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  • Writer's pictureThe Rough & Tumble

Better Luck Next Year.

As of yesterday, we've officially cancelled our trip to Alaska.

Better luck and better health next year.

While the length of the lockdown is still uncertain, our loss of shows on the way up and back (and several there) makes it financially impossible-- and from what we gather, much of Alaska isn't planning on opening up this season, either. So, the dream is shelved.

We were surprised to find that our original dream, however, has been restored.

We get asked a lot-- really, a lot-- about when we are going to stop this haggard, road-living, gig-to-gig lifestyle, and where we are going to land. We've considered somewhere in almost every state. Except that one. You know which one. But the reality was, we weren't ready. And every time the subject was broached, a fight would break out. And not a fight about whether it'll be South Dakota or Vermont, Pennsylvania or New Mexico, but a fight about being there and being here.

Scott is often there. And while I like the idea of there, there keeps me discontent with here. We were on our way to our first house show in Hutchinson, Kansas three years ago when a particularly savage tug-of-war about when-and-where-and-how popped up. Scott insisted on his right to brainstorm. I insisted on the right to remain present. And then, we cut a deal.

"No further discussion until Alaska," I said.

Scott thought about it. Alaska was a bit of a sore spot, anyway. We'd tried a foolhardy plan to get there our first year in the camper on my insistence, but family obligations and our know-nothingness got in the way. At the beginning of our every booking year since, we place Alaska on the table, and watch it get swiftly taken away by the festival on the East Coast or the show we'd been dying to get into down in Texas. Making a contingent plan of getting off the road with our plan to get to Alaska seemed more than fair.

Scott agreed.

So for three years, we've been blissfully present, savoring our Michigan summers and our Florida Januaries, our South Dakota skies and our Kansas plains. When Alaska was officially placed on the calendar for 2020, a time magnet seemed to start pulling us there again. We talked gardens and front porches, local breweries and yoga studios. And when the talk got too far and the Where Question came up, we checked ourselves.

"Not until Alaska," Scott would say.

"Not until Alaska," I'd repeat.

All of this time being still, it's starting to get to us. We've both had dreams about playing shows again. We've both had nightmares about not playing shows again. And while a drive through town and a livecast can sometimes take the edge off, we are becoming desperately homesick. It turns out, home is still here but also on the road. I don't want to wrap it all up and say that this unexpected turn of events has us more grateful for what we had than before or anything that makes me want to barf and can also be found in a Hallmark card... but this unexpected turn of events has us more grateful for what we had than before.

We are living the there right now. We take the same walk every day. We cook new and interesting and sometimes elaborate things every day that we couldn't manage with a two-burner stovetop. Scott's making some kind of weird yard wine from the oranges and dandelions. We sit on the front porch, and our mundane talking points are no longer directions or load-in times. We follow every creative impulse and have stacks of homemade things... and no one to sell them to. We got all we thought we wanted in the future. Except for all that we had.

When the first Alaska cancellation came in, I played it cool. Then, I grieved. For almost two days I moped around, trying to see the silver lining and angry when I did. So then I went back to grieving. I'm learning that no matter how small the loss, it is important to grieve it, or it gets tangled up in the angry emotions-- and once that avalanche pulls through, it's hard to stop. The grief, as it usually does, ran its course.

I still felt a pang of it when Scott hit the cancel button on each of the shows. Or last week, when he sent out the emails to the venues that I didn't have the heart to send.

Scott was making his second batch of kimchi and processing his second round of kombucha late last week. I reckon that's how I count the time passing, now. Not by States we've been through, but by how our cabbage is rotting. We took a drive to town to check the PO Box in hopes of contact from anyone at all, and drove back again.

"Do you think you'd ever live here again?" I asked him.

"No," he said, "but actually, we can't talk about that until Alaska."

The realization set on me.

"Until Alaska, Scott!"

"Until Alaska, Mal."

Sweet mother of dreams, what a gift we've been given and all that other hokey business, living out our future stillness, getting a taste of it, while the life we've wanted-- the one we've worked for and love and aren't ready to give up-- is still waiting. Like a re-gift at Christmas, but the re-gift is actually a bottle of whiskey that you drank and wanted back and that's been refilled by some magic and GIVEN BACK TO YOU. I'm still working on my metaphors.

The road weariness has been replaced by road eagerness, and the deadline-- even if self appointed-- has been moved. We've got at least another year on the road. Plus whatever time it takes us when we start talking about there to figure it out. But then again, it might take two trips to Alaska to figure that one out. For right now, it's great to be here.


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