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  • Kai Straw

Miami II: The Orchid to the Moonflower

I’m writing this at 8:16PM in Miami.  My second stop as I make an album around the world.


I just got back to my place.  It was windy and grey today and even though it looks like winter, the water was the perfect temperature.  I couldn’t help but stay in.  The sun was going down, the sky was glowing silver, and the wind caused the waves to grow bigger and more violent – there were no others in the water but me for as far as I could see; and I understood why.  With each crash, the waves pushed and pulled and pushed and pulled, harder and harder and harder – until I was knocked over.  I found myself underwater dragged by the ocean.  I thought, “ – so this is how this goes.”  I can imagine – had I been drunk, had I been deeper, had I not planted my heel into the sand – I’d have been forced to contend with just how indifferent nature can be, how borrowed and brief my life has been, and how a final moment feels when its stripped away slowly by exhaustion.


The more I live, the more I understand how fragile this life is, and the less the weight of the world steals the lightness from my soul.  “Look upon my works and despair,” we can say, consumed with some daily drama while all we’ve owned or made will be taken by the weeds.  I continue to aim to be a present expression of my curiosity and skill – for their own sake.  Each song is written for its own sake.  Each word is written for its own sake.  Each conversation is had for its own sake.  Anything I build or create is an expression of my authentic self – a natural unfolding of the code embedded in me – and whatever happens outside of me because of it is like the bee that unknowingly passes pollen from the orchid to the moonflower.  I am not an expression of expectations implanted in me, nor external waypoints set by others, nor anxieties learned by trauma or games of status or fame or envy.  My loyalty is to the grip of my own hand on what tools best align with the contours of my soul to create and involve myself with whatever architecture best matches the unique runes that are etched into the unseen structure that animates me.  The only failure that I fear is the betrayal of my self – which is to leave my gifts unexpressed, my curiosities unexplored, and my bulb in whatever ways mal-bloomed.


I met a songwriter named Sabrina here.  We spent a day together.  She told me she wrote a song so dark she had to ask, “ – how could I think that about myself?”  As she recalled the question, her eyes welled with tears, and it seemed like she was also asking me.  It’s the first time in my life I’ve talked to someone who knew what that was like.  We can hide things from ourselves when writing prose but something about a song – the melodies make us more vulnerable maybe – or the process is so inherently intuitive, so uninhibited, that our actual selves – our deepest selves – slip into the song without our permission; like a snake-charmer to the cobra, the process calms our ego and allows our hidden truths to seep out – and just because we discover them doesn’t mean they sting any less.  Hearing her recognize this, and seeing the depth behind her eyes as she expressed it to me, has become one of my favorite moments in any conversation I’ve had.  I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.  And it never would have happened had I not come here.


The sun slowly came up as I walked down Miami Beach.  There were sheds full of beach chairs being unloaded, hundreds of them, maybe thousands.  The ground started showing footprints and tire marks the closer I got to South Beach, the tourist hub of Miami.  Very few people were on the beach so early, but the footprints and tread marks were like some forewarning – temporary hieroglyphs that told of the millions and millions of people who have come here every day, every year, and of the thousands who would arrive only hours from then.  It’s like I could see their ghosts – like I could somehow compress every moment ever experienced on that beach and I could see locals and tourists from the ‘70s near those from the ‘80s and ‘90s and so on – all in my mind’s eye, more alike than different, arriving to play at the beach together while skyscrapers towered above them; hives built by the human instead of the honeybee.


My mind then took me to the devastation happening in the unseen parts of the world, and our histories of violence, and to all of the souls that have been set loose in the name of conquest or expansion or survival.  The contrast helped me even better appreciate the side of the coin I was walking across – what an oasis, what a tremendous victory of cooperation and community.  From behind one of those skyscrapers a cruise ship crawled over the horizon, another gargantuan structure – many times larger than the Titanic.  I was then swept away by the magnitude of our accomplishments as a species.  We pass along our thoughts with sound.  We’ve constructed languages of symbols to understand the fabric of the universe.  To be cynical about our humanness is to be willingly blind to the depth of drive, intelligence, and courage inherent to us.  I was reminded of this and felt a fire in my chest.  My mind took me from our painting on cave walls, to our first crude structures, to the wheel, to mathematics, to the telescope, to the car, to the internet, to our entire interconnected world of cultures and organizations and technologies, separate but dependent; the gravity of our collective story was so exciting to me it almost felt like I’d float away.


Kai Straw

Miami, 2024

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