Gaining a Mind

It’s a good morning. I’ve just finished a creative writing session before work and am well on my way to completing my first new book-length work of fiction in almost ten years. Creatively-speaking, nothing fills me with feeling and excitement like letting a story run through me. I anticipate that my novella will be finished within the next couple months, if not sooner, and I hope to be able to share it after that.

At the moment, though, I don’t have much to share regarding creative works. I recently completed a super-busy semester, filled with teaching and trying to move research forward. And I’ve also had a lot of good times with family, which hasn’t left much time for writing.

I did, however, write a poem/song a couple months ago that I’d like to share. It describes the feeling of changing and holding on at the same time, and is very relevant to how I’m feeling right now about maintaining a creative mind. Below is a link to the song. I’ll also share just the words further below, in case you’d (like me, almost) rather it just be a poem. Thanks much for your interest.

Hopefully I’ll have a great story to share soon.

Oh, I’m losing my mind,

one synapse at a time.

But I’m gaining one too,

based on everything that I do.

Yes, I am gaining a mind.

So I’ve got to be careful

about how I spend my time.

Lose the feelings that I love

and I’ll probably lose me too.

And a mind that is lost,

might not look for itself again.

So, keep doing what makes you,

whatever makes you,

feel how you like to,

how you like to.

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Traveling Songs

I wrote and recorded a song about traveling, which I’ve shared below. If you’d like to give the song a listen without further reading, go for it! The following text is just a little background about the song.

The lyrics came to me, nearly all during the same session, after I completed a summer mostly on the road for field research, just after I got back home after another week-long (but vacation-related) road trip. I’ve been recently listening, and re-listening, to many songs by Townes Van Zandt, a songwriting folk musician who lived from 1944 to 1997. Though some of his songs were performed by quite famous people, like Willie Nelson (who sang Van Zandt’s ‘Pancho and Lefty’), Van Zandt himself seemingly didn’t attract a particularly large audience despite regularly performing, at mostly small venues, nearly to the end of his relatively short life. I feel lucky that I heard his name mentioned, in an interview, by another one of my favorite musicians (Devendra Banhart).

Van Zandt produced, without question, many of the most impactful, thought- and feeling- provoking songs that I’ve heard. There is a sincerity about his way of communicating that, to me at least, is endearing. And his songs often tell poignant stories, including those that are funny and/or sad, which I appreciate.

Another reason, I think, that Van Zandt’s music has resonated so much with me is that his lyrics often focus on being on the road as a traveling musician. Though not as a musician, I have been on the road a lot in the last ten or so years. For wildlife-related projects and/or graduate school, I’ve worked in 11 U.S. states. During several summers (including this one), I’ve spent months living out of my vehicle and/or out of a tent to be close to the wildlife that I’ve studied. This has caused me to on hundreds of occasions be a stranger in a new place, usually in little towns where I’m easily noticed, getting to know it for a short while before moving on. Van Zandt’s lyrics often describe a love for the road that is mixed with sadness about leaving loved ones behind. I relate to that. Here is one of his travel-focused songs (‘Snowin’ on Raton’; I also recommend the interview in that video).

When I wrote ‘Traveling Song,’ I drew not only from my own experiences but also from what I’ve learned from, and imagined about, people like Van Zandt. People who, it seems to me, spent their life traveling to pursue beauty and freedom that, to some degree, harmed themselves and others.