Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Day in Paradise

I woke up at 6:00, 6:15, 6:30--you don't have to be a math whiz to figure out the pattern here. It wasn't a restless night; in fact, since I've been on break from school, I've been sleeping pretty well. It's my boyfriend. He sets his alarms to start going off at 6 a.m.--then he got up sometime after 7. This is a typical pattern when I'm up here--the alarms commence their incessant buzzing and beeping, and I try to figure out how to shut them off and eventually give up and rouse him to do it. Usually, I snooze after he leaves, but this morning, I got up with him, too: the time is already getting close to when I need to leave this place and go back to the Cities, where work, my mom, a house, and friends await.

Though the temperature was somewhere between 13 below and 1 above (accounts varied by weather site), I spent some time outside to see the sun rise and get my head around what I wanted/needed to accomplish today. I need to read some more of a book I'll assign my 9th grade classes (haven't read it--and feel bad that I assigned it; so far, A Separate Peace is very lackluster). I need to bake more zucchini bread (I made 3 loaves, but Roger has polished off one and a half of those, with a little help from me--I need to make more so he can give a loaf to people whom he's promised.) I want/need to bead some more jewelry for Sharon's give-away, which will come up all-too-soon.) I need to call my mom, who keeps forgetting that even when I'm in NoDak, I can still receive phone calls that aren't long-distance. I also want to make another good dinner for Roger so he gets back to eating well and not whatever, whenever. I guess I've got a full day ahead of me.

One of my not-so-new New Year's resolutions is to write more. Since I am a high school English teacher by vocation, I read a lot of students' writing--which is a good and bad thing. The worst part of it is that it leaves me little time to settle into my own writing. So I want to write at least one blog each week, even when I'm on the road.

So far, this one is pretty boring. Maybe they all are--I don't know. If you're still reading this, thank you--your perseverance is commendable, your support of my efforts to seduce the muse (via blogging) are charming. I'll stop before the cranial doldrums set in for you--I gotta get crackin', anyway. Love your friends, love your nemeses more...chances are good that they need more love.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Pigs Fly in Calfornia

I've been thinking about my brother a lot lately. Missing him. I always associate this holiday season--the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas--with him; maybe it's because we had our own tradition of breaking the turkey's wishbone. One day, he even showed me how to cheat to always get the larger hunk of the bone...but even with that, I still never won.

Today, I'm also thinking of my October sojourn to California...probably because last night I was telling a friend a little about my recent venture out west, and then I dreamt of driving along the 1 and seeing a beautiful huge eagle with a brilliant white head. But that's all I remember about that dream.

As I was driving back to LAX from Santa Barbara on my last day in CA, I ate breakfast at the first and last remaining Sambo's Restaurant in Santa Barbara and proceeded to drive towards LA. I wanted to stay on the Pacific Coast Highway (the 1), but somehow lost my way for a bit in Port Hueneme, an industrial town. Typical fuckin' Kate...too busy looking around at the scenery to follow the signs. However, thanks to a friendly liquor store owner, I quickly got back on the 1 and followed it through Malibu. I still wasn't ready to get back on that crazy 405 freeway, so I took the Topanga Canyon Road.

Topanga Canyon is beautiful to me--maybe something about the artsy-fartsy, hippie vibe draws me to it, too. It's wedged between Malibu and Hollywood, which I've always thought was interesting--it's almost like an artist-hippie buffer between the gloss of Hollywood and the richies in Malibu. Peacekeepers? Though it's a winding road that cuts from the 1 to the 101 freeway, it's peaceful. There isn't a ton of traffic on it. It's only got two lanes. The houses aren't pressed up against the road in most places. You can still feel the vibe of nature there emanating from the trees at the road's shoulders, despite the proximity to the city.

So I'm driving along, feeling a little blue because I have to leave California but also grateful that I was able to visit her again, and I see this:
A flying pig. My brother and sister-in-law's private joke that we all  associate with my brother. This vision slays me, and I begin to sob as I'm trying to navigate the winding roads and narrow shoulders and feeling guilty because I've slowed down to accommodate my weeping and cars are beginning to accumulate behind me but there is nowhere to pull over. In retrospect, this situation is funny to me--but at the time, not so much. Finally, an oasis appears, and it's no mirage: the Topanga Canyon Overlook, from which you can see the impending doom of cityscape.
It is here where I offer the remainder of my tobacco to the earth, grandfathers, trees, wind, animals, and sky. I feel gratitude afterwards; I was blessed to be able to go to California, and I will be blessed again to return to California the next summer to hike in the mountains, walk along the beach and listen to the ocean, to sleep under the stars while the canyon winds murmur a lullaby. Hopefully, my boyfriend will also be able to accompany me so I can share with him this place to which I refer to as "the epicenter of my soul."

Thank you for reading this. I hope you're having a good day!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ten Days of Young: Day 7

Last spring, someone passed away who was very important to many people. She was the mother of my boyfriend and his sisters and brothers, who are family to me. She was the spiritual advisor to myself and several others who sought her guidance, as she was a gifted woman--the spirits spoke with and through her. She was a lover of animals, in particular, dogs; she is the reason I have the newest addition to the McClure menagerie, Rugrat. Her presence in this world meant a lot to many people, and many of us miss her every day.


It was a shock, as Sharon's health wasn't amazing but it wasn't dire, either. Or it didn't seem to be; we wouldn't have truly known, as she wasn't ever one to complain. I mean that. I never heard her complain, and her daughters said the same of her. Her life wasn't easy, either--a husband and a son left this world about ten years ago, for one thing. There are many more, but I'm not going to spread her hardships all over the internet for public consumption. Please just trust me when I say that her life wasn't easy.

Despite the difficulties, Sharon made her own and others' lives joyous. She celebrated lives in every world, and she loved each and every one of her multitudinous animals. She laughed at movies, sang and danced with a smile on her face, and gave warm hugs. Sharon was one of the most present people I've had the opportunity to meet in this world, with life and love to share for everyone and everything.

That's why her passing is such a loss to many of us. We still look for her. We still cry when we miss her, which is often. We still laugh, though, when we share the memories...and there are many, many good memories.

Left to right: Me, Sharon, Tammy, and Terri

Tammy, one of my best friends, had to say a special "gigawaabaamin" to her mother last night. Sharon didn't want to go, as she loves life. I also imagine that she knew we love and miss her. It's this love that caused Sharon to pause and wait for a few beats. It's hard to send someone away when you selfishly don't want that person to go, even when she or he is going to a place of great beauty, love, and peace. But because Tammy understood what she needed to do for her mother, she was able to do so. She was able to convince Sharon that we'd be all right, that we would see her later.

This song is for Sharon. Thank you. Gigawaabaamin.

"Long May You Run" by Neil Young

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ten Days of Young: Days 3, 4, 5, and 6

Blogging every day is difficult. Sure, I can post some random words on my page for the world to read, but 1) time is sacred for all of us and 2) I don't have something "blog-worthy" to share each day of my existence. Not to mention I'm crazy-busy hacking my way through evaluating the mountain of papers I've assigned (and students have completed, much to my blissful chagrin.)

I've fallen off my cloud of blog. I'll attempt to get caught up.

I've been thinking about what I enjoy about songs and asking myself is there a pattern to my favorite part of them. I've determined that indeed, I do have a favorite aspect: the random interjection.

In Neil Young's song "Cinnamon Girl", my favorite part occurs at 2:10 in the studio version. The interjection is "wooo". Or "whew". I like the ambiguous, random quality to this utterance--it's freewheeling, laid-back, spontaneous. It always makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me laugh. When I'm singing along in my car (and I am a notorious karaoke diva in my car--ask my dogs), I usually let Neil do the singing here, because there's no way I can replicate that tone to do that interjection justice. Amen.

Here's another one: 7:11 in the "Judy Blue Eyes Suite" by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
The interjection here is "oh va, oh va"...or something. Honestly, that whole section of the song, sung in Spanish, is my favorite part because it's so goofy and fun. The whole song is random to me, and that's why it's one of my favorites. I have no idea what exactly the song is supposed to be about, and I'm not interested in looking it up because I just want to appreciate it for it's mood. This is ironic, as the song is one of loneliness but the mood of the music is upbeat. It's as though the person who wrote it found his joy in the process of searching for a source of happiness. That's cool...that's about as deep as I've ever gone trying to figure out that song. Moment over.

Moving on.

I can't think of another Young tune with an interjection in it, so I'll move on to somewhat random words/phrases--Neil's got a plethora of those. In the first line of the song "Pocahontas", Neil sings, "Aurora borealis" (reference :13 below.)
Honestly, who begins a song with a reference to the northern lights in a song? If you answered "Neil Young", you are correct and advance to the bonus round. In the first verse, he paints a picture of the flight and plight of Pocahontas' (and many other American Indians') tribe. After reading Young's autobiography, I now know that Pocahontas was also the name of Neil Young's bus that burned to the ground after an electrical fire. Again, not sure if this is a song about American Indians or Neil's bus...and I don't care. Like the previous two selections, it's the random factor that gets me.

Last one. Really.

Back to interjections with a groove-based tune, "Farmer John."

The line "Farmer John, I'm in love with your daughter" is followed by a "whoa-oh". My favorite part begins at 3:18; in this section, one of the musicians calls out "whoa-oh" and begins a back and forth trade-off with the audience, which carries it forward to the end of the recording. On a somewhat related-but-separate note, I know it's been sung before, but "champagne eyes" is such a beautiful way to describe the color of some people's irises (Van Morrison also sang about champagne eyes in his tune "Sweet Thing"). Have you seen eyes like this? The eyes that are a light-hazel-with-more-light-brown-than-green in them? These eyes seem to shine from the joy (or mirth) bubbling inside them. They're gorgeous.

That concludes this segment of my ten days of Young bloggage. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ten Days of Young: Day 2

I used to listen to the radio and music a lot when I was a kid--thinking about it now, I don't have an early memory that doesn't in some way have music related to it. Playing "The Floor is Poison" while listening to the Beatles' cartoon YELLOW SUBMARINE on our black and white television (yes, it took years before I knew that the cartoon actually had a yellow submarine in it.) Pretending I worked at a fast-food drive thru window with KQRS distorting the speaker of my owl transistor radio (power/volume = left eye, tuning = right eye). Listening for the power on booming pop of our family's radio/record player console as it was turned on, the skip on Jan and Dean's "Heart and Soul" at the beginning (if you're familiar with this song, you can understand how annoying this was.) Roller skating backwards in my neighbor's large paved driveway to John Paul Young's "Love Is In the Air". Everything was infused with music.

Neil Young is one of the artists (a second being Steely Dan) that I remember the most from my childhood, but I have no idea why his music stuck in my mind. "Old Man" was one of my favorite tunes, and I remember singing along to it--I knew the words, but I didn't know what they meant. Probably similar to swearing to me at that age.

I still know the lyrics to the song, even though my age is approaching a dyslexic twenty-four, and there's so much more to living alone in a paradise that makes me think of two.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ten Days of Young: Day 1

Many of you know by now that on the evening of October 17, the day after my 42nd birthday, I'm going to be at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California, listening to Neil Young. That's in ten days. I'll stop rubbing that in everyone's face now.

I haven't posted anything for a while, so I decided I would post (or at least try to post) one of my favorite songs of Neil's every day with a little ditty about what the song means to me. These songs are in no ranking--they will just be the Neil Young songs I have in my head on that particular day.

So here goes: Number 10--"I Am a Child"

Children are amazingly complex in their simplicity and simply amazing in their complexity. I don't have children, but I have friends who do, and when I have a chance to spend some time to spend with them, they show me how to rediscover life's simple pleasures: dancing when a song that moves you comes on (even if it's a commercial jingle), laughing out loud when the dog sticks her butt in your face, crying when you need something but you don't yet have the words to ask for it, hugging just because you feel like hugging...the list goes on and on. This unfiltered perspective doesn't last long enough for most of us, and it's good that we have little people to remind us to state the simple truth and ask the tough questions as we try to navigate our paths through this lifetime.

Friday, July 27, 2012


There are a lot of songs about going home--I realized this when making the most recent long jaunt from the Twin Cities to North Dakota. Last year, I joined the 21st century and bought an iPod--best purchase EVER! The thing holds tons of music, and every time I make the pilgrimage to see my boyfriend and other friends, I put some new tunes on it.

Last month when I went up north, I loaded up with Neil Young. He's got this song, "Country Home", that brought tears to my eyes; the lyrics read,

I'm thankful for my country home
It gives me peace of mind
Somewhere I can walk alone
And leave myself behind.

At the moment, that was my truth. I get tired from living amongst so many people, few of whom will look at each other and smile, and feeling overwhelmed by the chaos. I need a breather. I'm grateful for those I know it North Dakota because they make me feel at home, and I can relax and begin to see life for what it is: living. Not working, not worrying, not running--although all of these are facets of life. It's tiring to feel like this is all one does in a space, and it's a blessing to have a place to get away from it all.

When we speak on the phone, my friends in NoDak ask when I'll be coming home. The first time I heard this, I had to pause--and broke out in the biggest grin. Home. Yes, I do consider North Dakota my home. As my boyfriend reminds me, "Home is where the heart is." My heart is in the Twin Cities--with my mother, family, and friends--and up north, with my boyfriend and other friends. Another place I am home is amongst the trees near the ocean in CA, but I haven't been to that home for many years. I'll have an opportunity this summer when I go out to see Neil Young perform at the Hollywood Bowl and take a few days to hike/camp along the coast.

So for this jaunt, I've loaded up with Jim Croce, whose biography (written by his wife) I just finished. This time, I may be leaning against the road's shoulder, awash with tears. This will be one of the last trips of the year I'll be able to make.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let The Sun Shine In

I love summer. Not just because it's warm and I'm not working as hard as I do during the school year (but still working--ask most teachers about the idea of summer's off), but because I get to "do me." I spend at least a week or two trying to remember what exactly I do when I "do me", but slowly and surely, I pick it up again. And then some, because there's too much to do and know in this lifetime and only so much time to attempt the futile task of understanding it all.

After my brother died a couple of years ago, I went numb. I went through the motions of living--and even managed to fall in love--but failed to remember to do me. And here I sit, two years later feeling burned out and unsure of how to recharge myself so I can continue to give what I have to offer to others. Maybe those things are connected, maybe I'm overthinking--I don't know. What I do know is that this last year I came close to a breaking point...and I wasn't going to surrender so easily.

So I remembered one of my primary passions: music. Last summer, I became obsessed with the music of Ray LaMontagne and wanted to know where he came up with his material. A lot of it is actually poetry. So I listened to everything of his I could manage to find and did some research on his life (but didn't come up with much, because the man is very, very private and reclusive.) In any case, I saw him live at the Basilica Block Party last year and wept almost the entire time--his music spoke to me that much. His music struck that "chord" in me.

This summer, I've moved on...or backwards...or something. Now I'm obsessed with Neil Young's music. I've listened to Neil Young's HARVEST recording for years then phased into HARVEST MOON a couple of years ago. Last summer while driving the gravel from Portal to Northgate, I heard a radio special on Canadian musicians, and of course he was featured. The song they chose to play was "Harvest", off the recording by the same name. It's been on my informal Bucket List to see Neil Young perform live before he packs it in and buys a pickup and drives it down to L.A. Lo and behold, he will perform at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. on the day after my birthday, and I'm going! I'm on a Neil Young binge now, but it feels like I'm going to need to double-time this foxtrot because he's been recording for longer than I've been living.

What I've been thinking about is how music can heal a person, how others' stories in songs/poetry can cull our ethos and begin to make us feel whole again. Maybe when I was so into Ray LaMontagne's music, I was feeling around the dark corners for the soft, sore spots of my psyche. Now, with Neil Young, perhaps I'm beginning to wonder and be curious again.
Or maybe they're just both really good musicians and I'm overthinking the "why" and not focusing on the "what" enough. Why, whatever is that? Oh, yeah--that's me.