Wednesday, February 04, 2009


There's something about being back in the Midwest that has me totally uninspired. It might be this long cold winter that feels so devoid of adventure and emotion, or it might be the settled, head-down and move-forward approach to life that the residents here embrace after long generations of let's-just-get-through-it-eh?

It's gotten to me enough that I'm not actually homesick, just sort of half-assedly nostalgic for last winter's magic. I can remember the feeling of running freely across the desert, jumping rocks, I can remember the thrill of summiting Cabezon and laughing uncontrollably at our insanity and our success, I can remember how even the air in New Mexico seemed to inspire creativity and adventure. And I think I miss it, I feel like I yearn for it, but through a cloud of denial and complacency I never thought I'd have after coming so alive in those fleeting months last year.

The Midwest is comfortable and familiar. It's settled and paved. You could go find some Wild but a dozen people would already be there with beer and friendly smiles. It's too obvious in this city where to go to have a good time, and anyone can tell you their favorite spots. Is there anything to discover for oneself? Is there any place where, like in the Sandias, someone set aside some land and said, hey, all of this is pretty cool, be nice to it, play at your own risk, and have fun?

I feel trapped.

Is that why, even in a city where my music career could grow by leaps and bounds and make me successful, I resist getting established? Is that why I feel like some dreams have faded and left no replacements? Once the mountains claim you, can you ever be happy anywhere else?

Or maybe it's just the winter. Maybe with the breath of spring that spark will come back and the path under my bike tires will shake some life into me. Maybe a good long weekend in a tent will help bring me back to my reality.

Whatever the reason, I need some reminder that I promised myself never to settle, to always take the path less traveled by. I need to break this physical and emotional hibernation and find my stride.

Most of all I just want to breathe some desert air again.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

summer naps: you might never wake up the same

So, it's hot and you've been working hard at stressful stuff, and you're sitting on the couch reading tweets when all of the sudden 'BAM' you're asleep and having f-ed up dreams that you can't seem to escape.

My subconscious knows how to tell me I shouldn't be asleep, It sends me into dreams where I can't see very well, where my vision is faltering or inaccurate in some way, and this fact is keeping me from either a) knowing what's going on in the dream, for real, or b) from staying safe from harm.

I just had this dream where I forgot I was supposed to fly to Connecticut, and ended up enacting some old, discarded plan from long before I'd booked a flight. I was driving through New Mexico, looking at some crazy landscape reminiscent of North America's rowdy volcanic years, when I stopped at a B&B to reserve a room, not just for me, but for the whole quintet.

And as I looked at their room rates, my eyes started to squiggle, and readjust, and squiggle, until all I could make out were numbers and they didn't have any bearing on the information I was looking for. I know you're not really supposed to be able to read in dreams (or did I make that up?), so it seems that once I'd tried to read, everything else went haywire. I couldn't see were the road was leading, it seemed to leap up and away at every turn. And the sky was turning ash black and patches of maps I'd seen of completely different places began to superimpose themselves over my actual vision. And then like that I realized, 'I'm not supposed to be doing this! I've got a plane to catch!'

And I woke up.

No more summer naps for me until...well, probably tomorrow.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

to the power of literature

It's been a rough couple of months. In between bursts of adventure, fun, and general relaxtion have been periods of disatisfaction and unease, a general ill-feeling compounded by the amount of stress that moving and making plans for a summer away bring with them.

It's been difficult for me to come to terms with my move away from New Mexico, in part because I will have only been there a year at the time of my official departure, and in part because life there has been sweet and fascinating in all respects. I've been trying to take the high road and simply feel blessed for having had the experience of living there, but it's a bit like breaking up with someone before you're ready (something else I have experience in tandem): the scope of what's left to explore and experience seems overwhelming, and there's a great loss attached.

I lied to myself about this for a little while, trying to make myself ready to move and to justify it over and over again in whatever what I could think, but in the end I had to accept that I didn't want to go. And that, career-wise, I really had no choice but to go.

That was the first step.

The second was examining my place and my relationship in the quintet, and making sure it was what I wanted, that it was worth moving across the country again for this ensemble. It took a while, things got ragged when we weren't rehearsing or gigging, and it became hard to remember what enthusiasm had driven me there in the first place. But I had to remember that it's difficult with a member of the group out of town, in a place where there's no work, and that a week, now...all this will change and it will change permanently. With plenty of playing to do this summer and plenty of work waiting for us in Minnesota, we'll have an entirely new set of problems but none of them will seem as deep and upsetting as they do now.

But even with these two realizations under my belt, I still felt like I was missing something. I felt like the poetry had gone out of my life, like I could look at something beautiful and feel little, like I could be a part of an amazing night and remain cold and distant. I have never felt this detachment in my life and it was frustrating and disturbing.

And then I picked up a book.

It's not that I've lost my sense of adventure. It's that it's changed in a way I hadn't anticipated. I read through Steinbecks's Travels with Charley with dogged interest until I got to the end, and he spoke of his journey 'having left' and deserted him, that his adventure was over long before the travel has, and home lay before him on the long stretches of road, beckoning.

I understood, but it wasn't identification. I've felt that way before, but what opened up for me in this instant was the realization that my journey has left me, too, and it is waiting for me somewhere else. It's changed from a restless traveller to a bit of a homebody, of a spirit seeking a permanent destination. It's not that I no longer want to travel, or see the vast stretches of beauty left in the world, it's that I want to have a home base that I know, intimately. It's that I want work and family, and friends, to come together and build a foundation that I can use to explore around me in more detail. I need a home, I need a place. The endless moving across country, the yearly trade of friends and faces in my life, that needs to slow dramatically. The space around me needs to be familiar and beloved.

I could easily do this in Minneapolis. I have little strength to move again, so I'm going to have to, anyway. Once I get there I plan to take steps to mold me life into the environment and in turn structure a place where I'll only be lonely if I want to be, where my dreams can find footholds, where things will blossom and bear fruit. The only problem is, I have to wait. I have two months of festival, and then more waiting and traveling, and then the usual transition period once I finally arrive. But I'm getting good at that; in Albuquerque it only took me a month to find a solid friendship and an orbit of others around that. I know the kinds of things I want to see and do, and what places I would like to eat or drink at. I know that there's beauty around every corner and that around one of those, maybe soon, there'll be someone who wants to hold my hand and experience them with me.

Until then, I'll be patient.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

here i go again

It has come to pass that the quintet is packing up, leaving New Mexico, and heading to far more inhabited and financially supportive climes. I am, of course, going with, since this is my baby and my dream. We're returning (for four of us, a new adventure for one) to the great upper Midwest, that land of trees and berries and big, clear, inviting lakes, and, more specifically, to the metropolitan area known affectionately as the Twin Cities.

I have no fears that life in Minneapolis will be enjoyable and contented. I have often wished someday my path would lead me back to lands close to Wisconsin, I just never expected it to be so soon after having found myself loving every minute of my desert home.

Since the first time I visited New Mexico, I knew I wanted to live here someday. And so I have, but it is with a heavy heart that I leave it barely a year after I came, and even harder is the sadness I feel when I look out at my mountain view and find myself counting the days I have left of appreciating it. In a short while, so much has happened. It's gone too fast, it's been too sweet, it's left its mark.

The simple things: the sunshine, the mild climate, the big, expansive sky, the joy of scrambling over rocks and conquering hills, the stories inherent in the landscape, the lack of mosquitos, the striking plant life, the abundance of strange and wonderful surprises, the culture of space and mountain and Route 66 memorabilia, the people with their strong boots and easy smiles.

The more complex, that stem from these simple things: living in a place similar to my childhood home with reminders in the color of the sky, the boulders, the vegetation, finding strength in my physical body to make molehills out of mountains and to stand at the top in awe of my accomplishments, the painful process of learning to both love myself and others again, and one in particular, who both taught me his own wisdom and a new way of seeing that hard, ever-present obstacle of losing that which I love, to climb the mountains both real and imagined, to see again, literally and figuratively, what lies before me, to jump without fear of the risk and to enjoy the fall and be confident of the landing.

These are not things I will lose easily, but in my inner being I know I'm not done learning from this amazing place. I have two months left of New Mexico, of myself in my heart's home, to make the most of the lessons that are here. I'm not ready to move again soon after this, and it will be a long time before I can return and an even longer time to regain those things that make me proudest of my accomplishments here: my high altitude endurance, my ability to go uphill with pleasure and alacrity, my calm but purposeful manner learned from an underpopulated and secluded place.

It didn't take long for NM to turn Denton, Texas's little social party girl into a wilderness geek with almost as much time and money invested in outdoor equipment as in musical instruments, from one whose face was welcome in any bar to one whose enjoyment of raucous debauchery dwindled to the random beer on a special occasion. It might not be a permanent change, but it's one that feels right for the time being. To be more confident of myself, of my body, of my own enduring capabilities, this is more pleasing than to wake up unhappy and dehydrated. The day is too short to accomplish all that I want to, and the best hikes are had in the mornings when the city is still sleeping.

I'm hoping in time to find some peace with this decision to move, knowing full well all the benefits on the other end of it. In the meantime, this is my lovesong to Albuquerque, to Cabezon Peak, to the hot springs of Truth or Consequences, to the dusty washes east of Socorro and the mysterious caves to its west, to the Jemez and their watermelon-colored beauty, to El Malpais, the lava beds and the arch, the sandstone cliffs and the ice caves, to the Volcanos west of town undisturbed in their long slumber, to the big, scorched ponderosas of Los Alamos and the untouched ones of the San Mateo mountains, to the wind-wound oddities of Kasha-Katuwe, and to Sandia Peak, the view from my window, and the doorway to all my dreams.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

bringing myself back to reality

It seems like, after a time of those low-down, screaming, anguish filled blues, the upswing is a height dizzying and astonishing. It's a feeling that's a relief after the days of tears and pillows flung at walls, but it's tinged with the sadness it ascended from.

It's nice to know I can bounce back from something so devastating. Having spent six months being the friend of one of the most amazing people I've ever met, having been patient and having that patience rewarded with a real, tender, beautiful relationship, having all of that taken away too soon and suddenly, I find myself surprisingly calm. I'm not healed- I'm not even close to acceptance- but at least I can carry on without feeling like I"ll never smile again.

I am waiting for one more sign to let me know which way to let my heart go. Just one. It is not something I am counting on, but it is something I am wishing for. I think it is a reasonable thing to ask.

Whoever ends up with me for the long haul has to be a patient and understanding person. The career I've chosen doesn't lend toward keeping me in one place for very long- at least not at the start of things. And it requires long hours to myself, and long days on the road, and hard work at every turn. It might not be so reasonable to turn down a long-distance relationship when it might not always be reasonable for me to stay in one place for a long time. I want to- I'm ready to live some place for a good while. To make a home. But I don't know if I can hold that dream too close to me for some time to come- there are too many variables in a musician's life. But I know what I do want. I want someone to fight for me. I want compromise and flexibility in our life's path. I want someone with the courage to examine their feelings for me and make the right decision for everyone concerned. I want the journey to be extraordinary, and fresh, and exhilarating.

Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

one more

Ani always says it better.

i know so many white people
i mean, where do i start?
the trouble with white people
is you can't tell them apart
i'm so bad with names and dates and times
but i'm big on faces
that is, except for mine

i believe you when you tell me
we've met before
this time you've got my interest
this time you've got the floor
why don't you go and tell me something
i don't already know
give me something to remember you by
when i go

i eat too much
i laugh too long
maybe i'll like too much of you
when i'm gone

let's go over to the window
and sit in the neon light
let's go out walking
you know, it's garbage night
let's go down to the east river
and throw something in
something we can't live without
and then let's start again

the more you talk
the more i get
the sense of something
that hasn't happened yet
the more you talk
the more i want to know
the way i'll remember you
when i go

i eat too much
i laugh too long
maybe i'll like too much of you
when i'm gone

i am so many white people
i mean where do i start
i've got lots of personalities
i just can't tell them apart
and i never remember anything
except for those things
which i never forget you know
there's no in between

i'm big on your face
yeah it's big in my mind
you're like the rest of the human race
you're one of a kind

thank yous and goodbyes

More than anything else, I am trying to look forward. To silly dates, like April 10th, when new episodes of the Office air again; to more important ones, like June 29th, the day we start our six-week stay in CT for a prestigious chamber music festival that is the promise of all our hopes and aspirations. To summer weather, to fall colors. To visits with friends. To birthdays and holidays. To new houses and new experiences.

Because I'm afraid of the present, of the alarming reality of my impending loneliness, made all the more dark by the realizations I have been making everyday about you. About who you are to me. And about how little I can do to change anything in my favor.

In your presence I feel so calm, and so capable. I feel like I can take on any challenge without hardly breaking a sweat. I won't lose this; you have given me this for keeps. I know what I want- I want you- but I'm afraid there's no one like you anywhere else. If there is even someone remotely similar, what are the chances I'll ever meet them? That this kind of thing will happen again?

I may be foolish. Maybe my readiness to find someone to love again has allowed me to overlook flaws in the fabric, or miss out on misperceptions in the reality. Maybe I misunderstood the nature of this brief relationship. Maybe I am unable to accept that it just wasn't good timing, or meant to be, or whatever shit they fling at you in times like these, ostensibly to help you put things in perspective.

But here's the truth of it: if you could have stayed, if this could have lasted, do you know the heights we could have reached? Do you know the accomplishments we would have mastered? Do you know the greatness therein?

I think I do. Things I never wanted...never even spent more than a passing though on...took on a shimmering fullness and richness I'd never granted them before. Futures blossomed, matured, faded gracefully. The present waved proudly as a banner. Everything was new again.

(Did I ever mention that I am a hopeless romantic, under all my pragmatic musings?)

The distance...I can't get around it. Here is where we built our friendship, and in each other's company we kept it up and beautiful. Not there. Not there AND here. Here. I can't hold you- I can't ask anyone that- you are destined for great things and I will be so proud of you when you do them. I will always be proud of you. I will always relive the memories of our time together and feel special and blessed. The truth is I couldn't afford to give so much of myself to someone who wasn't staying near me, literally and figuratively, and yet I did. I couldn't help it. If I hadn't, what would I have miss out on? How less rich would my life have been without the sweetness of these short months?

I will see you again. It's never goodbye, only, 'til then' and a smile. I will always be here for you, if you need me. If there is a future for us I can only dream of it, never wish it. May I always call you friend, and may you always know that there is someone out there who loves you, and who wishes you well.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

nina simone, big pink blankets, and OMG this tea smells awful

It's wintertime again, even though it never really wasn't except for briefly when we had a few of those taunting, 45 degree days with a breeze that smells of spring, and then it snowed and got cold again so that I'm back tripping out to my car maneuvering icy steps and trying not to drop the only warm thing in my house, a mug of tea, in the 19 degree morning. It's February now, sure, and it should still be cold, but I've frankly had enough of the frosty temperatures INSIDE my house and the slow, steady pleading voices that are my flip-flops and skirts begging to be worn again that I'm ready for a warm breeze and some green leafy things starting to grow. Not that we'll get too many of those here in the Burque, but maybe just a few. For posterity.

OMG this tea TASTES awful.

In the meantime I'm dealing with my cold house during those times I'm not at work by either leaving again and going out (no longer an option now that I have run out of money and am also trying not to get sick, and need to stay near my trombone even if I'm not going to play it for the sake of musical osmosis) or cuddling up in the awesomest, ugliest quilt you ever did see. Apparently my grandmother made it, and it's BRIGHT PINK on the underside and this odd, seventies-esque LSD inspired pattern of pink, purple, and green on the other side. My mom would use it as the comforter on the pull out couch whenever we had guests, or she'd let me pull it out and cuddle up under it when I was sick. I used to play a game in the mornings, in that time between waking up and getting up, where I would put myself inside the quilt's pattern, imagining each square as a maze to be navigated in order to escape the pink fluffy monster (actually one of those pom-pom things) that inhabited the fabric. It's also the perfect blanket to snuggle under with someone special, but for now that's just my cats (I could turn this into a long rant about how lonely I am and blah blah blah, but you've heard it, and you're sick of it, so I'll just be a cat lady for the time being).

The tea is better with honey. Just slightly.

Jazz is great wintertime music. I've been reviving my love for the classics- the Louis Armstrong, the Count Basie, the Ella....and yes, the glorious, naughty, incomparable Nina Simone, as well as running a few new ideas into the mix in the way of Wayne Shorter and Chris Potter. It's a good time, inspired in part by my homesickness for good Denton jazz at the Greenhouse. I see folks on Facebook back there click on 'attending' for events such as 'One O'Clock Lab Band at the Syndicate' and 'Snarky Puppy at Haileys' and 'So-and-so quintet at Greenhouse' and man...I miss that. I really do. I think those Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings were some of the best times of my life so far.

You're asking why I keep drinking the tea. I need the tea. It's the only non-caffeinated thing I have left and I need to fight the shit in my throat back with herbal shit.

So, wintertime. This winter I've done some amazing things. I climbed Cabezon Peak. It was cold and amazing. I saw the Tent Rocks, and I went sledding. My brass quintet officially became a business. I'm getting the opportunity to teach my own music class and I'm so excited about it. It's going to be awesome.

Almost as much as how awesome it is I don't have to drink this tea anymore.