PAST RAMBLINGS - 21
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
May 21, 2007   -to-   
Sept 4, 2007
 

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 - Holiday
Ramblings 30
2014 & 2015
May 21, 2007

Howdy my fine friends,
 
It sure is a lovely time of year here in Seattle. It seems like every tree and bush and flower imaginable is sprouting new growth, burgeoning over sidewalks and fences, lofting light fragrances onto the breeze and splashing 'em all over my nose. Luckily, I don't have much in the way of seasonal allergies. Oh, once in a great while I'll sneeze sixty or seventy times but that's just plain fun. Almost every day I hike somewhere through the city, wandering down ravines and up trails and hills, through neighborhoods and along waterways. A few days ago I was hiking with my friend, Brian. Brian has managed my website for years and we get together often on the pretext of working on a concert postcard or website photo, but really, we are just two young boys telling stories. If you don't have a pal to toss a baseball around with, sip coffee and embellish stories with, I highly recommend that you get to work on that right away. Don't be bashful, the whole world is looking for a buddy to laugh and tell stories with. 


photo by P. O'Driscoll

After one of our hilarious story telling times down at Caffe Ladro last week, we hiked a trail down near the Sammamish Slough and as we walked, I caught the light, out of the corner of my eye, off a large baby blue rock in the stream. Whoa. I touched Brian's shoulder and backed up quietly. In the water not twenty feet from us was a Great Blue Heron. It was spectacular, sort of hunkering down on the water and looking for tasty fish. Brian started telling me a story about seeing this specific heron fly past him when he was biking one day and I thought, how the hell do you know it was this one? but I let it pass, thinking that fisticuffs would ruin the mood. We stood for ten minutes and watched the awkward looking bird lift his lanky legs one at a time, and place them with great precision back into the current as he hunted. To our surprise, he suddenly darted his head and neck under water and came up swallowing something, the cool water pouring off his head feathers. I didn't get to see what he'd caught but it was a joy to think that this activity, this beautiful heron fishing, could still go on despite condos and highways and traffic not half a mile away. 

 
It reminded me of my friends, Joie and Jeff, who, last weekend, gave me a tour of their back yard, showing me how they'd been replacing the overgrown vines and shrubbery with all Native Northwest plants in their yard. They live in the Fremont Neighborhood in Seattle, a very dense part of town, and Jeff had said that when they began digging, he was astonished to see the richness in the soil, the profusion of grubs and earth worms and other life in the ground. "Somehow, it's almost more inspiring to see all this life in the soil here than it would be in the country. Even with the concrete and traffic and pollution, there is Nature still growing and evolving." He didn't really say it that well, Jeff is highly inarticulate, practically a cave man, but this is what he meant, I'm pretty sure. Besides, I like to make my friends look good in print to make up for what God didn't give 'em in physical appearance. Joie just grunted.
 


photo by P. O'Driscoll

My favorite story of the springtime comes from my sweetheart, Patricia, who was adopted by a pair of finches. In her bathroom, she has a casement window that rolls out with a little spinning handle. The window was slightly open one day and she heard a commotion and found that a finch was just beginning to build her nest there. She called me, excited, but not sure whether she wanted to have a bird nest in an open window to her shower. I convinced her that very little bird shit would enter her home, and that, if it did, I'd clean it up. This cleared the hurdle and she watched happily as the construction, which began with sticks, evolved into grasses and soft doggie hair which her two dogs had carelessly left blowing around the yard. Within a few days there were four little blue eggs, about half an inch long. Every day the mom would sit on the eggs and sing, occasionally leaving to eat, though her mate was bringing her food too. Then one day  Patricia called me and said the female had sang a completely new song, one she'd never heard before. The tiny bird perched on the edge of the nest, turning inward, and sang directly to her eggs. Within minutes, two of her offspring had hatched. I loved that the mom would sing to her children through their shells and encourage them to try to break through and enter the world. Like those earthworms tunneling through Jeff's and Joie's yard in Seattle, and the heron fishing near Brian's place in Bothell, the brilliance of this mother finch singing to her unhatched birdlings seemed hopeful to me. 

I thought of the chorus of my song, Wild Horses Run.
Painted pony, long may you run
How I only wish I was young
Heading out on the wide open plains
Where I was born

But I'm up in the fathomless air
You're below on the ground
Way down there
For as long as you run
You will keep my hope alive
How I love it when
Wild horses run

  
2007
This morning we were talking on the phone and Patricia said she felt like God was showing her so many beautiful things, that the birds nesting in her window were this beautiful gift given to her. I said I fully agreed, but that it felt to me that all of these gifts have always been there for us; just waiting for us to notice. It only takes just a slight willingness to get lost in some detail, some miracle of the natural world around us and when we see it, when we finally breathe it in, it seems like it has never existed before that moment. But really, it was always there just waiting for us to open our hearts enough to notice.

Last week I was on one of my long walks, listening to Livingston Taylor on my iPod. (Please get his new one: There You Are Again. What a beautiful, good-hearted collection of songs) I crossed a street to a triangular island in the middle of a quiet neighborhood intersection. There was a path through the grass worn to the ground and a few strands of grass still sprouting in the dirt trail. I avoided it at first, thinking, "I don't want to walk on that beautiful grass." Then I had another thought, maybe not so much a thought as a knowing; "The grass loves you to walk upon it. She is quite happy to allow your weight upon her."

Now, that may seem like a very silly thing to be writing about, but I experienced a shift in my thinking right then. It occurred to me that, as good as it feels for me to walk barefoot through soft grass or along a soft dirt path, maybe it also feels good to the earth. What if that beautiful comforting exchange that we feel when our feet touch the earth, toes squirming in sand or resting upon cool clover, really is an exchange? What if we give something to the Natural World when we are in grateful contact with the earth? I know it's true, but I've mostly felt that the earth gives to me. It has less often occurred to me that I can give back to her.

For the next mile home I kept thinking about this. About how we have often called her Mother Earth but then separated ourselves from her as much as possible. I love this planet, I am grateful that I was born here and that I can walk this ground and climb these trees and swim these rivers and listen to the rain and the birdsongs and the wind. As I walked I thought of all the ways we have worked to disconnect ourselves from this beautiful, benevolent planet. First of all, we put leather and rubber between our soles and the ground. We build sidewalks and boardwalks and floors and bridges and roads to keep from touching her. Is is possible that she misses us?

I want to lay my body on the ground and listen
I want to close my eyes and trust my inner vision
And when I wake up early in the morning, shivering
I'll be alive

   ~ from the song, So Alive 1993, from the CD, At Your House

It probably seems like there are far more important things to discuss these days than walking barefoot or lying on the ground and looking up through trees, but maybe there really aren't. Maybe one of the reasons everything is so out of balance on our planet is because we were born into a world that had forgotten it's connection to the Earth and we have not managed to turn that around. I know that when I take some time to feel the breeze, to watch the birds and squirrels in my walnut tree, I am calmer. I'm less likely to race someone to the intersection for no reason other than winning. I'm more likely to feel a sweetness with people I see and especially with the love of my life, instead of finding where tension lies and attaching my attention to it like a missile to a target. There is always an excuse your mind will agree upon to seek drama and trauma. But when I've worked in my yard or taken a hike or swung in the chair hanging from my tree, it feels like something else takes over instead of my thoughts and habits. It's a beautiful thing to notice this change and to foster it and talk about the possibility of doing it more and more often: of choosing kindness and compassion over judgment and blame. I have been especially blessed to have a partner in my life to do this with in the last couple of years. She is loving and courageous and dedicated and I have seen us break through many old patterns that we were born into in this world and choose kinder ways of living and relating. If you've ever really sought this and seen some small success, you know what I mean. It's life changing.

I write about these things in this rambling, meandering style, because they come to me in this way; in the moment. I never know what will pop up, I just trust what comes to me and I go with it. Maybe it's funny, perhaps meaningful, maybe full of nonsense. I just know that if something that is happening in my life is helpful to yours, I would not want to have held it back. So I tell you my stories and am happy if there is something useful to you. And if what I write seems insane to you, I'm sure you must be right. Just toss it out and get back to your nice bowl o' Fruit Loops. In fact, while you're crunching along, please feel free to think of me as a total doofus - though a well meaning one.


A couple of weeks back we were at a Seattle park and Patricia was taking some promo photos of me with my guitar. There was a group of children riding their bikes around and when they saw me with my guitar and my beautiful girlfriend taking pictures, they naturally assumed that I must be a very, very famous musician. A few dared to ride closer and asked her, "is he famous?" "Yes" she said, "extremely." That did it, the kids swarmed all around us, asking for autographs. Of course, I was without my regular autograph equipment that I usually carry everywhere. I had nothing to sign. It is the first time in my illustrious career that I have signed the inside liner on a kids bike helmet. Oh yes, I signed a sock, too.

Patricia, having two lovely daughters of her own, is brilliant with kids and had them laughing and posing in seconds. They all wanted to hold my guitar and I let them take turns. Then they surprised me by asking if I'd sing a song for them. I almost never sing in public if I'm not actually performing onstage but it just seemed so right - and I probably couldn't have gotten out of it anyway. I sat down next to a tall cedar tree and told them they had to really listen if they wanted me to sing. Now, I've sang a few times for elementary age school children. They can listen for a short time, but even then there is usually a dozen other things going on among them. These kids surprised me, each turned their gleaming faces on me and looked into my eyes with the most calm love and joy I've ever seen. I felt like I was surrounded by little monks. I sang All is Clear and they listened to every note, every word of the song . . .

"Way up here it all is clear and I'm not afraid of living in these years "


photo by P. O'Driscoll

. . . and then they burst into applause afterwards. A woman watching over them - probaby somebody's mom - sat fifty yards away on a porch and beamed brightly at the sight of me singing to her kids. It was such an expected blessing to our day and Patricia and I talked about it for hours. Just another of those things that happens when your heart is already opening and Life can't wait to flood more love into it. One of the girls turned to Patricia as we left and said, "I'll never forget you" like we'd come into their world and done something wonderful, when it was exactly what we'd thought about them. We never told them I wasn't Eric Clapton.

I've written every word of this to you while leaning back in the seat of my truck, my iBook open in my lap, my pooch snoozin' next to me, enjoying the shade of a big pine tree in Magnussen Park in Seattle. It's been a pleasure writing this little rambling for you - it was just what I needed. I hope it's been good for you, too.

In case you've forgotten, as soon as you read this, take a couple of minutes to breathe. In fact, why not take a big ol' breath right this minute? There's nothing keeping you from it is there? (unless you're reading this underwater) If you like that first one, I recommend that you follow it with another and see if you like that as well. How was it? Nice? Sure it was. Why not take twenty or thirty while you're at it and change your day? I swear, it works. Breathe deeply for five minutes: nice long, slow breaths with a little pause between, and I can promise you that your life will be better than it was when you started.

I'll leave you with the lyrics to one of the songs from my new CD. The song is called Flag of Human Kindness. I hope you like it.

Your friend in blustery Seattle,
    
~Michael

Flag of Human Kindness
   
2007 Michael Tomlinson
From the wild Alaska sky
To the muddy Rio Grande
To the stormy shores of rocky Maine
There lies a country
I was born here in this land
Under the flag of hope and freedom
Now it seems such a faded dream
Like a dream that's lost it's meaning
In the early morning sun
There are many men and women
Waking up in more ways than one
To say where are we going?
Where are we going?
There's a time in every life
There is an age for every nation
When her patriots must stand aside
And say, "first, we are human"
Are we not human

And in the dawning of this hour
And in a clear, undoubting voice
If we can still this ever raging noise
For our human race
I know we must
Who will mend this weary place?
It's surely us

We can cast our bitter blame
Or we can just do what is needed
Pray the embers that still remain
Become once more a beacon
It's not us against the world
No, it's everyone or no one
There is a braver flag to unfurl
It's called the Flag of Human Kindness
Human Kindess

And in the dawning of this hour
And in a clear, undoubting voice
If we can still this ever raging noise
For our human race
I know we must
Who will mend this weary place?
It's surely us


photo by P. O'Driscoll

 
July 10, 2007

Howdy my summertime friends,
 

I just returned from hiking in a ravine near my house. If you were just passing through the nearby neighborhoods you might never suspect that such a woodsy little canyon was there, but if you know the right street to walk down you will thread your way between two houses on what looks like a cul de sac and suddenly you'll step down several wooden steps onto a beautiful footbridge over a sort of box canyon. Trees and ferns and bushes cover the ground below you and it's almost dizzying to so immediately find yourself looking into a jungle in the middle of Seattle. From the other end of the bridge, I took a trail I'd never taken before and wound my way down to the main trail, which leads from one end of the ravine to the other. The lower I descended the louder the creek became. I'd been listening to Bruce Cockburn on my iPod but  I always turn it off when I get down into woods where water is flowing. Though there was probably another hour and a half of daylight, at the bottom of the verdant ravine it was near dusk already. I paused where the creek widens and cascades through some cut outs in the cedar log that dams it and was mesmerized by the music of it. It took me immediately back to my youth, a time when I was 21 years old and on a camping trip in Colorado. I actually went in and out of the memory on purpose for a time, marveling at how we can travel this way, from the present moment to a time decades ago and then instantly back again and on some level it all feels like there is no time between. 

I took off my shoes and socks and sat on a log and dangled my feet in the water. It was colder than I thought it would be, extremely refreshing and soothing at the same time. I decided to sit there and get lost in memories of that trip with my buddies back in the 70s, wandering the Rocky Mountains, camping and hiking and playing music in alpine meadows.  
 
. . . The landscapes wed found in the Colorado Rockies were high-paradise to us, a bunch of Texas Panhandle boys used to camping in the dirt and eating a fair bit of it. When we saw frothy rivers rushing out of the misty mountains near Silverton and Ourey we thought wed found heaven. Everything we saw was beyond the dreams of a bunch of plainsmen like us. Considering that we were in such bliss in the mountains, we were actually quite picky about where we would make camp. We shunned the state campgrounds, following more obscure logging roads until they led us far enough from civilization to satisfy our stubborn criteria of what was really camping. In the same way you might drive all the way through a small town considering each and every motel, hotel, inn or lodge before turning around to decide upon one - and then find that youve driven completely through again without making a decision - we would drive back and forth over dirt roads, talking over the pros and cons of the spot near the giant tree stump or the one near the rock that looked like a dog, arguing the merits of being able to drive right up to the site as opposed to carrying our vast cargo from a quarter mile away.

 

When in doubt about whether to finally set up camp or keep looking, my buddy, Carl, would pose the ultimate question; What would Danl do?

 

Danl would keep on driving man, unless he seen some bar scat. Long as he had a gallon of gas, hed keep on a truckin. I insisted. 
 
I turned and looked into the backseat to see what the consensus was, and Steve and Dale Ingels were giving solemn nods of agreement even though they didnt have a clue what Danl Boone would have done. A more pertinent question to the Ingels Brothers might have been What would ZZ Top do? Anything else was of little concern to them. The Ingels brothers were low profile, mild mannered fellows, laid-back before it was trendy. Fortunately, pot had become mainstream and they now blended in flawlessly with much of society.

 

There were several important factors we considered when choosing the perfect campsite. Weary of plain old Texas dirt camping, once in the mountains we always insisted on having water nearby. Trees too, were a prerequisite - if wed wanted to spend three days sitting around in direct sun, wed have just camped out in our back yards. Ideally, when we camped we preferred to be out of sight of all other human beings, their pets and all their various trappings and accoutrements. This meant no other tents, trailers, cars, motorcycles, tricycles, tarps or boom boxes within sight of our camp. Though we ourselves carried various ice chests, tents, tarps, guitars, mandolins, water-bongs, cots, baseball gloves and lawn chairs, we abhorred looking upon these items at anyone elses site.

 

Our criteria included three that we all considered deal-breakers and we had made a concrete and contractually binding list of them on the long dusty drive from Dalhart to the first lonely mountains of New Mexico. There was no room for negotiation concerning these and we agreed that we would drive until we found such a place - or until we died, whichever came first. The points were as follows;

 

  1. No Porta Potties. Real frontiersmen shit under rocks or hold it until they get to McDonalds. 
  2. No assigned space for your tent. A little 8-foot square sandbox with a sign that reads -  Must place tent within box! - was not and never would be acceptable. 
  3. No campground host or Forest Service personel in the vicinity. It was absolutely critical that there be ultra-low risk of being  pulled paranoid and nekkid  from your sleeping bag, reeking of bong water, and hand-cuffed in front of a bunch of white-haired RV-ers playing Wahoo. 

Looking back on these rigid demands, I can see that our thinking was askew. Im not proud of it, Im just telling you how it was.
 

. . . I laughed for a while, thinking back on those magical times when I was still practically a boy, and then I used my socks to dry the creek water from my feet. I put my shoes back on and hiked to the other end of the ravine. I usually climb out the far end and come back through some lovely neighborhoods but tonight I was so enthralled by the spirit of the woods that I couldn't bring myself to leave just yet. When I reached the far end I turned around and hiked back home the same way I'd come. If you live in Seattle and never have hiked from Cowan Park to Ravenna Park through the ravine, I hope you'll repair that big mistake as soon as possible. 
 
 

I've been in the studio intermittently over the last several months, working on a new full band CD. A couple of days ago I had the honor of having Miles Gilderdale of Acoustic Alchemy come into the studio and lay down some exciting guitar tracks to my song, One Way Through. What a joy it is to listen to such a musical master. I don't think he considers himself that, but the three of us in the studio listening sure do. I'm excited for you to hear it.

        I hope to finish my new CD by early fall and have been thinking I need to create some music videos to promote it on YouTube. I'd appreciate your insights. Tell me what you think about my concept for the first one:
 
        The camera pans across the Pacific Northwest sky, focusing on a cloud that looks remarkably like a guitar. (we may have to wait a while, but I've seen lots of them) As camera zooms in on guitar cloud, my song starts playing. The camera, startled by this, looks wildly around, framing blurred images of mountains, ocean, clouds and my feet. (I will have to run the camera until I can afford to hire a professional) 

Now the song keeps playing while the camera goes all shaky for a minute as I attach it to a tripod. When it all stops shaking enough so that you can once again make out what is onscreen, I'm lip syncing my song and strumming my guitar and swaying in a very attractive style I learned way back in junior high, and which I plan to make hip again. My hair is perfect. "Too perfect", the wind seems to say, and so a brisk gust kicks up and tousles my forelock. You can see a sullen irritation cloud my face "forget my looks dammit, this is art!"  But still, I manage to catch a quick glance at myself when I take off my mirror sunglasses and gaze into them. (none of this is on camera, as it would not serve the story)  The camera pans down toward my guitar, registering that my top three shirt buttons are haphazardly unbuttoned and my liquid tan spread professionally and evenly. 

The camera continues it's path downward as I reach the chorus and zooms into the sound hole of my guitar where there suddenly appears another whole dang movie goin' on. (I've got that green screen thang down!) There is a trophy case filled to the brim with the dozens of trophies I won in my youth, scoring touchdowns, bowling strikes, catching big-mouth bass, winning spelling bees, uprighting an over turned school bus. (I have to figure out how to get my camera to make those wavy lines so you will understand that this is supposed to be scenes from my past) While you're marveling at my trophies, I can take a short break from lip syncing and enjoy a swig of Jack Daniels. Then the camera continues it's descent, down past my guitar and holding steady on my jivey legs and feet, which are involved in a prize winning Irish jig, kickin' up dust and gravel like the dickens. 

To the surprise of the viewer (you) there appears on the gravel at my jigging feet, an ominous shadow. This is high art and meant to symbolize the Insidious Music Bidnis, which I once hated with a passion but now recall fondly. The shadow is actually made by my truck, which is rolling at startling speed toward me in reverse, having jumped the tanning lotion bottle I used as a chock behind the rear wheel. The hurtling vehicle now adheres eagerly to the old-fashioned rules of gravity. The shadow looms large for a flash and then there is a loud noise and a scream and when the dust clears, the only thing on camera is that guitar cloud, which now looks more like just a regular cloud-shaped cloud. Groaning and muttered obcenities are heard off-camera.


photo by P. O'Driscoll

Fortunately, the sand is soft, and though the rear tire rests on my torso, I'm completely unhurt and able to still lip sync, though I'm no longer dancing much of a jig. I reach out and tip the camera away from the sky and aim it back at myself, just in time for my blazing guitar solo. (because I cannot play blazing guitar solos, I will speed up the film and insert whatever hot guitar lead I can find that is now in the public domain) I nudge the camera with my toe until it leaves my smokin' fingers and focuses again on the sound hole of my guitar. (this is meant to represent My Destiny - but then, anybody would know that) where there are now images of me opening up cans o' whup-ass on certain famous politicians who deserve it terribly. There I am slapping Dubya hard on the back just as he is trying to adjust his ear monitor for a televised debate. Then there is another lovely shot of me holding Dick Cheney in a headlock and giving him a serious "noogie" for turning around and spraying shot gun pellets without lookin' first. And finally, I am repeatedly and flat out punching Karl Rove right in the snout. This is exciting footage and will put me in a class of my own, I believe, when it comes to relevant singer-songwriters who cannot abide all that right-wing bullshit one more minute!

In the last verse, the screen will go black for a few minutes as I yell for help and get some clam diggers to come roll my truck off my belly. Then, leaving the camera on the ground but aiming it skyward, I will lean over it and sing the last chorus looking down into the lens, careful to keep my big legged shorts tucked tight behind me so that no obscene shots of a folkslinger's private goodies are accidentally seen. (that is another video altogether)

So, what do you think? I know it's just a concept at this point, but I think I can really pull this off in high style. If you feel it's something you would enjoy seeing, please let me know by voting with big wads o' cash so that I'll have a whole shit load o' currency the day of filming. Well, I guess I'd better get back to the studio and try to finish this record. The video ain't far behind, my friends.

 

A few weeks ago I had one of the most beautiful concerts of my life. I rented a small hall in Bellevue, across the lake from Seattle, and sent out some postcards and emails to announce it. To my wonderful surprise, a building full of folks turned up. My sweetheart, Patricia, was there and that makes any concert more special for me. She and I showed up with some friends and volunteers and set up the room for the show. I decided not to use the main stage because it had no stage lights except for some overhead fluorescent tubes, which would have made it feel like I was performing in the aisles of Safeway. So we set up the chairs in a semi-circle and I built a temporary smaller stage out of folded tables and 4x4 lumber.
 
My friend, Michael Vincent, brought his excellent Bose sound system and even a light tree so that people could see my contorted expressions as I sing my lonesome ballads. My business manager, Michael Munniks, and webguy, Brian Dina, and several other folks arranged the chairs, worked the door and set up my CD table. 
 
I do these events never knowing just what will happen. Who will help me set up, sell CDs, etc.? I just set it all in motion one day when I make a call and see if I can get a hall for a certain night. By showtime a few weeks later, it all seems to have wonderfully come together and made a space for music and friendship to happen.
 
It always amazes me who comes to my shows, no matter where I am playing in the country. It's like a roomful of family and friends is waiting for me everywhere I perform. At this show, as well as folks from all around the Seattle Area, there were people who flew in from South Carolina, Oregon, California, Maine - even England. When I asked who had come the farthest distance, a woman stuck up her hand and said, "England." I laughed and said, "but you didn't come specificially for the concert," and she corrected me right away. "Yes, I most certainly did!" I knew not to argue with her.
 
It ended up being such a moving, tender and friendly night. We laughed so many times that a passerby would have thought a comedy show was going on. And I know at least a few folks cried a time or two. (that dang Yellow Windows gets 'em every time!) I myself, almost broke down once, but luckily, was able to head it off with a manly snort and a hard bite of my cheek.
 
For days I received emails about that concert. One of my favorite was so touching that I asked permission to share it on my website. It was written by Donna Stevens and she has allowed me to share it with you.
 
Sunday, June 10, 2007
 
Michael, thank you for such a wonderful intimate concert; by far the BEST I've been to. 
 
Having been in the hospital for most of the last two years, attending your concert was my first time out in nearly 5 years. It will be a night that my best friends and I will cherish forever. I had told them how much it meant to me to be able to share with them the very thing that keeps the rhythm of my life going....and that is; your music. 
 
I hope that you will continue to have more of these "living room" concerts. In our busy, hectic, crazy world; it is such a breath of fresh air to stop long enough to enjoy what matters to us all the most; that we stay connected - and your spectacular gift of music keeps us connected to memories, dreams, destinations in spirit....and most importantly; connected to love.
 
Thank you again for a wonderful night of music, sharing memories, making us cry and laugh - your songs soothe the aching heart and the worried mind; and that's medicine that only God can give to an individual if they are willing to listen to that "song" that stirs in their heart. When you talked about jumping into Barton Springs and coming up "wet" - I believe that's exactly how we all felt last night "refreshed, invigorated and renewed".
 
Never stop singing, 
   ~DJ

I mostly wanted those of you who have never been to one of my concerts to read Donna's letter because on some level, that's what I try to make of every concert I play. Just a night of songs and stories and laughter and goodwill and maybe a few reminders that we're not alone in the world.

 
I've been very long winded this month. I think it's that dang late sunset. It really gets me goin'.  
 
Thank you for checking in on me now and again. I'll let you know when my new CD is finished and if I get any concerts in your area. I hope you're well and feeling grateful to be alive. If you're not, don't be hard on yourself, just take some deep breaths and start again. You can start over as many times as you need to. We'll all get it, eventually.
 
I'll leave you with the lyrics to my song, Wild Horses Run, which, already on my solo-acoustic CD, Standing in Troublesome Creek, is also going to be on my new CD with full accompaniment. I hope you enjoy it.
 
Your friend in breezy Seattle, 
 
~Michael Tomlinson
 

Wild Horses Run
2007 Michael Tomlinson

I see the earth below me
From a cloudless sky
I think of what I've lost
And what I'm never going to find
In spite of all the love around me
I grieve for what I leave behind

I see a shadow moving
Along the Great Divide
A herd of appaloosas 
Heading down the other side
Changing everything inside me
Bringing so much back alive

Painted pony, long may you run
How I only wish I was young
Heading out on the wide open plains
Where I was born
But I'm up in this fathomless air
You're below on the ground
Way down there
For as long as you run
You will keep my hope alive
How I love it
When Wild Horses Run

I walk along the river
Watch the water flow
I wonder if I swim her
Will she ever let me go? 
Or will she hold me like a lover
Make me part of her own soul?

And then a Great Blue Heron
In the shallow reeds
Opens up his wings
And climbs to heaven over me
It's hard to see circling heron
And say you still do not believe

Did you ever have a moment
Flow like love around you
And just heal every thing?
You look around, cannot define it
Nothing can describe 
The rousing beauty of this place
How I love it
When wild herons fly

Painted pony, long may you run
How I only wish I was young
Heading out on the wide open plains
Where I was born
But I'm up in this fathomless air
You're below on the ground
Way down there
For as long as you run
You will keep my hope alive
How I love it
When Wild Horses Run

 
Sept 4, 2007

Howdy my fine summery friends,

I'm kind of beat up and battered and I'm embarrassed to say that it's only from doing heavy yard work all day. Just yesterday I was walking with my friend, Brian, and we were talking about how our bodies cannot take the constant pounding that we used to submit to when we were both runners. I still run now and then, but I'm more a brisk hiker these days. I said, "can you imagine what would happen to our joints and bones and tendons if we played just half an hour of football these days?" He just winced and sucked wind through closed teeth. My sediments, bezactly.

What I'm sore from is from climbing into bushes with one of those hand-powered hedge trimmers. No electric, gas-powered, automatic trimmer for me, podnas, I'm all about making that scissor motion with my arms thousands and thousands of times, snapping those long blades closed and opening them way up for bite after bite until my arms fall off.

What happened is that the jungle kind of snuck up on me these last couple of years. I live in Seattle and it rains here. Then the sun comes out in June and grass grows a foot a day. Blackberry bushes grow a foot a minute - as does St. John's Wort, which is plentiful all around my front yard. In fact it had gradually swallowed all other plants, bushes and flowers. Why I did not notice this for such a time is a mystery. Perhaps it would never have happened had I not gotten to looking closely at my front yard and thinking to myself, "Shay thare, ain't this front yard considerably smaller than when ye moved in, ol' fren?" (that's really how I think - in countrified dialect. I dream however, in pure King's English - Say, my good fellow, is not yon garden encroaching fast upon fine cottage?)

Anyway, I started recalling things I used to do in my front yard that seemed impossible at it's current size. For instance, I once set up a long jump pit and would dash forty yards and leap like a gazelle for the entertainment of passersby. Impossible now. At best, I could do maybe one and a half hops-skips-and-jumps. I remembered the time some friends and I played polo here. The field was not full size, of course. And obviously, we had no horses, so we played in smallish cars; two VW Rabbits and a Lincoln Towncar cut in half. No way we could do that now. And so I went on and on with the reveries, recalling the most bizarre events, things that had not occurred to me since way back about the time of the salad bar accident. Oh! Have I never mentioned my salad bar accident? Well, I'm not sure this is the place to do so, I like to keep my website ramblings proper and to the point. But if you insist, I guess I have no choice but to tell you the good parts at least.
 
It was in the late 1970s and I was at the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas. Which is where I grew up. Not in the Steakhouse, but in Amarillo. If you've never been to Amarillo, here is how you can experience it no matter where you are: find yourself a bucket of dry dirt. Shovel it out onto the kitchen table in lumpy hills. Now, sit about three feet from it with your face just at table level. Your friend on the other side of the table will now approximate Life in Amarillo by turning on one dozen high powered electric fans, blowing dirt, clods and grit into your face, hair and teeth at ferocious velocity. Welcome to Amarillo, birthplace of Mike Tomlinson, eventual folkslinger.

Oh yes, I was going to tell you about the salad bar accident. It hurts to even think about it so I'm going to make this brief. See, The Big Texan sits right there off the shoulder of Interstate 40, a giant model of a cowboy nodding to you from miles away. As you approach you will see signs advertising a free dinner if you can eat the 72 ounce steak and "all the trimmin's". Which, as you might imagine, are dizzying in quantity, a clump o' mashed potatoes the size of a couch pillow and more greasy hush puppies than you'd need to shoe a police force. (if they all dressed like Mister Rogers)

Now, I began to live the vegetarian lifestyle way back in the vicinity of 1978 (the year I was born) and so a steak of any size was not for me, certainly, a 72 oz. steak was way beyond the pale. And besides, I was sick and tired of being treated like an alien from another planet just because I drank carrot juice, occasionally fasted for a week and did not eat meat. It was nearly impossible to find a restaurant in Amarillo in those days that could provide a meal for someone who didn't eat cows. I'd had it, so I walked up to the Big Texan manager and demanded that there be a free meal opportunity for a person such as myself, who did not like eating mammals of any type. To my utter amazement, he grinned and said, "Sure podna, (everyone is a podna in Texas) we can pro-rate the salad bar. You'll have to eat a bit more since vegetables is mostly water, but if you can eat six pounds o' salad - with a side o' bread and butter and a slice o' pecan pie - you can walk outa here free as a bird."

This truly astounded me. I was used to being looked at like an idiot when I'd drive up to Whataburger and order a cheese burger with everything on it but the meat. To think that the Big Texan Steakhouse manager was going to cater to my special dietary needs was delightful, indeed.

First, I took a good look at the salad bar. Heck, I liked almost everything on it but the hominy. I could work around that. "Do I have to eat some of everything or does it just have to weigh six pounds, no matter what I choose?"

"Son, if you want to eat six pounds worth of iceberg lettuce or shredded carrots, God Bless ye. Have at it."

He handed me a plate so cold that my fingers stuck to it and I had to use the edge of the table to pop it off my palms. Yeoowww! Was that a trick, I wondered? Was cold food harder to get down? I quickly forgot about that and started filling my plate. A waitress appeared at the table with a small scale and said, "We hafta weigh it first. We hafta weigh each serving before ya eat it."

I said, "Why don't you just weigh me now and then weigh me after, instead of weighing each plate I eat?"

"Oh," she said, "I guess we could but we just have this little scale and I think you weigh more than ten pounds."

I had piled my plate sky high but after she took off the half-pound the heavy platter weighed, I only had 13 oz. of salad there. Damn. That was a tall pile of salad. I did a quick mental calculation and realized that I'd have to eat almost 7 1/2 servings like that. Oh well. I just started shoveling. Too late, I realized that I hadn't put any dressing atop it and since I'd already weighed and started eating it, they wouldn't let me add the dressing. That was some awfully dry iceberg lettuce. The carrots must have been lying out for days because they had more the consistency of wood shavings. Thankfully, there were cherry tomatoes, which I normally love, but these were so mushy they squished around all slimy in my mouth and I never could get a good molar on one. Eventually, I just had to swallow them whole.

Well, this went on for some time, as you can imagine. My friends had long since finished their burgers and fries and were off playing pinball. I'd pictured it going very differently. Well, let me take that back. I hadn't pictured this at all. All I'd originally been doing was standing up for my rights as a vegetarian and I had no earthly idea it was actually going to get me into a salad eating contest.

By my fourth plate, which, though mountain high, weighed only 11 oz., I was growing despondent and shockingly full. My fullness was of the unpleasant variety you feel thirty minutes after a massive Thanksgiving feast. Not horrible, but if you hadn't thought to wear sweat pants you'd surely be moving four or five holes out on your belt strap. So what I'm saying is, half way through this ordeal I felt like a man who had eaten two turkey legs, three mounds of stuffing, a big hill o' mashed potatoes, three buttery dinner rolls, several spoons of cranberry sauce, a bowl of green beans, two pieces of pie and a slice o' banana cake. That's how I felt exactly, with approximately four more plates of salad to go.

It is about now that I feel I must tell you the part of the story that makes me look like a complete idiot. And I'm telling it in precisely the order that it all occurred to me. Now, if you didn't eat the full 72 oz. steak and trimmin's, you had to pay for it. That was widely posted and well known. Back in those days, it was $29.95. I could eat out of a farmer's market for two weeks on that kind of money. But what was not posted anywhere in the establishment - because I may have been the one and only vegetarian who ever wandered into the Big Texan Steakhouse demanding equal rights - was the price a person would pay if they did not indeed finish six full, robust pounds of salad from the Big Texan Salad Bar. Staring at my fourth dreadful plate of woody carrots and mushy tomatoes, this seemed to be a factor now. I didn't have much money. I never had much money. How I'd gotten myself into such a situation was, pure and simple, an example of what happens when a young man's ego runs amok and he gets just what he's begging for.

I was afraid to ask the price of failure so I dove back into my meal with renewed determination. I finished plate four and made a swirling motion with my right forefinger, telling the girl to keep 'em comin'. She appeared with another towering plate of inferior plant matter and weighed it right there at the table. Alright! That's more like it! This one weighed in a 17 1/2 ounces. I wondered how she got it all so compact until I got about two bites down into it and my fork hit a quarter of a raw potato. I looked up in shock. "Really? A potato?"

She grinned and shrugged. No reply at all. What the hell, I thought, it's heavy and it'll get the job done. I gnawed on that potato and managed to get it wedged between two mushy tomatoes and it slid right down my gullet. Hey! I'd discovered a method that just might make it possible for me to walk out of there with all my money. I'd needed water several times to get a wad of plant matter down my throat but the weight of the water did not count in my six pound total, they said, so I went without and just tried to force it down.


My pooch (not a vegetarian) likes to hitch hike.

Now you can force feed a baby, I hear. Though I don't know if that's politically correct anymore. And I know for sure that you can force feed a friend who has smoked too much pot and can't stop eating Ding Dongs. (man, I miss those days) But it is incredibly difficult to force feed yourself. The thing is, you know it's coming; the hard fist full of broccoli and green beans is hard to miss when it's your own. You have good intentions, you know you must get this done and do it pronto, but then you see your hand coming hard at your face and all set to do some serious stuffin' a pillow maker would be proud of, you tend to tighten up your throat muscles. That's what I did. Right there in the restaurant I must have looked like someone with two personalities. The one of me was trying to muscle some humomgous forks full of shrubbery down my throat and the other of me was grittin' teeth with veins popping out all over my forehead and neck. It must have been somethin' to see, because soon there was a crowd gathered around me, cheering, hollering out Hallelujah! and Geronimo! and Remember the Alamo! and shit like that and there I was clutched in mortal combat with myself: the me that feared what would happen if a check was brought to the table and the me that feared what would happen if my stomach burst open like ripped britches.

The rest of the story I have to relate from hearsay, as I was not fully conscious. Apparently, there was no rule saying who had to man the fork. The crowd had roused my friends from Pac Man or whatever thing they were playing and my buddy Carl, seeing that I was only half a plate from glory, gathered up all the lettuce, potatoes, beans, mushy tomatoes left on my plate into his big farm boy paws and, much in the way one might force a tire onto a car rim in the days when a man did that sort of thing, he wedged that wad into my pie hole, packed it down with his elbow, then pinched my lips with his strong fingers long enough for them to declare me successful. They say the Big Texan did their best bar business ever on that day. Bets had been flying right and left all during my last frenzied couple o' platefuls, and the winners spent their fortunes on buying drinks for everybody. I of course, wasn't in the mood for alcohol but my friends were. So I believe they left me in the pickup bed while they enjoyed a few triumphant drinks and basked in the golden glory of what I had accomplished. I think I'm still famous there, but I've never gone back to see.


Fall has been in the air here in Seattle for nearly a month now. I've noticed certain smells on the air and sometimes the sunlight looks more like September than July or August. I mention that to some folks and they groan, but it makes me happy. Of course, I'm in love and so every season is spectacular. In the years where I've been on my own - and there have been many of them off and on in my life - many autumns or springtimes would come around and I'd wish I had someone special to share it with. A couple of years ago on October 1, I met the love of my life. I didn't know it right away. We met creating a concert to raise money for the folks hurt by Hurricane Katrina and our love grew out of that beautiful event. I guess that's about as meaningful way to meet your true love as you could ever ask for.

My point is, if I've been excited that fall is coming for the last two months, well, maybe it's because I get to spend it with her.


I began recording a new CD late last year and have spent all this year working on it. Last night I laid in bed listening to seven of the songs on my iPod and I could hardly believe the dream that is coming true. How is it that a person can strum a guitar and find a beautiful progression of chords, hum a melody to it that wants to be hummed over and over again for months, write stories and poetry in lyrics and then actually manifest those songs onto a recording? I can tell you the basic steps and yet it still amazes me.

It's been nine years since I recorded my last full band CD, Trace the Sky. Since then I've done a couple of solo acoustic recordings that I love, but I've missed working with other players to collaborate on my songs and find new ways to interpret them. I found a wonderful engineer/keyboard player who owns a small studio here in Seattle and we've just been moving slowly toward my dream. Working a couple of days most weeks, bringing in a dobro player or bass player, whatever comes up for the song. And then I take long walks with my iPod, listening to our work and imagining what I want to add to each song. It's been a beautiful process really, walking and listening and dreaming and breathing in the seasons as this meaningful work develops. I can tell you this for sure: it is very close to the best work I've ever done. I know you have your favorites and I'm glad you do. I've often said that I will never write better songs than Yellow Windows or Run Like the River Runs or All is Clear or Living Things. Those songs said everything I wished them to say and more. But this album is filled with songs every bit that good and it's really exciting to be imagining them released into the world and working their wonders in people's lives.

When the time comes closer I'm going to send out emails and ask for your help. Ask you for ideas and contacts, places and people to send the music to in hopes of getting it spread around the world more extensively. So be taking notes.

Thanks for visiting me here and for listening to my music. It's a rare day that I do not hear from someone around the world who has just realized that I'm alive and well and who wants to renew one of the discs they gave away, lost in a divorce, broke in a bar fight. And I get just as many new listeners, often people who hear me at a friend's house or dinner party. I thank you for sharing my music, you've made it possible for me to keep writing and singing all these years and I won't let you down. There is every bit of heart and enthusiasm in my new songs as there was in my very first.

I hope this coming autumn is good for you, filled with life and beautiful change. I'll leave you with the lyrics to one of the songs that will be on my new CD, Another Way to Love You. I hope you enjoy it.

Your friend in sunny Seattle,
   ~Michael

PS, if you're into downloading now, five of my CDs are now available at iTunes, Real Rhapsody and many other sites. I also have a MySpace site that you can visit, where you download my tunes.
 

Another Way to Love You

See that leaf blow by
The way it rolls and tumbles past your eye
It's no accident
From some old tree it is a message sent

It's just another way to love you
There could be no other way
Than the leaves all blowing around you
On a cold November day

Hear that whippoorwill
The way she thrills your heart and calms you still
Surely, birds do love
What did you think her song was woven of?

It's just another way to love you
Like the meadow loves the spring
In the cool of a summer shower
When she falls in love again
With the rain

Say you don't know how
To show someone you love them
You feel it in your heart
But cannot let it out

There is no secret
It's there for everybody
You take a deep, deep breath
Trust your own true hear to lead you there

See that moon above
The way she rolls along the starlit sky
Shine your light on us
Show us how to share a love so kind

There's just so many ways to love you
Life could never find them all
So she settles love around us
Like gentle rain that falls

See that leaf blow by
The way it rolls and tumbles past your eye. . .

2007 Michael Tomlinson

 

   

   

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