From January to September, the light lasts a little longer each day.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Is This What You Really Want?
Lately, the tides have broken. I am washed into a new existence, and I truly don't even remember where the shore went. I feel very out in the open - exposed. Like a misshapen naked man in a dream full of his old classmates and teachers. I have, in many ways, lost my old bearings and the map before is new and different and wild and bizarre.
Having a child is a thing of inexplicable beauty - a thing of thankfulness and ultimate, deep, rich, colour-soaked joy. But it is also a test of every part of you. If there were ever any doubts about your character or your sticktoitiveness or your sheer ability to get things done, having a child will boil the bones of you over a flashpoint gas fire.
But once you push past the ghastly ghouls of your slacker past, and beat down your desire to sip fruity drinks by a pool all day and rake in residual cheques, there is a real and pure beauty.
There is a deep resounding joy. You see this tiny person, who was somehow/magically brought into the world by you and your significant other, start to grow. You see her change, and you watch as the innocent corners of her lips start to form a smile - and her eyes follow and widen. You hear her start to test her vocal chords and stretch coos into longer noises that are both cacaphonic and otherworldly. A baby really breaks the ethereal plane of who you are - who you used to be - and who you are going to be. Your consciousness is horse-kicked to the ceiling of the only room you've ever known, and then blasted 10 floors upward - breaking through layers upon layers of the insulation, framing and steel of your being.
And something strange also starts happening in other facets of your being; you start to understand your parents. The worry, the stress, the late nights, the concern - everything becomes less about you and more about your child.
Never has a song been more real to me than when I started listening to Sonic Highways by the Foos. I haven't loved everything Grohl and crew have put out over the years, but I've dug most of it - but when I heard I Am A River, it came out in the wake of knowing that Jillian was pregnant, and it chunked a resonant chord deep within my catacombs. When that riffy, strummy, feathery part starts at the apex, it gives me chills.
We grow up thinking that we are it - that the world begins and ends with us and us alone. There is no before and no after. But there is no greater wrecking ball to that thought than having a child of your own. You grow, and you change, and you watch this child change with you - and there is an epiphany and a fear that comes with knowing that we are really just vessels. We pass things on - and we leave. Not only did Jillian give birth to a being that will most likely outlast and outlive me, but this thing could also maybe/possibly one day give birth to another being of its own. Now THAT is some serious shit.
I am truly a river.
May the beauty and joy and fear and everything wash over me.
There have been comings and goings and runnings and walkings and christmas stockings. My life has been a run on sentence for months now, with little punctuation, and a lack of clear, concise thought.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that that is just the way these things go.
And by these things, I am, of course, referring to my recent departure down the road of parenthood.
I am a father.
Wow. Just typing those words gives so much sonorousness to their end effect.
This past Christmas season, everything changed in my life. And I truly mean everything. Words have more meaning. The minutes have more use than they ever have, and the seconds speed by in a firework post-smoke pop, more so than they ever have.
A tiny bundle of joy has joined the life of me and my glorious partner. While traveling somehow out of me, to conjoin and blossom in the body of my partner, who carried her around for nearly 9 long, arduous, joyous months, she shot out after many hours in a godlike moment of wonder and terror and joy. To see a child pulled and pushed out of a human being is an experience that is unlike anything else. You feel like you are watching a primordial ritual of sorts - something that a mortal should not be allowed to watch. Almost like ancient spirits pulling an animal out of a rock. It's beyond surreal. And I'd highly recommend it to anyone with the right amount of love and patience.
We lived on a precipice, and now, we are on the other side. We have reached a different level in the video game of life, and in doing so - we have unlocked many more beautiful, eye-jewelled levels to come. And we bash on through them together. And now, we are in the sweet, interesting, and sometimes painfully long hereafter. This state of being involves a lot of testing. A lot of movement testing and soft-shush therapy happens. It's the way. Sleep. Change diapers. Feed. Repeat. And somewhere in there, we do the same things (just without diapers...for now, anyways).
Thank you, God. Thank you, world. Thank you, Life. For all of it.
Tonight is a night of solemn November sanctuary. It's a night of finding the verbal vibe. Recovering the lyrical laminar flow that Gord Downie spoke so passionately about in the 1995 Heksenketel vhs video that my brother owned. I hope you can forgive me, reader.
I've been vacant for a while in the department of detonative words. My word-wick has been trimmed, snuffed, shortened and even dampened by life circumstances.
In short, I just simply haven't had the fucking time. I worked all summer. All fall. With maybe two/three days off scattered here and there (and that's being generous), I scoured. I burned the midnight oil. I dug deep.
Since early May, my life has been on a beautiful collision course of change, joy, panic, bewilderment, elation and ultimate thankfulness. I don't know where the sleeps have gone. Road-rubber-trails burned between Ottawa and Haliburton. Sleepy kisses. Morning americanos. Sticky cups in cup holders. Fumbling for change. Grunty drives with a car full of sticky kegs. Bread. Product pitches. Lead-boots on the pedal down Mitch Owens towards Boundary Road. One car down and one gained. Crazy backwoods Quebec festivals with metal-meathook pierced humans in the heat of midsummer. Veggie chilli. Late night lugtreads. But before I get into that...
In early May, I scored a cool, unique job with a local craft beer company. This was right around the time I trucked across the country in the Blue Butte with Ali McCormick (as her traveling sideshow guitarist) and her uber-unique partner Will (master of the roadwitch). And about 7 months prior, I had found new love with someone who, at the time, was a partner I had come to deeply admire. Now, though, many moons away from that strange and fateful early summer month, she is my only partner. My only world. A spoken understanding at Christmas in a dark, upstairs night in the pine-woods-laden dwelling of her parents cemented the everything of us. My partner for life. Or at least, we hope and dream and plan towards the idea of that being the case! And many events have led us to believe that is the case. As the glorious lady of light and I were living in a strange Manotick apartment, and I was running ragged all over the Ottawa valley region to set up counters and serve beer for this company to the pandering wherewithal of thirsty oglers, another opportunity surfaced for me to get deeper into the beer company. The distribution side presented itself to me, and I placed a hook in an acquaintance, and I took the line to the boat and jumped in. But it didn't work out.
It's not my deal.
And that's really alright. It is. As I move further to background, I see the beauty of Beau's for what it is, now - a young, burgeoning, green company with a lot of excited employees who are passionate about community and their solid, organic products that are pretty damned tasty and bring people together. Make no mistake - I will continue to promote and consume their products.
But I've taken on a new opportunity - here in my hometown of the Otown. The cradle of the 613. One that uses my skills and seems to be the right fit.
Yes. Another opportunity, yet again. The shifting sands of the job-life of Matthew McKechnie have altered yet a-fucking-gain. Life doesn't get easier at 40, folks. You truck on. But this one is close to home - close to family, and just maybe, it's one that I avoided for a long time. And one that I feared out of finality and longevity.
And that's that.
And though the road will wind itself through thickets of regret, sadness, and even embitterment, it's easy to get pulled down those safe and enticing pathways. Sure - I've got some bones to pick, as we all do - but in the end, bones end up in a graveyard. And anyone picking through graveyards has to have a few screws loose!
In a comedy special last year, Bill Burr talked about his religious background and touched on the notion of 'walking away' and 'letting go' of religion. He spoke fiery words of hellfire into a microphone, mimicking an amalgam of pastors - as he made the motion of the microphone getting further away, and the speaker becoming more muffled and distant.
He did this to illustrate the concept of letting religion go to find the better part of himself.
I'm letting go. I'm moving on.
Yet again. It's a pattern that I'm getting used to, and sometimes worried about - but it's a pattern that has saved and rejuvenated me many times, nonetheless.
When we settle, we settle with the dust. Settling looks different for everyone - there is no key. No navigational tool. No legend on the map. May you find what your settlement looks like, and avoid it at all costs.
I'm excited to be closer to my family, and to crack open the sky of this coming dawn.
I remember sitting at the waterfront with fellow staffers many moons ago, as a late teen, at Camp IAWAH. One of them was a lifeguard/waterfront head named Graham Thompson (who went by the camp name of Huck) and he was a few years my eld. It was about this time of year in 1994 or so, and the wind was really picking up and cutting through the elms and maples along the shoreline and we were wearing long sleeve shirts for the first time all season. He commented on the wind, as Wolfe Lake sported a few caps out in the middle. He said something to the effect of "ya feel that? That wind in the trees? That's the beginning - the beginning of the end of summer." I got a good song out of that.
In my 39th summer as a human, there's something more metaphysical about this time of year. It seems to be symbolic of the rapid changes we go through, and the hyper-vivid images of our lives that project in the skies all too quickly over the treetops of our memories. While the dead heat of summer causes us to slow down, the late August wind picking up reminds us that nothing stays the same. We grow up. We get older. We work more. We let grudges go a little quicker. We feel pain in parts of our bodies that we didn't know existed.
These days, I work a lot, I move fast and I rarely stay still. I work a lot for a craft beer company, and when I'm not doing that (which is almost never), I'm in a zone of stasis or movement. I'm not able to put the time in cultivating and fostering friendships that I would like - but that's for a good reason. I'm growing something. I'm building something. I'm lucky to have found a gorgeous partner who understands my shortcomings and who accepts me as I am - but who sees the best in me on a sun-earth-moon gravitational basis. We are not the same person, and it's not always easy and it takes a few scary conversations to find the destination, but we always get there.
This summer has been a sea of humid smoke, product based conversations and shucked empty 50 litre kegs. I have been by the water of Otter and Stormy on a few occasions, but I have been on the ground. Dukin' it. Carrying the loads. Doin' it. And doin' it (fairly) well.
The fall is coming friends. The seasons don't stop. Friends might fade. Relationships may alter. But don't deny love. Let it poke its leafy head through your sidewalk heart. Stock up on what matters to you. Don't let the winds of rumours or regret avert your mighty ship. I must remember that as well.
Sitting here in a Saskatoon Starbucks on a beautiful June day, I know that I'm lucky. I do. Once again, I have hit the hammerhead cross-Can trail to serve as a hired gun for Ali McCormick, and to play a few of my own tunes along the way. Touring is a strange beast. I remember the first real tour I went on was with Joel Plaskett across Middle-Ontario as a social media video guy in 2010. I remember thinking that every town seemed so bright and different, and that it was a bit circus-y and wild, but I was in love with all of it. Every moment. Every venue. Every smell in every room. Every joke in the car.
A few tours later, both as a video guy and a musician, I feel a little differently about the big, bad beast of Touring with a capital snaggletooth T. It's a bear. It really is - and you don't even realize how tired you are until you sit somewhere. The adrenaline you gain from playing gives you a shot of superhumanity, but that few hours of power is counteracted by the stasis of the road. The waiting. The smell of a stale car and multiple people sleep-breathing. And even after you've packed and re-packed the car, there is never...NEVER...enough legroom. You notice the idiosyncrasies of your fellow travelers like you never have before - and it all gets a bit squirrely at times. But after you do it, you feel like you've been through something. You've cut your teeth on some kind of life test, and you form bonds that connect to the fibres of your very being.
I've been thinking more about existence more than I ever have in the last many months, and the endurance marathon that we all run in the wild, scuttling, careening ride of this life. And man - I have been through some shit! I have been through some dark nights of anxiety and worry and unrest. Struggle. Hardship. Brokenness. Divorce. Deaths - some young, some old - but all of them uniquely difficult.
And I'm also lucky to have been through the weird social dramas I've been through. Friend break-ups. Rumours. Gossip mills. People going their separate ways and allowing bitterness and negativity to run their anger machines. It's unfortunate that those passive-aggro cellar dwellers don't understand that if they don't do the work, and don't have the balls to awkwardly and nervously and PERSONALLY confront people in life, when shit gets weird, they are going to rot their existences away in a bitter exile. Because it will always be their worldview that wins - and 10 times out 10, the fault will never lay with them. The world will be against them. And it's sad. And you miss those people. And it sucks to have circular, cyclical conversations with those people, but it's the unfortunate road that some may take. Patterns are hard to break.
But I'm here - and lucky for all of it. To have been through those lulls and hurts and blows and lows - and to really be in a position to appreciate when things are alright - at least for the moment.
And I'm lucky to miss someone. Man, am I ever. And to somehow have digitally stumbled into the best person I have come across in this life, who is ready to embrace me and be embraced back when I get home after 12 days of travel is an amazing thought. I want to spend a day smelling her face and hair. It's tough to step in the bucket, and really commit to that fastball when it comes down the pipe. Nobody wants to swing hard and miss. But when we do take that step down the baseline, and take a massive cut - and we connect with that pitch - the result is pretty otherworldly. J and I are not waiting for anyone or any timeline - we are truly building a life together. And it's pretty damn brilliant.
The weeks have turned into comets, and the days into shooting stars. Effervescent flicks of light spit and spark across the sky of my yearning, and I continue to push on. I stretch for the hoop of meaning, and my right arm back to dunk my soul as hard as I possibly can - but I am here.
In mid air. Frozen. But slightly hovering. Inching closer to the precipice of the rim.
As I sit here, in the hallowed halls of my dad's tax office, I realize that my past few 2-3 years have been more full of life-experience than the previous 13.
Drivin'. Traveling. Lumbering. Taxing. Musicking. Truckin'. Workin' like a fiend. I have less time to write than I ever did. I am happy, and I sleep soundly most nights. I rise early and I try to hit the sheets the same way. And I have a companion who has brought me more joy than I've ever known with another person - and that is no bullshit offering, right there. Yes - it is scary to make that public, but this life is too unpredictable and far too short to leave actual, true love undeclared. And I truly do declare that I am very much in love with JM.
But enough with the feels.
On a more mortal note, never, in my 39 year existence, have I been more aware of the fact that I'm going to die.
But that may be a good thing - track with me, here.
I've been thinking about guarantees - like the ones that car dealerships are always offering on TV or radio (especially these days). But there always seem to be a million tiny loopholes and opt-outs that allow the onus to always be on the buyer. We are the buyers. The dealers disappear faster than bullets. And so I ask - what guarantees are really real? Because when you get right to the base of the issue - past the empty ashes of the burning fire - what guarantees do ANY of us truly have?
You have a great job with excellent benefits and salary? You could get fired.
You're a picture of health? You could get sick.
You've carved out a nice little life on a mountainside ranch? You will die.
But beyond that chilling, empty, ghost-shell of a thought, there is meat. There is substance. And so many telling and valid colour-rich hyper-vivid moments are just waiting to be uncovered by us.
Once you get to that somewhat horrific and jarring realization that there are absolutely no guarantees in this life, you can start to do the real work. You see people for who they are. You worry less about pleasing everyone and take care of number one (you). You become more present in your focus. Fully emerged into a conversation and actions. You can really love others around you - with reckless abandon - and say the things you've always wanted to say. And maybe - just maybe - we can be calm enough to quell all of the voices and yearn and connect with a higher power, or something beyond ourselves.
Or maybe not.
But at the very least, once you pass that realization, you can be truly 'shit-less' in the 'giving' department - and you can just be you.
I'm trying to get there. And I feel like I'm closer than I've ever been.
The weeks have turned into months. The spring is basically here and the winter is almost dewy dust in the rainy wind, but there is still a sliver of March left. I've been barreling through. Playing shows. Working long hours. And above all, planting and finding seeds of love and moving to a new tiny town with a beautiful compadre. I am lucky. And blessed. This lady that I have found is the best companion that I've found so far in my journey, and blasts any past competitors into the atmosphere.
A few weeks back, I took a trip with my lady to see some great people at a lake that I love. We talked by the fire. We sized up the night and the night did the same to us. It was a frozen moment of contemplation.
More and more, I'm surrounding myself with friends who have done the work on both themselves and the friendships I have with them. In doing that, I'm also separating myself from drama and chaos and cyclical negative self-fulfilling prophecies. In life, it's hard to break ties with people who mean a lot to you. It just is. Some of us have an easier time of snapping the roots and shaking the soil, but some of us worry about the comfort of that warm but terrible dirt.
But to make progress, especially in my own life, I've always had to simplify the formula when there are too many voices.
I want to continue on my path. I'm gaining commitment. And dedication. And creative speed. I'm playing more and more music and gaining the tiniest glint of a glowing musical reputation. I don't need to alter my step or make lateral movements to appease anybody. I'm loving. And living.
And on this near end of March day, I wish the best for you.
I used to rip the words off in machine gun fire succession. Leaving smoking shells of phrase-turns and captured cliches all over the floor of this blog. These days, I haven't been writing as much. Life has been busy - but in a good way. Maybe this blog has a lifespan and maybe...just maybe...its coming to an end.
Maybe my words will re emerge in a different way. It's a tiring endeavour to be gut cutting truthful in every post.
It's been a while, crocodiles. What's the scoop on the old oak stoop? I've been runnin' and gunnin'. Breaking backboards like Chocolate Thunder. Jammin east coast west coast funk dunks like JR Ryder. Doing what I do. I just put all of that lovely picture down my greasy gullet, and I feel like a million ducats. I feel like Scrooge McDuck in a bathtub of gold coins.
Since my last post, much has changed - and yet, so much is still the same. I went through the bowels of a pretty gross and disturbing friend drama that made me lose some serious trust, but with distance from that twisted storm, I've taken stock in who the true blue people of my life really are. I've been working. Laying boards down. Picking boards up. Straight binnin' and winnin'. Stirring dust around in the cauldron of a massive farm truck. Making ends meet.
I've been booking shows - with me and Ali McGee (McCormick). What a wild musical ride I've been on with this friend for almost a year now, and I'm so thankful for every morsel of it. Every tangential drip drop. And the ocean of drops to come.
But beyond all of that, I've been building a love. A love with someone who has challenged and encouraged and brightened me to the core. I know that four months is maybe early to say that, but the truth has a way of trumping cultural relationship timetables. Our tracks were running separate, and both personally in the direction of betterment and fulfilment and now, they are truly entwined. Like iron wire farm fences. Getting more and more weathered and tested with every season we enter into together. She is truly the embodiment of 'something else'. A curveball of mystic proportions that makes you smile with tears at the thought of her. And I'm ready. Ready for whatever comes. Armed with four chords and the truth.
In this ever fleeting life, we are nothing if we don't evaluate. Stop. Breathe. Through the nostrils. Give thanks. Look up. Feel the taste and texture of dry brown bread, and say 'thank you' for the chance to put fuel in your tank.
When I was a kid, I spent long patches of summers with Aunt Jody and Uncle John. It was at an empty neighbouring cottage in Grand Rapids (where my brother and I stayed) that I first purchased and discovered Paul's Boutique on a yellow cassette and blew my pubescent preteen rapper mind. Jody is my mom's cool older sister, and has always had a bit more of a daring sense of humour than my mom. She has always had a boisterous laugh, and a wide eyed stare that would accompany the chuckle that was her way of saying "I'm enjoying this moment".
I had a conversation with my aunt tonight. Currently, my mom's only sibling is going through a few different stages of chemo. With cancer in her blood, and some recent blood clots in her lungs, she is in a strange and uncharted area. But in a text message convo tonight, it was evident that she is thankful - thankful that her numbers are where they are and that she can KEEP doing chemo.
Thankful...just to keep doing chemo. And I guess all of this triggers a question:
What do you want your life to look like?
In the midst of this truth-filled eve, I've realized that so many other so-called stressors and out-of-the-blue head spinning jabs are small potatoes in the wake of this truth. When we hide from the darkness and the sadness that so evidently surrounds us, and don't let it fully hit us, we get stuck in webs of bullshit and deceit and immaturity. l know who I am and I know what I've been through, and the real enduring friends in this life have listened to me through therapeutic sessions of release, anguish, regret, forgiveness, joy and ecstatic struggle. And they know me. And they know when I am wrong, and that I am man enough to come forward and willingly say that I fucked up. And I have. And I'll do it again.
In the end, much like John Candy's character in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Del Griffith), I often repeat the mantra in my mind and let the reality of it resound: "I like me". And if you don't, well...there's not too much I can do about that. I am continually changing, morphing, and adapting - but those who are stagnant can find my life to be offensive. Sometimes I have rough days. Sometimes, I struggle. Sometimes, I just want to be left alone. And I'm ultimately okay with that. And my friends who know and love me are okay with that too.
But there is nothing you can do to change the perception of others. It's an act of negative progress - a running back pushing hard against four defensive linemen who are double his size. It's boring.
But fret not - because an outside view of me, however tainted, is part of your journey. It's really okay. You might paint me in a certain light or have a desire to vilify me, or make me feel bad, or evil, or mould me into your punching bag for your untapped aggression. Sometimes, people will even make things up to try and sully my character.
It's a pattern. I've seen it before. I've lived thirty nine years on this spinning ball of mud. I may be flawed in my own way, but I'm getting harder and harder to fool. I see through you.
But don't worry. I can take it.
Just try to learn from it.
"All I can do is be me - whoever that is" - Bob Dylan
The escapades of this life are sometimes not artful. They don't illicit thought provoking reactions and art house moments of sublime contemplation. They are, sometimes, only about motion.
These last 6 months have been about that for me - maybe more so than ever. Clearing out cobwebs of dissatisfaction. Simplifying. Smalling the big. Making sure that I have what I need in the blink of a mouse fart to be alright. Dwelling less on impossibility. Opening my heart to the new road.
I'm sitting in a diner near the industrial region of Carling road, taking everything in. Letting the sun from the coldest day of winter wash in on to the faded shit green-brown old world pattern carpet around me. My stomach is full of road house eggs and grease, and my soul is eager. Eager to see what's next. But also eager just to be here and smell the flowers of the moment. And my smile is creeping outward - thanks to the beauty of a bright and hilarious fellow traveler.
I think when people get unsatisfactory results in their lives, their expectations are unrealistic. They are focused on the next move. The next thing. Or they are so hung up on past pain and can't bear to imagine a reality without that horrific but familiar comfort. They are absentee landlords in the beautiful cityscape loft of existence. Being happy should never be about the arrival - it should be about the love of the journey. The road. The ride. The roll of the dice. Seeing where the day takes you. The smallest victories. The smelly air vent clanking on at my mechanics. The first blue sky in many grey winter days.
I'm at a crucial point of existence where people close to me are going through many spiritual and real dilemmas. I'm seeing decisions getting made. I'm watching roads as they are being built and foundations as they are forming.
There are zero guarantees in this life. I once heard the zany Steve-O of Jackass on a Bryan Callen podcast say that 'As humans, the only universal thing we want to do is survive - but the only guarantee we have is that we won't'. Smart words from a man who climbed over an alligator pit on a tight wire with raw chicken in his underwear.
Patti Smith fills up a wintry afternoon and reminds me of the passion that so many lose - we become drones marching on, in thoughtless trudging, towards our end.
May your Sriracha breakfast arrive however it needs to today.
I've been crawling into the catacombs of old Country music for some time now, and I don't see that trend ending anytime soon. Yeah, there are some obvious family ties and old world connections that draw me into that open-plained, mysterious realm, but I think the main reason why I love these tunes is the complete willingness to tackle sadness and struggle head on. I picked up Kris Kristofferson's Border Lord for 5 shekels in my neighbour town of Merrickville the other day, as my friend Tony Arsenault chatted very cordially with me from behind the cash counter. I don't see that guy often, but Tony always has some positivity and a genuine smile to share. He has always been that way - even since he was a visor-wearing, young kid in my cabin at IAWAH with a penchant for Drama.
What an album BL is - I mean, everything I know about KK has always been fairly complimentary, but wow. This record is blowing my mind. Recurring themes of shadows and forgotten characters. The sadness. The intrigue. The honesty. And the artwork. A song like 'Somebody Nobody Knows' sets you back in your steps with lines like - Alone in a barroom a young girl is sitting And smiling at nothing at all And she stares now and then at the eyes of the men In the mirror that hangs on the wall
She's waiting for someone and knowing there's no one Who cares if she comes or she goes Just a soul in the shadows the world never sees She's somebody nobody knows
Someone no one's ever known Crying where no one can hear Somebody's dying aloneIn a city where nobody cares
You can't help but be drawn in, because the cover and a song like that make you realize something:
Those eyes have seen things.
The more and more I live, and the more air I draw into my lungs, I see suffering in this world. Pain. Agony. Depression. Loneliness. Young Death. It's apparent and it's an obvious undercurrent beneath the streets of our busy lives - like the evil slime in Ghostbusters 2. We all sort of know it's there, but we draw away from it. We jerk the wheel, and pull on to the side street to try and avoid it, but the main drag is still ready for our weary tires. I just found out news from a friend, who I used to spend a fair amount of time with - and that news is that his wife has ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with it at the ripe age of 26. Twenty fucking Six. God. I saw a picture of her online beside him, and she looked so different, and so frail, and I felt so sick inside. So helpless.
What do we do with that? What does he do? What do they do?
And I get worried when I don't swallow my food properly. Or when my right hand takes a little bit longer to get warm than my left hand. Fuck. This life is so fleeting, and if we don't make every moment count, and take stock of what we have, and count the reasons why we are lucky and blessed, we are going to get trampled by the bull rush when the suffering comes. We will look around at every potential opportunity with a glass half-empty attitude, and we will wonder why we don't have more. We will pour out our unguided, misdirected hatred on to others without looking inward first.
I'm going to try to live out what I can while I can. Celebrate more. Pray more. Laugh more. And let the sadness come when it comes, and just be there for those who I love.
I wish the same for you, friends. Count your blessings. Suffer along those who suffer. Laugh when laughter is needed, and cry when crying is accepted.
Tonight, on an early December afternoon, I took a moment to stop the schedule and just write. Let my thoughts out on the loose. Into the wild, untethered winter air. There's been a lot going on, friends - and I don't just mean in my life, but in the lives of so many around the hurting globe that it's humbling to think of it all and try and pay homage to the horror and the beauty in my meager, oft-short-falling words.
This season is an insane one for me. I don't stop. I jag. I move. I take side roads. I choose the short path. I get to where I need to be and I go.
There's a million ways to look at this life. Maybe even more than that. To some, it's a blessing. They pop out from birth into wet, frightening humanhood with a smile and Jiminy Cricket attitude. They pump their fists and say 'oddsmakers be damned', and they forge their path.
To others, this life is the infidel, and from day one - whether it is imagined or real - this life is a curse. It's a constant virus that stays dormant in the lungs of your consciousness. They see enemies. They see others wanting what they want, and they compete and they scratch and they claw and make backwards progress - like a running back trying to fight off four linemen twice his size.
I hate guns. I always have. Sure, I've played with pellet guns with a few friends for country shits and giggles, but anytime an unsafe ness was felt, those injury machines got holstered.
When I see all of the beauty around me, I find it so hard and so maddening and so motherfucking unfair that people who I don't even know - music loving people much like me - were slain by the bullets of automatic weaponry.
There is enough shit in this world without cowards who open fire on rooms of unsuspecting souls. Cancer. Famine. Depression. Anxiety. Suicide.
From these hellish moments, our existence will indicate how we move forward. We will either look to blame others, or we will look inward. And we might even drop the blame - like a smoking gun from another timeline that we've willfully chosen to forget about.
I don't know much, but I know that you need to know what you have. And where you have it. And to let the gratitude wash over you like a late day winter sunset that pinks up a cold blue sky into a technicolor explosion of warmth and memory. And yes - there will be fog. There will be hurt. And more hard times. And even probably more guns. But hopefully, we can move through the fog - and take on the unknown with a reckless abandon that says 'fuck the unknown and all of the hidden gun toting fear mongers, because they will not get me'.
And hell, I may have found someone to move through the fog with. We might even dance right through it.
In any case, I just felt the need to let my pen bleed. Let's push on, and blow up the clock and the hate-bank and find the real currency.
It doesn't have to be meaningful, or text-filled, or brimming with symbolism and metaphoric wizardry.
Sometimes, the words just need to come. Simply. Easily. Without structure. We need to slow down and realize that the work will get done. We take a lot on, and we try and bear through and push ourselves to impossible heights. We stretch ourselves thin. Like not enough peanut butter over too much bread. We don't take the time to rest.
I think sometimes I feel anxious in order to become aware in a heightened fashion - and because I need to zone in, in such an intense and comfortable way, just to know that there is more shit happening on this globular mud mass than Matt's feelings and experiences. I feel bad for friends in need. Friends who are suffering. Family members with pain in their bodies. And in their hearts. Members of our communities who don't get to have a release point. People getting shot. By pieces of gunpowder and metal and glass.
Anxiety is a fickle bitch. It's never on time. It doesn't give you warning. It's like a flakey soul who shows up last minute and dominates a conversation.
As I sip a fresh brewed caffeinated beverage at my dad's office in Ottawa, I need to remember that I have a lot to be thankful for. I really do. I've lived a full life to this point, and like Olden, I have done the things. The sun cascades in and falls on the client chairs in my dad's chamber, and I realize that in a very real way, this life is not really mine. I can do what I want to do with the time that I have, but it will all end. It will all come down.
I can't leave this vessel, until I leave it in a way that no one has come back to write about.
The great beyond.
I'm somewhat scared, but I have to believe that it's pretty great. I think somedays that I'll be able to have a sticky bun with my Grandpa, and hear him chuckle so deeply, and ask him about the stories that involved his brother being involved with the Al Capone mafia. I also wonder if I can share a ginger ale with my grandma, and talk with her about all of the people she entertained at her beautiful canal-side Glebe, open-door house. Maybe I'll ask Jay about what songs he's been working on, and share a smoke and talk about our mutual friends from Halifax. And then I'd make sure to say hey to Tommy, even though I don't know him, to say hi for the many I know and love that miss him, and take a knee while he told me some wild detailed stories. And I can fill Dale in on all of the Beau's beers that have surfaced lately (as he was a big fan of his hometown brew) and all of the great movies that have come out since he's been gone, but how his choices are probably still the best. And I'll go find Farley. And Bukowski. And S. Thompson. And Candy. And Cash. And we'll have a steak dinner and some fine cognac. And we can laugh raspily through cigarette coughs.
Winter is on its way. May you and I and all of us take the time to look in, and to look out.
It's not a state that I love talking about, because I am a pretty social and fairly positive person, but I've been entering the waters of extreme loneliness lately. Venturing out into a new town, and finding a new place to hang your coat and hat seems easy enough for a road warrior - but after all the chaos and excited friends welcoming me and moving boxes and the trips and the coffees and sleeping halfway between Ottawa and Kemptville, I've been forced to spend a lot of time alone. With just me. And the dark autumn nights. Autumn is a season that I know is important for my being - but it also represents the oncoming change. The hunkering down. The dealing.
Maybe it has to do with the seasons but at times, even when I'm in big groups, I can be on a distant island in my mind. I relate to that Matt Mays song so well. Physically close but so far away from the joy that is taking place around me. I can some days even feel like a prisoner in my own body. I've been acutely aware of my own consciousness - almost to a fault. Every action and reaction becomes internally analyzed. I ask myself why I perform the most basic human functions. Like laugh. Or ask dumb questions. Or pretend to hear someone when I didn't. Or smile.
I've had days where I feel like all I want to do is cry and be held. For a few hours. And not in a romantic way. Just by someone. Anyone. Anyone who is warm and who cares and is there to say that they are with me and proud of what I'm doing with my life and that we all go through the low tides before the sea breaks.
I think I'm just tired out and a bit run down on many levels. I need a break. I'm in a spiritual funk. I need a soul massage. I'm unguided and melancholy. I miss my grandma. She always had a way of listening to me and seeing the real me. I feel a tad lost. And it's okay to be where I am, and to admit that. We all have our own shit, and it's okay to admit it.
Because I'm entering adulthood. And maybe I've been here for a while and I didn't realize it. And I've been around long enough to know that happiness is not a switch. Real happiness is a state that comes to those who truly struggle and wrestle and fight.
Hey. I've been thinkin'. Workin'. Movin'. Shakin'. Doin' many things 'cept writin'. Okay - enough with the backwoods 1840's prospector-speak.
These past few weeks and months have been interesting ones. I've been islanding myself a little more than usual. And as the late-day darkness of latter day Autumn has started to move in, I've found myself looking inward for answers. I guess I've been going through a bit of a ditch - my engine is working and I'm moving onward, but I'm not really asking the questions. Getting dumped is never easy - and that's something I experienced recently. I felt like I had met someone who I could see getting serious with, and it seemed like that sentiment was mutual on both sides. She met my wild variety of friends and my immediate family, and just when it seemed like we were headed somewhere, the carpet of emotive-comfort was ripped out from under me and I found myself ass-over-tea-kettle after a phone call from hell.
I believe I have a pretty strong propensity to love others. I'd even go so far as to say that my ability to love is greater than most. And I'm talking about the all-accepting, prodigal son, weepy love. This type of love has almost nothing to do with romance. It's purely based in a surfery 'c'mon man! I don't care if you killed people! Bring it in for a hug! We all need hugs!' type of love. I know that's a bold claim, but I know it's true. I have a pretty innate sense of acceptance and open arms with my friends and family, and it has been a saving-grace quality in my life - and it's something I do to never earn favour. And in today's society, that is so quick to label genuine, selfless acts of kindness as 'creepy', my love-powers can sometimes make people uncomfortable.
I've never been one to paint myself with the genius brush (although it seems like something most geniuses do - because if they are, in fact, geniuses, wouldn't the self-proclamation be almost redundant and often accidental? in a sort of 'oh sorry - didn't you KNOW that I'm a genius?' type-way?) My book smarts have always been just alright - passable. Par. I believe that my ability to get good marks was there, but my lack of genius with books always lay in my ability to apply myself. For better or for worse, in my teens, I realized that whether you receive either all A+'s or all C-'s all your life, once you're an adult, it doesn't make one fucking iota of difference towards your identity or even your economic stability.
But where I do believe I may be somewhat close to the genius spectrum is in my street smarts - and more precisely in my ability to read people. People-study is something I've always been fascinated with, and something I'm fairly confident with. It's an inborn skillset, and something I just know how to do. You may not know it, but I study you. I listen. I adapt. I watch. I've studied people for almost 40 years. As someone who craves being liked, and is heavily addicted to that mainline drug, I can whiff when someone does or doesn't like me within seconds of an introduction. Their body language. Eye movements. And I know what to say, and when to say it. When to bullshit and when to tell the truth.
But it is exactly because of this strange, alien-like gift that I can sometimes use my people-reading power for evil purposes - and a handful of times in my life, when I've been really mad at or wronged by someone, instead of beaming out that patient, all-powerful, otherworldly love, I move into a dark mode. A mode of absolution, payback and revenge. And this isn't your average run of the mill 'FUCK YOU JERK!' and run away crying type of mode. No, no. Make no mistake. I know exactly what to say, and when to say it, and how to say it - and how to stick a red hot poker of demonic, deathful harm into the core of a soul of a friend or a loved one, and utterly break them. And for a moment, in the tiniest corner of my being, I feel a small sense of joy from getting them back in a way that they will NEVER forget. In fact, this very act happened recently, with someone I care for deeply, and the thought of the words and the way in which I chose to hurt this person makes my skin crawl. It's actually making my face hot, in this very moment.
But even a day or two after that dark cloud of my actions has passed, for all of the momentary relief and sinister joy that I feel from wilting the roots of my wrongdoer - have I ever continued to feel good for doing what I did and saying what I've said? Absolutely not. Never. FUCK no. It's never worth it. Never ever. The damage. The regret. The uphill work I need to go through to even get back to level ground with the receiver of my silver-tongued devilish words is always mountainous and treacherous. And never easy to navigate.
I hope that none of you ever see this side of me. It's only a side that has reared its warted, monstrous head with a few people, but when it has happened, it has often shipwrecked any hopeful vessel of connection. And I'm sure that as some of you who may have a similar dark side can attest, these person-pulping words are never said to someone on the periphery. Nope. They are always said to someone who is very important to us. Someone who we need. And to be honest, as I usher out the end of my 30's, I don't know why that side of me is there. I don't come from a bad home. I have glorious friends and an incredible family of delightful people in my corner. Why do we do the horrible, awful things we do? And make no mistake - I'm aware that this side of me is a problem. I'm not excusing any of it. But Sam Jackson's hitman character in Pulp Fiction states, 'I'm tryin' - I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd'.
I'd say that's me, in a nutshell. Trying. I don't claim to have any answers or to be perfect, but perhaps as I move forward in my writing, I can venture to be a little more honest.
There's something about the cool, calming tones of fall that make me a little more reflective and reflexive all at once. The days don't seem as intense. People just sort of start to wilt and wither into their sweaters, heavier threads, beds, comforters and extra hot cups of caffeinated bevvy's. Friends don't try as much to get together - everyone just sort of soaks in the dying rays and then departs for their respective lodges. Quilts are knitted. Darker beers are drank. Meats are smoked and dried. Leaves become colour-molten. Blitzen Trapper is played at medium volume, and the sunsets get a little more grapefruity with every afternoon commute.
I've been seeing friends fade further away. Close ones. Not so close ones. The hiders are hiding. And I'm still traveling the same paths I always wander down. Making mistakes. Skinning my knees. Being the sometimes kind, sometimes dickish me.
In the midst of all of that imagery barrage, I've been working. Clocking hours. Writing songs. But in a way, I've been in a weird semi-autopilot mode. And honestly, that may not be a bad thing. I can remember the days where everything was all too ultravivid all the time, and that can be an unbearable hotbed of intensity. It's great, and it's poignant when you sail through the storm, but the storm itself can suck the wind out of your soul. I haven't been thinking all that much about the big picture, or what 'the big picture' even means. I've just been pushing on. Through change. Through new discoveries. Through intimacy. Through connection. Through pay checks. Through pint glasses. Through windshields. Through meals. Through sleeps. Through rearviews. Through guitar strings. Somehow, the summer is gone and September is soon to quickly follow at the smoke of August's heels.
I'm going through something. That's for sure. I'm not even sure what it is, or exactly what it looks like, but it's certainly centred towards pushing on. Making projects happen. Punching clocks. Trying to make bank. For what, I'm not exactly sure, but just trying to make hay. Storing up for winter. Something like that. And yeah - trying to make peace.
And I really haven't been feeling like writing. For anything or anyone - and that includes myself. Even before writing something today, I did a million things before I finally sat down and started letting the words out. They've been caged animals inside me, and I'm not exactly sure what they will look like, or what trails they scamper down in the forest of my mind. I guess I stopped the one-blog-a-day campaign back while I was on tour across Canada, and since then, I haven't really had a moment to think. But I suppose that there have been a few moments of clarity - while stirring a massive truck filled with poplar, cedar and pine shavings, like a massive cauldron of hamster beds, I've been thinking about friends and family who are no longer with us - the departed. The ones that went with age. With grace. And the ones that went too young and too soon and with a lot of unanswered questions. And I think briefly about what that means. And how maybe - just maybe, I can glean a sliver-frag of an important part of being human.
And maybe it's about keeping the peace...and saying the things you need to say before your ship sails away.
Because they are gone. No longer here. They can say nothing. And we can say nothing to them. And we are here - pushing on. Trying to find the keys to the doorways in our minds. Struggling. Persevering. Searching. We want to say the things that never got said, and swearand the words shoot into the air like toy cap guns. A quick, short bang that does nothing. Momentarily sounded off, and then smoked out in the atmosphere.
As sad and as hard as it is to accept, we have no control over the choices of others. People are fucked, and they constantly fuck up and fuck over the lives of our friends, loved ones - and us. The most we can do is make peace with what we have in this very fleeting moment, and be okay with that. Every minute of every day, we are learning to let go - even though we don't realize that it's happening. I've been wronged - oh, have I ever. And I have also been the wronger. Nothing is perfect and everything is fragmented. And gawdam - some of these grudges and monuments of rage we hold, and the problems that we see as massive are so fucking small in the grand scheme. What's the point? Some bully hit you? Some parent left? Some past moments of passion? What are we holding on to? And by no means am I saying 'GET OVER IT NOW!' because that would be inanely stupid. Movements and overtures take time. But maybe a new step or a new thought is the first building block towards something better. Something peaceful. If we let the anger take us, the puss-filled, insecticide spewing anger wins. Every time. But if we let the cool, tugging sea of forgiveness wash over us and pull us into the tide of acceptance, forgiveness wins - and maybe kindness can reign.
And here, on this fall Monday afternoon, I stare into the sky and wonder if my words even mean anything. But I'm thankful I pushed myself to write. Maybe I'm talking to no one, or mostly just myself. Whatever the case, I am trying. I'm pushing. Pushing for peace. And forgiveness. And love. And self-acceptance. And if nothing else, I hope that's something I can leave in the vapour-trail of the mustard burp of my existence.
Whenever I try too hard to control or push or augment, everything comes out wrong. The colours run and bleed off the page. I finally have some moments to think and pull together the quilt of the past few months.
I think my desire to tour across Canada again came from an inborn desire to keep pushing. Keep moving. Keep creating. Keep gettin' er done. Keep making hay while the sun shines. But sometimes, we need to take inventory of all our efforts and see what barns they've been stored inside.
Today, I find myself in a place where most writers would curse, but where I somehow find peace - a mall food court. Bags of plastic materialism, echoing baby cries and fake ceramic backsplash create a buffer between myself and the world. I'm finally having a moment to sit and think and take an inward gaze. A moment I haven't allowed myself for a while.
I think at times, I allow myself to get too busy with projects to really take stock in all that surrounds me. I get away from the thankfulness and I teeter on the side of desire and productivity, and I feel like I always need to be doing more. I can get irritable easily during these times, and I probably don't explain myself that well to others. I just expect people to blindly understand. I think about homeless folks, who either cross my path or just in my subconscious, and I wish I would push myself to do more to help. But I roll up the car window and pass by and explain away the reasons why I don't. I've always had an inkling towards social justice and getting more active in that regard, but I come home from work and would rather drink a beer and watch something light and amusing on YouTube and 'take the edge off'.
Regardless - we are all hypocrites in one way or another. I'm reminded of Louis CK. - And I realize that even by writing the above paragraph, it makes me even appear more fake-saintly than most - not because
I actually did anything - but just for even thinking about helping people. Just for having the thought. Man. I can be a real dick!
I'm looking forward to the fall. I think as we get older, the summer is a time of frustration and unfulfilled dreams because we are reminded that we are not young anymore. The days of youth are a pathway that disappears behind us as we walk further down the winding forest trail of existence.
I'm looking forward to letting friendships and family relations breathe and twist and grow like the elm leaves in the deep woods of autumn.
I'm looking forward to being more active - both physically and communally and creatively. I'm looking forward to long walks in the damp leaves with a new, smiling companion.
I'm looking forward to an upcoming festival that has become one of those strange distant families - it's a collective of folks who I would have never seen myself get tied to, but somehow, and over many years, I am a small part of that colourful patchwork fabric.
I'm looking forward to getting closer to a another family of mine that has become very prominent in my life. The Kemptville Krew. They have all added much spice to an otherwise bland existence, and I'm thankful for each of them in their unique artistry and kind welcoming hearts.
I'm looking forward to a new and unwritten chapter in the story of me, and for another spin around the sun.
Thanks for being along for the ride. I hope I can be there with you in your story too.
Time is a sped past car window. I can't get a grasp on it. It's sand in my fingers. My days are full and I can barely keep up. Sleep beckons. Caffeine stimulates. I get behind the wheel and hop between country towns and paying jobs. Music plays.
I'm happy but I'm wistful. I miss the past but I yearn for the future. I think a lot about those who are gone and the changes relationships of the ones who are still here. The years augment the faces of the ones we used to take comfort in.
I'm moving to a new stage and I'm happy to see how that's taking shape. New angels and aliens have come down from up high. I get tired of being the listener and so I'm moving into a new role as the doer. Skip on across the memory pond.
I'm gettin' older - and gettin' better with time / And rhyme after rhyme, I'm gonna get mine /
Hustlers gotta hustle.
For everything in life, there is a season. Every friendship has a duration. Every relationship has a time limit. We may not be done with friends when friends are done with us. Or vice versa.
I've been bar-down, pedal-down for months now. I still haven't really unpacked my brain from the colossal cross-country music trip that I experienced. I've been playing music like mad and climbing all over the fretboard and leaving ink entrails all over my songbook. And I haven't stopped. And I continue to go.
I try to climb into bed at the same time. I get up really early. I check the lumber inventory of a truck. I check it again. And then I check it a third time. And then I criss-cross and careen all over the city and countryside of the Valley like an unpredictable and loud, deflated balloon. Typing in this forum seems like an exercise of futility, and yet, I still make myself do it once in a while. Obviously, I've fallen off the wagon of my intent to blog every day this year, but hey - we all need to fall off wagons once in a while.
We all need to taste the dirt of our shortcomings and cut our lips on the cold, hard ground of the unforgiving world. It's alright.
I used to take solace in the simple things in life. And to an extent, I think I still do, but I'm caught in a cycle. I can remember getting a Steady B tape when I was a kid, and I marvelled at it. His beats. His lyrical flow. His black and white pin stripe outfit. And even now, I see his point - Hustlers gotta hustle. There is no time to slack. We need to make our lives, and get busy building the structures that support our dreams.
I still don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but as I get older, and I continue to hustle, and fight against the slackerdom of my youth, I realize that at the absolute minimum - at least I'm figuring out what I don't want.
And although I believe in being reckless and daring to take a risk, I no longer want to be surrounded by people who are reckless with their emotions. And by reckless, I mean so self-focused that they are blind to the ripple effect of their actions upon the shores of their loved ones. No matter the age. Or the experience level. It's not fair to me. And it's not fair to them. It's not fair to anyone.
“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
It's early. Quiet. The birds have barely started their songs and I find myself wide awake on a morning where I should be enjoying the last embers of precious sleep before I hit the lumber yard for another day of upside-downery.
At the start of the year, I set out to write more. I set out to let the words out, and to loose them from the cage of my being on to the wild, sprawling pages of life. In some ways, I've failed in that endeavour. I know I've been busy, and blah blah blah, touring, blah blah blah, working full time, and more blah-dom, but that's no excuse. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I'm convinced that when I'm doing it often, it makes me a better person.
While bending my back amidst the many stacks of western red cedar and pine and cherry and maple, I've had a lot of time to think. At times, I find myself thinking of friendship and evaluating exactly what that word means. Sure - friends should be accepting, and understanding and always loving, but there has to be an edge to that cliff. Otherwise, we run the risk of continually putting ourselves in harm's way.
If someone continually makes specific plans and fleshes out dreams for you to be involved with, but then backs out...is that really a friend? Sure - we all have different paths and different roads to hoe - but enough is enough. After a while, you can only feel like a fool who keeps getting duped and falling for tricks for so long until you lash out.
I'm pissed off. I've got a screwdriver stuck in my soul. If I want to get vocal on my personal page about the things that bother me, but I feel censored, where else can I turn?
So much of this life is a waiting game. We wait. We tell ourselves that we are not going to, but we do anyways - because we believe that something good is coming down the pipe. We create projects. We look forward to shit. We make plans. We psyche ourselves up. And then, boom - the letdown comes. And that is true in so many ways. Not just in lost friends, but in everything. Disease. Lost love. Heartache. Suffering.
The hard truth is that we are only here for a flicker of a flame, and we can only outlast the wind for so long.
Yes - love should be free. I know that all too well. But sometimes, love needs to be tough, and this is one of those revelational moments.
Hey friendly, empty, scary interweb world. I haven't had a moment to sit and type since returning from the tour, and frankly, I've been avoiding it. But tonight, I'm forcing the words out like a rusty knife against an old tin can of soup. Upon my flight home, leaving the glorious, mountainous, summery beauty of Victoria BC, I've been hittin' it hard. As per usual. Go go go. My story. I got home on a Thursday, and played two festival gigs within 48 hours of landing (on the Saturday and Sunday). On Tuesday, I started full-time at the lumber yard to help them replace an injured driver and co-worker. Since then, I've seen Plaskett in Montreal with my awesome friend Paul, ate some unearthly Thai food, and played a show in Kingston and another two in Ottawa and Perth with Ali. What a glorious moment it was for me to see Plaskett and the lads rip Montreal a new rock-folk asshole. Damnit. It was emotional. When I played live in Calgary with Ali, one of my best friends and fave people ever Amanda was watching him live in Victoria and kept leaving voicemails and sending texts from the show - so my phone kept buzzing in my pocket while I was on stage. But I knew what was going on. And it made me happy. And she sent me a pic of them meeting. A fabulous songwriter beside another fabulous songwriter. And - to just be a fan and friend of the guy, and to be mentioned in the album credits of the record, and to have listened to it a few times across the country, and then to see the songs live for the first time. Wow. I had to choke back the head water.
What a strange mental trip it was to take so long, and wind my way across this beautiful, mystical, far-reaching country with my musical cohort Ali McCormick in a car for nearly three weeks of travel - and to then jump in a metal tube and magically appear in Toronto in 4 and a bit hours. In a way, I never really got to decompress the vacuum-package of the whole tour experience. Fuck. There's so much that went down. Laughter. Love. Tears. Hugs. Fear. Reconnection. Anxiety. New friends. Zombie-esque road vision. Stasis while waiting to play. Roadside pisses. Beautiful but dragging, triple-threat 8 hour drives in Northern Ontario. Cabbage rolls at the Apollo in T-bay. Dancing dudes in Brandon, Manitoba. Getting my first openly hit-on-by-a-man experience (forgot about that one!) and a violinist's studio apartment. Cruising to Tofino with my lovely friend Mand who I've sorely missed, and then the two of us eating, laughing, playing banjo and guitar and writing tunes on a massive rock on a deserted beach. Strange ladies and demanding soundchecks for empty rooms. Strange arm sensations. Weird trays of dry popcorn. Duncan warmth. Deep sleeps in a dark basement. Inside jokes galore. Guitar. Lugging my fuck-heavy amp around like a brick of a stubborn child. Loplops pizza. Beer with Trevor in Winnipeg. Twin Butte glory. Amazing microbrews, food, beds and Godsent blessed friendship and reception with Mac and Lin and young Nolan in Saskatoon. Jody and Rob and Lucas always making me feel like a welcome friend in their wild Calgary homestead.
And now - back in my familiar bedroom, I don't know what I've learned, to be honest. I think a trek of that magnitude takes some time to dissect. Some nights I still wake up confused, and think I'm in someone's strange bedroom somewhere in Alberta.
To be totally truthful, I wasn't even sure I wanted to do it in the beginning. I thought about all the reasons why I shouldn't. I have an active mind, and I tend to explore all the things that could go Wrong before I think of all of the Right that absolutely always rears its leafy head through the sidewalks of life. But I told Ali one night, in a bit of a stupor, that I didn't want her to let me back out. And if I tried to, to not let me do that. I thank God she didn't.
But I suppose that's a bit of a Robert Frost-y moment for me, in that I have always tried to take the road less traveled. Even when it scares the shit out of me. Even when I feel like I should maybe be trying to start a family. Or getting a real job.
No one will ever take the risk for you. You have to step through the darkened doorway all by yourself.
I've been listening to a lot of Steve Poltz. He's been a bit of a guiding light for me - especially his albums Traveling and Unraveling. What a master songsmith. I love the fact that I'm fairly active in music and in my late thirties, I can still be so inspired by others. Mo Kenney has been in there too, and the new Brandon Flowers. What a boring crag of a life it would be to always feel like you know it all.
And yeah - we have to do the things we need to do. The cake and ice cream can't go on forever. But the memories of them do. I'm so in love with all of it. May it stretch out for you and I like every open, rugged, ethereal prairie mile in the middle of this country.
I don't know if I can explain life any more clearly than this; it's here and gone. We don't know how anything will ever turn out. Our expectations and dreams often fall by the harsh wayside of the chaotic tides - but there is a real beauty and a deep satisfaction in letting go and allowing the mystery of it to wash over you, and be baptized in it.
I've been blessed in this life. To miss someone and to be reunited is a special thing. It brings closure and a look forward, a long whiff of the present tense, and a healthy look back to weigh the long, rainy flight of experience. So much of life is wondering - worrying - hoping - pining. But when we cross the threshold of the actual, something magical happens. Something beyond words or description. Our ears become deaf and our eyes become blind. All we can do is feel and touch and be overcome.
I'm lucky and I'm blessed and I'm charmed in many ways. I'm on a beautiful island with wildflowers and mountains and peaks and majestic oceansides and tropical weather. I knew that setting out on this journey would change me in one way or another. When Ali McCormick approached me many months ago to go on tour with her, I didn't know in what way I would be changed, or in what way I would be altered, but I knew it would happen somehow. You can't help but be changed by something as substantial as a trip like this.
If anything, this trek across the rocky crags, prairies and mountain expanses of our glorious country that we stand on guard for has shown me that love is not dead; it's alive and well. And it lives in the unexpected kindness of strangers. The smile of a new friend. Pouring your guts out to an empty room in a foreign city. A Sault Ste Marie soundman taking you into his home for food and lodging for the night. Old friends and shiny, whooping supportive hearts in Cowtown. Lovely owners and sumptuous food-purveyors in the stark, beautiful badlands of Twin Butte. And believing that love can still be ignited in your once calloused heart.
I've missed my friend Amanda more than I've missed anyone in a long while. Seeing her has been a beautiful thing. She is a part of my community, and a big chunk of why I love a certain region of this so much. When you've gone through things together, and have moved the past the stage of bullshit and you cut to the core, there are moments where looks, laughs, gestures and facial movements can occur, and no talking needs to happen. Understanding takes place and the flowers of your souls just slightly wilt, and bend with the breeze.
But let's be clear - love is a jargon, buzz-cliche word that gets thrown out in the trash of our hashtagged insta-happy, insta-feel-good lives. But if you truly love someone, there must be an understanding of freedom - and freedom is not easy. It's uncharted. It's difficult. It's putting judgment aside and letting the soul breathe. It's allowing someone to be as happy as they can possibly be with or without you in their immediate vicinity. It lets the child go on the bike with a heavy heart. It says goodbye when it would rather stay an extra day. But it always waits, and it always welcomes the prodigal son home with open arms in the middle of the street - no matter what trouble he has been into.
I think what I see in Amanda is a small piece of myself - and that many have learned or have had to do the same with me, as I am not an easy person to love. I'm brash. I'm passionate. I change plans. I go where the wind takes me. But the people who mean the most to me have been the ones to stand behind me, and accept that my strange, adventurous, anxious, unique view of life is what brings me joy. And I love those people for who they are. And a crowning beauty of the venture is the knowing that a home awaits with you family and friends who are ready to celebrate your return. Damnit all to hell - the view of this life is really quite something if you let yourself see it.