what can you tell me about the building and decoration of your house?
Our house has been an ad-hoc creation that seems to reflect the stages of my life to a T. It began with a small, one room cabin I built with my dad when I was sixteen. It was breezy and full of salvaged windows and sat on crooked stumps and piles of rock. I would go there to drink wine with friends and sleep with boyfriends and write poetry and smoke cigarettes by myself. It was perfection. At twenty-five my boyfriend (now husband Ty) and I were living in New York but wanted to have a place to return to for all seasons of the year, so we added on another small rectangle that was insulated. It was still funky--the electricity came from a two-hundred-foot extension cord that ran through the woods, the windows were old breezy single-panes, and there was no running water, just an outhouse and a stinky bucket under the sink. Also perfection! We spent a summers and a few winters there, then moved to Philadelphia. At twenty-nine we decided we wanted to have a baby and that we wanted to raise that baby in the woods on the land where i was born. So addition number three: this time with a septic system and real electricity and some double-pane windows. We just got a dishwasher, which makes our house verifiably bourgeois.
can you tell me about your writing and reading?Books. I love books, and read probably six in a month. I have an MFA in fiction writing and though I usually devour fiction, the last four months I've been after much more lyrical things, tied to what's real. My favorites right now are Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Gtting Lost, Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise, Terry Tempest Williams' When Women Were Birds, and poetry, which I've been reading a lot of: Gary Snyder and Sharon Olds and Mary Ruefle, at the moment, all of whom feel like old friends who crawl into bed with me when I curl up to read. My favorite poem right now is Olds' New Mother, which if you've ever given birth, (which I'm about to, for the second time), might mean something to you. "The first time you're broken, you don't know you'll be healed again, better than before."
how does music fit into your life? tell me about your relationship with your grandmother and her music. what music are you currently listening to?
Although I have many musician friends for whom music is the thing of their lives, it's not at all like that for me. In order to rid myself of the anxiety of wondering how I can make room for all my passions, I've starting thinking of my life as a quilt of sorts, which is, fittingly, a very feminine art form. Say, a log-cabin design, with repeated colors and patterns. Music is one of those patterns and colors in my life. Playing it around the house might be a deep gray color--I was raised in a family of folkies and so banjo and guitar around the wood stove feel like a cat purring on one's lap. Performing is the bright red one--the time when I get to don tight jeans and cowboy boots and eye-liner and leave my daughter with my parents and stand up under lights and feel radically young again. The rest of my life is quite earthy and domestic--a vegetable garden, mothering, cooking, writing from home during naps. For those reasons I desperately need those splashes of Red Heart Red.
My grandmother, Margaret MacArthur, lived in the farmhouse up the road from our cabin and made a career for herself as a touring folk-singer. She was also a mother of five who grew a huge vegetable garden, baked twenty loaves of whole-wheat bread a week, and filled her cellar with canned goods each summer. Her life was a rich, tangled, idiosyncratic blossoming quilt too, and for that I'll always be grateful to her for paving the way.
I'm currently listening to the music of friends, most of whom live in faraway cities. I miss them and being around communities of musicians, so I keep finding myself listening to their tunes: Birdie Busch, Sam Amidon, Jack Ohly, Soltero, Dr. Dog, The Buried Beds...I could go on.