We are giving away a copy of For the Sender: Four Letters, Twelve Songs, One Story, a book/album package by Alex Woodard. For the Sender is “a story of how [Woodard] came to accept and understand his life by re-framing the stories of others through songwriting,” accompanied by a CD of the songs that were inspired by letters he received.
Check out this excerpt from the book, and then leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this book!
An Excerpt from For the Sender, by Alex Woodard
Me and the leaves are barely hanging on when I get the letter. Autumn is painting change everywhere, and I am turn≠ing over a season of my own, although the trees are doing a better job of letting go than I am. Leaves and dreams alike are either dying on the limb or already gone. And so is she.
One night on the road, after a particularly empty gig in Chicago, Iím far away from anything or anyone familiar and standing in the unforgiving bathroom lights of my hotel room when I see it for the first time. I lean over the sink, closer to the mirror to make sure Iím seeing what I think Iím seeing. My eyes are tired with small wrinkles at their seams, and it looks like a few gray hairs are coming in above my right temple. I am older. I stare at myself for a couple of minutes, and after a while itís as if Iím staring at someone else. I turn the lights off and make my way to bed, only to search the ceiling for answers to the questions reflected in the bathroom mirror.
How did I get here?
Do I give up?
I remember my dad telling me, ďDonít be an old man in a young manís game,Ē but thatís not the answer Iím looking for. The ceiling holds nothing else for me, and I watch the dancing shadows cast by the blue light of the television until sometime around daylight I finally fall into a broken sleep. I dream of myself as a child on a cold, rocky beach with a gray sky threatening overhead. The child has just come out of the water to find that someone has stolen his clothes, so he stands there holding his privates and shivering. Just shivering.
Shivering, that is, until I fly back to Seattle the next morning and pull into my driveway later that night. Konaís gentle eyes shine like fireflies as my headlights trace across the window, and I can hear her deep bark signaling my arrival. I open the front door, and her tail is wagging so hard that it hits the coat-closet door and bleeds a little, leaving small red brush strokes across the entryway wall. Kona doesnít care, and neither do I. Iím home.
The next morning I paint over the streaks, but itís a futile effort since it happens whenever I leave her and come home; weíre both used to her being my constant companion and the unconditional keeper of my heart. I tell her what Iím scared of and share my little victories with her. She listens without judgment, always with love, and ends most of our conversa≠tions with a thump of her tail and a search for something to play with to help me refocus on the important things. Being present. Living. Playing.
Long after I get home from Chicago, the scenes from my shivering dream continue to flash through my head. Some≠thing has to change, and I wonder if maybe itís my surround≠ings, so I rent my house in Seattle to a mutual friend to cover my bills and move back to Southern California to be closer to the ocean and my family. I find a little house north of San Diego where I spend early mornings rediscovering my love for surfing and the rest of the day knocking on music-industry doors via phone and email.
Some nights I play shows at local coffee shops and bars, but most nights I run with Kona on the beach before making dinner for myself. I rinse my plate, turn off the kitchen light, and head to the couch, where I write and rewrite songs until Konaís soft steps on the hardwood floor follow me to bed. I lay with fading faith that maybe this next song will be ďthe oneĒ and someday this will all make sense.
I still carry someday with me everywhere, but now I hang on to it like a tree hangs on to its last leaf in the early winter wind, sensing that with one strong gust that leaf will fall. And soon enough it does.
Christmases come and go and come again, and I am dis≠connected, ground down by the chase, and sitting in the cold white lights of a veterinarianís office when I hear a faraway voice saying that Konaís bones are starting to disintegrate from cancer and that she probably has a week to ten days to live. I donít want to get in a car wreck on the way home, so I hold back, hold back, hold back until I carry her through the front door and lay her down in the living room. I donít stop crying until I fall asleep on the floor next to her.
Even then, I donít really stop.
When I wake up a few hours later, I lift her over the mess of cables and cheap recording gear littering the room and onto my bed. I sit next to her and stare at our reflection in the window until Iím looking through the glass and down into a well carved deep with memories, with only the edge of a dream peeking out from the brackish water that laps against the side. In the well water I see the past 14 years rushing by like a movie in fast-forward.
The scenes fly by fast, from a puppy picking up a knotted sock in my auntís garage, through those cold, wet nights play≠ing guitar while she slept at my feet, when I wasnít really alone because she was with me. I see almost every moment up to right now, when my eyes come back into focus on the window and settle on our picture framed in the glass.
I quietly shudder and Kona looks up at me and wags her tail once, which she often does at the close of our conversa≠tions. Itís how she says Itís okay, Dad. I put my hand on her shoulder. Itís not okay, Kona. Not at all.
Next: Saying goodbye, and receiving the first letter…
Photo: Kona on Alex’s lap. Photo Credit: Alex Woodard, Hay House