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the path back is the path forward


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ladders. [two artists tuesday]

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gay pointed to the ladders in the backstage of tpac and said, “see those ladders?  the front silver one on the right is where you are.”

this is true.  we are clumsily perched on that front silver ladder.  there are people scattered about on the other ladders, many of whom are on the top of the tallest orange ladder up against the wall.  our view, on the shortest ladder, affords us the opportunity to look out, to look up and still to be able to easily see the ground.  the view from the highest ladder, extended well up the wall, is a view of vast height, a view without a cluster of other ladders, a view more singular.

it has been our experience as artists that we must explain our livelihood, we must fight for acknowledgement of experience, we must advocate for our own fiscal equality.  our work is not easily measurable, our effort not easily defined.  we bring to every experience all we have learned about what touches the hearts of others, what resonates, what we can do to lift a message, how we can craft a concept, how we can build a program and forge a community, how we can help others see what is inside each of them.  from our rung, we can still see the ground so we know that there are others less fortunate than us and we remember pretty clearly the route up this ladder, each rung a step, each rung a gratitude.

it has also been our experience that, in a world defined by financial success, there are many on those tall extension ladders, firmly grasping the tippy-top, who have lost the story of getting there.  it is my belief that, too often, there are those who, each rung they clamber up, have forgotten what it is like to be on the rung below.  the climb to success foregoes memory, it exempts empathy, it elicits a sense of superiority; it is not kind.  the naysayers poke at those who are on rungs below, prodding them but, alas, with no reality for where those below-climbers are.  assumptions are unfairly made about ability, intelligence, budgetary decisions, effort.

in this world of bills and responsibilities, work and play, absolute joys and deep sorrows, brilliant hopeful sunrises and exhausted sunsets, i wonder about the tippy-top.  i wonder if it is possible to be clinging to that tippy-top and still remember.

as much as that tippy-top sounds like a world without worry, i don’t mind being on the silver ladder in the front.  and every step we step, i want to remember the silver ladder in the front.

i know that each day there might be someone who just may need me to understand, without feigning it, where they are.  to be able to really grasp how they feel, despite not being in their very shoes.  i don’t want to be the person who looks back at them, fear filling their eyes with tears as they tell me they don’t have enough to make it, and condescendingly ask them if they want me to point them to a budget counselor.  instead i want to understand their frustration in poverty, be complicit in their growth – real growth, empathetic in their fear.  i want to hold their hand on the rung they are on and remember what it felt like on that rung.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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beyond the jetty. [two artists tuesday]

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i wasn’t sure how it would feel to stay in the car on the ferry.  i was leery of the windy, rainy day and how that would play into how rough the crossing could be.  i’m not fond of motion-sickness taking over my day, so i was prepared…bonine: check, motion bands: check, ginger chews: check, water: check, salty chips: check, window open: check.   i was ready.  but still leery.

in the small harbor it was calm, despite the wind.  but out there, beyond the jetty…

when people want to impart words of wisdom about motion sickness, they tell you to keep your eyes on the horizon.   these words are partially true; keeping your eyes inside the vehicle or plane or boat doesn’t do you any favors.  but there’s more to it.  and i was worried about out there, beyond the jetty.

we so often stay protected, inside the harbor.  predictability and security are seeming keys to our happiness.  they are the indicators of serenity.  we venture on small protected side trips, curious to see what we might find.

i am guilty of this as well.  a homebody in many ways, i love the safety of the familiar harbor, the one near and dear to me.  beyond the jetty is unknown, maybe rough waters, maybe difficult to traverse.

but it occurs to me that beyond the jetty it might be calm as well or perhaps more navigable than i thought.  serenity doesn’t stay put in the harbor.  it comes with us.  out there, beyond the jetty.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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you can sit on the tooth. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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i did not inherit good teeth.  were i to be a horse i would not be running in the derby or any other horse race (which, right now, sounds like a good thing.)  anyway, i blame my sweet momma and my poppo; i’m not actually sure who gets the lion’s share of the blame, so i will just blame them both (and all the ancestors before them who did not have great teeth – we might as well make this a class-action-blame-suit.)

when i was a child growing up, my parents were quite a bit older than most of my friends’ parents.  this is because my sister is sooooo much older than me.  i was born soooo much later and, so, had parents who had some, maybe, backwards ideas.

drumroll, please.  my sweet momma – adorable as she was – and my sweet poppo – equally adorable – never ever EVER had novocaine when they got fillings.  for some unknown reason, they just toughed it out.  now, i am quite sure you are cringing at the very thought.  those drills.  that hook thing that tries to pull your tongue out of your mouth.  the sounds alone are unnerving.  anyway, they seemed to reach deep inside, thinking they were getting extra points or something, and they endured the pain throughout drilling/filling procedures.

this brings me to me.  because that is what they believed in, i was subjected to the same torture and did not have novocaine until i was well into adulthood and realized it was a thing.  having had two children without the benefit of anesthesia, i can honestly say now that i would rather have more children than go through any more dental work without novocaine or some such numbing agent.

so, this is a long preamble to my story.

i broke a tooth during lent.  you would think things like that wouldn’t happen during lent, but, alas, it did.  my dentist, who is a saint, was out of town and i waited for his return. because of my ptsd from childhood dentistry, i cannot go alone to an appointment like this so david went with me.  he always does.  we try to be there for each other in each of our doctor/dental appointments; it’s part of the i-support-you-in-everything deal.

my favorite moment when we walk in (my REAL favorite moment is when we walk OUT) is when the dental assistant says to david, “you can sit on the tooth.”  it is pretty funny to see a grown man figure out how to sit on a tooth.  it’s even funnier to watch him not feel awkward.  he handles his tooth-sitting with great aplomb, alternately cracking jokes with dan, the dentist, and holding my foot, since he can’t reach my hand from the tooth.

for this dentist who has all the patience in the world for my terror and for david’s presence there on the tooth, i am eternally grateful.   i would totally sit on the tooth for him.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

ps.  don’t believe anything david says in his post.  i suspect it’s all not true.

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peel back the layers. [two artists tuesday]

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“don’t judge a book by its cover,” my sweet momma used to say.  i’m missing her today as i write this post for tomorrow.  four years ago today she left this good earth and i could feel it tilt on its axis, trying vainly to readjust.  she was generous when it came to people.  she saw past what was on the outside; she sought to see what was inside.

the rough exterior we sometimes see on the outside of people is quite often a guise.  we all know someone we believed to be gruff, but turned out to be quite the mush, once you were able to peel back the protective layers.   we believe we know what someone else thinks or feels, but we are actually unable to physically pare back those visible and invisible outer layers, the extrinsic stuff, to get to the raw of their heart, to feel their actual worries or concerns or fears.

we each have our bark-masks, carefully designed for the venue or situation within which we find ourselves. we choose what to share with others, rarely brave enough to shed all that outer bark.  for there have been times when you have peeled back the layers, revealed truths in confidence, perhaps looking for wisdom or common ground, and have been torturously walloped with judgement or scorn.  it becomes much harder to allow the next shared peel.

it takes courage to BE who you really are with others.  it takes courage to meet on common ground.  we fear the gruff outermost skin, we are afraid of what we see and don’t understand.  we may not realize someone else feels that same fear.

but there are cracks in the bark; there are fissures in the icy exterior.  the tree may be shedding, the trunk expanding, growth waiting in the wings.  allowing for cracks, fissures, reaching toward and not away – those can be the gps to another’s heart.  it’s not always what it looks like.  growth is waiting.  because, you know, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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sisu. [merely a thought monday]

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sisu.  perseverance.  fortitude.  stamina.  courage.  determination.  my grandmother mama dear used this finnish term all the time and passed it down to my sweet momma beaky who passed it down to me.  a philosophy of life, a mantra, “you gotta have sisu!” mama dear would say.  if up against the odds, if forging upstream, my sweet momma would say, “you gotta have sisu!”  and so it was without a second thought when it was time to name my own company, the independent recording label that has been sisu music productions for the last 23 years.  i can’t think of a better name for all the challenges that have risen – and continue to rise – as an independent artist.

any moment of fear, of uncertainty, brings me to draw on that sisu…digging in my heels and standing firmly in it.  it’s kind of a blind faith and has everything to do with that.  in the face of adversity, of the scales tilted not-in-your-favor, you just keep on.  in the face of fear…everyone has their thing…the thing that makes them afraid…the thing that makes them white-knuckled…you just keep on.   sisu.

i was flying back from telluride to denver a couple days ago – in a smaller plane.  there was a big strapping guy all dressed in camouflage who got on the plane before me.  he told the flight attendant he had been out in the middle of nowhere hunting (successfully) elk and mule deer.  he was a rough and tumble kind of guy and ended up seated just across the aisle from me.  when the plane hit turbulence, particularly over the front range, his face turned red and he looked over at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look and said, “i hate this part!!”  i started talking to him then, trying to ease his obvious fear, talking about the wind currents and the mountains…how i could see the airport…we are almost there…just a teeny bit further…wheels are going to touch down any minute….  he was gripping the lock on the little tray table and finally relaxed his grip and smiled.  everyone has their thing.

we can loan others the sisu we carry with us.  we can bank on the sisu we carry with us.  i often credit being-from-new-york for times i have just forged-ahead-anyway, but my sisu roots go way further back than that.

sisu.  i stood back from the edge of a deep deep canyon the other day, my beautiful daughter on another boulder a few hundred yards away.  i looked at the sky, the sunset playing over red rock.  thought about that very moment in time, this moment i was sharing with the part of my heart known as kirsten…this moment that wouldn’t be repeated.  and i heard the voice in my head, “you gotta have sisu.”  i stepped to the very edge of the canyon, stretched out my arms and laughed aloud.

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read DAVID’S thoughts on SISU

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you can’t judge a book… [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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this tree.  gnarly and twisted and wrinkly. it looks a little halloween-esque at dusk and could be downright scary in the dark of night.  it’s seen so much life, so many decades and its lifeblood travels throughout the healthy tree, bringing and sharing nutrients.  home to insects and small creatures, it provides shade for the vegetation beneath it.  it’s not just an old tree and it’s not the picture of what we think of when we think of a beautiful tree.  but it is.  beautiful.  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.  my sweet momma always said that.

momma would look in the mirror and talk about the wrinkles on her face and how “old” she looked.  in her wheelchair she could appear to be meek, wrestling with difficulties and just an old woman.  but that was so not so.  she had seen much life.  she was home to my dad, me and my sister and brother, our families, extended members as it fanned out the branches of our family tree, her friends.  she provided warm words and kindnesses to all around her, strangers among them.  she was beautiful.  every last gorgeous wrinkle.  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.

we had a black lab years ago, one of a few in our family history, when The Girl and The Boy were little. his name was hughie and he had at least 47 allergies.  he was treated for many of these and we tried to address the auto-immune disease he had as well, but he lost most of the hair on his body.  he looked gnarly and rough and wrinkled.  as a lab with little hair, he looked scary to those who did not know him.  he struggled and, even in his discomfort, was gentle and sweet, a learning for The Girl and The Boy, who were his and, despite his outward appearance, knew what was inside.  he was not the picture of what we think of when we think of a beautiful dog.  but he was.  beautiful.  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.

inside.  beautiful.  how hard is it to always remember that?  you just can’t judge a book by its cover.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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free solo. [merely a thought monday]

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while i laid awake, i tried to picture how i would react to someone literally placing me – without ropes – several hundred feet up a sheer granite wall, my hands gripping a crack and small outcropping, my feet perched on a slight deviation in the granite face.  it made my hands sweat and my heart race thinking about how paralyzed by fear i would be, unable to move either hand or foot.  THIS is out of my comfort zone. far out.  and i couldn’t get the image out of my mind.

the wind was gusting about 35mph and there were tiny snow squalls on the way to madison.  we were on our way to a movie theatre for a national geographic release of the movie FREE SOLO, the documentary capturing alex honnold’s successful free solo scaling of el capitan in yosemite.  free solo.  without benefit of any ropes or safety gear.  just his hands, his feet, climbing chalk, and memorization, no – absolute physical retention – of the precise moves he would make on the way up this 3000′ beautiful monster.

alex doesn’t talk about his fear much.  he, instead, speaks of enlarging his comfort zone, little by little.  his somewhat unemotional approach to this challenge is daunting.  one of his support team said words to the effect that alex had this challenge:  like an olympic athlete he needed to win the gold.  no ifs, ands or buts.  it was the gold or he would fall to his death.  who does that?!!  the black and white of that makes my breathing pause.  but alex pressed on.  clearly his comfort zone is huge, that bubble around him.  at least when it comes to mountains.

i know, as fascinated as i am with mountains and climbing stories of all sorts, that this is not something i could or would do.  my mountains are different than that and my comfort zone bubble has more to do with my artistry, music, writing.  not necessarily less scary, but certainly less physically demanding and clearly, without a doubt, less treacherous.  but we are not limited to one mountain at a time.

each of us has this bubble and i picture pushing on the walls of the chrysalis, little by little conquering the fear of the outside – whatever the challenge or challenges – making our way, without ropes or safety equipment, into the next step of our lives.  we try to “dream big.”  we “go after it.”  we “just do it.”  but in reality, with no protective membrane around us, we first have to gear up, face fear vs comfort, garner courage and climb.  yes. we free solo every day.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this MERELY A THOUGHT MONDAY

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