A Pregnant Chronicle

While I was happy that the baby would be born in the least busy time of the year, I did not know what to expect being pregnant for the most busy part of the year. It was very interesting. For instance, though I had a pretty easy time with nausea in comparison to many, I had some episodes during the Fine Arts Summer Academy. 

Like on registration day, when I threw up in the bushes of the courtyard at Lipscomb University, then walked up the steps and proceeded to register students, feeling faint but otherwise fine.

Or sitting in an evening orchestra practice, feeling pretty normal, till it’d wash over me (or up me…🤢, and I would tell the harp student next chair over, “I’ll be back in just a second. I have to go throw up.” I would walk speedily to the bathroom, do my duty, and then return to orchestra practice, feeling fine.

The other surprising sensation was when I’d feel like my body was about to evaporate like Olaf the Snowman unless I ate something RIGHT THEN…and, of course, my figure was far from evaporating. ☃️

The greatest surprise of all, however, was that I developed a hatred for coffee. Me? Yes. I started noticing the great Shadow in the early weeks. I somehow didn’t really want coffee…it just didn’t appeal to me (!). In disbelief, I kept sipping my morning (or noon, or afternoon) cup. Days past as I slowly began to feel a little sick. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t stand the stuff. It wasn’t just drinking it, it was smelling it. This was extremely inconvenient, as my entire family are big coffee drinkers. Every time I’d visit any one of their houses (which is very often) somebody would be making a Chemex pour over. I would have to bury my face in a sofa pillow until the smell calmed down. 

It got so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even hear the word mentioned without feeling nauseated. Poor James had to recourse to getting his coffee at one of the copious hipster coffee shops in Hillsboro Village, where we lived. What an inconvenience… 🙃 The most ridiculous moment was the time James and I were driving down the interstate and there was a great semi-truck with COFFEE spread across the side.

“James! Get past that truck. Get past it!”

“Are you serious?”

“YES!!!”

So, in this present state of things, not to mention the involuntary need to sleep at random moments of the day, or the inability to sleep at night because all the dreams of the heaven and the earth decide to rollercoast in your head, we went on a very busy touring season, where we were only home around 6 days in 3 months.

And in that 6 days we also finished filming a music video (link down below👇🏻), where I was tastefully placed behind a bale of hay. 

Then there were the super long car rides and concerts day after day. If you happened to see a whale-ish pregnant woman speed-walking the aisles of random gas stations in the United States, or making walking wheelies around the cars, or doing dorky pregnant exercise videos in dressing rooms and fellowship halls, that was probably me. James was a sport, rubbing my feet on day-long car rides, carrying all my bags and luggage through hotels, churches, theaters, and everywhere, and not letting me have any of his hot chocolates or croissants.

😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡 To infinity and beyond!

Being on the road for 5 months with a no-sugar no-processed-carb diet is not the most fun thing in the world. But, to make up for it, we did get to see some pretty cool places…like Ghost Rock in Utah, where my anemic self got dizzy from the altitude and James and my brothers risked their lives continually. 🤦🏻‍♀️

But nothing could match the sweetness of hearing his heart beating so fast and strong at every prenatal appointment. Or talking over names with my husband (what a magical thing…naming someone!). Envisioning my safe space with my baby, seeing his smile in my mind’s eye. Going to the ultrasound and seeing him swim. Wondering what personality is in that perfect little head. Feeling him kicking with excitement when I played the piano and harp on stage every night. 

Having the best hair and skin ever…🙌🏻

And then there was that time James and I decided to go to NYC, in November, while I was 8 months pregnant and deep into the waddling phase. But that’s for another post. 👩🏻‍💻

 

 

English Magick

I confess to writer’s block. This blog keeps slipping from my grasp. How do you put one amazing trip across the pond into one blog that justly chronicles feeling and thought? What are those nebulous terms anyway? 

Who am I?

Just kidding…

When push comes to shove, the thing I brought home from England was a sense of magic. My small plebeian-consumer bohemian-hipster 21st-century 20s-statistic head got blown to smithereens by the sheer immensity of history. And how that history, the farther it goes back, gets bigger and more unexplainable. 

For instance, how can one man take away an entire country’s culture, kill people, burn all ancient Christian books and ravage churches because of a money-mongering divorce and people still honor him?

Which brings us to kings and queens itself. Visiting Windsor Castle where all the great monarchy of England lived before Queen Victoria and marveling that these walls listened to the daily patter of people who were the leading rulers of the world. The wealth of a castle itself gives authority. For goodness sake, the King had a room to sleep in, to put on his house slippers in, to get his bath in, to eat his breakfast in, to listen to his daily appointments in, to get dressed in… Haha. For real, he almost had that many rooms!

And then we saw Glastonbury Abbey. Burned by Henry VIII. Traced back to AD 64. The legend says that Joseph of Arimathaea traveled here with Jesus in the Hidden Years (when Jesus was 13-29 years old) and they built a chapel of adobe. Joseph returned years later and established a monastery here with eleven disciples. 

The place has an eerily holy feeling to it. Like it’s way bigger than you and you could never know what is here that is unseen. The brilliantly emerald grass of England amongst towering stone arches, Gothic walls leading nowhere. Our Lady Chapel, re-built thousands of years ago when the daub one burned down, is the heart of the Abbey ruins and stands the most in tact. You can almost feel the ages of history, the remains of the thousands of saints that are buried in the grasses surrounding the Abbey. 

And then, of course, that’s where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were buried. No biggey. Apparently when King Edward and Queen Eleanor came to honor and move their grave to the place of honor in the Abbey in the 1000s Queen Guinevere still had shimmering waist-long golden hair that disintegrated when she was touched. And then when Henry VIII ransacked the Abbey the grave was destroyed and Arthur and Guinevere’s remains disappeared.

We know because they took Instagram photos of it. 

Actually back then they had a social media program called an iWitness Account. 

Haha. 

I know. I stink at jokes… ; )

Then there was the day we drove through the dazzling green meadows of England farmland and saw idyllic stone farmhouses with ivy creeping up the walls and orchard trees and white sheep. Or saw the great Bodleian Library where Hogwarts was placed and has books that are thousands of years old and a fellow of the library must know the original language, whatever it may be, to read it.  Or ate in a pub that was built in the 1600s. There’s a reason BBC films all their Masterpiece Theatre mini-series here. They don’t have to build any sets.

The last day in England we stopped at Stonehenge. This place beat any of them. 5000 years old. Stones standing against the cloudy England sky in a bitterly cold, rainy afternoon. Sheep graze around the Henge, keeping the grass naturally chopped short. One of the archaeologists on site told us about the phenomenal history of the place. There are villages that pre-date the Henge underneath the soil. If you knock over a few molehills with your foot, you’re bound to find ancient artifacts. There are barrow-downs everywhere where people who appear to have been great men of ancient eras are buried. You can draw a straight line from the outer rocks of the Henge to the Great Pyramid of Giza (also built around the same time). How did they know how to make a straight line across the world before satellites?

StoneHenge

There’s an outer rock that I am convinced is a troll turned into stone. He was probably the troll set to guarding StoneHenge. Or maybe the troll that was trying to destroy StoneHenge that was outsmarted by a wizard. You can decide for yourself.

TheStoneTroll

There’s a reason so many of the great fantasy novelists have come from England.…

You can look at my iWitness Account on Instagram (@camillerosemary) to see more pictures of Merry Olde England.

 

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.

immaculateconception.jpg

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.

The Grass on the Prairie

Nebraska

A Western Odyssey

I am in a pretty little attic room at the Prairie Creek Inn, with Victorian furnishings and wallpaper, and a window that overlooks a green Nebraska field glimmering with dew.

I roll out of bed and walk out into the hallway, where the smell of breakfast wafts up the glossy wooden stairs. Gretchen is in Annie’s room, getting beautified for her moment in Where You’ve Always Been, the first music video shoot of the day for our new album American Rhapsody. Outside Paul, Tim, David, and Graham, our incredible, can-do camera team, are consulting with Alex and Mama about scenes. 

Being an avid believer in the happiness induced by a solitary country walk, I set out on my own to peruse the grounds. There are rustling green soybean fields and a hobbit door sprouting out of a hill.

The prairie grasses growing taller than my head; a gravel path running through a small grove; the Lake of Shining Waters spreading before me.

Wildflowers growing by the side of Prairie Creek, and a butterfly resting on one of the pink blossoms. I hear the voices of the children, David, Audrey, Vincenza, and Evangeline, coming from the farm where Benjamin and Berklee are letting them pet the horses. 

Back at the house, I rush through hair and makeup in preparation for a piano shot on Where You’ve Always Been. Through the window, I hear the song coming through the monitor and riding on the wind up to me, and see Gretchen, pristine and slender in her white dress, her hair blowing in the wind, as she sings the song she wrote about Grandma and Grandpa in our old countryside refuge, Zafra, Oklahoma.

And then it’s my turn, playing a grand piano in a bay window overlooking the beautiful Nebraska farmland. The house is over 150 years old and was moved to this location and restored by the innkeeper and his wife. 

I love old houses. You can feel the age in them, like good wine: the memories in the walls, the whispers of a forgotten time that was just as real as ours today.

When the afternoon sun is streaming down the Western side of the sky, Where You’ve Always Been is finished, and we journey into Lincoln, Nebraska. Our very dear friends welcome us into their home, where they have cooked a feast of farm-fresh food for us. It is a much-needed respite from the work of the day, to talk and laugh and enjoy friendship. 

A bit of a shut-eye, a refreshing of makeup and hair (my poor hair…curled two to three times a day for two weeks only to be ravaged by the wind! alas…), and we were off to the uncut Nebraska Grasslands for shot two of the day, The Grass on the Prairie.

The chug-a-lug up the road––which is merely mown grass in a great expanse of virgin grasses––is a bumpy ride, but we do get up there, thanks to our good ole pickup trucks. Once there, the vista is breathtaking.

We are on a race with the sunset. The shimmering silver from the cloud overlay envelopes the green grass, sloping for miles in every direction. The grass is as tall as we are. Annie hurries into her silver evening gown, with a windswept chiffon bustle, and begins to shoot the beginning of the music video in the grass. It is surreal, a picture that one ought to only see in fairy tales, right there before your eyes. 

I change into my pearl-white gown, which was also my wedding dress, and will be immortalized in a prairie sweep with a grand piano from the 1800s (which also weighs 800 pounds and comes with a hydraulic lift…whew!).

I wrap a lace shawl with shimmering pink and blue flowers around me. I feel enchanted, standing in these clothes underneath the sun, playing an ancient piano in the grasslands.

And then crickets start to jump into my skirt. 

And then I realize I really need to relieve myself.

The only thing to do is to embrace my pioneer heritage and to drift off into the grass, away from the cameras and the drone overhead, as far as I can possibly go and still be able to breathe through my fear of rattlesnakes. I once heard of a woman who always wore dresses and never underwear so she could go whenever she wanted to.

Ewwww…

Ahem. After that I go join our friends, who have been a Godsend, helping us set up the scene and cart all of our things to and fro, bug-spray at hand. We watch Annie’s glorious moment, see the power of her performance, and talk about how incredible this whole experience is.

Then they tell me that there are mountain lions in Nebraska.

Planet Earth clips of golden lions crouching down in golden grass flit across my mind. I look around quickly. The dusk is obscuring any definition. I wish I had David Valentine’s childlike peace…when Audrey Jane got scared of mountain lions, David Valentine said, “Don’t worry, Audrey, this is nature! There aren't any lions in nature!” 

And then it’s time for the full group shot. We coalesce in the scene, the wind frolicking in our hair and our skirts, as Paul works the glide camera and the others work the drone. There is only an hour of sun left, but they work fast and creatively.

The sun is gone. We are in rivers of headlights in the grand darkness. We women change out of our evening gowns behind held-up sheets, as the the men tear down the set and get the piano back in the truck bed. We rumble down the road and make friends with the crickets hopping around the car.

Back at the Prairie Creek Inn, I talk with James in my comfortable little room, and am so tired that I black out three times in the midst of our conversation. The weariness finally gets the better of me, and I fall asleep, makeup and all. 

I hear that everyone else had a party in the barn, filming the third music video of the day, Choctaw Cowboy - the acoustic bluegrass piece from American Rhapsody that my sister Gretchen composed - until 2am, regaled by locally grown watermelon and our friends’ homemade chocolate chip cookies. Berklee at the BirchTreeMeadow.com captured this picture in the fun.

As all the Nebraska natives told me, Nebraska is the best-kept secret ever.

A Charming Day in D.C.

We find ourselves sitting in a van, bumping down the interstate. Freezing. Cold. Rainy. But it's ok, because we're playing at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, DE in the District of Columbia. Woohoo! These are those times when the life of the traveling musician is really awesome!

We pull into DC a little past midnight. We are pretty exhausted, but I am already checking my GoogleMaps for all the surrounding tourist delights that await us in the morning.

I wake up at 6am. I fall back asleep. I wake up at 7:30am.

"JAMES! Wake up! We are going to miss it!!!"

James moans.

"JAMES! Wake up! Don't you want to go see DC? Come on!!!"

James groans. "When do we have to load in?"

"Around noon. So we don't have very long!"

"Ok. I'm getting up. Getting up."

"No you're not! GET UP!!!" I throw the sheets off him and start tickling him. It works. He's out of bed. I am showered in 5 minutes. He is showered in 3 minutes. We are dressed in 10 minutes. We are out the door!

It's a beautiful day! And we are in downtown Georgetown!

"Isn't this fun?!" I say, grinning from ear to ear. There's a nippy wind blowing, but the sun is shining as it makes its way up the path of the blue sky, and surrounding us are old-time Edwardian buildings mixed in with hip new city buildings.

James hugs me super tight. I almost fall over. He is 6'2" after all and my stock of muscle mass is lamentable.

First we visit the beautiful Cathedral of St. Matthew. Washington DC is famous for the most awarded mosaic art of the West. It is spectacular. I really really really admire whoever has the patience to make huge beautiful pictures out of tiny pieces of glass.

Afterwards, we emerge again into the sunlight, refreshed and at peace. We walk down the sidewalk, taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells. We have been in several big cities. New York City is the place for everyone: immigrants, emigrants, businessman, celebrities, vagrants, criminals, the everyman. Seattle is the place for hipsters. Only hipsters. Washington DC is the place where people go who want to make it onto FOX News. 

Briefcases. 3-piece suits (on men and women). Trench coats. Everywhere.

I feel like I recognize at least 5 people in a half-mile walk. Senators? Governors? FOX News talk-show hosts? Who knows… Wait a minute. Are these people really deciding our future?!!!!

Ooh…flowers!

Flowers everywhere!

Little gardens all over the sidewalks.

I am in love!!!

Then I look up. MORE FLOWERS!!! And on trees! My favorite…

And now we're in a gorgeous neighborhood. I mean, gorgeous. As in, if I was in England, I would be feeling like my life had arrived

"This is like the town in My Fair Lady!" I stand up straighter just at the thought of Audrey Hepburn.

"What's that?" James says.

"What? You don't know My Fair Lady???"

"Honey, I really don't know a lot about musicals."

"But you're a musician!"

He shrugs.

"We'll just have to have a musical marathon when we get home. Oklahoma. Sound of Music. My Fair Lady. That'll be fun!"

"Isn't it a beautiful day?" James says quickly. "Look at those flowers."

More flowers.

James is fascinated by the peonias. His yellow shirt goes very nicely with them, I think. And the sun goes very nicely with his yellow shirt. I really love James. I really love the sun. I really love flowers. LIFE IS WONDERFUL!!!

And then I find the street with My Fair Lady houses and cottage gardens. I am in Heaven. One of my biggest dreams is to have a small house with a gable and a cottage garden. Ahhh…

And to have enough money saved up to hire Star Nurseries to do all the grunt work for me so I can spend my time watering the flowers, singing to the flowers, Instagraming the flowers, plucking the flowers, and sprinkling seeds while I twirl in a skirt.

Then I see it. It's my favorite color. My most favorite color in the whole wide world. That shade that is almost purple, but not that dark. Almost lavender, but not that pink. Almost blue, but not that…blue. It's not quite periwinkle. It's just pure GORGEOUS.

Then, deciding that I can't spend my entire life taking iPhone photos, we step into a lovely French restaurant called Le Pain Quotidien that we made the acquaintance of in New York City and order omelettes and coffee and chocolate croissants. 

And I get to eat them with my favorite person who has never seen The Sound of Music but loves that I love flowers.