On May 5, 2009, another fire broke out in Santa Barbara, California, my hometown. A fire eventually referred to as the Jesusita Fire (not sure why), and over that month it burned over 8,000 acres of prime Santa Barbara land and many homes. Yet this was only the third in a series of devastating fires in Santa Barbara, spanning only a few years, that totaled thousands of acres lost and hundreds of homes. But I think that last fire, Jesusita, really was the one that knocked the wind out of many of my neighbors, and did some serious damage to their dreams of utopia in California.My home, since 2005, has been right on the fire-line at the base of the foothills, and each time there has been a fire, I’ve been evacuated, and the flames have come within a block or two of my home. I am thankful that none of those fires took my home, although a few of my dear friends were not so lucky, including my ex-wife, Eva.

Last spring of 2010, I took a bicycle ride up through the hills above my house…the same ride I’d taken shortly after those infamous fires had burned down much of my beloved “back yard.”

Back in August 2010, the sight of the destruction was more than I could bear, and it felt like I was riding through a foreign war-torn, bombed-out landscape, that all was lost and would never be the same. I cried as I rode through the devastation. It felt like my life.

Now in early spring of 2011, I was delighted to see a few small sprigs of green reaching out from the trunks of blackened oak trees along the way, the heady scent of new sage and a few wild grasses just beginning to return, of the hopeful glint of wildflowers irrepressibly, naively forcing themselves back up through the ashes.

As I turned a corner towards a small grove of oaks, each with a dozen new shoots of green set off dramatically against their charred black trunks, I whispered to myself, “I guess it’s gonna take another spring,” recognizing not only how long it’s taken them to even begin to come back from such destruction, but also, paradoxically, how quickly and tenaciously life wants to rebuild, to send out it’s shoots of rebirth, of the promise of a coming spring. And I was immediately struck by an inner promise, of the awareness that my own personal spring was only one more season away. It was a message of hope for a heart still in repair, even after all these seasons.

All I can say is that over these past 6 years, I haven’t helped but wonder if I could ever love again, the way I’d loved Julia. This is “normal,” they tell me. To wonder if Love can come again, or if it’s all about settling now, of moving into the era of “companionship.” Or will Love somehow take on a new form, one I once again could only slightly imagine, still the hopeful dreamer. As we used to say, it will have to be a “color I’ve never seen before.”

To compare every small opening of my heart to the one I experienced 20-some years ago is a kind of inner emotional blackmail, and in order to escape that homemade tyranny requires me to believe, to know that I will love again in a way I have never experienced before.

All I know is that there’s a lot about Love I don’t know; a position dramatically different from the one I held 20 years ago, I must say. Perhaps this is “the wisdom of getting older”? (The wisdom I keep hearing about, but rarely see any proof of.)

All this is to lead up to telling you about a new song Gary, Georgia and I recently wrote for Blue Sky Riders. It’s so fun, challenging, and amazing to co-create with such gifted writers. All I had to do was tell them about that bicycle experience in the hills of SB, and that thought about “…another Spring,” and they were off and running. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep up, and I’m not used to that feeling yet. All my career I’ve been like, “Insta-melody-guy,” writing with some pretty damn talented collaborators, but this team is like some kind of game show on speed. “Lead or get out of the way,” I’m constantly saying to myself. In a loving way, ya know, babe. And I mean that. Really. But that “voice” is just wrong. There’s at least a third option.

To tell the truth, Gary and I have had a couple of “good talks” about that “run-away train” feeling already, and I’m very happy to say that he’s more than willing to discuss our new creative dynamic.

In Nashville, Gary Burr is “Mr.Tin Pan” when it comes to collaborating. He’s the “go-to guy” when the local writers need a push-start, a solid idea to build a hit on. He’s used to, as he put it, “taking the wheel of the bus and driving.” Nashville counts on him to be that guy, the bus driver.

“Gary…” I said, one night in a long-distance, telephone soul-session, “This time, even though it looks like it’s more your bus than ever, it’s not your bus! The goal here is to bring out the best in each other. My job is to make you and Georgia look brilliant, and your goal is to do the same for us. It is a trap to think this will in some way become your vehicle to show the world what a genius you are. It’s a paradox! As we help each other grow and glow, we help each of our own individual strengths become apparent. Being unselfish is the best road to being appreciated as the brilliant artist you are. The goal of a real trio is to be much more together than any one of us can be alone.” (See? Some experience in this “band thing” has proven useful, eh?)

Truth be told, at the time his “bus-driving” came into question, Gary was recovering from knee surgery, and the combination of pain and Percocet was taking a toll on his patience, but amazingly NOT on his creativity. Even in intense pain and under the influence of what should have been a “depressant’, he is still one of the most fertile, brilliant writers I’ve ever met. Honestly … it’s kinda intimidating.

And my pattern, in the face of a raging bus driver, HAS been, in the past, to back away, to go play alone in my own sand box. Thus my 30 year solo career. That’s some sand box. And I must say, it’s been exhilarating to be my own boss, make or break it on the whims of my own muse.

So why the sudden change in direction? To quote my manager, “Kenny, most people leave bands to go solo!” Well, I don’t honestly know, but I’d guess it has something to do with the last 6 years of my life and the oppressive “alone-ness.” Perhaps it’s just the desire for creative collaboration again, to hear the kind of harmonies sung that can only come from finely-tuned “instruments,” the camaraderie of a team caught up in the frenzy of a game well played, and of course the ultimate goal of having someone else to blame for whatever goes wrong. 🙂

But…this time I don’t get to run away. As the song says, “I’m Finally Home,” and my goal here is to come to terms, at long last, with my dread of head-on “confrontation.” To speak up when something doesn’t feel right. To no longer just tuck it inside ‘til it eats me alive, or run as far away as quickly as humanly possible, blaming everyone but myself for what isn’t being said.

Some part of me chose a trio to finally work out the kinks that probably get in the way of all relationships I’m in. I must be ready, or I wouldn’t have dreamed it into being. Once again, I’m demanding that I “show up.” We’ll see how that goes, eh?