I wanted you to know

It's been a little over two weeks since my Mom died. 
I am so sorry for not reaching out sooner.  I've been beyond heartbroken.  More like heart-crushed.  I've been speechless.  Paralyzed to reach out to you.  You, who have been such good friends, such tender, worthy companions on this four year journey.  
It's just that the end was ... so many things.  So very many things. 
I'll be writing about it (the beginning, middle, and end of the end) more on this site, in songs, letters, essays, and on a new site I'm making chronicling my vagabonding in the land of death. I'll be painting and drawing about it, too.  And, of course, I'll be living it.  Day by day by day. 
For now, for you, here is the obituary I wrote for my Mom and a portrait I took of her in 2014.
(If you'd like to leave a comment, please do.  Don't second guess yourself.  Just open your heart and write.  I will read and respond to every single one of you.  If you'd like to write me or my family a letter, my mailing address can be found on this page.)

On October 13, 2015 Katharine Draper “Puss” Schutt, 71, of Chadds Ford died peacefully at home after a lengthy and honorable reckoning with ovarian cancer.  Puss was a lover of the outdoors, deeply committed to her community, and – above all – devoted to her family.  Throughout her illness, she was tenderly cared for by her husband, children, and sisters, the oncology team at the Helen F. Graham Center, and Delaware Hospice.  

Puss was raised on Twin Bridges Farm, Chadds Ford and was the second born of Katharine Reeve Draper and Ford B Draper.  She attended Tower Hill School before graduating from Milton Academy in 1962 and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966.

She married Charles Porter “Chip” Schutt Jr. in December 1967, embarking on a wonderfully full union of their two large families and the creation of their own.  Puss joined Chip in his passion for sailing and they traveled extensively and adventurously.

Puss worked with great devotion for many organizations, including as President of the Garden Club of Wilmington and as President of the Board of Trustees of Tower Hill School.  She contributed significantly to the successes of the Delaware Center for Horticulture, the Winterthur Point-to-Point, the Vicmead Hunt Club, and Christiana Care Health System where she remained engaged even throughout her last year.  Her earnest interest, valuable insights, and wise counsel will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of working alongside her. 

Puss loved spending summers in Northeast Harbor, Maine and winters at Galio Farms in Vredenburgh, Alabama.  She remained connected to both communities year-round through her subscriptions to the local papers.  Since childhood and until her last days, she reveled and found solace in the natural world.  For many years she shared a family passion for riding and foxhunting with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds. Dogs, too, were always part of her life.  She was an avid walker, alive to the particularities of the wildflowers and birds of every landscape.

Puss had a gift for remembering the complex genealogies of both her and Chip’s extended families.  She delighted in creating and strengthening connections—hosting innumerable family gatherings, holiday meals, and impromptu get-togethers, writing unique and chatty letters, and always making the effort to ask about the lives and interests of others.  She believed in the importance of a firm handshake and looking people in the eye.  Puss had the true sign of greatness in that she was absolutely without pretension.  She had a profound respect for every human being and was warm, generous, and inclusive in her attention.

Above all, she was the spark of the spirited family she and Chip created: daughter Kate of New York City; son Jake of Mill Valley, California, his wife Hilah, and their children Jasper, Elsa, and Luke; and son Porter of Wilmington, his wife Laurisa and their daughters Ryann, Tatum, and Bridget. 

She was predeceased by her sisters Avery Draper of West Chester and Ellen Chadwick of Chadds Ford and is survived by siblings Jim Draper of Alexandria, Virginia, Prue Osborn of Unionville, Reeve Draper of Wilmington, and Ford Draper, Jr. of Chadds Ford.

Puss’s smile, kindness, and genuine interest in others will be remembered by all who knew her.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 7, at 10:00am, at Christ Church Christiana Hundred, 505 E. Buck Road, Wilmington, DE 19807.  A reception will follow at Vicmead Hunt Club, 903 Owls Nest Road, Wilmington, DE 19807. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to either the Brandywine Conservancy , P.O. Box 141 Chadds Ford, PA 19317 or the Friends of Acadia , P.O. Box 45, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.

My 3 Things - August Twenty Fifteen

I've been with my Mom this entire month -- cooking, cleaning, taking her to her doctor for the last time, starting hospice care, creating time for her friends and family to say goodbye, making a sacred space of her home, spending time in the gardens and fields she loves, sharing early mornings and late nights with my Dad in the quiet of her exhaustion and heavy sleep.  My 3 Things reflects the work of living and the work of dying I am doing right now -- with and for my Mom and my family.

1. MAKING:  Ice cream
I've been wanting to make ice cream since my days in Cambridge.  Back then, any afternoon or evening I wanted, I could take a leisurely stroll and end up at a fantastic, inventive spot like Toscanini's or Christina's, or ranging farther afield, Emack & Bolio's or JP Licks.

This summer it was finally time for me to get in the game.  My Mom loves ice cream, too.  Carpe Ice-em. 

I'm unfussy about most things.  I'm the guitar player who only owns two guitars, one of each kind -- an acoustic and an electric.  In late June, I went to William Sonoma and bought their cheapest, lowest tech ice cream maker.  

Since then I have made 11 batches of ice cream: fresh peach x 3, lobster (true), fresh mint chocolate chip x 2, banana's foster x 2, real vanilla, real vanilla chocolate chip, and fresh mint.

Ice cream is "all about that base."  It's your gessoed canvas, your blank page.  I've made almost every kind of ice cream base there is to make -- custard, raw egg yolk,  milk and cream, buttermilk, etc.  My go-to is Melissa Clark's from her comprehensive article The Master Ice Cream Recipe.  Start there or stop there (if you're the kind that likes a blank page).  The rest is up to you. 


2. COOKING: Cheese soufflé
I'd had it.  My Mom and her sisters were once again waxing rhapsodic about the cheese souffé they used to have for lunch.  Why were we not having cheese soufflé NOW?  Today?  This summer?  With a side of corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes? No one but me had an answer.    

Done.  Took two tries.  The first was hockey puck-ish.  I nailed it on the second try with the recipe from my grandmother's masking-taped, dog-eared copy of The Joy of Cooking (aka "The Joy" in our family's lexicon). The Joy's description of a soufflé is worth reading even if you never intend to make one: "The soufflé is considered the prima donna of the culinary world ..."

People hear the word soufflé and immediately think "no way."  Yes way.  It isn't THAT hard.  Two tries is nothing.  Ice cream is way harder.  I dare you to use Gruyeré instead of cheddar.  If you got it, flaunt it.

3. BAKING:  Challah
A friend of mine bakes a loaf of challah every Friday.  Her "recipe" is actually pure improvisation; she's a master.  Her loaf is virtuosic.  Heady and ripe, it gets stuck in your brain.  I don't experience synesthesia usually, but her challah does it: when I think of it, I smell it.  I swear.  And when we've finished a meal and she seals the challah up in a double zip ziploc, I can still smell it from across the room.  She laughs but it's true.  It's the smell of a big handful of peat: wonderful, rich, and wild. 

My Mom loves challah.  My Mom's in hospice with a month or two left to live.  Homemade ice cream in the freezer.  A soufflé on the table every week.  Why not a loaf of challah?

I asked for my friend's recipe and she gave me it to me.  Or something like it.  You can use this one; it'll do. Substitute honey for the sugar and add a little more salt than you think is wise.  I go for a honey that's edgy and weird (surprise, surprise) like this heather honey with whisky.

My Mom loved my challah.  She ate it that evening; she ate it the next morning.  I joined her with butter and a little of the homemade concord grape jam we made last week.  By noon, all that was left was the honeyed, salty-sweet memories of two nourishing meals filled with moments of awe, laughter, and love.

Singer/Songwriter Margaret Glaspy

I knew it was going to be a late night, so I ate dinner and took a nap.  There was too much time to kill between dinner and going out.  Napping was the best strategy.  After all, I’m not a night owl by any stretch of the imagination.  As most of you know, I get up around 4 a.m. most days, meaning I go to bed at an undisclosed early hour (let’s just say I go to bed earlier than my nine-year-old nephew). 

The nap was for strength: I was going dancing with my bestie Julian and his bestie Margaret (whom I had never met).  Julian and I had been talking about going dancing since in utero.  

My 3 Things - July Twenty Fifteen

1. LISTENING: "Somebody to Anybody" by Margaret Glaspy
I love this little demo.  It's a sly song that gets under your skin.  More people should know about Margaret; I'm doing my part.  Enjoy!

2. READING & THINKING ABOUT: The found material of (song) writing -- an interview with author Lydia Davis in the Paris Review
Most of my songs include a piece of "found material" -- phrases I overhear when I am walking down the street, words I read in a book, bits of found poetry I snatch from a sign or a conversation with a friend.  Lydia Davis, a master of the shortest short stories, speaks to the nature of found material in a wide-ranging interview in the Paris Review.  Here is a short excerpt from the article:

INTERVIEWER: More and more you seem to use found materials in your stories.

DAVIS: Back in the early eighties, I realized that you could write a story that was really just a narration of something that had happened to you, and change it slightly, without having really to fictionalize it. In a way, that’s found ­material. I think it’s hard to draw the line and say that something isn’t found material. Because if a friend of mine tells me a story or a dream, I guess that’s found material. If I get an e-mail that lends itself to a good story, that’s found material. But then if I notice the cornmeal making little condensations, is that found material? It’s my own, I’m not using text, but I am using a situation that exists. I’m not making it up. I find what happens in reality very interesting and I don’t find a great need to make up things, but I do like retelling stories that are told to me.

3. SEEING -- Ada/Ava in NYC 
Someone who knows me very, very well took me to see the shadow puppet/live-music/overhead projector project called Ada/Ava one evening in late June in NYC.  All I have to say is: Run! Don't walk to see it if you are anywhere near NYC between now and July 26th (when it closes).

What is it?  It is a heart wrenching and mysterious tale about two identical twin sisters, septuagenarians, who live in a lighthouse.  It is also about death and mourning, self and other, losing and finding equilibrium.  

This ghost-story-ish tale is told -- without words -- through the use of overheard projectors, silhouettes, shadows, actors, live music and live sound effects.  Instead of hiding all the mechanics of the storytelling and image-making, everything is on display.  Ben Brantley of the NYT describes it perfectly in his review of the show: "This involves, among other things, arranging pieces of paper and transparencies on the projectors, and stepping in front of a white curtain to cast shadows, which are then incorporated into a fluidly cinematic mise-en-scène. This materializes on a screen above the very visible work space, and you can only marvel as you witness this continuing, simultaneous transformation from technical fact to narrative fiction."

In short, it is magic.  It is simple and beautiful and fantastical.  I've sent four people to see it so far.  It's your turn.  Go. 

Cars & Trains Singer/Songwriter Tom Filepp

Tom Filepp is one brave soul.  

That's what I thought the first time I saw him perform.  All alone on a stark, blank stage in New Hampshire (or was it Maine?), musical gadgets and gizmos blinking and syncing all around him.

Me? I can barely get my guitar in tune and my amp to work, much less fiddle around with different pedals or stompboxes.  That's why I don't use 'em.  I keep things simple and concentrate on my touch.  But I'm just a guitar slinger.  

What does Tom sling?

My 3 Things - June Twenty Fifteen

1. Listening: Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor

Oh James! Thank you for this.  It's such a classic.  The definitive tribute to the restorative presence and power of a woman. 


2. Listening: Crazy Love by Van Morrison (live version 1970)
"She got a fine sense of humor when I'm feeling lowdown ..."

3. Listening: And She Was by Talking Heads
"And she was looking at herself / And things were looking like a movie / She had a pleasant elevation / She's moving out in all directions ..." 


4. Reading: Hold Still by Sally Mann

I blazed through it in two days.  The themes of her work -- landscape, family, death -- speak to me, always have.  I woke up the morning after I finished the book and gave myself a fierce talking to.  It went something like: protect your time, protect your artistic vision, get back to the land, death and time and aging are yours even now so keep 'em close, get back to and lost in the work. 

From Hold Still:  "Certain moments in the creative process, moments when I am really seeing, are weirdly expansive, and I develop a hyperattuned visual awareness, like the aura-ringed optical field before a migraine.  Radiance coalesces about the landscape, rich in possibility, supercharged with something electric, insistent.  Time slows down, becomes ecstatic" (212).


2 Songs a Month - May Edition

Guess what?

I'm human.

This month's second song didn't happen.  Well, actually it did happen quite a lot.  I slaved and slaved.  But it's just not ready for the cold light of day ... yet.  So yeah.  Chalk it up to perfectionism.  Chalk it up being there for my Mom.  Chalk it up life and death and everything in between.  Some songs take their own sweet time. 

Here's the one song I hammered out this month.  It's called "Yes She Is" and you're gonna want to sing it to someone you know of these days.

As for the recording ... It's the same as it ever as: a work tape.  No going back, no overdubs.  From my heart to your heart, to his heart to her heart.  

What is this thing called the 2 Song A Month Club?  FAQ is here.  February and March and April, too!

Caroline Brooks ... 1/3rd of the Good Lovelies

I don't even remember when I met the Good Lovelies, Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough, and Sue Passmore.  It was definitely when I was living and making music in Canada, but where exactly in that great north country did I meet them?  Was it in the Royal City of Guelph?  Was it that circus-like February weekend in Montreal at Folk Alliance (when I also met Lori Cullen, Duane Andrews, Kurt Swinghammer, and Pat Boyle)?  Was it at the always-killer Hillside Festival?  The mist of time is thick and I am disoriented, pleasantly so.

No matter.  Allow me to introduce you to the sweet sound of the Good Lovelies (one of Canada's premier folk bands) and to one third of that power trio, Caroline Brooks.

My 3 Things - May Twenty Fifteen

My 3 Things FAQ here.

1. Listening: "Obiero" by Ayub Ogada

Wait until it is dusk or even the dark of night.  Then, light a candle or turn the lights down low.  Press play and do nothing.  Just listen.  You will hear the mystery, the awe, the radiance.  

2. MAKING: Shallot and lemon confit

I had a surfeit of shallots.  What to do?  Searching through a 2005 Food and Wine cookbook I found this recipe: Shallot and Lemon Confit by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  I had four lemons on hand.  Game on.  He's a superchef.  I'm not.  I didn't have fresh thyme or fresh parsley, so I left those out.  I also spilled WAY more than 12 coriander seeds (!) into the pan when I was measuring.  Sweet.  The whole thing turned out amazing.  I served it with sauteed greens and scooped it on top of asian sloppy joes.  Superchef who?


2a. My Cooking playlist on SpotifY: Touch

I call this playlist "Touch" because the music is breathtaking in its touch and feel.  Each of these musicians is a master at shade, shadow, suggestion. This music is subtle.  It's about the sleight of hand, the ghost note, the grace note, the space between. You'll hear the guitarist Antonio Forcione, the bassist Charlie Haden, the saxophonist Ben Webster, and more.


3.  REREADING: "Middlemarch" by George Eliot 

This will be the third year in a row I have read Middlemarch.  I first picked it up about a decade ago.  (And, yes I am aware of Rebecca Mead's book about reading and rereading Middlemarch.)  Why so many re-reads?  To know George Eliot better.  To marvel at her language and masterful turns-of-phrase.  To study her descriptions of people and moods and feelings and to imprint those descriptions on my soul, to maybe have them appear in a song someday.  In short, to return to this incredible novel as a way of returning to myself, learning myself.


What are you listing to, making, and/or rereading these days?

The "My 3 Things" FAQ

My 3 Things is my monthly jam about ... you guessed it ... 3 things that I am up to.  It's a collection of songs, ideas, books, etc., that totally light me up.

Usually the 3 things include (but are not limited to): 

  • Something I'm listening to
  • Something that's rocking my world 
  • Something I'm thinking about 

They could also be:

  • Something I'm reading
  • Something I saw
  • Someplace I went

It's ever changing -- My 3 Things.  That's why it behooves you to be on the My 3 Things list.  Sign up below by scrolling to the very bottom of the page.

Pretty simple.  Pretty sweet.

3 Things - April Twenty Fifteen

1: Listening:  “We Belong Together” by Rickie Lee Jones

Lie on your floor and crank this song real loud.  That’s what I did.  I lost my self and soul for a few minutes.  Been years since I’d heard those iconic piano chords that open the song, and that incredible first line, "Say this was no game of chicken you were aiming your best friend. That you wear like a switchblade on a chain around your neck I think you picked this up in Mexico from your dad.”  Quintessential Rickie — the mood, the strange lyrics, the drama.   When the song finished, I got up, walked over to my guitar, picked it up, hit the re-play button on YouTube, and played along to this song, over and over.