This morning a storm cloud formed over my home and let out a thunderous crack, shaking the windows and dropping the last of this season’s avocados from the trees. San Diego gets plenty of overcast and seasonal drizzle, but seldom do we get thunder and lightning with huge downpours. The storm reminded me of my upbringing in Virginia. We’d get heated thunderstorms quite often; the kind that would lay large branches over power lines and rooftops; tempests. I recall them being quite violent, but I still miss them.
My arrival home last night was the finale to months of touring and the rain began to fall only minutes before pulling into the driveway. I considered the change in weather a request from the heavens; a trillion tiny droplets singing me to sleep. rest child. no need to wake up soon. dream new dreams. we’ll take care of you.
The last week of shows had been climactic, experiencing extraordinary highs and extreme lows within a few close breaths. There was no challenge I couldn’t overcome, but there were challenges nonetheless, largely having to do with strength to continue and finding ways to make our reoccurring show new again. At the end of the day I am so grateful to the audiences; those who make it easy for us to carry on. Your invitation and listenership practically pull the words from my lips, uplifting my spirit again and again, giving my life new direction, purpose, and reason to serve.
I dreamed last night of new songs to thunderous applause. I traveled farther than I’ve yet to and I felt myself taller and wiser; proof that we’ve still got a long way to grow.
I recently had the pleasure and privilege of doing yoga on a balcony overlooking the Columbia Gorge Canyon backstage at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington State. For those who’ve never been there, imagine a little slice of the grand canyon with a stage built on a high side looking down into it.
The view was stunning and vast. Not a building in sight. Nor a sound. Only the wind and my thoughts.
During yoga, I befriended a fly. The sweat of my body must have been an alluring scent and/or satisfyingly fresh taste for the insect and by mid session there were two, dancing thorax to thorax on my body no matter which way I twisted, tucked, or tensed up. I tried blowing them away and wiggling my body to shake them off, but their persistence was only making my experience worse. So I accepted them. Welcome flies. Do your dance. Eat me. Poop on me. Whatever. I support you. Literally.
And once I gave in. It was as if they were no more. It was as simple as that. We connected, the flies and I. We became one I suppose. And suddenly my yoga practice felt all the more graceful and purposeful, because…
I began to think of other small annoyances that could potentially slow me down or give me an experience of a bad day. Like a bad hair day for example. or a hang nail. or a crusty booger. or a sore ass. a cramp. carpal tunnel. a stubbed toe. a headache. a zit. an itch. a cold sore. an ingrown hair. a paper cut. an ear ache. a tooth ache. a bee sting. a jammed finger. whatever it is, and there’s always something, there’s no shortage of inconveniences to keep our sweet lives from being absolutely serene.
And similar to those physical challenges, untimely thoughts can also be a buzz kill. Things like: I’m not there yet. I’m not smart enough. I can’t afford that. I can’t risk that. I’m not that type of person. That’ll never work. That’s too scary. I have no talent. I’m too old.
Consider each of those thoughts are just annoying little flies buzzing around our brains trying to challenge our grace and composure and ability to endure. Pursue your dreams knowing those flies will always find you delicious, and say thank you before continuing on your way, following your bliss and doing your own yoga, dance, or daydream, whatever that may be. The fly’s the limit.
Every time I roll up my sleeves to work with the incredible volunteers at our tree planting events, I learn something new, and I’m not just talking about deep root fertilization or how Peggy’s nail guy is running for Mayor. I continue to learn things about myself. I’ve begun to notice the best show days are the days I push the wheelbarrow around, dig a few holes, and earn a manly blister or two. There’s a lot to be said about getting off the tour bus and into somebody’s back yard. It’s not just a reality check, it’s good for your health.
To sing and travel is to occupy the air.
Planting trees and servicing them is to be grounded.
I created our Tree Project because I wanted to add more oxygen to the earth. What I didn’t calculate was all the extra oxygen I’d be getting to the lungs and brain, contributing to a calm demeanor, a profound sensation of freshness in all things, and the experience of loving life more than ever; Which, has led me to my new motto…
Get Dizzy Living.
Here’s a picture of the amazing Christina Perri with my dorky self planting a white oak tree in Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway. We named the tree Judith and wished her a safe winter.
One of my foundation’s beneficiaries, SPARC (School Of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community) recently produced and directed LIVE ART, a 20-week educational program for students with and without special needs, culminating in a major public concert featuring children of all abilities and prominent Virginia musicians. I was an artistic adviser and appeared live with the ensemble at the final performance held in June, 2012 at Richmond’s beautiful Carpenter Theater.
Standing in the wings that evening awaiting my cues, I saw my life barely changed from when I was their age. It has always been my greatest joy to be onstage, in costume, a part of something bigger than I, for the simple act of entertaining, educating or inspiring others. I bowed to my inner child that night, for never growing up or burning out.
SPARC was my introduction to improvisation and performance 30 years ago. If I could credit a handful of people who turned on my light, I’d name them. LIVE ART carries the torch as an all-inclusive program, highlighting talent of every variety, giving many their first chance to shine onstage. Bravo to SPARC for continuing to transform lives, onstage and off.
Check out the Live Art Kickstarter Video and if inspired, send them your ray of sunshine to help reach their goal of releasing a documentary of the inaugural LIVE ART program. I feel the film will educate and enlighten other families and communities in creating projects of a similar compassionate nature.
I was in the 9th grade when he passed away. One of my fondest memories was trimming his beard with an electric razor as life after stroke made the ordinary chore somewhat challenging to perform on his own. His skin was loose yet firm, rough but fuzzy, and the popular razor I’d seen in television commercials ran over his stubble as swiftly as our lawn mower; which, uniformly, I took pride in operating. Cutting the grass is a Mraz’s inheritance, and my Dad, brother and I honored it, and still do.
I barbered my granddad in his favorite chair, poised in the corner of the living room where he could keep one foot propped up on the wood stove and the other out in front of the kitchen door where he could trip me up. He had a quiet sense of humor. We called him Papa Razz. He called me Dick.
He kept his eyes closed mostly, rolling his head up and back like a cat having his chin scratched, grinning as such. Infancy had become his body and mind and at 14 I was the adult. Or at least, I felt like I was, entrusted with the care of a well lived man who retained his 1930′s hairstyle and spectacles all the way into the 1990′s.
He created the name Frank D Fixer when a soda company appeared at the door of he and my grandma offering to hang an advertisement over his shop, built adjacent to their house. He didn’t over think it. His name is Frank. And he fixes things. Easy enough. The sign hung for decades, maybe even a full decade after his departure, and only came down when my grandmother’s roof was slain by a tree during a heavy summer storm. Residents of Hanover, Mechanicsville and Tappahannock referred to Papa’s sign as a landmark. In our rural Virginia town it was common to hear things like, “Go 2 miles past Frank D Fixer and turn left.”
With him I’d take out the dinner scraps and toss them into the compost pile and then stand back and watch him burn trash in a barrel. The years he spent welding in the dark shop was before my time and in my time I was too young to apprentice anyway. I preferred climbing trees, picking blackberries and racing go-karts. In the backyard he grew long rows of tomatoes, squash, melon and okra, which my grandmother boiled into something unrecognizable, which was most certainly my least favorite food of that era. Luckily my brother lost control of the go-kart one day and plowed over all the okra, cleaning the plates in advance for everyone.
Papa passed taking a nap in his favorite chair. The same chair I trimmed his beard days earlier. Just a gentle nod of the head into that sweet daytime catnap bliss he went. Lucky man.
Today I’m nearly half the age he was when his accomplished life came to a close. I’m cutting my teeth on a house and building a shop of my own, preparing to raise a family. My Dad, now retired, still cuts the family’s grass with glee. Being the son and grandson of those men has a lot to do with my success. Knowing how hard they worked for their families gives me the strength and encouragement I need to do the same. Plus, the kind of work they did is a constant reminder that the work I do is really play.
As for the the Fixer signs, they remain in storage until my sister and I find time to restore them and decide on new locations to hang them. I’d like to put one over the garage of the studio at the farm in San Diego, overlooking and inspiring the next few generations of Mraz’s that may come up there; Oh, the seeds we’ll sow, the lawns we mow and the okra we’ll grow.
…I will grow you a garden of Eden. And I will bless our family with the gifts my granddad handed me. How wonderful that will be.