me everywhere but ‘blogging’.
I really didn’t think there to be but one or two who even read here, but a recent post from a ‘follower’ made me dig deeper… after some toggling and clicking, I see that I actually have had readers from all over the world! I wonder how they find this tiny place, this tiny voice. I think on how I would ever find a mysterious writer living a small life and take the time to read what that human had to say? Maybe I need to spend more time surfing the perimeters of cyber existence to see what’s out there? Perhaps there is a ‘word soul mate’ just waiting to be read? Maybe there is a new friendship or connection that could alter two states of mind and thought? This invisible world of internet means you don’t have to see the face of ideas, or hear the voice of dreamers, you can just click, un-click, re-click, zip from China (I have several readers there), to Russia (more there), Belarus (hello to Belarus readers), and other exotic countries and landscapes that I can only dare to dream about…
Currently there is enough static in the world. So much white noise, hell raising, judging, disrespect, religion flaunting, flag saluting, pundit barking, news altering, deception. How does one’s whisper alter the conscience of humanity? How does one song, one note of music, one dragonfly wing flutter make the world different? I’m too small to even contemplate such thoughts.
I love and hate this internet world. I yearn for a hug from those who sit staring at a screen typing symbols to me: I want to feel your heartbeat against my chest. I crave the inflection of voice, the blink of eyelids, the shifting in chair, of a human being telling a story: I want to ‘be’ in your story. I pull from memory the heaving chest of one who is laughing heartily in front of me, not typing ‘lol’: milk spewing through nostrils would bring great joy! I want to collect the salt tears of the one who, one letter at a time gives me news of pain from their fingers to my eyes: here… I’m wearing my old ‘round the house shirt’ and it awaits a damp face pressed against it. I hate seeing your digital photos, I want to breathe the same air with you, stale or fresh…
And yet… without this internet… how would I know you were there at all? Someone in Belarus wouldn’t even know I exist. Weeks or months, if at all… would be the wait to hear from my great friends in Scotland as they swim in competitions, play bagpipes for ceilidh’s, spin wool for weaving, sing songs. Photos of children and grandchildren would be delayed instead of instant. The news of spirits coming and going, of joys and sorrows, work and rest, might not reach this heart until it was too late to respond... Too late... Too late…
So I celebrate those who participate with this modern carrier pigeon. I’m grateful for the invention, the advantage of having the technology, and the irritation of continually learning the skills to use it. It steals my life one day, but gives me everyone’s life the next day…
Thank you to those who are reading here. Those who remember to drop me a note, who send photos and messages via Facebook, our regular email, and even those who just read silently… we are all in this cyber stew together… but don’t forget to hug those in the room with you, this virtual world is not the human reality… we need each other in flesh and bone…

A poem: Mining

I wanted to make people cry
With a song
Kenny wanted to make people laugh
But laughter is an easy response
Even when it is not appropriate
Laughter can arrive

A sigh and a tear
Now that is buried deeper
And the skill
To bring them to the surface
Requires patience and darkness

Crawling down the shaft of possibility
Again and again
Thru the black damp
And the white damp
Of emotions

No matter what dredges up
In the slag
Keep digging the seam
Fault lines and fissures
Will bring you to the core

Only when you can mine
The sigh and the tear
For yourself
Can you mine it in others

I wanted to make people cry
With a song

Mining terms: Black damp: carbon dioxide White damp: carbon monoxide

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Censorship and driftwood

Well, after much soul searching, I decided to return the blog to the website.
There had been a fiasco with a blog post I made. Apparently there was offense taken, so I self censored and took the blog off totally.

Now, hopefully with wounds healed, and my voice back, I will write. Not often, but when I do it will be my truth, and in this freest of countries, without censorship. A blog really isn’t for any other purpose except to pen outwardly your inner voice. For the most part, no one else cares what your inner voice has to say. It would be lovely if blogs really did change minds and alter belief systems. But maybe not… then we’d all be the same and what would be the point of the inner voice or the blog at all? The exercise in typing words to page in the off chance that someone else will read it is just that. An exercise.
And maybe, the person reading will connect and maybe not. You can’t please everyone all the time and everyone should NOT be or think just like you do! So opinions, beliefs, thoughts, memories, and voicing any of them should be mostly kept to oneself, and if allowed outside the confines of the mind, then others can chose to read, or not, chose to agree or not. In this cyber age, all one has to do is to ‘back out’ of the page and go someplace else. And that is the risk of the writer and the responsibility of the reader…

We have been in the loveliest of landscapes, and meeting the most wonderful people on this tour. We always love our job, but somehow this past month has been more vivid and fulfilling than ever. The paying of bills is at the bottom of the list of why we do this.
And while we have often thought over the years that our work was not that essential to the world, and that it takes us away from family and community, there are other gifts we receive that give us a different perspective.

Here is the short list of wonderful diverse people we’ve met in the past few weeks: a world champion sea kayaker, an explosives expert for the movies, a psycho therapist, a music teacher, someone born in a Japanese internment camp, an old cowboy, an Indian, a painter, a dancer, a titanium engineer, a medical engineer, a lawyer, an arts advocate, a classical pianist, a hairstylist, a postman, a balloon pilot, a traditional Mexican ‘chef’, a theater/drama teacher, an English teacher, a choir teacher, an expert on sea chanteys, lots of school children of all races, nationalities, sizes, shapes, level of education and income… What other job could be so infused with humanity? What other job could prove to me that I am but a fair-skinned drop in a universe brewed to perfection? What other job looks back at the ancestors for stories and learning, while performing for the immediate audience, while teaching the next generation? What other job teaches me more with every experience, than I could ever possibly bring to it?

At our advancing age, we discuss the future… how long can we keep up the road life? How many more ‘bags of finger food’ can we consume? How many more cheap motels, or expensive motels, or gas stations, or weather delays, or… How many concerts will people be willing to pay for when they stare at wrinkles and gray hair? How many students will be willing to participate with ‘grandparent’ types? What is the smallest amount of money we can make and still be viable? How can we keep our music skills honed and our creative juices flowing in the face of a world with deeper problems than our tiny efforts can effect?

Constant questions that we have carried in our back pocket, since we started this insane lifestyle. Questions that seem to have no answer, either internally or externally.
We keep going, while we can. We can’t think of an alternative, nor can we imagine not doing this. It will need to be reckoned with at some point, but I feel like Scarlet…
‘I’ll think about it tomorrow’….

A poem:

The definition of adventure
Once grounded in earth and air
Plump and heavy
Stuck here
Rushed there
Soaring on wings of water
To other possibilities
Casting away bark
And exterior hardness
In order to allow
A different kind of life
To absorb deeper
Into the grain

It seems happiest
When afloat
Dark, soft, slimy
And oh so free
In creek, river, sea
High centered on land
Causes a skeletal gray
Atrophied limb waiting for rain
To re-plump cells
And maybe
Just maybe
Raise the tide enough
To carry it away

Is the definition
Of adventure

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

There is a dangerous journey
That is not to lofty granite peaks
But inward to the core of self
The perils are not raging oceans
But silent springs bubbling up from below
The threat of exposure
Is not an arctic blizzard
But in the arms of the beloved
Death of the known world is not when eyes close
But when eyes open

Today I journeyed to my center – my nucleus of being. The raw unfiltered emotion of pure love rushed over me unexpectedly and caught me unprepared, three times! I used to feel this often, but it has been years and my greatest fear was that I had lost the ability to feel it… that it might never come to me again.

The first wave of clarity came at the sight and meeting with Bud. My teacher. My spirit tutor. My mentor in the natural world. My friend and adopted father. How I have missed him. How I feared coming back in his presence lightly. The separation of the white world and the Indian world is palpable, and I find it difficult to move back and forth between them. I am only a ‘guest’ there. And yet when I arrive, I am at home there too. While there is a hesitance to return, the spirit voice tells me always “when you enter this place, never take the ‘outside’ world in, but always take this place back with you”. Tossing my heart into the Indian presence I regained my own truth. I located my true north and felt all that he has ever taught me re-enter my psyche and inhabit my cells. Thank you Grandfathers!

The second wave came at the bend in the river. My sacred holy of holies. The keeper of my truest love and healer of my deepest wounds. Every sense peaked at this reunion – I was transformed again to the vivid dreams this place offers me. I hear again with my spirit ears, see again with my spirit eyes and come alive from the waking numbness. This place saved my life once. It saves me again: sounds, smells, colors, chickadee, ponderosa, buzzing insects, jumping fish, crying hawk, dragonfly… all greet me as ‘friend’. I did not forget them, and they did not forget me! Thank you Grandfathers!

The third journey to the core of my being – my time with my beloved teacher and friend, Charlotte. Her grace, wit, compassion and beauty, elevates my intellect and infuses me with wisdom. The hunger to learn – to accept others – to bless all – delicate and fierce at the same time. She is my feminine hero.

And so it is that I’m exhausted. The intensity is not describable with language. The complete submission to the truest of loves consumes – then re-kindles to consume again. And the hunger to return, for there is no joy like this joy, no pain like this pain… means I am alive again!
Thank you Grandfathers!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Concert of Reckoning

So there is a time in every performers life, when you give all the passion your heart can give and the audience remains in another orbit of another star in another galaxy. No matter what you do, you can’t win them over. You study the experience instantaneously as it is happening, trying to gauge what they are thinking. Why they are not reacting like other audiences. What are you doing wrong. How can you do it differently right this second to make it better for them. And when the lights go off, and they go home you beat yourself up over why you failed them and yourself and the music gods.
It has only happened a couple of times in 20 years, but it happened recently and it makes for a messy autopsy of the heart! The second guessing of the career choice. The dismal crushing of any self esteem that may have been lingering in the corners of the mind. “I quit”! I resound! “I’d rather sweep the floor at the mall” I decide. Anything but put heart and soul out in front of people to have it be disrespected.
And then I remember my mantra… ‘a bad day as a musician is better than a good day as a __________(fill in the blank with a desk job, a filthy job, a mindless job, no job)’.
And then it happens… the following day… 90 teenagers we taught dance to, all applaud and tear up when the final dance class is over… I guess I’ll keep going a bit longer…

The Accordion and the Applause

It’s bad enough
Flaunting her under bright lights
Stretching her to her limits
Deflating her in front of gawkers
Allowing my inadequate skills
To blurb obnoxious notes publicly
When she is capable
Of so much more

But the worst sin of all
Exposing her to the glares
Of an unappreciative audience
To torture her with mediocre applause
To put her in her case
Still warm from my hands
Without a single adoring fan

Sheltering her from my reality
I try to carry the weight of it
I analyze and agonize
Theorize and reprise
The slow slicing with rusty blade
Of my own jugular vein
To spare her the bleeding
Always smiling in her presence
So as not to tarnish her pure existence

I dissect their small brains
Put shock paddles to my heart
Give mouth to mouth to my limp musical soul
Take the tourniquet off my nearly amputated
Say the rosary, turn three circles anti-clockwise
Curse Zeus and Batman
And just before I latch the latches
Whisper to her that it’s not her fault
And it will be better
Next time

Monday, March 15, 2010


This was written three weeks ago... I delayed getting it posted...
Harry has indeed graduated, throw your cap dear one, throw your cap!

“Make some music, drink a toast, he’s about to graduate” she said.
I love the metaphor of graduation. Our culture calls it death, or passing away. Solemn and sad words for such a joyous life and brilliant man.

The definition of a graduate is a person who has received an academic degree or diploma. Not only does Harry have several of those physical items to prove his intelligence and achievements, he truly is going to graduate.
He does not believe in heaven or hell, he does not buy into any dogma that tells him what comes next. But those of us who know him and love him, know that he is about to receive a degree in higher education. He wouldn’t settle for anything less than another learning experience.

This is a man who challenged his religion, his government, his family. He went to Cuba to work side by side with farm laborers. He worked in the inner circle with Martin Luther King Jr. He traveled to Spain not to learn Spanish, but to become bi-lingual. South America and Russia were part of his journeys of inquiry and learning. He never stopped learning and writing and teaching… never. Not even in the face of his cancer and his paralysis did he ever stop learning, and teaching. So how could anyone say the word ‘die’ in the same sentence with his name?

Weepie when we heard the fast decline, then celebratory that we shared with him a deeper heart than most.
Our true ‘anam cara’. So many people only dream of such a rich connection to another soul, we are grateful for the opportunity to experience that with Harry. He understood passion, and commitment, creativity and the muse. He spoke in terms of truth and love, and while always trying to change the world with words, he was willing to hold the placard and march. A hero in the true sense of the word, because there are few who put their deeds where their mouths are. Few who are brave enough to take on the status quo and fear not. Few whose mind and intellect could outwit with love the way he could.

And so the final weeks of this tour, we will sing for him. We will raise a glass for him. We will burn sweetgrass and celebrate his graduation. We are not beside his bed, but we walk the halls of learning that he created for us. We will engage our minds and hearts as he showed us how to do. We will question and work and teach and create in his honor… and that is where he would have us be.