Category Archives: Appreciation

The Dolly and the Mailbox

Mar 8 at 11:11 AM

With each other, for each other & for others

As Indian summer is dovetailing into winter here in NY,  Julia and I cleaned out our living space over the weekend, boxing up summer clothes and pulling out our coats and sweaters. We did this while preparing to go on the road, which we were finding a wee bit stressful. In the midst of cleaning Julia found an old birthday card she had given me:
“I don’t know exactly where our journey’s going to take us or what might happen along the way. But I do know who we’ll be when we get there…
Two cute little old people- still holding hands, still making each other laugh, still totally in love.”
Julia had written me a note in the card, part of which said: ” we promised each other that we’d guide each other and become the most beautiful people we can with each other, for each other and for others.”
There can be a stress placed on the bond of a partnership, especially when you live and work together. The “laundry reality” doesn’t end and piles up. I realized that the love we have for our partners isn’t about what they can do for us but for who they are. Feeling their being in our lives, not as a completion but an overlapping whole frees up space for soaring.
As we sang through our song inspired by King Lear last night it struck me again that as we strive for what we hope to see while the seasons change- if we love each other, not for services rendered but for who we are innately, we touch something eternal within ourselves.
” …the news is like the tide, with who looses and who wins. Packs and sects of great ones, who is out and who is in -ebbs and flows like moon while we’re wandering on the heath. Oh, that fickle changing loon with us playing underneath..
As we head off it occurs to me, there is still time to forgive. Like in King Lear Act V scene III- 
‘So we’ll live and pray and sing and tell old tales and laugh at gilded butterflies and take upon us the mystery of things, as if we were God’s spies.’ ” 
– Shakespeare/ The Levins
Love, unshackled from expectation to you and yours.

Keep Looking Up

Remain steadfast within the change that reveals the core of your being.  We are clearing away reactions and debris to become more of what we always have been.  Each of us has something vital to bring.  The offerings we make are no longer sacrifices of life but our lives burning away what is erroneous and sharing what is essential.  The love we feel is what makes the world new.  We are shown miracles every day. When we have asked and received what was vital to our being, to acknowledge the connection of reception is to open ourselves to wholeness.
Julia and I had a meaningful visit to Northern California.  It is certainly the people who make the place, although getting to enjoy the sunset in Carmel certainly helped to substantiate the theme of the trip which was to open up to the good that is available to us.
We are thankful to have deep bonds of friendships with wise and caring folks who weather the daily obstacle course with optimism and a dedication to love.
Looking at the supernal light setting on the beach of Carmel with the waves coming in , it stuck me that, as far as we know, we are the only life-bearing planet within perhaps sixteen light years.  Shifting our focus from the downcast restrictive box that our mind tries to resign itself to as fate, we can look up with appreciation and expand our prospects.
Our prosperity, success and peace be without limit.  They can at least be much grander if we can entertain our notions with generous  hospitality.
We heard a great talk by Jeffery Anderson who recalled a time when he thought  he would be happy when he got a truck, a boat and a hot tub.  After he got them, things were the same.  Then he asked himself what the boat represented for him. Peace, freedom, connection with nature, were among his answers so he decided to manifest those. He realized he could choose to be happy first, regardless.
There is an old Jewish saying that essentially says, you can’t see the mountain with your hand in front of your face.
Our daily chores and laundry reality can be like a hand in our face, blocking us from our greater perspective and good.
May this time be one of renewal for us in which we expand our idea of what we are capable of.

Pulling back from the fray of complaint

I am amazed at how continuously I get pulled back into the fray of complaining in the midst of my good fortune.  The subtler laws of reality give me diamond studded winks and a bread-crumb trail of boons to lead me back into happiness and dedication.
Last week the pressure was on, for beyond our ‘things to do list’ for our Trust campaign, (What’s the name of this album? Trust. Oh yeah, right.)  Julia and I had two shows this past  weekend that required specific rehearsal and loving attention.  The first was our Literary Elements show: Peace, Love and Literature.  We celebrate some of the giants who illuminate our love of live and remind us to lighten up. These include Hermann Hesse, Shakespeare, Dorothy Parker, Maya Angelo, Hafiz, and even Edgar Allen Poe.  The second show was Raise Your Glass to Charles Dickens to celebrate his 203rd birthday.  The last time we performed our Dickens show, it was the next to last show during a seven gig weekend and we had not gotten to rehearse enough.  I did not give my best performance during that show and it made me sad as I felt I was not only letting Mr. Dickens down but the noble profession of those who are privileged enough to tread the boards.  This week we had these two shows as well as our only chance to rehearse with a fellow musician for an upcoming collaborative event, an esteemed annual benefit, in which we will sing and play on each other’s songs.
Fortunately, we did get to rehearse this week and Julia has the ability to direct and prompt the dialogue so that it flows into a cheerful cohesive whole.  As you can tell from my writing, I employ the stream of consciousness ramble-on method of communicating. Julia has the ability to focus us on what is vital and bring us back to our light-hearted intent.
As my mother likes to say, “Thinking about things is harder than doing them.”  The shows happily went very well.
Our Dickens’ show was up north in Kinderhook, NY in a little library near Albany.  The town itself had a Dickensian charm and its inhabitants were well-read anglophiles who loved their BBC.  Despite the frosting of snow on the ground and the weather channels fearful high-rating forecast of doom about winter storm Marcus, they ventured out to join us. It was one of those jeweled performances where everything clicks and the audience laughs in all the right places and sings along heartily. It made Julia and I feel like members of the actors and musician’s guilds of olde.  We learned that there had been a fraternity in Kinderhook called the Old Kinderhooks.  If you were a part of this fraternity you were O.K. which is where we get the term.
We did feel OK; the enkindled embers of the town glowing as we brushed off our car and drove off leaving Dickens to join Robert Frost Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening with miles to go before we slept.  This is where Marcus kicked up in earnest and our 90 minute journey from Kinderhook to Cooperstown became a three and a half hour crawl through unplowed highways and byways with maniacal semis bearing down on us.
My mom called in the thick of it to remind us to put a white light around the car and to call on victory for our ride and our rehearsal.  Our minds had already taken over when she called and we were complaining about the drive and our friend whose songs we had been learning.  This was to be our only rehearsal for this benefit a month away and our friend, on tour from North Carolina with his band, had a show early in the morning.  We were imagining our response if he claimed he was too tired to rehearse after we had shlepped ourselves through the storm. The mind is a terrible place at times. The stories, the stories!
We arrived and he greeted us with a warm embrace and helped us downstairs where he had arranged to have us rehearse in the exercise room next to the pool. We played until almost midnight and reveled in each other’s company.  Our friend really reminds me of my beloved Uncle Jeff who shuffled off the mortal coil a few years back but still comes through periodically to remind me to “Lighten up!”  At one point our fellow musician, leaned back and laughed so fully it made me appreciate how rich my life is.  We were missing the Grammy’s and we weren’t nominated but here we were in the exercise room of a Holiday Inn Express fully alive, sharing a memory that we will treasure in a pantheon of unique overflowing moments.
The snow continued to fall Monday but we made it back safely to our warm home and housemates. Again, I pull back and realize how fortunate we are.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens
May your focus be on your good fortune so that your complaints give way to hearty laughter.

Joe Crookston: Master craftsman, songwriter, transmitter…

Eulogy for a bold force of kindness

This week a woman Julia and I knew from a handful of gatherings, through a family that we are very close to, passed away. We were both moved by her passing as if we had known her our whole lives.  This was a woman who embodied the maternal. She did not apologize for being here.  She parted the waves of complacent ignorance.  Her laugh emptied you of fear and filled you with a support that encouraged your being to come forward.  She created an arena around her, a forum for whatever truth was present to be nourished. She was real in every sense of the word.  Her candor was so refreshing, not only did it put you at your ease but lightened you up so that you could laugh at your own pretense.
We went to her service and learned that when her children were being bullied in school she brought the bully to tears of contrition in the principal’s office by asking “What is hurting you so much inside that you have to make my children sad?” She was not only larger than life, she was larger than death.  When she had learned she had cancer, she refused to let it stop her from embracing the things and the people she loved.  She raised money for cancer treatment and continued to be a brash force of kindness.
The couple who introduced us to this wonderful woman, led her service.  They were strong in the way that everyone needed them to be, but not only did they put us at ease, they lifted us up to her level.  We would all be rich beyond compare to have someone lift us up after we have gone, with such good humor and earnest praise.  Certainly, she lifted herself up enough to be remembered in the best way but it takes a true friend to present us to those who didn’t know who we were and expand us to those who did.
It makes me feel very fortunate to have such amazing people in the fabric of my time here.
One of the last people to speak said that if she was there she would have said, “What were you thinking having these people get up at this hour of the morning?”
This was worth getting up early for.  It wasn’t a funeral, it was reminder to love fully, regardless of the rules; to live life on our own terms. To remember that we are all part of one delicious Self and then to be Self-ish and wrap our arms around life and not let go, even when we loose form.
For all of those who have shown us the secret value of being here, no hug is strong or long enough.

People we meet along the way

I hope this finds you having a wonderful start to your holiday season!

Last weekend was a wild ride, Julia and I had 7 gigs in 3 days. One of the beautiful things about the work we do is the people we meet.

On Saturday, we had a pre-show dinner next to Richard Zayback, who had been an optometrist, until he had a stroke that left no sensation on the left side of his body.  Eight years ago, he lost his wife and yet the gentleman who sat next to us had a real smile and earnest glow.  He said that life gives you blows but it is all about what you do with yourself after that.  He had lobbied in Washington on behalf of the disabled.  He is helping a young man now start a business to help post-high school students with disabilities have full productive lives. He told us a story of a little girl who was a patient of his when he was still an optometrist.  She told him she was going to be just like him when she grew up.  She told him the same thing the next year and he told her he was going to put her to work.  With her parent’s permission, he had her showing young patients how to put in their contacts in and helping around the office to see if she would like it.  She not only became an optometrist, but when he had the stroke, she purchased the business from him.  Now her folks invite him to every holiday and gathering, considering him to be a part of the family.

Yesterday, we had a photo session down on the Wissahickon river. Our photographer, Nathan Joseph Dodson was one of those people you feel fortunate to have met, like Richard Zayback.  Nathan was home schooled, the second of eight children.  When he was 12, he traded stocks on line.  His mom gave him and his brother $400 to start with.  They made $23,000.  He got bored and sold antique books on line.  He was a professional gymnast.  He was offered a scholarship to Harvard and turned it down.  At 18, he became a self taught photographer.  At 19, he was at an international photography symposium with groups like Sports Illustrated. His class was one of the most attended, despite the fact that he was improvising. Now, he is sent around the globe to talk at colleges and conventions about photography.

He has just invested in a medical facility just before it won a Nobel Prize.  He has 2 percent invested in a baseball team that is being sold.  He has this great air of confidence without arrogance.  We got the feeling he could make 20 million dollars and still would choose to continue to be a photographer, because he loves it.  He was so positive with us, so into the process itself.  He put us at our ease and made us aware of the moment, of the light of being able to capture something we were all sharing and would get to share with others.

There are so many amazing people around us all the time and when we meet folks who are so committed to utilizing what they have, it makes us pull back and recognize the rarified air we are breathing, the capacity we have for expanding our lives.

So here is to the light, to the freedom we have to be ourselves as we choose and the heroes that help us along the way!


Empowerment on the road and in the ‘field’.

Julia and I went down to Baltimore for a couple of shows and had a showcase Monday night. Annalise Emerick was also featured.  She is a full time musician from Nashville and with the first word she sang, I knew she was great but felt comforted.  It made me feel we could open with something that had more depth rather than feeling we had to come out just ‘entertaining.’  Afterwards, we all had a great discussion with Jim Patton and Sherry Brokus who performed after us.  Annalise said (essentially) that she was tired of the paradigm where everyone elbowed each other out of the way to get closer to the top. She has decided that helping each other is healthier and provides more sanity and a richer experience on the road.  We agreed, we are out here making music as a way to uplift those around us and encourage more connection.  This lesson was accentuated by Jim and Sherry who offered us a showcase in the convention we are going to in February.  This may have been the reason why we went down to Baltimore and without this positive bonding interaction, we would have missed it.
The next morning over breakfast, one of our gracious hosts, Eric Reisman, talked about his desire to encourage empowerment over cynicism and overcome our social instinct to show we are strong by cutting each other down.  I told him our housemate George experienced this as a stand-up comedian going from an open mic where everyone was performing and no one was supporting anyone else to being in an improve troupe where there was empowerment and validation for succeeding.  This helped him go back to the open mic with a new open confidence that had the others coming up to him to validate that he had been successful that night and was improving. He in turn supported them and the isolation was dissipated.
On the way home yesterday, we listened to Daniel Ingram, who talked about enlightenment and how that entailed opening your mind beyond the thought that there is a central observer; that we are the point of causality but in fact are a part of a field of awareness that can become aware of itself. In Buddhism they call the first stage of enlightenment, “Stream entry” which I didn’t know before my friend Jenny Jennings Foerst turned me onto it a few days ago.  Daniel said once you have entered it is like you are a freshman in college;  yes, you are in college but you still have more to learn and see.  What I found fascinating was there are fetters to escape like greed and hate but there are goals that have no end point such as “How much kindness can you bestow?” “How much can you help to heal the world?” There is always room for improvement and refinement.
Overall, the weekend lifted us out of ourselves enough to cheer us on to the next chapter together.
May your week be enhanced by empowering those around you!
Love you, Ira

Stream of Light 10-22-14

If there is something that is bothering you, put your breath into the thought behind it.  We are all perfectly imperfect.  We partner up with various individuals to allow them to shine a light into our imperfections and we do the same for them.  This can be gentle or harsh but we are helping each other towards becoming whole. Wholeness isn’t perfection but understanding we do not ever fully know while being with our Selves fully; aware of where we segue into each other, holding the space in between as delightful illusion.  Who we are is emptying into the unseen which is filling us up simultaneously. 

Taking the long-view with relationships

My uncle Si passed away this week after a long bout of dementia, so while I am sad to say goodbye, I am grateful that he is not suffering.  Being officially uncle-less, brings up feelings of the temporal reality we are engaging in.  We are all going along as we can and even though we may not see our family or the friends that we have adopted as family along the way, we are still connected to each other. We do develop the means to carry on in various ways and some moments crop up to remind us that we aren’t alone in this spiral race within the labyrinth.
I remember my uncle Si, pulling me aside when I had moved to Boulder on my way to LA to become an actor. He gave me a hundred dollars and told me to take a day off and go sit by myself and ask myself what would make me the most happy and fulfilled.  He encouraged me to pursue my dreams in a way that would be profitable and sustaining.  We don’t have to reach out to one another and although it may have been awkward for him, he cared enough about me to do that.
There is a certain aspect of relationships that allow us to take the long-view with those we love.  We may get into it, we may wince when they react or act in certain ways, we may get tired and not want to be bothered, but beyond our survival mode and cynical crust, we can see one another in our heart’s eye and find a way to continue to connect.  We can look along the line of moments we have gathered together and find the sweet ones.  We can be present to their entirety, even if they are no longer here and know that whatever short comings they have, there is more to them then we will ever know.
I may be uncle-less but I am still an uncle to my niece and nephew and to lots of kids who know me as their Uncle Eye!  So here’s to being caught in the Web of Life with you!
Web of Life
Help me I’m caught in this web of life, run to the kitchen 
and get me a knife, cut right there… ok I’m free…
wait, now you’re unraveling me!
We’re all connected, we’re all connected! 
Every single thing you see, shares the same source of energy!
Web of life.  *
Without the plants we could not breathe,
without them we would have to leave. 
With all that we claim to achieve, next to plants we are naïve.
Every rock has a secret, every blade of grass sings…
There is a purpose for every living thing… 
– Uncle Eye
Here’s to connecting!