Sometimes, I think your life opens up like the Grand Canyon at sunrise - all expansive hope, the soft pink and gold of a mysterious, loving, and deeply meaningful world. I recall some key moments like this in my life. At 19, when I landed in Florence, Italy, for my junior year abroad, the cab from the airport sped through narrow cobblestone streets, the magnificent Duomo rose up like Everest before me, the faces of the buildings shone gold, and the air smelled musky like olive oil and Chianti. I was profoundly moved by epic beauty at every turn, and for the first time in my life it felt like this beauty was both within me and without. I felt the my own potential when I looked at the Tuscan hills and the sunlight glinting like a million diamonds off the Arno. Later that year, I took a night train to Paris. Along the way I looked out the window and the Alps were inches from my face, dark and cragged, immense as the promise of my youthful life. I remember years later standing onstage with the Indigo Girls in front of 7,000 people, singing "Finlandia" a capella in 5 part harmony, feeling a holiness like the whole room was praying for peace, and like my soul was meant to sing.
Other times, your life is like a dark alleyway in the middle of the night. You feel alone, cold, directionless. You feel like suddenly all the meaning you were sure was coalescing in your favor has vanished. Your life is in boxes, you're grasping at the skeletal frame of some core truth that once felt fleshy and ripe and fertile as Beltane (happy Beltane, by the way!). I've had these times too, many of them in the past couple years.
And then there are the times when your life is a baby pig. You are somewhere in between worlds. You've just been born, someone holds you up as you squint and squirm. You have just a little fur, eyes too new to open fully, cloven hooves, and a great, ridiculous burden in the middle of your face where everyone can see it - a big, awkward, wet, bizarre appendage. A snout.
The other day I saw this picture in my friend's news feed and felt an immediate kinship. There is something so tender about an awkward animal. Sometimes these days I feel this tenderness for myself - for my squealing little pink body, newly born into a life I barely recognize - and sometimes I feel like the world will never see beyond my snout. Sometimes I feel I've been punished for some past life transgression, cursed to be reborn as a pig. This is how new and unfamiliar and vulnerable things can feel to me these days.
Recently in interviews, a couple of people have commented on what they see as the "darkness" in my new album. Despite the album's themes, I usually respectfully agree to disagree. I've made no secret of the events that led to the making of "One True Thing" - my life essentially fell apart. I lost my partner, my job, my best friend, my community, my house...the list goes on. It all happened at once. I moved across the country and tried to believe I still existed. But it felt very important and actually felt like a matter of my own survival to take all the pieces and make them into art, to go to the darkest places and pull beauty out of the void. Because, honestly, what else do you do? I did it because I don't think I am alone in this need to have brokenness made back into love.
When I think of all this recently, it is sometimes still hard to believe the way I did when I was 19, eating spaghetti carbonara and drinking wine in castles and heating milk on the stove for my espresso every morning. So I go back to the true thing in the album, the little tiny magical bird on the cover. That bird is inside everyone, even a baby pig with its snout on its sleeve. When every day feels like a question mark, in some ways it can even help to just say it like it is, to say to the world, "Here I am, I'm new here. Here is my heart, I have nothing to hide anymore."