“Cows On Pause”

As we were driving through the last of many cow pastures on our way into Missoula, I made an observation that I shared with Jared. Every time we passed a group of cows and we were going the speed limit (or more sometimes), it looked as though someone pushed the pause button and stopped all the cows dead in their tracks until we had passed by. I always looked intently to see the slightest tail swoosh, a forward leg movement, the side-to-side motion of a head, some grass chewing…anything. But, alas, it always seemed as though the contemplative beasts were just frozen in time. 

Now, perhaps this phenomenon was due to the speed at which we were traveling, versus the slowness at which they were moving. Or, maybe it was due to the fact that I was raised in Gary Larson’s “Far Side” generation, and my assumption that cows wait until people aren’t looking, to stand on their hind legs and carry on in human form, is so deeply implanted in my subconscious, that I just figured this is what was going on. Regardless of the truth, and the “why”, I can’t seem to unsee it now, and the concept of “Cows On Pause” was so present in my brain, that when I walked down the stairs into the art studio/creative space of our hostess for the evening’s house concert, you can imagine my surprise to se a big, bold, daringly yellow canvas, with a line of cows (on pause) at the top. I was so drawn to it, she must have sensed it in my body language and immediately felt the need to explain to me that is was incomplete and she didn’t know what she was going to do with it, etc.. I of course was compelled to share my recent musings on cow culture with her and she laughed out loud at the concept and asked if she could title the painting “Cows on Pause”. I 100% said yes, and hope she still wants to when the alcohol wears off. However, that story wasn’t even why I came here to talk, but I found it all ties in, as most things do. 

Because we were in the home of an artist, the concept of art was something I came back to over and over again while being in the space, surrounded by art. What WAS art? What does it DO to us? How did I FEEL about these pieces? Was Champagne Sunday just another piece of art? Maybe that’s what started my evening-long introspective inner monologue. 

The night didn’t really go like other house concerts we’ve done, or really what we expected. This was both challenging and enlightening. There weren’t very many places to sit, so people got their drinks and milled around and visited. I thought that when the music began, people would quiet down and listen a bit. They did not. They got louder and talked more. We were asked by the host to turn up. We saw this as a positive and of course we did. But, with the volume up, the voices went up as well. These people were having a wonderful time, chatting, laughing, occasionally dancing a bit and generally enjoying themselves. Why would we need anything more? 

Which got me thinking. Why would I not be satisfied? We were warm, happy, playing our original music for MONEY! Perhaps I was mildly triggered because it felt a bit like some of the bars we’ve tried so hard to pull away from. Places where people really do enjoy us, but we could never tell because they talked through the whole show or forgot to clap, or whatever. Kind of like an art gallery. The art hangs there, looked at, ignored, scrutinized, talked about, over and through. The viewers maybe are having a great time, but there’s no relationship between the art and the viewer. And, the artist rarely has to be privy to that. 

The artist gets to put their emotions into the inanimate objects like canvas, clay, paper, etc, and then steps aside, letting the critics say their thoughts, the eyes give their looks, or they walk past, totally disinterested. The artist “gets” to miss all of that because they have removed themself from the relationship. There is no need for a give-and-take. When I asked the audience enthusiastically 3 TIMES at the beginning of the 2nd set if they were having a good time and, not once, not twice, but all 3 times I was ignored, I envied the artist who gets to walk away from their art. They aren’t forced to feel the pang of rejection right in their face. To want so desperately to connect and feel there would be no difference if they were even there or not. 

Then, something happened. I felt something shift. I became overwhelmed with deep gratitude, absolute connection and purpose. Here’s why. 

It struck me as quite something that for all of the ignoring and judgements and ignorant comments we’ve experienced over the years, we’ve also been immeasurably fortunate to receive real emotions from strangers. We’ve seen tears rolling down people’s cheeks as they are forever changed by one of our songs. We’ve laughed so hard with audiences as we’ve recounted goofy stories and anecdotes about our life. We’ve held the hands of our audiences and looked deep into their souls and told them we loved them with each phrase. We’ve shared our deepest thoughts and confessions with other humans and listened as they shared theirs. We’ve learned about the delicate exchange between the audience and artist, and absolutely NONE of that could have happened if we’d just pushed play on our album and walked away. 

We are NOT just performing our art. We are LIVING art. The art of relationship, brought together through music. That means our “picture” is always changing, and we will never have the same experience twice…neither will an audience. Even if they see us over and over again. Just like the way we see art, except we GET to experience what our audience is feeling. Even if it’s not exactly what we expected or wanted. At least it’s honest and authentic. We’re all a living, breathing thing, creating life as we create art. We are not just “Cows on Pause”, just standing still as life passes us by on the highway. And that means taking all of it in. Not just the bits we want or sign up for. 

So, let’s push “play” on those cows and just see what happens!


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