PAST RAMBLINGS - 18
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
April 1, 2005   -to-   Present
 

Michael Tomlinson - Past Ramblings
Ramblings 1
3/13/99 - 7/11/99
Ramblings 2
7/27/99 - 1/8/00
Ramblings 3
3/6/00  - 8/7/00
Ramblings 4
9/18/00 -  11/19/00
Ramblings 5
12/17/00 - 4/10/01
Ramblings 6
5/9/01 - 6/25/01
Ramblings 7
07/23/01 - 10/07/01
Ramblings 8
10/19/01 - 2/18/02
Ramblings 9
3/22/02 - 8/5/02
Ramblings 10
8/27/02-12/22/02
Ramblings 11
1/24/03 to 5/31/03
Ramblings 12
7/18/03 to 12/24/03
Ramblings 13
1/11/04 to 5/28/04
Ramblings 14
7/03/04 to 10/1/04
Ramblings 15
11/03/04 to 2/22/05
Ramblings 16
4/01/05 to 7/1/05
Ramblings 17
08/21/05 - 11/16/05
Ramblings 18
12/20/05 to 6/11/06
Ramblings 19
07/19/06 to 11/13/06
Ramblings 20
12/02/06 to 4/2/07
Ramblings 21
5/21/07 to 9/4/07
Ramblings 22
11/9/07 to 3/1/2008
Ramblings 23
5/16/08 to 11/8/08
Ramblings 24
12/11/08 to 09/06/09
Ramblings 25
11/01/09 to
10/21/2010
Ramblings 26
5/10/10 to
12/4/2010
Ramblings 27
4/01/11 to
10/1/11
Ramblings 28
2/1/12 - Fall 2012
Ramblings 29
Spring 2013 - Present
Ramblings 30
Spring 2014
 
December 20, 2005

'Howdy Holidays, my ear muff-wearin' friends,

I've waited late this year to put up holiday lights outside my house. I allowed the neighbors to finish prettying-up their own houses; digital lights zipping around the windows; Walmart Inflatable Snowmen in the front yard; Historically accurate plastic mangers-with-candy-canes on the rooftops. Then, just when they finished putting the final touches on their quaint creations, I snuck out in the middle of the night and built my masterpiece, my tour de force of holiday design. Which is where a truckload of fire-damaged plastic pink flamingos comes in so handy. I got two gross of 'em for eighty bucks. My front yard is now a landscape of migrating pink flamingos, all in a holly jolly mood and making the little kiddies' Christmas Season all merry and stuff. I've got tropical birds posed in all kinds of realistic Holiday situations; over by the gate there are three-dozen of 'em performing the Nutcracker. I must be the last person on earth who has not one clue what the story of the Nutcracker is, so I've just created a general hoe-down situation, complete with fiddles and jugs of white-lightnin'. Is that correct? There is clogg dancing in the Nutcracker, ain't there? Then just outside my front door I have another dozen of 'em with song books taped to their wings. And what a merry group of carolers they make with my guitar amp hidden in the bushes and Regis Philbin's 1972 Christmas recording of All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth repeating over and over all day and night. (I have a little basket of ibuprofin by the steps)

In my driveway I have created the grandaddy display; my most endearing scene of Christmas cheer. My convertible is backed into the garage with a huge bag o' goodies lashed in the back seat, the headlights on bright and a brick on the acellorator. (with the exhaust and all, you can't tell for sure who's behind the wheel, but he's singin' Yeller Winders and drinkin' toddies) My little dawg Bungee has her little butt super-glued to the hood; the most adorably fuzzy little hood ornament you've ever seen! And two dozen pink flamingos with little stick-antlers taped on their heads lie in a pile before the front bumpter, ready in an instant to pull Santa's gas guzzlin' 1964 Malibu up and away, over the neighborhood houses and down to the nearest gas station. Or maybe we'll save a little fuel this year and just sit here and gunn the engine for effect. Anyway, I really shouldn't be drinkin' and flyin', should I?

There's more, so very much more, but if I told you about it then you would have no reason to buy my Holiday recording when it comes out in 2012. (the same year as my book) So just smile and enjoy the pink scenery my friends - like my neighbors will be doing every single day until next July, when I traditionally take down my Christmas ornaments and begin painting my house, lawn and shrubbery red, white and blue.

Seriously, despite my being born and raised in Texas, I am actually a very tasteful person when it comes to holiday decorating. I assure you, my touch is light with everything but the mistletoe.

A few years back though, I took advantage of  the Christmas discount sales and bought miles of flashy garland; pink, red, purple, gold, silver, man, it was pretty. I secured a somewhat frightening Santa cut-out which was huge and missing one leg. I bought miles and miles of lights and lots of the trashy kind of holiday decorations you'd see in a drugstore dumpster the day after New Years. Fully equipped for holiday cheer, I called my friend Rick Grant and informed him of our mission. Rick was unquestioning, he heard the ernestness in my voice and came right over. We then rented a U-Haul with which to transport our gifts and snuck over to our buddy, Carson's, apartment late that icy December night and commenced to participating in the most gaudy, outlandishly-overdone Holiday decorating you've ever seen in your life. There was garland over garland, lights tangled up in more lights. Santa had so many icicles on him that you hardly noticed his missing leg, though he threated to crumple from the weight.

We topped this all off with a merry holiday symbol from the Midwest: a flying DeKalb Corn-on-the-Cob sign that my girlfriend of the time had brought with her from Illinois when she moved here. I never did think to ask her why. I think a cob of corn with wings is a symbol of virility in the Midwest and maybe she'd brought it to pressure me. Which is possibly related to the reason Carson climbed up on the cab of his truck and took that damn thing down the instant he saw it hanging there high above the busy street next to his apartment. He was a single man and didn't want to build up unreasonable expectations in a prospective fiance.  

Rick and I drove by the next morning to see our work in the light of day and found that we simply could not hold the wheel and look at that mess. We bumped up against the curb, the back end of my car angled out in moving traffic, and both slobbered our way into the floorboard, laughing at what a horribly trashy carport our friend Carson was stuck with. Still, it was festive. To our amazement, he'd left untouched every single strand of garland, all the flashing lights, the bloated Santa, even the Merry Christmas Shoppers, Half-Off! sign. Everything was intact but that danged flying ear of giant Dekalb Corn. It seemed lacking, so, as soon as we could stop wheezing and manage the safe operation of an automobile, we went out and stole a Hooters sign and put that up. That's the kind of good friends we are.

I just got back from a great visit with my mom in Tyler, Texas. I like to visit her near Christmastime but not too close to the actual day. No, it has nothing to do with mom's penchant for serving out-of-date eggnog, it's just that I hate to travel during holidays. I once had to spend a holiday night sleeping on a cold, concrete floor at Denver International Airport and ever since, I'm reluctant to travel near holidays or to book concerts within a few days of them.

My mom has long had rheumatoid-arthritis and in the last three years since my father's passing, it has gotten much worse. I always get her to make a long list of things that I can do for her while I'm in town. The big things are obvious, repairing doors, moving boxes, things like that. But there are countless small tasks that are so difficult for her. It's a humbling thing to watch how much determination it takes for her to make a bed or wash dishes. She loves me though and wants to cook for me and bring me iced tea and do some of the things I guess any mother wants to do for her son, no matter what her physical condition.

In the decade before my father's passing, my folks and I were not in touch with each other. Like so many families do after a member passes on, when my sister died in 1992, we grew further apart. From the day of her funeral, for ten years I didn't see my parents. It's hard to think that now, and when I look back, it wasn't anger, it was just a lack of understanding of how to bridge the gap between us. My sister had been gay and from her late teen years, there had been a sad, tragic division in our family because of misunderstandings about her and her life. Marilyn was a brilliantly funny, tenderly loving woman. She died of breast cancer at the young age of 36, and it just seemed to me that the last tenuous connections between the rest of our family all dried up.


Me and my dad fishing at Red River
New Mexico 1960

After a few years of this separation, I got in touch with my folks and we began a tender, gradual attempt at getting to know each other again. We'd never argued really, we just hadn't known how to be who we were and still be around each other in a way that honored us all. In the three years before my father passed I began to write and call him and mom often. To my relief, there was a real joy growing between us, great laughter and enjoyment every time I called. They'd both get on the phone with me and I could hear in their voices that they were so happy to have me in their lives again. Still, there was the memory of old pain for all of us, the fear of rejection and grief that had kept us physically apart. I'd frequently ask myself if I could possibly go and see them again and make it back home without being emotionally devastated. I never could find that "yes" in my mind when I'd ask the question. Perhaps I was wrong, but it was what I felt at the time.

Then, a little over three years ago my father fell ill and it looked like he might not make it. I was still afraid, but decided to fly down to Texas to be with him and mom. I worried that I'd be judged by them and their friends for my years of being away. That couldn't have been further from the truth. They were gracious and loving and kind. The experience of being with my parents, spending days with my father as he left this life, as painful as it was, was also incredibly healing. I experienced a profound revelation one day sitting at my father's bed, when I received the knowing that all conflict, all distance between us, had been nothing but errant thinking. The separation literally had never existed. In as real a way as if it had been written out on a page before me, I received the knowing that the only thing that had ever existed between me and my father was the bond of loving light between our hearts. It is still there now.

As most of us do when we lose a parent, I felt crushed by my sudden vulnerability as a mortal human. My father is gone, I thought, I am next in line. It was a painfully heavy realization that I'd not had to seriously consider before that time. But my greatest fear concerned what I was going to do about my mom, with whom I did not believe it was possible for me to get along. I'm not saying this was based in anything real either, but it was my deep belief and I thought it was irreversable. To my great, overwhelming astonishment, I found that my mother and I could respect each other and relate as human beings! Do you realise what a statement that is? I think you probably do. I imagine that you know someone you love that you feel a painful separation from as well.

Feeling encouraged by this acceptance of each other, I began to spend time with my mother, to go and see her a couple of times a year. I began to call her every few days and we laugh and talk about our lives. I can tell you now that it's one of the greatest miracles of my life is that my mother and I have become friends. It is a beautiful blessing and one I wish for everyone; to have a healing reconciliation with someone you have been wounded with.

As always, with my website ramblings, I go places I did not plan to go. I never thought I'd write about this. I started out silly - as always - had some fun remembering stuff and making shit up, and then, like always, I find myself going a little deeper to share something from my own life that is healing or hopeful or inspiring. What I most desire to share with you this Christmas Season is that it is entirely, wonderfully possible for you to heal a relationship with someone in your family with whom you've grown distant or alienated. Do you have any idea how much healing can happen if you take a deep breath, ask God or Life or Nature or Whatever you feel to be your Source of Life for forgiveness?

In my own life, nothing has been more healing than the simple gesture of being gentle with myself, thinking kindly of myself, and simply patiently forgiving myself for whatever I have done that I would do differently today. You can do this so much easier than you might imagine. It really is nothing but a decision. We can stay in pain or we can decide we are through with it. I'm not trying to be simplistic and I'm not speaking in theory. I'm telling you what I have discovered in my life and what I am sometimes able to accomplish.

What do you have to lose? Decide to forgive yourself for something you have held in guilt or shame and I promise you you will automatically be moved to forgive someone else; your mother; your father; your brother; your sis; your former spouse; even that danged milkman who promised you the moon and then changed routes just as you got your mascara on.

My father's passing was his great benevolent last Earthly act - which caused my mother and I to begin to heal. I have gotten to see the bravery and tremendous faith she lives with. I see the pioneer spirit in a woman who has lost her soul mate of fifty years and, despite great illness and little money, finds ways to express her creative, loving spirit in beautiful, caring ways for my brother and myself and for the people around her.

In this time that we term the Season of Peace and Joy and Goodwill to Man, how about making it so - even if only in some small way? None of us knows how to stop the war in our world. But every one of us can heal some small wound in ourselves or in our relationships. Be humble. It doesn't hurt at all. Do not fear saying you are sorry. Even if you're not sure you're the one who should say so, say it anyway. Say you're sorry and mean it just because you wish there to be a healing release of old tensions. Be the brave one and do not wait for the person you think really should be saying it.

If you can think of one human being in your life who would be deeply touched if they knew you wanted to heal something that has happened between you, why not get in touch? Is a phone call or an email or a letter impossible?  If so, don't be hard on yourself. Find another way. There are so many other ways. There is always a path we can follow to peace and it doesn't have to be one that terrifies you. If you can speak and say, I love you, or I'm sorry, or I miss you, wonderful. But if you can't, here is what you might do: breathe for a few minutes. Allow yourself the time to do this so that you can feel a release of your own stress and fear. Stay with it. Don't be afraid of what you feel when you breathe. Not one bad thing will ever happen to you because you quietly follow your breath.

When you have found even a tiny measure of peace or release in your heart or mind, give thanks for it and ask this other person, this friend or family member whom you simply cannot say I'm sorry to, or whom you have been unable to forgive, ask them in your heart and mind to meet you in this calm breathing place. Speak not to their personality but to the highest place inside them. I could tell you so many stories about my doing this and the miracles I have witnessed upon next encountering this person and seeing a very real healing between us. If you can find this quiet, sacred place in your heart, you absolutely have the power to invite them into the same sacred space and speak to them there in that precious quiet. Tell them you are sorry. Ask for their forgiveness or give them yours. Or just say, "Howdy podna, wha's up?"  It's not the words, it's the love, it's the intent, it's the hope you have in your heart. You don't need to know how, you do know how on some level you have forgotten about.

I hope you'll seek some moment this Christmas, this Holiday Season, when you may reach out in your own way to accomplish the very thing this Holy Day was meant to be about in the first place: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All.

Thanks for listening to my songs, I'm leaving you with the lyrics to a song from my Watching the Storm Roll In CD. I hope you enjoy them.

Your Friend,
  ~Michael


 

One Breath

 

Overnight a lot can change
You can go from cloudy grey
To the morning, brilliant blue, it's all for you
The purest part of the sky and the ocean too
There you are, there it is
Everything that life has to give

I'm not talking about a dream
And I'm not singing of something that lives in a fantasy
There are wonders in our lives, already real
Worlds we don't even know, we someday will
Eventually, even all this will be revealed

Here, sing these words and
Feel all this pain and fear
Fall apart at last
When we take one breath
And we just forgive again

Breathing out and breathing in
Mystery secrets of the wind
Blowing in and out our lives
Breeze in a sail
To bring us closer to love with each inhale
Every wind, every breeze
Every single breath that we breathe

Overnight a lot can change
You can go from cloudy grey
To the morning, brilliant blue, it's all for you
The purest part of the sky and the ocean too
There you are, there it is
Everything that life has to give  

Here, sing these words and
Feel all this pain and fear
Fall apart at last
When we take one breath
And we just forgive - ourselves

2000 Michael Tomlinson

from the Solo Acoustic Disc
Watching the Storm Roll In

 
 
February 1, 2006

Howdy Groundhog Day to you, my friends,

I may have let a bit too much time transpire since my last website rambling, because I'm starting to receive emails from visitors asking if "Mr. Tomlinson still lives here." Well, in the first place, I don't actually "live" at my website, I rent a house nearby though, because I don't like to have to drive online every day. In the second place, I don't respond well to "Mr. Tomlinson" unless it's a doctor explaining that it was just a spot of chocolate on my cheek and not a malignant mole. Now that the doc has wiped off that little chocolate smudge and given me a clean bill of health, there's really nothing I'd rather spend my evening doing than sitting in this crowded, muggy Seattle coffeshop and hammering out this little ditty for you. My goal is to write this entire rambling without once going back to correct or rewrite a thing. It may end up garbled and nonsensical but I'm goin' for it, podnas. Think of it as one of those TV sitcom stunts where they go "Live" during sweeps.  I'm sitting here "Live" at Tully's Coffee and it's exhilarating as all git out. Everyone is looking on in admiration - or something. But maybe it's just my hat, I can't be sure.

I've been working on a new song all day and it's one of those melodies that follows me everywhere. When I first write a new melody I instantly grab my mini-cassette recorder and sing the notes into it. Otherwise, I'll be heart broken later when I can't find them again. Try it sometime. Hum a series of notes, just any colorful flow of melody, then see if you can remember it an hour later. You most likely can't. But if you can, I suggest you contact the CIA and show them your skill. You'll be offered a job for sure. Anyway, I record the melody and that night I place my recorder next to my bed. When I go to bed I'll often place the tiny speaker next to my ear and play the potential song in the darkness before I go to sleep. (in case you're wondering, I don't wear no dang jammies!) Sometimes though, I find that I've accidentally turned the volume all the way up. This startles me awake and causes three things: 1.) bleeding of the ear canal 2.) a distate for that particular melody forever after 3.) my dawg Bungee to rear up and bite me on the neck. So I always try to be very, very cautious about the volume setting.

At any given time I've probably got an entire album's worth of melodies, that are essentially complete musical songs, ready to record. For some reason, I've always been able to imagine beautiful, memorable melodies. I could sit right here in this coffee shop and and strum a series of chords and within a few minutes have the whole place humming a very catchy melody or a haunting, romantic one. But I have this problem and it's called Lyrics. A really good song generally needs words. I realise I'm somewhat known for my lyrics and for the way that they often sound so natural. They roll off my tongue in such a way that you just assume I wrote them in a few minutes. That has certainly happened but very rarely. I tend to take months to finish the lyrics to even one song. Some of my songs have been in process for years. I'm positive that this is, even after all my years of writing, just a trick of my mind. I draw a blank or I write something that sounds instantly stupid or just a rehash of something I've written before and I scrap it before I really get started. For the most part though, I tend to ignore this problem of repetitiveness. I look at it this way: Is anybody actually completely fresh and new and unique every day or month or year? Nope. I haven't met them yet anyway. I'm still the same man that wrote Yellow Windows and By A Friend and Still Believe and Let Us Dream, just a little further along my line of evolution, is all.

When I was in elementary school my family moved constantly. I went to 7 schools from my mid-third grade year to the beginning of sixth grade. This troubled me considerably, to a great extent because I was invited at each and every school to participate in fisticuffs behind the dumpster after school. Is invited really the right word? No, I think it was more like "Hey kid! Either show up in the alley or we'll come and get you in the showers tomorrow." The great tragedy of it all is that I was stupid enough to usually appear at those rowdy get-togethers. Take a good look at my nose sometime.

After my third school in a year an idea occurred to me that shook the core of my little Texan kid belief system: Why not become someone different at the next school? Why not become a very powerful, smart, charming, affable young fellow whom everyone loves and none attempt to kick in the groin? This concept stunned me in it's beautiful simplicity. I thought about it at length and there seemed to be no real barriers in my way. Mom and Dad worked and were never at school. My sister was a grade behind me and not in any of my classes. There would be no witnesses to hold me to the confines of the "Old Mike." I felt that I needed a plan, a basic outline of my new self, so I took notes. I spent months watching the most attractive kids, the most popular ones - both male and female - and I began to draw up a schematic for "New Mike." On evenings at home, I'd stand in front of my bedroom mirror and try out my newly discovered facial reactions, the new ways I laughed and smiled and cocked my head.

Even the new way I tossed my hair back was a big deal. I remember that being a critical point. Perhaps in the same way that boys from my father's generation studied Brando and the way he held a cigarette, inhaled and blew out the smoke, I studied the coolest boys and how they tossed their heads back and to the side to swing those long, sweeping bangs back anytime they suspected they were being watched by a girl. Brother, I got it down good. I was a bangs-swingin' little stud, I swear. It was a new thing to me because all my previous affectations had been an homage to the image of Elvis Presley, who, as any idiot knows, slicked his hair back and only had anything resembling bangs after a fist fight. Even then he didn't so much toss his hair back as he sang it back into perfect place. I remember that in most movies, after he'd saved a beautiful girl's honor with his fists, he would usually pick up some ol' guitar that was lying around in perfect tune and he'd sing her a catchy song and suddenly it seemed that his shiny, black hair was back there beautifully swirled atop his head. So anyway, though I'd learned worlds of important stuff from Elvis, I had to learn to toss my bangs from cool guys at school.

For the first time in my childhood, I began to wish mom and dad would get a hankering to move again. "Mama, are yall thinkin' of movin' any time soon?" She'd look at me and place a tender hand on my forehead to see if I had scarlet fever. I hated to move and she knew it, but she didn't know my plan to implement "New Mike" as soon as possible. Finally, we left the Will Rogers Elementary School District and moved to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. I couldn't wait to try out "New Mike" on all those unsuspecting kids and teachers at the new school. Even before mom had registered me I was envisioning applause in my homeroom each morning just because everyone was so happy that I was there and not staying home with a cold or nothin'. From my long weeks and hours of studying characteristics of popular people, I was fairly certain I would be voted Class Favorite by the end of the coming year. I stood in front of the mirror and composed my expression into one that seemed humble and sincere, yet ever so clever and world-wise. Oh, and I looked real honest, too. There really is one expression that conveys all those things but I don't think I could recall it now. What I'm saying though, is that I knew I pretty much had the year tied up in the way of popularity.


an early experiment with
my "New Look"

That was before I found out that Wilson Elementary was mostly a school for mentally disabled children - with only a handful of "regular" kids thrown in. Everyone used the word "retarded" back then. It was considered the proper terminology. You couldn't say "Dumbass" or "Doofus" no more, according to an article my mom had read in Reader's Digest. My very first day at school I sat in total shock at the long lunch table filled with children who seemed to have come from another planet. They looked up and down and all over the place when they tried to eat and it unnerved me. And the most common language seemed to be a sort of gargling. I'm not being cruel here, I swear. I tried to eat my fried-egg sandwich - which I hated so terribly - and I looked up and down that table and realised that there was not a single soul for me to impress. I instantly fell back into "Old Mike," the same quiet, uncertain boy I'd been my whole life. Every gesture, every smart expression and clever retort I'd mastered was lost to me as if I'd never spent three months of my life working tirelessly to become "New Mike." It was all over before it began.

So how the heck does this relate to the story I was telling about trying to be unique in my songwriting? Well, it probably doesn't, but I'm going to try to tie it together somehow. Oh, I know! I decided a long time ago that the only possible way to be unique was to be my old regular self. That sounds straight out of the Boy Scout Handbook, but as it relates to my music, it's very, very true. That's why you will still hear my references to rain and wind and the changing seasons in so many of my songs, from my very first ones to the one I wrote today. I decided instead of trying to find unique ways to present my songs, I'd just present them as they come to me. Whatever growth, whatever sorrow or joy or befuddlement I'm going through, well, you're going to hear a lot of it in my songs. They're not always currrent. You may hear me play a new song onstage at a concert and think, "Whoa, that sumbitch is goin' through some sad shit!" But you might be completely wrong, my friend. I might be going through something very wonderful while the song describes something I went through last spring. I'm fine and dandy now but man, that was a steamroller of an April!


Really Old Mike

People who really loved my first few albums will often find my website and discover to their surprise that I'm still around after all these years. A woman today actually wrote to tell me that she thought I'd died years ago. That's a big ego booster to a man trying to eak out a living sending songs out into the world. Folks will discover my website and email me and say, "Man, your second album saved my life!" or "You have no idea what that first album did for me when I was in college." They sometimes ask if I can recommend another CD from a more recent period and I almost always tell them "if you like any of them, I think you'll probably like them all."

That might sound like I'm speaking from ego but I promise I'm not. I just know what I instill in my songs. I know my heart goes into them and I know how important it is to me that all my songs resonate with some sense of peace, hope and forgiveness - and as near as I can get to it, truth. If anything, those qualities are greater in my current music simply because I've become a more humble human being, a man with enough life experience to realise that I know much less than I used to think I did. Today, I might not use such declarative statements as "I believe in me, anyway we want it, we can make it be" anymore, like I did in the song No Bad Dreams, on my first album. I still love that song and play it at many of my concerts, I'm just saying that the "New Mike" might not write exactly the same words as the "Old Mike." I might say, for instance,
"I believe in Life, everything that happens is a part of me." But that would be a dud of a radio single, wouldn't it? Luckily for me, there are very, very few of my old songs I'd change.

I made a decision a long time ago to never record an album until I had enough really good songs to warrant it. Now I look back and find a lot of pleasure in realising that there is actually a body of work there, something to show for my life these last couple of decades. It's probably like when you go back through a photograph album and remember your friends and great adventures, the tender loves and the blessed, mysterious events that have come your way over time. I'm still putting those stories into music and I hope they occasionally find a place in your life. I think one of the best things a songs can ever be is a loyal companion, a good friend to join you along your journey. I hope mine have been good friends to you.

Thanks for listening, for visiting my website now and then, and and for sharing my music with your friends. It keeps me going.

Your Friend in Rain Country,
 
 ~Michael

PS, Here's an old song that I wouldn't change a word of.
 

Run Like the River Runs

  Tell me what you will, my blue winged friend
Did you hear me from where you drifted on the wind?
This autumn wind on a summer day
Sure can turn a blue sky gray
Oh, it's a lonely day and cold
There are secrets you've not told
And there are parts of me that I have never known
And I wonder if you see
Through the walls inside of me

Feathered friend, I wish that you could say
Why you sit on that wooden post and watch me play
The sky is yours and the ground is mine
Do you want to trade sometime?
And let me soar above these trees
See the earth through golden leaves
Breathe the air and watch the rivers from above
There are many things to love
But it's these that call to me

If I run like the river runs
If I fall like water falls
Oh, if I breathe like the wind
Will I ever learn it all?
If I change like autumn leaves
If I grow like summer weeds
If I'm as quiet as snow
Will I ever know it all?
Learn it all?

I don't really know from day to day
If I'm willing to walk this road or turn away
But something here in the silver sky
Is exactly what I need
To begin the song again
Help me sing, my winged friend
With the melody, you rise and float away
And I'll leave the way I came
But I'll never be the same

If I run like the river runs
If I fall like water falls
Oh, if I breathe like the wind
Will I ever learn it all?
If I change like autumn leaves
If I grow like summer weeds
If I'm as quiet as snow
Will I ever know it all?
Learn it all?

1985 Michael Tomlinson
from the CD Run This Way Forever
and also the Solo Acoustic Disc
Watching the Storm Roll In

 
 
March 10, 2006

Howdy my spring-feverish friends,

Have you noticed that spring is in the air? I know it's still officially winter but here in Seattle we're beginning to see those blustery days that I love so much. This very early morning I went outside with my coffee to see what the heck was going on in my yard. Nothing really. Everything covered in frost, nobody up yet except a few chirpy birds and a dog barking for somebody to let him back in the warm house. I walked over and pulled up a frozen lawn chair, sat down and turned my face to where the sun was just promising to peek through bare branches across the street and waited for it. Ahhhh, that feels good. It really did. I'm not just makin' shit up here. I closed my eyes in blissful pleasure and nearly dozed off until I noticed specks of water flicking my cheeks. I opened my eyes and could hardly believe the sun was already gone and now it was raining! Oh well, it's just a light sprinkle. I decided to sit there and wait it out. Sure enough, in a minute the wind started howling and whipping the rain sideways, bullying the shrubbery about and twisting my wet hair into a kind of swirly do. It looked like something Dairy Queen would do to a cone. Still, I held my ground. For one thing, my butt was stuck to the frosty lawn chair, but also, I just know springtime weather around here and I felt I could out last the rain. That's when it started hailing in my cup of coffee. It's okay, I thought. I like iced coffee, And anyway, it was kind of pretty watching it slosh around with ice chunks falling straight out of the sky. I am known for nothing if not my firm resolve. (and my weak handshake) It didn't take long, just as I knew it would, the sun pierced the raggedy clouds and set my face and the windows and the frosty, sparkling grass blades to glowing in the dazzling, early morning light. Ahhhh! I heard a door open down the street and thought, Uh-oh. I probably shouldn't be sittin' outside naked like this. (but it's just so danged thrilling!) Reluctantly, before the neighbors appeared, I stood up, plastic chair frozen to my buttocks, and waddled back inside the house to join my little dawg under the covers. It's happening, folks. Springtime is coming!

It's been a good New Year so far. After being home over the holidays, I've had two concerts in Florida and three in California. Next week I'm headed to Texas for a private concert near Dallas and to visit my mom in Tyler. In the last two years, probably half of my concerts have been private ones. Ever since I started making mention on my website that I also do private concerts, I've had a surprisingly large number of folks flying me to their cities to play for their families, friends and communities. I can't tell you how precious it is to be allowed to step into someone's inner circle of friends and loved ones and to perform for an evening and to spend time getting to know them. I always feel like I've been privy to a secret world where everybody in the room is life-long friends. They've been some of my most enjoyable concerts.

As it is every year, my concert at The CoachHouse in San Juan Capistrano was one of the most fun nights of my life. I've been playing there annually since about 1987 and I've never had a night there that I didn't absolutely love. The crowd treats me like a long-lost brother and I always have such a great adventure telling stories and singing onstage there. If you've ever been to one of my concerts, you probably think the great adventure is seeing if I can remember the danged lyrics to my own songs. Yes, they do get away from me now and then. See, it's not my fault. What happens is that I get so lost in the mood, the emotion of singing, that I drift. My mind goes places you wouldn't think a folk slinger's mind would wander in the middle of a performance. 
 
Once when I was performing in Telluride at the famous Blue Grass Festival, I inexplicably began to think about some shoes I once owned as a kid. I know, isn't that wierd? I don't have any idea why these shoes appeared to me at that time, they just did. And I didn't just think about them, I envisioned them. I saw them on every face in the crowd. Thirteen thousand people had, instead of a face, the trademark stripes of a pair of Adidas sneakers I'd had as a boy. Needless to say, I forgot some danged lyrics. That in itself wouldn't have been so bad, but I actually started singing about the shoes. I know! Can you imagine?! It sucked to be me that day. (it probably sucked to be in my audience, too) I was well into the second verse of my song, Raining Away, and I found myself singing about the heartbreak of worn tread and the tragedy of stepping in fresh dog poo. Even though my set was in the middle of the day, I couldn't see a single face because, well, like I just told you dammit, they all had shoes for faces.

 
Then there was the time I was asked to sing my song, The Climb, at the Washington State Centennial Celebration in the State Capital in Olympia. I'd brought my buddy Carson, down with me for company and, being the headline act, I'd been given the State Senators' private lounge as a place to change clothes and tune my guitar. It was a vast room with leather chairs and coffee tables strewn about and cigar butts in all the ashtrays. The room seemed like a secretive place, one very few people other than lawmakers and janitors would ever see from the inside. Carson, being deeply suspicious of all politicians, (though chummy and trusting of janitors) surprised me by striding at once purposefully toward the giant TV hanging from the high ceiling. He clicked it on and started scanning channels furiously. "I wanna know dammit, if we're paying taxes so these guys can watch the Playboy Channel," he growled through gritted teeth. As near as he could tell, we weren't, though he did grumble that we tax payers shouldn't be paying for Premium Cable in the first place.


Better acoustics in an Egyptian tomb

The brilliant people in charge of producing this historic event celebrating one hundred years of Washington's statehood, thought I'd sound exceptionally good standing in the rotunda at the upper level in the dome. Let me tell you my friends, outside of a shower, granite is not a singer's best friend. There were acres of granite. The floors were granite, the stairs were granite, the walls were granite. I think even the furniture was granite. I sang my first line and I sounded like a man dumped inside a bottomless well buried deep inside a cavern. I couldn't believe the vacuous sound of it. My syllables were completely indistinguishable but my voice was huge! If I'd been more of an egotistical man I'd have immediately called for obeisance and claimed my rightful place as God of Washington. Had I thought to roar - or even belch - I'm sure I could have sent thousands of people scampering and fleeing.

Instead, I just tried to sing my song. It was a pitiful, sorrowful mistake; me standing there at the top of the stairs echoing my celebrated song about brave Don Bennett climbing towering Mt. Rainier. But to the listeners in the vast halls, I was just gargling reverby nonsense over and over again. I could see their eyes and it just about killed me to see that much pity on people's faces. It shook me and I completely forgot which song I was singing. I began chanting sea shanties - which I do not even know. I did that a while and then I yodeled. After I yodeled in every style I could think of, I just sang stuff. Anything at all. Stuff I remembered hearing on the radio as a kid. I sang George Jones' The Race is On. "the race is on and it looks like Pride on the backstretch, Heartache running to the inside. . . " I hummed Camp Granada. "hello Mudda, hello Fadda, heah I am in Camp Granada. . ." I sang the theme song to Howdy Doody Time. None of it was discernible from pigs grunting. Somehow I transitioned back to my song, The Climb, and ended on a chord that was roughly in the same family of notes as the actual chord I was supposed to play.


Nothin' like a friendly crowd

People applauded, mostly I think, because I was ending before they went completely insane. But possibly, because Carson was standing behind me gesturing wildly for them to clap and cheer. I didn't know this until years later and I feel terrible now about how badly I treated him on the trip back, lecturing him vociferously on why he should have brought me a big rug or something to soak up the echoes.

I guess what I'm trying to get at here, my spring-time friends, is that it's a tough ol' life singin' songs for a living. But I'm going to do some deep knee bends, a bunch o' side-straddle hops, and keep on going for it. 'Cause it's what I do, podnas. Well, that, and because I truly do love it so much. It's been a joint effort though. It took both of us, you and me. You've helped me to keep doing what I love by buying my CDs and coming to my concerts, playing my songs for your friends - it's all made a huge difference in my life. When you think about the odds of some kid from the dusty Texas Panhandle plains picking up a guitar for the first time in his early twenties, and then getting to strum and sing for a living all these years, well, it seems unlikely. 

I can still remember writing my first song - a shameless ripoff of America's Horse With No Name. Within minutes I decided, "Dang it, I think I could become a big time recording artist! " I look back and can now understand the folks in my hometown who looked at me with a certain degree of compassionate pity. I now understand the sly grins and the knowing glances between them. There is a lot to be said for ignorance when you're a young person. So very much is accomplished in this world simply because a foolish youngster has no idea how nearly impossible a thing will be to do. I was too idealistic and naive to shut down my dream and reason my way into a regular line of work. Not that I didn't have plenty of jobs along the way. But after my moment of epiphany; seeing my future onstage with a guitar, well, I just couldn't take my piddly jobs very seriously.

I had dozens of jobs but I was, in the area of attendance, always considered a bad hire. I was creative though, I would constantly come up with excellent excuses for my absenteeism. Oddly enough, I never worked a single rainy day during all my young manhood in Amarillo. I just couldn't waste a beautiful rainy day on a dead end job. People think my songs are all about rain because I live in Seattle. Wrong-o, podnas. I was writing rain songs when I lived in dry, dusty Amarillo. Ever since I was a boy, a rainy day was a vacation day, something to celebrate. On the dusty plains you can smell rain coming for two hours before the clouds arrive from across the arid plains and the gigantic drops start pounding the ground and sending up dusty puffs. It's a beautiful smell; part electricity, part rain, part dirt. If I could sense in the early morning that it was likely to rain that day, I'd get out my list of excuses for missing work and start going through the ones I'd used and the ones I hadn't. Grampa broke his neck? Check. Got the two-day scarlet fever? Check. Twisted my ankle saving a drowning baby? Check. Dammit, all the good ones are gone. Oh wait! Motor mount broke and engine fell out on the freeway? That's it!

Suddenly freed from warehouse slavery, I'd take my guitar and my spiral notebook and drive to Thompson Park and sit under a picnic awning and spend the entire day writing songs, daydreaming about my dream girl, singing songs to the rain and just drifting away in reverie. I'm so very good at this still. 

Somehow, those raw, early beginnings evolved into a life of writing songs and singing on stages all around the country and having my songs played on radio all around the world. I couldn't begin to tell you how that dream actually came to be. It's more a matter of just having loved so dearly what I do - and accidentally getting better and better at it -that I find myself looking back now on a body of work and a life that has possibly meant something. It helped that I've become a more fully realized  human being along the way. I think that if you love something - and if you are at the same time seeking to open your heart to more love and truth along the way - then things just fall into place that allow you to do some version of what you love. That probably sounds like simplistic thinking - and maybe it is. But I know there is some truth in there. I've always felt in my heart that if you are open to the dream showing you it's true form - instead of you trying to make it into the exact vision you hold - then  there is a way to do what you love throughout your lifetime.

Sometimes when I'm talking to someone who isn't happy with the direction their life is going, I'll ask a simple question: "What do you really love to do?" You'd be surprised how many times they automatically and subconsciously translate this to be; "what do you really love to do that you can make a living at?" The problem with that subtle twist is that we are limited in our imaginations. No matter how great an imagination we may have, there are always greater wonders and miracles possible than we have ever envisioned. So, I take them back to my original question, "What do you really love to do?" It's a beautiful thing, watching a person light up when they feel the limitations of livelihood fall away and simply think of what they truly love to do. I believe there is absolutely nothing that you truly love to do which cannot in some way be a part of your livelihood also. And what I know for sure is this: if you do this thing that you love, this dream, this beautiful activity, your own energy and life will flow more fully and you will be presented with some way to live that you perhaps never saw before. 

Years ago, I heard from a friend a story about someone who loved to walk all day. He walked miles and miles just for the joy of it. I can relate, because I do this too. Only he had an idea for a way to make a living doing it. He contacted a famous boot manufacturer and told them he wanted to test their footwear. He wanted to see how many miles a pair of boots could take and still hold up. Amazingly. they hired him. They sent him boots and shoes and he walked in them, up hills, down highways, across fields and parking lots, keeping track of miles and terrain and weather and time. See what I mean? It's entirely possible that your love of singing or painting or talking or writing or gardening or cooking or building popsicle stick boats could in some way be a path of livelihood for you as well. It's not too late to give it a try, my friend. Just allow yourself a few minutes now and then of doing what you love. Let it grow, allow it room to breathe. Let it show you what it really is and see if it doesn't make you much happier and lead you to something beautiful. 

In my case, when I'm finally too old to sing, I plan to pursue my great love of straw chewing. There, I said it. I love to chew plastic straws and spit out the little pieces wherever I sit. All you folks in coffee shops all over Seattle, I'm fessin' up. I don't feel badly about it though. The way I see it, I've put many a college student through school by giving 'em good honest work with a broom.

Well, I feel I must end now. Chewing plastic straws is not by any means the lowest subject I could write about and I want to stop myself before I go there. Thank you for visiting my site now and then and reading my crazy ramblings. I appreciate your friendly company and wish you a beautiful end to winter and lovely beginning of spring. Thanks for listening to my songs. I'll leave you with the lyrics to one of my songs of springtime. 


Your friend on a chilly Seattle evening,

     ~Michael

Cherry Blossom Wine

 

I was walking on a cool, kind of cloudy afternoon
Something happens in the spring, I start to drift
Dreams are half-already real, quiet, waiting to reveal
When at last we have the faith, they can come alive and will

Oh, the way it all became is sweeter than it seems
And everything here was born within a dream
And now you and I are part
Of all that's in this yearning heart
That imagines all these things

She scatters seeds along the ground, she pours some water in a pail
When she sprinkles it around, we all think it's rain
Raindrops streaming from her eyes, or from the sky, it's all the same
Her benevolence of life, I just live and drink it in

Oh, the way it all became is sweeter than it seems
And everything here was born within a dream
And now you and I are part
Of all that's in this yearning heart
That imagines all these things

For a moment I was lost in the Cherry Blossom dust
Something finally broke the spell, I'm going home
I think I'm still a little drunk on that Cherry Blossom Wine
I can never get enough, I overdo it every time

Oh, the way it all became is sweeter than it seems
And everything here was born within a dream
And now you and I are part
Of all that's in this yearning heart
That imagines all these things

~ from the CD Watching the Storm Roll In
2000 Michael Tomlinson

 
 


Oooooh, is that a baseball
hurtlin' toward my head?"

 May 8, 2006

Howdy my honeysuckle-sniffin' friends,

Please forgive me for going two long months since my last website rambling. See, what happened is, I suffered a recklessly batted baseball to the temple and after I came to, for six whole weeks I forgot who the heck I was. I know! Ain't that something? Oddly, I didn't lose all recall, I did remember that I like dark chocolate, triple-fried cheese sammitches and long, smooth legs. (I can't tell you what a relief it was to reach down and find that mine are hairy)  And that's not all, my spring-feverish friends, for weeks I wondered whose guitar was leaning against the wall in my bedroom and what the hell kind of stupid tuning it was in. Plus, who the heck was that little fuzzy dawg?! Being a manly man, I just couldn't figure out the puffy little pooch thing and it troubled me considerably. Fortunately, one morning while stepping into the bathtub, I forgot to put away my electric toaster (I needs me some raspberry pop tarts every mornin' - I sure as hell remember that!) and when I stepped into the suds I got lit up like a fireworks display. Whee! I danced in the sparky water for ten minutes before the toaster came unplugged and set me free to live life like a normal human bean again, a little charred, sure, but miraculously with fully-charged memory banks! Yes! I remember everything now! I am Michael Tomlinson: Folkslinger! Yessirreee, my allergy-sufferin' friends, that Michael Tomlinson! Wheee! I can't tell you how good it is to be me again: singin' ditties 'bout rain and wind and chasin' my little doggie around the house with a rubber hatchet. (it's a barrel o' laughs) So, like I was saying, it's so very, very good to be me again. 

This is all a hunnert percent true and honest, I swear.
This morning I took off on one of my long, meandering hikes through several neighborhoods, down shady alleyways, over dirt trails, around wind-swept Greenlake, and back a couple of hours later to my humble adobe here in Wedgwood. Seattle is so beautiful this time of year but you never know for certain if you'll experience ten kinds of weather when you're out for a walk. I was once caught out with my pooch several miles from home, the two of us clinging to a skinny sapling for cover in a freezing hail storm, lightning flashing and rain whipping sideways, me with a short sleeved shirt on and my poor pup completely nekkid. Since that day, I've made sure to be much better equipped on my springtime jaunts.

Today for instance, I carried in my pockets; 1.) rain hat, 2.) another rain hat - in case the first one blows off my head, 3.) cheap plastic pancho - in case both hats blow away and I have to hunker down for the storm, 4.) highway flare - in case trucks skid toward me while I'm all hunkered down, 5.) lip stuff - I get parched when I'm paranoid about skidding trucks 6.) blowup canoe - in case I live through the hunker and have to paddle like the dickens for my life 7.) GPS unit - I cain't see good in golf ball sized hail 8.) roll of toilet paper - don't ask, 9.) new iPod loaded up with 3500 catchy tunes suitable for walking/hunkering/paddling. My playlist for my six mile hike/hunker? John Mayer, Jonatha Brooke, Joni Mitchell and Lindsay Buckingham. As far as I know they've never met, but podnas, today they collaborated like ol' drunken bandmates to get me through sideways rain and pesky hailstones - and even some little fruit candies the kiddies hurled at me. (it was my fault for not knowing the gangsta hand signs required to pass by their house)
 


Bungee considers her options

Remember in the old westerns how gentlemen cowboys would always tip their hats when a lady walked by? "Howdy Miss Delaquoix," they might say, for instance, touching the brim of their hats. Well I'm that way with my iPod. Whenever I pass anybody on the sidewalk I pull out one earbud and say "howdy" to them. I don't call nobody "Miss Delaquoix," but I could, I guess, if I ever thought about it in time. The thing is, everybody has a cell phone or an iPod in their ear these days and I don't like the feeling that we're all walking around in public cut off from each other. I enjoy sharing a word or smile and I like people to know I'm open to hearing what they have to say, too. So I act like one o' them old timey respectful cowboys and I tip my earbud to passersby. I like to hear it if they say "hello" back to me and I like to be ready if we suddenly decide to pause in our walk and say a word or two about the weather. I've had some amazing conversations with people I passed in my walks. You never know when someone pulling dandelions or teaching the dog to roll over might surprise you with the best story you've heard all week.
Thinking about amazing stories, an old friend comes to mind. My friend Tom Dundee died last month from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident. Tom was a singer/songwriter who I shared the stage with numerous times in the 80s and whom I would see every few years in the time since. I never knew anyone with so many amazing stories from real life experiences as Tom Dundee. His passing was sad for me and for so many people who loved him. Just tonight I found out about an online folk music message board where, all through April, many of his friends and fans and co-musicians had shared thoughts and feelings and memories. I'm late getting to it but I felt moved to write my own tribute to Tom and thought I'd share it here for any of you who may remember him and his beautiful, heart piercing music. ~ 

"Tom Dundee has come into my thoughts so many times over this last month. The songwriter, TR Ritchie, emailed me the night of his accident and I remember grabbing my guitar and singing something for Tom right then. It seemed to be the best way to pray for him. I sat that night, feeling Tom, remembering the times we'd shared the stage back in the 80s, times since then when we'd taken long walks and Tom had told me of his latest adventures. There are few people who have inspired as many re-tellings of a story as Tom Dundee. His real life experiences were just so magical and outlandish and charming and insane that you couldn't help but tell a friend or two.

If he was incarnate back then, I'd swear Tom may have been Davy Crockett. He was that kind of traveling storyteller/adventurer/ ambassador. There was the time he woke up from sleeping at a roadside rest stop in his car, when a group of runners came up the road. It was a half-marathon being run. All Tom had to wear were the cowboy boots he had on. He decided anyway to run along, thinking he'd laugh a bit, then turn around and come back. But he started enjoying it and thinking, "Hey, I could maybe complete this thing!" So he ran a half-marathon in his cowboy boots. As if that in itself weren't enough to stun any listener, then he added, "What amazed me was that I had this calcium deposit, a bone spur on my heel that hurt like hell. Man, by the end of that run it had completely dissolved! That run was just what I needed!"

The night before Tom's passing, when he was in the coma he never came out of, I sat on the edge of my bed after singing for him, and tried to feel him, to get in touch with his heart and soul. I took deep breaths and asked that my own spirit touch his and comfort him, listen to him, whatever happens when two souls really connect. What I felt was so stunningly beautiful. Tom was laughing. He was not in the least unhappy. Tom was completely joyful about where he was in that very moment. I got the strongest feeling that he was off on another of his adventures and completely pleased about it.

I'm not saying this to be upbeat and optimistic about what goes on after this life. I'm just sharing what I experienced from Tom that night. I thought if you knew Tom and that such a thought hadn't occurred to you, you might like to know."

Michael Tomlinson - Seattle, WA
 

A Delicate Balance  Tom Dundee 

"And its all such a delicate balance
Takes away just as much as it gives,
To live it is real, to love it is to feel
You're a part of what everything is.

And its all such a delicate balance
As it turns through the circles of air,
To worry does nothing but steals from the loving
And robs from the pleasure that's there."

A Gathering of Friends

I've recently begun to consider creating some Gathering of Friends Retreats again. For nearly 10 years I hosted them a couple of times a year. Then I ended them at the close of the last decade. (hey, I thought Y2K was gonna send us all to the caves) Now however, I find myself having thoughts that I want to share, ideas and concepts that seem timely in sharing with people. The idea of thinking of our very lives as our creative works in progress. The concept of finding integrity in your life by simply staying with the process of life, taking conscious breaths and staying with what feels true in your heart. 

Of course, my retreats are always much funnier and more enjoyable than that probably sounds. There is always a lot of laughter and talking and stories told. And you will undoubtedly walk away with some strong new friendships. I'm just sharing some of what I've been feeling, in hopes of giving the vision some room to manifest.

Right now I'm just allowing the shape to take hold in my heart and mind. I will definitely send you word when it all comes together.


How to sneak a cat into a gig

Concerts 

In the last couple of years I've played quite a number of concerts. It wouldn't be that many for most traveling musicians, but for me, a dozen shows in a year is a lot. I'm not much for staying gone weeks at a time. I like to remember what city I'm in and actually enjoy the concerts I do. In the last couple of years though, I've played in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and California. Whew! Several of those states I've played in numerous times. Now I've come to the end of all that I had booked and don't know where the next shows will manifest or when, but I'll definitely send you notice when they come together. 

I've been playing about half public and half private concerts and thoroughly enjoying both of them. If you're interested in how to put together a concert or how to hire me for a private one, just go to my website and check out Private Concerts. All the basic details are there, though I'm completely open to hearing about any ideas you might have in mind. (I don't do no dang mud wrasslin' concerts though)

As you well know, I'm always harping on about breathing. Talking to you in my website ramblings, onstage and in my songs, about taking deep, conscious breaths. I really don't mean to talk you to death on the subject. I promise I wouldn't make such a big deal out of it if I didn't know in my heart that there is something there that could help every human being if we only could remember to do it. It's a funny thing, breathing, we do it all the time but we seldom pay all that much attention to it. When you do pay attention though, it can change your life. 

I've got many long tales about my transformative experiences in breathing. I tell you with all honesty that I've seen many, many tense moments, conflicts and hurdles overcome gently and peacefully because I remembered to follow my breath. Sometimes I imagined love and light and insight flowing into me on my breath. But if that's not comfortable or doesn't feel natural to you, you could simply imagine Life or God's Love flowing into you on your breath. Hell, imagine a banana split flowing into you. I don't see why that wouldn't work, too. The good thing is, breathing is one of the few things not against anybody's religion. 

There is every imaginable way to be mindful of your breath, and maybe that's the key; simply being mindful. Paying attention to how you're breathing and what's going on for you when you're breathing shallowly or when you're breathing deeply and fully. 

This is something I know for sure from my own experience: when I've been in painful conflict with someone I love and have remembered to slow my breathing and keep it going, slow and even and easy, I have often been given a knowing of what to say and what not to say. I've also been aware that my heart does not shut down. That is a huge thing and a great key to staying with love and peace: not shutting down your heart. When I breathe, I remember that I do not need to protect myself from pain. I can breathe through it. I may feel pain, but what happens is that my calm breathing has a calming effect on my own heart, allowing it a feeling of safety and love. Pain dissolves, transmutes to peace and sometimes even joy. My calmness then often has a tremendous calming effect on the person I'm in conflict with and as I breathe, I find that our tug of war begins to lessen until there is literally no tension between us. No, I don't always remember this. I get caught up in human drama just like you do. But I've used this method of conscious breathing many times with both strangers and people I love dearly and it has worked miracles. It can work for you. It was given to us all and we forgot how to use it.

There is no one right way to breathe mindfully. You have access to as much insight into this as I do. I only share my experiences because I'm grateful for them and because I love to share good things. (except chocolate) Perhaps you could just begin to remind yourself now and then to breathe deeply and fully. Tape a note on the dash of your car or on your refrigerator at home. Just a gentle reminder to breathe in Life and to Trust in what comes after.

Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying your springtime. It is yours, you know. Yours to enjoy and love and make good use of. 

Thanks for checking in on me. I won't wait a month next time to write you. 

Your friend in windy/rainy/sunny Seattle,
   
~Michael

June 11, 2006

Howdy my fine, lawn mowing friends, 

I just finished hiking several miles through some of my favorite neighborhoods and trails in Seattle and now I've wandered into this Tully's coffee shop to sip some chai tea and watch it gently rain outside whilst I write you. (I get so few opportunities to use the word whilst) It's so lush and green here this time of year that it's like a jungle of trees and blossoms hovering over the streets and sidewalks. There are all kinds of interesting, mysterious nooks and crannies to explore on my rambles. I love to nose over fences and part tree branches to peer into those dense spaces and find what kind of magical scenes may be hidden from view. Sometimes I find a real treasure. "Oh! Sorry! I didn't know yall would be nekkid back here. I was just enjoying your garden. Don't mind me, please go back to your croquet." I really should wear an orange hunting vest when I do this, so as not to attract hurled objects.

Once when I was nine years old, in Texas, I was on my way home from school whistling Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley real good, when I spotted a heavily drooping tree branch clenching a cluster of the plumpest, reddest cherries my eyes had ever beheld. In my great awe I stopped whistling and just stood there gawking. I licked my lips and looked both ways for witnesses. Those delicious-looking cherries had my mouth watering and I could not help but imagine eating the whole bunch of them as soon as possible. There was a six-foot tall wooden fence between me and those goodies; which is to say, there was nothing at all stopping me from my juicy feast. I got a running start and easily mounted the cedar fence, hooking my arm around a tall post for security, but before my grubby little fingers could grasp even one gorgeous cherry, a rock whizzed so close to my ear that I shrieked at the whoosh of it and fell backwards onto my butt into the dirt alley, sprung up and took off sprinting for my life, leaving a cloud of dust behind me like I was in a Roadrunner cartoon. I'd not only heard but actually felt the dangerous missile blast past me and could tell from the sound and the wind of it that it was angrily thrown. Damn, that could have killed me! At full sprint I managed to sneak a look back over my shoulder and see, to my shock and complete devastation, that it was an old, grandfatherly fellow who had thrown the rock and was now standing at his gate grinning, his boney fist pumping the air like he'd just won the lottery. Did he think it was funny - causing my little heart to pound like that? I was so very glad he hadn't matched that stone up with my tender jaw but truthfully, I was hurt that he'd even tried. Heck, I was just a dang little kid goin' for a treat! Aren't adults - especially grandfatherly ones - supposed to go along with stuff like kids stealing a little fruit? Could you ever imagine being a leathery ol' codger, a hundred-something years old, and deciding to hurtle a fist-sized chunk o' rock at some little kid's chubby face over a few sweet cherries? I'm telling you my friends, my childhood was tough. Even all these long years later I'm still kind of upset - as you can probably tell. To this day I look at old geezers with a suspicious eye. (unfortunately, I'm well aware that I'm fast becoming one of 'em) I guess I shouldn't have judged the ol' fart though. He had probably been waiting weeks for that very cluster of cherries to ripen so Gramma could fry him up some tasty pies, when here come some little nine-year-old bastard attempting to steal 'em. But still.
 


checking out what Hafiz has to say today

I never had much luck picking fruit, stolen or not, as a boy. For one thing, Amarillo was a dried-up wasteland of weeds and dirt back then. Not a place you'd think of much in the way of harvesting plump fruit. Plenty of devil's claws and tumbleweeds, though. However, there was the time I saw a tree loaded with some sort of magical fruit I'd never seen before. At first I thought the heavy fruit was a variety of pear, but with a kind of green bark on the outside. On closer inspection this didn't seem likely, pears are awfully soft; which is why they've never been on my list of favorite hand fruit. I likes me a crispy hand fruit that crunches and spurts juice when you bite it. Anyway, I spotted a large, likely one and after several loud, thrashing efforts, tugged it from the branch. I almost had to take the entire bough to get it. I didn't understand back then that fruit which doesn't release easily from the branch is not yet ready to be picked - or eaten. For me it was all about muscle. If I could heave and ho and grapple that puppy eventually off the branch, it was mine and ought to be real tasty too.  (I guess I equated it with pulling in a catfish on my Zebco after a mighty effort and lots of splashing of fishy brown water) The mine part could not be argued - once I'd gotten the hardy fruit stripped free of the limb and into my shirt, and had put a block or two of distance between me and that yard, it was clearly my personal property. The tasty part though, didn't work out as well. I had no idea what that piece of difficult fruit was. Here is what I recall about it though; it was egg-shaped and hard as a hammer. Now, I was no dang wimp, I'd eaten rock-hard crab apples my whole childhood and was not one to give up easily. For that matter, I could even sometimes shatter a big ol' jaw breaker candy if I used my hands on my chin and forehead and ground at it hard enough. I had a strong set of teeth but I was having trouble making a dent in my mystery fruit. I turned that stubborn thing ten different ways, trying to find a way to achieve me some dental purchase on it and to get at least a sliver of it into my mouth. Anything that hard to bite just had to be worth the trouble, wouldn't you think? 

After half an hour or so, I found a weakness in the skin and managed to work one of my front teeth into it. I bent over at the waist, twisting my head back and forth and trying to torque it with my hands until a bite would pop off into my mouth. When it eventually did so - out of obeisance to the stubborn laws of physics as they pertain to hungry boys - I was astonished to see how green it was inside. But mostly I was surprised at the gawd awful bitter taste of it. Man! What the heck kind of fruit was that thing? I started spitting hard. There was a good chance I'd just bitten into some terribly poisonous fruit and was on the verge of death. I kept it up until I was only spittin' cotton and then that convinced me that I was a goner for sure. I threw that hard, poisonous thing down as hard as I could on the sidewalk and the bitter fruit broke into two pieces. Wait a minute! Lodged in one side was a big brown ball. Maybe that was the fruit part. I picked it up and tried to bite into it but, if anything, it was even harder than the green part. After a minute of grinding my molars against it I gave up and left it there in the dirt. It's probably still there today unless a steamroller happened to finally get it.

This is the part of my story that is kind of embarrassing, but please remember, I was raised in Amarillo, Texas, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it. Amarillo is near the center of that square part of the state called the Panhandle. We didn't get much culture or outside information there in the Panhandle. Let's put it this way, until I was twenty years old, if you'd said you were eating seafood, everybody thought you meant catfish you'd caught in the muddy, stinkin' lake. I didn't know there was anything else. (Calamari? Mahi mahi? Come on!) And if you'd have asked if I wanted to eat Pasta for dinner I'd have punched you in the nose for being nasty. Of course I knew what macaroni and cheese was, and spaghetti, but nobody my whole life had ever mentioned that those were a part of a larger food group called Pasta. I was thirty when I found that out. So it ain't really my fault that when I was 9 years old I wrestled from a tree, and tried like the dickens to eat, a rock-hard, unripe avocado, is it? I'm not even going to tell you how many years it was before I discovered what that fruit actually was. Let's just say I was repulsed the first time somebody offered me a bowl of some kind of gooey green stuff with a corn chip and they nearly got punched out before I realized it wasn't a prank.

Looking back on all this, I think how fortunate it was that that in 1982 somebody heard one of my home recorded songs on a cassette tape in Seattle and took it to a radio station where it became a huge hit. Had that not happened and this wonderful, rainy Northwest city opened up it's mossy arms to welcome me home, there is a good chance that I'd be still running around Texas eating macaroni and trying to crack open strange fruit with my teeth. ~ MT

 

Please see this movie
     An Inconvenient Truth 


Last weekend several friends and I went to see the important new movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which is a documentary of Al Gore's lecture and slide show on the rapidly escalating earth changes due to Global Warming. I knew I wanted to see it but I didn't know if it was going to be an empowering movie or one that depressed me over the hopelessness of the situation. I must tell you, my friends and I left the theater very grateful that the movie had been made and discussing ways we could do something to help spread the word and create a healthier planet for ourselves and the children we're leaving this place to. 

There was not one single moment in the film where I felt that something was hyped, trite, forced or false. I greatly appreciated the honesty Al Gore expressed in sharing about his own life and his family's life. He and his team have created a truly empowering movie. Yes, what he shows us about recent earth changes in photographs and film, in scientific records and studies is truly shocking, but his belief that humanity is capable of changing these trends is uplifting and hopeful.   

I have been feeling the movie work it's way through my bones, into my heart and soul this last few days. I want it to do this. I want to feel real change in my heart and in my habits of living. I want to become aware of what I'm wasting in the way of natural resources and how I'm contributing to pollution and warming of our atmosphere with the choices I make. I deeply believe we can change how we live and be happier for it. I believe we can feel a soulful satisfaction by being responsible and proactive and energetic in sharing these new ways of thinking and living. 

I hope to hold an event this year where I will play my music in support of some of the organizations that are doing the most and best work toward healing our atmosphere and planet, and educating the people of the world. When this happens I promise to let you know about it. In the meantime, do not take on talk of Global Warming as either Guilt or Fear. Guilty, fearful people have no energy. Instead, understand that every single one of us has contributed and that the new choices we can make are real and possible and reachable. ~MT

Upcoming Concerts
I played quite a few concerts around the US in 2005 and began this year doing shows from coast to coast. This summer I have very little going on but taking hikes and hanging in my sky chair under the tree in my front yard. I am thinking of putting together a few shows, maybe one in Seattle, one in Colorado and one in California. Of course, I'm always open to hearing about potential shows. These days, about half of my concerts are private events, where people fly me in to do a concert for friends, family, employees or organizations. I also play benefit concerts here and there and am always working with folks on potential ones. If you're ever interested in creating a concert or playing a part in it, just click on the Private Concerts link here on my site or email me what you have in mind. I'm open to your ideas.

As fall nears, I'll probably begin putting a few shows together for other parts of the country and will definitely post them on my website and send you email or postcard notice if they are in your region. If you think I may not have your current physical or email address, please email them to me or click here for my Mail List sign up
 


A Gathering of Friends Retreat 
It's been on my mind and in my dreams recently to host a weekend gathering/workshop/retreat. It's been about seven years since my last weekend retreat was held and I honestly hadn't known if I'd ever do one again. For nearly a decade, twice a year I'd invite people from around the world to join me and my friends on the Olympic Peninsula for a weekend of talk and laughter, music, wandering, new friendships. Mostly, a weekend of goodwill. I loved those gatherings. They were a beautiful part of my life for many years and so many people would come again and again, many writing me afterwards with stories of the insights, inspiration and new friendships they found there. 

Recently I've started having dreams about hosting them again. Three days ago I awoke from a dream with an actual focus of a possible retreat. What was in my mind when I awoke was a theme of Self Awareness and Personal Expression through Music, Stories and the Written Word. This was not my idea, it was simply what was given to me in my dream. I'm exploring the idea now, imagining how it might transpire, where I would hold the event and when. I've started putting out word for a possible place to hold the weekend event here in Seattle and will keep you apprised as it unfolds. 

When I play concerts around the country I often hear from people in my audience who have attended my retreats and from many who ask if I will hold them again because they always wanted to come but never could. If you are interested, please let me know. I'm open to your ideas. Most likely, if I host one here, it will be held on a Saturday and Sunday this fall, but I have nothing solid set up yet.


Music, CDs and my next recording


I have ten CDs in my catalog, including Friendship and Goodwill, a compilation I created last year of songs from several of my CDs for the benefit of children and schools. I'm grateful to you for listening whether you have only one or two CDs or the whole catalog. What I want you to know though, is that there is a very good chance that if you like my first four CDs, you'll love the newer ones too. Not that I haven't changed and evolved over time, I certainly have. But I long ago made a commitment that I would always fill my CDs with melodic, meaningful music and I have continued to do that. My latest CD of all new songs, Standing in Troublesome Creek, is an acoustic recording that I love dearly. I took a long hike listening to the songs on my iPod this week and was so happy that these songs still feel so strong to me and are so filled with heart and compassion. I have been hoping for two years to record these acoustic songs with full band, and to add a couple of other new songs that I have yet to record but truly love. I am hopeful that this is going to finally happen this year. It will have been 8 years since my last band album so when it finally happens, it will definitely be a time to celebrate for me. I'll let you know about it. In the meantime, I hope you'll go to my CD order page and order a CD or two that you don't yet have. I promise you will find inspiring and enjoyable songs there.


Love
In the last year I have been blessed with a wonderful new love in my life. That might surprise you since I don't usually talk much about my personal relationships. This is mostly because there is nothing on earth more precious, fragile, and sometimes frightening, than opening your heart trustingly to another person. The last thing I'd want to do is publicize this beautiful journey we are on, but I share some of it with you here in my own private way because seeing that this can happen; that love and consciousness and true companionship can come into my life with someone, I cannot help but want you to know that it is a possibility in life. I'm not talking about the chemistry or fascination we used to feel when we were young and would meet someone and immediately place our personal template of Perfect Partner upon them. I'm talking about sharing a love with someone that values consciousness and a deeper love, an acceptance for each other's humanness and process of evolution, a love that emanates forgiveness and patience and understanding and acceptance. This is what has come into my life.

The main reason I care to tell you about it is because, from inside this new experience, I have been able to see things about myself, and about humanity in general, that I could not see before. What became so clear to me early in this new love was that I'd already carried all this love within me, even when I felt lonely and alone. It made me realize that it's always been possible to have and share kind, compassionate love and it makes me want to share that hopefulness with you. Whether you are with someone you have been with a long time and seek a deeper, more conscious love with them, or maybe you are alone or even now in a relationship but feeling it is time to move on and seek a deeper expression of your heart and soul, I can tell you that it is truly possible to have this kind of deep, meaningful and conscious love in your life. It is actually possible to have a relationship of kindness.

It didn't come for me until I was ready. Ready to love in a compassionate, accepting way and ready to receive that same love from another. I know this: for it to happen for me, there had to be the real intention of honesty and humbleness, openness, courage and forgiveness. Little did I know it would manifest in such laughter and passion and heart-piercing love. I have been blessed with a sweetheart and true friend in this last year who is that very brave, laughing, loving, accepting woman and I'm feeling about as fortunate as a man could feel. I wish for that Great Love of your desire to flow into your life and I deeply believe it can.
Thanks for listening to my music and sharing it with with your friends. When you're listening sometime, just for the experience of it, take deep breaths all the way through one of my more soothing songs. Just deep, quiet breathing. See if you don't notice some of the stress of the world breaking down and being replaced with the real you. Which is pure Love, by the way.

I'll leave you with the lyrics to one of the songs from my Watching the Storm Roll In CD. It's called One Breath.
Your friend in rainy Seattle,
   ~Michael

 

One Breath
2001 Michael Tomlinson

Overnight a lot can change
You can go from cloudy grey
To the morning, brilliant blue, it's all for you
The purest part of the sky and the ocean too
There you are, there it is
Everything that life has to give

I'm not talking about a dream
And I'm not singing of something that lives in a fantasy
There are wonders in our lives, already real
Worlds we don't even know, we someday will
Eventually, even all this will be revealed

~chorus~
Here, sing these words and
Feel all this pain and fear
Fall apart at last
When we take one breath
And we just forgive again

Breathing out and breathing in
Mystery secrets of the wind
Blowing in and out our lives
Breeze in a sail
To bring us closer to love with each inhale
Every wind, every breeze
Every single breath that we breathe

Overnight a lot can change
You can go from cloudy grey
To the morning, brilliant blue, it's all for you
The purest part of the sky and the ocean too
There you are, there it is
Everything that life has to give  

~chorus~
Here, sing these words and
Feel all this pain and fear
Fall apart at last
When we take one breath
And we just forgive - ourselves

~ From the CD
      Watching the Storm Roll In

 

 

   

   

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