"We're all just walking each other home." - - Ram Dass

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Had Always Known {A review of Cory Chisel and the Fox Valley Symphony Concert}

super awesome brother sister duo.
I think these are the same black jeans Cory wears today :)

We would fight to take turns feeding the dog, eagerly doling out the scoops of cheap kibble until down deep in the bag a corner of the coveted plastic sleeve and blank black cassette tape could be seen.  It was some promotional idea by the dog food company, that if you found a tape that had a message on it, you’d be something like a million dollars richer. But for us?  All those blank tapes? You couldn’t put a price on that prize.

We’d hurry to our old cassette deck, packed full of dreams and ideas, press record and spill out songs and stories-  our fingers holding the faint scent of canine cuisine, but we didn’t care.  We were creating fresh dreams out of rented rooms.

He’d lock himself in our only bathroom for hours, standing in the shower for the elevated acoustic quality as he wrote and performed song after song, recording and listening until I thought those ol’ cassettes would break - redoing, redefining, until he finally found a sound that felt like home.

Being two years younger and a lot more passive, my “on-air” time got squeezed out to the occasional live interview with him, that he had taken the liberty of writing out for me, or production crew: equipment hauling or video camera holding.  But I didn’t mind, not really.  I got a front row seat to watch something beautiful be born.  Even at six years old, I knew it.  There was an energy released when he was in his element, an atmosphere sharp with the static of expectation and possibilities.  

mother-and-son date to the symphony

Twenty-five years later, I enter a packed performance hall, sit behind a pair of older women whose fur coats left draped over the back of their seats tickled my knees.  I’ve got my own son, seven now, beside me.  Older than I was when this all began.  The air no longer smells of kibble, but still holds that familiar buzz that comes before witnessing something great.  The lights went down as the orchestra tuned, the rumble of the timpani drums and strained sighs of the violins sounding off until collectively they stilled.

He walks out on stage, and even from the back of the hall my sister-sense can tell that he is nervous.  When we had talked before the event, he made it clear that he knew he was playing by another set of rules, surrounded by other amazing musicians, and that all eyes were on him to keep up.  I think we all held our breath those first couple songs, the symphony and Cory finding their way to each other, beautiful but cautious until 'Pale Blue Dress' broke down all formalities and the true collaboration could begin.

For 90 minutes I listened to songs that he had created -   All of those nights listening and re-listening, learning and phrasing his way into his art, teaching himself guitar, those tireless licks running over and over until I, in desperation, had stuffed blankets under my door jamb to keep them out. Those nights had led to this.  I listened as these beautiful songs were transformed from wandering ballads sung by a skinny man with a guitar, to full piece orchestrations, which seemed to live and breathe all on their own. 

At one point in the night he mentioned that when songwriters are first starting out, that they never  even dreams that a night like this could happen.  That he certainly never had.  But from my familiar spot in the audience, feeling the beauty and electric filled air surround us, I just shook my head, smiled and whispered that

I had always known.

waiting in the wings at rehearsal

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The View From There

source: Solar Farm University of Tennessee

It was a dead end street, in a small Illinois town.
Remarkable only for its ability to be so emphatically unremarkable.
I was skeptical, at five-years-old, of living in a town founded by people
whose imagination led them to name a town after a valley of coal.
And yet, that curved street end became the place I discovered I was alive.
A quiet inward child, I made friends with the large transformer
who towered behind the metal fence beside our house, sitting in a field of wild violets
that for the fence, I could only ever look at and never quite reach.
I would scramble up our small apple tree,
losing afternoons between its blossoms,
dreaming of where my life would take me, long after this town was behind me. 
It wasn't hard to imagine in the future something grander or more refined.
My mama did the best she could to fix it up nice.
Converting the old tire that had grown into the backyard into a sandbox,
until the stray neighborhood cats took it for their box too...
Mama, never daunted,
used what the good Lord had given,
planting tulips there instead with the free fertilizer the cats left behind.
My sense of self growing alongside
those bright red and cheery yellow heads nodding in the breeze,
guarded by a fortress of abandoned rubber.
My brother and I created alternate universes,
making them come alive in the nooks and crannies of that old house. 
That was, until my darling doll's hair caught fire. 
Turns out yarn haired dolls shouldn't be kept on top of hot water heaters. 
I hadn't known.  There was so much at five that I had yet to learn.
After that, we were told to find somewhere else to play.
That was alright. 
It was becoming hard to dream up new worlds
for the smell of burnt plastic and yarn still hanging about the place.
Then there was the time one of us accidentally broke the thermostat off the wall. 
The temperature inside the house rising and rising to near 100 degrees while the snow fell softly outside.
Mama called Daddy home from the live Nativity scene our church was putting on.
When they had picked my daddy to play Joseph? Well. I could have burst with pride. 
Now, as we sat, stripped down to our undies, waiting for the man who owned the house to come,
I realized that honor of my Daddy's really just smelled like the live donkey they had brought in to gather around the manger.
But still, there was magic to be found when you paid attention.
If you laid real quiet and the wind was just right,
you could hear the roar of the lions at the neighborhood zoo from our driveway. 
We could only go on Tuesday, when the admission was free. 
That was alright, because one dollar bought you a big bag of peanuts
for you to share with Kathy Sh-Boom,
the old elephant that resided there. 
She had been born in the wilds of India,
the adventure and mysticism still woven into her old trunk that she extended happily,
nuzzling my palm as I cracked the peanuts.
One for her,
one for me,
as I wondered...
how it was that we had both ended up in this place.

{Linking with Ann for #whereILivedWednesday, and Heather for Just Write}

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I held you tonight.
Pulled your body to mine, shifting limbs that spill out of my lap
until you are tight in my embrace.

Your tears are silent streams
running the length of my neck, pooling silently on my collarbone
as your body shakes with grief.

You had a dream that our dog had died.

You stood above the open ground
and felt the panic of how to write the fullness of life
on her headstone.

"One sentence Mama, to capture all that love."

I rocked you and asked gently if you had come to any conclusions.
You had sweet boy.
You said you would write

"My dear Layla, I loved you so."

I thought of the whole world outside our door
that would be so lucky, and run so differently
if they found that one line written on their slate by your hand.

As fresh waves took you deeper towards the pain
I did nothing to stop you from feeling the hurt.
I sat with you in my lap and your heart on the wire.

Because my darling son -
my boy of wonder, darkness, and light
you can't truly love without letting all that pain in too.

Your heart, forever wide lined with ancient wisdom, is made on nights like this.
It is these moments of despair and fleeting mortality
that has the gravity to sink you more fully into the belly of it all.

Let's you feel the heat of the life blood,
while you cling to the brown scruff of your faithful friend
as you explain that

she's been by your side since the day you were born, 
and you didn't know the world without her in it.

You wondered out loud why you didn't feel any better knowing it had just been a dream.
You lifted your head from my shoulders to seek my eyes
before you said

"Because it's not just a dream, is it?  
We are all really dying bit-by-bit.  
It's not today I have to say goodbye, but still there IS a someday.."

My own tears slipped out as I nodded
to this soul who had divinely quickened within my womb.
Who by the very act of creating, I had committed to walking life full through.

I ached to tell you that it would be alright.
That the monsters wouldn't come
simply because today, they weren't at our door.

But your soul, who so often guides mine
stopped me short of offering a silver lie
to get us through the night.

Instead, I wrapped myself more fully around you
allowed the darkness to hold us close
and listened to you wrestle and grapple the frailty of it all

until at last...the rhythm of your heart and your slumbered breath met.

And still I hold you.
For I can't keep those dreams, those truth from finding you
but for at least tonight, you don't have to face them without me by your side.

(linking with EmilyHeather, iPPP, and )

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Come Back To Me

The water is calm around us.
Two small frames lit by the sun sinking sleepily in the sky,
spilling streaks of gold across her blue pillow.

Only our ripples move in and out between us
as I twirl in slow circles in my inner-tube next to you
drawing my mosquito pocked legs to the surface,

letting the cool water ease the dull burn of my tiny badges-
reminders of our Minnesota summer adventures.
You, face the fading sun.

I lay with one ear pressed to the inner-tube,
listening to the water muddle and distort your voice
as you declare that

Someday, you are going to follow that sun, that water - straight across the world.

I look over to you, fading black into just a silhouette
and I believe you.  All sharp and thin angles before me,
your shoulder blades set back, two pointed exclaimation points of your resolve.

I have no real desire to leave this lake.
To leave the cove of family and home.
But I could see, even then, that these desires would always be within you.

You turn back to me, eyes gleaming, reflecting the dancing water
as you take my hand and pull gently, my small body cutting the clear surface.

"Come on Sissy.  Let's just explore a little further."

"You go." I said, starting to feel a long way off from the old dock and rocky shore.

"But come back to me and tell me all you've seen."

Twenty five years have found us since then.
Our shadows growing longer and then,
not at all on that bank anymore.

You've followed that sun, that water.
Just now returning home from resting your head on the other side of the globe,
just as you promised me you would.

Your voice now muffled by my ear
pressed against my babies heads.
Your words and music rocking them to sleep.

I hear the dull click of your suitcase once more by the door
and feel the familiar tug of your hand in mine,
I am reminded once again that you are not a soul to keep.

Your boots always carry fresh dust of that open road.

Your collar smells of the wind, wild and free.

Your worn leather jacket - stale beer, faint tobacco, but always fresh dreams.

Your eyes still gleam of new adventures,
willing to take me as far as the world is wide whispered still within
"Come on Sissy."

My lap holds my answer now, for my arms are the shore and home for two sweet souls.

So I whisper once more to your thin silhouette
growing darker against the waning sky.

"You go.  But come back to me, and tell me all you've seen."

Happy birthday to my first love, my first friend.
My blood and bone brother.
I carry you inside me.  Deep and Strong.

Bring that old world back to me, Ree Ree, and sing me your sweet, sweet song.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Weaving fragments, place, and time.

the actual love letters my grandpa sent to my grandma when he was in the Navy.

I light a match
the flame and sulfur
hitting my still darkened senses at the same time.

My candle dances before me now
that smells faintly of the
woods that surrounded their house and my youth.

October has spread her cool fingers across the hardwood floor
and I pull his cardigan, given to me after his funeral when I was a mere 9 years old,
tighter around me as I sit down at my desk that I found at the side of the road.

I have the old trunk propped open beside me
pictures ripe with stories frozen in frame,
his love letters spread out around me            

touching her letter
dated early last week
in her aging hand.

it begins,
"I may have already told you this story already..."

and I whisper in my still sleeping house,
800 miles from where the letter was penned

"Tell me again, Nana.  Tell your life to me again."

You see, I am compiling the fragments of her memories,
the stills-and-frames that are heavy with the burden of the lives they hold inside,
the bits of history I research and can find

and I am weaving a place for these lives to reside.

Listening deep for the truths my grandmother has to offer
picking up my pen to make a composite sketch
of the life they built one dream at a time.

I am writing my grandparent's story.

As I wrestle with the weight of trying to capture
the sun that may set before I'm ready-
closing around with it the light I need to see clearly the one I've already lay sleeping in the ground...

I continue because for every story lost,
I have been able to save one.
I have been able to give to my grandmother the platform to remember that her life has mattered.

That someone is still listening and learning
from the road she took out of the Smoky Mountains to the edge of the Boundary Waters,
and is holding close the heartache of having lost the love that had given her the strength.

I sit quiet in this sanctuary of the past,
knowing that these stories make up mine.
That these threads make up the loom of our family history.

The sole candle both a eulogy lit and an invitation to come,

and I wait for another
line to whisper
it's tale in my ear.

As my fingers find pen and key,
I feel my grandparents hands
wrapped tight around mine.

{linking with Emily, ippp } 

Monday, October 14, 2013


For Angela. 
 May this year burn as brightly as you do.

she stood tall
back straight
head high.

letting the remnants
of her past
pool yellow at her feet.

she did not fear this season of undoing.

in her abandon,
bursting forth in colors
of brilliance and fire

licking the clouds
with her veined flames
she knew she would one day bud again.

she knew she would
make the wind laugh on
lazy summer days

and become respite for tiny pieces of the sky,
her arms extended,
to welcome each frozen one.

no, she welcomed
this goodbye to self
this shedding of history

unafraid to stand
naked in the sun.
in this season 

she, had begun.

{Linking with Jennifer and Emily because redemption can be found, even in poetry. and the #iPPP community}

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Wrap Up of Some of My Favorite Things {And Dreamcatcher Book Winner Announced}

Hi lovelies.  Fall is starting to unfurl around us, so I've been busy following this little lady and mama around blocks and neighborhoods, learning the world all over again.

And while there is no 'link' to click on this one... Fall is one of my most favorite things {sweatpants, reading, and fall go super nicely together}.  Perhaps it was because it surrounded my birthday and a new school year, fall has always been my fresh start.  And I welcome her in all her embers of beauty.

On the subjects of beauty.... one of the most beautiful faces and a soul that makes everyone who encounters it feel understood and valued, my soul sister Adriel Denae who can most often be heard singing with my brother is working on her own solo project, and YOU.GUYS. you should make sure to keep up with her bone chilling, wonderful music.  I love every single thing I've heard.  Here's a clip of Adriel with Norah Jones this summer in my hometown.  Loved sitting there letting these amazing female artists fill a chapel.  goose bumps.

Shockingly enough, I have more books to recommend to you.  Can you believe it??  From the girl who got 10 books for her birthday, and a giftcard to buy many more?  Anyway. These books had me gripped, or caused me to see things in new and exciting ways. 

Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell SmithClaire is just fourteen years old when both of her parents are diagnosed with cancer, and Claire's journey through grief and coming of age at the same time.  Love, Love, Love this one.

Storycatcher by Christina Baldwin:  This book made me change the way I related to writing and the concept of 'Story'.  Through the pages, I learned that I don't have a passion for just writing, I have a much larger passion for Story.  This book gave me language and affirmation for my life's purpose that I didn't yet have words for.  So grateful.

And the final book and then I'll stop, for now, The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  I love anything by Kate, great skilled and enjoyable writer, but I don't know... this one gripped me and found me  

Before leaving the book topic all together, I should admit that I am forming a Goodreads addiction rivaling the amount of time that can get sucked up by Pinterest, but something I will ACTUALLY probably do or use, not like the pinned art projects and recipes that the closest they come to reality is if my computer is sitting open on my kitchen counter.  If you are on there, find me!

Circle Street Stationary makes cards, paper, as well as some extremely cute other paper items all hand-sewn and to die for. Seriously, another thing to go and look around in, I would highly doubt not falling in love with something in the shop!  She even has little pretend tea bags for imaginary tea parties... sigh. just too much.  

And last, but certainly not least... I want to introduce you to another beautiful soul out here that I cannot get enough of. Meet my friend, Angela.

This girl sings the deep places, having walked roads marked with wear and soul baring intensity, but still she finds and {re}defines herself in hopeful and inspiring ways.  She is another sister of the heart.  You should read her words, I bet you will want to stay awhile and let her teach you wise and breathless beauty.

I've had so much fun pulling these things together, maybe something I'll do more frequently because I love sharing all the devastatingly wonderful things that are out there, because who doesn't need more of that in their life?  Thank you so much for the birthday love and wishes....  The winner of the copy of DREAMCATCHER is....  Christine Organ!  {Another great writer and heart out there.  I've met some good ones along the way, what can I say?!?}  Congratulations Christine, and thanks to everyone who played along!