Thoughts from an exile in Marin County; lessons from my second evacuation

“Exile on Marin St”

“Humans plan and the heavens laugh.” (to paraphrase an old Yiddish proverb and Public Enemy album)
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” (widely attributed to John Lennon)

My September column was set to be Part Two of my series on “Creating While Sheltering”, focusing this time on artists, and the how the pandemic and isolation have affected their creative process. But that will have to wait a month, as I (and they) have been evacuated because of the wildfires.

I returned to Sonoma County one year ago. I had been away for 30 years back east, and since my return, this is my second evacuation—however my first in conjunction with a plague. 😉 It’s been a wild homecoming to say the least. Many folks from back east are messaging me now, and I tell them all that I wouldn’t trade being here for anything.

I’m currently hunkered down in Marin Co staying with my brother Adam and his wonderful family, and it’s an ironic twist that it took the Walbridge Fire for us to be able to spend some quality time together. For the last year, our schedules have been so busy with “stuff” that we barely saw each other.

I think it’s almost too cliché for me to talk about how this situation has brought about realizations of the “impermanence of things” and “re-examining priorities” and “how fleeting it all is”...

I’ve actually been very glad to be reminded of those things.

Since returning to my beloved Sonoma County, I’ve been so enraptured literally every single day in the incredible beauty here—the natural, social, spiritual and communal beauty—that I often actually find myself lamenting that there must be something wrong with me that I can be surrounded by this much magnificence and not just be magically In Love With Life every single moment... I know people who are—or sure seem to be. And my life is certainly what qualifies as “blessed”, yet on my daily walks through the glory of Armstrong Woods, I find my mind drifting off into the ridiculous details of the day. 30+ years of meditation practice and I can’t japa my brain into release amongst the most spiritual of places? To quote today’s twitterpundits, WTF?!?

Yes, yes, yes, I understand it’s The Journey. It’s The Process. It’s recognizing this dissonance and releasing into that energy in order to grow. With each step along the path of wonderful redwood duff beneath my feet is another breath, another opportunity to allow my “spiritual work” to transform into simply “being my life”. Two of my favorite quotes come to mind: “Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already.” (Pema Chödrön); and “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” (Rumi). I LOVE that stuff! I want to BE that stuff!

But of course, I already am

During the evacuation, I experienced a very strange state of almost peacefulness amidst ridiculous chaos—trying to figure out what to grab, getting two freaked out dogs into the car, loading it up on all sides of them with as much as I could throw in there... laughing out loud at how I reminded myself of Steve Martin leaving Bernadette Peters in The Jerk: and my laptop, and that’s all I need... oh, and this shirt, and dog food, and my laptop and that’s ALL I need! Oh, and these cookies...

But I sure wasn’t worried about the details of the day, about calls I was supposed to make, paperwork I needed to do, any of that stuff... The evacuation was bigger than all that. I didn’t have time—or the habit of reaction—to wonder what was wrong with my non-nirvanic state of mind. Anyone follow me? Does this resonate?

All the realizations in the world don’t mean poop if we don’t bring them into our everyday lives as best we can. And through the amazing grace of Vesta allowing me to write a monthly column, I now have thousands of witnesses when I say that my intention is to find that place of what my daughter Alana loves to talk about “radical acceptance”. But with a twist... My favorite therapist once suggested that I not focus on “acceptance” but rather on “acknowledgment”. Acceptance is often treated as a command: you need to accept this—rather than acknowledging, which is recognition and opening, being truly present inside the issue, owning it, and “befriending who I am” into my life.

So...... what does all this have to do with “Inside The Music”? Well, the purpose of this column is to write about Sonoma County music, and as a SoCo musician one of my goals is to share how we do what we do, and explore the inner-workings of what it means to be who we are. And it may be a pretentious leap to say that it’s my hope this column may resonate with many musicians out there—and ideally with many non-musicians as well. As songwriters, artists of all kinds, one of our primary creative goals is to connect. To articulate shared experience in hopefully new and inspiring ways. I’d like to hope this column can do the same. Healing Answer:

So what do YOU think? I’d love to hear...


Let’s hope that by the time you read this, our amazing fire crews have won the battle and we are all able to return to our homes. And if not, that we continue this incredible bond that we have with each other — and with our environment — here in Sonoma County. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of it all!


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