There is a blocked, irritated mass of muscles between the ribs on my right side. They are trying to hold things together while while my left side sags beneath the immense weight of my heart.
When I lie down, sometimes it feels as though a lead ball is resting on top of my chest. In the mornings I wonder about my ability to rise, to attend to the usual chores, work projects, exercise, music practice.
But then I realize that if I don’t get up, the lead weight will get heavier and heavier, like an alarmingly fat cat settling in for a long nap on top of me. And maybe I will suffocate under the overweight sadness.
When I get out of bed, and I set up our meditation cushions, when I read to Addison and ring the bell, when I play through a few of our songs in preparation for the upcoming show, the weight is more like a koala bear, hanging on to me from the inside, wrapped around my heart and pulling it down. It’s still heavy, but I can walk around. I can talk to people, make jokes with cashiers, edit newsletters.
And I wonder this: how can I be so heavy, while there is such a big part of me missing? My daughter lived her whole life inside of me, and then she left. When it was time for her to emerge, she refused the calling.
I was her universe.
And I was her death bed.
She was my greatest hope
And now… my greatest sorrow
And my greatest love.
A few months ago, during a set break at one of our last Austin shows, an acquaintance who was attending the performance came over to talk with me. She asked how I was doing. “How are you really doing?” she demanded.
If someone seems to truly want to know how I am doing, than I naturally respond with honesty. “Well…” I began. “It’s been hard. We’re grieving our daughter. I’ve been really sad.”
“Hey,” she said. “You’ve got to go on with your lives. You’ve got to be happy again. You can always have another baby.”
I stared at her.
You can always have another baby.
She kept talking, and it was all of the wrong things. I didn’t ask her to stop. I didn’t ask her to go away. I wish I had been able to.
I will never replace Chickadee. I know this with dead certainty.
She is not like a pet that died, or a collectible item that was stolen.
I may have other children, and they will be themselves, and I will love them for it.
A woman who I have befriended here in Colorado also lost her daughter at birth. It was 40 years ago, and yet whenever we speak of it, tears fill her eyes. She will never forget her baby girl.
Chickadee died on November 15th, 2016. She was born on November 16th, 2016.
As her death and birth anniversary approach, I hope that you will remember her. Maybe you can light a candle for us, or send a prayer. Maybe you can do a good deed on her behalf.
And if you feel inspired to send a note, a card, or whatever, you can mail it to:
520 North Sherwood Street, #26, Fort Collins, CO 80521
We will accept any and all of the love that you are able to offer, with deep gratitude.
P.S. Don’t forget you can preorder the “Chickadee” album here:
I’ve been considering an age-old topic, a cliche question that perhaps musicians dislike being asked:
Why do we play music?
The question of “why we play music” can be grouped amongst the other fathomless questions such as…
Why is the sky blue?
Why does everybody die?
What is the meaning of life?
To assume that we can do any justice to any of these topics by trying to answer the question, is to perhaps assume too much of ourselves. 😉
But then again, what is the point of being human if we don’t get to sit around sipping fermented beverages and discussing ponderous concepts?
So grab your beverage of choice and pull up a chair!
…and imagine a time before we had electricity and internet, before we could watch movies and stream music endlessly via Spotify and Pandora (for scandalously low prices I might add, considering that musicians such as us only receive something like 0.005 cents per song-play on a site like Spotify… but I digress ;-).
I imagine that back then, before we could listen to music without the musicians themselves being present, we must have placed tremendous value on the person who would come sit by our hearth and tell us stories from faraway lands, or play us songs about the human predicament: love, death, hope, fear, desire.
We could listen to them and enter a trancelike state, gazing into the fire, and be transported above everyday life–the rigors and the doldrums–to a place of the imagination, a mysterious realm that songs can take us to, where we find solace for our unspoken pain, inspiration to carry on, or simply a moment’s respite from our belabored thoughts.
We were able to travel, to go on adventures, right from our homes. And the wandering bard who showed up in our village was our traveling guide.
Even now, you know that you are witnessing a pure conduit of music when you sit down in front of a musician (or musicians) and forget who and where you are as the music pours over you.
Even Pandora can’t always accomplish that.
And as musicians, this is what we aspire to… transporting our beloved audience into a timeless realm, holding space for them as they travel to a place where healing, joy and inspiration are all possible.
This is one of the best reasons I can give you for why we play music. 🙂
P.S. And if you’ve never had The Love Sprockets take you on a musical journey, it’s about time you experienced us firsthand:
Do you remember your first time discussing the all-important topic: ‘Am I going to have kids or not’?
I believe my first embarkment on the topic of this important life decision was when I was 9 years old, playing tag with my little brother and our two friends in the courtyard of a 3 story, marble and granite house in the heart of Mysore, India.
Our families had moved to India a few months earlier from Efland, North Carolina, and we were sharing the space of this house that, by most Indians’ standards, was no less than a mansion. The courtyard at the base of the house was fenced in, and although we could see traffic moving past and people walking by, we were separated from it all by walls and gates.
There was plenty of space for the 4 of us to scamper about, and as we darted back and forth, we were able to discuss–though somewhat breathlessly–the prospect of children in our adult futures.
Vraja, the twin brother of my best friend Tarini, asked me, “So do you think you’re going to have kids?” He seemed both enthralled and embarrassed by being the one to breach the topic. “I don’t know if I will… maybe!” he cocked his head to one side, before dashing out of reach of my pursuing brother, Gaura.
I raced after him, in order to follow up on the discussion. “Nah,” I yelled, gasping for breath. “I don’t think I’m going to have kids! Because I don’t think I would ever want to get married.”
Later, I would take Tarini aside to divulge my reasoning behind not getting married and having kids when I was a grown up.
“You see…” I explained to her, “My sister told me that the way you have to have a kid is the man has to stick his… ‘thing’ inside the lady!”
Tarini’s face was filled with the horror that I had been anticipating.
“I don’t EVER want that to happen to me,” I said.
She looked ill. “Me NEITHER.”
And there we sat, the two of us, 8 and 9 years old, on the rooftop of a house in Mysore India, considering our baby-less and husband-less futures.
Once I had made that decision, I didn’t worry about it or give it much further thought until many years later.
Once I had been able to come to terms with HOW babies were made, than it became a decision I would consider and discuss once again. Between the ages of 20 and 30, I would pendulum back and forth between theoretical futures.
There was the, “I MUST have a baby! NOW!”
Followed by, “I can’t ever have kids! There’s too much I want to do with my life! I’ll never NOT want to be accomplishing cool stuff, when would I ever have time for a kid??”
So when Addison and I were faced with the reality that there was a living, pulsing being that we had created, swimming around inside of me, the world stopped. We sat together in silence and in conversation, in wonder and in horror.
There was the cold, calculating voice that seemed to whisper to both of us, “You have a choice, you don’t HAVE to have this baby… You could be free of it if you really wanted to.”
I didn’t want to feel like that was a choice. I had never considered abortion to be an option for me, even though actually being pregnant gave me a newfound understanding and compassion for those who do choose to have abortions.
I just wanted to know that this child was a certainty, so I could than begin to move forward accordingly.
Addison left a day and a half after we discovered I was pregnant, headed back to Austin. We were pretty sure baby was staying. We weren’t sure where I was going, however.
All I really wanted was to “go home.” I was nauseous, homesick, tired of being in a different country. I also felt like I wanted to keep going. I hadn’t actually made it to Brazil!
I went back to share Watson’s room with him, and Addison went to get some space, some time to digest the news apart from me.
I called friends, family members, and one time burst into tears on Watson’s bed while he patted me awkwardly, cheering me by being sweet and silly.
I wanted to go home, but I also wanted to keep cycling. I wanted to fly to L.A. and bike up to Alaska. I wanted to fly down to Brazil and bike around Brazil before it was “too late”. But between pregnancy nausea and the Zika virus, those two options were out of the question.
I considered going to Vermont and staying with Addison’s mother for a while.
But finally, I got a message from Addison. His reflection time had led him to the turning point that he would later call, “Getting my head out of my ass.”
“This child is an expression of our love,” he said. “You are the only person in this world I would want to have a baby with right now, and I want you to come home.”
3 days later, I was in the airport and headed to Austin, my bicycle broken down into a box, my baby in my belly. We had all traveled across Mexico together, and now we were all going home.
“The greatest suffering can be overcome through the simplest of actions…” -Me
In the past couple of weeks I have cried more and slept less for the longest stretch of time I can remember.
And whenever I would have a moment’s rest from the onslaught of pain, I would wonder… “How can I stay here? I don’t want to go back down. I need to stay above water!”
My sister brilliantly reminded me that I could listen to Thich Nhat Hanh on YouTube or podcasts whenever I wanted.
My own mind was struggling with creating and maintaining a positive thought stream, and I found it almost impossible to stay in the present moment.
So I turned to Thich Nhat Hanh to fill my head with the good stuff. 😉
It took a couple of days of listening to him, but finally, one of my bigger questions was answered and I had a tool I could use to make changes in the recesses of my consciousness.
Thay said, “If you are listening to a CD and you don’t like the music that is playing, why keep listening to it? Just change the CD.”
Simple, yet brilliant.
“If your thoughts are causing you to suffer, why continue to listen to them? You can make a change, right now. You can choose to stop your suffering, right now.
There are seeds in your unconscious. Seeds of love, of anger, of joy, of hate. If you water the seeds of hate, anger or despair, they will take root and grow strong. You need to sing them a lullaby, and put them to sleep. You need to water the seeds of joy, of hope, of love, and they will grow strong in your mind.”
So thank you for being part of my practice of watering the seeds of gratitude and love in my consciousness. I am going to share with you everything I have been grateful for and appreciated over the last couple of weeks here in Mexico.
This is my lullaby, sending the seeds of despair and fear to sleep. 🙂
The first thing that I think of when I feel this swell of appreciation in my heart are the people I have met in the past few weeks:
And there’s more and more…
I’m thankful for the sunsets here…
I’m thankful for the beautiful city of Queretaro…
I’m thankful for cute dogs… 😀
I’m thankful for the beautiful art of basketry…
I’m thankful for the mandolin and the ability to play music and heal…
I’m thankful for my noble steed, my amazing bicycle who carries all of my stuff and goes with me everywhere…
I’m thankful for capoeira, my saving grace, and Professor Marcego for saying, “If I check on you in a couple of months and I see that you’ve quit and gone back to the U.S., than you’re not my friend anymore.” 😀
I’m thankful for delicious Mexican food…
I’m thankful for walking meditation…
I’m thankful for handstands…
I’m thankful for finding random, inspiring quotes on the walls of a restaurant:
I’m thankful for Mexico City for welcoming me into it’s awe inspiring massiveness…
I’m thankful that Addison Rice, the love of my life is coming to see me here in Mexico City in just three days…
And I am thankful to you, dear friend, for reading this whole post and giving me the gift of your attention today. 🙂
Since making the decision to bike to Brazil only three weeks ago, I feel like my life has exploded into a non-stop fireworks display.
This is fun and exciting, but also hectic and stressful!
I will say this, however: I have learned a valuable lesson about purpose and energy in my life by making this decision.
Making the decision to follow through with a life-long dream and aspiration has lit a fire under my ass like nothing else ever has!
I no longer know the meaning of ‘lethargy’ or ‘stagnation’. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean)
The world looks more colorful, and my outlook on life is much more positive. I feel extremely motivated, but am also cherishing the everyday occurrences of my Austin life and my time with Addison. My life here is so idyllic, I realize, and my relationship with Addison is so wonderful, fun and nourishing for my soul. I love my pets, I love my band, and I have been having so much fun living here in Austin, biking around, swimming at Barton Springs, going out with friends and training capoeira several times a week with my group.
Many people have called me or written to me, warning me about the perils that lie ahead of me, telling scary stories or sharing nerve-wracking statistics about kidnappings, rapings and murders in Mexico and Central America.
I am touched to see how much so many people care about me.
I did spent a good part of last week considering that maybe–just maybe–someone would say something that would make me realize I don’t have to go. I thought there was a small chance that I just hadn’t heard the magic words that would make this aspiration go away.
Addison has been so cheerful and supportive about me leaving, that I actually had some concern that maybe he was relieved I was going away and would be happier without me. But after camping at Big Bend together and holding him as we lay in our tent under the desert moon, he admitted to the profound sadness he feels about me leaving and his fear for my safety and our relationship.
I felt strangely calm as I cradled him in my arms, and finally knew that I would never hear the magic words that would change my mind.
I know now, for certain, that there is nothing anyone can say to make this feeling go away inside of me.
I am more afraid of being apart from Addison than almost any other aspect of the trip. When we’re together, we’re unstoppable. We work in such congruence with one another on a daily basis, and then still want to spend the evenings together. It’s a sleepover every night! We listen to audiobooks, play music, drink wine, talk about hopes and dreams and ideas, and sometimes keep eachother awake lying in bed because we still have so much to say to one another. We meditate every morning, and are dedicated to supporting one another’s peace of mind and well-being both mentally and physically.
I finally found my ideal partner, and now I’m going to bike away into the sunset??
Who does that???
I don’t have a conclusion or moral to this particular blog post, just wanted to share some of the mental and emotional transformations I am having as I prepare to leave.
My Patreon account is almost ready to rock. You’ll be the first to know when it’s up!
Also, more than likely I will be traveling to Panama with another cyclist who contacted me recently. Having a companion will be a great relief to me, so I’m crossing my fingers and looking forward to it!
Thanks for reading this and please share your thoughts in a comment below.
During the wee hours of Thursday, October 8th, 2015 I received a dream.
When I awoke later that morning to start my day, everything had changed.
How did I go to sleep thinking about band practice and how many classes per week of martial arts I needed to do in order to graduate and feel good about my skill level, and then wake up the next morning with my priorities completely shifted?
How is it that, now that I am established in Austin and thoroughly enjoying living here, I decide to walk away from it all overnight?
I will share the dream with you that I had, but let me give you a quick snapshot of my past for some backstory.
On January 16th, 2013, Addison (my fiance) and I arrived in Austin, TX on bicycles. We’d ridden all the way from Brattleboro, VT with musical instruments and our dog Zoso.
The emotional journey I embarked on in order to leave what I perceived to be my permanent home (Brattleboro), to ride my bicycle across the United States and move to a foreign country (Austin) was tumultuous. But it was something I had to do in order to be where I am now. Quite literally.
But during our cross-country bicycle trip, I had a feeling that I never wanted to stop. I wanted to keep going South until I reached Brasil, the mother-land of a martial arts I’ve practiced for over ten years (capoeira). I wanted to leave North America and learn Spanish and Portuguese and meet people who thought completely differently than I do and knew how to live in community in a way that many North Americans don’t understand anymore. I had been talking about visiting Brasil and going back to Mexico and Guatemala for years before my U.S. bicycle trip.
Somewhere in all of this, after living in Austin for a while and then going back to visit my beloved Vermont, I had a severe concussion. Throughout my healing process I dipped in and out of various levels of depression. Over the next two years, I would tell many people about how I was going to bike to Brasil once the time was right, come hell or high water.
My sister, who is traveling through Western Europe and on to Thailand by bicycle with her husband, Erik, has been encouraging me from the start, and even sent me some travel supplies for my trip to Brasil (this included a pair of underwear that claims to be wearable for six weeks without washing–something I will probably not attempt to confirm). She has also hiked the Long Trail by herself, which was something she’d always talked about doing since we were teenagers.
Whenever we would talk on the phone I would tell her that I was working on making more money so I could save money faster and eventually embark on my Brasil trip with Addison.
Yes, Addison had to come with me of course! We’re The Love Sprockets (that’s the name of our band) and that’s what we do! We adventure by day on bicycle and play music for our hosts at night. Plus, I can’t travel through Central and South America by myself! That just wouldn’t be safe!
Yes, that’s the name of our band: The Love Sprockets. We perform in Austin a few times a month with our drummer (Pete) and upright bass player (Watson).
That is… until Watson announced he was ‘goin’ to Mexico!’. It was always something Watson had threatened, but we didn’t pay it too much heed.
“F** this sh** guys,” he’d say, after taking a swig of the Thirsty Goat beer he brewed 60+ hours a week at Thirsty Planet brewery. “I’m goin’ to Mexico!”
So now we’re scrambling to find a new bass player. But how do you replace Watson? He’s an ideal bass player in every way: hysterically apropos, high energy, fast talking, mustache-havin’ and a phenomenal musician. He’s also a cyclist.
Well, slap my ass and call me Sally.
Anyhow, let’s get back to my life altering dream, shall we?
So I was always telling people that I would go to Brasil ‘when the time is right’. But the time has not been right for Addison or I. We have our band, The Love Sprockets to play shows with and tour the country with. We have growing relationships with clients who want to pay us to do things that we’re really good at. I have my capoeira school where I get to train as often as I want and actually get good at this martial arts I’ve always loved.
On Wednesday October 7th, 2015, I went to sleep feeling completely satisfied and excited about my life in Austin.
Sometime in the early morning hours of October 8th I had this dream:
In my dream I was with my dad, my brother and sister. All of the people around us were getting randomly inflicted with a plague of some kind. They would see a black powder appear on their skin, and at that point it was too late–the black powder was a sign that the mysterious disease had already begun to set into their muscles and turn them grey and brittle. Soon after they would die a painful death.
We were sad for all of these people, but also feeling a surreal surrender to the unfathomable workings of Death and its suddenness at times.
That was when I noticed the black powder on my own skin.
The four of us took in this new information. I was going to die, and soon.
I sighed, and said, “You know what guys, I’m not scared of dying. But I am scared of being in terrible pain while I die.”
They nodded in agreement.
After this, I went into the bathroom by myself and began to wipe the black powder off of my skin with a warm, soapy wash cloth.
As I cleaned myself, I thought about all of the things I had wanted to do with my life, and the people I would miss. A vision of the little girl I was supposed to have with my fiance, Addison, flashed through my mind. I could hear my brother talking in the other room and I knew, somewhere in my waking mind, that he lives in India and I wouldn’t see him before I died. I would miss my friends and family.
I was sad about all of these things, but resigned to my fate.
That was when I remembered that I had not biked to Brasil yet.
In my dream, I fell to the ground, howling in anguish at this realization. I cried and cried and cried.
I wanted to get on my bicycle right then, and cycle until I dropped dead. But I could feel the crunchiness of my muscles and tendons and knew the disease had compromised my ability to pedal a bicycle.
Eventually I cried myself awake, much to Addison’s surprise, who was asleep in my bed next to me.
He tried to comfort me as best as he could when I told him about the dream. “You’re okay baby,” he told me. “You’re not going to die of the plague. Nothing bad is happening.”
I lay next to him silently as he fell back asleep.
And I knew something then, that I hadn’t fully realized before.
I’m not afraid of dying, I thought to myself. I’m afraid of not fully living.
I eventually drifted off to sleep, and when I awoke in the morning, I knew things could not stay the same any longer.
During what was supposed to be our meditation session, I unfolded my deepest thoughts and feelings before Addison, and for the first time, we were able to agree on this one truth:
It’s time for me to ride my bicycle to Brasil.
Not next year, not after I have enough money saved.
I’ve given myself a month and a half to prepare.
And I leave at the end of November, 2015.
I hope you will join me on this journey through my blog and Patreon (I will set up Patreon over the next couple of weeks and let you know when it’s launched).
You know, when your hormones are so jacked you can’t see straight, and just the thought of the other person sends you into state of unencumbered bliss?
I’m guessing this has probably happened to you, even if you don’t want to admit it. 😉
What I always find interesting about falling in love and about human beings in general (‘interesting’ is a nice way of saying ‘really fucking annoying’) is that when something is happening to us that we perceive to be really good, we can’t help but dread the potential end of it.
As always, we fear death.
The death of relationships, the death of the life we know now.
Even when we can recognize how healthy and normal change is, we can’t help but fear it subconsciously.
Well, at least I do, anyways. 🙂
So during the last bout of falling in love I did (which was about three years ago, thank God), the song Dark Angel was born.
This song asks alot of questions…
But does not provide any answers.
Here’s how it goes:
“I’ll be your innocence if you’ll be my sex appeal
Yes, I’ll be your innocence if you’ll be my sex appeal
You’ve got everything it takes to drive this situation wild
I saw you first, I saw you first
I saw you first and now you are mine
But I’m losing control of this situation all of the time
And are you the best thing that’s ever happened to me?
Are you the one to make my blind eyes see?
Or are you my dark angel of death?
Are you my terminal breath?
I’ll be your calling if you’ll be my answering
Yes I’ll be your calling if you’ll be my answering
You’ve got everything it takes to make a murderer of me
And are you the best thing that’s ever happened to me?