Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Read.East.Listen: Falling

Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living. — Anonymous

 In one of those slightly embarrassing moments, I tripped and fell in my own house while moving a ladder to do some painting (can't even say I was on the ladder).  The good news is I didn't break anything,  but I did bruise the hell out of my hip and knee. I had a good wail for a minute, pouted for another five, wrote what will likely be a new blues song...and then got up and finished the painting. Still, in the past few days I've woken up feeling like I've been in a car wreck. So I've been moving a bit slow, taking arnica and ... being happy there is plenty to eat and read and hear.
Read: Hold Still, by Sally Mann, was just delivered to my Kindle/iPad and I can't wait to dig in. A memoir by the acclaimed and controversial photographer, the effort has been getting great reviews, and I enjoyed the recent excerpt New York Times.

Eat: Ferments.  I love kimchi these days, as well as certain home-made pickles, so what a treat to have opportunity to order the board full of them at Gather Restaurant the other night. Pretty, too.

Listen: The always good Shelby Lynne has a new one out! "I Can't Imagine"

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May Second Saturdays at Jingletown Jazz Room

I'm looking forward to being a part of this "a showcase and meeting place for all things Oakland-made." Aka Ale Industries' Second Saturdays event featuring  local artists, local food trucks and food vendors, local bands and musicians (this week, moui as well as King Cajon & The Country Gentlemen", art vendor markets highlighting artists and local. Plus Ale Industries is all about its East Oakland-made, BioEnergy beers! Stop by, 3098 E. 10th St. Oakland, CA 94601 from 12-10pm. 
We'll be playing at 5pm.

Monday, May 4, 2015

10 Ways to Get Unstuck & Finish What You Started

Making stuff — songs,  stories, magazines...pies — has been my through line for most of my life. Creating is for me one of the coolest things about being alive. How amazing it is that humans can make things out of 'nothing?' How much one can find out about themselves through doing.  Now I chart my fluidity, or my stuckness, by how my projects are proceeding. Usually there's a match up to what I'm feeling.  I'm likely stuck if I'm feeling frustrated, cranky, oppressed somehow or over-tired (in a way that sees sleep as a way out rather than as a restorative). I'm usually stuck if I'm feeling fear of some kind,  or that my circumstance is compromised. Over the years I've been fortunate to find several practices that have worked for keeping me, or getting me, back on track when I'm stalling out. As I've been working on getting my arms around a big project that has eluded me for some years — years in which I've actually completed lots of projects (albeit other projects) — I've been turning to my favorite ways — that don't involve plane tickets or other large purchases — to get unstuck a lot!

10 Ways to Get Unstuck & Finish What You Started

  1. Do some yoga. Even five minutes of breath and movement can change your perspective. If you've never done yoga, try a beginner class or commit to learning sun salutations. I have a regular yoga practice so this has become built in. Now, if I'm resistant to my yoga practice,  I do what I consider my 'minimum RDA:' 20 minutes of my regular practice, including sun salutations, a few standing and some seated poses.
  2. Vocalize. Another built-in for me as I regularly chant and I sing.  When I was going through a low period, I found these were things that made me feel better. Sound vibration and music affect us physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Make a sound=shift in consciousness.
  3. Go for a walk outside, preferably up a hill. For most of my life (until recently), I've lived near some geographic feature I could ascend. Going for a walk + changing the view +breathing the air = gear change. But you don't need a hill. A walk around the block can do wonders. My new15 minute loop near my house gets my blood moving and... doesn't take me too far from what I'm working on.
  4. Make/bake something easy. Often my stuckness is a result of being daunted by a project. Making something edible reminds me I can complete a project and also make something useful. When I was young, I liked to bake. Now I've been more into raw, vegan snack type things, that don't take all day and are truly nourishing.
  5. Set a timer. Sometimes thinking/worrying about the thing I'm resisting — making that call, writing the next paragraph, paying the bills,  learning the new song that hasn't been getting in— than actually doing it. Setting a timer for a amount of time that's not overwhelming — 10 minutes to half hour — helps gets me started, which is key, and usually leads to completion.
  6. Dance. Blast a favorite tune and go to town...even if town is in your living room. Dance is play and counters the over-seriousness business.
  7. Mix up your usual routine so your usual sequencing is different.  Perhaps it won't offer up any resistance when approached at a new angle.
  8. Take part in a challenge. I'm a big proponent of 'write a [novel, album] in-a-month' type challenges or Instagram # sharing challenges. They're manageable, they're contained and it helps to know you're not alone.
  9. Reach out. Connect to another maker, or someone who is doing what you aspire to, or simply an old friend. Up the ante by writing a real old-fashion letter.  Write as a fan or to say thank you. Or write your friend to tell them the things you love about your life right now. Make it equal parts gratitude list and reconnection. Put your letter in an envelope with a real stamp. Walk it to the real mailbox.
  10. Take time from social media. See what the vacuum left by Twitter and Facebook yields. 
  11. Make a list. 10 projects you admire.  5 next steps to take. 15 things you've already completed. All the things you do well. Wow, look at that!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: All

Anyone who has practiced traditional Ashtanga yoga has heard "practice and all is coming." It was one of Ashtanga-originator Pattabhi Jois's favorite instructions: a succint way of saying: do your practice first, everything else, the 'all' of life, positive and negative, as well as the fruits of practice, will work themselves out. It's at once an inspiring, maddening and accurate instruction. Inspiring, because when things are hard, who doesn't want to hear that it will change or become clear? Maddening, as this direction is nowhere near a quick fix. And accurate, because, as someone who began Ashtanga during a low, low point in ones life, I've experienced the steady expansion that goes hand-in-hand with regular practice. Even when I've felt pissed, injured, bored, old, lazy, or disappointed with my practice, I know now, over years of coming back to the mat, all (all kinds of all) does come.
This week, quite serendipitously, we had opportunity to stay a few days at Rancho Valencia, a spa resort in San Diego County replete with tennis courts, swimming pools, fine restaurants, olive and citrus orchards, beehives, and multiple swimming pools. Tastefully decorated with original art, our suite was larger than our house and just as comfortable (if not more so!). The only thing missing was our cat...who will likely never forgive us. Hummingbirds buzzed the patio morning and evening, and freshly squeezed orange juice was delivered to our door each morning. A lot of allness
Though our every need was taken care of, and there was even a yoga pavilion, I ventured outside the grounds a couple of mornings, to practice at the Ashtanga Yoga Center on the border of Encinitas and Carlsbad. I've made many trips to Encinitas over the years, as it's the first place in the United States that Pattabhi Jois taught when he first came to the States in the 70s, and several teachers have since maintained Ashtanga's strong roots here. I practiced with Jois here in 2002, on one of his many teaching trips, and several times with Sharath Rangaswamy after he took over the reigns from Jois upon his passing.  Likewise, one of Jois's first American students, Tim Miller, has run hid influential Ashtanga Yoga Center here for many years. I was fortunate to practice at his studio this week, my first visit to the Carlsbad location. While the studio is now inland a bit, in one of San Diego County's seemingly omnipresent malls, Miller's big heart and dedication permeates the Center, a practice environment that strikes an admirable balance between friendly, relaxed and focused. 
Read: Oliver Sacks' "On the Move." If you've read any of his other books or articles — "Awakenings" or "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat"—you know Sacks is brilliant and human, warm and wise, light-hearted and endlessly curious. I'm so glad he sought to pen and complete his memoir "On the Move" which is a beautiful look inside the life and mind of one of our greats.
Eat: "Food is the final frontier [of practice]," wrote another senior Ashtanga teacher, David Garrigues, and this entry, alas, doesn't speak to a fully-tamed frontier (albeit all the food in question is organic). I first tasted hushpuppies as a 10-year-old on my first trip through the deep, southern US. Fried and with a name I thought was funny, the Louisiana-made cornmeal hushpuppies weren't anything like I'd tasted before. I can still remember the wonder I felt at their flavor. But I was only visiting the south and its cuisine. I've seldom come across hushpuppies since (and they're definitely not a dish that fits with my attempts at healthy yoga-practice encouraging eating). Regardless, when I saw "wild ramp and garlic hushpuppies" on the menu at Full of Life Flatbread, the foodie and wine-wise restaurant in Los Alamos where we pit-stopped on our way to San Diego, I had to place an order. They were presented beautifully in a white bowl with yummy green goddess dressing. I was a little underwhelmed by their flavors, but my childhood memory is a hard one to live up to. I'm not complaining. These circa 2015, California versions evoked a strong and happy memory...and went great with the house red, a salad and some of Full of Life's truffle-oil infused cauliflower soup. Yum. 
Listen: Truth be told, we've mainly been listening to ourselves this week, rehearsing our Desert Songs between the yoga and work that brought us here. Nonetheless, we perked up when The Carolina Chocolate Drops came on the radio amid our drive. Modern roots music with a side of gospel, this group is talented, spirited and aware...and no secret. They're at SF Jazz Center in May. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: Iterations

I grew up on a wooded hill so I'm always jonesing a little for a nature hike. Getting outside is generally the most reliable head clearer. These days, living in Alameda, the San Francisco Bay is both the backyard and the nature escape. And with no hills to climb, that means heading for either the beach or on the water.  On Friday, we took off for a long-planned overnight sail to Paradise Bay, a lovely anchorage on the east side of Tiburon. We'd sailed there more than a year ago and I had memories of a smooth sail, warm air and gentle anchorage, suitable for a little yoga on the deck and napping in the sun. Anticipating a similarly idyllic two days, I dressed in shorts, brought my iPad writing set-up, and we added the mandolin to the on board instrument inventory. However, though the weather was warm and clear when we set out on Friday, the water soon became choppy and rough. Out came the long pants and foulies.
It should be noted here that while I'm a pretty experienced outdoors person,  I'm really a fair weather sailor. Suddenly, I was feeling nauseous.  Fortunately my captain is more than capable, and ably navigated the rough patch while I worked on steadying myself. 
I was reminded how easily the mind gets attached to an idea of how things should be like they were before. Hah! Paradise, it turns out, like everything, is changeable.  The upside of the strong wind and current was arriving at Paradise Bay in record time, albeit amid high winds, cool air and a half-hidden sun.
Once I got over partially cloudy and cool weather, I embraced our actual circumstance. There's something so soothing about sleeping on water. And waking to coyotes howling through the morning fog and loons paddling on the calm morning water isn't bad either.
Read: The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits, is a diary, but it's nonlinear. Comprised of two years of highly literate entries, each started with "Today, I..." Julavits mines insights about her everyday motivations and encounters with bracing candor, about herself, her strength and shortcomings, creating a new order of experience.
Eat: A friend handed me some scissors and directed me into her garden recently to harvest some of the many fava beans she'd grown. I shelled them for salad and for pasta and proceeded to see fava's everywhere, on menus and grocery bins. Fava beans,  are something I would have hated as a kid and now find beautiful. Large and green and kidney shaped, I like them as much for their aesthetic as their flavor. This Fava Bean and Pecorino dish is simple and pretty.
Listen: I've been fortunate to hear a lot of great live music lately a while reviewing shows for No Depression. Someone I'm looking forward to seeing play there next month is Steve Poltz. I'm not sure any video can capture how mind-blowing Poltz is live — he's as much performance artist, comedian,  faith healer and spirit channeler as songwriter/guitarist — but this will have to do until you see him. Poltz tours a lot. (Bay Area heads up: He's in Berkeley in May and in SF in July.) Check him out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Steps to Change Your World: A List in Progress

"Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own -- indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty, and wonder." — Wangari Maathai 

I think a lot about whether I'm helping or hurting the planet. Maybe this is because I grew up in California, maybe its because I practice a Buddhism that challenges me to revolutionize my life.  Maybe its a persistent naivete, but I woke up this morning thinking of ways one can change the world. Is that possible? In college, earnest, unjaded and sure my actions made a difference, my college professors were pulling their hair out over the fact of climate change. Twenty five years later here we are. The news is full of woe; who know where are water is going to come from; the result as of entrenched racism and sexism and greed have never been more stark; the presidential race is a sales job... people are struggling everywhere. And after 25 years of ups and downs of action, result, periodic disappointment...we're still here. I think, I know — because I've changed a lot — change —of one's mind, of ones limits, changes that can result in a more peaceful world —is very and always possible. Actions add up to result. Why not make them positive, proactive actions? Why not start with your own world?  Think of it all as an experiment if you have to. We might all yet surprise ourselves. What I've found thus far...

 10 Steps to Change the World: A List in Progress
  1. Love something or someone. Show up every day and decide to love it or them. This can be your practice (#2). Life is suddenly that much more amazing.
  2. Practice. Regular practice is where it's at for me: a prayer, an exercise, a martial art, an instrument, an art, a relationship...all the above!  Like  #1, its about paying attention and through repetitive action you learn your mind, your habits and what needs to change to progress. 
  3. Get involved with a community. That is volunteer for something or join a committee: whether that's music or gardening or spiritual study or cat rescuing or a project at work, get involved with something where you're a part of it but IT's not all about you. Yes, you'll find out how tricky it is to reach agreements about seemingly simple things. And you'll find out that you really don't like everyone. But that's the point. You'll learn to work with other people to make things happen.
  4. Know nature. Go for walks where there's dirt underfoot.  Learn about the other creatures around you. Be amazed.
  5. Eat locally grown, organic food whenever possible. Plant it if you have to. If you don't have a yard, inquire about a community garden.
  6. Limit fossil fuels. Carpool. Use public transportation. Walk. Or ride your bike. Clean air, healthier you.
  7. Clean up. Wash your hands, etc. et. al.
  8. Vote whenever you can. Run for office or get involved (#2) yourself if you don't like what's happening.
  9. Say thank you. Simple acknowledgement can go a very long way.
  10. Forgive. Assess the past, take the lesson in the mistakes and move forward.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New Acoustic Music Series debuts May 3 @ Island Yoga in Alameda

 Kwame Copeland and Deborah Crooks will be playing a selection of BRAND NEW material - Songs from the Desert & the Sea - at this BRAND NEW Music Series.
New Acoustic Music at Island Yoga
A "chamber concert" series for acoustic music performance from popular idioms to classical. The NAM series seeks a focused atmosphere, similar to a classical concert. Totally unplugged original music in a serene setting. The 2015 schedule runs May - Nov with performances on the 1st Sunday of each concert-month. Island Yoga supports this goal as a sensitive, resonant, space where performers can showcase their most personal work.

All shows are 45 minutes total length: starting at 4:15pm, ending at 5:00pm
Ticket price is $10 at door / $11 advance via PayPal

Concert performance is at the 2nd floor studio of Island Yoga, 911 Central Ave, Alameda. There is no wheelchair access.  http://www.jom-songs.com/NAM_series