2018 Tour Stories, ep. 5: The Middle

Do we look tired/happy in this photo? Probably because we are. We had an awesome late-night chat with our hosts/sweet friends after a cozy concert at their house in Shiloh, Illinois — and since we forgot to take our annual group pic before this lady’s wife went to bed, it’s just these three mugs this time around. Pretty cute mugs, tho.



We had a great night with these two first-time house concert hosts in Maryland Heights, Missouri, and their sprawling, fascinating, engaged group of family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, friends-of-friends.

I talked with — and this is just a sampling — a planetary geologist, a former university dean, a doctor, an amateur actor, an ER nurse, a college freshman, several high school freshmen, a music teacher, a backyard farmer, a military veteran, a budding singer, a person in recovery, a few people grieving the recent loss of a friend, a person expressing a need to find more stillness in their life, a person who recently came out to their family, a person who plans to learn the guitar. I could go on and on.

It was an absolute joy to share space with this intersection of humans there, each of whom brought with them stories that filled that space with the infectious buzz of humanity.

Look at this crew! These were the late-niters, the hang-around-and-swap-stories-for-a-while bunch, the remnants of a gathering that so wonder-fully filled my heart in St. Peters, Missouri.

In these faces, there is history, there is newness; there is heartache, there is comfort; there is transition, there is constant; there is transformation, there is remembering; there is risk-taking and cliff-diving and heart-leaping into the next golden day this life will bring each of us.

I was heartened and lifted and stilled by the stories I heard from each of these people, and more who had to leave before we snapped this pic, and I pinch myself that these are stories, and people, I get to know in this wild life of ours.

If you’ve listened to our new record, you’ve heard a song with these lyrics:

the fields out my window
are impossibly green
and my eyes in deep blue rapture
of this eternal canopy …
can I just sit here for a while
and let the silence take my mind
holding both at the same time
the beauty and the pain
the emptiness, the everything
the beauty and the pain
the emptiness, the everything
the emptiness, the everything

I feel like those words were present with us in the space pictured here, with multiple whole other meanings than their original intention, as they connected to the stories we heard from the souls with whom we crossed paths here in Foley, Missouri.

It felt something like a sacred honor to be invited into those stories, into those lives, invited to that table.

This is the fifth time we’ve been invited into this Fort Worth, Texas movie-room-turned-house-concert-venue to do our thing with the people here. While sitting there that night with a whole room full of amazing, brilliant, loving souls, I recalled the first time, and specifically a conversation I had with one of our hosts in which I took a deep breath and spoke vulnerably about myself in a moment before the concert. I didn’t know how “authentic me” would be received.

Turns out, that first time 4 years ago, characterized by deep breaths and heart leaps, has turned into one of Jamie and my most rewarding friendships of the last 4 years.

I heard a definition of “family” the other day in which it was described as consisting of people with whom you can be your most authentic self, nothing hidden, nothing omitted, nothing performed. Well … these people are family.

Our sweet host had been paying attention to our posts about our favorite road snacks: bears for Jamie, Good & Plenty for me. We saved the snacks for the car, and we slept well that night in Llano, Texas, after an evening spent in the home of our friend who took a big huge leap this past year to fulfill a dream she shared with us a couple years ago when we saw her at a house concert in Houston: a house, with some land, where she could love on rescue dogs. She did it. I’m so proud of her, and pleased to have been there in her new home, and so happy to have met some members of her new community there who are truly lovely, creative, compassionate people.

Holy moly what a night. This night in Austin, Texas was the last show of our Summer Tour, and I couldn’t have dreamed up in my wildest dreams a better way to go.

This house was filled with so. much. love. It’s hard to convey how electric it was in the room — every single person there brought with them an intention to engage meaningfully with everyone else there tonight, and … wow. Just, wow.

This. This is the stuff. This is what keeps me going. Intention, meaning, connection, genuine love for others walking the path on your left, your right, before, and behind.

I wish I could bottle up the feeling I had at the end of that night and crack it open any time I need a reminder of why I have hope for and in humanity.

And thus … the sun set on our summer. Jamie and I took a whole bunch of days off after this for some R & R before beginning our fall shows — we read mystery books and watched tons of movies and ate yummy food and … it felt great.

The final episode of Tour Stories is up next! The Fall Tour.