Sunday, February 13, 2011

"The Surprise Gift of Sleeping with Strangers ... Over and Over Again"

We are on mini-tour in Northern California, staying in a beautiful rural community outside the small town of Winters about an hour West of Sacramento. We pulled up in our tour-Durango just after sunset, and a few hours later I’m simply overwhelmed with gratitude at the scrumptious vegetarian, wine-lubricated feast our lady hosts prepared for our arrival.

Truly, one of the greatest, surprise blessings we have experienced in these last 18 months of touring are the “home-stays” ... probably well over 80 of ‘em so far, maybe more, who knows!

Imagine traveling throughout the USA & Canada for almost 2 years, staying in people’s homes for a few days at a time in every new city; with families, with single people, retirees, real estate agents and scientists and other musicians, millionaires on the beach and unemployed families just trying to get by, republicans and democrats and libertarians and breatharians, some already familiar friends but most complete strangers until the moment you show up on their doorstep.

Imagine traveling for months on end with your 5 brothers, your chosen family, moving through countless experiences, every few days invited into a new stranger’s intimate space, into their living room conversations, to their dinner tables ... and into the deep quiet space of their night ... when all the lights go off and bodies shut down and the evidence of complete trust is overwhelming.

Homes and families each have their own particular vibe. I can particularly feel it when the lights go out and the house gets quiet ... whether its welcoming and warm and cheery, or stressed and unsure ... of course the real fun part about that is it has nothing to do with whats “really going on”; it’s all only my own projected experience in that particular moment.

In any case, I can’t count how many homes we’ve stayed in these last 2 years. I would guess it’s easily over 80 .. might be well over 100.

You can’t imagine what it’s like working constantly to find people to take in 6 strange men traveling the country. Fortunately, those men are also HERE II HERE ... and while it might be tough the first time we visit a city, often enough when we come back I have to turn down offers to host us.

It’s just the sweetest experience you can imagine. People everywhere opening their homes to us, inviting us in, cooking for us, setting aside special places in their homes for us to sleep ... we’ve slept on couches and floors (in Canada, Edwin slept on a “cooch” ... yes, it’s a canadian “couch”), in living rooms and master bedrooms, in parlors, hallways and tents; on bunk-beds (that’s still fun even at 36, until your bunkmate snores like an aging chihuahua); in trailers and RVs; I’ve personally slept on a kitchen floor and an oversize windowsill ... and once on a patio under the stars in Santa Barbara. It’s been remarkable.

... and YES, I long for an exquisite queen size bed to call my own. In a room of my own to take refuge in every night ... I haven’t had either for almost 2 years now. We each travel with our own pillows and good air mattresses ... but there’s just nothing like your own bed.

I know when HERE II HERE finally breaks through all this will change. We may still elect to stay at people’s homes at times, but it will be by choice and not because we can’t afford a hotel. But we could not have toured so extensively, bringing this music experience around the country for so long without the generosity of strangers everywhere consistently, courageously taking us in and making us comfortable, feeding us even.

In all that time touring, we have had to sleep in hotels maybe only 8 or 10 nights because we had nowhere else to go. We’ve been so remarkably blessed.

We've even showed up at our own concerts with nowhere to stay after the concert, and by the time the show is done the wondrous open hearts in our midst us are delighted to ensure we’re safely cared for.

People receive us so beautifully every time, even when they’ve never met us before we knock on their doors with pillows in hand. They prepare food. Sometimes they give us their own beds and sleep elsewhere. And then they return in the morning and make us breakfast. They often like to invite their closest friends and family to visit, deeply wanting to share the unique occasion with their own community.

We welcome it all. It’s such perfect evidence of the universe’s profound capacity and constant desire to support itself in joy, with love.

Of course, things are not always so easy or simple. There’ve been some awkward moments; one man seemed to think having a band in his home would be super cool, that we’d hang out and drink tequila and play music all day and entertain his kids. His face grew longer every day he saw most of us plugged into our laptops, working other aspects of the gig. Another community, bless their hearts and truly genuine intentions to house us, was evicted from their property 4 days after we arrived - we were to stay for 2 weeks. A few of the guys immediately sensed something “off” and so we politely, and quickly, left.

There’s also been the occasional “haunting”. Well, sort of ... Just recently two of the guys woke up in a rural home, having dreamt vividly haunting dreams about close loved ones dying. Both slept terribly that night. Once, one of the guys even felt some strange energy presence in his room crawl into bed next him. He still won’t say where it went from there ...

We’ve woken up unsuspecting at 7am to hammers and staple-guns tearing into rooftops directly overhead (Ash dreamt he was living in a tooth). We’ve experienced the weirdest shower moments ... because I couldn’t figure out one odd shower late at night after a long drive, I had to kneel down in the tub so that a strong, warm navel-high water stream would shoot out water at my forehead ... it felt like getting a golden shower from a smiling cherub fountain statue.

The stories are truly endless. We’ve stayed in private homes in Napa Valley, on a Washington State orchard, among the red rocks of Sedona, in the gorgeous, rustic, wine valley of Kelowna, BC, in a Park City ski-resort time share, in the mountains bordering sunny Santa Barbara, in the foothills of mystical Ojai, CA, on historic Queen Anne’s Hill in Seattle, and near waterfalls and vast lakes, right on the ocean and in the midst of dusty deserts and thick woods buzzing with nature’s delightful sounds.

Odd showers, weird dreams and crack-of-dawn construction aside, this aspect of touring has enabled us to forge memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s allowed us to see inside the homes and hearts of people of all kinds - even the odd ones - to know that the human heart consistently contains the sweetest longing to unconditionally love and care for another beating heart.

If we could afford to stay in hotels, we probably would. There is something to be said for silent rest and a consistent bed. Especially when so much of your energy is already spent interacting with the public, performing on stage and coordinating countless events ... not to mention we’re constantly around each other - 6 guys - for weeks on end, 24 hours a day.

When that time comes, we’ll surely embrace it. It will be indicative of greater success in sharing this music around the world. And, no doubt, surely the sweetness of open-heart, open-home community will find us in other ways.

For now, I’m simply grateful to be breathing cool, delicious country air outside this northern California town, on this cozy moon-lit farm with chickens and rastafarian-looking goats and late-night silence so complete I hear my ear-drums throbbing, with a belly sore from laughter and full of wine, dahl, and homemade peach cobbler ... in a tiny little cottage I would have never visited except we’ve got a concert not too far away and not enough money to pay for a hotel room.

It’s all so perfectly divine. We are so blessed. Thank you.

p.s. A few of my favorite videos we've done at hosts homes along the way ...

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