Reflections on Summer Shows (and Gratitude for Things Big and Small)

I feel a bit like a kid returning to school and tasked to write her “what I did this summer” report, but this summer was a big one for me as it marked my return to performing live after over two-and-a-half years. Anxiety and fear had kept me away. But coming back to California eased a good deal of it, settled me, and brought me back into my body and to feeling more self-confident. This is home, my roots, and I’ve been healed here and made stronger.

As I felt that fire in me return and the desire to play live again at the start of summer, I began planning potential shows — and while I would have liked a little “warm up” gig, what I was actually given was a dream gig:  opening for the amazing Brigid Mae Power and Aisha Burns at Café du Nord in San Francisco — an almost ridiculously perfect venue for me and lineup. The night was beautiful. Friends and my brother came out to see me, and I felt so inspired to perform with such incredibly talented women.

The next show was another gift — playing at my amazing friend Freya’s house show on her baby grand for a crowd of her friends in San Jose, and opening for her spectacular trio, Sirens. I couldn’t have been received more warmly and had more fun that night.

The next two shows were “full circle” for me, as playing in cafés is where I began…

I played the Revolution Café in the Mission in San Francisco — the neighborhood where I lived in 2008 when I started my music project. I was always intimidated to play for public ears on the piano there at the café, but no longer. My fear was conquered, and the strangers there seemed to enjoy it.

My last show of the summer was at another café here in Santa Cruz, and I felt very loved with my new girlfriends and cousin who came out to support me. This was the debut of my local friend Tony playing with me on sax and flute, and though it was a small crowd and I was nervous, it was a transcendent experience to play live with such beautiful accompaniment. We will definitely play more shows together in the future.

And while I’m looking ahead to greater ambitions, I know it’s important to stop and reflect at this re-emergence. It was very painful to have my anxiety and fear keep me away from performing live for so long. To no longer have that spark. But now that I have it back, I’m going to be very careful to keep it kindled…

Part of that is pausing to rest, reflect, and to balance my big dreams with gratitude for the small things here and now.

This past Saturday after my last show of the summer Friday night, I went out to pick up some things at my local convenience store. As I was perusing, I stopped to look briefly at some floating candles in the shape of little suns they had, but didn’t pick one up. When I’d gotten my things and went to be rung up, the clerk who had seen me there a couple times before asked, “What, no candle?” And I blushed and said, “Yeah, they’re cute, but I don’t know where to put it.”

“You just get a glass and put some water it in and there you go,” he said.

I laughed and said, “Yeah, you’re right,” but still couldn’t justify the extra little expense for some reason.

As I was leaving though,  he surprised me and said, “Go ahead, take one.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” he said, “Take one.”

So I looked and couldn’t decide between the yellow one or the orange one, and I asked him, “Which one should I take?”

“Which one do you like?” he replied. And that question was somehow one of the sweetest things I’d heard in awhile. It made me stop for a minute and think about what my little heart wanted most.

“The orange one,” I said.

“OK, it’s yours.”

I thanked him and almost cried walking out of that store. Just one small gesture. But it felt like the last little cherry on top of a sundae of blessings this summer… after many seasons of difficult times.

When I got home, I filled a flower-shaped vase on my coffee table with water, set the candle in to float, lit the wick on fire, and watched it glow in the afternoon while I wrote and reflected with a grateful heart.