Neptune

She wasn’t much when I met her, to be honest. Sort of homely, but I loved her right away. She had a special spirit.

I said goodbye to her a few days ago.

Well, I thought I did.

I’d known her for about 15 years, more than a third of my life. She’d sheltered me from many a storm and I think I did the same for her. After a couple of years together I helped her reinvent herself. She was already beautiful, though.

We had so many incredible moments together.

She was there when great artists I respected became friends.

She was there for family dinners, Sunday football games, surf checks, recording sessions with Jon Foreman, Jack Tempchin, Sean and Sara Watkins, Jordan Pundik, Shawn Mullins, Keith Scott… too many more to remember at this late hour.

She was there when Stella came to live with us.

She was there when Kona died.

She was there when I wrote my first book and produced my first album.

I had so many memories with her that it’s hard to write them all down. Because even the quiet moments, the ones that don’t look like anything to the outside world… with her, they mattered.

We all got together to say goodbye to her, everybody who she’d made an imprint on. They kissed her, put their arms around her the best they could, said thank you. Jack sat down on the old couch and sang a song to her, the most beautiful tribute. She deserved it.

And when everybody left, I went back inside to say my own goodbye. I told her how much I loved her, how thankful I was to have known her, how sorry I was that this was the end.

I cried, and I think she did too.

It was hard to tell.

As I drove away, another song I wrote with her and Jack drifted through the salt air and landed in my heart.

And I realized I had it all wrong. The goodbye part. All wrong.

There’s no goodbye / There’s no farewell / That’s the way it’s meant to be far as I can tell / Though we may never meet again / There’s no end to our road as friends

Because the things we did together / Gonna make us live forever / You and I
There’s no farewell for you and I / There’s no farewell

There’s no goodbye

Amen.

Super Busy with Very Important Stuff

What’s important to you? And what makes you happy?

I ask, because they’re two different things.

Important things need us and make us feel like we need them. Everybody wants to feel needed. And so we believe that if we surround ourselves with things that are important to us, we’ll be needed.

And happy.

I know quite a few people whose families are important to them. Well, most people I know have families that are important to them. But quite a few of those people’s families don’t make them happy. Just busy. I know several people whose jobs are important to them. But their jobs don’t make them happy. Just busy. Same thing with certain friends, fancy stuff, you name it. Things that are important, but don’t necessarily bring happiness.

It’s a hard truth. And if it makes you bristle, tell me this: do you wake up everyday saying “OH MY GOD I’M ALIVE, THANK YOU FOR ANOTHER DAY ON THE PLANET!!!!” or are those first moments taken over by strategizing and planning and hoping you can manage all these things you’ve surrounded yourself with that are important to you?

At this point you may be pissed at me. Who am I to tell you that your important things aren’t making you happy?

If you’re pissed at me, you’re probably one of those people who thought that surrounding yourself with important things would make you happy.

And if you’re pissed at me, it’s also probably because you’re deep in the important things, too deep to walk away.

So don’t walk away. Embrace the important things. Play the card you’ve been dealt (you likely were the dealer, after all) with beauty and grace.

Just let go of the expectation that what is important to you is always supposed to make you happy.

Because they aren’t always the same thing.

And realizing this opens a door to being a lot happier.

It did for me.

Reverie

The campfire looked the same as most other campfires, the familiar rotation of s’mores, smoke, staring at the flames, and stories carrying us deep into the star-soaked night.

These stories were different, though.

The words were coming from veterans of wars that spanned decades. Some of these stories hadn’t been told before, but here, now, there was a climate of safety and trust, created by a few days shared with horses and rivers and silence.

Stories that needed the space to breathe.

Stories that hung in the mountain air, suspended by the million points of shining light above them.

Those stories are still there, floating around that campsite by the river.

And that’s where they will stay.

Like many campfires, this one had a dog laying a few feet from the flames in her own reverie. She kept to herself, and while she wasn’t unfriendly, she wasn’t exactly friendly either. I’d reached for her a couple of times and she’d bristled, a gentle warning that approaching her was on her terms.

So I left her alone, and she left me alone.

A slow lull found us staring at the flames again and someone asked if I’d brought my guitar. I went to my truck and pulled the 1969 Gibson B-25 from her case and made my way back to the campfire, where I sat back down and started telling my own story.

This story was about a dog, a letter I wrote to her the day she died, and a song I’d written about her years before without even knowing it was about her. I hadn’t known she had cancer back then, but she was lying there at my feet as I wrote the words he says the cancer took her sudden, but her spirit keeps her near.

She lasted longer than the doctors said she would. And her spirit does still keep her near.

So I started playing ‘The Table’ for the veterans and for me and for her.

And just before I sang that line in the song, that dog on the opposite side of the fire got up.

She took slow, deliberate steps around the ring of river rocks.

She stopped at my feet.

And she lay down across my boots, where I could feel her heart beating through skin and leather and years, seven years to the day when I wrote a letter to a best friend who had just died.

Eyes around the campfire that had seen the horrors of war and the triumphs of victory and the heartache of loss started to glisten.

They knew what they were seeing.

I closed my own and tried to keep playing and singing, which I think I did. I don’t remember much about those few minutes.

I only remember that heartbeat.

And when I played the last chord, the dog got up and completed the circle back to where she’d been before. She lay down, sighed, and drifted back into her reverie.

And sometimes, those still images etched like photograph moments in my memory send me back into my own.