You Belong Somewhere You Feel Free

This post is about Tom Petty.

Sometimes, it’s easier that way. I could make it about mass shootings or hurricanes or a world on fire, but I wouldn’t know where to begin, and I certainly wouldn’t know where to end. I can’t wrap my head and heart around the enormity and hopelessness and despair. I’m not ready. As long as I can feel and heal, and give and organize and teach. I can imagine the impact without truly knowing it firsthand – but I’m aware I’m not safe or exempt. And my kids are freedom fighters – ready to spread that love and that power. So I hope it’s ok with you that I don’t write about it right now. I can barely sleep as is.

Tom Petty

I can talk about Tom Petty. I’ve had some misses with him. He was always on my Master Bucket List, and not even shoved into some sub-genre, like “Photography Bucket List” or “Concert Bucket List.” When I do things, I do them in style. Like Bruce Hornsby. And Tim Curry. He played at the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park in 2008, literally seconds from my doorstep, but I was anxious and I missed it. He played out in Boston just in July – and we could have gone on our way to Cape Cod with the kids – and I said, “Nah, I’m sure I’ll have another chance next year.” And now, I won’t get a chance.

They won’t either.

Tom Petty

The thing is, it hurts so much for so many reasons. Some people are only out there to put out good in the world. Some input, tons of output. I said to Cassidy that first night, “I don’t want a world without Tom Petty.” I don’t know a world without him. I don’t want to think that nothing else will come out of that brilliant brain, and we won’t ever again have the promise of new music from him to comfort us, and lull us to sleep. Warm, fuzzy comfort in the face of cold, prickly despair and fear.

We have decades of his music, of course. I’m always affected when another bright light goes out. I’m still in denial about Alan Rickman! David Bowie was like a gut punch to the system, but I was already going through so much pain and fear when he died, that it only induced months and years worth of transferred grief. So many others loved and lost. I want him back.

I’ve never felt this way about an artist’s death. It’s because it touches upon those pieces of me that I miss most about myself. It is a growth and an aching and pain and joy and discovery. It’s like when you’re watching a movie. Some deaths hurt more than others. You could watch hundreds of characters get shot for two hours and feel nothing, but then the death of Chris O’Donnell’s character in Fried Green Tomatoes is enough to leave you with breathless nightmares for months.

Humans are funny creatures.

Tom Petty

Sometimes it hurts more than other times. That’s Tom Petty for me. Now I get it. It feels like broken dreams. I’ve been listening to him for as long as I can remember, because he was my mom’s art muse. She’d draw to him for years – up in her third floor studio overlooking the forest – under lamplight. Funny how my office is built just like that these days.. I memorized the whole Wildflowers album on our regular car rides to the horse farm. We especially loved tracks #6 and #9.

His voice is as familiar to me as my own, and has often been the last sound I heard at night and the first sound at dawn.

When I was in my 20’s and had the worst, nearly only, and most massive broken heart of my life, I made a mix cd and drove alone to the middle of nowhere Maine to be with myself for a few days. “Learning to Fly” was the only song that gave me any light in the dark, and to this day, it’s one of my top ten favorite songs OF ALL OF LIFE. It holds a higher power.

I also jotted down a list of my top ten Tom Petty songs, not necessarily in order: Learning to Fly. Two Gunslingers. A Face in the Crowd. Time to Move On. Into the Great Wide Open. Angel Dream No.4. Walls. Won’t Back Down (Live on the Anthology). Crawling Back to You. And, It’s Good to Be King. Speaking of which, the part at 3:10 is so me it’s scary. And then the part of the song that starts just before the 4:00 mark is one of the most musically transcendent experiences I know.

Go there now. I’ll wait.. And be loud with it. That part of the song touches the deepest parts of me. I’ll never stop believing and dreaming and loving and fantasizing and getting starry-eyed if I hear that part of that song.

Many of us use his music to feel better on days in which nothing else works. And to think we lost him on a day in which nothing can make us feel better. Unfathomable. Find that squishy part of your heart and put on your favorite Petty song.


He’s on nearly every mix cd I’ve ever made. What’s your favorite Tom Petty song?

Life is a Highway, and I Wanna Drive it All Night Long

Scarlet once asked me – is it braver to go on the biggest, scariest, loop de loop, roller coaster ride if you’re not afraid of roller coasters, or is it braver to go on the kiddie coaster after a lifelong phobia of roller coasters? What would you say?

What could I say except that we do what we can to move comfortably in our own footsteps, and that every now and then we move out of them, above them, away from them, opposite them, and alongside them too – just to see what we can do.

What can we do?

Where do I begin?

On Labor Day we went to the famous Three County Fair and the kids asked me to go on the Dragon Wagon Coaster. Now if you’re SUPER eagled-eyed (or obsessed with me, which is totally cool) you might remember that this was the fair I went to last year and broke my own ground. I shattered my own earth. The kiddie coaster there – it’s laughable. Maybe it would thrill you if you were two or three. Maybe four? If you had gone through the normal motions of love and life and courage. Maybe you work at your own strange paces and spaces, though. Maybe you’ll go on that same kiddie coaster as a four-year-old trapped in a 36-year-old’s body. “Ahhh..” You’ll say. “This is how it feels and I think I like it. Curve by turn by curve.”

To me, taking that first step was everything. I did it again at the Big E (big New England fair in the fall). I didn’t give a backwards glance at the safety of the ground – the safety of NOT going on the kiddie coaster. It wasn’t until I went on The Barnstormer at Disney World months later, that I realized those fair rollers coasters were not real coasters at all. And to some, neither is The Barnstormer. That’s ok. We all have our own versions of our own stories. That freaking Mine Train coaster was a super thrill ride for me. Whipped around. It has to move you a certain way. And you have to move with it.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, and it probably isn’t even hard to find.

Where did we leave off last?

Here, in our humble home, we now have two egg-laying chickens. Tiny eggs so far. The renovations were supposed to start on Monday, but anyone who knows anything about contractors really didn’t think that would happen, right? Yeah, me neither. We still moved our entire upstairs into our downstairs. I have a temporary office – in the carpeted basement. I used to think the cat REALLY loved my office because she was always there sleeping. Now it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, she REALLY loves me because guess where she is? Wherever I may roam (or write, edit photos, and take video chats with gorgeous people). It’s funny that it took me this long to figure that out? It’s totally how I operate, unfortunately.

Late bloomer, delayed reaction, blinded by the light – that’s me.

The cat had crystals in her urine and is totally fine, but has to eat special urine-crystal-reducing food for the rest of her life. “The rest of the month?!?!” I exclaimed over the phone to the vet because we had a poor connection and that’s what I heard. “Nope.. for the rest of her life.” She’s great, though. I put my towel on the basement floor after the shower yesterday, because I no longer have a bedroom or bathroom or office for two months. And the cat curled up in my towel. I meant to move it, but she has fallen in love. Seriously! I’m going to turn around right now.. and yup.. here’s my view:

I can’t move the towel now, because my heart isn’t made of stone.

In other news, the dog had the barfs for several days and that really sucked! Dr. Google told me she either had some bile disorder or was currently pregnant. (NOT) I’m five photo shoots underwater (meaning, I have five photo shoots to edit), and I now have four new photo shoots scheduled for this weekend. This is BEFORE the foliage/holiday rush too. You could consider me legally insane soon. Oh! Also, Cassidy and I are temporarily sharing a full-sized futon with an odd cooling memory foam mattress. We wake up tangled in blankets and unsure of what’s going on every day now. Eye on the prize?

Speaking of which, this is us just moments after dropping our “baby” off at kindergarten:

Here’s my finale. We stood on the playground as Des walked bravely in, without a backwards glance. Scarlet made up for it by waving broadly and allowing us to be the only third grade parents to get to shout, “I FREAKING LOVE YOU!” in public.

And, how!

Where did this napping baby go?

He’s on his own journeys. Always was; always will be. It becomes more clear to me every day. Separated and intertwined.

“There’s a world outside every darkened door
Where blues won’t haunt you anymore
Where the brave are free and lovers soar
Come ride with me to the distant shore

We won’t hesitate
To break down the garden gate
There’s not much time left today

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long

Through all these cities and all these towns
It’s in my blood, and it’s all around
I love you now like I loved you then
This is the road, and these are the hands”

May the wonder of couch naps grab each and every one of you this weekend.