Four Spring Days on the Farm


In an effort to clear one’s head from the cares of the world, sometimes one must distance oneself from regular life, leave your home behind and get your hands a little grimy. Whether it’s a life rift, grief of any kind or an earthquake of the heart, one can always count on some days in the dirt to heal your mind, body and soul.

And from this space, I sought out an organic farm where I could volunteer my vacation time and my energy (a true bucket list item I literally found on an old list after this adventure at my parents’ house – yes, what they say about writing it down really is true!).

After some research, I settled on a Texas farm in the hill country called VRDNT farms. It was a woman owned and operated organic farm, that for this particular Spring 2022 season was also completely female staffed. So to this fearless sisterhood, I yoked myself for four days and thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. 

My first task after meeting Becky, the farm owner, and Giovanna, the planting manager, was to pull weeds amongst the onions. I learned very quickly that speed did not come naturally to me. Looking back at where I’d begun after 15, 30, 45 minutes only made the task seem daunting and feel like I would never be done. I also had a short run-in with a fire-ant before promptly putting my gardening gloves back on my hands. 

One of the lessons I learned in my short time at the farm was that throughout your farm duties, you regularly have to reposition your body. You may start on your knees, move to a squat and then eventually just sit on your backside, while turning to complete your task. After 8 hours of this, when I arrived the 2nd day on the farm when I crouched down and stood back up, I thought, “I do not know if I can do this another full day.” But somehow you make it. And you don’t complain because the people around you aren’t complaining either. Knowing others are doing it helps you press on yourself underneath the sun. One gal told me, “yeah, it took a few weeks but your body eventually gets used to it.”

Despite the physically taxing nature of the work, every morning I loved hearing the birds chirp away, the faint growl of the tractor in the fields that Giovanna was plowing, the kiss of the cool spring wind across my face and the feel of dirt underneath my fingernails. 

At night, I made my way back to the airstream trailer I called home for my travels. It was a quiet place in the woods I mostly had to myself until one other guest showed up the last night I was there. An open barn kitchen was at my disposal and donkeys were there to admire and evene interact with when they were out. In fact, they were a perfect replacement for roosters to wake me each morning as I roused from heavy sleep to another day of farming.

The work was hard. My muscles ached from lack of use. But each night, I sunk into the incredibly sweet sleep of someone who has earned their keep doing something worthwhile for the day. I knew the release of energy expended. And I felt the lift of the Vitamin D that the sun bestowed on my skin for those glorious four days on the farm. 

Friday was harvest day. We cleaned root vegetables and used the former washing machine turned lettuce dryer to wash and package it for the customers purchasing CSA boxes. Packaging produce was the task, but it was authentic conversation that was cultivated from this day’s experience. The women I worked with that day pulled back the curtains and opened windows into their inner worlds with me. From our thoughts and musings on life, to processing trauma, I was blessed by more that what physically grew on the farm. As we packaged root vegetables, a deep connection and conversation grew between these kindred spirits. 

Prone to overthinking, even while working on the farm, I began to realize even that was less wasted on a farm. As I worked through a task and through some thoughts in my mind, I could look back and see a row of bok choy I had planted, a section of earth I had weedeated or plenty of garlic I had harvested in an afternoon. There was production in the painful process. 

The four days on the farm were a healing rite of passage for me. A post-experience manifestation like a drastic haircut after a first heartbreak. It created in me a peace and thankfulness, head lifted upward and hands outstretched to the sky in a worship position to the Maker who created healing through nature.

While it may sound unconventional to some and strange to others, that short escape from reality was the perfect puzzle piece to what I was needing, a salve for a wound and a balm for my soul. In fact, it was the first solo vacation I ever took, and I reveled in it. And may more reveling of its kind commence in future days. 

-lme

Atop Mt. Rose – Nevada


When the world is heavy with lows, go high on a mountain.

The year of the pandemic will not soon be forgotten. 2020 – Clear vision for some. Intense grief for others. Nothing short of confusion and doubt layered with a significant dose of anxiety. And while a virus out of our control like wildfire across the world, one Friday in October stood out from the others. And the three of us decided unanimously, albeit impulsively, to tackle the 2000 foot elevation gain to the summit of Mt. Rose. 

Mt. Rose, boasting a height of 10,785 feet, is a towering beauty. She unashamedly guards the nearby city of Reno and all of Washoe County. This particular season had been a dry one for this area and the landscape was nearly as parched as the spirit of each and every American.

We started our ascent mid-day and upward, still upward, we eagerly walked. Out West, the scenery changes from every angle you turn your head. It creates for one a new perspective in more ways than one. And as my father shared when we told him our plans for the day, “That’ll clear the cobwebs in your mind.” He was correct, and that it did. 

I believe it’s a natural human tendency to long for escape. Many will and have debated the cause of such feeling, but my belief is that our spirit longs to leave our body as it will do someday for eternity. Because of this, some of us are driven to our own personal “elsewheres” from renovating houses to writing songs to climbing the sheer, rugged face of El Capitan. But whatever your elsewhere is, feeling that pull is just one part of being human. 

While nature provides a sense of escape and thrill from our present circumstances, it is juxtaposed by an ever-present, delicate touch to humanity’s ache for nurture. I can’t explain it. I only believe it’s just the way He created it. The human healer in our group, my brother-in-law, the nurse practitioner, was our trusted guide as he was the only one who had formally completed this hike. As we meandered up the side of the mountain and passed the meadow area, a peaceful portion with the still waters of Psalms, we arrived at a partially-frozen waterfall.

We stopped to admire the falls that were delicately transitioning from one season to another, not shocked or worried because of the change around them, but rather accepting the reality of what always comes to be. This focal point of nature was merely following suit along with the shorter days, the hibernation of life around it and the quiet hush of winter that was enveloping it slowly. 

And from there, we began the most challenging portion of the 11.5 mile hike. My breath was labored, my muscles fatigued, and many rests accompanied me along the way. I believe humanity longs to thrive, not just merely survive like the last remaining flowers of the season, shivering alone at the mercy of the wind. We long to trek upward, toward something yet unseen to tackle a not-yet-realized goal. Despite hopeless moments and discouragement, we each desire to live. We wind our own way up metaphoric mountains, lungs gasping for air and a heart pumping blood to every portion of our bodies. The difficulty of it all cultivates the mentality that as we trek upward, despite our falls or stops, we still press onward. After seasons of disappointment, missed opportunities, broken relationships and grief over loss in the world around us humanity continues to arise and unearth new levels of tenacity. Although we stop to rest when we feel we have nothing left to give, we once again pick up our pack and continue onward. We don’t quit. We refuse to let the mountain have its way or steal the strength we have left to give. We press on. 

This is a driving force for my love of outdoor adventure: the cultivation of the spirit that presses on, no matter how hard the journey, how steep the grade and how dark the night may be. The spirit that refuses to give up, no matter how gut-wrenching the pain, and sometimes, with the acceptance that some pathways must be traveled alone. But we press on. 

Mt. Rose looks down from her tower on those who come closer, rewarding those who are willing to risk something for the reward of her summit. She tried and tested us, a faithful tutor instructing us in the duality of courage and humility in one afternoon adventure there and back. The intense incline, in the middle of the hike, was the portion that humbled my bold spirit and reminded me how much work I have yet to do. 

The harsh, naked, and awe-inspiring reality of nature is intoxicating, and once you’ve tasted the wild, you’re drawn to follow with each step. Various experiences on the trail have taught me that as I venture into a future yet unknown, I continue to learn lessons on the mountain. Lessons of survival, preparation, trust, of my God-bestowed capabilities and the determination to not let fear be my master. An ascent slowly unravels my addictions, my insecurities and acceptance of my imperfections. Time on the mountain teaches one to move forward at just the right pace, heed the call of the “elsewhere” and trust in the promise of who we can become. And all the while, we remember that hope and faith reside in the promise of another spring.

Toast, a poem


I am toast

Under the broiler

baking under the

judgment of condescending coils

who question me

for details outside my control

Waiting for

someone to come take. me. out.

Set me gently

on the front, i said on the front. burner.

And cover me with perfectly sweet toppings

And celebrate my simplicity

who brings out my truest flavor

and if I am forgotten?

I am toast

-lme

A Write of Passage


I don’t need permission

From Anyone but me

To create a world inside my head

Permission to be free

My brother’s not my keeper

But it took some time to see

That I don’t need permission

For he doesn’t hold my key

I don’t need permission

From those who disagree

They’re merely standing stones

Down my river that runs free

There’s no need to make them

View life just how I do

I’ll let them walk their own path

While setting in my own life true.

-lme

Ambrosia Tea Room


Tea for two was the theme for a lazy, late lunch one Saturday afternoon on the first of April 2017. My mom and I visited Ambrosia Tea Room in Salado, Texas for our midday meal. Upon entering the tea house, one can quickly observe the care and attention to detail that has been placed into the creation of the tea room. Each room has relics of days gone by, of a sweeter time, menus don feminine fonts and shabby chic adequately describes some of the final touches. One of the decorative highlights is the glass tea cup chandelier hanging above the register in the main dining room.

Lunch was unique and delicious. We both drank the sweetened cranberry tea, and it reminded mom of wassail. A springtime wassail if you will. I had the turkey, cream cheese, avocado and cranberry spread on a croissant while mom had the same on wheat and a side of zucchini soup. The sandwich was the ideal pairing of sweet cranberry, rich cream and a little salt with the turkey. The perfect touch was what they call the “Ambrosia Salad,” which came in a little dish on our plates. It’s the amazing mixture of heavenly fluff composed of strawberry yogurt, whipping cream, cheesecake mix and probably some kind of magic 🙂

If you haven’t been to this place, you definitely need to check it out on a shopping day out in Salado, Texas.  They have also been the recipients of the KWTX Clean Plate Award! Ambrosia Tea Room is located at 102 N. Main Street, Salado, Texas 76571.

The value of waiting, slowing down and finding simplicity


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Sit right here and wait. What? No thank you. Remember when used to actually wait for our parents outside school? We couldn’t text them. We just hoped that eventually they would show up to claim us and take us home.

We just hate waiting. You know it’s true. From drivers who nearly run you down just to get to the same stoplight to the bosses who needed it done yesterday or I want my coffee NOW. We despise waiting. Maybe it somehow reminds us of our humanity and the honest truth that we don’t get everything we want when we want it. Sob sob. I realize how easy it has been to fall into the trap of not wanting to wait. Why is my career not further NOW? Why do I not have the man of my dreams sitting by my side NOW? Where is my lunch NOW? The ironic part of all of this is that we have actually traded our anxious ways and don’t really know what it’s like to live NOW. Being present is something we all struggle with. We love to go and do and live life. But it’s time we all slowed down just a little bit (or rather a lot) to be able to process our lives. Processing what is happening and the actual process behind everything is something we’d rather pass over, forget and live without. When we’ve gone an entire week without assessing what we did well, what we could have done better and perhaps some mistakes we made along the way, we have become to busy. When we are too busy to stop for a conversation that needs to occur with someone or to express thankfulness to someone, we’ve become too busy. Our “busy-ness” will eventually be the death of us all, since running ourselves into the ground will exhaust us both physically and emotionally.

I’ve become very interested in the Slow Movement which believes in more of a mindful way of living- a connection to food, a connection to place, a connection to people and a connection to life. It involves slowing down and really being present in the moment. I prefer to start living more slowly and mindfully as opposed to being forced like a current through the gates of a dam. In the Entrepreneur Issue of Kinfolk, there is an interview with Carl Honore´, one of the world’s most respected advocates of the Slow Movement.  You can watch his Ted Talk here.

I decided to include some blogs regarding the concepts of simple living and a slow living mindset, so check them out:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/becoming-minimalist-start-here/

Home:

http://www.slowyourhome.com/

Family:

http://lifeshouldbethecatsmeow.blogspot.com/

Other thoughts:

http://prettygoodstories.com/

http://valueofsimple.com/start-here/

Let’s take time to be mindful, be present and not be afraid to live a little slower paced as we journey along our path in life.

~lme

Fanswell!


uke in mountainsSo there’s this great new tool out there for musicians.  I know, I know- there are a million tools.  But Fanswell is super helpful because it takes the music straight from the artist directly to the people wanting to hear it on tour!  Graham Colton, one of my earliest musical loves, created this for artists.  He saw a need for many independent artists trying to do their own tour booking.  He realized we get stuck when there are only so many venues and a huge amount of people clamoring to play the same venues.  I love that it can help me manage my own touring and booking directly with my fans as I begin managing my own tour logistics.

So here is the page if you’re interested in me coming to your home, your porch or somewhere else near where you live.

Leah’s Fanswell Page

Feel free to share this with others through social media outlets.  This fall, I’ll set out to come play for all of you lovely listeners eager to hear some earthy music.  We are starting with surrounding states and also those surrounding my home state of Texas.  Thanks Graham for creating this and thanks to all who are supporting me on this exciting entrepreneurial and creative journey 🙂

~lme

 

 

Sugar in the Shoreline


“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are getting back from whence we came.” ~John F. Kennedy

The open road is a reset button for the mind. A simple road trip can clear the senses, help one take in the scenery from a new vantage point and gain fresh perspective. You merely watch the frustrations, irritations and pain of life disappear in the rear view mirror with each passing mile. As we drove through the mountains of Asheville, I was able to be in the moment if only for a moment. Winter was melting away as the water rushed down the hills and shot off the rocks in tiny waterfall fashion as if dancing for me and shouting- Spring is here! For us wandering spirits, the open road holds promise, possibility and the pursuit of something new. Charleston was our home for a long Easter weekend, and we soaked it in like a bowl of creamy, delicious grits. We met new characters, allowed our taste buds to revel in both savory and sweet, ambled amidst the sea-colored cottages and smiled as we heard the swelling song of the ocean in all her glory. Charleston can boast of a slower pace, a calmer smile and a wealth of historical connections. From the marshy and peaceful beauty of Cypress Gardens to the painted perfection of Rainbow Row, Charlie-town (as my friend Brianne named it), did not disappoint us in the least.

Travel, like music, is a process of changing with a movement of ourselves from one place to another. Perhaps musicians are at times signified as vagabonds, because music and travel clasp hands like the ocean and the shoreline. A longing for freedom and a sense of cutting the strings tied to our wrists by the infringing world of doubters, naysayers and realists. To seek a wealth of experience as opposed to a wealth of money is a noble aim. Charleston, the ocean and the moments of respite from our frantic lives were a welcoming haven for us.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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The start of an Italian love affair


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Italy. Few places have pulled me in so tightly initially and held me in their warm embrace. Italy was different from the trips before, and I completely fell in love with the culture. I enjoyed soaking up the cultures of Peru and New Zealand, but Italy is, well, brava. The people are warm, inviting, loving and willing to hug you, shake your hand and kiss both of your cheeks. When they talk in an animated way, they’re not mad. They just use their hands and speak with passion and can be intense, because they mean what they say about the food! Oh and the food- fresh fish at the fish market, cheeses (especially the water buffalo mozzarella), vegetables, olives, olive oil, Sorrento lemons, fresh baked breads, tomatoes, meats, lightly dressed salads and the ultimate local meal with all food taken from 100 feet of where we sat to eat Christmas Dinner at Chef Luca’s house on the coast, were perfecto. I felt at home there.

Travel is part of what makes the world a  more beautiful and better place to live. I truly believe that if more people saw more of the world, there would be fewer wars, less hatred toward others and a more peaceful and kind place to live.  We think others are different because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, the way they dress and the food they eat. But really, deep down, there are countless common threads woven within our makeup as human beings.  We all want safety and peace, freedom to go where we choose, worship how we choose, pursue our dreams, raise children in a healthy and safe environment, be fed and sleep calmly with a roof over our head.  I believe our similarities far outweigh our differences if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves. I think that’s why i’ve always felt so emotional watching an Olympic Opening Ceremony. It seems that for a brief moment in time the world, full of some many different nationalities, languages and races can all come together to celebrate something we love and be at peace. That coming together has always been something I love about the Olympics (maybe I should be doing their marketing or something).

This trip was only the start. I have to return. I have to see what people, adventures, stories await me in South Italy on the coast. Positano bites deep- said John Steinbeck, and I can see why. It grabs a hold of your heart and doesn’t let go.  The village nestled on the side of the mountain is unforgettable. It’s magical and frozen in time with no shopping malls, fast food, Wal-Marts or massive American commercialism. It’s a haven for simplicity and connection with nature.

The narrow cobblestone roads in Rome to the little marketplace alleyways of Sorrento that offer hours of strolling and searching for scarves, pasta and more, and the Italian fashion, refuse to disappear from your mind. They merely linger as if to whisper- come back and please come soon. It’s hard to ignore the beckoning of the Italian coast once you’ve been.

Here’s to the future and travel adventures yet to be had!

~lme

Eulogy while I’m still alive


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I hope to die with a thousand stories woven within my skin.  There will be tales of adventures in foreign lands, of amazing people that I have met and befriended along my journey, of moments that taught me, lifted me and pulled me closer to who I was meant to become.  My face will be well worn but all of the smile lines will indicate a myriad of moments where laughter lit my face up and a hearty burst of air exhaled from my chest into a world where I temporarily existed.  My hands may look old but hopefully the river of veins running throughout them will tell of the people they’ve hugged, the meals they’ve cooked for those I have loved or handed something to someone in need.

The vacant body that they will see before them will have only been the vessel.  A vessel that had opportunities beyond what she thought at 20 when she thought the world would end.  For in this body she traveled around an incredible landscape, saw sights that ancient queens never comprehended, heard music that made her spirit soar, created music to share with others, flew above a Costa Rican rainforest like an eagle, hiked the Inca trail in the Andes into Macchu Picchu with her family, walked in the great cities of the ancient world, climbed mountains, swam in oceans, stood beneath waterfalls, whitewater rafted in Idaho, devoured lobster on the shores of a Maine island, felt the waves of the ocean caress her feet, overcame fears, met countless souls close to home and far away, learned to sail, gained skills in cooking from an Italian, an American mother and grandmother, entertained at dinner parties and birthday parties, rode horseback through the ephemeral forests of New Zealand, did mission work in Jamaica, traversed the British Isles, seeing the graves of Shakespeare and more, met and connected with those in poverty, opened her heart to love those different than her and those less fortunate and extended hands of friendship to those the world over.

I will hope that I learned to give and value real love.  To have learned that love is a choice and not just a feeling.  I hope that I will have loved when it was difficult, and I hope I will be willing to love enough to desire to give up.  Love is an emptying of self and pride of which it takes a lifetime to learn and a lifetime to put into practice.  And the person that I became will not be focused on how pretty or fit or well-dressed I was.  I will have become someone who lives and abides in the comfort that my validation does not come from others around me.  I will be focused on the fact that none of these temporal things matters to the God I serve and that those who focus on the true things of life will have always been present in my life.  I will have learned that the people who are meant to be near us and surround us will gravitate toward us continually.  Should we have desired affection or attention from others that we did not receive, perhaps we were never meant to be the recipient of that.

I hope the look on my face in my coffin resembles a smile instead of a frown and that I did more of the first in life than the latter.  A soul at peace should have nothing but a smile on her face and a song within her heart when it’s her time to go on.  I hope that when people think of me they in turn will smile.  I hope they each have vivid memories of places I shared with them, sunsets we sat beneath, trains that passed us while we played our instruments, conversations we shared that involved depths not comprehended by the naked eye as well as songs I shared and left around the American landscape as a piece of my legacy.  I hope people come to a closer view of my Maker when they come in contact with me.  May I not be merely focused on myself as a musician, a career woman, a writer, a daughter, a sister, a thinker, an explorer or a songwriter.  But may I know that all facets make up a daughter of God walking and breathing and trying to walk on a good path homeward.  As they lay me back into the dust from which I came, my stories will turn back into organic matter that become the setting for the next generation of adventurers and dreamers.  For they will carry on what we have started.  And I will hope I have done my part to leave it in good hands and to have bettered the world while I inhabited it.

When I die and begin to travel toward the light of the sun, perhaps the shackles around my feet will unclasp and release me from the bonds of an earth to which I shall never return.  And as my spirit soars ever higher up and through the clouds and into the stratosphere, I will begin to hear music and familiar voices.  And when I arrive at heaven’s front door and I softly knock, He will open it with a warm and welcoming smile and say, “We’ve been waiting for you- come in.”  I will leave my jar of troubles outside and enter in where the most beautiful song I have ever heard is wafting toward me and slowly washes over me.  And forever I will be in eternal joy.

Go forth and do good as you create a lasting legacy 🙂

~lme