PAST RAMBLINGS  - 19
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
April 1, 2005   -to-   
November 13, 2006
 

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
 
 
 
July 19, 2006

 

Howdy my sweltering friends,

I spent all morning today at the top of a 16-foot ladder, hanging sun shades outside the windows of my house. I didn't look good doing it either, which is a disappointment to me. Doing manly stuff like that, I like to feel as if I cut a masculine, rugged figure for passersby. The older I get the fewer opportunities there are to look bold and beautiful - unless of course, I'm faraway and backlit, coming at you out of the sunset wearing buckskin. I can still pull that off fairly well 'til I get up close and you see the Lepitor in my pocket and my penny loafers. Because my ladder is a spindly toy of a tool - and about six feet too short I had to prop it nearly straight up, put a brick under one leg and then stand on the top rung on my tippy-toes. I was three rungs past the sticker that states - Do Not Stand Above This Rung - and so flat against that wall you'd have had to look twice to notice I wasn't a painting. I have no idea how I managed to hammer nails in all the right places and get those long shades maneuvered and hung 20 feet off the ground by myself. I think it was just one of those stubbornness things: I was determined to have a cool house even if I died doing it. Now, if I ever applied that kind of commitment to anything worthwhile I'd be a force to contend with. But no, I prefer to use up all my nine-lives on reckless household projects. (next time I'll tell you about repairing my television while it was on - whoooeeee!)

 

After playing quite a few concerts around the country last winter and spring, it looks like I'll be staying close to home most of this summer. I love being in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, riding the ferries out to the islands with my friends, taking hikes around the area and hanging in my shady tree swing at home. Lately, I've been going outside to listen to the birds about 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. My body seems to want to rise with the sun. Well, not so much my whole body as mainly my bladder. Once up though, I do love the early morning sounds and can't help but go outside and see what's happening. Unfortunately, I also like staying up very late most nights. As result, I've had to become a frequent napper. My girlfriend called me one day last week and when I said I was napping, she said, "Again? Didn't you say you were napping when I called you earlier?" I sputtered out, "Sweetheart, you are so right. But, I didn't get to finish that one so I had to start over. You have to nap right or it just ain't satisfying." I don't think she understood, but I plan on 'splainin' it to her up close and in person the next time she comes over. "Come in here, my Love. You do know that naps ain't just for sleepin' anymore, don't you?" is how I plan on starting the dialogue. Wish me luck.

Anyway, about these beautiful summer dawns; it's such a peaceful world out there at 5 A.M., hanging in my swing under the boughs of my walnut tree - even with the occasional rock-hard walnut dropped upon my tender noggin by squirrels. No problem, I can take a huge amount of taunting from rodents and still retain a sunny outlook. It's so much better than commuting. I just shake it off and keep on swaying in my chair, breathing deeply and soaking it all in; the coolness, the scent of flowers and trees, the melodies of robins and chickadees. I've hung a feeder nearby and it always surprises me how many little birdies dare to come so close with me rattling the pages of a New Yorker from joke to joke, howling out loud at the ones I can understand, and my little pooch growling in my lap everytime I disturb her slumber. She's little but the proximity of her fangs to my crotch is of constant concern to me.

I'm pretty sure I have neighbors who think I live in that swing. They see me there mornings when they leave for work, and then I'm there again many evenings, sipping cold limeade and talking on the phone to telemarketers. ("You don't say! Do you have a plan where I could actually bundle my phone, garbage and groceries into one low-priced package? Hello?") My neighbors have no idea the mountains of things I accomplish in the long day between their going and coming. For instance; this week I'm considering mowing my lawn. It's not as easy as it sounds though, I need to read up on it a bit more to make sure I'm understanding all this stuff about keeping the grass from going into shock. Have you heard about this? It was brand new information to me. As a kid, I always set the mower blade to dirt-level and let 'er rip. Figured I'd have to mow a lot less often if the grass had to start from bare roots every time. But these days they say you should cut no more than 1/3 of the length of the grass blade each time you mow. Can you even imagine measuring all those blades? Come on!

One-third of the length of the blade would be roughly 8-inches in my yard. I've noticed that the people walking down my sidewalk seem alarmed by my urban jungle. No matter how welcoming I holler "Howdy, Seattleites!", they avert their eyes and cross the street. I think it's just because they haven't seen the sign I bought at the Dollar Store, which explains it all:
This Area Designated: Official Wildlife Sanctuary. If they saw that sign they'd more fully understand the waist-high dandelions, arching blackberry vines and coyote packs. It was just plain luck that allowed me to find that sign. It was the last one in the store, otherwise I'd be mowing every week or two like everyone else around here.

I don't know if you have the same Dollar Stores in your town, but I'm telling you, factories in Indonesia must be having a blast of a time making those plastic signs 'cause I've seen some doozies in there. Before I noticed the wildlife sanctuary sign I was torn for the longest time between: Caution; Medical Waste: Burgers Half-price! and Attention: Do Not View Nuclear Accident! I don't know what type of nuclear accident they didn't want you to stand around watching but it seemed a wise declaration, all around.

If you want one of those wildlife sanctuary signs for your yard, let me know and I'll be on the lookout for another one.


 ~My Music on iTunes and other download sites~
Have I told you that some of my music is now available for paid downloads at iTunes and Real Rhapsody and several other sites? Yes indeedy, my friends. Right now you can find my first CD, Run This Way Forever, there and in a few weeks, Still Believe will be available as well. Over the next several months I'll release consecutive albums for download. I know this is soon going to be the way everybody gets their music. I just waited a while because there was so much in the system that wasn't ironed out. Also, as an artist who writes a collection of songs and spends a lot of time and energy weaving them together in a certain order and style, I was not anxious for people to pick and choose a song here and there. I still love whole albums. I love to hear what a musical artist is doing over the length of a record. But I understand that some people want to be able to buy only the song they are seeking and now they'll be able to do that with my music. Of course, you can still buy all my CDs here on my website and at my concerts. And I can autograph them for you, which is tougher to do on a download. Here is a list of my CDs, in case you are missing one or six.

Run this Way Forever   Still Believe   Face Up in the Rain   Living Things 
Calling Me Back to the Wild   Trace the Sky  At Your House  
Watching the Storm Roll In   Standing in Troublesome Creek   Friendship and Goodwill

To order any of my 10 CDs online or by mail, please click here

My song writing continues to evolve and grow. I'm working right now on several songs that I'm really excited about. Though you don't hear me as much on land-based radio these days, mostly due to the buyout of radio stations by giant media corporations, I do get lots of internet play, and XM Radio, the worldwide satellite station, plays me as well. Jones Radio Network out of Denver plays me in thirty or forty cities on their Smooth Jaz stations and SmoothJazz.com has been playing me for years.

 

Recently, a producer in California asked me to write a song for a very well known female vocalist to record for an upcoming children's project. It was a big challenge for me, writing with another singer in mind, but I'm very happy with what came to life and I hope to hear it recorded soon. Also, five of my songs are to be in a new independent movie that is expected to be released later this year. I've been asked by another producer to write songs for a movie made from a book that he is in the process of acquiring rights to. In this business I've learned that all these things may happen in a big way or they could fizzle out before anything comes to life. I just keep doing what I do: writing and singing my songs, living my life and trying to find balance as much as possible. It does feel good to have my songs still getting out in the world and being used as a part of such promising projects.
 


 

Michael Tomlinson Presents
   A Two Day Songwriting Workshop in Seattle
        
Saturday and Sunday, September 23 and 24

I have quite a number of songwriters contact me each year, some send me their CDs or tapes, others just want to get in touch or ask me about my methods of writing and crafting songs. Over the years I've hosted songwriting seminars in a number of cities and now I've decided to host a full weekend event specifically for songwriters this September 23 and 24 in Seattle. Everyone is invited; beginning songwriter, aspiring, intermediate or professional. My intent is to help you to free up your creative process and hone your crafting skills so that, at whatever level you are at now, you will leave here writing better songs and feeling more satisfied with your creative process.
Click here for all the details
 


 

~Upcoming Concerts~

I'm hoping to schedule a number of concerts this autumn around the country. I usually have a mix of public shows and private concerts, where I'm flown in to perform for friends and family, community, clubs and organizations. If you're interested in either, please check for updates. Or email me at mt@michaeltomlinson.com any time.



~Breath~

You know that I almost never write a new website rambling without talking a bit about breathing. If that sounds like a boring subject to you, I ask you to just hang with me a minute and see if there is anything here that calls to you. There is no one thing that is ever the "key" to peace or clarity. It's just that there are few tools as universal, as available to all living humans, as deep, conscious breathing. And what is so very amazing about it to me is that there is no need to know anything about it. There is no "right" way. And no matter how many times you have thought about the idea of catching your breath in times of anxiety or excitement; of calming yourself by slowing down and taking some deep breaths, there is so incredibly much more available to you than that. You can accomplish miracles by being mindful of your breathing.

I have seen conflict with others melt away simply because I took a few minutes to breathe and find my own peace. And in the times when I've been so blessed as to take those deep breaths with another person; the person I'm in a struggle with, the result has been even more awe inspiring.

But those aren't the only reasons to pay attention to your breath. I do it so that I feel at peace in my heart. When I feel anxiousness or fear, anger or hurt, I nearly always remember to breathe. I cannot tell you that everything is healed every time, but I can tell this truthfully; I am always better after the breathing. And sometimes, when I stay with my breath long enough for the process to complete it's evolution in me, I feel transformed.

I was swinging in my chair under my walnut tree one morning last week. I had had a difficult night, tossing and turning over a conflict in my life and feeling tired and unsettled that morning. Though I'm always talking about breathing - and I do take conscious breaths often - I seldom take more than ten or twenty long, slow ones before I'm off to do something else. I hung there free of the earth and feeling the sway of branches that summer morning and I closed my eyes as I took my deep breaths. It felt good to do this - as it always does - and I took several more. I breathed into my heart and asked silently to raise the vibration of Love in my Heart. After five or six minutes of this I grew slightly restless, ready to stop my breathing and do something else. What else? I asked my self. What else besides this would be important to do at 5:30 in the morning? Go inside and turn on the tv and watch the traffic report? I fought my restlessness and decided to breathe a little longer. After a few minutes I would feel anxious again and almost quit, but then somehow I decided to stick with it a little longer.

After some fifteen or twenty minutes I reached a place I hadn't been to in some time: a space where I am relaxed into the moment, surrendered to the process of simply being. I found myself feeling a quiet, deepening peace spread throughout me. Clearly, my breathing was what was leading me there. The slow intake of breath, the holding of it a moment and the slow release of it, was allowing my heart to slow and my pulse, most importantly, my mind. My ego, which is where my restlessness had come from, had anxiously fought the idea of me staying with my breath. It very much wanted me to get up from my swing and go turn the tv on. But just my heart had found itself surrounded by a loving and gentle feeling of peace, so had my ego. It was no longer threatened and, like a kitten who doesn't want to settle down to sleep, but then drops to a deep slumber from wherever it is playing, my ego purred like a happy cat. When you breathe long enough, Ego finds it's right place and is your friend again instead of your tyrant. When it's in it's rightful place, it's an elegant, joyful friend.

I hung there gently swaying, the birds growing louder and louder in the branches above me. Chickadees, Sparrows, Flickers, Robins, Blue Jays, Crows and so many more. My trees and bushes are filled with them. I was wonderfully aware of their songs and calls and yet, at the same time I was immersed in a deep place of calm resonance. You know the place, it's much like the world you don't quite want to wake from some mornings: a blissful reverie aware of itself and the waking world at the same time. From a place much like that I considered the birds and breathed into my heart and felt complete, gentle peace in my being. In that moment three words came to me softly and steadily, repeating over and over again as I swung. "Be here now. . . Be here now. . . Be here now. . ." Of course I've heard the phrase many times, but there was something different about it; I'd never felt it whispered from within me before. It was a gift, given me that sweet morning for following my inner calling to stay with my breathing, to be mindful of the process.

For two days before that I'd had a very tense back and neck. I have one of those wooden Ma Rollers that I've used for nearly 30 years to lay on, painfully rolling and working the tension out of my back muscles. But this particular morning, breathing among the morning birds, swinging under my tree, staying with the process, all my tension drained from my back with the words; Be here now. . . I felt clearer and freer than I had in a long time. I felt rested and calm. And more than anything, I felt grateful and kind. Those are pretty much my two favorite emotions; gratitude and kindness.

That's it my friends, no great, exciting adventure. Just a little miracle under my walnut tree; trusting my breathing long enough to experience the pain and stress of the world washing out of my bones and muscles on a warm wave of sea water. It's just one way to find joy in your heart but such a simple one that I can never stop reminding you that it's there for you. It works for all human beans. And, as far as I know, it's not against any religion on earth.
 

So that's my rambling this month, folks. Thanks for checking in with me now and then, for listening to my music and sharing it with others. You have helped me to have a remarkable life by doing that. I hope you have a beautiful summertime ahead of you. If it occurs to you, do something kind for yourself now and then. And when you are feeling good about that, turn that big kindness loose on the world.

Your friend on the ladder in chilly Seattle,
   ~Michael


PS, I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs.

Run Like the River Runs
1985 Michael Tomlinson

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 part of me that I have never known
And I wonder if you see
All 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
Then 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?


   from the CDs
      Run This Way Forever
      and the solo-acoustic Watching the Storm Roll In


 
August 24, 2006

If you've already read this letter
please click here for details and maps/directions.

Howdy my friends,

In the last several months I have felt a strong commitment rising in me toward changing how I live on this planet. I'm observing more consciously the ways I use energy and natural resources - and the ways I waste them as well; polluting the air and water and land. I have been talking with people close to me about this and it seems to be a subject very prominent in our minds - perhaps in yours as well.

Maybe you've seen the documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, narrated by and featuring Mr. Al Gore. I saw it with several friends and we were all deeply affected by what he had to share about our planet's crisis of pollution and the resulting global warming. I was stunned to see such clear photographic evidence of the dramatic changes in our polar caps and glaciers, rivers and lakes. Before I attended the film I was concerned that I'd leave the theater depressed. I didn't know for sure if I really wanted to see it but I took some deep breaths and went anyway. Though my friends and I were understandably shocked and saddened by many of the earth changes we saw, instead of feeling hopeless and powerless, we found ourselves inspired and energized by the sincerity and humbleness, the intelligence and science behind the film. I was inspired by the message of hope and faith that, though the situation on Earth really is critical, it is not too late for us to wake up and to begin do something positive - if we move now. I'm ready to make that move.

On Saturday, September 16, in Ravenna Park in Seattle, I am hosting A Gathering of Friends and Neighbors - A Conversation About Our Lives on a Fragile Planet. It will be a free event, open to all, that will focus on ways that we can begin to make changes in our individual lives that will benefit our children and grandchildren and the planet itself over time. (if you're nowhere near Seattle, please bear with me, this is for you, too) I believe that if we turn to each other for support and commitment and for creative ideas and solutions, we can build a groundswell of lasting commitment that can reverse much of the damage we've done to our eco-systems; the oceans and waterways; polar regions, earth and sky.

I have no agenda but this: to facilitate a goodwill discussion and to promote a gentle awakening to what we face now in our world. Gentleness is key; frightened people do not make wise, committed choices. We need small, sure steps that we can and will stay with; then we can move on to bigger steps as we are able. You may do something as small as to change a light bulb or two in your home to fluorescent bulbs - which can save 60% in energy or more. Maybe you can share a ride to work a day or more a week or plant some trees in your neighborhood. Any of those acts would be greatly beneficial to us all. The important thing is for you and I to find the areas we are ready and willing to make a change - and then to keep our commitment alive and flowing by talking with family, friends and the people around us, encouraging a new approach as to how we use energy and what we consume each day.

What about your neighborhood, your city or town?

The Gathering I'm hosting on September 16 will be near my own Seattle neighborhood. However, I would like to invite you to do something that same Saturday morning to collaborate with us in your city or neighborhood. Will you have a conversation with friends about this subject? Maybe you could invite a few folks over for coffee or walk down to your neighborhood bakery and start up a conversation right there at the counter. "Shay podna, how 'bout you and me git together and save the dang planet? Huh? " Or maybe you can think of a milder, more intelligent approach. Keep it friendly and filled with goodwill. The last thing we need is to push guilt and shame at each other for what we drive, live in or buy at the store. We are all a part of this situation and it will take us some time to find a better way. We definitely cannot find solutions and form a cohesive effort if we're arguing with each other about it. If you find yourself doing that, just take deep breaths and keep it in your heart that this is about our children's world more than ours.

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.
    You can be that great generation."
     ~ Nelson Mandela

Thank you for giving me a few minutes. You've been generous with me over the years, listening to my music and sharing it with your friends, and I am grateful to you for that. I feel like I'm a part of a worldwide community through my songs that is not about my music, but rather, about goodwill and friendship.

Your folkslingin' friend in breezy Seattle,
   ~
Michael Tomlinson

Email me at
mt@michaeltomlinson.com

 

~A Gathering of Friends and Neighbors~ ~A Gathering of Friends and Neighbors~

A goodwill discussion on what we can do about global warming
and energy consumption in our lives.

Ravenna Park, Seattle
September 16, 2006
10:00am to Noon

I plan to sing a song or two to begin the gathering. When a discussion begins with music, it always seems to bring people out of their heads and into their hearts. When that happens, a more honest and humble discussion results. As much as I love singing for you, please do not come just for a the two songs. My intent and commitment is to facilitate a meaningful sharing of ideas that we will want to take home and share with other people. I will begin the event with some thoughts and ideas, then I hope it will become a discussion among many. This is a short event, I hope you'll arrive on time.
What to bring: A lawn chair, a cup o' coffee and a pastry for yourself. This event will happen rain or shine. I have reserved a large picnic shelter but bring your umbrella if it's drizzling, in case we can't all fit under it (I have no idea if three people or a hundred people will show up). If it's hailing, I suggest you wear a helmet or a bucket of some type.
Where to go: Ravenna Park, Seattle (a few blocks from University Village)
For Maps/Directions, click here
When: September 16, 2006, 10:00am to Noon
Why to go: Because you are interested in joining your community in lessening our impact on the planet Earth.
Who invited you: Me, the artist formerly known as Michael Tomlinson.
 ( I now simply use the symbol:
)

 
September 29, 2006

Howdy my fine September friends,


What is the first thing you think of when autumn days start breezing in? Colorfully turning leaves and crisp, foggy mornings? The rustle of fuzzy new corduroys on your chubby little thighs? Flakes of yellow No. 2 pencil paint all over your mouth? Nope, them was the good old days before global warming. The correct answer would be: hordes of vicious mosquitos swarming your bed all night. I know! I should wear padded long johns like you do, but I just can't stand to see myself in the mirror when I pass. Unlike your gorgeous self, I'm hideous, so it's better just to go nude and get it over with. Anyway, I'm tuckered out from sprinting around on my bed 'til the wee hours, swatting skeeters with a
cowboy boot. I'm afraid I may have done some damage, but I haven't dared to look yet. At worst, I'll have to hang some little pictures here and there in odd places. Anyway, you try landing an accurate whack in the dark with your feet wrapped up in a comforter and your head banging on a light fixture and see if you don't miss a couple of times. 

And then there's my normally sweet little pooch, who allows me a tiny corner of the bed each night - unless I wake her, in which case she turns into a snarling, crotch-snappin' mongrel. I don't blame her though, it must have been terrifying to have a big ol' man cussing and jumping around her at two-o'clock in the morning. I'll never forget the look on her fuzzy face when I finally located her in the covers and shone my flashlight dead-on into her frightened little eyes. They reminded me of a look I saw in the eyes of one of my good friends once, after I'd pretended to slam the car hood on his upper torso at a rest stop. Almost that same look in a man's eyes and a little dog's eyes . . . that's weird. Anyway, I was able to finally catch a little bit of sleep, which is how I'm able to write this poetic account for you. Unfortunately, a substantial part of my ass must have been protruding from the blanket, because I see it is ravaged with mosquito bites. I appear to have butt measles.

Save What? Save What?

You may recall that a couple of weeks back I hosted A Gathering of Friends and Neighbors to talk about ways we can lessen our impact on the planet, cut back on energy consumption and pollution, etc. I sent out thousands of emails around the country and a few hundred in the Seattle area. I was running late that Saturday morning and pulled into the parking lot at Ravenna Park, thinking I'd probably have to park a block or two away. I was sure that after all that emailing, there would be a goodly sized group of folks awaiting me, coffee in hand and in a perky mood. Imagine my surprise when I emerged from the rhododendrons next to the empty parking lot to find that no one, not one, single person was there. Damn. Of course, I grew instantly depressed, thinking that I'm gonna have to save the earth by myself.

In my invitations, I had promised to open with a couple of songs and so I carried my guitar over to a table by the picnic shelter I'd rented in case of rain. I was so very, very grateful that I'd left in my truck the amp and microphone I'd brought in case the crowd was large enough that I'd need amplification. How stupid would I have looked setting that up for must me and my dog? Fortunately, I saw a friend coming up a forest trail and she seemed to have brought her beau and a large dog - unless the two were brazenly free about stalking her. Then three folks walked up the other direction, from the parking lot. They said they'd stopped by earlier, saw no one there and thought, like me, that there was no way this could be the place for such a popular event. So they drove to another park, assuming that I'd put the name of the wrong park on my website. (I forgot to be insulted by this until now)

Though a few more folks came, I must admit that I was a little disheartened to see that only 14 of us went to the effort to be there that morning. Of course, I know many people lived too far away for the event to make sense on a Saturday morning, but I still felt a little sad to think that there was so little enthusiasm. Though it's been people's minds and in our awareness since the 1970s, taking care of the planet and paying attention to the energy we're consuming has come to seem even more crucial to me in the last couple of years. After seeing the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and other excellent documentaries, and reading powerful, enlightening articles in Scientific American in recent months, I've had a strong feeling that there is an awakening among people, that this time the movement is going to last, that we are finally ready to pay attention to the hard truth of what our automobile society is doing to the atmosphere and our oceans, polar caps, glaciers and rivers.

I hid my disappointment and, as it turned out, it was ill-founded. In those fourteen people there was actually a limitless well of creativity and commitment and spirit. And there was certainly humor and goodwill. The group of us stood in a circle on the sparkling, damp grass, the brilliant sun streaming upon us and a cool autumn breeze making us shiver despite the morning sunshine. One by one, just about everyone there shared something they personally were doing or ready to do. One woman said she'd never owned an automobile. She wasn't bragging, just sharing how she'd lived on the planet her whole life; walking, taking buses, riding a bike, stepping lightly on the planet. It was humbling. No matter what changes I've been contemplating, my changing out a few light bulbs in my house and cutting back on driving paled in comparison to her efforts.

[ One person there has been committing one hour a week toward doing something specifically to reverse greenhouse gasses or lighten the impact on the earth. It's a small, steady step and it inspired me to hear of it.
[ One man has gone to bio diesel in all his work-related travel. He searched the Internet until he found a truck with an engine that would work for him and now he uses only biodiesel in his gas tank - which emits less noxious fumes into the atmosphere and lessens our dependency upon oil.
[ A woman who was there has been researching the acquisition of trees and learning about programs the city of Seattle offers which encourage citizens in the planting and nurturing of trees throughout the city.

In that circle of 14 people I saw that there was a real beginning; fourteen people who were stepping forward to say to their neighbors, "I am willing to change my life in some inconvenient way, in order to benefit the planet and those who will come after us." There was something real and vital and honest about our desire to do something personally to relieve the stress on our atmosphere and waterways and lands. And to a person, there was good will. No sense of pushing guilt at each other or shaming people into listening. I saw that what I had asked for had actually happened. It's not up to me to put a number on the size of the crowd that may turn up to anything I do; any concert, retreat, gathering. I was reminded that all I can really do is make the genuine offer; reach out to people and invite them to freely join in that goodwill.

Many of you here in Seattle and around the country wrote me in support of this gathering. I know you would have been there with us if you could have been. Maybe the lesson at this first gathering for me was to have faith in the power of a few. So I'll take deep breaths, keep doing what I do and ask you to do what you can and what you believe in toward making this planet healthier than it is. I plan to continue offering up these gatherings and will soon have a section of my website dedicated to sharing ideas about things we can do to lessen our impact on the earth.

A New CD A New CD

As you've surely noticed, just about all of my songs contain references to wind or rain, skies and trees and rivers and seasons. Even living in a large city, my life always seems intricately and intimately connected with the natural elements. Had anyone told me in my twenties that I'd become a great bird lover, I'm sure I'd have coughed tequila up my nose and spilled bong water all over the dashboard. (and come to a safe, measured stop on the shoulder of the road, with hands at ten and two on the wheel)

The thing is, I have just grown to pay more attention to whatever living things are able to survive in these vast expanses of pavement we've created. I'm fascinated and deeply impressed whenever I see creatures surviving in the toxic world we've made for them. So I notice snails and pigeons and raccoons and cats and squirrels and crows and blue jays. I'm sure I'm only barely noticing what is really there, but I'm keeping at it.


I sit in my bedroom, with big corner windows on two sides of me, and the branches of a beautiful walnut tree wrapping it's branches around my second storey room like I'm in a tree house. I sing my songs there and write new ones. Of course, references to leaves and weather and the seasons are going to weave their way into my lyrics. (I can't blame it all on the view, I lived in a basement when I wrote Run Like the River Runs)

This fall and winter it looks like I may finally be able to record a new band album. It's been 8 years since the last one, Trace the Sky. When I put out my solo-acoustic CD, Standing in Troublesome Creek, a few years back, I had plans to record all those songs with a band within a year. I never could quite afford the cost of that and so it never happened. But now, with my sweetheart's generous help, I'm going to try to accomplish it this autumn. I'm excited about it, as much as I love my acoustic CDs, there is something exhilarating about the energy and talent that other musicians bring to my music. I'll keep you apprised of my progress and will certainly send you notice when it comes to fruition. (if you are not sure if you're on my mail list, please click here and sign up)

I'll leave you with the lyrics to one of the songs that will be on my new CD. It's called Seattle Skies. Big surprise, huh. Thanks for checking in on me and for doing what you do in this world. Whether you know it or not, you are needed here. You are loved and you are appreciated. I appreciate you. You're the best you of anybody I know. Take some deep breaths now and then and give thanks for that.

Your friend in sunny Seattle,
     ~Michael

 

Seattle Skies
I was an ordinary boy
Till freedom called me
Freedom called my name
In an unusual voice
Making the sound of yellow leaves
Blowing down a blue highway
I loved the thrill of the wind
Oh, as early as I can recall
I thought of weather as my friend
Whether sun or snow or rain
I was born to love it all

     Now I'm looking out at gray Seattle skies
     Thinking how I'm going to miss the days gone by
     Even when I feel the bit of bitter winter winds
     Oh, I vow to not be one for hurrying
     I'll take my time and breathe it in

I love the early morning sounds
Of this Earth
All her mating songs
She spreads her loving all around
On the feathers of the wind
As they graze against the dawn
And even if you never did
Ever travel over foreign lands
You still could know the world we're in
By the nature of the wind
As she flows against your skin
     Now I'm looking out at gray Seattle skies
     Thinking how I'm going to miss the days gone by
     Even when I feel the bit of bitter winter winds
     Oh, I vow to not be one for hurrying
     I'll take my time and breathe it in

2006 Michael Tomlinson

 

November 13, 2006

Howdy my Thanksgiving Friends,

Could there possibly be anything less representative of the delightful Thanksgiving Season than a man sobbing uncontrollably while crawling around in the mud and the muck? Slipping and sliding, sputtering, cursing, flailing about in the dark, dank underside of a recently flooded house, looking for the nice shoes he'd had on just moments before? I don't mean to sound unthankful, it's just that those shoes meant a lot to me. I'd bought them a year ago for my first date with the sweet woman who is now the love of my life and well, they have a lot of sentimental meaning to me. Plus, they housed my feet on this particular cold, wet, rainy day. Barefootedness was not an option I'd considered when I stuck my head out my door that morning to check the weather and decide on my attire. "Hmm. Let's see. Rainy. Cold. I guess I won't be needing no dang shoes." Of course, I didn't say no such thang - mostly 'cause my mouth was full of granola and I wouldn't have been able to understand me. I have too much respect for myself to go around mumbling incoherently with a mouthful of hearty grains. (contrary to popular opinion) 

After carefully choosing my work outfit, I'd driven out to Snoqualmie to help my friends Rick and Ruth clean out the soppy mess under their house after the swollen river had flooded their town. Luckily, their house is raised five feet off the ground, so water never actually got into the house, but it left a soppy, oozing mess underneath it. When I arrived, Rick came outside to greet me and I started hauling work equipment out of the back of my truck; six packs, lawn chairs, rubber boots. "How is it under the house? Will I need these boots?" I was picturing quicksand conditions but he shook his head and said, "No, surprisingly, it's not that muddy under there." I should have asked him then if he'd had beer with his waffles, but instead, I foolishly took him for his word. 

For the first couple of hours, I worked mostly outside the house, Rick threw junk out an opening while I hauled wheelbarrow loads of it; soggy fiberglass insulation, water-logged boards, bricks and cement chunks, and with huge, groaning effort, heaved it up over the fence into the back of his pick up. When the truck was hunkered down almost to the ground with the heavy load, he floored the gas pedal and the ol' clunker groaned and shuddered a couple of blocks into town where the City had set up gigantic dumpsters and workers were helping everybody unload their flood damaged rubbish.

We got back Rick's and I crawled underneath the house. This is when I found out that my rubber boots would have been a jolly idea after all. I should have looked deeply into Rick's eyes (something people rarely dare to do) and discerned that the boy was a little water-shocked from watching the river rise almost to the porch where he and his wife and kids were standing in shock for two days. It would shake up any daddy, I guess. He'd just told me about the unexpected nightmare of having to find a place for your 80-pound dog to poop when you live suddenly in the middle of a lake, so the fact that he'd advised me to put my boots back into the truck and then enter the dank bowels under his house with my special slip-ons on is forgivable - I guess. If you're the forgiving type. We had to walk around bent over under there, banging our heads on pipes and floor joists. The last time I'd been under there was a few years back when Rick and I were wiring speakers so he could have constant musical accompaniment even when he was showering. I'll never forget Rick shrieking like a little girl at the hundreds of spider webs draped about and sticking to our faces. I remembered that he'd always been unusually frightened of spiders, but I was taken aback at his shrill, girlish reactions. Being a Texan, and more manly in nearly every way, I simply licked them webs off my lips and nose and swallowed them.

It's very different under there now. No dust, no spider webs. The flood changed everything. But mostly, it took my shoes. I truly believe with all my heart, that my shoes will always be down there. Oh, maybe someday there will be an archeological team looking for signs that people actually lived in the region. They'll be searching for artifacts that may lead them to understand our mythic culture. What did we believe in? Who did we worship? What brands did we wear? In which case, if they dig up my shoe fossils, they will see that we were adherents of the Sketcher faith. We wore things Sketcher. Is that something a man my age ought to be proud of? Well, it could be worse. I could have had on Dockers, but that would be just giving up. 

Really, the fact that I came out from under the house sobbing and blubbering about my shoes is not the worst tragedy. My most devastating calamity was not discovered until after Rick's daughter, the lovely Livy Lou, finished training the powerful stream of gushing water from the hose on her Uncle Michael in order to wash away the clumps of slimy, nasty, odorous mud off my feet. Feet that, caked with muck as they were, appeared to be about the size of ottomans. Dang, that water was cold! Plus, Rick had just handed me a cold beer, which was probably premature timing, shivering in the freezing rain as I was with his gleeful little girl pressure-washing me down like one would a dump truck. It took probably five minutes to get to the point where you could tell that there were feet inside those mounds of mud. As cold as I was, it was a hopeful sight to view my skin again, as it had seemed unlikely that I ever would. 


Rick decides he wants them britches back

While Livy was spraying me down as if she was part of a HazMat crew, Rick had run inside to put on some bluegrass for our cleanup session. I was flinching from the stinging water and looking up toward the window and hollering a conversation back and forth with Rick  about whether we liked the banjo player on the song he was featuring at high volume on the back porch speakers. See, Rick cannot go through even a disaster without accompanying music. Music must accompany all events in life for Rick. I've seen him, on occasion, stop in the middle of putting a band aid on one of his children to peruse his vast CD collection and choose the perfect soundtrack. (The First Cut is the Deepest - Sheryl Crow) 

Livy was still wielding that hose and the sideways geyser was icy and stinging. I was dancing around in the gravel, hollering for her to please, in the name of God, stop it!, when I caught my reflection in a car window and understood why all the little children were laughing and giggling so merrily. Apparently, the mud had taken not only my shoes and socks, but my britches as well. Can you even imagine being so muddy that you don't realize you're nekkid from the waist down? That slimy mud had sucked off my pants and my underwear, both! And the freezing water! Could there ever be a more embarrassing time to be nekkid? Them dang kids were on the ground in convulsions. Of course, I did the only thing a man with very little remaining pride could do: I lowered my Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle and walked behind it all the way into the house, where I stole Rick's favorite pair of suit slacks and donned them without a stitch of underwear on. (he looked at me sadly and said to burn them when I was through) I had to wear those nice slacks with my muddy jacket on my drive home, in case, you know, I got pulled over by an officer or something. Hey, I'm no prude. I'm certainly not opposed to the occasional pantless casual drive around town, but I always like to have a pair ready to pull on in case of an emergency. 

Making a New Record (yes, you can still call it a record)

I'm in the beginning stages of bringing together musicians for my upcoming recording project. I haven't put out a full-band album since 1998's Trace the Sky, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's an exciting time, working on my songs and trying to make them stronger and better; creating arrangements and imagining how they might sound with the contributions of other musicians. It's always a little scary too, the process of taking songs which I love just as they are, sung with only my guitar. In some ways, it's nearly impossible that they turn out as good as my imagination perceives them when I sing them. Even as solo-acoustic versions, they feel so full to me when I stand onstage and sing them in concert. It's as if I feel the Music of Nature moving through me. I hear the harmonics of the strings of my guitar and it feels to me that I'm accompanied by rain and wind and rivers and birds. 


Photo by Robin Nellist

That probably sounds a bit grandiose, but it's how I think of my music. For many years folks have often told me that they never get tired of my songs. I've even had people ask me why that is, as if it's a formula I use that causes them to stay interested and to enjoy my songs over and over again. If there is a formula it is this: I follow the melodies I am given. I pick up my guitar and just start strumming or finger picking and sometimes melodies come to me. They are nearly always melodies that I love and this is how a new song begins. Often, I will have the entire song in musical form, melody and chord progressions completed, before there even is a single lyric. When I do this, it feels to me as if my music is a natural element like wind or rain; something from Nature that I have not altered in any way. The hard work, the seemingly impossible task sometimes, is finding lyrics that fit the melody, that stay true to the loops and swirls of notes, the high and low movements of the melody which first coursed through me. I stay with it, sometimes for years. I will keep trying to find words that say what I feel and that are in alignment with what I believe, yet that rhyme and meet the meter of the song I'm writing. 

Sometimes, when I'm singing onstage with my eyes closed, what I'm really doing is marveling at the song. I'm actually up there thinking, "Damn! This is an amazing song!" It's true. I'm not thinking so much that it's something that I did, just that I'm enthralled with this wondrous thing I'm singing, this spring shower, this summer wind, this night of stars that has come into song form and allowed me to sing it. Can you imagine how fortunate I feel to get to do this? To open up a new song as a child might open a present on Christmas morning? I've been doing this for decades now and it never gets old.

Long before you hear any of my songs, I've sung them hundreds of times in the writing of them. They work their magic on me, the healing ways that melodies and phrases can change your very makeup, your mood and vision, these things have been happening to me since the moment I heard the melody and began to sing it. Still, I'm not tired of a song by the time I sing it for you. It becomes new to me in the moment that I'm singing it. To this day - 23 years after I stood in the forest in the Cascade Mountains and wrote it - Run Like the River Runs is a song that I still love to sing. When I sing it, it feels to me like it was written this very day, this moment.

~Thanksgiving ~

I have long thought of that particular song as my own song of thanksgiving. "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?" It's such a song of gratitude because that is what I felt when I wrote it: I had just moved to the Northwest and was filled with gratitude for the new world I was living in, the beauty of having green forests surround me; mountains and rivers and lakes and seas all around. I was in the very early stages of realizing my dream of being a songwriter and performer for my living. I have a chapter in my "mythical" book (which I'm still actually writing) about the day I wrote that song and the Thanksgiving Day a few months later, when I sang it for a houseful of new friends for the very first time. I sometimes read that chapter in concert and will probably do so when I play Denver next weekend. It's such a reminder to me that being thankful is my favorite way of being. When I'm feeling gratitude, every other thing just falls into place. You can't feel truly grateful without also feeling compassion and kindness, without feeling love and joy somewhere in your heart.

I know our world seems a disastrous mess these days. Sometimes it even feels wrong to seek personal peace and happiness in the midst of so much suffering. But that is not true. One sure way to help others in the world is to foster your own peace and share it where you can. I feel like those who can find joy and peace need to do it for the benefit of those who are lost in suffering. Your peaceful heart - and what you do with it - may just be the very miracle that calls me out of my own pain. 

Just over a year ago I met someone who calls me out of my own pain. I met my true love. It sounds almost silly, that way of talking, but I actually found the woman my soul was yearning for for all of my lifetime. Her name is Patricia and she is the greatest proof thus far in my life that there is a reason to have faith; that there was a particularly wonderful reason to stay hopeful and to seek always to be kind and loving and peaceful in my life. We met in a mutual effort to help the people hurt by Hurricane Katrina and were in return given the greatest gifts either of us have ever received: each other. Just like all that is evolving in the world, we two are a part of a vast evolution of hopes and dreams and joys and disappointments and sorrows. Together we have been able to stay with our beautiful process; sometimes painful, often joyful, and embrace together all that comes up in us. We have reveled in the joy and love and breathed through the frightening shadows that inevitably will also emerge whenever two people allow their hearts to open in trust and love. I once read in a book by Louse Hay that, "Love will bring up anything unlike itself." I agree and see it this way: when we find someone we can really love and trust, there is at last the safe place where we can allow not just our love to arise, but our pain, too. To me, this is exactly what is also going on in the world. When my sweetheart and I have contractions, we often will remind each other; "This is the same dynamic that causes nations to go to war. This fear between us. If we can love our way through this, loving all parts of ourselves and our process, maybe we will help heal divisions in the world, too." It gives us a stronger sense of purpose and union, remembering that every time we breathe through fear and allow it to come to light, it is always, always replaced with love and gratitude.

It's been a very grateful year for me. Certainly this great love I am sharing is overwhelmingly enough reason for me to feel thankful this year. But I can promise you that even in lonely, difficult years, I have never let a single Thanksgiving come and go without feeling grateful to be alive. As joyful or as painful as your life may be right now, please know that I and many, many others have compassion for you, for what you're going through and for what you experience in this life. We are all in this together and if one grieves, all of humanity grieves. Also, if one holds peace in his heart, all have access to it. Please sit with this thought for a moment and see if you can feel that human beings you don't even know might possibly have compassion for you. Imagine that the trees and birds and clouds and winds have compassion for you and wish you love and healing. Just be willing to hold the thought and breathe in the possibility. If your mind instantly doubts this, avoid the urge in this instant to decide if this is true or not, just allow the possibility. Dare to allow it room to come alive in you.

As this Thanksgiving Season approaches - and even after it passes - find someone to offer your compassion to. It may be an animal or a tree. If all you can muster is a big ol' hug for a tree, the world will be a better place for your gesture. If you are in such pain that you don't think you can do even this, imagine hugging yourself, imagine having compassion for yourself. Isn't that a novel idea? That we would have compassion for our own selves and our own suffering? It's a beautiful thing to do and completely allowed, my friend. You deserve your own compassion.

What would be wonderful this Thanksgiving is if we could find a way to let others know that we're grateful for them, for the fact that they live and breathe. Once you get used to being grateful as a general way of being, it becomes a very natural thing to let others know how much you appreciate who they are or what they do. I love to praise people, to let them know that I notice something about their experience that is extraordinary or very noble. Want to surprise your mailman? Tell him that he does an awesome job of stepping over most of your daisies when he trespasses clumsily across your nice yard to drop mail in your box. Tell a neighbor how much you love the way he turns off his leaf blower just seconds before you were about to go out of your freakin' mind. See what I mean? There's a good side to everything. I plan to go about town looking for just such compliments to bestow all during the week of Thanksgiving. Look out, I may run right into you and then we'll turn into one o' them dang Mutual Admiration Societies. Which ain't a bad idea, if you ask me.

Thank you so much for checking in on me now and then, and for listening to my music and sharing it with friends. You've made it possible for me to continue writing and singing for my living and I've been a very lucky man to have your support and goodwill. I'll say goodbye with the lyrics to my song, Run Like the River Runs - my very own Song of Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friends.

In Friendship,
   ~Michael


Run Like the River Runs
1985 Michael Tomlinson

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 part of me that I have never known
And I wonder if you see
All 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
Then 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?


   from the CDs
      Run This Way Forever
      and the solo-acoustic Watching the Storm Roll In


 

   

   

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