Start Me Up

I started the New Year lighting candles. It felt ceremonial but was mostly aesthetic. The closest the house got to having any holiday decor at all. I hung up a new Dolphin Studio calendar and put away the old one to cut up and use for cards and wrapping paper. It felt good to be home.

Then I started the New Year by going back to bed. Alone — Eric’s still in England. I’d talked to him at midnight UK time. By midnight New York time I was asleep.

I’d talked to my daughter, who was out in Los Angeles. She was having a good time and sounded happy. So I started the New Year happy. 

I started the New Year doing morning pages. It’s a habit I began about twenty five years ago that has eroded as I feel compelled to look at my phone first thing in the morning. I always write something when I wake up but morning pages is supposed to be three pages and I want to get back to that, at least to break the phone first thing in the morning chains. Long live Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way!

IMG_3835
New Year’s Day at home in Catskill

I started the New Year drinking coffee from the mug I brought back from Guatemala last March. I never imagined I’d get to Lake Atitlan, but thanks to the writer Joyce Maynard, who I admire so much and have been lucky to get to know, I made it. Writing by the lake with Joyce and the group of women she hosts there every Feb/March will recede now that we’re in the new year, and its not possible for me to go back in 2020, but I have the mug and blanket and pants I brought back from my travels, so Eric can jokingly roll his eyes whenever I say “y’know—when I was in Mexico. And Guatemala.”

Where will I go in 2020? I know I have a gig in Peace Dale, Rhode Island this Friday. It’s become almost an annual tradition to play at Dan and Liz’s house concert there. It’s a good reason to get myself back into playing and performing after almost six weeks off. Then Cafe Nine in New Haven CT, where Joyce Maynard will join me for a conversation on stage before I play and read. It’s 2020 but my book is still only a few months old so I’m going to keep pushing. I’ll be one of the readers at Volume Reading Series at Spotty Dog in Hudson NY on January 11. I get to travel to Santa Rosa Beach in Florida for 30A Songwriters Festival the next weekend. That’s a gorgeous part of Florida I drove to a few times when I lived in Nashville, but this is my first time at the fest. Then I go back to England, where Eric and I are fixing up a flat in Norfolk. We spent December tearing out old carpet, bathroom, kitchen and started putting the new components in. Weird to think two years ago this time we were trying to bust Eric’s mother out of the hospital…she’s gone now and each small bit of progress we make on this place we toast Dorothy, and think how much she’d love it. It’s a place for us to stay over there, and I’m looking forward to late March and April shows in the UK, and the Walled Garden Festival in July.

I started the New Year (or the evening before) with a glass of wine. I go back and forth between thinking I have an alcohol dependency and just thinking I really like wine. Maybe it’s both. Just like coffee signals the start of the day for me, a glass of wine signals the winding down. Staying with friends who don’t drink, living with a husband who doesn’t drink, I’m conscious of my need to drink. It’s very measured, only happens in the evening, one or two glasses and I’m done, but it’s not a take or leave situation: I need that glass, like sunshine. I could try a dry January but then I couldn’t have a cocktail at Dan & Liz’s, or wine on my next flight to England, or a margarita in Florida, these are the little things I look forward to and so I think now February – that’s the shortest month so maybe I’ll try it then. There’s that line in Back From Amarillo where I sing “I hope that it’s okay I still drink” and it always makes me laugh and wince at the same time…

I started the New Year fighting off a cold, reading. I’m bouncing between a few books right now, having become addicted to Elizabeth Strout the last few months. I’m trying to move on to another author after reading Olive Kitteridge, Anything Is Possible and My Name Is Lucy Barton, but then she had to go and publish Olive, Again so I’m being pulled back in. I’m eager to read Holly George-Warren’s Janis bio though, and then really want to branch out into non-music nonfiction and maybe this winter I will finally tackle Anna Karenina?

I enjoyed Jessica Harper’s Winnetka podcast, it was a fun approach to memoir, weaving different voices and songs into an American family story that touched on so many aspects of life in a big clan. It made me want to write another book! I already feel committed to a second volume but there are just so many ways to come at it.

I started the New Year with silence and then I took a walk down into our village. It was nine AM and I think I only saw three cars on the road and this woman who’s a character straight out of The Simpsons pushing a big laundry cart. The only place open on Main Street was the cute sandwich shop and I said hi to some neighbors in there and got a coffee to take to a bench by the creek and the railway bridge so I could do a sketch with the pens Eric got me for Christmas. I started the New Year sketching and want to make more of a habit of that.

Walking back home, climbing a big hill that had me vowing to get back into working out, I listened to Dylan Blood On The Tracks outtakes because it just makes me want to go home and play guitar and sing songs which is exactly what I did. It felt so good to play my 12-string (I missed it on my fall tour but hadn’t felt up to wrangling three guitars and a book onstage) and the old Gibson. I remembered how my songs go and figured out one of Bob’s. I was ready for bed by four in the afternoon but managed to stay awake, cooked dinner listening to American Routes, a live show from New Orleans, stirring stuff on the stove, I may have even danced, and I thought this was a good way to start the New Year. In my head I’m still kind of over in Norfolk with Eric and our pals we stay with there who are like family, so I wasn’t all the way alone, and the part that’s here feels a little under the weather but so peaceful and grateful…I’ve always been inclined to go a little dark but one of the best things about getting older is seeing the positives. Love, health, family, friends and work that makes you happy, somewhere to live. Nature. Music, books and art. Food and, okay – wine. There’s lots to stress out about but that first day of the New Year it’s good to feel relatively clean and fresh and full of possibility.

Thank you for reading and listening, all the folks who bought books and records, wrote to me, put me up or put me on in your venue or living room, radio station or store.  I wish you all the best in 2020! 

  • Fri Jan 3 • Peace Dale, RI • Roots Hoot House Concert info/tickets
  • Fri Jan 10 • New Haven CT • Cafe Nine (really excited that author Joyce Maynard will do a Q & A with me before the reading/performance) tickets
  • Sat Jan 11 • Hudson NY • Volume Reading Series info
  • Fri Jan 17 – Sun Jan 19 • Destin FL • 30A Songwriters Festival tickets
  • Fri-Sun 27-29 Mar • Laugharne Weekend Wales
  • Thu 9 Apr • Nottingham UK • Running Horse tickets

(working on UK dates, email me if you want to do something in the Mar/Apr realm)

11 thoughts on “Start Me Up

  1. Bernard Davidow

    Happy New Year to you, too. Sounds like a terrific start. Thank you for these wonderful essays; they always strike a chord. Here’s to a fulfilling 2020!

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