Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bright Stars

You can only see a piece of sky, tucked in the mountains here on Judy Branch. But when there's stars to be seen, they are the brightest in the whole world.

I'm so glad the clouds have blown away, at least for this one night!

Friday, February 29, 2008


I didn't grow up Catholic, so I don't really have much understanding of the faith other than from what I've picked up through secondhand sources - literature, movies, etc. But I did grow up Southern Baptist, and I always felt there was a bit of affinity between the two religious cultures. Especially when it comes to issues of guilt, repression and a tendency to punish oneself more than rewarding or celebrating. Why do so many people fall into a belief system that tells them that it isn't okay to be happy or to do things that will bring personal joy or satisfaction? Why do so many of us hesitate to do nice things for ourselves and opt instead to get those good feelings vicariously by doing nice things for others?

I'm not advocating for the "me first" attitude that is so prevalent in the world, especially among the aristocrats and free market capitalists. there's plenty of people that always put their own personal gain above all else. what i'm pondering is why there are so many good people - the best people in the world- who treat themselves so poorly, beat themselves up and never seem to be able to do enough good for others and the world to make themselves feel good or satisfied. and why do so many of them forget themselves and their own needs and desires in this quest to make the world a better place?

some people have a passion that only allows them to be aware of their own desires without any sense (and apparently no care) of how their actions in following those desires might impact others. i had a friend like that once. it was intoxicating how intensely she would go after whatever it was she desired most. everything in her life was magnified and melodramatic, and it seemed like her emotions, her current dilemma was the most important thing in the entire world. i'm sure it was in her eyes. but that wasn't enough. she couldn't understand how everyone around her wasn't on board. surely, the outcome of her dilemma was the most important thing in everyone else’s lives, and if it wasn't, then damn them - they must an enemy (we've heard this before: "you're either with us or against us!"). at first, it is easy to get swept up in the passion of such a person. to really want to help to bring that desired outcome into fruition. but eventually that contact buzz wears off, and you're left realizing that to people like, you only exist as a pawn or an obstacle. these people are often some of the most sincere you ever meet, at least while they are in that moment with you, and it is heartbreaking when you realize that they really don’t (and perhaps can’t) see the impact their actions have on others.

the other kind of passion is one that is focused on trying to make a difference in the world, and perhaps do some damage control from all the horrible "collateral damage" that results from the worst pursuit of personal gain. I know so many people who work non-stop to try to ease some of the pain or make the world a little better in the aftermath of human greed. there are so many people and animals suffering in the world, that the passion these people have for mending as much of the hurt as they can will never be fulfilled. there's a string of making a difference on a small-scale all throughout one's life, but it never seems to be enough. and it never will be. these people care so passionately that they don't give up. they work day and night and burn themselves out because of this passionate desire that pushes them on and tells them that the work is far more important than the self. in the worst case scenario, these people burn out, becoming shadows of themselves and forgetting how to find or experience personal joy and pleasure. i've seen this happen, and it is truly heartbreaking.

i know that it's not a dichotomy. there are all kinds of folks out there. i tend to be more of the save the world first then save myself breed. but i'm trying to learn how to get in touch with what i most passionately want for myself (outside of saving the world!). i know i dwell too much on the "impactfulness" of every single thing i do or say, and that this is not helping anyone. i need to adopt some "don't give a damn" and apply it to my own life, while keeping a solid footing in the ideals that guide my life.

last year i tried out a chiropractor and also went to a masseuse - two things i never would have "splurged" on, but finally tried in attempts to get relief from my back injury. this week, i tried therapy. it's too early to tell if i'll take to it, but i'm ready to give it a try and to keep an open mind and heart. i hope that maybe i will learn how to figure out what it is i really do want for myself and my life. right now, i just can't see beyond my life as it is right now - which is defined by the work i do, not by what i want for myself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's next?

I'm glad to be back on Judy Branch after a solid week of going all over the place and trying to fit 36 hours into each day. A lot of my working trips have plenty of down time to play and sleep, but this trip was not one of those. It was nice to be in New Orleans and Memphis, but it took every drop of my will power to keep myself going. Why did this trip take so much more out of me than usual? I guess that drawn out bout of illness didn't really allow me to bank up some energy before I hit the road.

My trip was supposed to start last Monday with a day trip up to Morehead for the Women in Traditional Music symposium. I was so excited about finally getting to see Hazel Dickens, and even more excited to see her performing with some of my favorite women and friends. Those plans got trumped by the worst stomach bug I've ever experienced. So, my trip started off with me bedridden and missing yet another chance to meet Hazel! I had to be down in Knoxville Tuesday for a meeting, but I rescheduled for later in the day so I could move at my barely recovered state. Flew to New Orleans Wednesday morning, totally drained and on the third day of not eating. Then it was three days solid of meetings, watching a rainy New Orleans through the windows. My hotel mate came down with the stomach flu and I switched rooms to keep myself from getting sick again!

A 6am flight to Memphis on Saturday meant getting up at 4am to get to the airport. Then a presentation at Folk Alliance, delirious and really tired of being around far too many people. An unexpected highlight was that I finally did got to see Hazel Dickens - and a piano didn't fall on my head to prevent me! First, I sat in on a great interview session that John Lily did with her and got to hear her talk and also sing with Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwartz (he played fiddle). Then, I got to go out to dinner with her! She is so witty and intelligent, and so incredibly funny. I didn't need to do anything else at Folk Alliance. That was all I needed. I was ready to sleep. And that would have been so wonderful, except that my hotel room was packed with squatters that my roommate gave floor space (before I got in from New Orleans). I was nice as I could be and tried to be coherent and talk with folks, but all I really wanted to do was take a long shower and go to bed. I mean, it was 10pm and I'd been up since 4am! Oh well, 6am and I was back to the airport and headed to the next step. Got to have lunch with Mom & Dad, pick up Bella from the kennel, take a nap and then hit the road to be in North Carolina for the last meeting of the trip.

And now, I am home and ready to get snowed in with my furball family and my own bed and peace and quiet.