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The confrontation

After Michael died, I tucked away the program from his memorial service. It had four pages of full color pictures of him. Every time it would show up, in a file or a pile or a book I had slipped it into, I would tuck it again.

One day last year, it turned up in a pile I was organizing. “I have to stop,” I told myself. I held the picture. Looked at Michael. It had been nearly three years. I liked to remember him alive. His spirit was so vibrant that it seemed…out of place to dwell on the memory of his death.

“Where am I going to put this?” I asked, looking around. One reason I kept tucking it is that I didn’t know where to place it that would not make me get sad or feel awkward when I saw it.

Incidentally, I had recently Feng Shui’d my house. Everything had a place. And the $2,000 came my way 20 minutes after I had swept and reorganized the money corner of the room did not go unnoticed. “I’ll put Michael in the ‘helpful people’ corner,” I decided. I pinned the program to a wall in my bathroom. It had to go somewhere. If I spent time thinking about it, the program would get tucked again.

Call to adventure

Two mornings later the phone rings. It’s Kate. I’m not up yet. She apologizes for calling so early. But she has something to ask me. “Our company is sending someone on the Lilith Tour to report from the road and I think you’d be great. Can you go on tour for the summer with Sarah McLachlan and a bunch of girl bands?”

A little context. I have spent late winter and early spring building a website and new identity for my business. I am two days away–two days!–from launching. A lifetime gypsy, I think, “Maybe this is one of those times when people say ‘No’ to an opportunity because it just doesn’t fit.” And so I say, “Oh, wow, what I wouldn’t have given 10 years ago to do that. I know some fabulous 24-year-olds who would be perfect for this job.”

But before I hang up I say, “Listen, this is an astounding opportunity. Just so that I feel good about my decision, let me call you tonight and tell you my answer.”

She agrees. I hang up the phone. I get out of bed. Go into the bathroom. And what’s the first thing I see when I turn on the light? Michael’s picture. And what’s the first thing I hear on seeing it? “Always go.”

It was Michael’s motto. Got an opportunity to go someplace? “Always go.” Got a venture that sounds wacky but holds water? “Always go.” Someone offering to fly you to Timbuktu to see the flowers in spring time? “Always go.”

I hold my breath. I’m going on a rock and roll tour.

Road love

Several times on the road–with eight adults sharing a narrow travel coach that drove all night to get to the next concert city, sometimes 14 hours away, in which we would build up, host and tear down the concert village in one day–things got challenging. Like, new-challenging, crucible-challenging, mysterious-there-is-no-answer-to-this-lesson challenging. But on the whole, it was beautiful, magical and often mystical.

We eight fell in love. Stars in the eyes, birds tweeting around our heads, fell in love with each other. On days off, we’d arrive at our hotels, part ways, and 20 minutes later be calling each other to see where we were spending the day.

A week in, I observed that our bus captain looked, and even felt familiar. After talking to him one-on-one, I realized that he looked so much like my brother, David, who died when he was 17 and I was 16, that if my grandmother saw him, she would cry. Weirder, he was sweet, he was generous, he was an advocate and a protector of us in a way, and he was a really big dork. All dominant attributes David had had.

And there was Leslie, who shared my birthday, and coincidentally, was born the day after we lost David. Fortunately, I didn’t realize this until after the tour had completed. I might have weirded out so much I couldn’t see straight. As it was, there was a gorgeous generosity in our group. There was space for each of us to learn from each other, space to allow each other foibles and missteps, space to laugh our asses off inside those foibles, and space to grow into this beautiful human experience that surprised each of us.


Fast forward. The tour has about 10 days left till the end. It’s the morning before my birthday.  And I’m angry. Antoine, my work partner and bus mate has pissed me off. We get on the bus from our hotel, ready for a long drive into the US from Canada for the next day’s show, and I can’t shake it. We have practice, Antoine and I. He has told me more than once on this trip that his girlfriends tell him he makes them crazy. And I get it. I use the practice we have and I tell him why he has made me mad. He apologizes. I am appeased. It’s over in five minutes. The bus takes off. And I am still livid.

Livid. “What is up with this anger?” I think. I am simmering in myself, I am so mad I can hardly sit still, let alone talk to anybody. Everyone is peppy with the energy of having had four days off, excited for our next city. “What is wrong with me?”

Howling-raving-aching mad

And then it hits me. It’s the anniversary of my brother’s death. Today. “Okay, but why the anger?” These years later–it has been 23–if it affects me it is usually sadness. I simmer in the anger a little more. I think of Antoine’s innocent, even joyful generosity when he listened to me tell him I was mad at him. I try to sort out the genesis of this feeling. And, like an egg breaking over my head, I get it. It occurs to me that I have never been angry at my brother for leaving me. Out of 20 years of grief and three recent years of pretty whole healing, it had never occurred to me to be angry at my brother for dying and leaving me behind.

The first person I told when my brother died was Audra. She has come to pick us up for summer school class, and when I told her, I remember thinking I had never seen tears pop into someone’s eyes instantly like that before. One second she was driving, the next, we were stopped in the road and tears were spilling down her cheeks.

Sitting on the bus, sorting out my anger, realizing where it was springing from, and feeling it sweep over my body like a tidal wave, tears sprang to my eyes, like Audra’s. My skeleton felt like it was melting. Muscles were going to give out on me. I climbed into my little berth, closed the curtain to make the black, womb-like space that rocked us to sleep each night, and sobbed. Grief and anger and the surprise flow of it all wrapped my body into a coil, and I sobbed and sobbed into my pillow. I screamed at him–into my pillow. I cried angry, searing hot tears. And fell to sleep.


When I drew the curtain hours later, we were crossing the border over Niagra Falls. It was beautiful, vast, legendary. I slipped out of my berth, puffy-faced and spent, carrying this body-density and this spirit-clarity. In a moment, Abbey joined me in the back lounge. She didn’t say anything but her face was kind. And then Jenn joined us. We sat together looking quietly out the window. And then Shanna. Light reflected off the water we were crossing. Trucks carrying produce drove next to us.

The light coming in the window was golden and slanted. The cameras came out for pictures. Conversation came in spurts. Then laughter, then antics. All subdued and sweet. I came to life again. Berthed, re-birthed, crossing a border, re-entering my country, buoyed by golden light and motion and love.

. . . . . . . . . . .

(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar ––>)

Thanks for reading Day 13 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.


What do you give?

November 16, 2010

Since I’ve come home from my long summer, there’s been a whole lot of getting used to my newer, expanded, more grown up self, back in my not-new surroundings. One of those areas is work. Do I still fit in to the same places? What do I give, these days? Right this minute, as I type that very sentence, I get a text from my uber-pal and favorite witness in my life’s travels. She sent a picture. Here, I’ll share it:

In keeping with serendipity, and knees-deep in updating my portfolio, I give you this story, of the day Mary J Blige, Heart, Metric, and Sarah McLachlan played a live soundtrack to this question as it unspooled in me: WHAT DO YOU GIVE?

Moved by music

We step out onto 7th Street, near the entrance of the club Prince made famous in “Purple Rain” and where punk made its mark in Minneapolis. Painted black and covered with big silver stars, we slog past it across the street to the Target Center and even this early in the morning, I can feel pop culture history crackle in the intersection.

On the menu: Tired. Chaos too. Things are not where they’re supposed to be and stage set-up is already cramped for time. Tension high, moods ugly. There’s no coffee yet. It’s too early for this rush.

But then something happens.

Read the rest: “What do you give? Diary of a day on the road with Lilith,” posted originally on ALTER ECO TRAVELS.



October 6, 2010

I’m trying something new: Coming Home.

It’s mathematical. On average, I move cities every year-and-a-half. At the 18-month mark in Portland, I tripped off to the Lilith tour with every intention of coming home. Headed out to cross two nations of cities, people, wide open arms and a summer of adventure…it was like telling an alcoholic sex addicted lover, “Hey, Sugar, there’s a party of boozy high class hookers next door. You go enjoy yourself. I’m calling it a night.”

I went next door with the hookers.

For three months. I leapt into the swirl of a concert tour and traveled around the nation with artists, entrepreneurs, big-hearts and crazies. I stayed up all hours, drank whiskey and wine. Ate sandwiches and drank beer. Let down my guard and let flow the girl that never got out when I was younger, serious, toeing the line of everything right, trying to find myself in diligence.

At the end of the tour, I couldn’t call it the end. I stayed in New York a while. And then a while turned into a month longer than I’d meant to stay. Pretty soon, it’s three months since I’ve left Portland, and New York City, a place I’ve called home before, is stroking my hair, whispering in my ear, cradling me in its morning after, asking me sweetly if I really want to leave.

The answer is transient

Today I walked around the place that I left last June and New York is far away. Yellow blossoms are in a pool under the park trees. People are smiling because they’re just nice here. I rolled over in bed this morning and opened my eyes to gray skies and I smiled too. I’m home. I’m in the moody broody weather of the Northwest. I’m back.

Because I’ve moved so much, I have a history of returning home to a lot of places. The end comes. I prepare to leave and wonder if I should stay longer. I have a similar history with lovers, each time silently asking both the city and the lover some variation of: Are you my mother? Are you the home of my heart? Is it you?

The answer is transient. And so I travel, not aware in the middle of the joy of new places, new faces, new me in new context, that I may just fear stagnation, that my evolutionary brain hasn’t yet got the memo that I’m not a shark in the ocean, I don’t have gills, I don’t have to keep moving to survive. I have lungs, that breathe, and take in the place where I am, adding it to the cells that make me, making my place a part of me.

Breaking down home

My last week away, I went to my original home and shipped my Grandma out of hers. After 33 years in her apartment, we packed her up and sent her 99 year old self to my Dad’s. All the memories on her shelves, and the shelves themselves, got dissembled and crammed into the back of a moving truck. I cried as her friends gathered to say goodbye.

Then I went to the beach. To the primordial soup. I laid in the sand fully clothed and felt the sun push through them. I watched the waves.

Am I home? Where is home? Who is home? I am a patchwork of places.

Things I’ve heard myself say since I’ve been back:

Where do I keep the silverware again?
Where does this road go?
There are three new buildings in my view.
My schedule is open.

Familiar and old and new again

My first morning back, my best friend, Regina, met me for coffee in a new place near her house. We were catching up deep and rich when a song came on overhead that I sang to her at our first parting. We were 23 then. She was going away to grad school. It was her farewell party. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome,” Bob Dylan, covered by Shawn Colvin, sung by me. The only people at the party not crying were she and I, because I asked her before I started to keep it dry so I could make it through the song.

Ten years later, at her wedding, I sang “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” in which lyrics feature prominently the sentiment: home). Also Shawn Colvin, covering a Talking Heads tune.

I’m sensing a theme.  Home is where the people who love you live. For me that’s a lot of places. But right now it’s where Regina lives. It’s where my community is, here in Portland, full of creatives and crazies, greenies and nerds, heartbreak and hope and a whole lot of cute boys. And wilderness. And progressive coolness. And my awesome apartment. And the airport, which reaches anywhere. And I-5, which reaches deep into the belly of my home town in Southern California.

I’m trying something new. I’m returning home.


The Lilith Road

Hello from the road! It’s been an amazing journey. My blog post on Alter Eco today goes deep to tell the richness of what I’m experiencing here, both as a woman, and a supporter of collaborative enterprise, and, you know, MUSIC!

Take a peek.

(P.S. It includes the gorgeous images of David Bergman, the tour photographer. So pretty. You don’t want to miss them.)


6 weeks. 40 cities. And music. Lots of music. Check it out. Road trip revealed.

Road trip revealed: Rock, roll ‘n’ Sarah from AlterEco SF on Vimeo.

I’m going on the Lilith tour. Be part of the action with me!



I’ll be posting videos and pix and playing in conversations every day of the tour, on both twitter and FB.

AND, I have some righteous good video interviews up my sleeve already, with delicious lovelies you twitter-ites tweet about like crazy.

If YOU’RE coming to Lilith and have something to tell the world, come find me in the EcoVillage. Or just post it on FB or Twitter and let the love ride.


Hair did

June 15, 2010

Travel insurance. Check.
Hair dye. Check.
Video announcement. Check.

Announcing the destination TOMORROW! Stay tuned…