Saturday Morning Musings – One jelly bean at a time.

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This week, I read an astonishing book - I Am Malala - about (and by) the young Pakistani girl who spoke up for the right of girls to go to school – and was shot for it.  She and her father (an educator himself) had received numerous threats, and still they raised their voices from the Swat Valley against the misogyny of the Taliban, nearly paying the dearest price for their convictions.  The story of the attack on her life in the fall of 2012 captivated the entire world.

For what would I be willing to risk my life?

It’s a hell of a question.

In her book, Malala speaks with such passion about her studies, her competitive nature come exam time, about her love of science, her voracious appetite for reading.

She also expresses her sadness about how many young girls and women in her country – and, indeed, around the world – are uneducated and illiterate, regarded as unequal to men and boys and not deserving of the same access to education and information.

It’s amazing what one takes for granted.

As much as I also loved (and still love) learning and reading, I really didn’t like school much beyond third grade.  I was always shy, awkward, probably seemed aloof a lot of the time.  I was so uncomfortable at school, more so as I got older.  Naturally introverted, I shied away from most things social.  I didn’t have a lot of confidence.  I didn’t really like myself too much.  I couldn’t wait to graduate and get the hell out of there.

On the heels of all this, there was a very moving video on wimp.com the other day, in which each day of one’s life is represented by jelly beans:

http://www.wimp.com/timebeans/

As the original pile of 28,835 jelly beans (representing an average lifespan) is whittled away to account for school, work, sleep, eating, commuting, watching TV, chores, errands, bathing and grooming, down to an unthinkable 2,740, the narrator asks a few stirring questions, including this one:

How much time have you already spent worrying instead of doing something that you love?

Boy, I do have a worry wart streak in me.  I get it from my mother.  I even worry sometimes that I worry too much.

Davy said something to me a while back that rings true.  He observed that I wear the world as a tight garment.

I know what he means, and he’s right.  I get up into my head a lot.  I do hold the world close.  It’s miraculous and maddening, inspiring and infuriating.

I think of all that time I spent worrying as a kid, too.  Didn’t we all?  Worrying about where I stood, how I seemed, what kind of mood Mom would be in when I got home, about doing okay in school.

About feeling safe and okay.

Nowadays, I worry that I might miss out on something, that some opportunity might pass me by because I’m not prepared for it, that I’ll have a dream about the most amazing song that would be a smash hit and then forget the whole damn thing as soon as I wake up.

Then, I read Malala’s book and I think, “What the hell do have to complain about?”

In the grand scheme of things?  Nothing at all.  She is a champion, a hero – and I’m a hobbyist, living a charmed life.

Time to let all that tension out of my shoulders, contemplate and appreciate that finite supply of jelly beans, and savor their sweetness.

Saturday Morning Musings – Remnants of stars reuniting.

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Writing from the road again.  This morning I am in Northampton, MA at my friend Carrie Ferguson‘s house.  She’s a wonderful soul and songwriter.  I fell in love with her songwriting at NERFA in 2012.  Her song “Paris” is an aching ode, mourning the obsession that often overtakes the mind when your lover leaves you.  The first time I heard her sing it, I was hooked.

We became quick friends that weekend.

Last night, we played a show together in Becket, MA at a wonderful gem of a place called The Dream Away Lodge.  We swapped five-song sets all night.  Attentive crowd, snapping fireplace, glowing smiles, full bellies, beaming hearts.

I tried out a brand new song last night.  “Like You’re Already Gone.”  It’s dark and it’s heavy.  The moment that I strummed that last E7 and the applause came, a man said, “Wow, is that your song?”  I told him it was.

It really got to him.

Two nights ago, Shawn, Davy and I saw The Stray Birds in Portland.  Incredible night of music.  For me, my love for them began the first time I ever heard their “Dream In Blue”.

What is it about a song?  The emotional power of just a few chords, a melody and, sometimes, some words; an instrument in the hands of a performer; voices echoing; vibrations rising in the air; ears, minds and hearts to receive it.  All of it remnants of stars reuniting.

All of us singers and songwriters are after that special bit of stardust.  Joni sang about it this way: “The lights go down / And it’s just you up there / Getting them to feel like that.”

Carrie and I captured a little bit of that tonight.  Tonight, we’ll go after it again in Portland, ME, then tomorrow night in Portsmouth, NH.

Then.. in the intervals between gigs, I’m sure we’ll each, in our own way, seek to capture that lightning bug in the jars of our hearts, kindle the flame long enough to set another heart ablaze in another room somewhere, sometime.

I love my job.

 

 

 

Saturday Morning Musings – Where is spring?

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It seems like everyone in this neck of the woods is asking the same question: “Where is spring?”

A year ago at this time, yes, there was still snow on the ground (as seen in this photo that I took at that time at Arethusa Falls) but this year we didn’t even attempt our-first-day-of-spring hike to the falls.  We’re waiting until some of this stuff melts – whenever that may be.

On the day of the vernal equinox this year, we awoke not to chirping birds, dazzling sun and balmy breezes, but instead to a heavy, gray sky and a fresh foot of snow in the yard.  We went snowshoeing in the woods behind the house instead.

So, yeah – where is spring?

It’s been an exciting week.  I’ve been selected as an official showcase artist at SERFA, taking place in North Carolina in May.   This is an awesome opportunity to share my work with venues, presenters, fellow performers, and to make new friends.  I’ll be traveling down and sharing this opportunity with Shawn and Davy, bandmates extraordinaire.

Just six weeks from now, we’ll be loading up the Winnie and headed south.  First to the conference, then Shawn and I continue on for a few-weeks-long adventure in the Big Easy.

This week I also received an email from a woman in Utah who wants to cover one of my songs – “We All Have A Song” – on her upcoming CD.  What an honor!

Dave said, “This has been a great week for you!  You should buy a lottery ticket!”  Ha!  The last time I bought a lottery ticket was about 20 years ago, and I won $250 on a scratch ticket.  I figured I was ahead – why push my luck?  So I stopped buying them.

With all of this snow still on the ground and all these exciting developments, I’ve been having a hard time staying focused on what’s in front of me.  I keep thinking about six weeks from now, all the things that need to be done and tended to.  I keep daydreaming about New Orleans, about green grass, about opening my bedroom window and letting a cool, sun-kissed breeze bring in some desperately needed fresh air.

“When is spring?”  As weary as I am of the endless winter, I’m equally fed up with this feeling of wanting it to be over with.

It’s time, at least for now, to shed that impatience.  Normally, I think that patience is an overrated virtue, that it gets in the way of living a full and passionate life.

When did I get in such a rush, anyway?

What is wrong with this moment?

Or this one?

My life is unfolding, petal by petal, from the tightly twisted promise of the bud.  The sun is already shining on my face.  The water is already flowing under the ice, against the rock.

It’s already beautiful.  I just have to take the time to notice it.

Spring is here!  It is always here.

 

Saturday Morning Musings – Add a little spice!

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One of my greatest passions in life is cooking.  I love to be in the kitchen, cooking for myself, for friends, for me and Shawn.  I wrote a while back about fridge essentials and had promised a follow-up about pantry staples – and that’s still on the agenda – but this week I’m thinking about what’s in my spice cabinet.

I’ve got a good collection going and I’m always looking for more.

If you have nothing else in your spice rack, I think these are the absolutely-must-haves:

  • sea salt
  • black pepper (freshly ground is best – so much tastier!)
  • garlic powder (for when you don’t feel like mincing fresh)
  • basil
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • crushed red pepper (for a little heat)
  • cayenne (if you enjoy a little more heat, like I do)

Soups, pasta, you name it – these few will get you through most anything.

Then there are the baking essentials:

  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • clove (whole and ground)
  • vanilla extract
  • coconut oil
  • dried peppermint

Other leafy spices that are a must for all kinds of cuisine:

  • sage (mushrooms and sage.  mmm.)
  • rosemary
  • thyme (do you have that song stuck in your head now?)
  • marjoram (another sweet leaf – try it instead of basil!)
  • tarragon (great with mushrooms and asparagus)
  • cilantro (salsa, bean dips and fillings, Indian curry top-off)
  • bay leaves (a must for soups)

I love Indian food, so I keep some other must-haves around:

  • turmeric (bitter root – essential – stains your clothes, watch out!)
  • ginger (another essential bitter root with lots of great uses)
  • cumin (whole and ground)
  • coriander (ground – this and cumin are also great in Mexican cuisine)
  • cardamom (pods and ground)
  • saffron (so expensive and so wonderful when cooked into basmati rice)
  • paprika (just the smell of this is worth keeping it around)
  • yellow mustard (whole seeds and ground)
  • garam masala (I cheat and buy it. I’ve actually never made my own – but I should try!)

Other miscellaneous spices/flavors that I use on occasion:

  • onion powder
  • celery seed
  • kelp granules
  • dill
  • chili powder

When Shawn and I were on the road in Florida last year, we found an amazing place in St. Pete called Savory Spice Shop.  I could’ve spent thousands of dollars in there!  Dozens of varieties of sea salt, peppercorns, leaves, roots… holy moly!   I did finally settle for a few things:

So.. this is what I’ve got.  What’s your favorite spice, or combination of spices?  Any suggestions of spices I should try?  I’d love to hear from you – especially if you’re into vegan cooking!

Saturday Morning Musings – The city that rarely sleeps.

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Last week at this time, Shawn and I were on the road.  We made lots of new friends, reconnected with old friends, and played some well-attended shows for appreciative and attentive audiences – life can’t get much better than that.  (And you can watch a short clip from our Maryland show here.)

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We were in New York City for three nights, staying with a friend in Harlem and exploring the Big Apple for the first time, at least for me, since high school.

After our show at Bowery Electric on Sunday night, we rushed over to The Blue Note to see an incredible trio: Donald Harrison on alto sax, Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham on drums.  I was dumbstruck by their arrangements and their effortless virtuosity.

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A visit to the American Museum of Natural History was a dream come true for both of us.  The Dark Universe show at Hayden Planetarium, narrated by director Neil deGrasse Tyson, was especially humbling and awe-inspiring.   Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, with all of its undeniable evidence of the evolution of our species, nearly brought tears of wonder to my eyes.

IMG_6007Dinosaurs, gems, minerals, ancient Chinese art, painstakingly crafted dioramas – by the end of our visit I was exhausted from the sheer volume of information and stimulus.

Later that evening, we had dinner at Silvana, a great little Middle Eastern spot in Harlem, and listened to the Ekah Kim Quartet.  Fantastic!

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And that was all on Monday.

On Tuesday, hand in hand, Shawn and I took a stroll through Central Park.  Even though the Reservoir was still frozen, it was 65°, sunny, slight breeze.  In other words – perfect.

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At Greywacke Arch, we were treated to the gorgeous sounds of a classical guitarist from Chile.

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After lunch on the West Side, we made our way to Steinway Hall.  Downtown.

“I’ll take one of each, please.”

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Finally, we took the subway back to Harlem, waited for Andi to get home from work and planned our last evening in the Big Apple.

There was even fantastic music in the subway.

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I’d made reservations at Iguana in Manhattan to see Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, who perform 1920s and 1930s big band and jazz arrangements.  Our friend Dan Levinson was playing clarinet and alto that night and we wanted to be sure to see him while we were in NYC.  Great food, awesome music, swanky vibe.

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We vowed not to visit Times Square – once in a lifetime is more than enough.  We came within a few blocks before the descent into the subway saved us.

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Our time with Andi in the city was coming to an end.  We were looking forward to being home (despite the snowstorm that awaited us) but we were sad to leave this amazing place.

We left for home the following morning, just one hour before the terrible explosion in East Harlem - just a few blocks away from Andi’s place.  He’s okay – but many more are not.  So sad.

Not only was the entire trip inspiring and exhilarating, something else happened that I can’t quite shake.

On the way back to Harlem from Iguana, an older disheveled man staggered into our sparsely-filled subway car.  He had urinated many times into his dirty blue sweatpants.  His voice was rough and hoarse as he asked for something to drink.  A woman across from us reached into her purse and gave him what was left of her small bottle of water.  He didn’t drink it.

He then asked everyone for spare change.

None of us – including me – did not reach into our pockets.  We did nothing to help him.

I don’t know why I didn’t help him.  I wanted to help him.  And yet… something stayed my hand.  I honestly don’t know what that something was.

No one in that car made a move or a sound in response to his plea.

As we walked home from the subway, I voiced this to Andi and Shawn.

“Why didn’t I help him?”

“I didn’t either.”

“I wish I had.”

“Well, next time.”

Does the city harden hearts?  Maybe.  Who knows, really.

Shawn recalled all the beggars in New Orleans that we had helped with many fistfuls of spare change and dollar bills.   True – we had done that, and I remember the time we gave someone an entire bag of oranges.

And yet… we were unmoved by this one man in New York City who, at this moment, is probably still in great need, still asking for help.

I hope I don’t make that mistake again.

Saturday Morning Musings – Firewater.

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Writing from the road this week.

This will not be the follow-up to last week’s post about food in the fridge.  Sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you were after.

A friend of mine is going through a rough break-up, and his struggles have been on my mind.  

I’ve been there.   We probably all have.   Grappling with the idea of going it alone, outside of the safety of what is otherwise not at all where you should be.

“Should I stay or should I go?” goes the classic Clash lyric.  It’s a hell of a question.  Here are a few more zingers:

How do you know when the going is getting too tough?

Where is the line between self-preservation and preserving one’s relationships?

How can you truly know whether the other person is poison to you – or if you’re the poison?

I went to see The Wood Brothers last Sunday night in Portland.  Amazing band, one of my favorites.  Fantastic show.  When they did their “old-timey” portion of the evening around “Big Mike“, they performed a song called “Firewater” from their latest album.

Her hair and her clothes
Were smellin’ of smoke
And her lips well they tasted like firewater
First kiss I was buzzed
Second I was in love I was high

Maybe it was someone you met in a smoky bar.. maybe it was someone who was bad news for you.  Close your eyes and remember that first kiss.  Intoxicating.  You feel like a sugar cube dissolving into a cup of coffee.  The feeling just grabs ahold of you and it doesn’t let you go.

You think I’da learned
All the times I was burned
Deservin’ the blues and I sure got ‘em
The drinkin’ and pills
The head shrinkin’ bills they got high

You KNEW that person was nothing but trouble, nothing but a one-way ticket to heartache.   And yet you couldn’t resist – and got exactly what was coming to you.

So if you taste lips of firewater
Better make like a tree
It’s a kiss you want no part of
Better not wait and see

You can’t see it when you’re in it.  You have to go through hell and back to know where you should and shouldn’t be.  The only way to know is to live it.

Her stockings were torn
Before she was born
Her mother said she was a hard daughter
No father around
She’d just get down and get high

Some people just get dealt a terrible hand in life.   It’s not their fault.  You know and accept that the other person is flawed.  Who isn’t?  So you try to stick it out, try to be compassionate.  And yet…

So if you taste lips of firewater
Better make like a tree
That’s a kiss you want no part of
Better not wait and see

… that voice of reason screams, “NO!”  Finally, it sinks in and you have to get out.

If you taste lips of firewater
Get ready to bleed
It’s a kiss you want no part of
If you’re anything like me

Take it from someone who knows.

And we’ve all been there.  Maybe not with a lover, but perhaps with a friendship, or a substance, or a terrible job, or anything that is used to fill the void, to comfort you and shelter you from the whirlwind.

I think the short answer to those questions I listed above is: trust your gut.

When I was with my abusive ex, I ignored my gut feeling – the one that told me to get the hell out of there – for so long.  Too long.  I was scared to leave what was physically safe, while paying the price with my emotional safety.   I felt like leaving would ruin him, but staying was ruining me.

That’s not a mistake I ever intend to make again.

As I mentioned, I’m on the road this week.  Last night, Providence.  Tonight, Darlington, Maryland.  Tomorrow, NYC.  Got my sweetheart, got my music, my health, my freedom.  Life is good.

Go listen to “Firewater”.   Maybe you’ve been there and back.  Maybe you’re there now.  Good songs always speak the truth.

Saturday Morning Musings – What’s in your fridge?

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my conversion to vegetarianism.  I received a lot of positive responses as well as a lot of questions and some requests for shopping lists.

First of all, eating healthier means that you’ll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen.  If you love to cook, then you’re ahead.  If you don’t… well, I can’t relate but I can only suggest that you think of cooking as an adventure.  Because it is!  :)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question, “You don’t eat meat or dairy?  Well, then what DO you eat?”  That has always seemed to me like an odd question – but there are a great many of us who rely on fast food or on heat-and-eat meals.  Cooking from scratch at home may require more time, but in the long run you’ll be saving money and be healthier – what could be better?

So, this week I have put together a list of what I believe are some basic ingredients that every refrigerator must have.

Starting with veggies:

ONIONS.  The most essential veggie.  Onions are in everything – sauteed into stir-fries and sauces, baked on top of pizzas, cooked into soups, garnished onto salads.  I always say that most of my favorite meals begin with onions and garlic being sauteed in olive oil.  Yellows are my go-to onion, but Vidalias and reds are awesome too.

TOMATOES.  (Technically a fruit, yes, but what the hell.)  Both fresh and canned.  I prefer grape tomatoes, which seem to last longer and can be chopped into and onto pretty much any dish.  For larger tomatoes, romas and heirlooms are my favorites.  Canned diced tomatoes are sometimes necessary, and the ones at Trader Joe’s are my preferred brand.  I also like Whole Foods’ 365-Organic Brand of crushed tomatoes with basil.  Perfect for building a spaghetti or pizza sauce.

CARROTS & CELERY.  Two more essential staples for soups, salads, stir-fry, steamed sides, and of course are great raw snacks on their own.

POTATOES.  Baked; mashed; sliced, boiled and fried (or baked, if you want to be healthier) for French fries.  Chopped into curries.  Cooked into soups – minestrone, of course, and homemade potato leek soup is so good and so EASY!   Yum.  I am probably a little TOO fond of potatoes.  Starch in moderation isn’t too bad, is it..?

MUSHROOMS.  You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, but I personally love me some fungus.  White button mushrooms are the staple in my kitchen.  Portabello caps are choice as well for things Italian.  Shiitakes are excellent for stir-fry and in miso soup.  One time, years ago, I bought some monkey head mushrooms and made a soup with them.  It was… interesting.   Definitely worth trying once just for the experience.  (Hey, like I said – cooking is an adventure!)

BELL PEPPERS.  Greens are usually the cheapest and most plentiful, depending on where you shop, but red and yellow taste so sweet and wonderful and are a great addition to anything – and are absolutely worth every penny of the higher price tag.  (Onions, green peppers and celery are the holy trinity of Cajun cooking!)

BROCCOLI.  How did broccoli become stigmatized as the “veggie that kids hate”?  I always loved it, and I also love how versatile it is.  Raw or cooked, broccoli crowns should always be available for an appearance.  Pasta dishes, salads, soups, stir-fry (you see a theme here, eh?  We eat a lot of those four things).  Steamed with a little bit of pepper?  Nothing finer.  Another good raw snack as well – though I have to admit I’ve always preferred my broccoli cooked.

LETTUCE.  Everyone should be eating more salads (including me!).  For me, organic romaine hearts are the way to go.  Spring mix, when it’s in season, is perfect.

Those are the essentials that I think one must never run out of.  And in the freezer of course I always have peas, corn and green beans.

Oh… and two more things that we keep in the freezer: Amy’s California Veggie Burgers and Rice Dream Vanilla Pies!  We also keep our bread in the freezer because we don’t eat it quickly enough to leave it out.  Barowsky’s breads are our favorite.  I also make my own bread – which is REALLY fun and you should try doing it sometime if you’ve not tried it before!

Then there are the fresh “floaters” that make semi-frequent appearances on my cutting board and in the steamer: zucchini, kale, asparagus, spinach, green onions, leeks, Brussel sprouts.

Onto fruits (which I don’t keep in the fridge, but close enough)!

BANANAS.  Every single morning that I’m home, I have a smoothie with a banana, rice milk, hemp protein and a little bit of carob powder.  The perfect way to start the day.

AVOCADOS.  One of the most perfect foods to ever evolve on this planet.  Absolutely delicious.  I make a lot of guac, but avocados are also great when chopped into a salad, taco or burrito, sliced onto a veggie burger – or just cut one in half and eat the whole thing with a spoon.

APPLES.   Yep.  Apples.  ’nuff said.  My favorites are Braeburns and Galas.

CLEMENTINES.   A quick and healthy snack that’s easy to peel.

I always keep blueberries in the freezer for pancakes and muffins.  And then the fresh “floaters” in this category are: peaches, plums, kiwis, grapes.

Dried fruits are essential, too.  Raisins and dates for starters.  Apricots are yum, too.

MORE FRIDGE STAPLES (in no particular order):

Rice milk (much better than soy)
Hemp protein
Eggs (I eat maybe one a week – and we buy them from a farm just around the corner)
Peanut butter (we buy Trader Joe’s brand, which will separate if not kept in the fridge)
Tahini (for making cheese-like sauces)
Hot sauce (Beast Feast Maine is our preferred source)
Annie’s Goddess Salad Dressing (our favorite)
Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (I love it on my French fries)
Tamari
Miso (for soups and spreads)
Fresh lemon and lime (for hummus and guac, respectively)
Fresh basil and pine-nuts (for pesto!)
Mustard
Salsa

Okay, so that’s the fridge covered.  Next time, I’ll open up the cabinets and take a look at cans, spices, grains, and more!

Saturday Morning Musings – Rosie.

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As I type these words, I am flanked by two canine friends, Lucy and Torro.

Here’s Lucy:

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and here’s Torro (and Shawn):

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Aren’t they adorable?

Their human family has been away this week on vacation, so Shawn and I have been house-sitting.

We were also left to take care of several tanks of fish and frogs, and two cats, Rosie and Dog:

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Winter has had a strong grip on the Northeast and there’s been a tremendous amount of new snow in the brief time that our friends have been away.   In fact, when the temperatures reached the 40s on Thursday, Torro was having a grand old time and did not want to come in at all (as evidenced by this Instagram)!

It hasn’t all been lighthearted this week, though.

On Tuesday, Shawn had an apres ski gig, so I spent the day at the house snuggling with the dogs on the couch, watching yet another snowstorm from the window, and catching up on House of Cards.  As soon as I’d finished the last episode, I got up to bring a dish to the kitchen and Rosie walked by, bright-eyed with her tail up.

“Hi Rosie!” I called.

Just a few minutes later, I heard a strange thump in the front room.  “UPS maybe?” I thought, knowing that they were expecting a delivery that day – but it didn’t sound like a booted foot on the front steps.  Torro started to bark a little.  I got up to investigate.

Rosie – beautiful, two year old, black, impossibly soft Rosie – had collapsed.  She was lying on her side, breathing laboriously.

I immediately ran to grab a towel, then put on my coat and boots, scooped her up in my arms and rushed her to the vet.  By the time I got her there, it was too late.  She was gone.

“What happened to her?” I asked the vet through tears.  She speculated that, since she didn’t find anything in her airway or feel anything unusual in her belly, it was either her heart or her brain.  Some sort of unknown defect.

Poor Rosie.

I stepped out of the vet’s office into the snowy afternoon and gave in fully to the sobs that persisted for the rest of the day.  I had to calm down – I had to drive home!  But before I even left the parking lot of the vet’s office, I had to call our friends to deliver the sad news.

After that difficult call, I sat in the car, gaining my composure enough to drive the couple of short yet slippery miles back to the house.

Walking back into the house, the whole world seemed to match the gray and dreary mess that was gathering outside.

Until I saw the dogs, that is.

Torro, in his usual over-exuberant state, came galloping over to greet me at the door with a toy in his mouth, jumping up the back of my legs, whimpering with joy.  I didn’t snatch him up in my arms as I usually do when I see him like this.  I was still crying, still so shocked at the last forty surreal minutes, that I just didn’t have it in me to respond to his enthusiasm.

Lucy greeted me, too – and maybe I’m assuming too much here – but she was subdued.  She’s an older, wiser gal.  She had witnessed the entire frantic scene when I found Rosie on the floor.   She had to know something was amiss.

For the rest of that afternoon and evening, I struggled to pull myself out of my grief.  Lucy and I both curled up in balls on the couch.  (Dog has seemed lonely, too – I’ve been giving him lots of extra love and treats.)

But not Torro.

He periodically would try to engage me – even more than usual, now that I am reflecting on it – by bringing a favorite toy onto the couch, by licking my arms or my toes, by jumping onto the chair across the room and chasing his own tail.  Certainly he must’ve been bored with my inertia.

Finally, I began to thaw to Torro’s youthful warmth and began tossing the ball around.  My spirits immediately lifted.  Shawn got back to the house later that evening to share in both the grief of losing Rosie, and the joy of being greeted at the door by two lovable and awesome dogs.

Life comes and goes.  Good things happen and terrible things happen.  And as I reach the end of this week’s entry, Torro and Lucy are still on either side of me, snoring slightly.  How wonderful is that?

All that’s left to do now is to enjoy the moments all of us critters find ourselves in – and to take time to remember Rosie.

Saturday Morning Musings – Food (habits) for thought.

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Unlike a lot of folks, I didn’t buy or even demand any chocolate for Valentine’s Day.  I gave it up years ago (as I briefly mentioned in an earlier post) in my effort to cut caffeine entirely out of my diet – and, eleven years later, I’m still completely caffeine free.

My diet has long been a thing of fascination to my friends and acquaintances over the years – and to myself as well as it continues to evolve.

There was a single moment that changed my relationship to food that resonates to this day, nearly twenty years on.  I’ll never forget it.

It was a warm spring day in Auburn, Maine, and I was first in line waiting at a red light to cross over Center Street.  I was twenty years old, and I was working in and had just recently started renting an apartment in Lewiston.   In that moment, life was good.  I had the music up, and the windows down for the first time that spring.

The vehicle that happened to come to a stop in front of me at the intersection changed my life.

Rolling down Route 4 from the north in Turner came an open-sided truck from DeCoster Egg Farm, not carrying eggs, but the hens that produce them.  Hundreds of them, crammed thickly into cages.  Their movements were a terrible struggle.  Their cries of discomfort were unmistakable.   Feathers drifted free and were carried by a breeze over the long line of busy, mid-day traffic.

I turned off my radio as tears burned down my cheeks.

“That’s it!” I declared out loud to myself.  I was done being a meat-eater.

The seeds for this epiphany had been planted when I was a young girl.  I’d been a staunch supporter of animal rights as a youngster (following my mother’s footsteps) and used to bring to school all of the shocking literature that my mom received from organizations like International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace (just to name a few of the organizations of which she was a pledging member) and display it off the front of my school desk.  These mailings often included glossy, color images of baby harp seals being clubbed to death; household pets being sold in Asian meat markets; wolves shot by snipers from Alaskan helicopters; majestic humpback whales beached and bloodied by harpooning.  My teacher would often despair of my campaigns and would ask me to remove the photos; my classmates never tired of teasing me about it.  I didn’t care – in my mind, I was bringing attention to serious matters.

“We need to speak for the animals because they can’t speak for themselves,” I was often fond of saying.

“Well, why do you still eat meat then?” my classmates would sneer.  And I never had an answer.  I would simply stammer and blush with embarrassment.

During these same years, I was taking piano lessons from Helen Davidson who, along with her husband, owned and operated a farm in Hebron.   Sometimes after my weekly lesson I would go out to the barn with Helen to visit the cows.   She introduced me to one particular little calf, saying, “This is Malcolm.”

For the following months, I would look forward to the occasional visit to the barn to see Malcolm and to feeding him from my tiny hands.

Then, there came a day when Malcolm was no longer in the barn, and I wondered to myself where he had gone.

At the dinner table one evening, as I was a few bites into my dinner, my father looked at me and said, “How do you like your Malcolm burger?”  A sharp pang of sadness and outrage sliced through me.   I don’t remember what happened after that – I was only in fourth or fifth grade – but I’ve not yet forgotten that terrible feeling.

As a child, of course, you eat what your parents serve you, and so the memory of this incident slowly faded and I continued on the omnivore’s path, right up until the day I saw that truckload of chickens.

Red meat was easy to give up (I didn’t eat that much of it anyway).  Pork, seafood and turkey, not a huge deal either.  Chicken was a bit more difficult, as I had relied upon it as a staple.

Slowly, I learned to replace my proteins, learned how to do more with beans and nuts.  I fell in love with cooking, with experimenting with flavors and colors and aromas.

My detoxification didn’t end there.  The following year, I quit drinking – a huge hurdle to clear.  Eventually, I gave up dairy, too – I had become increasingly less tolerant to it, both physically and philosophically.  Soda was long gone, as were preservatives, food colorings, fillers.  Gone, too, were most simple sugars.   It would take me hours to go food shopping, carefully reading labels, researching ingredients.

Little shifts here and there have taken place over the years – rice milk instead of soy; hemp protein in my morning smoothies replaced spirulina; various vitamin supplements have come and gone; maple syrup and honey have made comebacks, as did eggs two years ago.

For me, all of these choices have been wise and good.  However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this diet for everyone.  Being a damn-near-vegan can be hard work sometimes.  When you cut out meat, dairy, refined sugars, caffeine, food colorings, preservatives and additives, one fact is abundantly clear – you’re gonna be spending a whole lot of time in the kitchen, which I’m lucky that I do love to do.  Cooking is a creative process for me and, like any other creative activity, there are moments of… I guess you could call it “cooking block.”

“What the hell am I going to make tonight?”

One of these weeks – maybe next week – I’ll talk a bit about what I think should be included in a well-stocked pantry.   Stay tuned.  :)

And for the record, I’m not one of those “meat-is-murder” vegetarians.  I believe that the Davidsons were absolutely right to raise their own beef.  Better that than to buy it in the supermarket, coming from some hideous factory farm in who-knows-where.

I couldn’t do it.  Raise a calf and then butcher it?  Or raise a rifle to a deer in the woods?  I admire and respect anyone who can and does.  Certainly in a matter of life or death, I imagine I could.  I figure, though, that if I can live without doing these things, or without asking others to do it on my behalf, then I will try for as long as I am able.

Saturday Morning Musings – Running away or running towards?

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The odometer in my Subaru hit 150,000 miles this past week.  Not really that big of a deal for a Subaru, but that car had just 50k on it when I bought it not even three years ago.  

I’ve been hauling some you-know-what.

As many of you know, my life hit a reset button in February 2010 when I finally summoned the guts to leave a years-long abusive relationship.

I had years of living to catch up on.  I’ve been writing, recording, performing, traveling, exploring, breathing the free air deeply.  The Sube has made two cross-country journeys and dozens of other shorter (yet still pretty decent-sized) trips to places like: San Diego, Phoenix, Chicago, New Orleans, Reno, Tampa Bay, The Grand Canyon, Houston, Las Cruces, Nashville, Flagstaff, Niagara Falls, Moab, Boston, Las Vegas, St. Louis.

I show no signs of easing up.  Next month, the Sube will be bringing me and Shawn to Rhode Island, Maryland, NYC.  Adventures in Asheville and New Orleans await us later this spring, then New York state again this summer, Long Island and upstate NY in the fall.

I’ve done more and experienced more in the last four years than I did in the previous thirty.

Am I running away from my past – or running towards a brighter future?

It’s a question with which I have occasionally grappled, and there is no definitive answer.

Sure, yes – I admit that part of me is running, full bore, from being trapped in a situation from which I saw no easy exit.  And yes, I am running with my arms outstretched towards a future that is much brighter when compared to the life I was previously living.

The challenge for me, though, has been to do neither of these things and instead to simply enjoy each of these new adventures in the moment, without any reference to the past or to the future.

Easier said than done.

It takes a while to sweat out all the poisons.

My ex said, for instance, that recording and releasing music was very “ego-centric” and “not very community-minded.”  In the time since I left him, I’ve recorded and released three new CDs and, because of it, I’ve widened my circle of friends, of community, indeed, of family.

Even in my own kitchen, when I do something as innocent as closing the crisper drawer with my socked foot instead of bending down to do it by hand, I sometimes catch myself thinking, “My ex would kill me if he ever caught me doing this.”  Indeed, he did catch me doing that once and he screamed at me unmercifully.  

Why I stayed as long as I did will always haunt me, but it doesn’t have to define me.  Certainly I’ll be exploring it in my songwriting for years to come.

What does the future hold for someone like me?  Sometimes I feel like I’m late to the party - 38 years old and just now attempting in a demonstrable way to break into a business that is dominated by people so young that I could have given birth to any one of them.

As ever, I pay very little attention to trends.  I love what I love, with all my heart, and share it with others whom I hope love it too.

This moment, right now, the one in which I’m communicating all of this to you, is the only one I have, that you have.

Yes, I am wounded – aren’t we all? – but I am healing – as I hope we all are – and despite those wounds, I am hopeful, excited even, for what lies ahead.  Yes, I have a tremendous amount of love to share with this beautiful and uncertain world.

So, let’s rack up some more miles, then.

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