A rhythm to the road

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Yoga to soothe and reenergize

If I’m not listening to something on the car stereo, I love listening to the lull of the road. Strips of rough pavement separate the smoothly paved parts, and the car thumps predictably between the two like a baby carriage over cracks in the sidewalk.

There is a rhythm to traveling. When you hit the right pace, days flow by while time is suspended, not essential in the way it is essential when other people are counting on you to be somewhere at a certain time.

This rhythm varies by trip. On this trip, the pace I liked best was two nights in each location. One night to get my feet grounded, one night to explore. Enough to take a breath without diluting the mystery a new locale holds in the air.

It is a bit trickier to find this rhythm when on tour.  It takes some of the flexibility and spontaneity out of the traveling to have booked gigs on specific dates – although it is a tradeoff balanced by the benefits of meeting such wonderful communities along the way.  I could only keep that pace up for so long, however, and two weeks ago in Asheville I crashed. I was inexplicably exhausted, and slept like a teenager for four days. I suppose I can only say – it happens.

Tea shops are great for this kind of fatigue – I spent two days in Dobra Tea in Asheville. So are kind friends who let you stay in their houses longer than planned (thank you, Rick!). So are blank journal pages and yoga pants.

I keep pushing on. Keep pushing north.

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Budding caller en route: 6 tips from booking 6 tour gigs

Timouth Contra Dance, 2004Contra dance in Tinmouth, VT, 2006: where I started contra dancing in 2003, and will now be returning for the first time in six years to call the November dance.

After exchanging more emails than I care to count, I currently have six gigs currently booked in a four-week period, and more in the works. Gosh darn it, this may turn into a real tour.

I have already learned so much about different dance communities just by going through the process of contacting them about their booking processes. What seem like revelations to me are old hat to more experienced callers, I’m sure, but this has been quite a learning process. Below I’ve listed a few lessons learned so far.

1. Contact dance organizers EARLY (six or more months in advance) to book gigs. Even if they ask you to email back in a few months, that’s better than missing an opportunity to call. Some communities book only twice a year; January/June or March/September are the two I’ve come across most frequently so far. Some book year-round, a few months out.

2. Don’t contact potential hosts too early. People can only think so far ahead in their personal lives.

3. Include links to videos of yourself calling in the first email you send to make it easier on the people doing the booking. If they are serious about your inquiry, they’ll Google you anyways.

4. Follow up, follow up, follow up! Emails can get lost in the cracks for so many reasons. Many dance organizers have busy lives, and inboxes – especially if they are planning a big event like a dance weekend.

5. Contra dancers, callers, musicians, and organizers really are some of the sweetest people on the planet. Really. I am astounded by the level of care and detail that goes into their emails.

6. Once you know you will be traveling through a particular area, look on a local dance website for a list or map of regional dances nearby. These lists/maps have been incredibly helpful in planning my route. It narrows down my search to manageable geographical clusters, and keeps me from spending hours tabbing between an internet search for “[State] contra dances” to Google maps.

 

My movie soundtrack

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 Me and Grampa, about 6 months before he died.

My grandfather wanted to be a cowboy, like he saw in the old Western films. In some ways he was almost there: he was ornery, had a southern drawl, and the kind of stupid courage that makes people speak loudly about things they don’t understand. He was a writer and a musician in his spare time, and is a major source of inspiration for me in both of these pursuits. He is also the reason I came to New Mexico.

It is sometimes hard to drive through the regal landscapes of New Mexico without feeling like I’m in one of his Western movies. Dynamic rapid sky, impartial reclining mountains with their jagged elbows, and tufted-roadside-desert grasses have been known to take me entirely out of myself.

Especially when I have the right song on.

My grandfather also had a flair for the dramatic. So I know he’ll get me when I say that my coming to New Mexico felt like fulfilling his lost dream. It seems to make sense in a grand story arc between his life and mine. Almost cinematic. And as my road trip will be starting soon, I wonder what kind of movie it would make. Adventure? Romantic comedy? Avant-garde experimental piece? Family film? (Probably.) Thriller? (I hope not.)

What is your favorite soundtrack for the car? What makes you feel like you’re not only going somewhere, but you’re having an epic time doing it?

Gratitude

Your responses have been amazing. One week and two posts deep, and I’m already finding myself filling in the map of my future travels with people to meet, places to stay, and dances to call at. I had hoped this would happen, but it is another thing entirely to see one’s vision start to materialize.

I’m filling in the dots on the map. And I hope it keeps filling. I’m already overflowing to know that there is such generosity in the extended networks of the communities I am a part of.

Thank you. I am grateful.