Mumford stage

If I die tomorrow, I want to come back to this world as a successful musician. I want the gratification of chords strum out of my finger tips, brain and hands in gratifying piebald, surprisingly hypnotizing the audience with the sound of images.

I spoke here  once of my grandfather’s words, that maybe artists are the prophets of our time. I thought it during the Ray LaMontagne concert, and here I am thinking about it now after the Mumford & Sons Concert.

I saw them perform last week: to my eyes, not a single person sat down the entire concert. When they sang, “Love the one you hold…lover of the night,” we felt motivated, filled with more compassion than we walked in with. They sang,  “hold me still, bury my heart next to yours…so give me hope in the darkness so I will see the light,” and we felt hope grow and thrive within our chests, exhaling with understanding.

It’s beautiful how the lyrics of a stranger have the power to tie us together, a community of appreciators at the ready to feel.

Mumford lights

What hit me the strongest is the first song on their newest album, Tompkins Square Park. Last year in New York, I walked through this park. Just as this song title is the carrier of emotive secrets for many, NYC holds bastions of memory under a cloak of summer heat for me.  Last year empowered something warm inside me: the recognition that I am capable of…more.

I’ve spent many years considering myself too plain to create art, a word I’ve idolized in my career. I’ve considered, for myself, art as a beauty to appreciate more than a beauty to create. I’m grateful for the artists and the people in my life today who unknowingly motivate me to see myself capable using words, withy and strewn between the window pane and my palm over so many years, so many experiences. I’m experimenting with new forms of writing outside this writing nook and wondering how malleable my voice is.

In “An Evening with Ray LaMontagne” he talks about his new album and concedes:  “I had no idea at the time it presented itself to me where it all came from or what was trying to be expressed.” In notably humble ways, I feel this is where my small creative quests lately are born. In experimenting with fiction, for instance,  I’m recognizing how fast a story can turn on its own. I observe it like straight fingers on the planchette of a ouija board, wanting one result but completely intrigued by the uninhibited letters directing the outcome.

I’ve always admired fitting, unabashed confidence–from watching it on stage to seeing in the people around me. I have students who refer to themselves as writers, thespians, musicians, but I don’t recall ever feeling I knew myself well enough at 17 to make a such a claim and hope to live up to it.

But as I settle into my 30s in and into my new home, I sense I’m settling into art in a new way and wondering what it bears.


Hanging on the porch, reading with kids

Here’s to all the people out there who’ve always stared out the window, known something about the view was lyrical, and felt a a concert brewing within their own hearts.




Layla playing. Pic taken by Zade

My kids have been getting into a lot of trouble lately, and it’s exhausting. It seems like most conversations involve bartering and logical banter. I think most parents recognize that the only one walking away feeling foolish after trying to create a syllogism with a child is the adult.

My kids will need to pick up their toys when they’re done with them.

Layla and Zade are my kids.

Therefore, Layla and Zade will need to pick up their toys when they’re done with them.

It’s simple, really. But it doesn’t come out this way (if it comes out at all). Right around when I’m telling the kids they can play with blue play dough if they pack it up and put it away, Zade asks, “Where’s the green truck?” I pause and get back to what I was saying, and Layla, who is wearing a cardigan and faux riding boots like a 17-year old, yells over my throaty words as she defends, “But I didn’t put those Legos there. I told Zade to clean them UP!” I sit there wondering how every simple explanation became such a small battle. As I hand Zade the green truck and assuage Layla’s defense for an issue I wasn’t even thinking about, I try to breathe through my frustration.

Zade with hat

There are times I desperately parry with them as their high and higher voices pitch over my rational self. I look like an adult with my bigger body and my title, Mom, but if I were to open up like a new children’s book, one could see a picture of me having a tantrum. I pat myself on the back when I winnow the important stuff, separating the noise from what needs to happen. Mostly, though, I’ve heard the way I sometimes sound to them through the boisterous parroting of my children.

Today while I was cooking, I tuned in.  When Layla got mad at Zade, I heard her express, “Zade! What did I tell you? You’re not listening! I just need some quiet time!” Or when they played with their dolls and action figures together, Zade disciplined Spiderman with a long time-out and a lecture. He told me not to let Spiderman out of the room for five minutes because Spiderman hit his sister with the small toy car.  Their cathartic role play was quite funny as they tested out an authoritative command with such little voices.  I chopped tomatoes for the salad as I listen to them innocently use my models.

If I listen sharply enough, I hear a standard I’m setting with my kids. When I’m just reacting in the best way I can as I put out toddler fires, my kids are unconsciously taking note of my voice inflections, my proud parenting moments, and sometimes (whether I want them to or not) my own interior toddler tantrums. I’m both within and without in these moments, the mom governing and the mom watching from 15 years away.

Kids with umbrella

As the sun went down tonight, the kids played together well again, but soon enough they transitioned to bickering passionately. It wasn’t until they saw that Kal had started the sprinkler outside that they dropped their argument in uniform excitement.  They joined forces and forgot their mommy parody. They dolloped on their shoes and funny accessories and ran through the water, liberated. Together they knew that fun was waiting for them and they were going to reach for it together no matter the temperature or the time. I felt relieved to see the kids move back into their own voices, their own way of being.

I reflect on our feelings so often that a reprieve from seeing a magic mirror of my parent self is definitely welcomed. I am warmed, however, thinking about Layla and Zade’s future jokes about my mannerisms and eventual go-to lecture lines. I know my brother and I certainly share our own about our parents. And the inevitable continues, as our present gives fodder for the future.