We are born into wanting. The breast, the cuddle, the warm and dry and safe. As we grow up, and older, the wants multiply and become confusing. "Give me what I want!" morphs into "what do I really want? what should I want? what do I think I can get?"
The answers are elusive; even when captured, they change.
Grow up and old enough, though, and things start to simplify again. Some desires go away because they are no longer possible. I will never write the great American novel before I am twenty, for instance. I will not have the children I dreamed.
Other wishes withdraw because one has had a taste of them, and it was enough. Working in a stable caring for 22 horses taught me that I didn't really want the 250 horses I wished for as a child. Traveling with a band all the time suggested to me that I might not want to travel with a band all the time.
I'm a Capricorn, and we can be both socially conscious – a fine attribute - and socially self-conscious, which is not fine at all. Some of us tend to ignore our magnetic-north certainty, and to follow other people's directions instead. I have taken a lot of advice in my career, and striven to do what it seemed other experienced folks felt was the right thing for me to do: go here, do that, climb this mountain, not the other one, sing this genre above all others, all good, sensible things. It is taking me a very long time to recover from all that advice.
I sang my first unaccompanied vocal program in 1993. It was the first time I set foot onstage unplugged and unframed, the second state far more important than the first. Unplugged's easy, at least in my family. Open your mouth, and sing. But unframed? No one else up there shaping the onstage me? No arrangements, no staging? Nothing but made-up songs, some poems, and a story or two? I was advised that it would be too weird. When I was about to record Feather and Bone, I was told I wasn't ready, that I needed to plan out the music more. And, of course, I was foolish to move to the Adirondacks, mad to stay there so long, and first wasting my time by going back to college, and then nuts to leave graduate school. All true. But not the only true, as it turned out, and each of those things worked out beyond my imaginings. Though I will admit that it was a little… hmmm… curious to live in a tent for six months in the Adirondacks; still, even that was a priceless learning experience.
To the extent that I know who I am, I know it because of the stories my experiences have given me. Opposable thumbs are nice, but stories are better. So it should be no surprise that, when wondering what to take should I ever have to evacuate, the answer came quickly. Mrs. Peel, of course, above all else (though she is not a what but a who). And after her, if there's time? My Bible, my Riverside Shakespeare, my tarot deck, and my charm bracelet. What are they? Stories. Collections of stories. Which, among other things, is what we all are.
What do I want? A really good story, someone to share it with (a cat, for instance), and unending curiosity about the next chapter.
(The art above is by Mary Engelbreit, whose paintings and sense of humor have delighted me for years. You can see – and buy – more of her work at www.maryengelbreit.com)