North & East

We are traveling North through green farmlands and New England woods. Ironically, we are passing through some of the same places that the Pope will visit, one or two days in front of him. Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia.

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After three concerts we come to rest in Connecticut. We stay with friends from the three years that we lived in New Milford. It is a delightful reunion. My friend Bradleigh and I have been best friends since we met at a church flea market as children and connected over our love of antiques and Anne of Green Gables. Someday I will write a children’s series all about our New Milford adventures, exploring old houses, gathering acorns, discovering elf kingdoms in the woods. 

My sister, my husband, and I all enjoy the happiness of staying with Bradleigh and her family––including her new adorable Adaline baby––in her quaint white house surrounded by a New England forest, cleared of brushes and brambles, with quietly rustling leaf floors.

We spend all of Monday drinking coffee, hiking through the nature preserve down the road, writing and reading each other’s writing in a grass meadow while Gretchen plays guitar, walking to the post office and farmer’s market, and ending the evening with bourbon cream local peaches and Far From the Madding Crowd

The next day we awake early to drive into New York City. It is a different reality. One second we are in New York farmland, the next minute we are passing the Trump skyscrapers.

As I sit looking out the window, I am reminded of playing Monopoly. It’s commerce and capitalism and corruption and opportunity and opulence represented in a million people and a million buildings stuck on an island scarcely the land mass of my home town.

There’s something exciting and exhausting about it. Rather magical. We spend the morning in meetings with our team, planning the future, seeing bright possibility and the months ahead spooled out on paper and colored with imagination. We see the first music video from the Western Odyssey trip played in the Warner Classics office.

Then our Uber app makes a car appear and we are in The Cutting Room, where we perform that evening. Afterwards, exhilarated and hungry, my husband gets me a delicious grilled cheese sandwich from a local New York cheese paradise.

In the background of all this adventure is a deep sadness, because through all the business of our schedule, we get news from home that our grandmother, Dorothy, is very sick. She has lived in our house for three or four years now and we love her dearly. Zoe, our new little sister, was downstairs with her when Dorothy suddenly fell backwards from her walker. Her equilibrium was so impaired that my mother had to get the help of a neighbor to get her up and to the hospital.

All throughout the day we hear text updates back home in the South that describe a very bleak situation. It is deeply sorrowful to me. Grandma Dorothy is a mainstay of life: a quiet, simple, kind woman. Her room downstairs is always cool and peaceful, a bubble of tranquil organization inside the hustle and bustle of daily life. I feel especial pain for my new little sister, whom Grandma Dorothy helped to adopt and has taught to read and write and play piano. They have a very special bond. 

The next day the news is still bad. We come into the City again from Connecticut and stop there on our way to Philadelphia for other meetings. My father flies home to be with his mother. My heart aches that we can't all go home. The little ones are all around us, crazy in the craziness of the City, and it strikes me how little Evangeline is just beginning to stand up and learn how to walk, and now my grandmother cannot stand or walk. 

James and I stop in St. Patrick's Cathedral to pray for my grandmother. Kneeling in that space, I marvel at life. Why does our heart beat? Why do we know to breathe when the umbilical cord is cut? How are we built so uniquely? How does a sperm and an egg connect and a woman’s womb fosters a new life with personality and dreams and thoughts that will one day foster new life that fosters new life?

Update: I am very happy to say that my grandmother Dorothy made a miraculous recovery a few days after this post was published, and is now out of intensive care and on her way to complete health.