Today is the first sunshine I’ve seen in weeks, and I’m celebrating with a watermelon. Nothing says sun and summer like that does.The springtime has been wildly wet and stormy, and I can't complain.
But staying indoors as much as I have is not in my best interests...
As juice drips down my chin, various events, thoughts, and conversations with people run together in my mind, and some I’m not sure what I dreamed and what were real.
And I’m truly not sure which are in need of changing more: my guitar strings or bed linens. Both are starting to appear many weeks overdue.
I step out into the humid heat. A trip to the pasture can often give my life back the organization that it never had, and the horses will appreciate the watermelon rinds.
In the meantime, rewind, to February:
Packing a suitcase is on my top 10 list of things to detest.
Ironic and unfortunate for my situation, but also a weakness I've been known to give into at the close of a trip...as I sometimes find myself (though, aware that it's neither admirable nor skillful) tossing items pell-mell into the open suitcase and plopping on the lid until the zipper shuts. It's cursedly effective and practically painless -- or perhaps just satisfies my childish streak.
Today I’m guilty of it, and now finished, I remain on top of the suitcase and lean back against the bed frame with a general and tiredly content breath. I have spent the weekend in the high mountain desert of Arizona, with some truly fine musicians and audiences.
Though the dryness is tiresome, the weather here is mild and beautiful. It’s something that triggers a smile as I roll my bag out the door, guitar in tow and hat half shoved onto my forehead. I can feel the lovely day that’s awakening and regret having to spend it travelling.
But what I soak in for the moment…
The desert is serene, proudly and exquisitely drab; an embracement of the wild and wide open in a way that makes me want to cast myself anti-cautiously into its midst. I have always considered Arizona to be a hostile land by its nature -- lying in wait to greet the visitor with nothing but a prick, poison or bite.
And yet...it wields that moving, alluring, addictive appeal of the West.
But without question, nothing has a magnetic pull for me even half as much, and rather indefinably, as the Lone Star State. This realization sinks in anew each time I land and taxi onto the flat but smugly Texan soil, or roll past the state line and the freeway’s welcome sign. It greets me with the warmth of a lonely Labrador and floods me with emotion.
But the days behind me, like many gig weekends (and especially festivals) were long and euphoric.
Daytime shows, sound checks, night concerts and late jamming; skipped meals here and there, skipped sleep almost everywhere, instrument lugging, autograph signing. Lots of singing, setlist planning, smiling, nervously waiting, excitedly executing what my fingers and mind have done many times.
Not too many take me seriously, lately, when I tell them I’m introverted and shy. Passion for something undoubtedly stretches comfort zones.
Even so, my introverted nature hasn’t disappeared, and being in large crowds of people frequently takes a toll on my energy, or causes a rampage of fluttery stomach.
But there’s a special pulse to the joy I find, that makes it well worth it – whether jamming or on stage, in a person I meet and talk to or a song that pierces me deeply, or the energy of an audience that causes me to surprise myself – I invariably crawl exhausted into my hotel room at night, relieved to have some space for a little while but still bearing a grin that can’t be erased and gratitude that is sincere.
They are the little things that are easy to forget about at other moments, when it’s simpler to dwell on my own long list of shortcomings. But they are the things I have and will always have the highest gratitude for.
This gratitude further extends to the blessing of being able to sleep in practically any situation. Thus, travel days repeatedly fall under my ‘dead to the world’ days.
…Unless I sit here writing this instead.
Sometimes my mind drifts to what awaits at home. Turning onto that certain bumpy road leading to a certain gravel turnoff with a host of four legged’s to greet me is a moment worth looking forward to during long airplane flights:
As I drive along it, a dome of trees plays London Bridges above me and scatters dappled shadows in front of my truck. Even more glorious in the spring and summer, the now colorless intertwined branches don’t give the impression of bareness, so much, as a humble welcoming committee. Mr. Red Cardinal is alighted upon his regular branch, but scatters as I pass. This tree tunnel; one thing that has not changed at all since I was small. I hope it never does.
At the barn, Velvet's mud decorations are proof of a rainy weekend. Her wild ‘do’ reminds me of a frizzy haired kid who’s been making mud pies in the backyard.
The two of us have some catching up to do, but she seems as eager for it as I am, and that is the best welcome home gift.
The indoor cat comes prepared with his own welcome home gift. He struts onto my lap, tail gliding across my upper lip, and I catch a whiff that is distinctly skunk…
But these moments at home are fleeting.
Time flies like a hat in a windstorm, and now the jet engine airliner roars beneath me as I make my way to Maui, Hawaii – several months, gigs, and states traveled behind me since Arizona. It is June.
Branches, at home, have gone from bare to brilliant.
Beyond sheer travel, they have been months full of rain and spring, bluebonnets and photo shoots, driving and gigging, a little bit of trick riding, a little bit of whooping cough and especially a lot of time spent in the recording studio to finally finish up my newest CD project, which I'm feeling excited about.
Now the album is finished and for sale. I’ve had another birthday. My sheets and strings are both changed, and Velvet is muddy again. And God continues to bless and teach me every single day.
And today I'm heading truly West….
I think I’ll sleep on the plane. Aloha, y’all.