I was on the way to bed last week when I got a text full of exclamation points and question marks and the word ‘ellen.’ It turns out ‘FOR THE SENDER’ made its way into ellen’s hands (yes, that ellen) and she tweeted about it… and facebooked, and blogged and all that good stuff. She said she loved the book and it was a “literary and musical experience close to her heart.”
I thought that was cool. Thank you, ellen.
…and to celebrate last week’s release, Taylor Guitars is running a promotion where we’ll write a song for you, and they’re giving away a beautiful guitar (and other stuff) too. No need to buy anything, or even send in a letter. for more details, go here:
Letters of Love and Loss: Alex Woodard’s [FOR THE SENDER] an interview by Ruth Gearson
Alex Woodard’s release, FOR THE SENDER, a combined novelette/CD composition, inspired by the letters he received relating to the loss of his beloved dog, Kona (from the widow of a slain police officer, a first-responder in Haiti, the director of a shelter for homeless kids, and a woman who lost her soul mate) suggests that we are all united in part, by the loss of whom we love. Woodard has traveled thousands of miles physically and mentally and you can hear the journey, weary and bittersweet. Joined by Sean Watkins, Sara Watkins, Jon Foreman, Jordan Pundik, Nena Anderson, Molly Jenseon, Jack Tempchin, humor and pathos shine through in Woodard’s latest work.
As FOR THE SENDER is making its first small steps out into the world, we’ve been playing shows where we present the letters and songs through video and live performance. Some people cry as they watch the video of my dog (and best friend) on the day she died, but I know they aren’t crying for her. They are crying for their own loss. Maybe the loss of a parent, or their childhood, or their spouse, or their identity. That’s how we are part of the same conversation… we just call our triumphs and tragedies, however big or small, by different names.
Mine was a labrador named Kona. I recently came across something I wrote the week Kona died, and I thought I’d share it as the first blog on FOR THE SENDER.
Thanks for listening (and reading)-
Many of you met my black lab Kona at some point over the last 13
years, either on the road or at my home. She ran deep in more people
than just me. But she ran deepest in me.
I said goodbye to Kona on Monday night.
As her breathing slowed, a single tear dropped from her left eye onto
my shorts. The vet said it would be better not to think of it as
crying, but that’s what it was.
That tear held love, thanks, and goodbye.
And then she was gone.
I made my way out of the house and took Stella on a run, crying most
of the way down the street while folks driving or walking by wondered
whether or not they should ask me what was wrong.
We ran on the beach for a long time. I stopped once because the
crying was stronger than the breathing and sat down on the sand.
Stella came running up to me and dropped something at my feet. It was
a little green plastic fish, the kind you might find floating in a
She carried that little fish all the way to the stretch of beach in
front of the house, where I took all my clothes off and walked out
into the water. Stella followed me out until the surf got too big for
her to clear, and then waited for me as I came back to the sand. I
pulled my shorts back on, walked up the stairs and into the house,
and took a shower. I slept without dreaming.
I posted “The Table” for Kona on alexwoodard.com. We recorded
it just days before I found out that she had cancer. When I wrote it,
I didn’t know she was dying. And now I know I wrote it for her.
If you come to my house, you will probably see a little green plastic
fish sitting up on the mantle. Stella was sitting in front of the
fireplace this morning, staring up at the little fish. I gave it to
her and she now has it nestled next to her on her bed. i’ll post a
photo of stella and the fish on myspace in a minute.
FOR THE SENDER is a project deeply close to my heart but it didn’t start out that way. I had no idea what FOR THE SENDER was when I got the call from Sean Watkins asking if I’d sing back up on a song he’d just written. The only thing I remember about that day is what I was wearing. I know, that’s a weird sentence to write but my point is that I really had no idea what I was embarking on, or maybe I’d have remembered more about the song I’d sung on, which was called “FOR THE SENDER”. Shortly after that recording session with Sean, Alex asked me to sing on another song for the project. At that point, I still didn’t really know what “the project” was all about and I hadn’t been asked to be a part of it. But half way through singing on Alex’s song, he stopped me and said, “You have to be a part of this.” And that brings me to today. Two years later.
What an honor to be part of such an important project. FOR THE SENDER isn’t just a book. It isn’t just a CD. It’s a safe place for people to process and live out the pain, the sorrow, the bad that they’ve gone through, but also a place to see that good can come from bad. Happy can come from sad. Joy can come from sorrow.
A year ago, Alex, Sean and I flew to Connecticut for one night to surprise Emily (who wrote the first letter) and give her the first copy of the book. We sang all “her” songs for her and in-between a couple of those songs, with tears in her eyes, she said “Now that you have taken my words and put them out in the world in the form of a song, I feel like I can finally move on. I feel like I can let go.” That is when I knew this was a big deal. That’s when I knew I said “Okay” to being a part of something really important. Not only is FOR THE SENDER an opportunity for people to share their stories, it’s also an encouragement for them to keep moving despite their stories. We each have our own story that is, and will always be, a part of us. We also each have our own way (and timing) of dealing with that story. Knowing that FOR THE SENDER helps people grow from telling their story to moving on because of their story, well, that’s something I want to be a part of. And luckily, I get to be.