Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thoughts on Community

There are many spanish speaking families in my neighborhood. One specific family a few doors down captures my attention on an almost daily basis. Of course, their many dogs might be the first reason for this, and our dog Oso is attune to the barking that echos up from their yard. He was, after all, born from Lucky, their black mix breed dog who sits on the front porch guarding her palace.

Most mornings around 7 am, the mothers of the couple families who live in the house go for a walk together. I only know the name of one, and she is a sweet soul. Though she can’t speak much english we exchange greetings often and she loves to check up on Oso and see how big he’s gotten. She wears jeans and walks with her chin up and a soft smile on her face. Sometimes I wish I could knock on the door at any time of the day and just watch the way they live. Watch the way they cook, the way they laugh together in the evenings, ask them what the secret is to their apparent ease.

We often joke with some close friends of ours about living in a commune together. Sharing a garden, a lawn mower, power tools... eating our meals together and raising our kids together. We joke, but we dream of it too.

I sneak up to the window and watch these woman walk past my house most every day. I find myself envying them. Their friendship, their community, their lightness.

Sometimes I get tangled in the web that wraps around the ladder of image. What would people think if we moved in to a house with friends? What would these woman think if I asked to walk with them in the mornings?

What would people think...? Such a meaningless question most of the time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Defining musical moments...in no particular order.

“Listen to this” he said, with eyes sparkling. Someone was moving some recording equipment behind me and I looked to see if I was in the way.

“Seriously” he handed me the headphones, “put these on”.

I sat down on the couch and did what he asked. Latter Days by Over the Rhine started playing into my ears and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had never heard anything quite like that before. Or felt anything like that from a song before.

“What a beautiful piece of heartache... this had all turned out to be... Lord knows we’ve learned the hard way...all about healthy apathy...”

* * * * *

I was young, eager, and clueless the day I saw Jennifer Knapp take the stage at a festival in the midwest.

My friends had gone to get some lunch and I was watching our spot in front of the main stage in a field of sweaty fans. Or maybe they were there next to me the whole time. Or maybe I was the only one in the crowd... the surroundings are blurry because when Jen stood up there by herself and started playing her guitar my brain stopped cataloguing anything but her music.

She was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, sunglasses and a ponytail. I stood up to listen.

She was more memorable, more confident, more inspiring than the 10 piece band before her, or the hip speaker that would follow her. And I thought to myself...

that is what I want to do.

Without taking my eyes off the stage I leaned over to the person next to me, “What did they say her name was?”

* * * * *

“Sit down here” she said motioning to a red couch near the window of her office on music row. “You haven’t heard anything of hers?”

I shook my head and stared at the street below. This was a long way from Iowa.

She pushed play.

Tony, was the first Patty Griffin song I ever listened to. The graphic lyrics about a teen suicide shook up the naive songwriter in me. Shook me up in the best way possible. I would never look at writing the same again.

* * * * *

I was in high school, a member of a club, and all of us were wearing blue t-shirts and sitting around tables in a cafeteria somewhere. I’m sure there was a program of some sort and I’m sure I was staring out the window dreaming about something until Enrique picked up his guitar.

Q, we call him, a musical mentor of mine and maybe the first person I ever knew who wrote songs, started playing that unforgettable guitar line that opens The Eye of the Hurricane by David Wilcox.

I was hooked instantly.

At a time when people didn’t always expect much out of us, Q played us a song that expected us to think, expected us to take life seriously and inspired us to believe there was a reason to do that.

Songs, as it turned out, are just stories set to music. And I thought maybe I had a few stories I could tell...

(a younger version of myself... :)