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Beth Whitney / Blog

Ants on a Kite

A few days in Santa Barbara sun roused me from a season of vague and foggy Seattle sleep.

As anyone who has looked down at their palms and for a moment truly saw their own hands will tell you, to be awake can be awesomely terrifying. These moments would be kind to come when feet are flat on the ground and not when, say, you are dancing with a force like gravity.

As our small propellor plane lifted up towards San Francisco, I was suddenly all too aware of my two hands clenching the armrests- as effective as two grains of sand clutching an ocean shore. In moments like this, there is little else to do but unhinge your fingers and write a poem on the back of your boarding pass: -------

THE FLYING MACHINE

Blood orange sky tonight

a bundle of flying fools we are

tumbling high over a San Francisco sea

I none the greater

It's safer! It's faster!

But say that to my knees

miles up from the ground in flight

It's a moment you hope would

disconnect

suspended disbelief that cities below

are just a calendar on the wall

The flying machine saves me a month of hike along

the shore but

each tremor up here

wrings out my confidence

like a dishrag

poised

and flicked by a wrist to

wipe the floor.

Indeed, the face of God

would knock the wind and bones out of me.

-Beth

Like a water slide

With a portabella mushroom quiche in the oven, I’m sitting here watching the snow melt and overhearing the sink interact with the bath tub. You see when one is full the other gurgles- there is an analogy there I’m sure of it. Anyone have an idea?

It was strange to read a review recently that described our music as lovey pop. It’s true I am in love. Sometimes it’s easy like going down a water slide. Other times it’s a ragged hill to climb with the ridge a little too far and water enough, it seems, for only one. Will I be selfish or not? It’s an agonizing question.

About ten minutes ago I was feeling pretty bummed about humanity in general. Today I got a letter in the mail from a ‘record label’ wanting to use my songs for an upcoming record. It took two sips of coffee and a quick google to learn it was indeed, a scam. I wished that this discovery made my eyebrows raise or something but I just continued with the quiche and recycled the unkind letter.

However, my mind did start to chew over other scams I’ve seen in the last few years. There is something so teeth clenching and heart breaking about this stuff. Whose job is it to write the hundreds of spam we get a day? Whose brother or sister or child invented a way to use Aaron’s account to buy a plane ticket between countries on the other side of the world? Who broke into the church and stole a few dollars the children brought to give Heifer International? My mind was heading this way, fixating really, and I could feel my blood starting to boil. (Sponge-bob morphing to Squidward sort of thing.)

Then my 89-year-old neighbor walked by with his usual clean-shaven face wearing a suit complete as usual with shined shoes, top hat and tie. He was headed for the mailbox as he does more and more often each day. Though his mind is slipping, my neighbor is a fine gentleman if there ever was one. He and his wife gave us a couch set from their garage when we first moved in after seeing that we’d been sitting on over-turned 5-gallon buckets. Not only that but he wouldn’t let me carry the huge couch insisting I am a lady and that he would carry it. He will tell me a beautiful story on the sidewalk and then thank me for “listening to an old man.”

Anyway he walked by the window as my mind was churning. He gave me a kind smile and a gentleman’s wave. For now, my faith in humanity is as easy as heading down a waterslide.

Be a light to the world, however you can.

Tour Tales: Side B

...There will also be a Side C as this is a three-dimensional blog (not literally, put the glasses away)

I’m sitting now at our kitchen table wondering a) what day it is, and b) where on earth to begin summarizing the last few weeks….I wrote the last update whilst sipping a perfect latte from a hipster coffee shop in Hood River, Oregon. We’ll start there.

I’ll begin by confessing that I left out one of the highlights of our whole tour that took place just prior to our show at the Trillium Café. In an effort to carpe diem, Aaron and I boldly started up a ‘trail’ behind our campsite that anticlimactically ended 17 feet later to fallen trees and overgrown brush. With most folks, the hike would be over. With Aaron Fishburn, the hike was just getting interesting. After some really-living-it-up-now scrapes, a poison oak stamp on Aaron’s leg, and an elegant tumble in the creek by yours truly, we reached a steep incline that said, “Climb me. Right now.” We obeyed promptly and soon came upon an indescribable bluff overlooking the Columbia River.

Ashland, OR was our next stop before dipping into California. Somewhere in there Falcor, our luck van, started squealing and unfortunately, the car vet ordered shiny new brakes, rotors, and bearings. Anyway, the run resumed as we meet over pasta with family before heading into Ashland for our show at a very cute all-ages Wine Bar. Afterwards I tried some delicious cheeses and Aaron learned the hard way that pate means raw ground beef. To be fair, I didn’t know that either.

Next up, and my personal favorite: Hayfork, CA. We had underestimated the drive by an hour as the road had millions of 15 mph turns as it wound up and out of Redding towards the coast. “Where did you FIND this place??!” Aaron repeated. I couldn’t remember, but I’m glad I found it. Northern Delights used to be a miner’s bar complete with sooted and bullet-holed walls. Dennis, the owner, like many visionaries of late came the 90’s and with much elbow-grease, restored the building and turned it into a music loving café and coffeehouse. When we arrived, folks met us at the car to carry in our gear. We innocently walked in the back way which dumped us right onto a spotlighted stage. I slowly turned to my left to see the place was packed out and ready for music. “Hi! Um, we’re here!” I said. And the place erupted with applause. The show was crazy fun and ended with a county-wide power outage at 10pm when we we’re playing Let’s Pretend. Go figure. We stayed at the ‘Green House’ and visited in the dark (power outage, remember) with our new friend and host, Sarah. The tales of Hayfork are too many to describe in such a wee blog.

The following night we played at Vintage Café in Redding. We had a decent crowd especially considering the band America was playing across the street. We were totally blessed to stay at Bridgehouse B&B and have breakfast with a band that tours three weeks out of every month. Wow… I want that.

After breakfast and seeing the largest sundial in the world, we headed to Stockton for that night’s concert at the Blackwater Café. Love these small cafes! We were packed up and out of there by 11pm, which would have been a reasonable time had we not a 370 mile drive to do overnight. Our next show was in Santa Barbara at 11am. Aaron drove as far as humanly possible before we crashed (figuratively) at a rest area somewhere between nowhere and somewhere else. We awoke a few hours later to thick fog and headed towards 101. It would be dishonest at this point to not disclose that Aaron and I became a touch grouchy at this point. Fortunately we had little time for the grumbling to go very far and as fog opened up to a gorgeous Pacific, our general mood shifted in a better direction. What a bustling and music-loving market!

We picnicked and camped that night on the beach before heading into the massive expansive known as LA.

Speaking of massive expance…I better put this is three parts…B

Side A of Tour Update

Good times have been had by Aaron and I on our first far-reaching west-coast tour. Here are some highlights...

1) On Thursday we played at, hands-down, one of the best to play in WA, Caffe Mela. I stumbled on this place early one morning years back after my train pulled in to Wenatchee. Being a college student, I had 8 dollars in my account. I ordered one egg at a greasy spoon joint down the road, then roamed around suitcase in tow just hoping to find a warm place to curl up while I waited for my ride. A cozy looking place called Caffe Mela was open so I spent my last dollars on a small latte... I was in no way prepared for the insane flavor of Darren's fresh-roasted espresso dexteriously leafed by perfectly dense foam. Not only does Darren and his team of award-winning baristas rock a killer Joe, they also host live music as graciously and skillfully as they pour...

...um.. I was supposed to be writing highlights of our tour wasn't I? If you have been to a show or two you probably know already that I lose the plot freely and easily. Rather than changing the title of this post, I will just let this be. Alright I will try to focus..

Caffe Mela hosted a fundraiser for the Columbia River Music Conservatory and I was honored to be a part of it along with Brian Bailey, Rebecca Garcia, Mark Roemen, Troy Lindsey, and Stan and Jan.

2) Friday night we were very honored to play at Icicle Ridge Winery on a hill-surrounded stage strung with mellow lights and backdropped with a fountain. A shout out must be said to Theresa and Arlene who drove two hours for the show and cheered heartily. How encouraging! Thank you and happy birthday Arlene! There were also folks from Oklahoma.. For ego's sake, I will assume they flew up just to see us ;) Truth be told we have been floored by the hospitality of the venues we've worked with so far.

3) an afternoon show at Der Hinterhof was added later on to our tour as it fit snuggly between shows. It was pretty hot this day and I was very grateful to our host, Steve, who had added a cover to the stage. Yet another business owner going above and beyond! So cool. We had a fun show as folks enjoyed peanuts and brats served on frisbees. We capped the afternoon with lamb skewers at Good Mood Food. Great day!

4) Sunday night we played at a coffeehouse set up in the narthex of Westminster Pres. in Yakima. Music director and fellow musician, Rob Rife, set up the show and hosted the evening as well as put us up in his house. The evening was lovely and the congregation made us feel immediately welcome. We left refreshed and ready to leave our cozy state.

5) Last night we played at Trillium Cafe in Hood River. Joe was our contact and sound man, met us at the door with a handshake. This was a late show for us (10pm-12am) but the crowd had plenty of contagious energy to go around which I appreciated and gleaned. I must say that Aaron Fishburn absolutely rocked Hood River last night. He was absolutely on fire with his upright bass and I was so dang proud.

Tonight we are at Mississippi Pizza in Portland. I've heard great things and we're. Looking forward to it.

Hey! I stayed on topic! Thanks for reading :)

Beth

4th and Pine

May it be known that the watching of people is rich on 4th and Pine. Nose rings, plastic bagged up things, $400 boots as ludicrous as the $4 coffee I sip with familiar disinterest. I was sure it would warm me somewhere when I bought it but I feel more so trapped.

Outside, my economic peers and superiors tip toe and traverse through scattered huddles of the poor, their calloused hands in jackets worn through: where do you sleep when the street lights dim?

A peace sign marker-drawn on your sign that reads “Broke and Living with HIV” in hands bone-thin and scanning through for someone to slow with light, but they scurry by looking straight ahead, past your hollowed heaven eyes.

Jesus among you, and I behind a giant window on the corner of 4th and Pine. Hot coffee steaming, beaming at me while an elegantly dipped biscotti lays in wait. Sugared by a far-off farmer somewhere.

Another man, I see, is high, but my attention is turned and my jaw unhinges at seeing half a man wheeling by. No legs and licking a two-fingered hand of the last food he had from a soup kitchen or a stranger compelled.

They talk to themselves, like I do when I am alone.

Another’s eyes look empty as he scratches his legs for hours glancing up and down the street, up and down.

And who am I to stare and thank God of what I am not?

Many have broken hands, cleaned and casted somewhere. How did they break their hands?

One man is young and losing hair. A motorbike coat but probably no bike. They laugh together and I am in here, alone.

My mind floats back to earlier in the day. Everybody up in their finest pretenses for a game of glitz. I could not compete and feel a fool for trying.

And this group of homeless young men and women, I don’t think they have facebook accounts or memberships or any kind, anywhere.

When it seems no one is near, the one with the sign removes his coat and blanket to cover his pit bull as the sun pulls her warmth away. I am unaffected inside. Warm where all is fine and I am alone on 4th and Pine.

April, 2011

Football, Rabbits, and 11/2/2010

I have been increasingly aware of the busyness that this bright yellow and red season brings. Like a mass of fallen leaves, our responsibilities seem to flutter all around us to sort through. Last night, after an intensely crazed and successful game/candy kidfest at the Halloween Carnival, and an illogically late night music jam with friends, I very willingly slipped into the arms of slumber. When I awoke this morning, scattered bits of a dream were replaying themselves in my mind. Here is what managed to crystalize:

Wandering through a football field, a carnival, a crowded and colorful Pier, and at one point, a food line, I searched and searched for my Father. I followed him because I wanted to know him, ask him questions, and see what he was up to.

Now, before the search, I was handed a very special rabbit by a women who insisted it was very important and I keep it very safe. Of course the rabbit was very wiggly and I struggled to keep it close and safe, while my Father continued to walk ahead at a steady pace.

At one point, I sat down to rest and a couple girls I’ve recently met at church came up to show me something. That is, a video they had taken of me while I was on the football field looking for my Father. Although I remembered a very pressing and needy rabbit in my arms at the time, in the video there was no rabbit, just a simple girl with a simple task, to find the face of her Father.

I awoke with a profound reminder of something Jesus said that was recorded in Matthew 6:33. That is: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’

In this season, as we kick up, rake to piles, or free fall into the leaves that surround us, may we remember what is most important: to seek the face of our Father in heaven. All else will be added, including his will for our lives.

Hats off to you,

Beth Whitney