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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.

Take Me Home: Land of Awes 


A few days ago I sat at my desk as the sky turned from blue to gray to green. In the time it took to go outside, close an umbrella, and turn on the electric kettle, a tornado whipped through the area, leaving me in the dark with my hot water. 

Hot water. If you know me you know it's my drink of choice. And I love a long bath. For years I've said it's the ultimate luxury - cold hostel, early morning train, crappy gig - all (most) forgiven with the addition of hot water. 

As birdsong signaled the end of the storm I felt relieved. We were safe. Then I thought: shit, I should've showered this morning. Then I thought: Puerto Rico. Gaza. Port-au-Prince. Aleppo. Kathmandu. Mumbai. Hundreds and thousands and millions without electricity or plumbing, with or without bombs and bullets whipping overhead, never mind an electric kettle. 
 
Just now I crossed the street to fill a pot of water from the lake so I can flush the toilet. I cannot describe the overwhelming awe and gratitude I feel for the soft rain, the full pantry, the proximity to water, and the ability to heat it. We joke about #firstworldproblems but I would happily, gratefully, ecstatically never shower or look at this stupid device again if only everyone had enough food, water, and warm, safe haven. 
 
I can't tell if my heart is breaking for the insane abundance right here, right now, or for the insane disparity right here, right now.

Current Inspiration: my record player 

For the first time in over four years I woke up and turned on my record player. As I lie on the floor listening I re-realized that one of the many things I love about music is its movement - not just of the music being played, but of that which is playing music. Records, CDs, cassettes… revolution. Revolution is essential to music. Music is essential to revolution. 

I feel fortunate to be alive when music still spins. It’s so magical! Like earth, chakras, breath... maybe this is why streaming doesn’t work for me. Aside from the fact that everything’s compressed to shit and makes my head hurt (not to mention that artists aren’t fairly compensated) it’s energy is so… scattered. One song streams and spills into the next, a big jangly mess of all the wrong keys. Even when I play my favorites, they never make it past the porch. My body remains locked. In need of revolution. 

Maybe I’m loopy after driving 4000+ miles but I’m always loopy and that’s the point. We loop. We spin. Might as well commit to a groove and let it play out. :) In the spirit of spring spirals and new nests everything in the online shop is 20% off plus FREE SHIPPING on everything that spins! 

So happy to be home again. Different yet same home. What a trip. Sending an email as soon as I upload the pics.

Take Me Home: Maplewood, MO 


April 3, 2015 I still see her face. Too shy to offer in person she slipped me this note during the concert. I had to drive on somewhere that night, and I regretted it... I wanted to know her, felt like I already did. But sometimes we only have a moment, and that is enough. 

Today as I pack to leave Santa Cruz for the last time (for now) this note drifted out of the cupboard. What a lovely reminder! No matter where we are... Grace lives upstairs. 

Thank you, Grace. Thank you, all people I will never know and yet somehow know because we're all One. Thank you, Santa Cruz family. I will miss you and yet I am with you.

Take Me Home: Charlotte, NC 

November 13, 2010 

For all the strangers I've stayed with I've only used the couchsurfing website a handful of times. While it's connected me with sweet people (namely Danna & Javier) I feel more comfortable winging it and going on intuition. (Well, I never feel comfortable winging it, but it usually works out.) Plus between booking, promoting, driving, performing, and having to be in a different place every day some things need to be left up to chance. Like my physical safety and wellbeing, apparently. 

Fortunately this night I landed with two kind strangers in Charlotte, NC. I had reservations about the bar where I'd be performing so I arranged to meet Paras and Shivani beforehand. It was already dark as I rolled up to their pretty house by the hospital and tapped on the door. Shivani greeted me, led me to a candlelit fireplace, and offered a silver cup of water. A few moments later her husband joined us, demonstrated his sarod, and then asked me if I'd like an acupuncture treatment. Next thing I knew I was lying on their table while he needled my belly and hairy legs. He left me in pitch darkness to rest.

The show turned out to be great - my cousin and her husband drove all the way from Roanoke to surprise me and Gwyneth & Monko played the second set. More than anything, though, it was that I felt connected, grateful, and secure knowing I had a home to return to. We finished close to one and as I had to leave a few hours later I never saw my hosts again (another reason I don't use the couchsurfing site - I always feel like a terrible guest). However Paras and Shivani had prepared steel cut oats for the morning, and I awoke to the fragrance of cinnamon, chopped apples, walnuts, and plump raisins baking in the slow cooker. A silver bowl, a spoon, and a cup of water welcomed me with a sticky note: "enjoy breakfast - help yourself! thank you for being our guest." 

Sigh. People. People are so caring and generous. Don't let voices teach you to fear them. Don't let voices teach you to value money over people or freedom or creativity or your natural impulse to expand, know, explore, become, share, connect. That night like so many nights I didn't make any money for my work yet I was nourished, sheltered, and deeply restored. My accountant might think I'm a failure but I go to sleep feeling like the luckiest girl on the planet. Not that it's a competition. I hope you all fall asleep feeling like the luckiest girl on the planet. 

Thank you, Paras & Shivani. Thank you, Gwyneth & Monko. Thank you Kate & Joe. Thank you to all acupuncturists, massage therapists, and healers who keep me keeping on.

Take Me Home: Fairview Shores, FL 

May 18, 2014

I have no recollection of this night. However my computer tells me I was in Fairview Shores, FL so I assume I went home with someone from the venue. I vaguely remember waking up to a backyard filled with bunnies and hens, and feeding them lacinato kale. And that sweet, sweet Floridian sunlight my skin I can almost taste now... thank you, kind stranger. Happy Saturday, all.

Take Me Home: Stanley, ID 

August 6, 2014

"What is that?" a little boy asked as sunlight rippled through my soles. "That's the singer," his mother whispered. The singer? I wonder how his mind processed this strange, foot-headed creature sprouting up from a bed of deer tracks. I wonder what happened when he went to music class and the teacher asked him to sing. 
 
From childhood we're fed answers. Some are helpful, some aren't, and most threaten our imagination. When looking replaces seeing, when what we're fed replaces how we feel, our experience is no longer ours. By the time we're teenagers it's no wonder we're confused, dissatisfied, suspicious, and angry at those who tried to teach us. We act like we know everything because deep down we sense we've forgotten. Answers, those stories we learned so well, fail to protect us from the discomfort of not knowing. 
 
And then adults - what are adults? Technically I'm an adult, but I'm not fully grown. There will always be more to know, more to grow, and the amount of unknown/ungrown never diminishes. In some ways we're stronger but mostly we're just further from the ground, focused in our heads, frozen by the gnawing knowing that one day we will return to that, down there. We are so scared. Of what? We reach for the sky forgetting we touch it on all sides and instead cling to whatever storyline is available, even if it is barbed. Wouldn't you rather fly? 
 
Don't be afraid of questions. Don't be afraid of not having answers. Every quest begins with a question and the point isn't to find answers but to find more questions so that we may continue these wonderful, strange, scary, frustrating, exhilarating, tragic, hilarious, joyful lives. We're all heroes on a journey, blossoms on a stem. We are creating a new world, every moment. 
 
Embarking on a new quest in a couple weeks. See you in Santa Fe, Taos, and Las Vegas. Happy Spring. 
 
Thank you, Redfish Lake Lodge. Thank you, Sawtooths. Thank you, Paul.

Take Me Home: Boulder, CO 


“We have a job to do, reclaiming our glory. It’s work, and it will not please everyone. We will be called grandiose. We will be accused of being in dangerous denial, of our faults, our neuroses, our weaknesses. But it’s an ancient trick this, telling a woman that her glory is her sickness. You bet we’re in denial. We deny the power of weakness in our own past. We are on to better things, such as owning our beauty and honoring the courage it has taken us to get here and claiming our natural power to heal and be healed. We’re not grandiose, but we’re tired - tired of pretending we’re guilty when we know we’re innocent, that we’re plain when we know we’re beautiful, and that we’re weak when we know we’re strong. For far too long, we have forgotten we are cosmic royals. Our mothers forgot, their mothers forgot, and their mothers before them. We regret their tears; we mourn their sadness. But now, at last, we break the chain.”

- Marianne Williamson in A Woman’s Worth, which after a year of traveling in my backseat I finally started to read this morning. Then I remembered - Happy International Women’s Day!

Photo by my friend Meridith on April 18, 2015 at her studio in Boulder. I was touring west to California while booking a tour east to NY and Europe while finalizing Passenger artwork so that it could come out a few weeks later... I was really tired. But Meridith and Izzy (pictured) kept me smiling. 

Thank you, queens. 

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