Monday, December 7, 2009

Dec. 2009 Grammy Nomination

There's nothing "casual" about being nominated for a Grammy. Yes, it's my 6th nomination but still, the anticipation and excitement doesn't really diminish at all. If there's one thing that I've learned in being nominated and in life in general, the best thing about it is the inner experience of it. It's very personal and almost private. I've learned in my life that it's what I know and feel that it most important, not what someone else has to say about it. In fact, I've even noticed that I have a more complete and fulfilling experience of some things when I just keep it to myself. It's like watching a sunset or sunrise, or having the best glass of wine or some kind of inner revelation. Of course it's often fun to share that with someone, but the experience, the visual, the taste, the chain of thoughts leading to a profound realization are one's own and very personal. And like a lot of things, the experience doesn't really get any better in describing it. It actually takes on even less dimension, less depth and space. You can't really convey the experience of a great glass of wine by describing it, you can't recreate the feeling you experienced by explaining the chain of events or thoughts that led you to an epiphany. Some things are best left unspoken, unqualified and unquantified.

Of course I tell whoever I want about being nominated for a Grammy. I post it on my Facebook profile, tweet it and send an email to my friends and fan base. But . . . for me the sweetest thing about it is just savoring the moment, the inner experience. Just to be with my Self. Feeling the honor and acknowledgement that it represents, fully letting it in and embracing it. Letting it soften me just a little more, giving myself just a little more permission to be just "me" musically and creatively . . . and then . . . perhaps just a wee bit too soon . . . I take out the trash, empty the dishwasher and make my son's lunch for school and my life goes on. Because, as the buddhist saying goes . . . "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop would, carry water." I'm not equating a Grammy nomination with enlightenment really. I'm just pointing out that it IS the "every day" and moment to moment experiences that we live, create and perceive that gives us the opportunity to truly experience a life of meaning and presence. If we don't wake up in the morning curious about what the day may bring, eager to watch the sun rise and make it's way up sky and back down the other side and be present with all the little moments and experiences that fill space and time along the way, then all the awards and acknowledgments won't make your life any more the sweeter. Oh, and by the way . . . the Sun doesn't rise or set. It's the earth spinning on it's axis that gives the illusion of the sun rising and setting. It's our proximity on the earth that moves closer to and farther away from the sun at a speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour that determines what part of the day or night we're experiencing. I like to think about that when I'm watching the sunrise or sunset. It's different and gives my mind an interesting twist. Funny how an awareness of reality can be so contradictory to the way we usually perceive things.

Having explained above how I know that it's the simple things in life that create a life worth living, now, let me try and describe my experience of receiving this nomination. I was aware of the exact time that they were going to post this years nominations on the website. I had done a pretty good job of NOT thinking about the upcoming nominations 2-3 weeks prior. Whenever it would cross my mind I'd get the little electrical jolt from my chest down to my stomach and then I'd put the thought out of my mind because I really couldn't deal with it. And I did honestly think I stood a decent chance of getting nominated because my album with Dominic Miller, IN A DREAM, really is one of my best (I think). But about 45 minutes before the announcment time which was to be about 7pm PST I started to feel extremely anxious. I was watching the clock and time was slowing down to a snails crawl. I decided to make some soup to keep myself occupied. I started chopping vegetables, sauteing onions etc. paying special attention to stay focussed and present so as not to cut my fingers before my upcoming concert in Boulder that coming weekend. My mind was still thinking about it pretty often but at least I was doing something constructive and useful. Right at 7pm PST I went to my computer to go to to look it up. My 4 year old son saw me go to my computer and ran over and wanted me to print him out some coloring pages. I wanted to see if I was nominated or not, but he felt very strongly that he wanted me to print out some pictures for him to color in. I thought about it for a second and opted to satisfy his needs first because at least then he be happy and I'd be free to experience whatever I had to experience. So I printed him out a couple pages and we was happy and running off to color them in, then I finally went to the site. As I saw the site come up on my computer the wave of anticipation came pounding down on me in a huge way. Suddenly I felt so overwhelmed it became hard to even think straight or really comprehend what I was seeing on my computer screen. I was looking for a little sentence like "See Grammy Nominations List Here" but couldn't find it. Then suddenly i noticed that there was a whole big square bar that had the announcement link which I then clicked on immediately. Then there was a list of all the different Fields and Categories and I went straight to New Age. And there it was. "In A Dream" by Peter Kater, Dominic Miller, Jaques Morelenbaum and Kenny Loggins. WoooHuuu!

Oh boy, that felt good. I yelled to my wife Gabrielle, "We're going to the Grammys!!" Then I looked to see who else was nominated in my Category. My long time friend David Darling, an amazing cellist, is nominated for his Prayer For Compassion CD. I was so excited to see his name. His music (his solo works and his early work with the Paul Winter Consort) has been an inspiration to me literally for decades. Plus I'm fortunate enough to have had David play on many of my own albums. And Kitaro is nominated as well. I don't know him as well as David Darling but we've shared sushi on more than one occasion and enjoy running into each other at events. I immediately felt proud and extremely honored to be sharing the nominations with these two extraordinary musicians. Jim Brickman is also nominated, but honestly I'm not very familiar with his work and I don't know of the 5th person at all. I immediately sent David an email congratulating him for his nomination and really felt only joy and happiness to be sharing it with him. Of course, I'd love to win the Grammy but if David or Kitaro win I'd be happy for them because they truly deserve the acknowledgment for their very impressive and creative body of work and talents.

Next was my phone call to Dominic Miller and tell him the good news. Dominic was in NY at the time (his home is currently in France) rehearsing and doing concerts with Sting (as he has done for most of the last 20 years or so). He answered his cell phone right away and I said "Congratulations!!". He knew what I was talking about because we spoke earlier that day about another matter he knew that we'd be finding out that evening. He said "We got a Grammy Nomination??". He was very excited and proud. We talked for quite a while. Excited about going to the Grammys and looking forward to our next project together. Next was to let Kenny and Jaques know. Both were also very happy with the news. Kenny's last nomination and win was for his collaborative "Song of the Year - What A Fool Believes" with Michael McDonald. As Sting has said "Music is it's own reward". So true indeed. Sharing the creative process with Dominic, Kenny and Jaques has truly been a wonderful honor and gift. And to crown the experience of making a beautiful recording with a Grammy Award nomination is really very sweet and slightly intoxicating. Does it make the Sunrise or Sunset any more brilliant? No, not really. But it does give me a sense that, yes, it is okay to follow my instincts and intuition, to create music that really appeals to my personal taste and to branch out and collaborate with artists that I admire. It's like a big "YES" from my peers and the Universe in general. The gift is really just to be a musician and share my music with those who would listen, but you know . . . I've never held one of those shiny little grammophone statues and would love see what it looks like on top of one of my studio monitors. I guess we'll see!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deep Listening

I began this tour with Dominic Miller not really knowing what to expect. Dominic arrived on Maui just 3 days before our first concert. After a short period of rest we dove right into rehearsing. We chose 4 songs from our album, IN A DREAM, and several of our individual songs that we could collaborate and improvise on. Neither one of us had played any of the material from our album since recording it almost a year ago. And as beautiful as the album is, I wasn't sure how it was going to hold up in a live concert situation. Neither one of us liked to "rehearse" but everyday we worked on the songs for a few rounds when not recording for our new album and while preparing for an almost a full day of video shooting for a docu/film that I feel compelled to make. Plus I was also trying to show Dominic some of the beauty and wonder of Maui. So, needless to say, we had a lot on our plates.

Initially I felt some pressure (self imposed) to try and play really "good" and be "creative". I mean, come on . . . the last gig Dominic did a few days before arriving on Maui was with Sting in Quebec in front of 120,000 people. And Dominic's recent album, yet to be released, is produced by one of my all time favorite producers, Hugh Padgham. So, if there was ever a situation where I'd feel some pressure to be creative, this would be it I've long given talks and workshops on "creativity" and how "listening" really needs to be at the core of any creative endeavor. This was good opportunity to practice my own teachings.

I've worked with many very talented musicians through the course of my career. And I've felt varying degrees of satisfaction from the interaction of performing live with them. In playing solo concerts, one focuses on connecting with one's inner or "essential" self and expressing what's there without agenda, judgement or expectation. However, In performing with another musician, one connects first to one's inner space and THEN communicates from that place with another musician and has a sort of musical conversation that is "real", honest and responsive. Dominic shares my "deep listening" philosophy about music and I was actually quite surprised at how similar our concepts and approaches to "creativity" are. In rehearsal there was a great deal of "getting to know you" and creating an intimate and trusting sanctuary. We felt we were just barely prepared enough for the first concert on Maui.

I've had a lot of experience improvising live with other musicians. But I had no idea just how intimate and present two musicians could be with each other on stage until our first concert together. From the very beginning of the evening it became clear to me that performing with Dominic was going to be different than anything I had yet experienced in my long musical history and a completely new beginning of my creative life. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience and no one could have explained to me what it would feel like. Just as you cannot know what it feels like to be a parent until you have a child I could not know, until experiencing it, what was possible between two musicians live onstage.

The degree of trust, listening and openness that Dominic (and I) were willing to "BE" with was something I had never felt with another musician before. It's not that we trusted each other's musical expertise, chops or talent. It's that we trusted that we would fully be ourselves and that we would be completely present with and listen deeply as we offered each other one melody, phrase, question and response, after another. We nurtured the awareness and trust that we could ONLY be ourselves, nothing less and nothing more. I'm not talking about our "ego" selves, but instead our deeper soul- connected essential selves. And within that connection, all was possible. And every night there were mistakes and every night there were moments of pure magic, but there were never any compromise as to who we are. It was intensely personal and intimate and at the same time it wasn't even about us. It was about the integrity and responsiveness to the music that was coming through us. I felt that I was performing and listening to a concert at the same time. I knew that whatever I said musically Dominic would embrace it and be fully himself in his response. There was never any right or wrong or power-play. Just varying degrees of connectedness, emotion, listening and letting go. And the reactions from people after our 8 concerts in 7 days confirmed that indeed we were participating in an intimacy that was very personal. It was thick in the room.

To be perfectly frank, in the beginning of my career in Boulder, Colorado in the mid 1980's I began playing with other musicians. With very few exceptions there was a great degree of competitiveness in the music scene in the Boulder/Denver area. A lot of ego flying around and a lot of musical "pissing" contests to see who had the best chops and could play the best solos, or had the most creative ideas and compositions. I was always very turned off by this and very disappointed that even people in my own bands (that I paid to rehearse and record with me) were competitive with me and let's say, less than supportive and straight forward at times. But I thought that was the way it was with "professional" musicians and I tolerated it for the pursuit of my creative vision. But as I began to play with more well-known and established musicians I noticed in most cases that the more secure an artist was in their own work and playing, the more supportive and open they were with other artists. There was more of the feeling of let's make this as great as possible because that's how it should be. Is it possible that the competitiveness and "pissing" contests were compensation for deeply insecure egos? Absolutely! And taking it even further when I moved to California I was again surprised that the majority of the musicians I came in contact with and worked with really didn't have ANY competitive attitude. I mean, everyone was trying to do their best work but it wasn't at the expense of some one else. The feeling was that we were all invested into helping each other fulfill our creative vision (and make a living). And even though our creative expressions were different, there wasn't that sense of comparing and judging. There was a deeper appreciation for the diversity and integrity of our art and quest for creative satisfaction while supporting our families.

Music and art in general is a very intimate and deeply personal expression of one's inner life and soul. I believe that music really originated and still primarily belongs in places of reflection and reverence. It was never meant to be weighed or judged or attributed a specific value or genre. Once again, Dominic and I shared this perspective of music and creative expression in general. In our times off stage, driving or flying to the next gig or having a meal after the concert we'd talk about whatever was on our minds. And even though we had our fair share of logistical conversing or discussing the meal, accommodations or weather, the majority of our time was consumed with exploring our common interests and questions about life, spirituality and music, which in most cases are one in the same. To play and listen to music is a gift and privledge that has great transformational potential. Art in it's purest form is a vehicle or tool for accessing the divine (within ourselves and within the Universe) and bringing us that much closer to our souls and the awareness and experience of the mystery and miracle of this life. It is a bridge between the mundane and the divine, from the severed ego to the "essential" whole self. Within "deep listening" we become more aware of ourselves, the mystery of this universe and the gift of this life. I'm grateful for the experience. A door has opened. And I love what I'm hearing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 2009 - Dark & Light

On my 18th Birthday my Mother lost her 2 year battle with cancer. She died that night at the young age of 38 years old. This left me relatively alone in my life (as far as immediate family) and also opened a huge door into what I call "the void", the birthplace of all creative potential. I lingered around New Jersey for another few months trying to come up with a plan. I couldn't bear the idea of staying in the town of my High School and my Mother's gradual decline. My Bavarian roots in the German & Austrian Alps birthed a curiosity into what the Colorado Rockies might hold for me. And songs from John Denver and Dan Fogelberg stirred my imagination as well.

In the middle of winter I set off on the road in my beat up old Buick La Sabre that I had bought 6 months earlier for $250. But it died in a blizzard over the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I continued my journey, but I took the long route. I wound up hitch-hiking over 30,000 miles up and down and across the United States over the next year or so. I had no money, all my belongings (mostly music books and some clothes) fit in my backpack and I still had no "plan". Hitching west was tedious and lonely until after passing through Kansas City. Then suddenly the sky and my mind simultaneously burst open in a great panoramic expanse. There was nothing but nature to be seen from one end of the horizon to the other. And so began the next chapter of my journey. My sleeping bag and the roadside became my home, food became my only expense and luxury, and the road unraveled endlessly before me with a diverse and often dangerous cast of characters. What I did, experienced and learned on the road is a whole other story which I won't get into here. But I will say that it contained everything one might imagine, hope for and fear from a very long and spontaneous road trip.

At 19 years old I found myself in Boulder, Colorado. I was hired as the second pianist playing for a University of Colorado Theatre and Dance Department production. I was paid $50 for 10 weeks of rehearsals and performances. That's $5 per week. I guess that's why they call it a labor of love. It wasn't the money I was looking for anyway. I was looking for something to be a part of. I wanted to "belong". I slept in the foothills in the early fall in my sleeping bag, and as the weather got colder I slept in the bathrooms and dressing rooms of the Theater building until the Director found me out and invited me stay with him and his family at his mountain home for a period of time. After the production ended, so did my welcome at his home. I started to pick up a little extra money playing piano for dance classes and at some lounges and restaurants around town. Soon thereafter I felt very fortunate to rent a room in a basement apartment on "the hill" in Boulder with 4 other guys.

The entire apartment had dirt floors, a single small bathroom, kitchen, 4 small rooms and a boiler room (the dreaded 5th bedroom). We fondly called our apartment "The Pit" and it became known for it's unusual assemblage of musicians, spiritualists and transients. True Bohemia. We shared the $150 a month rent equally at $30 each and I considered myself fortunate to have my own back entrance and to not be sleeping in the boiler room. The guy who slept in there and would emerge every morning soaked in sweat, swearing off the night's heat. I, on the other hand, lived in relative luxury in comparison. I had my own hand made platform bed, sleeping bag, alter with candles, incense and fruit bowl and an old upright piano I was struggling to pay off. I had one tiny little window up on the top of my bed that looked up onto the alley and driveway that I covered in stained glass, creating my own private sanctuary. I loved my room in the Pit.

I spent a lot of my time reading spiritual books like Autobiography Of A Yogi, A Course In Miracles and the Bhagavad Gita. I regularly practiced Tai Chi, meditated, chanted, listened to Keith Jarrett, Paul Winter and Oregon albums and played the piano. Fasting was a good way to get thru those lean times plus it made meditating and chanting that much deeper of an experience. 10 day brown rice fasts were common for me in the cold months and 4 - 7 day water fasts in the warmer months where I would often meditate over 4 hours a day. I had no possessions other than my piano and didn't feel motivated to do much except to explore my present and my muse.

I would imagine that in reading this it would be easy to see this as a very simple and even esthetically pleasing lifestyle. I had no apparent responsibility or agenda. Even in writing this I'm amused at what a nice neat package it presents itself to be and how at this point in my life it sounds almost like a little retreat from the much more complex world I currently live in. But this recounting of my past wouldn't be accurate at all if I didn't interject at this point that I had an ever-present, urgent and intense inner longing to touch upon something that felt "real" and "essential" in my life. Something with content and permanence. I craved experiences and relations that were meaningful to me at the time and that could shed light on the deep feelings and sometimes unbearable aloneness that I experienced on a daily basis. This near anguishing and persistent inquisition into trying to understand not just my place in the world but also this culture and world's place in the universe, motivated everything I did or didn't do and in so many ways still does today.

One night during a longer fast I was sitting on the dirt floor of my room meditating when I noticed this high pitched ringing sound in my ear. I decided to "listen" to it. Then I noticed another lower sound and I decided to listen to it as well. As I continued to listen there gradually appeared more and more tones. I noticed that the more I listened, the more I heard. I also noticed that there were different sounds in different ears. I kept listening and kept expanding my sense of awareness and after a while I found myself immersed in a very deep experience of hearing the most amazingly beautiful atonal noise or sound that i could ever have imagined existed. It was everywhere. I was attentive and focused on it and consumed by it at the same time. It was a phenomenal opening experience that I returned to many times in my meditations for many years. I later found out that my experience was actually of something called the Celestial Harmonies or the Music of the Spheres. A mystical experience of a deeper dimension. The sound of the Universe. The "Word". Once again, another door into the void was opened within me. And this set the stage for the creative exploration which would drive me forward for a long time to come.

I learned that music, light, dark, life and all creation simply exist. That we are creation living within creation. I also learned that to truly witness or experience creation and ourselves within creation we need to slow down, unravel, stop and listen. We need to empty ourselves of our thoughts, beliefs, desires, pains AND triumphs. We need to let go of our concepts of duality, of light and dark; of expanded and contracted and just sit with that sometimes awkward and uncomfortable emptiness that we try and avoid, sometimes for our whole lives long. We, as a culture are always trying to fill ourselves with people and things. Sometimes it's obvious that we try and fill ourselves with anything just to distract ourselves from something else, like a deeper, less comfortable feeling. What if we stopped trying to "fill" all the time and started to "empty". What if we let go of whatever thought, idea or longing that we thought was so important? And then, what if we just allowed that space or void to be there? In my experience, in so doing we've created a void. We become in some ways an empty "container" that in so being sends out an invitation to the "divine" or "essence" to fill this intimate space within us. This is the raw potential or experience of Creation. This is the courtship and dance between the void (emptiness or darkness) with creation (energy or light). And through that experience of emptying and allowing ourselves to be filled, we are forever changed. And this, as human beings and artists, is what we have the opportunity to share and express.

There are many of us filled with this experience. Some are musicians or artists. Some are authors and speakers. And some are teachers by example and simply touch family and friends from this essential place. I've been fortunate enough to know many musicians, artists and humanitarians that travel within this precious experience. But what we often forget is that truly knowing and embracing ourselves is a process that involves light and dark, energy and emptiness, beginnings and endings, joy and sadness. There cannot be one without the other. And without both there cannot be wholeness. The affinity and dependency of darkness and light is true primordial love.  It is the passion from which we were conceived and the devotion through which we will dissolve.    All that exists is the consequence of this enchantment . . . this eternal balance of dark and light.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Something Sacred . . . Something Free.

I headed out on my paddle board one morning several weeks ago looking for . . . an experience. The ocean and winds were calm so I ventured further out than normal and probably further than would have been advisable given that the sun had not yet risen and I was the only one on the water as far as I could see. But I REALLY wanted . . . an experience. I paddled for a while, breathing deeply into the fears that sometimes surfaced in my mind and stomach. Fears about sharks and unexpected winds and my own vulnerability and mortality. As soon as one set of inner "disturbances" or "ripples" of fear dispersed, another surfaced. But I kept breathing into them and relaxing my body and mind as I did so. I kept breathing, waiting patiently for enough layers of my thoughts to disintegrate so that I could simply be "present". And finally this thought surfaced . . . " but I'm so far from shore ". That struck me as an obvious but interesting thought to have. And I looked down at my feet standing on top of my beautiful red striped board and I thought . . . "but I am HERE, standing on my board!". Life isn't on the shore. Life isn't elsewhere. It's here. Like it or not, where ever we go, there we are. And I was here, simply standing on my board, holding my paddle, somewhere out on the ocean. And that is all. This was the last of my distracting thoughts for that morning. And finally . . . I was present, simply looking for an experience.

But what kind of experience? What was it that I was so hungry for? I asked myself what was missing inside of myself that I was searching for somewhere out here on the ocean, alone, so early in the morning? And the thought occurred to me . . . "something sacred . . . something free". I wanted to touch on something that was intrinsically itself. Something completely free and wild. Something that was not defined by it's productivity or assigned some relative value or worth based on what it did or didn't do. Something that didn't need to practice . . . "being". I wanted an experience that could remind and reconnect me with the essential part of my self that existed since my conception and still lives beneath all the concepts, ideals and values that have been layered and layered upon me from the moment I took my first breath. I wanted to experience the part of me that transcends even the loftiest and most well-meaning of spiritual aspirations. Spiritual ideals, values, concepts, revelations and breakthroughs are merely vehicles to guide and transport us to a place where they are no longer useful or relevant. I wanted to experience something sacred, something free.

I wanted to feel true freedom. A wanted to experience my essence. A place where if one tries to determine how one got there or define where that is, "it" simply dissolves back into the mystery that "it" emerged from. Didn't you ever have the experience where for one reason or another you find yourself in a higher state of being or oneness and then as soon as you start comparing it to other "lesser" or denser states of being or you start thinking about how you want to stay here in this ego-less place for as long as possible, then with that thought you find your beautiful "space" slipping away back into the confines of duality? Any thoughts or rational thinking of what our experience of true essence and presence may look or feel like are often just distractions and obstacles to experiencing the real thing. We can "Om" and "affirm" all we want but until we throw our spiritual concepts and emotional attachments away we're still going be just "Oming" and "Affirming". It's like we can swing on that swing over and over again until we go higher and higher, but then if we don't jump off that swing at just the right time and soar through the air, then we're just clinging to a rope tied to a tree (which is nice, for a little while).

We hug our concepts and beliefs close to ourselves like a favorite soft blanket, protecting us from the cold. We hug it so close we don't even realize that we've blanketed our eyes and hearts as well. Even the most comforting, well meaning and loving thoughts and intentions can blind and separate us from what is present and right in front of us. It's like we forget that we needed the blanket and snow boots when it was winter. And then we wanted the umbrella when it was raining. And now we're still walking around carrying our boots, blanket, umbrella (and God knows what else we're lugging around) that helped us get here. But for me I'm realizing that "here" is very different than "anywhere" I've ever been so far in my life. And being "here" is requiring a lot more breathing and letting go. We can't take all our "knowing" with us to a new place! We can't wrap all our "knowing" around us and then expect to be touched by a greater experience of "wonderment" or awe! True inspiration doesn't come from any place of "knowing"! And any experience of "grace" can't survive an inquisition or desire to define and sustain it. You have to be willing to go along for the ride with all your heart and all your faith until your mind just can't take it longer and grabs hold of the steering wheel, to be once again, in control.

I started paddling out on my board hugging my identity, concepts, fears and aspirations close to me. And one by one I dropped them into the ocean and they submerged. I became more and more vulnerable and present as I disarmed myself of my illusion of protection and separateness. And there I stood alone, just me and my board about a mile or more off shore watching the sunrise shimmering brightly over the distant mountain ridge. And then I heard it. The sound of a huge, wet exhale. The sound of water and air spraying out with one giant breath into the atmosphere. Compared to the quiet lapping of water on my board this new sound was like a freight train blowing it's whistle into the night. And I then I heard it again and I turned to look and find it. And there I saw it! It's dark long back, rolling up surfacing out across the water and then, many yards later, rolling back down into the ocean. It rolled and rolled, submerging very slowly for many long seconds. It looked like a giant sea serpent from some mythological fairytale. It's body was maybe 40ft. to 50ft. long and it's huge tail fins were wider than the full length of my board. Sliding and slicing through the water until the while completely submerged with a playful SLAP of it's tail fin! This beautiful humpback whale, less than 30 ft. away, was now heading directly towards me!

I dropped to my hands and knees on my board now looking for more stability. It was once again quiet. Very quiet. For several minutes again there was that sense of just me out there on top of the water. But now, not alone. In fact, I had tons of company, literally. This is what I was looking for! First an encounter with myself and then with a living breathing ambassador for something sacred, something free. A mascot of my inherent desire and right to freedom. A giant symbol of the "unknown" from a world I can only peer into for a few seconds at a time. A creature that is so foreign to the world I live in and so free from the goals and aspirations of the culture that I've adopted and invested most of my life into, but yet, at this moment we share the same water and breathe the same air. Literally occupying the same space in time. Well, almost. It's more like we peek at each other for a few seconds at a time thru the thin but substantial veils that separate us.

It finally surfaced again on the other side of my board and was now heading away from me. It must have swam underneath me. Then, with more blind enthusiasm and fearless motivation than I had felt in a long long time, I jumped to my feet and paddled hard and deep after my new found ocean companion. I hoped that I could keep up for at least a few minutes before it decided to disappear into the ocean again. I did manage to keep up with it, or it allowed me to, I'm not sure which. I felt it's salty spray on my face and saw it's huge amazing body slice and dance thru the water over and over again. And in-between paddling hard to keep up with it I also sat patiently, quietly, many times, waiting for it to resurface again for the air that we both shared. In some ways the waiting and listening was my favorite part of the journey. The air was shrouded in mystery and anticipation. The quiet was as rich, thick and poignant as it could possibly be. I submerged my head into the water to listen to it's whale song and couldn't believe how loud and clear it was. What a beautiful contrast to the quiet on the surface. The whale surfaced and submerged a dozen times or more on it's way south before heading further out to sea. The journey lasted for about 30 to 40 minutes and finally it was time for me to head back to shore. I had gone as far out to sea as my mind could tolerate. But I was completely moved by the grace of the animal and humbled by it's magnificence. And something about it's very existence that had me spell bound. I didn't want to let it go, but our worlds were calling us in two different directions and I had to return to solid ground.

But I had my experience, my encounter. I found something sacred, something free and spent a long time with it. And as I paddled slowly in towards shore, often looking behind me and listening to every ripple in the ocean and every breath of wind, I hoped to bring something of that experience back to the land, to my life. Perhaps to allow just a little more perspective and a little more freedom in the world of solidity and structure. But regardless of what the day had in store for me, for now I was enlivened, inspired and rejuvenated. I experienced a brief yet satisfying allay of my deep lifelong thirst for something sacred, something free. And I was, for now . . . content. (End Part 1)