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  • Writer's pictureTannur Ali

Whole Heart, Uncharted

Whole heart, uncharted. I step into this life with an eye on possibility. I think I see my future in front of me. Looking out the window, I keep thinking maybe I was right to move to the woods with 3 children and no vehicle to see what I'm made of. After all, most of my life has been me - seeing what I'm made of.

I keep finding grit. Like sand in my crevices.

I have been a hopeless romantic since I can remember. What's a girl to do?

To answer that question, I've begun to chart my heart. Learn the landscape of this meadow turned minefield and figure out exactly what it is that causes this... Solitude.

Part of me wants to write it off. Another, more honest part of me says: 'It's You, Tannur! Duh! It's not cause you're so awesome. It's cause you're so impatient, demanding and kinda mean.'

Why does this part of me say such a thing? Well, because death has a way of making us look at the past in ways that nothing else does.

Just after returning from France in July, 2017, I had an overnight layover on Miami Beach. I sat for hours on the beach with my toes just in the water. It was dark and there were only a few people on the beach. I sat there, watching clouds off the shore glow with lightening. There was not a single cloud over me, but far out above the Atlantic, a storm was brewing. I sat there and took photos for about 3 hours before returning to the tightly packed hostel room I'd rented for the night.

One of the photos I took of the lightning storm off Miami Beach that night.

I was headed clear across the country to Vashon Island, Washington to participate in the "Soul Shakedown Revival" expertly organized by Ben Browner. I was preparing myself for a week long tour with the Lydia Violet Band and Ben around the Salish Sea, then a week with my dear friend in Idaho and then the Social Artistry Odyssey in Ashland, Oregon.

I took solace in the lightning that night.

The day I arrived in Ashland I had a strange feeling. I felt overwhelmed. I thought it was the stress of traveling across Europe then across the US. Maybe it was being away from my children. Maybe it was that I was just beginning to arrange the purchase of a 5 acre farm in rural Alabama. Maybe it was that I had just spent a week in some of the whitest crowds I'd ever performed in front of, chanting "Black Lives Matter". I didn't know what it was, but I was uncomfortable.

My friend and colleague Elisha picked me up from the airport. We sat around and talked, smoked plenty of legal weed, laughed, joked, planned and ate. At some point, sitting around the table, my overwhelm took over. I told my friends that I felt like my body was full of energy. I felt like there was a surge of energy shooting out of every orifice. I calmed down. We spoke about the energy in the world. We discussed the strange dance of collapse and the building of new systems; the spiritual infrastructure we were working on.

The next day we started the program. When we took a dinner break, I had a message on my phone from a woman saying that she needed to speak to me about LaMar (my eldest child's father). I thought for sure she wanted to say something about my things being all over his apartment. Or she wanted to tell me that he belonged to her. Or she would be calling to ask me questions that I would answer matter-of-factly and all too honestly. I called the number she left in my message box.

LaMar was dead. She called to tell me that he had been on the beach in Florida with friends from his music studio and he was




Before she could finish what she was saying I opened a google tab on my phone. I typed in "Lightning". The headline popped up immediately. "Man struck by lightning on Florida Beach". It was his first trip to the beach as an adult (that I know of). He was taking his music career to the next level. He was dead.

The world began to spin. I could barely think.

I told Stellar.

Stellar's name is perfect for them, by the way. Stellar spoke with my friend Roseanna.

Before I knew it, I was in Atlanta, awaiting a flight to Albany, trying to get to my child.

I sat at the gate for longer than I should have been. No gate agent arrived. I went to customer service about 40 minutes after the departure time had passed. No line had formed. No plane had boarded.

The customer service rep told me that the plane left. With No Passengers. She told me that the closest she could get me to Albany that night was Orlando.

Where LaMar had been.

My brother was in Orlando. I thought for sure I would go to him. Then I got a call from the woman who had been there with LaMar. She offered to pick me up from the airport.

Nothing made sense. I forgot my brother was in town. I couldn't wrap my arms around my child when they needed me the most.

The next thing I knew, I was laying in the bed LaMar had slept in just hours before.

I don't know if I dreamed or traveled that night... But nothing has been the same, since.

Now, all our arguments ring in my head. The vitriol that I spat at him when he frustrated me. The memories of my child waiting by the window for him for hours at a time rush back and remind me that he was looking for himself when we were looking for him.

The regret that I couldn't see him as a boy who had been hurt; and for whom time passed anyway, never really giving him the chance to catch his hopes up to his responsibilities. Never really getting a chance to heal.

Now, I can still see his mistakes... But I see them through a lens of compassion & understanding. Why did he have to die for that to happen? I wonder. I suppose it's because the light I needed to see him clearly, came in a flash that, for me, illuminated my own short sight and hot temper. It illuminated the path he had walked, mostly in the dark.

That light closed his eyes forever. It opened mine, just the same.


LaMar Rashod Rayfield "3 o'clock"


LaMar was a brilliant musician, song writer, visual artist, martial artist and thinker. He had dedicated his life to the development of his talent. He taught himself to play guitar and keyboard. He taught himself to produce music. He taught himself to score films. He surrounded himself with people whose talents, skills and knowledge complemented his own and whose ambition and drive pushed him to do better.

He spoke of our daughter, Reiki, so often that I have not yet met a person who knew him and did not know of her. He shared with everyone he worked and spent time with that the work that he was doing would one day benefit Reiki. He made sure of it.

Thank you LaMar, for all that you taught us. Thank you for our daughter. Thank you for sharing the parts of your life with us that you could.

Rise in Power.

Rest In Peace


Click the link to listen to my favorite of the songs he wrote:

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