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An Epistle from The Road

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**A couple weeks ago I was asked to write a little note about my time on the road with Stephen Jenkinson.  We were in Austin, it was hot, and I was having trouble describing the half dozen nights we had done. Here’s what I came up with.  Is it unbecoming that I quote my own lyrics?  We continued on through Oregon and Washington State and finish up Halloween night in Duncan, BC.  It has been an honour.

Beneath the Truth
Lie the bones
Of a Truth
More complete
And I’ll bet everything I own
It’s a Truth that’s bittersweet.

Tonight I will walk on to a stage with a remarkable man in a theater built in Austin, TX, in 1871. It will be the sixth time I​’​ve done so on this tour, and the first time I’ve ever strapped on a guitar in Austin. After the whistles and clapping die down, he will start talking, and I will wait.

I will make a few tentative sounds,
my fingers trying to find the spaces between his words.  My listening will turn into the kind that forgets the moment that has come before and is unaware of the one coming next.  And I have a suspicion that this is the way it is f​or many in the audience, too.

At some point he will make room for me to sing and I will try to remember to sing softly so as not to break the spell cast on the room.  It has taken me a while to understand that long, liquid, and legato notes are the order of the evening. Time will dance on through the night, or, in this case, will move properly and headlong toward the past.

The end will come, long book signing lines will dwindle, and we will ask each other in a stolen moment, “Well…how’d we do, Boss?”

You’d have to ask Stephen himself what these night “are” to him. To me, they are art and subversive acts of the highest order. Sometimes it is the building itself that is subverted: a recital hall, a stately ballroom, a modern concert hall, a conference room in a State Capital building, a bookstore, this opera house come Masonic ​temple…but mostly it is the thing that passes for Culture on this continent that is subverted, and most of what stands for Counter Culture, too.

It is not the kind of art designed to distract or entertain, nor is it the kind that takes some kind of severe gymnastics of the mind and heart to trust. It is the kind found on cave walls that simply and skillfully tell the story of the day with all of its’ sorrows, horrors, and chall​e​​n​ges along with its’ tenderness, victories, and graces. Over the course of the evenings, the pendulum swings a wide arc…sometimes unbearably so…and standing firmly at the center is Stephen​ Jenkinson​, more with the people than separate from them, w​h​ether they want him there or not. And given our proclivity to throw heroes up the pop charts and teachers onto crosses, the resistance to simply seeing him as a man of hard won truths and a gift for singing them is sometimes shocking.

From up where I’m standing on stage…slightly up stage left in a muted pool of light…there is only one way to measure the evening:

Was every moment,
Every vein opened,
Every chest cracked
Every word spoken,
Every note struck,
Every clunker hit,
Every word sung,
Every story told
True?

To a point, the answer is…and has to be…and IS,

Yes.

So here’s to the highs
And here’s to the lows
The human heart endures
And so it goes…
The bittersweet highs and lows.

​Gregory Hoskins​
Oct​ober​ 16, 2015
Austin, Texas

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