I fell asleep early last night, not unlike many of our travel days on tour -except that last night the exhaustion stemmed from shoveling the two feet of snow that fell -sometimes falling so quickly that after we’d finished we had to start all over again (we could have shoveled all day, continuously, but at some point we gave in and retreated indoors, knowing we could not beat it). The exhaustion I was used to was much more exciting…travelling across the country, driving -sometimes for 10 hours on end through West Texas mountains (did you know there were mountains in Texas?), New Mexico and Arizona mesas, sparkling California coastline, long stretches of flat Oklahoma, Tennessee hillside, the beauty and enormity of it all was overwhelming. We’d arrive at our airbnb (people are so beautiful and creative and artistic and generous), find a place to eat, drink a glass of tequila on the rocks, and fall asleep.
But last night it was the snowy tundra that had worn me out and I tried to pretend I was from the desert and I was travelling up North to see what this whole winter thing was about. It was difficult pretending. My perpetually runny nose was back, my five month’s long cough and sore throat, my left elbow arthritis. Everybody says the desert’s dry but I didn’t get a single bloody nose while I was on tour. Day one of being home and my nose started gushing, despite all the pans of water evaporating on the heaters, the wet laundry strung about the house, the humidifier…
I fell asleep early with one ear plug in to keep out the howling of the wind, and the snow -that I imagined was desert sand- being blown at the window panes. When Eric came upstairs from his shower the light was on low and the room took on an orange hue from the street lights out the window trying to light the way beneath the blanket of blizzard. Eric’s red shirt and our red comforter glowed and I relaxed seeing all the orange and red: “Oh, thank goodness we’re back in Arizona,” my sleep brain said “blizzard New York was only just a dream.” For the rest of the night each time I turned over in bed we were driving a different direction in my dreams. Turning on to my right side: we were heading back home, turning on to my left side: back out to the desert. We traversed back and forth across the country five times or more in my sleep, but when I woke up I was home again, and sad. Grateful that we have such a beautiful, magical place to call home, grateful that we have created such a life for ourselves that we can leave for long stretches, (and plan to again)… but sad that this journey was over.
It’s so easy to convince yourself to stay put. For a long time, we had no choice. We couldn’t afford doing much of anything other than buying an extra bottle of cheap wine and pretending we were somewhere else. We’re fortunate that our hard work has been paying off and it helps that we still live like we don’t have much in the bank. Still it took a working vacation to convince us to get back on the road -though we continued to second-guess ourselves even up until the last minute. At some point you’re too far in and it’s too late to turn back, and thank God. Because I can’t think of anything better for body, mind, and spirit than getting out.
Like a lot of people I was feeling burnt out before the election and then afterwards everything just felt like we had to go full-steam-ahead without much steam to rely upon. But traveling from New York to LA and back again, driving across this vast, diverse country of ours…I’m seeing things so much differently, so much more clearly, so much more real. The news we hear comes in snapshots of people, but all these people have lives that move forward just as ours do. I can’t think of a better time to have traveled and I will never forget the people who we met along our journey: the white Michigan transplant to Memphis who was a self-proclaimed racist who we met on the same day we went to the National Civil Rights Museum (which is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated), the Mexican bartender who talked to us about the politics of Pima county Arizona, the Navajo shopkeeper who explained to us which Native art forms are in danger of dying off and why, the white suburban transplant to a southwestern ghost-town with a dollar and a dream, hoping to revive Rt 66, one motel at a time, the black trans-woman we played a show with who handed us a handmade patch of a KKK member getting stabbed, the Sikh store clerk whose back-country customers were rude and who helped us for too long trying to pick out a bottle of mezcal because we showed him a kindness it appeared he hadn’t seen for some time.
I don’t know what we expected when we went out. An America in crisis? An America at war with itself? What we found were people with experiences and thoughts and dreams and hopes and fears -and we all share that in common no matter who we are or where we live.
We met strangers who are now friends. We played music. We studied botany and geography. We were inspired by scents we discovered. It’s going to take a long time for us to digest all of what we found. But we can’t wait to share it with you, bit by magical bit.