Some people wake up every day and play music (my husband used to have a morning ritual such as this, and I know others who do too). Me…I go for dry patches till I have that one day…that day where I just want to fuck off everything I am supposed to do (interviews, deadlines, editing) and just write a new song.
Weekly band practice doesn’t count. That’s scheduled and it isn’t alone. It's not the same. The days I am talking about are different. I just want to pour myself a glass of wine, go into the backyard, and strum loud and make up gibberish. The last time I did this (see my tipsy no pants banjo video here) I was unnerved by the fact that my neighbors, of “The Loving Home,” poked their heads over the fence to tell me they liked the strange noises I was making. They even clapped between songs. It made me smile, yes…but on days like that I really just want to close the door on humanity altogether. Not because I'm a bitch. Because I am human, and all humans need to detach from time to time. No social media. No to-do list. Not even the faraway sound of a radio from a car driving by.
In other words, some music doesn't need to be heard. When I was a kid, we had a barn at our house in Atascadero. Being in the barn, surrounded by acres of uninhabited land…and playing guitar as loud as I wanted…it steadied me. Just knowing that the nearest neighbor was miles away…it dislodged something from my chest cavity that had been weighing me down. I could leave the barn lighter, moving defiantly toward whatever my destiny was.
The older I got, the more city life I experienced, the less places I found where I could do this. It's easy to get lost in the clutter of everyone else's noise. You can hide yourself within the chaos if you want to. Just because you're in a space where others can hear you doesn't mean they're listening.
I live in the best place on earth to play music where no one will listen. It’s fucking amazing. We have all these nooks and crannies where you can lodge yourself for a few hours, then re-emerge a different person.
Like the swimming hole, near the old Atascadero house. It’s still there (pretty dry) off highway 41, as you are heading toward Morro Bay. Growing up, we just called it the swimming hole, and we’d go down there and splash around in the cool water when the summer temps flared. As a teen, it served as a getaway land. It’s where I took my husband on our first date, and where he took me on our first Valentine’s Day (and he swung on the rope swing almost falling into the water). I once picked up a hitchhiker and decided to stop there en route to our destination. He pulled out some half melted ice-cream from his knapsack and we ate it and felt the sun on our faces. I had my banjo in the trunk of my old Delta 88, so I pulled it out. I would always go there to practice my banjo in silence.
I don’t know where to go anymore. I haven’t played at the swimming hole for at least 4 years. I did go there with my pal Leslie when she visited from LA a few years back…there were teenagers swimming the water, drinking. They asked if we’d ever had whiskey before. When we told them our ages, they couldn’t believe how ancient we were. Why were we hanging out there anyway? We were too old ladies. The swimming hole had been taken over by the next generation. We floated in tubes till the cops arrived—that was enough swimming hole for us.
Now, it seems like a hassle to get in the car and drive till I don’t see people, but I have a sneaking feeling that's not the point. There is probably some lesson here, about finding space within? Maybe I am way off. All I know is that when the "in" needs to come "out," it's an unstoppable force. All rivers flow to the sea. Even dried up ones that are actually swimming holes.