Before I could vote, I stood outside a Safeway getting signatures for a petition about the Nuclear Freeze. I was arrested in college protesting investment in South Africa. I wrote letters to voters from the bleachers at my kids' sports practices. Political activism has always a part of my life.
In 2018 I was in Texas working on my album Let's Be Brave and went to a Beto O'Rourke rally. A friendly volunteer signed me up to text voters from afar, and by Fall I found myself in Houston for the campaign.
Beto HQ Houston, Team Dinner, Saturday before Election Day 2018
I'm in this picture somewhere.
If I could pick one word to describe the folk music world, it would be "community." In fact "The Folk Community" is pretty much how everyone describes it, because we are a group that values musical connection and giving our time to causes and supporting each other in times of need. My music doesn't fit neatly into a genre called "folk," but in terms of values and approach, this community of people is my people.
So it was distressing recently to learn some ways in which our community is not living up to its ideals.Read more
That is my neighbor. She's passed through outside my house the last two nights between 5:30 and 6:00 am. She's big and healthy, making the rounds of my neighborhood, which borders the National Forest. My husband decided her name is Betsy. Betsy the mountain lion.
On the wildlife camera near the house and one that points over the back fence, we've also gotten videos of a mama bear and her two almost-grown cubs (one dark, one blonde), foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bunnies, squirrels, a little herd of six deer, bobcats, skunks, some neighbor dogs, our own dog and our two housecats. On one video, a fox comes up and sniffs the nose of a baby deer who is not afraid. The fox leaps away. Fascinating.
Were they all passing through our backyard before we got cameras? Probably.
I've reached an age - 56 - when I can say things like "I've lived here for nearly 35 years." Crazy, but true. After moving a couple dozen times as a kid, I have lived right here for almost 35 years. And in all that time, we've only lost one cat. When our dogs are outside they keep the critters away, and we bring our cats in at night. Mountain lions and bears and foxes don't want to hassle with dogs if they don't have to. It all seems to work out. But still...it's really something to see video of Betsy the lion walking calmly by 30 feet from where I'm sleeping.
It means a lot to me to live on the edge of the forest. It's kind of like being at the beach -- you're at the border of something vast and wild. It's good for my soul. I love that the animals pass through. I love that my neighbors respect them and recognize that we're coexisting in the same community. When I put up posts on our neighborhood facebook page, everyone says stuff like "she's beautiful!" and "I hope she stays safe."
I've posted a couple of critter videos on my instagram if you want to see them.
Ever grow watermelons or cucumbers? If so, you will know what I'm talking about. You go out and look at the vines and there's no fruit. You look the next day and suddenly there's a full size watermelon or a foot long cucumber just sitting there. Where did it come from? Yesterday there was no baby cucumber or wee watermelon, you're sure of it. How did that happen?
Here's my favorite quote about politics:
"I think of voting as a chess move, not a valentine." -- Rebecca Solnit
Once you let go of falling in love with politicians, and think instead of who is strategically most likely to succeed in making your values and goals a reality, life gets so much simpler. You aren't so shocked when politicians compromise, or when they are arrogant or timid or fallible. It takes a certain weird kind of ego to run for office in the first place. A healthy skepticism and an attitude of "what are you likely to do for the issues I care about" is called for.
In love, I recommend giving your whole heart, even if it might be broken. In politics, I don't.Read more
I wrote this in 2009, after I got home from the FAR-West Music Conference. Facebook just reminded me of it. Thought I'd share.
It's a physical thing: kind of down my throat and around my chest. It's a profoundly satisfied, joyous, relaxed-yet-energized feeling. There's humor to it. I feel funnier than usual and pretty and worthy and kind of badass. It happens most often in rehearsal, or, as it did this weekend, at a late night jam. It happens the whole week when I'm recording in Austin with Mark. It involves connecting with other musician(s) in a comfortable, inspired way. I go out on a limb.
My dad was dying. I was driving up to Santa Barbara every day to see him. And we had these crickets in the house. I would look down from my bed and see three or four of the little guys near my closet. They would just appear all of a sudden; I don’t know where they were getting in. They didn’t move much. They just sat there in a small constellation, and in the morning they’d be gone.
My dad died. A few days later, the crickets disappeared.
Picture a warmly lit room. Wood walls. A couple of rugs on the floor. A room that was once a garage in a rural Texas house, on a quiet highway way down south of Austin, on the road to San Antonio. Woods behind.
If a bunch of Colorado hippie musicians move into an old house, and some of them do framing and finish carpentry to pay the bills, a garage looks like a place you could drywall and make a practice room. That's exactly what happens here.
The wall between the garage and the rest of the house is filled with phone books and recording magazines, for soundproofing. Two doors with a gap between them go in at the top of the steps. Frame it, enclose it, paint it.Read more
Though I love The Clash and I can listen all day to Joe Strummer shout about the Sandinistas, in general the records that most affect me are personal. Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Ani DiFranco’s Dilate and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions all tell larger stories: about American economic bleakness in the 80s, or the arc of a doomed relationship, or the struggle to live and love while navigating systemic inequality.
But they do it by getting very personal, either in confessional lyrics or through the use of characters, which humanizes larger issues and makes them relatable. I’m nowhere near as moved by a set of statistics about employment losses in the rust belt caused by outsourcing as I am by a Springsteen song about one dude spiraling into alcoholism and crime after his job disappears.
“Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late last month
Ralph went out lookin' for a job, but he couldn't find none
He came home too drunk from mixin' Tanqueray and wine
He got a gun, shot a night clerk, now they call him Johnny 99”
On top of being emotionally compelling, these albums are all just freaking awesome records. They are catchy and sad and triumphant and musically wonderful.
That’s the bar I’m striving for with my new album. It’s a high bar.