The Never Normal

9 10 2018

I started to beat myself up about not writing yesterday… only day three and already slacking, but it was a crazy day full of a great deal of stress and some terrible news. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert is over and all the friends I enjoyed for a weekend and myself are going back to our “normal” lives but for me my life has never really been that normal.

As a consultant in the wine industry and ironically a writer about wine (which by the way is much easier than writing about yourself or feelings) I made my own schedule. I have had very few really regimented jobs over the course of my life. Even as the Estate Ambassador for Rubicon Estate for a few years I mainly planned my own travel and worked out of my home. Hell come to think of it my very first job out of college at Windows on the World although my hours were scheduled I worked alone. So basically most of the time I’ve been my own boss.

Sometimes that is good but at times I feel like I need more structure. This whole diatribe is my excuse for not getting my writing done. It would be good if I planned a time to write and ate meals at normal times, had a set bedtime, but honestly that’s never really been “me”.

So today I guess I’ll write twice. And here’s where I may lose some readers because I can’t promise it’s going to always be interesting… but I heard at a songwriting conference once that sometimes it’s important to write to make way for the real story, to remove the clutter so you can see the important things. To get into it as a habit.

I fear it though because I’ve done such a great job at hiding those things. Stuffing the painful things way down. When you sweep up and clean you see the cracks and the shipping paint. You uncover those places where maybe you punched a wall or damaged the coffee table with a glass of wine. But I’ve committed to going there I guess.

Yesterday I found out that my mother is sick, pretty sick I think. This is terribly scary and it conjures up lots of memories of my father being ill. It puts me in a place of extreme uncertainty. It reminds me that little things are less important. That you only have today. I am still on route to Nantucket and back to my new job as interim gift store manager at the whaling museum, and I’m going to take it day by day. I’m thankful for my family that is closer and taking one for the team and I hope to relieve them as needed, but we still don’t have much news. So for today there’s not much I can do but be hopeful and grateful to have today.

Scallop season has started on Nantucket, so I’m hopeful I can get into the water and harvest some scallops. My cousin wrote recently of the book of faces (lol) that when she is fishing nothing else matters, time goes away and it’s a meditative practice. I’m really hoping I can do that tomorrow, getting in the water with my viewing box is so peaceful. I’m with nature and the sound of the water soothes me even when it’s rough. Looking through the viewing box I see the bottom of the sand and all sorts of creatures as they go about their lives knowing little about what is up above the surface. Maybe they’re similar to us, now and then getting a glimpse of something up above or getting swept ashore and then swept back into their mundane normal lives underwater.

My walk, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela felt a little like that. A few weeks steeped in a world that was completely not normal, not sane with a bunch of folks who were all on the same page. Leaving real life for a time to seek, well what I was seeking is still somewhat of a mystery.

The challenge becomes finding that peace of the journey in the day to day. Incorporating those lessons without getting swept back into the mundane. Remembering the magic that I experienced. Sitting here in a bus in the early morning darkness after a red eye with worries on my mind I struggle to find that peace. I do feel a little bit closer to it though and calmer. I pray that I may continue to seek and find serenity even if times are tough.

In other news SFO has decided to prep people for their inflight experience with seats positioned to have less legroom than the actual plane.

But they do have a super cool room for doggies to do their business.

And finally my etiquette tip of the day… “Sir it’s highly offensive for you to floss on the plane.”

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2018

7 10 2018

We are in San Francisco for what is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Due to the incredible generosity of Warren Hellman and his family this event continues to be free for the public even after his passing. Thank you Warren is always a message I send up to the heavens while soaking up incredible love and warmth of spirit from the crowd and bathing in the beautiful tones of the artists.

You may be thinking this is a small concert but it’s really massive in scale, three days, multiple stages, so many bands and lots of logistics. It runs annually without so much as a hiccup at least from the perspective of the guests, partly due to the organizational skill of my friend Bradley. We met while working on Eat Drink SF and it’s always great to see him each year.

We have a core group of Bluegrass goers who have done the festival yearly with us, it’s truly like a motley little family. The core are all people I’ve met at The Mint karaoke lounge, someone nearby we were chatting with called us a karaoke family. This group has grown quite a bit and includes people we went to college with, colleagues from the wine business, basically everyone is welcome.

Friday afternoon we usually keep simple with light snacks and not quite as much infrastructure. While some like to move around through the various acts, Daddy David holds down some real estate at the biggest “main” stage, the Banjo. There’s always room on the blankets for us. This year I was there to see Mavis Staples and my ultimate favorite Allison Krauss. From our spot slightly on the rise of the hill we have a perfect sight line.

Saturday and Sunday we go big. We take over a bigger footprint as my husband Mike bravely and tirelessly heads out during the overnight with tarps to secure our area. He returns in the morning with coolers, blankets,’chairs, cards and fake dog poop (to protect the perimeter of our area. He’s an expert… we usually have a space along the railing halfway between the stage and sound booth. From that base camp we can visit other stages and we welcome our friends who drop by.

Yesterday, day two, was truly special with bright sunshine followed by dappled shade and then bright sun again. I got into the park later than I wanted to but was happy to see our cheery group already munching on snacks. Hooray for the Riff Raff was first and gave a very passionate performance. The stage we chose was Star, a little easier to get in and out from… when we choose Banjo that’s always a big commitment and god forbid you have to go to the bathroom! That’s the one thing our camp doesn’t provide!

Star stage toggles with Towers if Gold which means when one act finishes they go directly to the next act and pipe that into the other stage that’s “dark”. Next was I’m With Her and then the highlight for me, the Wailin’ Jennys. Their harmonies were incredible, true siren song. I even bought a CD which they were kind enough to sign.

I took a walk, I like to be alone sometimes even though I really enjoy our crew sometimes it’s good to peel away, so I caught a little Rodney Crowell and then got back in time to hear Don Was and friends, including Bob Weir. After awhile we started to be swarmed with friends dancing among our piles of food and by the time Graham Nash played we’d gotten buzzed and teary-eyed. Just so much love felt here, the energy so uplifting in such a difficult time. Our friend Steph has three daughters who we’ve seen growing up at this festival and she was playing with our friend Katie’s two year old, throwing her up in the air to make her giggle. I was struck by the fact that the future for these girls is uncertain, and that for all the advances our mothers and grandmothers made, have we let these girls down? Or will we? Is it too late? Were we complacent and so comfortable we didn’t see what was slipping away? I don’t regret choosing to not have children. I’m grateful I had the choice to abstain from being a more traditional woman so to speak. I respect those that have kids but wow am I afraid of this world we are passing along to them.

Graham Nash closed with the perfect song, Teach Your Children.





Camino Continues

6 10 2018

I have really missed writing daily. I used the Camino de Santiago as a reason to write. Could I really have anything interesting to say in my normal life? Maybe or maybe not… but I was struck today by grim news that someone is met, she was only 58 years young, has passed away.

I met Audrey at the home of a friend on the edge of the Pacific. We seemed to click or else her dynamism was just so infectious she may have made everyone feel that way, no matter.

I told her of my interest in writing fiction (she was both a screenwriter and director). She let me tell her my idea for a book or movie, I’m sure she got inundated that all the time by aspiring writers, but she then told me she liked the idea. We moved on and spoke about lots of things, our families, my parents and my background. Later in the evening after listening to one of my stories she turned to me and said, “That’s the story right there. Why not write about you?”

Those words have haunted me since. I’ve done some of the work. Picked at those raw moments. Dig into the wounds and then bandaged them up again tightly. This Thursday I was in San Francisco and had friends staying with me. We spoke about Audrey and those words. I told them that now was the time for me to get to work. The slow season on Nantucket may be just the recipe for quiet contemplation and reflection. And I told my friends that now it felt like I had enough of a story where I could say the Camino is the end of the story, although in my heart I know that no story really ends.

I have about a ream of paper here in SF that my obsessive side printed out. Many vignettes I wanted to have on paper in case my hard drive crashes. After we said goodnight I sat in bed and I started reading my own words. I started a particular intro piece I’d written a few years ago while in the very same home where I’d met Audrey. I wrote…

“Trying to write about your life, well, you’d think you have to start at the beginning. And then you get stuck striving to find out how things are going to end, and of course you were never there at the beginning and how can you know how (or if) it is all going to end.”

I also wrote

“Every sign in my life, in my mind, and in my body is leading me to write this NOW. This idea was spawned what seems like a lifetime ago. I was out here on the Mendocino Coast, in the same home. We ate abalone, drank amazing wines and we laid on the grass and gazed at the stars. Despite immense trepidation I made a walk out onto the spit of land that sits in front of me now, a tiny finger that reaches into the Pacific, a rickety fence on one side to add an element of security, but a deep abyss below. I almost crawled to the comforting bench at the lip of the Pacific plate and the world in front of me. At the brink you experience exhilaration and utter terror. Here this idea was spawned, that this story was not about everyone else, it was not fiction, but that I was good enough. THIS story is about me.”

Little did I know that Audrey died Thursday. I found out today. Coincidence that I was hearing her words in my ear? The urging to make sure that I know there’s no time to waste because time is always way too short. I know from the walk that there are no coincidences if you are brave enough to let yourself feel the magic that this universe is trying to remind us of. The magic that we need to bring back. These lessons from the Camino that are so hard to remember upon reentry into life where your only job isn’t walking.

I’m heeding Audrey’s words today. I’m going to challenge myself. I’m going to keep going and I won’t make promises but maybe if I can just do a little every day, someday I’ll be able to have that book in my hand.

No let me rewrite that. That’s wrong. It is my best purpose to write this book. It’s my job. I’m committed to doing that to show my gratitude for having had this incredible life. I have plenty to say, and I’ve got insight to share.

Will you keep walking with me?