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Where Is Home?

This is my third day back in Sonoma County, California, the place I used to call home. It’s odd. Everything is completely familiar. Hwy 101 is still a mess. The landscape is still beautiful and lush. I know exactly where I’m going when I drive from Santa Rosa to San Francisco, which turn to take, which streets to avoid. And yet, everything is different. I’m different.

As I was driving from the Oakland Airport to Santa Rosa in my rental car, a little Toyota something-rather, I wondered, how would it feel to drive PAST the exit to Sebastopol, the exit I always took to go home, and instead drive to my friend Julee’s house where I’m staying this trip? How would it feel to spend the day rehearsing with my favorite, beloved piano man, John Simon, whom I’ve missed so much? And then go to Christy’s, which used to be Upper Fourth, the place I performed every month for over a year? How would it be to see my old friends Susan and Sandy? And have breakfast with my now ex-husband?

My main reason for taking this trip was Linda Kosut’s invitation to perform at the Rrazz Room, San Francisco’s last cabaret room of any consequence. I had to say yes. When would I ever get a chance to perform there? Never. And it would be a chance to perform with my favorite musicians, John Simon, Tom Shader, Tony Malfatti, and Alan Hall, a drummer I don’t know but is supposed to be fabulous.

And I AM excited about the show. It’s going to be a blast, I know it. It’ s tomorrow night, Monday, June 14, a date that got here a hell of a lot faster than it should have.

It’s been a whirlwind trip. Yesterday, I taught a 5-hour workshop in San Francisco on how musicians can use the tools and tactics of Internet marketing and social media strategy to attract new fans, put butts in seats and sell more music. It was called, “Excuse Me! Your Audience is Waiting!” 18 people came, and it was a big success. People got a lot out of it, and so did I. I love teaching. I’ve missed it.

But afterwards, I felt so tired. My throat was sore from talking endlessly, and I felt I could be getting a little sick. And I was. Sick at heart.

There is something so lonely about coming back to a place that used to be home but isn’t anymore. To see friends who have become distant since I left. To sit here, in my friend Julee’s house, a house where we used to have laughter-filled dinner parties with Dee and Harry and Rhoann and Stefan, Deborah and Tim, people who have all disappeared from my life since I left.

This morning, I took a walk in the cemetery behind Julee’s house, and I found the grave of my great, great grandfather and mother. Colonel James Hardin and his wife, Nannie. I knew that they had lived here in Santa Rosa, that my grandmother was born here, but I wasn’t sure if they were buried here. I found their tomb by accident. Even my ancestral roots are here, but it’s still not home.

There are moments in my life when everything feels heavy and overwhelming, or so stormy and fraught that I can’t find my way. In those moments, I find myself praying, internally and sometimes out loud, “I want to go home. I want to go home,” as if I’m pleading with God to take me up and out of here and return me to the place I belong.

And while I know this home I crave is not a “place,” I am still filled with the sense that I’m a stranger in a strange land, doing my best to make my way, until the forces that left me here remember to come and take me home.

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