“Heart on the run/keeps a hand on the gun/You can’t trust anyone.” – Jason Isbell

Where do we go when we need support and love as our hearts collapse and we can’t lift ourselves up alone? The faithful go to church, the introvert turns to a book, the songwriters craft soul-wrenching tunes that, when they connect to yours, can trigger a vibrato in your chest cavity, making it difficult to breathe. Many of us turn to family, where through the bonds of blood we can find unconditional love.  

But what about for the rest of us? For those whom there is no family nearby, no church with which they identify, those of us who can’t focus on getting lost in a book right now, who cannot pick up a guitar and place pen to paper to create eloquent translations of our emotions? For those of us left, we have the last bastion of unselfish love…..our friends. Most of us have such friends that we lean on in a way that tests the very fortitude they possess.

“I must have lost my way chasing a dream/It’s true I done things that I’m ashamed of/ But I still need tenderness and the warmth of love” – The Gourds

For me, it’s the latter, if only because my family is scattered far and wide, and my boys aren’t supposed to fulfill the roll of pillars on which their father can lean constantly. I am so grateful for so many of those friends, those who have watched this process and journey and still find themselves offering a loving shoulder and ear. Passionate people feel everything so passionately, and as thus, we can make you laugh deeply, we love deeply, we think beyond the shallow and feel every. single.goddamn.emotion so deeply that when we hurt, it makes every other emotion pale in comparison. And our pain scars us to the very core beyond the physical. Holy shit, it hurts. And it doesn’t go away.

“It’s true I am guilty, my reputation is stained/
I stood up and admitted my grief and my shame/
But I believe that a soul can right its wrongs/
and in the sweet ascension of a redemption song” – The Gourds

This is what crossed my mind, standing on the snow covered slope of a local golf course while the boys went sledding with neighbors, and I stood in silence, thinking back across adventures from another lifetime. I was reminded of the solitary outpost of Prudhoe Bay Alaska, working on the North Slope, where in the bitter cold and blinding sun, your mind was free from any physical distractions as you just focused on shivering survival on an oil rig. The icy wind was slapping me with a harshness as I watched the joy on my boys’ faces running up and down hills; they, oblivious to the raging debate going on between my mind and my heart, the dialogue playing out silently in the quiet shadows of a long afternoon on a snowy 5th hole.

“Sin it seems to win 10 times out of 9/
Forgiveness is not so deliberate/
and it takes and awful long time” – The Gourds

We all have our own churches with their own altars and gathering places. Mine? Is right here in the picture with this essay. It is the dining room table of two very close friends, close enough to call family. It is here, across countless cups of coffee and drinks stronger, that souls have been poured out in a bare and raw way, tears shed and consolation offered selflessly. It’s where forgiveness of self begins. Many people, from my bagpiping brothers to the Outlaw Trucker to old friends across the country have offered similar places in their homes and hearts, as I seek the comfort of connection while growing as a friend, father and someone totally renovating his soul and outlook on everything. Growing pains are much more intense as we age, and the compassion we extend to others is so much harder to extend to ourselves.

“Maybe the punishment don’t fit the crime/
But judgement will come with the passing of time/
But I believe that a soul can right its wrongs/
and in the sweet ascension of a redemption song” – The Gourds

I hope all of you friends realize how grateful I am that you are in my life. Grateful for a dining room table to not only eat soul-comforting homemade cooking, but to nourish the very soul itself. No matter that we’re all poor without the cliched pot; to know that across a lonely, snowy expanse are the homes of people who will open their doors and hearts, let you in and love you for who you are, without condition…this is beyond any price. How fortunate to live in this world of friendship and caring. I can only hope that each of them knows that my heart, my table, my ears, my home are open to them, no burden of theirs need be shouldered alone. That is who we are, this family of wandering souls, passionate people, flawed and beautiful to the core all at once.


Watch ’em here:

“Cover Me Up” by Jason Isbell

“The Eyes Of A Child” by The Gourds