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Road Mind

April 17, 2014

I almost wrote a song the other night. "Whiskey and Bitters" I think it's called. It's a waltz and it was inspired by playing Mark's guitar, a beautiful Taylor. (Mark is our bus driver who is an accomplished country musician as well.) So soft and rich, it's a steel string but almost has the tone of a classical. "Yea, it's a nice one." he said. Anyhow, sometimes you pick up an instrument like that and a song just comes out. The wood and metal and spirit provide a vessel for your feelings, and the chords create a space for the words to flow. It was just a line, maybe the chorus. But it's the start of a song, although I couldn't fill it out much before I got distracted by something. That's a drawback, of the road, that's not so obvious at first. It's a state of constant distraction, and then the most important thing you do in a day is to stay focused on the show for ninety minutes or so. So your attention, your focus can seem precious. But if I was at home, I might have gone to my piano after a while. Sometimes transposing the chords from the guitar to the piano, relearning and re-voicing the song, puts you back in the poetry, and the words can bubble forward again. The piano is special, for me, because the melody can go further from the chords, and I find more sevens and nines there.

The numbers and frequencies - the systems through which people understand the natural phenomenon of music, are like a conceptual counterpoint. Did you ever notice that the third harmonic is the fifth note in the scale? Alas, the fifth harmonic turns up as the third note in the scale. There - there is where the magic starts to happen. And we can ride those odd numbers up into jazz chords, or down into the distortion pedals. It's another can of worms for the Road Mind.

It takes twice as much discipline I guess, to focus the Road Mind. It accounts for the constant exhaustion. I think much of it is not obtaining truly deep sleep. The worst is when you can't sleep, and your thoughts just won't land anywhere. Your stuff, your things are spread around like your thoughts. That's when I like to sit up front with Mark and watch the miles click by. It's a form of meditation, an emptying of mind. All those wandering neurons, running from cares to responsibilities are delayed by the Road Mind - connected to the conduit of the throbbing river of the interstate.

When we get somewhere I'll cram all my stuff in my suitcase and fly home, and then the Road Mind will calm, given a day or two. And I can unpack the stuff, wash what's dirty, and consider what bits might need a more connected meditation. Like "Whiskey and Bitters". Maybe I'll remember what it's about when I play it on my piano, or maybe it'll remain a fragment, a note of a feeling that precedes a song. Like so many of the others, half blank pages in my song book.

The Home Brain can be just as distracting as the road, I guess, what's for dinner? Walk the dog, shop, all those projects in the basement. But out back, when I consider my trees and connect with the earth again I can feel the songs growing, pulled from the soil by the sun like flora in the mind. And when I sit still again, I know all my songs are there.

Minneapolis, MN


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