I’d love to let you in on what's been going on here lately. I've been keeping it somewhat under wraps because it's a hard thing to think about, much less talk about. And I haven’t known how or what to ask for from others in terms of support. The short story is that my granny died last Tuesday afternoon.
The most beautiful gift I could ever hope to receive was the last gift that I got to give her: Guitar in hand, I sang my Granny out.
She was my biggest fan, I played her Right on Time, Royalty to Me, and Coming Home to You. She had been deeply asleep for the last few days and roused during the first few moments of Right on Time. I saw her try fervently to open her eyes and finally I think she got a good look at me. There was much love and joy in the room and tenderness. Also, I saw the look of surrender and resignation too. It was time. I think she made the decision along side her body being ready to go too.
She took her last breath a few minutes after I had put my guitar down to gently hold her head in my hands. It’s such a strange thing to try and make someone comfortable who can’t really tell you any more what feels the best. It felt very much like caring for a small child without words yet. Except it wasn’t a small child at all... it was my dear old Granny.
It was such a tender moment as I held her head and she let go. I feel lucky, joyful even that my Granny felt enough ease, enough love, and felt able to let go while being held like that... by me!
I told her that she looked beautiful... which she did to me... that she was right on time for real... with genuine joy in my own heart... I could have laughed with her in those last moments...
When your heart is breaking open... isn't it a wonderful gift to get to laugh even through a few tears?! It was a rainbow. That beautiful, fleeting, and kinda hard to see rainbow.
I will miss my Granny very much. But, I will always have this precious moment to remember as a toast to fully living my life. I am inspired to live without regret or fear because I see now that dying is like my daughter taking her first step... it is ordinary magic.
I will see the seasons in my own life a little brighter now because of this last gift my Granny shared with me. I want to see it all unfold as much as I can! Thank you Granny. It was THE BEST concert ever.
much love to you and those you love,
Today is the second day of a new writing practice. I'm getting up at 5:30 to start the day with writing before Ruby and Terri wake up. I'm excited about how it's going. There are some daily exercises I've had trouble being consistent with in large part because of my value to attend to my family and my mornings are often a little bit different and distracted.
So, this idea of valuing my creative time a little every day in addition to the bigger chunks of time I find throughout the week feels like a creative revolution! I am holding onto the idea of writing 60 songs this year and so I am on a search for time and fun ways to organize it better.
I will keep you posted on how it works for me as time goes by! Do you have any time management tricks you have figured out?
Hope you have a great day whatever you are doing!
much love and music,
I'm sorry I've been out of touch until now. I made an unexpected trip to Michigan because I lost my beloved grandma-in-law earlier this month. She passed away at almost 90 years old. Martha was an incredible, vibrant woman. The first time she met me, she fed me pierogies, hugged me and said "Ellis, you are family now" and that was it. I was in! In a moment, I became part of the family. It's wonderful to be loved and accepted like that.
I'm feeling such gratitude for being alive, realizing again how short our time is here on this spinning planet. It helps me to be more patient and kind with myself and others. And having left during a snowstorm and returning to sunny and 70 degrees, I'm taking in stride the 30 degree weather forcast for this Friday. :)
Oh my gosh, and before I forget, I'm a finalist at the Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition this year. I've been wanting to go to Kerrville for a long long time now, and I'm excited to be making the trip. And then the next weekend I'll be back on A Prairie Home Companion (recording live in Ann Arbor, Michigan). I'm so excited that Garrison asked me back!!
Well, I have to hop in the car now - I'm driving down to Gustavus College in St Peter, MN. I've been playing there every year for the last 12 years I think. They are just awesome and I can't wait to make my annual stop at the little Co-op there!
I hope y'all have a wonderful week!
so much peace love and music,
ps. Okay, one last thing! I have Wherever You Are up for sale on CD Baby now. Or, if you become a member of Listener Supported Music, you can buy half-price copies.
I've been thinking about stars lately, and I've been trying to write a song about how we are all made of star stuff... star stuffing! ha ha ha! :)
So imagine my surprise when I was sitting at our local Unitarian Universalist church yesterday morning and Justin our minister was talking about stardust!
I'm so glad we happened to be there yesterday. Now that I think on it, we've only gone two other times since Ruby was born! I’ve been wanting to go back there for a while, and yet we often end up just lounging around on Sunday morning.
Back to the point of this story.... The talk was “cracking up, cracking open”. And when he go to the part about us all having a bit of stardust in us, I realized something. Longtime readers of my newsletter will say, 'Ellis, you've realized this before'... but I keep forgetting!
I remembered yesterday that everything I struggle with and juggle and try to manage is the stuff of my life. None of it is a problem, it’s actually what makes my life bright and full and shiny. I often have this thought that if I could just clear away the obstacles, which are constantly changing, then I would run like the wind, so to speak.. happy and free.. laughing and dancing... totally fulfilled and alive. And to-do list totally completed.
The truth is there are so many of those moments (well, minus the completed to-do list!) It was wonderful to remember that! Wow there is so much to celebrate. What are you celebrating? I'd love to hear from you.
sending so much peace, love and music,
This has been a wonderful month! I had the awe-some opportunity to be a guest on A Prairie Home Companion on Feb 9th. You can listen to archives for the show online here.
My friend Wesley from Eugene OR asked me some fun questions about the show, and I'm including my answers here:
Wesley: Did you approach them or vise versa?
Me: They contacted me. But I have sent in CDs for consideration before.
Wesley: Did you speak with Garrison? A staff person?
Me: I spoke with Sam Hudson the broadcast engineer/talent producer.
Wesley: Did they ask for a CD? Did you have to audition?
Me: Well I was lucky enough to be invited to play a benefit show for Jerry Newton, who was running for the House of Representatives in Anoka, MN. Garrison Keillor was the main act along with four musicians opening the night. I think I was the second artist to perform and I just knew that Mr. Keillor wouldn't be there yet or would be in a dressing room far far away.
I was surprised and delighted that he was there early enough to hear all the music. It was wonderful that he listened to everyone. He was back stage and I remember him coming into the auditorium to sit in the audience during my second song. I got to play three songs that night and for me, just having him in the audience was the coolest thing ever.
That night I felt like I had already been on A Prairie Home Companion because I got to share the stage with him. Garrison is a master at storytelling, performing, and connecting to the moment and with the audience. It's exciting to share the stage with someone like that I admire so much!
Wesley: Did they apologize for taking twenty years to get you on the program? :)
Me: No. I feel honored to have gotten to participate at all. It's a wonderful legacy of artists to be a part of. I had actually stopped sending materials the last couple years just because someone mentioned I might not be the right fit for the show. So, I had kinda let go of that dream. In that way, even having Garrison in the Anoka audience, I didn't assume I'd get invited to take part in the show. A few tears of joy and amazement shot out of my eyes the afternoon I saw the email from Sam asking if I'd like to "stop by the Fitsgerald with my guitar".
Wesley: Did you have a practice session?
Me: There were 2 sound checks and a casual kind of rehearsing. I didn't know the line up of the show until right before it started. I wasn't sure how much or how little Garrison and I would chat, or what we would chat about. Also, I didn't know exactly how the last song medley would go. We had a rough sketch and my job was to follow Garrison's lead. I did know we were starting with "The Eyes Of Texas" which was so so fun and I had a general idea of the next songs, but there were also new lyrics on Garrisons music stand! It was so so fun to be lighthearted and spontaneous while relying on Garrison's solid direction.
Wesley: Did you work with the Shoe Band?
Me: Yes! What an incredibly talented group of folks! The band is there for the sound checks and rehearsals, and they record everything for reference. And I have to say that Rich Dworsky is a master band leader! He charted my two songs in about 5 min once we decided to collaborate on them. The ease and professionalism of everyone was really inspiring to me, and also made it all more fun!
Wesley: What clothes did you wear?
Me: Show clothes! I have a handful of outfits that are simple and feel good to perform in. That night, I wore a blue collar shirt and black pants. Here is a link for photos.
Wesley: Did you decide which songs to sing or did they have a hand in it?
Me: I chose what songs to show them. I was encouraged in advance to provide some variety at sound check. And I was also thinking about the theme too. In the end all the songs I played ended up in the line-up. I was told to expect songs to be cut, so it was wonderful to get to play four out of five of them! Only one ditty didn't make it because of time.
Wesley:Did you wait in a green room, on stage, in the wings.
Me: I did a bit of all three! I did have a dressing room upstairs, and I felt extra fancy because some sweet friends Maggie & Jim sent a gift basket and it was waiting for me in there! I felt like a rock star!
Wesley: Were you more nervous than usual, or less?
Me: I would say a bit more and also normal amount of nerves. They come with me to every show I think because I care so much. :) I was surprised at how comfortable I felt playing during the show and then got nervous because I worried I was too comfortable! Really, performances go the best when you can embrace each new moment without obsessing over the ones already gone by!
Wesley: Now how did you feel about the whole thing?
Me: I felt really great about it overall. I was invited to take part in someone else's creative party and I felt like I gave my whole heart to it, while being a mindful guest too. Whenever I join in as an artist to something not just about me, I always want to add to it, but not take away from it by sticking out too much! I found the show's crew and Garrison really make it easy for an artist to do that.
I was all at once calm, enjoying the show and incredibly nervous. I believe I have a fair amount of control over what I choose to focus on, so I did my best to keep coming back to ease and fun. It was such a treat to be there on a show I've heard so many times on the radio. I couldn't stop smiling! And really, this was the biggest audience I've gotten to sing to in one performance (or all my performances in my whole career combined) so far.
I kept reminding myself that I've been on stage hundreds and hundreds of times and that this was no different. And yet it was totally different all at the same time. How cool. I learned that I can do it and it's my hope that I get to practice these kinds of awesome situations again. It's helping me grow as a performer and I want that. I also excited for people to have the opportunity to hear my songs and I'm happy that the integrity and meaning came through even if I was a little nervous at times.
Wesley:Do you think you will go back?
Me: Heck yes! Well, I sure hope so. Garrison and Sam Hudson who is the Broadcast Engineer/Talent Producer asked me back that night at the end of the show. I've sent them dates that can work for me and I'm crossing my fingers! I would love to get to take part in the fun again. I think this one experience has already helped me grow as a performer and I would love to learn more. And I know my music has spread to quite a few more people too.