WELCOME

I'm Laura Meyer AKA Cygne (looks intimidating, but it's pronounced seen). I'm a musician-writer from all over - lately (and originally) the New York City area. I recently completed a fifteen-country tour in support of my latest album, Let It Breathe. Right now I'm taking a pause to do just that... check out the music and if you feel moved to, say hello

Take Me Home: København, DNK 


Outside a small cafe in Nørrebro, a “hip” part of København, a man was selling assorted household items on the sidewalk — gently worn shoes, children’s blocks, a giant kitchen timer, etc. 

“Are you having a good day? Are things selling well?” 

“I always have a good day,” he smiled. “It’s important to focus on the good things.” Seeing the notebook under my arm he asked, “Are you American?” 

I looked down and noticed the cover bore a small US flag with “Made in USA” beneath. Shit, I thought. “Yes.” 

“Where do you come from?” 

“Eh….” I never know how to answer this. Every attempt feels like a lie. He laughed. 

“Once I saw a guy on a talent search show who had a similar answer,” he said. “Here, there… the guy was really funny! Are you having a good day?” 

“Eh….” I wasn’t. I was jetlagged, overwhelmed, and sharing a room with a guy who stared with longing and told me I reminded him of his ex-girlfriend. “Just tired.” 

“Come,” he said, moving aside vests and a blanket so we could sit on a bench. “Give me your right hand. You are going to send all your negative feelings to me.” 

My heart surged. Not the surge you’d expect of a young woman meeting a strange man in a foreign city street, but the surge of a struggling sadhu meeting her guru in the forest. As I placed my hand in his my eyes swelled. Paris. Brussels. Terror. Anger. Refugees. Despair. One more puff and I felt like the whole world would fall down. 

“It’s okay, I can take it. Just breathe and know you are safe.” 

A tear slid down my cheek. A bicycle pinged. Sunlight danced on my eyelids. A cool breeze shivered my spine and then… breathing.… I was breathing. 

After a time I opened my eyes and he said, “Fasting during Ramadan has helped me become more positive. It’s a mental as well as a physical fast — to conserve energy one speaks less, is more reflective.” He looked at me so kindly, without judgment or proselytizing. Just compassion. “It’s important to focus on thinking about the good things and only speaking good things.” 

Lately it's hard not to dwell on the bad, sad things… but what does that accomplish? Where does that take me? Who does that empower? When I think of holding hands with a bodhisattva on a bench midway between our respective homelands there is a break in the fog… and I’m reminded that this planet is filled with living, breathing, loving beings and there are so, so many hands to hold if we just reach out our own.

    

Take Me Home: Telluride, CO 

Happy Solstice. Ten years ago today I woke up in Telluride for the first time. I arrived late the night before, not super late but late enough that the only vacant camping spot was half falling into a river. I was thrilled. I was in Telluride, and the river would sing me to sleep. 

The next day I woke to a sky so crisp I thought it might melt in my mouth. Lilacs. Smiling faces. Music. I was already in love when I took the stage at Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I felt my chest might explode, and not only because of the altitude. 

The performance went as well as I could've hoped... though my hope was pretty wild back then. I was very green. So green I didn't recognize the man waiting for me afterwards as that night's headliner. Not until we were halfway through lunch did I recognize his face from the cover of the gossip magazine I'd seen at my sister's apartment the month before. 

After sharing soggy peach cobbler we circled through the campground to drop off my stuff. At first I couldn't find my tent because now it really was falling into the river - I forgot to mention that it was broken so I had tied it to branches above, which apparently had given way. "That's so punk rock," he said. "Don't worry, you'll stay with me tonight."

And so it went... if you've heard "Back in NY" you know the gist of it. My enchantment deepened, heightened, expanded in every direction as I stood backstage, wide-eyed and enamored with not one but with All. I didn't just feel like a fish out of water, I felt like a fish with its face pressed against the side of the aquarium, drooling fish drool, longing for admission to this super cool fish school. And yet... I was a fish, too. 

There's too much to squeeze in this little box but one image that still makes me laugh is that of him scooping up armfuls of candy and videos (actual videos #tbt) in the hotel lobby after his show, manic, elated, childlike, qualities I see in musicians of all ages, all over the world. Maybe it's what makes us crazy and difficult to live with... but it's also why you love us. And we love you.

 

Current Inspiration: Richie Havens 

This song has been running through my head in recent days. My heart aches for the families separated at the U.S. border. I can't sleep. I can't think about anything except those poor motherless children and childless parents. Only a voice as powerful as Richie Havens can hold me steady now.

When I was thirteen or so I got to see him perform this song in my hometown. It was as close as I'd ever come to meeting god. In fact, I did meet him - he towered above me with a wide open smile and shook my hand (which I didn't wash for days), infusing my palm with the electricity of nothing less than an angel's wing.

Thank you, Richie. <3

You can hear me sing a version of this song on Patreon. All proceeds will go to Together Rising

A message from Cosmic Turtle 

There’s abundant evidence that the world is spinning out of control. And it is. Because the world has never been in our control. And it’s okay. We’re okay. When we notice this, we’re out of its control. We’re free. We have choices. We have imaginations. And then we can use them.

This morning I jogged along to the last minutes of an audiobook, The Female Persuasion. I like to listen to audiobooks on low volume without headphones so I can hear the birds and keep the bears away (I’m not sure if this is an effective bear-deterrent, but it’s a comforting thought.) Plus, out here in the “country” it’s helpful and inspiring to hear other human voices, especially smart, witty ones that offer entertainment and perspective on difficult subjects.

Today I was faster than usual because I got a late start. I always feel behind, no matter what I’m doing. There’s just so much I want to do. Here we are in the longest days of the year and they still feel too short.

As I approached the top of the hill I noticed a lump in the road I couldn’t identify…  a new shape in my growing encyclopedia, slightly domed. Just before the stop sign the narrator reached the final lines of the book —There wasn’t much time. In the end, she thought, the turtle might outlive them all — and at that exact moment the lump in the road revealed itself to be a turtle.


Can you imagine my delight? Yes, there are many critters in these woods… but this is the first time I've seen a turtle, and I can’t remember the last time I read/listened to a book in which a turtle had a starring role. The world might be out of control but maybe, just maybe... something is connecting all these moving parts?

As we approach solstice, the top of the hill, the time when the planet is divided into extreme darkness and extreme light, find solace in nature. Slow down, says Turtle in my hands. See all the light has to reveal. Feel all that is shrouded in darkness. Beyond these extremes and constant flux there is solid, common ground. Proceed carefully, watch for signs, trust yourself to recognize them, and you will get there. You are here. And you are needed. 

Love, 
Cygne

Children 


Remember when we did those immigration projects as kids, interviewing relatives on how our families came to this continent? Remember how united we felt when we shared our stories because we all had this thing in common, that we’re a nation of immigrants? Remember how proud we were? Remember that school trip to Ellis Island, where we made crayon rubbings of our ancestors’ names? Remember how good it felt, riding the ferry on a sunny day instead of sitting in a classroom learning about war all the time? Remember all those wars? How America freed itself from the mean British and saved the world from those savage Nazis? Remember when we were the children of superheroes? Remember how lucky we were? 

I don’t remember waking from the dream, but I know it coincided with mourning. An ever-increasing mourning. As with any deep sleep the waking process has been slow. I rub my eyes. I do not believe them. I do not want to believe them. I am so tired of mourning my country. A country that never was and yet will not admit this and so refuses to become. 

Children in cages. Should we be shocked? We did it to the Japanese. We did it to the Africans. We did it to an entire continent of people who were here first. Why is it so hard to remember that, America? Why are we so full of hate? Are we afraid that maybe one day we’ll have to pay for all of this?

Current Inspiration: the woods 

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life — no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed my the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.  

As a teenager I underlined and starred these lines by Ralph Waldo Emerson, going over I become a transparent eyeball a second time with green marker. I hadn’t read them in years until, arriving home from the woods and "randomly" pulling a book from a pile, this is the passage that greeted me. :)

Take Me Home: Elkton, FL 


The last time I stayed with my grandparents - before Gram moved to a nursing home - was the first time I stayed with them on my own. As I stepped out of my car and walked across the spiky Floridian grass I felt the rush of being The Grandchild, without my older, louder sister there to take centerstage. (Yes, even as a twenty-something. Many of us who end up onstage are there because of older, louder siblings. It’s the only way we were ever going to be heard.*) 

Yet for the same reason, I felt shy, nervous… even a little scared. Without my sister, mom, aunts, uncles, or cousins, and all the noise and activity they bring with them, who was I in relationship to my grandparents? How would we interact? What would we say? What could they possibly think of this grimy, barefoot vagabond crossing the driveway, car piled to the ceiling with all that Mary Poppins couldn’t fit? 

I didn’t even have to knock before Papa opened the door, eyes twinkling, corners of his mouth turned ever so slightly upward. “How are you!” he said, patting me on the back. And from beneath the cool waves of the fan Gram’s lips emerged, bright like a tropical fish at the end of a long line of “ooooohs.” Gram. It’s difficult to recall Gram then… the past few years have been so hard for her. For Papa. For their children. 

However that afternoon, still able to drive, she went on a secret mission to Publix and returned as I stood in the driveway rolling clean laundry into burritos. “Come here!” she rasped. “Quick, before Papa sees!” I walked to the street to meet her dark sunglasses, half-obscured by a low visor. From the passenger’s seat she presented two bags of trail mix. “I got you this for the road,” she said. Then, placing a folded $20 bill in my hand, “Don’t tell Papa.” 

Of course Papa wouldn’t have minded, though he might have been puzzled by the strange deal going on outside. It wasn’t about the trail mix, nor the $20. It was about the conspiratorial grin. I’d never discussed “the road” with my grandparents, for reasons you can and can’t imagine. But in that moment I felt like Gram, who had given me a subscription to Rolling Stone when I turned ten, got it. No explanation necessary. Even more than that, she wanted to be part of it. And she was. She is. They both are. How could they not be? 

Thank you, Gram. Thank you, Papa. I love you, Shellenbach tribe. 

 

* To be fair, I enjoyed and exploited my sister’s loudness. It/she enabled me to silently witness all the stuff I sing about.

Take Me Home: White Sulphur Springs, MT 

July 26, 2013

I was invited to play a festival in White Sulfur Springs. Merle Haggard would headline, along with Todd Snider, Robert Earl Keen, and other names people recognize. As with other little acts I was asked to play for exposure, which meant a spot to camp in the high desert mid-summer. Having no money, no tent, and a very full car, I obviously said yes and began searching for local concerts to supplement my exposure (to heatstroke), and hopefully, shelter. 

On short notice options were limited; however just an hour and a half away a biker bar in Helena offered me the second set in a three-act metal show and $200. I was thrilled. My third grade state report was on Montana and one of my bffs is Helena, so how bad could it be? (This is why artists need managers.) 

The first act was a three-armed four-piece metal duo. Lugging his Marshall stack onstage with one arm the singer-guitarist-bassist provided me with a new definition for hardworking musician. He screamed, strummed, thumped while my teeth rattled against my chest. I wondered how the crowd would receive my acoustic ballads… but this wasn’t my first metal show. (Metalheads dig alternate tunings.) 

As I began the crowd was silent, attentive, supportive. Then the third act showed up and began dry-humping in front of the stage, shouting profanities and - from where I stood - preparing to kill me. There was a lot of tongue and a lot of fist. I started doubting whether I could hold things together when the sound guy and one of the bartenders dragged the humpers outside and restored peace. I sold a dozen CDs, packed up my gear, and opened the stage door… to a wall of flames. 

Having been obstructed from expressing his anger in general, and towards me, in particular, Humper #1 had set fire to empty boxes and beer cases, alarmingly close to my car. That is, about to explode everything I own. I stood in the doorway not knowing how to respond when once again Bartender and Sound Guy appeared, practically leaping over my head to put out the blaze. (This wasn’t their first metal show.) 

I drove back to White Sulphur Springs in silence, admiring the dark silhouette of the mountains... and smiling. For having survived another night on the road. For the audience, the staff, the musicians - even the humpers. For the money in my pocket and the songs that brought me here. For the festival organizer, who let me sleep in her Airstream. For the Canadians, who adopted me for the remainder of the weekend. For Todd Snider, who made the drive from California worthwhile alone. And most of all, for the exposure.

Thank you.

Current Inspiration: Donald Glover 

Our internet has been down since the storm (a couple weeks ago) which means that I'm even more out of the loop than usual (which is very out of the loop). Plus I live in the woods and my neighbors are (in descending order of population) bugs, birds, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, raccoons, horses, and humans (very rare sightings) and none of them have been online either. So I've been deeeeep in my hole and, I'll admit, proud of my monastic ways. I actually thought I'd be able to maintain them when back online. HA!

Now that service is restored I've been binge-watching Dave Chappelle and French children's movies, and tonight I fell into my favorite, "let's Google people I went to school with and feel shitty about myself." Yes... I do this. Very rarely, but after a long period of abstinence of course I'm going to go deep into the other extreme. And I'm glad I did. Because it led me to this: 

With hundreds of millions of views I guess this is old news now? Like that big wedding and all those funerals? We churn through everything so quickly now... and yet some things reach through the screen, grab us, and don't let go. 

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