Tap tapping at our laptops in tandem, Darby and I are having a quiet Sunday afternoon in the backyard, working separately on our books and getting pummeled with mulberries. Every year, I've stared up at this tree, wondering how it is that the squirrels always snatch the berries before me. The leafy canopy shades half the yard. Above us, the sturdy branch that the kidlets, when they were little, swung from on a tilted plank of wood that we strung up the first summer with chains. We got married under this tree on a hot September afternoon, Darby in a linen suit, me with my hair tamed back, the flies all drowned in honey on the cheese and crackers table. We've had picnics under this tree, a ratty old quilt spread with strawberries, lotus root, seaweed salad, and fresh bread from the farmer's market. We've had dinners with the kids, mac and cheese, kale chips, salad, on a white tablecloth with wine glasses filled (for them) with sparkling water. Oh, we've had many pies under this tree - never mulberry, but four-berry, strawberry, apple, blackberry basil, peach raspberry.
It's a brief season for mulberries, and I never catch them in time. Each year around mid-April, I first notice the sidewalk splatted purple as I go for my lunch time runs on the other side of town. In our evening walks, Darby and I stand for long minutes alongside the road staining our fingers with the most delicious bruise, eating our fill. But did you know - mulberries can be white, too? Turns out, the berries in our tree never darken. No wonder I've always missed the season. These berries ripen and fall -- as they are doing on our heads and laptops today -- paler than spring green, softer than Darby's linen suit, plump and ready to eat. They're not as sweet as the dark ones, more austere somehow, if that's a flavor. But I'm overjoyed to realize that we're in season, and the squirrels haven't beaten me to the loot, and that if ever Darby kicks me out of the house, albeit there's a very small season, I might survive on the berries and rosemary sprigs.
News on this end is that I've stopped sending my book to agents. Of course I'm impatient to publish it and to have some of you read it. Yet, I've not been able to put my finger on why, but I've wondered if, perhaps, something is missing in the narrative. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an idea. I can't tell you what it is, of course, but I've stopped sending out letters and started to explore this new thread. It's fully possible that, as Darby says, I'm driving past the money, but since I have all the previous versions it seems a fairly safe venture. And if this doesn't work, no hard in having a bunch of extra material, right?
However, I do have a short piece just published last week by Lewis University's Jet Fuel Review. Here's a direct link to my piece, Cliff Side, and here's a link to the whole Spring 2017 issue. As former editor of Lunch Ticket, I'm a nut for different formats and love this - you can download the whole issue as an ebook, too. Here's a sneak peek at my piece, and I hope you'll click on over and read the whole thing:
Echoed against the cliff walls of the ragged coastline, the bark of two elephant seals. Aaark, one calls, then moans like the creak of old redwood. Even through closed lids: the periwinkle grey of dawn. I open my eyes at the fifth cheer-up-up from a nameless bird in dialogue with its mate. A moment later, my husband opens his. We stare wide-eyed across the pillows. We traveled nine hours to perch on this cliff far from the segmented lives that fracture us, and spoke of nothing timely but the shortening blue shadows and play of sun along the grizzled backs of the golden central coast hills. Now, in the briny blue morning, we shove away the flannel sleeping bag and crawl out of the tent zipping our jeans. I balance on a weathered log; he stands on a rock. We survey the morning palette: sky against sea, dusty rose and slate grey, echoes of elephant seals and the crash of waves.
I recently stumbled upon a Nietzsche passage that includes this quote: “Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: ‘What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?” This is the spirit behind our Create & Flow one-day retreat in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 21. It's just a few weeks away, and there're still spots open. Just added - we'll be joined in the evening for a house concert songwriters-in-the-round with special guests, platinum songwriter, Kevin Fisher, and Journey of a Song author, Warren Sellars. Of course, I'll be part of the round, too, playing some new songs and some old. Yoga practitioners of all levels and creative spirits of all kinds are welcome. Registration is $185 and includes a light breakfast, lunch, and afternoon pie. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
I moved to Los Angeles six years ago with a silenced voice and a broken spirit. I was married at the time, to the drummer in my band, and we'd been on the road touring full time for about six months. There was no planned end for the tour, and until a few weeks earlier, no plan to settle in California. There had been no plan to settle at all, actually. We just booked gigs and drove around the country with our bass player, sleeping in relative's spare rooms, stranger's lumpy couches, and on rock club floors. Every day we drove into a different town, every night we drank beer, and every morning we drove off.
It's strange to talk about a music tour and realize that my prominent memories have nothing to do with music. My then-husband and I had spent the money we got from our wedding gifts to buy a van that we rigged to run on recycled vegetable oil. Just before our first anniversary we found a new bass player (our original beloved one had no interest in hitting the road) and the three of us loaded the van with all our most prized possessions - drums, guitars, amplifiers, microphones. We drove out of Boston in the Spring of '06 with an extended Chevy cargo van full of songs and dreams.
I grew up going to folk festivals. All my heroes were singers and road warriors. I'd dreamed of touring for as long as I'd been writing songs. Since my first east coast road trip from college back home, I'd wanted to see the country. My drumming husband and I met at Berklee College of Music where we both did graduate work, and then gave up our jobs and apartments to live out our rock star dreams.
Right from the start I felt ungrounded. Despite the good attendance of our shows at the beginning of the tour, as we made our way down the eastern seaboard I had a sinking feeling. Not sinking, actually. More like drowning. Locked in the van for hours on end, I lost all sense of schedule. Always surrounded by people, I misplaced all sense of creativity. I filled my days with numbers and papers instead of poetry and melody. I sent business emails and phone calls to bookers and promoters, and counted the cash at the end of the night. The unfamiliarity of each new town made me too anxious to venture far from the van. The only exercise I got was the heavy-lifting of sound equipment at the beginning and end of each night. The only time I sang was for the hour or two of the gig. The rest of my days were silent.
By the time we got to Los Angeles, it was just the two of us. I'd started having emotional breakdowns on stage, crying at lyrics I'd sung for years, alternately self-medicating with coca-cola and gin-and-tonics. One night in New Hope, PA the tourist season had ended and the club was near-empty. We played the opening bars to our first song and my throat choked. I cried so hard I couldn't sing. We dropped the bass player in Virginia with his folks, and pointed the van west. I didn't care where we went - I'd go anywhere my husband chose, as long as I never had to sing again. He picked L.A, and to this day I believe this was one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me.
Almost a year into our lives as Californians, a woman I worked with but barely knew gave me a flyer for a 12-week workshop based on the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I didn't know anything about the book or the workshop, but I instinctively knew that this was what I needed for some deep healing of my creative spirit. I hadn't sung in over a year, hadn't played guitar, hadn't written a song. I was working long hours in the celebrity endorsements department at a top talent agency, lost and trying desperately to find a new dream, a new career.
The Artist's Way workshop that winter was a spirit-saver. I drank up the weekly meetings like I'd been parched. I was parched - desperately thirsty to be around artists of any sort, deeply needing to tap back into my own creative depths. Those twelve weeks helped me begin stitching my creative spirit back together. After the twelve weeks were over, I took some more workshops with facilitator Kelly Morgan, the inspiring woman who I began to consider my mentor. Soon, I became Kelly's assistant in the workshops, meeting weekly at her home with a small group of other assistants, and helping to hold the space for new Artist Way students' healing.
Ultimately the workshop helped me to unveil other desires. I found my longing to regain body-wellness during those workshops and in my weekly one-hour "artist dates" that the book prescribed. I remembered my love of yoga, and found Rising Lotus Yoga, a beautiful studio near where I worked. That summer I delved deeply into my yoga practice in a personal 40-day challenge in which I practiced every day (resting every 7th day). It was the discipline and surrender that I needed, inspired by Boston yoga teacher Baron Baptiste and the transformational journeys of biblical teachers. Later that year I enrolled in the Rising Lotus Yoga teacher training program, and spent the next nine months studying yoga and unraveling my marriage. Whatever is no longer serving us, the yoga practice teaches us, begins to fall away. I felt renewed, like a phoenix rising from the ash, like a lotus growing out of the muck.
In the years since those Artist Way workshops with Kelly and my yoga teacher training at Rising Lotus, I re-found my voice. I remembered my love of writing. I discovered that I love teaching. I learned to nourish myself with good food made well. I would be remiss to not mention the love that has come into my life through my dear man Darby and his beautiful daughters.
Songwriter Patty Griffin has a line in her song Love Throws A Line: "We run out of luck / We run out of days / We run out of gas a hundred miles away from a station.... Just before we can't go any further / Love throws a line to you and me". The Artist's Way, Kelly, Rising Lotus, yoga, California.... they all threw me a line, a life saver when I was drowning in the muck of dreams that were no longer sustaining me.
Last year, when I began The List of 100 Things, I included two lines about a vision I had:
#60 - revise creative yogi proposal#61 - send creative yogi proposal to Rising Lotus
Inspired by all these things and wanting to share the healing, I've created a one-day workshop for the yoga community of creative spirits. There are so many students I have met at yoga studios and in classes who chat with me later about their screenplays, their books, their music, dance, films, paintings. Finally, because of last year's List of 100 Things, I created this workshop. I sent the proposal to Rising Lotus sometime in 2012 and they loved it. We booked a date right at the beginning of 2013 because since it seemed the perfect time to fan the flames of the new year's creations.... and now the workshop is coming up.
That I created this workshop (step one!) and moved past my fear of rejection (step two!) were major accomplishments from my List last year. On January 13 I'll check off item #4 on my List for 2013:
#4 - Teacher Creative Flow workshop
Here's a link to the event, if you are in Los Angeles and interested in attending. There's early bird pricing - only $35 for the 3-hour workshop. We'll do a mixed level yoga practice (appropriate for all levels) to start and then move into writing and interactive exercises. I already know some of the folks who have signed up for this, and I'm looking forward to us all inspiring each other as we uncover, discover, and tap more deeply into our creative spirits.
Here's the blurb from the poster about the workshop:
In this 3-hour workshop we will embark on a hero’s journey –
because we are all the heroes of our own story – and unleash the creative flow through movement of the body and the pen. We will tap creative inspiration and loosen the grip of hesitancy and fears by releasing the blocks of our past stories.
This workshop will begin with a 1-hour yoga practice. We’ll focus on breath, movement, and sweat to quiet the surface thoughts and find our inner strength, balance and joy.
Following the asana, we will move into writing practice, playful sensory explorations, and small- and large-group interactive exercises to spark, inspire, and unlock the creative flow.
January 13, 2013
$35 adv / $40 day of
This workshop is open to all levels of yoga practice.
All types of creative spirits are welcome — actors, writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, painters, cooks, parents, teachers…
Bring your journal, a pen, and your curiosity.
Rising Lotus Yoga 13557 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks 818-990-0282 •risinglotusyoga.comm