Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: Intention

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

Intentions

Moorer: What is it to have intentions? The happiest people I know are the ones who do one thing at a time, and when they’re doing that thing, they’re completely doing it. They’re not distracted by their phone, email, texting, the television, social media or whatever it is among those types of things that keep us all so harried and ultimately diverted, and being absent-mindedly blown through our lives.

I think of it as not sleepwalking. Deciding who you are and what you want and living accordingly. Never “kind of” doing anything. Deleting the word “whatever” from your vocabulary.

I think of it as putting thought into everything, from the coffee cup you drink from in the morning, to the shoes you put on your feet, to really, truly listening to your best friend when she talks about her day. I think of it as taking time to pay attention to the world in a real, non-virtual way, to engage, to appreciate or not, and knowing why. I think of it as tuning in to the minutes and being as present as possible in every action. No going through the motions. Sounds tiring, doesn’t it? But anything else is to live without passion. Think about how tired we are living the other way. And most of us, including me, are exhausted from the constant multi-tasking.

I have a friend whose father told her “life is minutes.” It certainly is. I don’t want to waste any more of mine.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: My Sewing Circle

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

Sewing

Moorer: We call it the Stitch-and-Bitch. We do stitch, we might even bitch a little bit, but that’s kept to a minimum. Mostly we are thankful to have a few hours a month to spend together at our unofficial clubhouse, otherwise known as Lisa’s house. Initially brought together by our mutual love of Natalie Chanin’s totally handmade and organic clothing line Alabama Chanin, we mostly work on her company’s incredible DIY kits. But we branch out from time to time. We embroider, we knit, we do whatever we please. But essentially, we are a circle of six women, ultimately all artists in however many different ways, who come together in the name of making, in the name of sisterhood, in the name of taking a deep breath and sitting down together. Knowing these women and creating with them is one of the sweetest parts of my life.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” By Mason Currey

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

MasonCurrey

Moorer: My friend Rose turned me on to this wonderful book, which is one that contains more than 150 entries on the rituals of artists of all sorts: writers, painters, musicians, playwrights, composers, sculptors, etc. I have often thought that if I wasn’t organized then I couldn’t get anything done, and that thought, at least for me, is right. Some artists operate more like mad geniuses, with their things flung everywhere and jumping from this to that, but I cannot concentrate without a somewhat clear space and more importantly, a plan. I need to do one thing at the time, and make room for those things in my day, lest I start to feel scattered, distracted and, ultimately, taken off task.

I’m glad to have found out that I am not alone in my quest for an orderly way of going about living a creative life. This delightful book reveals habits and idiosyncrasies that make perfect sense to me.

Some people create in the morning, some in the afternoon, some at night, but it seems that all the artists profiled here had or have a set routine filled with work, things that make them comfortable, a distraction or two to set the mind free and set the stage for more creativity (sometimes drugs or alcohol) and a lot of walks. What was most interesting to me were the women profiled who had or have children, of course. Sylvia Plath said, when struggling to stick to a writing schedule, “From now on: see if this is possible: set alarm for 7:30 and get up then, tired or not. Rip through breakfast and housecleaning (bed and dishes, mopping or whatever) by 8:30 … Be writing before 9 (nine) that takes the curse off it.”

That takes the curse off it. That’s a whole other thing to consider, isn’t it?

My own rituals vary, because I do so many different types of things. But I do have them, some secret, some not so. I long for them and the comfort and organization they bring to my days and my life.

Thank you, Mr. Currey, for this very pleasing collection. I do wonder what your rituals are. Unless I missed it, you did not include yourself in your book.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: “Cover Me Up” By Jason Isbell

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

JasonIsbell

Moorer: The first time I heard “Cover Me Up,” I was in my car, headed to my publisher’s office in Nashville. I pulled out of what was then my driveway, having just put the freshly mastered disc that held Southeastern, into the player. “Cover Me up” is the very first song. I suspected, when I heard the lone acoustic guitar that starts the record, that he’d probably made a piece of business, that he wasn’t hedging by starting with an obligatory rocker and was about to tell me something important. It felt like he was staring something down.

I was struck by the first verse and the idea of a heart of the run keeping a hand on the gun. That’s a concept I fully understand and it made me emotionally square up with myself and want to turn the record off. He clearly had my number, and I wasn’t ready to hear it. But Jason is a friend and I was interested, so I let it play, and my guard came down after just three more lines. “Girl, leave your boots by the bed/We ain’t leaving this room.” Not only was Jason doing the best singing I’d ever heard him do, and I’ve heard him do some really good singing over the years, he was laying it all out there in a way that few people have the courage to do. When I heard him set into that first chorus, I didn’t drive off the road; I didn’t call anyone to tell them about it; I just let the tears roll down my face. He’d ripped my heart out in one minute and five seconds.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, “A great singer is he who sings our silences.” A great love song has to do the same thing. It has to be desperate. It has to feel a little bit like a tightrope walk, a little bit like it might just go crazy without letting you know exactly why. It has to have an x-factor. Yes, “Cover Me Up” is a gorgeous, edgy lyric and Jason laid down a bad-ass, naked vocal on it. That cannot be argued. But its x-factor is its laid-bare heart, its elements of despair, impatience and downright raw romanticism, and then ultimately its willingness to let the listener in on those things. It’s those things that few can dig for, find and then hold up for all of the world to see. And in my opinion, it’s those things within this song; this moment, if you will, that made Jason Isbell a star.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: Meditation

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

Meditation

Moorer: I’ve taken workshops on it. I read about it. I sometimes even try desperately to attempt it. But I am not a very successful meditation student. I’ve tried it everywhere, from the little spot in my bedroom that I designated for it, where hangs a mandala and a string of prayer beads, to the back of a taxi where I focused on a brilliant blue square on the screen in front of my face that I could not get to power off, to the downtown C train when I needed to not be there. The great thing about meditation, they say, is that you can, and should, do it anywhere. I’ve paid attention to my breath. I’ve set an intention. I’ve turned off every device near me (or tried to, such as in the taxi). And I’m a pretty focused person most of the time, but I have trouble just “acknowledging” my thoughts. I’m supposed to let them come in and let them go out without judging them, without worrying about them, without hanging on to them in any way. But what if my thoughts include “What if I die before my son can take care of himself?” Oh. Okay. Let that go, because chances are you won’t die in the next 13 years. “Well, what about after that?” Oh. OK. No one knows how their children will turn out, Allison, not just you. “Yes, but what if I get hit by a car, go down in a plane crash or get cancer? What about that?” Oh. OK. Let that go because you’ll manifest that bad energy into something like that actually happening. Right. Because all of the things that have happened in my life I’ve actually manifested. Oh. OK.

See? That’s how it goes.

I’m still trying, though. It works. I’ve gotten there. I’ve achieved clarity if for only a few minutes. I’ve answered questions for myself. I’ve made changes because I tuned in for one-sixth of an hour. And when I’m able to do that letting go I’m always hearing about? I feel good. I feel great. I feel calm. I feel like I can take on the world. It’s real. It feels like praying, but to myself. So I keep trying.

I don’t guess it’s called a practice for nothing.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: The Rothko Chapel

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

Rothko

Moorer: Dominique and John de Menil commissioned abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko to create a suite of 14 canvases to hang in this specifically designed octagonal space, which is quietly situated within Houston’s museum district. It opened to the public in 1971, one year after Rothko’s death, to serve as a sanctuary and to neutrally bring together people of all faiths, to promote dialogue, human rights and social justice. The Rothko Chapel is one of the most peaceful places I have ever set foot in. The canvases may look like some sort of nothing, just almost blackness, if you don’t sit down, take time and take them in. I visited on an overcast day, but as I sat in the middle of this breathtakingly quiet and open space, the sun shone through the skylights and revealed to me five dead faces in the piece hanging in the middle of the three you see as you walk in. I then turned around and studied, for a minute, the ones directly behind me. I saw a spiritual journey, I saw the cycle of life, I saw anguish, questions, courage, a triptych about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and then calm. More importantly, I felt and thought about all of those things. I can’t tell you what art is. But I know it when I see it.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: Flannery O’Connor

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

OConnor

Moorer: I picked up my first O’Connor collection, The Complete Stories, about a month after I graduated college. I was in a bookstore in Franklin, Tenn., and was searching for something, anything, to make the pieces come together. I had just turned 21 years old, and didn’t know where I was going or even what did and didn’t make sense to me, I just knew I needed to try figure it out.

Despite getting a fairly decent liberal arts education at a state school in Mobile, Ala., I had not yet been exposed to enough great literature, and was determined to change that. Upon reading A Good Man Is Hard To Find, I knew that I might have found something to help me on my way. But it was more than that. I recognized the subfuscous nature of her stories. I felt comfortable within the words she used and the environments she created for her damaged characters to live in. They felt like the ones I’d come from, dusky, mysterious, and at least a little bit creepy. Southern Gothic at its best, they say. But I won’t pigeonhole her. All I know is that her words make me feel at home, and I don’t think that has much to do with geography.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: Living With Autism

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

Autism

Moorer: I knew when John Henry was about 17 months old that something had happened to him, that something was wrong. His Daddy and I had him on the road with us, so we spent most of our time in a tour bus, traveling all over North America. We were in Canada one Sunday afternoon in the late summer of 2011 with a rare day off, and John Henry and I were hanging out in the bus. I was watching 60 Minutes on television and there was a piece on about a teenaged choir from Harlem. They let loose on “Amazing Grace,” and I let loose with them, as one does. I was holding John Henry. When I got to “that saved a wretch like me,” he pushed away from me with his little hands and cried the most pitiful, emotional cry. This was not physical pain, this was a reaction to, I think, what he thought was my pain. It was too much for him to process. He was overloaded. I stopped singing and held him close.

His use of words had also begun to dwindle. The following day I said to Emily, his Nanny, that “he wasn’t using his words as much, was he?” She replied, “No, he’s not,” and gave me a look of concern before she quickly turned hey eyes away from me.

I took him outside to a park and tried to get him to point to different objects. He wasn’t really interested. I was in a panic. I took him inside to the dressing room and gave him some roasted turkey to eat. I then taught him how to say the word. He called it “key.” My panic was relieved for at least that day. He had learned and begun to use a new word, so everything must be all right, right?

But he wasn’t the same as he had been. He didn’t make eye contact a lot of the time, and this was a child who had smiled and waved in his first photograph with Santa Claus just over a half-year before. He had never met a stranger. But now he didn’t care about playing with his toys other than to manipulate them in a very non-traditional way and put them in a pile behind him when he was sitting on the floor. He was withdrawing. I felt like we were losing him. I called everyone I knew that might have some advice.

His pediatrician told me not to worry. That often when boys, especially boys, are progressing so fast physically that they put communication on the back burner. So I waited, meanwhile checking and re-checking the warning sings for the dreaded A-word every day. I said to Steve one morning at the kitchen table that I thought John Henry might be autistic. It was a hard word to let come out of my mouth. But I knew I had to let it loose, I had to say it in order to accept it in order to do for my child what he needed.

There were more tour dates on the calendar. We were going to Europe for six weeks. John Henry never withdrew physically; he never resisted hugs or cuddling, and was in fact very connected in that way, which gave me hope. But he was only sporadically saying his favorite words when I’d hold up a flashcard of an object by that time when he’d been consistently doing it before. He continued to say “Mama,” but only every now and then and it seemed like almost an involuntary response, like a reflex.

When we returned from the last of that year’s tour we found a speech therapist and also an occupational one. They both saw him at least once a week.

John Henry was formally diagnosed in March of 2012 just weeks before his second birthday. He was completely non-verbal by then, except for the odd pop out of a word here and there which no one could predict or figure out what the cause of was.

We immediately began doing all the things we were supposed to do that we had not already started. A special school, sessions at home after school, and everything else we could think of.

No one knows what causes autism. There are the so-called experts and certainly the snake-oil salesmen that will tell you that they know, but if they knew, we’d be closer to a cure.

We’ve tried special diets, we’ve tried supplements, we’ve tried detoxification, all resulting in little to no results and ultimately creating an atmosphere of stress and strict regimented-ness for John Henry. What works the best that I can tell, and even it is a constant roller coaster, is attention, engagement and connecting, in whatever way is possible, with him. And keeping a very, very close eye on the ball.

John Henry is still very much all there in a very real way. He is not disconnected, as some say people with autism are. He becomes more himself, with an extremely funny personality, I might add, every day. He is a bright, sweet and beautiful boy. And no matter what got tangled up inside him, he will be loved every minute, and shepherded through this world to the best of his Daddy’s abilities and mine. He’s also got a whole slew of other angels looking out for him, to which I am forever grateful.

I don’t know how things will turn out. But in the meantime, I will try my best to embrace what is different about him, despite the fact that he can’t tell me with words when and how he hurts, when something is wrong or even what he would like to eat. I’ll keep guessing. That’s my job.

And just so you know, he loves it when I sing to him now.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: Shelby Lynne

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

ShelbyLynne

Moorer: My sister, my memory, my musical home, part of my heart, Shelby is a true original of a human being. She was born to suit herself, as she says. She is also one of the best singers on the planet. If you haven’t heard her, or only kind of know her, do yourself a favor and right that as soon as you can. I said to someone once that she sings like she’s been doing it by herself in a cave somewhere all of her life—no pretense, no service of anything but the song and what she feels. She somehow makes what she feels what you feel, too, even if you didn’t know you felt it before she let you in on it. That’s what an artist does. They show you. And to have that ability is a gift beyond my limited powers of explanation.

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From The Desk Of Allison Moorer: Lists And Notebooks

When she was younger, Allison Moorer used to believe that she wanted an intellectual existence, a life of the mind. But now, at 42, she sighs, “What I’ve realized that I have is a life of the hands—I’m always just making something, or I’m writing or drawing something, because it makes me feel connected; it makes me feel real. It’s the same way with music—I just want to make it.” Hence, her latest ambitious set, Down To Believing, which documents her recent split from her husband, Steve Earle, and even the motherly guilt she felt when their son John Henry, now four, was diagnosed with autism two years ago. Moorer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

Notebook

Moorer: I am a compulsive list maker. I get it from my mama. She would, periodically, write out rules and regulations for my sister and me on yellow legal pad paper in her incredibly neat hand, and would also make lists of goals and things to do and keep them with her in her purse or in the file folders she sometimes toted around. I’ve been making lists since I was in high school. I make daily lists of things to do, lists for the week that I cull from for my daily lists, long-term goal lists, things-I-need-to-get-done-that-I-don’t-know-when-I’ll-get-to lists, ongoing-projects lists, song-idea lists, things-to-make lists, the list of lists goes on and on. I keep them all in whatever notebook I’ve decided will be the perfect organizational tool and will therefore fix my life, and refer to it constantly throughout my day.

I am also a compulsive notebook buyer. I have a soft spot for paper in general, but a neatly bound book of it, unmarred and perfect, attracts me like almost no other tangible thing. My main notebook where I keep my lists, is a Moleskine Professional Notebook (whatever that means), but I also have a Tibetan-made one I found at the Rubin Museum on 17th Street that I write haiku poems in when I’m inspired to do so, a slim little orange one decorated with cherubs that I bought in Paris on a 40th birthday celebration trip with my best friend that I keep my philosophy and Buddhist study notes in, a huge black sort of generic spiral-bound sketchbook where I paste home and style references, and a smaller Moleskine sketchbook of ideas for clothing and objects to stitch up. They are all very personal and extremely private.

I guess I need a list of notebooks. I wouldn’t want to lose track of them now would I?

Joan Didion wrote in On Keeping A Notebook, that “keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”

Maybe she means that I’m just always tying to start over. Because a fresh list in a fresh notebook? That’s a whole new lease on life.

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