Trash and treasure.


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My heart and mind are so full from a beautiful experience at Song Village this past weekend in the Santa Cruz mountains. Bernice and I led a song circle on Friday afternoon, and we were also invited to lead a song in the closing circle on Sunday morning, where we offered Bernice’s ‘May Peace Prevail Upon Earth’. What a gift to hear a hundred voices lifting that song and that hope into the air!

Five of us – Bernice and I, Shawn, Ann, and friend and fellow song leader Roberta Kirn – shared an Airbnb nearby for the week. During our narrow and winding commute each day, I never failed to notice this one particular turnout spot that offered a view of the valley, of more distant mountains, of the fog over the sea to the southwest – and also of a large pile of garbage purposefully dumped there. Kitchen trash, a pink bucket, a child’s toy xylophone, plastic bags, fast food scraps.

Each day we passed by this scene, and each day I would experience the same range of distinct flashes of emotion – awe at the beauty; anger at the trash; curiosity about the person who dumped it; prickles of fear of the sheer drop into the valley from that turnout.

On Saturday evening, as we made our way down the mountain from Song Village, we made a point to stop at what I’d named ‘Trash Turnout’ to witness the last pastels of the sunset and the breathtaking, salmon-colored full moon rising. As we stood for a few moments mostly silent, save for the crunching of our feet over the sandy gravel, we all pulled our phones out to take photos. At first, I was careful to avoid any view of the garbage in my photos, eager to capture only the beauty. Then, as I paid attention to my aversion, I laughed quietly to myself and decided to take one last photo of the moon rising over the valley and the trash, to remind me of this experience.

There is both trash and treasure in this world, and its beauty and ugliness exist solely in my perception of both. I hope to continue to strike the right balance in my own heart in how I show up for both.

Hope in the ashes.


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Having spent most of my life in New England, the idea of wildfires has been mostly an abstraction, something that happens elsewhere, somewhere far away. After spending nearly a month on the West Coast, from the PNW all the way down to LA, I have been developing my awareness of these all-too-frequent-out-here events.

Seeing DOT signs that read ‘Controlled Burn – Do Not Report’ has been a bit alien, startling. The most gripping sights of all, of course, have been those of the evidence of the fires themselves – entire mountainsides and hillsides blackened; thousands of evergreens stripped of their needles, standing like skeletons in a forest boneyard; one side of a sequoia golden and healthy, and the other side deeply scarred by flame; stumps of ancient redwoods hollowed by flame.

During our time in Camp Nelson, we took many walks in the Sequoia National Forest, and one of the most arresting scenes was the one pictured above – a stand of young trees, standing lifeless, some having succumbed to the ravages of gravity, some spray-painted near their base in bright pink with numbers – perhaps they were marked for rehabilitation, or for removal? I wondered. Along one road, with snow capped mountains peering down from the distance, this was the scene, everywhere you looked – the devastating, irremovable mark of fire, leaving nothing untouched.

And yet, just as common a sight was one of hope – springing up underneath the destruction was the greenest, lushest grass I’ve ever seen, made even more so by recent rainfall and frequent fog.

It’s easy to draw the parallels to my own lived daily life: some destructive force entirely out of my control threatens – or manages – to take it all down, and then from the ashes comes the arrival of what is useful and supportive to the renewal of purpose and of life itself. Rising up, falling away, again and again.

I’ll keep walking, and looking, and certainly finding the evidence of this endless cycle of death and rebirth, for as long as I’m able.

Imagine being a silent giant.


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Imagine starting out as a single seed among the ferns, a glimmer of what is to come.

Imagine drawing yourself up from a shallow place among those ferns, and then reaching a little deeper into the earth day after day, then filling out year after year, reaching and stretching for the life-giving elements of fog and the light, growing ever stronger, straighter, wiser.

Imagine sending your roots down ever deeper into the earth in this one place, unable to move except to sway, slowly, however the wind moves you.

Imagine finding all that you need in that one place in order to stand witness as generations of life rise up and fall away all around you, day after day, year after year, century after century.

Imagine being among others who didn’t make it, who didn’t find what they needed, sometimes right next to where you have stood silently for thousands of years, and watching them slowly give way to gravity over the decades as the bones of what they once were slowly feed the soil and everything else around you.

Imagine the stories you could tell, if only you had a voice to speak – and instead, the wind wafts and whips, as conditions allow, through each extended branch of your being, whispering or shouting a reflection of what is.


We had the chance this past week to stop along the roadside and take some steps among these gentle giants, absorbing their silence and majesty, their wisdom, their lessons about deep time and patience and interconnection, considering the whole length of their long lives that will no doubt continue long after we are all dead and gone.

I love Laurence Cole’s song about the trees, ‘Trees Grow Slow’, and found myself singing the chorus of it to myself silently in the privacy of my mind as I walked among these giants.

Here’s wishing you many long years of fertile soil, gentle winds, and the wisdom to stand witness and reflect this world exactly as it is.

Adding a dimension.


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This past week on the road has been a whirlwind. Shawn and I have covered thousands of miles of ground across this vast, beautiful country, and at every stop along the way, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of adding a dimension to all kinds of relationships and experiences:

What a joy it was to sing in person with Chris in Columbus, Kmbris in Wenatchee, and Sarah in Kingston. What a joy to hear their voices in person, to see each of them step out of a tiny Zoom square and into real life!

We waited in line for two hours for the Edmonds ferry to carry us across Puget Sound to Kingston. I’ve seen photos of this crossing, of how the mountains to the west rise above the sound like a jawful of jagged white teeth, but what a thrill to be able to add the dimension of sound – the hum of the boat and the splashing of the wake; the chatter of excited tourists and children; the cries of sea birds; the wind in our ears; the bump of the ferry boat against the dock; the starting up of dozens of vehicles making their exit.

We spent some precious time with GwenEllyn in Salem – someone we only have known online – and there we were, standing at her door, hugging her, sitting at her baby grand piano, standing in her kitchen, sleeping under her roof, leaving our glow-in-the-dark handprints on the ceiling.

We stood on the banks of the Wenatchee River, feeling exhilarated and terrified and gobsmacked by its power, contemplating the incredible volume of snowmelt, and considering the salmon who are, as I type these words, tirelessly making their way against that current to carry out their biological mandate. There is no way to fully fathom how incredible that migration is without staring into the face of those raging rivers.

We have shared our songs and ourselves with so many new friends in all of these new-to-us places, and experienced the joy and the connection that comes along with all of that. So many open doors and cupboards and hearts, so many more magical moments behind us, so many more to come…

We have a couple of days off now here in Bend, and we plan to soak up some more beauty and rest before moving on to Eugene, Grants Pass, and then south to California for the rest of the tour.

Here’s wishing you multi-dimensional experiences that spark your curiosity and nourish your spirit!

I know those cables…


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We had a great time at the Central Ohio Folk Festival this past weekend.  We got to connect with old friends, meet new ones, and even spend some time with folks we’d only known in 2D before – everything is better in 3D, isn’t it?

We stayed in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus on Friday night at the home of a CFMS volunteer and new friend named Linda.  She makes a fine vegan chili, I tell you.  

On Saturday morning, I sat down in the living room to have a cup of coffee and do some writing when I noticed a knitted afghan on the living room couch, and it stopped me in my tracks.

I recognized the cable pattern immediately.   

My mother used to knit this one, I thought.  And in this exact color, too!  

It even had row of three-tailed tassels along the top and bottom edges, just like she used to make them.

I wonder if this is one of hers? 

My mom’s knitting was well known.  She knitted and shipped so many afghans and baby blankets and placemats and dishcloths for friends and family all over the world.  And here I was, in Columbus, Ohio, admiring this beautiful afghan. I picked it up and looked for the personalized tag she put on many of her creations and did not find it. 

Linda walked in a few minutes later, and during the conversation, I said, pointing, ‘I was admiring that afghan.’

She immediately said, ‘Would you like to have it?’

I laughed a little.  ‘Oh no, that’s alright—‘ to which she immediately responded with, ‘I have no sentimental attachment to it.  I found it secondhand and thought it would go well with the couch.’

I was so tempted to take it.  

The only afghan of my mother’s that I have is one that was knitted for a dear friend who gave it to me when she learned that I had never been the recipient of one of my mother’s many creations.  (It’s one that I’ve blogged about before.)

I stood there, pondering for a moment, and finally I said, ‘It does go well with the couch.’

And there it remains.

After Linda had left, I carefully folded the afghan lengthwise and laid it across the back of the couch, and I’m so happy to know that it’s still there, regardless of who created it.

Breaks in the clouds.


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It’s been raining nearly nonstop here in northern New England. ‘Tis the season for those April showers, and when I got up on this very wet, gray, first morning of May, I felt a longing for more flowers than I’ve been seeing. Then, as soon as that thought appeared, I reflected on the past week and remembered that those blooms don’t always have to appear in the garden. There were lots of gorgeous flowers that appeared like breaks in the clouds this past week, and here are just a few:

  • I started composing a brand new vocal piece that I tried out at Sunday’s community sing, and hearing something like that take shape out in the real world is always such a thrill!
  • Shawn and I went exploring in our neighborhood the other day and spotted a pair of loons on the pond! We’ve only seen one loon at a time the last couple of years, and it warmed my heart to see the pair together diving for fish.
  • And speaking of birds, I had such a blast watching a lone yellow bellied sapsucker working on the maple tree in the side yard the other day. And, I heard my first vireo of the year, too!
  • On Sunday evening, we attended a local show that included the appearance of a beloved student performing with her brothers, who received a thunderous ovation – and then at intermission, I randomly reconnected with an old friend when the two of us least expected it.
  • While searching for something else on YouTube the other day, I happened upon a video of one of my songs being sung in the UK to help folks in memory care units. I was already aware that this group, Shared Harmonies, was using this particular song in this way, and still, what a beautiful surprise to hear it in action!
  • Did I mention the shipping notification I received for the arrival of the second Heart Songs & Circle Songs CD, slated for tomorrow??

There are at least a hundred more instances like this from just this past week alone – these rays of sunshine piercing through the clouds to remind me of the necessity of a balance between sun and rain to keep the soil fertile enough for the seeds of all these experiences to take root and find their way towards the light. It’s easy (for me, anyway) to allow doubt, impatience, and frustration to cloud the mind and obscure the beauty that is always available, always unfolding, always appearing just as it is. And I am learning, one week and day and moment at a time, to observe life just as it is, all while paying attention to the attitude of mind without defaulting to the old habits of self-judgment.

Here’s wishing you a week full of beautiful blooms that are unfolding at their own pace!

Spitballing (part 2)


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I could write about the beautiful Eastern towhee I spotted in the backyard of our Rhode Island hosts on Sunday morning.

I could write about the man who smiled at me at the close of Saturday’s show and said, ‘I don’t remember the last time I even thought of Dave Brubeck – thank you for reminding me of him and how much I love his music!’

I could write about getting my taxes done just in the nick of time (and why do I always put it off so long?).

I could write about that Stieff I played on Friday night (wow, did it sing!) and the Steinway model A I got to play on Saturday morning (wow, did it sing!).

I could write about how fun it was for two friends that met through me in a Zoom room got to meet in person on Friday night.

I could write about the beautiful homes we stayed at this weekend, and the sweet and lovely homeowners who opened their doors and cupboards and hearts to us.

I could write about that brief, wild thunderstorm.

I could write about the dirty piles of snow that are still persisting in the shadier places near my home.

I could write about the pair of mourning doves that have been chasing each other around the yard all week.

I could write about the two very full days in the studio this past week with five of my favorite humans, all in an effort to bring a dear friend’s songs to life.

I could write about the young guy who rang up my purchase at Staples the other day who assured me that, ‘Your Rewards card is really not that important in the grand scheme of things’ and how we both laughed.

I could write about the woman on Saturday night who told me how much our live-streams meant to her during the pandemic.

I could write about how exhilarating it was and is to make music with Shawn and Craig, to really feel it, and to see and feel how it landed on folks this weekend.

I could write about all of these things… but I suppose I ought to choose just one of them and focus on that.

Maybe next time.

‘No more us and no more them.’


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I had a unique experience yesterday here in Southbury, CT, one that I’m still unpacking.

Bernice and I were invited to lead the morning service at Mattatuck UU Society yesterday morning, and then to share a few songs in the afternoon at Justice Southbury, a weekly vigil that’s been held at a public park for now 151 consecutive Sundays. We arrived at the park as the morning’s dreary gray clouds were parting, and after some opening words from organizers and a guest speaker who was there to raise awareness about autism advocacy, Bernice and I brought our songs and selves to the microphone.

The place where we were gathered is next to a very busy intersection. As Bernice and I sang our first song, Bernice’s ‘Winds of Change‘, a man in a large pickup truck stopped at the traffic light rolled his window down and cupped his hands to his mouth in order to amplify the words he was shouting at us, calling us names that I will not repeat here, giving full volume to what I can only describe as his disgust with what we were doing.

No more us and no more them, Bernice sang as I thundered along with the frame drum. And still he shouted at us. Every voice must still be heard, she sang, and still he roared, and we roared back with the song – but not in anger, but in sadness about the loss of connection, and also confusion, wanting to understand where he was coming from.

The light eventually turned green and then he was gone.

A few moments later, I stood with my guitar and sang: We sing for these times / we cry for these times / when our hearts break together / for a world that we all share / we sing for these times / we cry for these times / and we hope for something better / for a world that could be as beautiful as we dare / yes we sing for these times.

I wrote that song right after last year’s tragedy in Uvalde, TX, and I realize now that I also wrote it for moments like these, when I wish I could download all the compassion and love and concern in my heart directly into the hearts and minds of everyone, especially folks like the one shouting at us from his truck.

It was startling and heartbreaking to have some shouting at us as we sang songs that, for us, are all about bringing every single person into the circle of connection and community, including – and especially – folks who see things very differently, sometimes very painfully differently.

He didn’t silence us, and I’m sure we didn’t silence him. And that’s not the point. The folks who have stood out there, in wind and rain and snow and sun, for 151 Sundays in a row are raising voices that are often difficult and painful to hear. And how can we solve problems together until we first hear each other out?

No more us and no more them. May it be so.

We all love this world.



Shawn’s dad’s birthday was this weekend, and at his request, the four of us took a drive up to Errol, where I visited the LL Cote store for the first time – a one stop shop for hunting and fishing apparel, camping gear, tools, groceries, guns, gummy bears, Beanie Babies, sunglasses, soap made with beer, and wind chimes made with shell casings. There is a stuffed albino moose there, as well as one of each of the other animals you’d expect to find in northern New Hampshire – black bear, bobcat, beaver (just to stay in the letter B). There is a bumper sticker on one of the cash registers that reads, ‘Vote out every Democrat.’ I read a children’s book called ‘Daddy’s Hunting Story’, in which a father explains to his young daughter how to behave around wild animals, saying, ‘We have to be quiet in the woods… we want to surprise them!’

Our route there and back brought us through 13 Mile Woods, a gorgeous bit of landscape along Route 16 that seemed to sparkle in all directions in the early spring sunshine. We spotted a lot of Canada geese, as well as mallards, mergansers, and wood ducks. On the drive back to Gorham, passing by so many remote camps and homes, I thought about the slogan I read on one of those shell casing wind chimes – ‘We Don’t Call 911.’

I have to admit, visiting LL Cote did feel to me like visiting another planet. Here I am, a tree-hugging, animal-loving, melt-down-all-the-guns, let’s-all-get-along, hippie-dippie peacenik vegan, taking a stroll through the world of folks who are, well, not a whole lot like me…

… but is that really true, though?

We all love this world up here in northern New England. How could you not? It’s beautiful. It’s peaceful. It’s awe-inspiring. And we love it in different ways.

And we all want to feel safe.

Is one of us ‘right’, and the other wrong? I think I have found what works for me, and others think they have found what works for them. I don’t eat animals because I’m not willing to kill them myself. Those who are willing, well, they certainly have my respect.

And yes, of course I will judge – and they will judge, too. That’s what these human minds do. Judge others and ourselves.

And I will continue to keep that same mind open – maybe not open enough to buy a gun or a bar of beer-infused soap… but open enough to literally get my foot in the door to another world, to take a long look around, and to consider the needs of those whose lives, at the end of the day, are not unlike my own.

Old Man Sco.


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On Friday night, Shawn and I were lucky enough to be in the audience at One Longfellow Square for a sold out solo show from the one and only John Scofield.

Wow, where to start? At the beginning, I suppose…

After a brief introduction from a venue volunteer, he came out on stage at 8pm on the dot with his semi-hollow body Ibanez, leaving his shoes in the green room. He took a seat between a couple of Fender amps, and then with a looper, and a couple of pedals, and his tremendous skills, he blew our minds for two hours.

There was very little banter, and the few words he spoke were infused with wisdom, humor, and quiet gratitude.

‘Check this out,’ he said a few times as many of us laughed softly, and then he’d launch into some tender version of ‘Alfie’ or ‘Somewhere’, or a chicken-pickin’ treatment of the Beatles ‘Julia’. Then he humorously schooled us on what he called the ‘rapey’ nature of the lyrics to ‘Slow Boat To China’ and then scorched through those 32 bars on a loop with increasingly daring harmony. He also graced us with versions of songs that I barely recognized at first, until I caught wind of the wisps of phrases from the original melodies – standards like ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Indiana’ – then right into some groove-laden versions of ‘Louie Louie’ and an unnamed new original (reading from his notes, ‘It’s called “Funk with Chords”‘) – and then gorgeous, no-frills renditions of songs like ‘Oh Danny Boy’ and ‘Easy To Remember.’ His encore – the Beatles ‘I Will’ – was a perfect end to a wild and wonderful ride through John’s musical imagination.

As I listened to him (and to the music-theory-informed giggles of the young guitar heads in the back rows behind us as John laid into this bit of outside harmony or that particular scale) I considered all the people with whom John has worked in his career since he was the same age as those students behind us – Miles, Mingus, Metheny, Medeski (just to stay in the letter M) – and, now in his 70s, how Old Man Sco would have all the reason in the world to retire from the road, retire from putting out records every year as he has since the 1970s – and yet here he was, just for us, just for the evening, in this intimate, top notch listening room in Portland, Maine, where you could hear a pin drop in between songs and phrases, each one of us leaning in as he reached for each note and grabbed just the one he wanted, never boastful in his choices, only ever seeking to serve each song and each melody and each measure and each note with the wisdom that can only come from one with as much experience, knowledge, grace, and humor as John.

‘Check this out,’ he said, and we did. He’s still out here in the world, exploring these 12 notes and inviting us to explore with him.

And he sounds precisely like himself, which is the mark of a true genius.

What an inspiration.

Thank you, John.