Well, now right NOW is a lot different than NOW just a few weeks ago.
It is terrifying to be a human being on planet earth in this moment. Sometimes I wonder if an unexpected coughing fit is just the high pollen count, or if it is “it.” I take my temperature. I call my Mom. I start making lists of all the yet-unrecorded songs that I must get done.
The first thing on the list is always a good recording of “It’s Raining in the Forest.” Truth.
But in other moments, I feel strangely happy. Of course, I am not happy that people (me included) are scared and suffering, I am not happy that people are sick and dying. But at the same time, is all so interesting. Despite my fear and anxiety, I am deeply curious about what happens next.
The songs of the birds, the warmth of the sun, the whispers of wind in the trees, the waning moon—they are more beautiful than ever. The simple sharing of food with Brian in these times feels precious and sacred.
I feel this happiness and curiosity, even as I know that I am in the high-risk category, being 61 with some chronic lung conditions. Even as I know that this virus could take so many that I love who are elders, before they would have gone pre-virus. My own 91-year old mama (who is doing fine and doesn’t mind the solitude one bit) is very vulnerable. I feel this happiness even as so many I know and don’t know are in crisis, wondering how they will pay bills and feed themselves and their families.
Truth is, something in me loves a shake-up, a res-set, the feeling of “who knows what the hell happens next!” despite all that very real danger and distress. I think I like life best when the raw edges are apparent—birth, death, and extreme crisis bring out the truths.
Who is a kind person and who is a greedy person? Crisis brings it to the surface. Crisis exposes that all our human systems are extremely vulnerable. Crisis exposes that we are not, in fact, in control of much of anything, and that everything constantly changes.
But in this NOW, our illusions of an unchanging and fixed reality are shattered. In this NOW, we all experience the truth of constant change.
Constant change was the only truth all along.
Jordan calls me an “Edge Witch,” a term he got from the Terry Pratchett series of books. (Time to read those!) From what I understand, an Edge Witch is someone who makes magic at the edges.
Edge witchery is what making songs and stories is for me. Finding that unspoken edge and leaning into it. I wrote a song once called Flying Dream, where I was flying with Sila, the Wonderdog. The opening lines are:
It’s not my style to be scared
And I’ll take many a dare
I love to fly in thin air
In my dreams….
We are all flying in thin air right now.
I remember thinking during the 9-11 times: wow, I am going through this tragedy with EVERYONE in my country! Every person with whom I locked eyes in the grocery store, previously a stranger, became a fellow mourner.
But now almost every human on the planet is sharing this terrifying experience with me. Even small children and those with cognitive impairment at least experience the shift in the behavior of others, even if they don’t comprehend what is happening. A tiny virus is exploding into all our lives, defining our every movement and so much of our thoughts.
So more about my NOW:
On Feb 1, just over a month and a half ago, Brian and I got married, so that is pretty new. We had a small ceremony with mainly family here in our home/studio, the Waterwitch Cathedral. So glad we had that moment of gathering and celebration before the Great Separation!
When I first heard of the devastation at the Kirkland, Washington nursing home just 70 miles from Olympia, I figured that this was going to spread fast. I figured I would be out of my bread-and-butter income I had worked to build, singing for elders. One by one, all the places I worked told me that they were not going to be allowing anyone in anymore. These are the most vulnerable adults, and so protecting them became an urgent mandate.
At this point, all nursing homes and assisted living and retirement communities are totally closed to all visitors. The residents of all nursing homes are confined to their rooms. They are cut off from family members, and cannot even see their friends in the nursing home, sharing jokes and tall tales during meal times.
But because a big chunk of my work at one nursing home, Panorama, is one-to-one musical visits, I have many relationships with the residents there besides the group performances. Panorama cancelled all musical performances, including mine, but decided to try something different with me. Since last week, I have been working via Skype and Facetime with the residents there, one by one. So not only do I still have income, I am able to see and connect with these people I have come to love. And I have met some I didn’t know before, and that has been great too. Some of them cry when they see me, and even those with dementia remember me and are loving the sessions. I miss holding their hands and being there in person, but it’s far more effective than I ever would have imagined.
I feel incredibly fortunate, in this time when artists who depend on audiences are suddenly out of work. That includes many of my friends in the music industry. If you still have income, please support the ones you love by contributing to their online concerts, or buying their music. I may have some online shows coming up, but I am so busy doing the Skype work that I haven’t had a chance to figure that out for the time being.
If I get sick of course, things will change. But so far, as of right today, both Brian and I are fine.
My first thought when it seemed I would be losing my work was that I would have time to work on my book describing my encounters with elders and music. Less time than I thought with this work coming my way, but the book is still very much front and center. I have continued to write new pieces, and now the virtual sessions bring out new stories. Once I catch my breath, I will find time to make it a whole piece, and figure out how to get it out there!
Also would like to get some Youtube videos done of the songs that connect with the elders. Some of these are originals, some classics.
One other NOW item:
Right before the Great Separation happened, we started a new band! It’s actually been around since 2015, but we dusted it off and added new members. It’s called Hurley Waldrip. We had started working with cellist Heather Dunn a few months back on Waterwitch. One fine sunny day, Heather brought Tobyn (percussion) and Liz (vocals) out to the Waterwitch Cathedral for a few rehearsals. Jordan joined us on harmonica too. What started as a new incarnation of Waterwitch instead became Hurley Waldrip.
The concept for Hurley was born five years ago around a campfire with Brian and Jordan. We were just singing and playing old time and country blues sorts of songs together, as one does around a campfire. Initially it was a joke, and we all had Hurly names. Brian was “Four Eyed Fats,” I was “Blossom Waldrip” and Jordan was “Hurley J.R.” Hurley Waldrip is road out in Lewis County. We pass this road every time we go into the Big Woods of the Skokomish river or any place on the Olympic Peninsula. So a bit of a winking nod to Sleater Kinney, an alternative band that was named after a road in our area. We played only one show at the time, but it’s always been in the background.
Hurley Waldrip is folk, country blues, and sing alongs, classics and originals. We still need a bass player, but will work on that in the future, after we can meet up again. Brian has been studying the amazing genre of country blues for the past three plus years, so we are weaving in some of those patterns. Originals such as Eloise and Notch in Your Belt and many others will be part of it.
The sing-along piece is also very important—I have learned from my elder work just how pleasurable it is to sing together. It’s a lost practice, or one that people only get in church. But for those of us that don’t go to church, we need more of that connection! Plus, the Youngs do not know songs like “Swing Low” and “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” and these are great songs that need to live on.
After the Great Separation, we WILL debut this band! In the meantime, I’ll have everyone work remotely with the material.
These are challenging times for all of us. I send each of you my love and encouragement and blessings. I hope you stay well and even thrive during this challenging time. Even if I get sick, I wish to live fully with every breath. Love is the answer, and love is all there is.
Thanks to Derek Sivers for the cool idea of a Now page. Click here for more about Now pages.