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The Things We Keep

Well, after a bizarrely heavy freak snowstorm earlier this week (in MAY, for goodness sake!), it’s again feeling like spring around here.  The good garage sales have started appearing, migrating animals with their new babies are  navigating the forest nearby, and “May Mom” — in contrast with September Mom — has arrived, packing lunches that are less like Bento boxes and more like half a Pringles can and a packet of Fruit Snacks from 2017.  

In our neighborhood, we have this thing called “Dumpster Days,” where several large dumpsters are placed in nearby parking lot for everyone to use to clear out junk and yard waste (there’s also a CHIPPER!) to keep things looking shipshape and reduce fire danger.  There’s been an unspoken tradition that people leave unneeded items that are still perfectly good on the ground in the areas around the dumpsters; this creates a fantastic scavenging ground for things that you might be interested in trying but aren’t sure if you’d like to actually invest in…for instance, a veggie spiralizer!  An aromatherapy steamer!  A camping espresso pot!  It’s awesome…just clean it up and it’s yours!  Fun, cost-free, and keeping things out of the landfills…and we are there for it.  

My family LOVES dumpster days, both for the opportunity to let go of unneeded items that have been taking up space, as well as for the above-mentioned opportunism, but also there’s a fascinating bit of neighborhood anthropology that can be gleaned from rummaging through the refuse of your neighbors’ homes, as it turns out.  

Is there a preponderance of toys, kids books, ping pong tables, old video game consoles?  Aww…the kids are growing up. Boxes of books and old DVDs?  The way we seek info and entertainment media is changing, and we’re probably not going back.  Perfectly functional expensive smart coffeemakers and intelligent vacuums?  Some still in the boxes??  Your grandparents are just fine with the old standbys, everybody — they don’t see the point in talking to their appliances or getting an app in order to clean the kitchen floor.  

Yes…we are defined by the items we use, the things we choose to keep around us, the stuff we can’t let go of and the stuff we throw away.  

I recently did a deep clean on my office — something that had been lonnnnng overdue.  Over the last few years, it had become my communication center, recording studio, craft vault (for the grown up art supplies), alteration station, meditation space, library, and storage unit.  This one modest room was not meant to be all these things concurrently, and so some decisions needed to be made. 

I had to ask myself (and keep asking, over and over) things like:  Where am I actually spending my efforts these days?  Am I really going to _________?    Do I even care about ________ anymore?   Did I ever?   In the titular words of a brilliant story by Joyce Carol Oates, I had to repeatedly ask myself:  “Where are you going, Where have you been?”

This kind of questioning process, I should add, is the most difficult thing in the world for me.  I stalwartly believe in everything being possible, in the abundance of time, energy, and opportunity for the right project, in the truly limitless nature of our lives.  I’m also creative and resourceful, and believe that most problems can be solved, many items can be reused and reimagined, and spectacular last-minute costumes can be created from things that have been lingering  around the house for some time.  In addition, both my husband and I descend from immigrant parents and grandparents whose frugality and waste-not-want-not values surely load our epigenetic genomes with a resistance to shedding anything of possible eventual value.  Because of all these reasons and more, I struggle really hard  with letting things go.  

Every item feels like a challenge for my busy brain to evaluate its future possible usefulness.  Note that I’m fairly unconcerned with it’s present and past utility — that was then, this is someday.  History means nothing in the debate raging with me!  You never know what might come up!

Every time I place things like art supplies, games, kits, or appliances into a donation box, I feel a pang of personal failure or regret.  Oh…I was going to do portraits with those….we were going to play more card games with the kids…we never did make that mosaic stepping stone from Christmas 2009…why did I not sous vide more chicken?  Why?  WHY?!

And clothes?  Well, they just swirl around in a psychological scylla and charybdis of body image, career shifts, identity, aspirations, nostalgia, and experimentation.  And they have to make it past the painting clothes  box before being considered in the “is it too crappy to even donate?” dilemma.  So  time and again, with the change of seasons, I churn through my clothes (many of which, I kid you not, have been in my wardrobe for 20 years+…I try  for timeless) in efforts to magically and artfully tidy up and simplify my life and embrace a capsule wardrobe — I do! — but it’s slow going.  

Creative projects are the hardest though.  Lyrics from unfinished songs that still feel potent and interesting, outlines for novels or plays, sketches for inventions that I’d like to explore sometime, stray poems that never quite fit into a collection of any sort. . . little creative tendrils, still seeking a place to land and grow and become what they’re meant to become.  How can you let those go?  And how do you know what’s worth picking up again?  Does THIS fit in with my one wild and precious life??


The only thing that seems to hold true as — again and again — I find myself thrashing against constriction while engulfed in these decisions, is to listen for THE PULL.  Am I being drawn toward this item, this project, this piece right now?  Am I excited to have found it and remembered it and to put it into use again?  Does it make me feel a rumble of possibility and lightness, of energy and recognition?  If so, great!  Time to consider how it fits into current  priorities and parameters, and to find an orderly way to keep track of it.  

Or do you feel a push — a sense of  wanting to push it away from you energetically, noting a sense of avoidance, or obligation, of dread, of disappointment or regret, of heavy effort, of failure?   If so . . . it’s time has passed.  It's OK . . . you can let it go.  It’s holding you down and holding you back, instead of lifting you up and sending you forward.  Marie Kondo’s "Spark Joy” requirement works for our creative efforts too (even if my socks are not happy all crammed in their drawer). 

William Morris said: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”   The things you conjure up in one's creative efforts can absolutely be useful and beautiful, or they can be stepping stones on the way to being so.  Or they might have served their purpose, past snowflakes of possibility that have now melted and are nourishing the flow of our current creative streams.  Energy has no end, it merely changes form.  Think of your creative efforts that way too…they're never  wasted, they just might come around in different forms.

Wait  for the light, the spark, the desire, the PULL.  If you don’t feel it, do your best to let this little bit of yourself go – this vine of possibility, the lingering maybe.  Trust that  there is always more inspiration, more connection, more to express and share and shape.  And if you do feel that activation, value it.  Honor it.  Give the project the love it needs, the attention and energy and care and discipline.  Give it priority and place in your life, and make it what it wants  to be.   And then, move on to the next thing that lifts you, excites you, fulfills you, pulls you, and let each milestone bring you confidence and momentum. 

When you find the things you know you want to keep, hold them close to your heart, where they are filled with its pulse and charge.  You are the steward of these brilliant possibilities, so be bold!  Clear what is finished  – whether ‘complete’ or not – so that you can see what is finally, thrillingly,  ready to start. 

And start.

Happy last days of fall….

What a gorgeous one it has been, too . . . I don't think I ever remember a year with such vibrant color and so many beautiful, crisp sunny days.  Or maybe after last year's early snows (that ended up continuing for months and month and MONTHS), it was just extra lovely to get to savor the season.  

On a warmer note, the summer song camps went so well this summer . . . I'm  still smiling with pride and gladness at the kids' great  talent and growth, along with their generous support of one another.   One of the students from the “Idol” camp for performance and songwriting just updated me on the exciting news that she's released her first single!  Go Jadyn!  I've posted the youtube link below so you can have a listen too.  I'd keep an eye on her :)

Things I'm thankful for today:

  1.  The cool ECLIPSE a few weeks ago –- we roadtripped to Sterling UT and stayed in a crazy and awesome legit GENERAL STORE (opened in the 1920s) airbnb before heading to a solitary mountainside to witness the big event.   
  2. A great trip to Moab last weekend for the kids' fall break . . .  laying on our backs, watching shooting stars in the wonderful quiet of Arches national park.  If not for Foster's constant fidgeting (we erringly allowed him to have a Dr. Pepper at dinner), it would have been still and magical.  Instead, it was fidgety and magical.  So it goes.
  3. Good sleep and good energy.  I've been a little sick lately and the slogginess of my vibe is making me appreciate when I'm feeling and sleeping great.
  4. Several new songs (!) that are so insistent about getting written that they're waking me up at night.  Yep, right during my aforementioned not-great sleep.  But I'm liking these songs a lot and they seem to be forming into the musical that I've had on the back burner for quite awhile now, so that's really pretty exciting.
  5. The nostalgic fun of playing cards in the evening.  Even if our game of the moment is “Uno - NO MERCY!”   Kerplunkin!

JADYN ACKERMAN -- Never Be The Same (single release)



Legends of the Snow 

Welp, 2022-2023 was one spectacular winter out here.  An astounding winter.  An insane winter. 

Someday they won’t believe us when we talk about our driveways being carved out of 18ft tall walls of snow.  Or how roofs — roofs that were engineered for unfathomable weights — collapsed under their loads.  Or how we made snowcaves in the backyard and the ski season was EIGHT months long.  But it’s all true. 

Utah’s snowpack continued to climb after soaring past the historic record last month, making this the best season EVER in the modern age of snowpack collection records, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. (To illustrate what this means: Alta has had over 900 inches of snow. Nine fricking hundred inches. That’s 75 FEET of snowfall. 

Even the hydrologists — typically an unpleasable, pessimistic bunch* — have acknowledged that all this snow should significantly help our dire drought situation here in Utah (Save Lake Powell!) and finally start refilling California’s reservoirs.  Perhaps we can all visualize a perfectly gentle, gradual, slow spring melt and help them find some relief from their chronic stress. 

This ski season has been a long, amazing, fantastic one for locals and visitors alike, starting way back in October(!) for those willing to hike, and lasting until MAY here in Park City. 


It was a very physical winter for most people around here — screaming thighs from bouncing through the powpow, intense appetites after harder-than-expected snowshoeing, tense shoulders from harrowing driving conditions, and aching backs from never-ending shoveling and plowing (thank you God and Mark that I am not the plowmaster).  In what some people might say is a convenient turn of events, my lower back randomly went out badly in February — pulling me from many activities and infusing my presence with the heady aromas of menthol rub and lavender epsom salts; if back pain is indeed a physical representation of life elements, this feels like a metaphoric reflection of all the straining roofs and decks around us overloaded with so many tons of snow. 

It’s been a rollercoaster morale ride as well.  I’ve frequently loved unexpected school “snow days” (practically unheard of here) and the nestled-in, warm and snuggly vibe of being safely at home with a good movie and nowhere we need to go.  But I’ve also had bouts of cabin-fever, feeling restless and aimless and snappy, grousingly cobbling together weird dinners out of pantry items as if I’m a contestant on Chopped (since who wants to go to the store when it’s like that outside?!). I’ve been frequently grateful to helpful folks around us — the good neighbors (thanks Trip and Jon!) for rescuing me unexpected detours into snowy ditches, delivery drivers for saving us all from extra outings, all the people running online resources (like for digital library books!), and the county plow drivers for the exhaustive pre-dawn road clearing that allows the kids to get to school and the rest of us to safely get where we need to. Needing each other can bring a lot more awareness to how kind, generous, and interdependent people are. 


Spring is now teasing us…peeking up like a shy hedgehog before being swept back into hiding by yet another brief bout of cold wind or sleet.  But these occasional glimpses are enough....the longer brighter days, the clearer skies.  The faith in spring’s return, in sunlight and green and forest hikes and bbq-ing outside, oh yes — it’s perking me up for sure.  In that way of metaphors that nature so often provides, I feel like I’m emerging from a kind of dormancy, breathing more deeply, stretching and moving around again.  And as much as all the nestling felt comfortable and right, for this long winter, the movement and growth is what feels good and right and instinctive now. 

I can’t wait to see many of you this summer at outdoor concerts, at street festivals and last-minute get-togethers, to run into you while the kids play at the parks.  And I’m really looking forward to this summer’s Songwriting and Recording Camps again — they’ll be better and more fun than ever with new folks sharing their wisdom and new ways to help the music emerge from those who just know it’s there.  Hope you're enjoying the big melt wherever you are. :)

Happy Spring! 

Xo mb