“Behind every great man, there is a great woman.”
Lauren Hart, wife of La Colombe co-founder, Todd Carmichael, is certainly no exception to this wise anecdote. Hart is a wife, mother, and provider for Todd and their four children, but she goes far beyond her role as a homemaker. Hart’s passions reside between her career in music and her activism in charitable good. Hart’s career in music lead her to composing the soundtrack of Dangerous Grounds, adding an eloquently ambient dimension to Todd’s journey. Hart’s story is tragically beautiful and perhaps deserves a TV show of its own. Read the in depth story of the woman that guides the heart of Todd Carmichael during the chaos of his exploration.
Theo Constantinou: Your husband Todd said that you were his compass, [on Travel Channel's "A Day in the Life" video]. Metaphorically speaking every individual has a compass that guides them. What entity, past or present has brought you that guidance in life? How do you feel as though you act as Todd’s compass?
Lauren Hart: I have two things that have given me my compass and the one is the corny answer of my parents, who really gave me a sense of importance and about just living a righteous life. About doing the right thing for yourself and for other people – not deviating from that. It was always with my folks very clear, from a very young age. They were both in show business; my grandparents were in show business. So despite living in a really unstable, unpredictable, uncaring environment, they made it exactly the opposite. That always set me on the right course.
Then when I was older, having cancer changed my compass, because I had the [perspective] at 30 years old that most people have when they’re 80 years old – if they make it so far. When people are older they definitely have a perspective about the life they just led, what was important, how did they handle things, what should they have done and did they do it well. When you’re facing death at a young age, those ideas and those pictures are very clear and they’re right in front of you. Forever you are changed. Anyone at any given moment can have something happen to them, but when you have cancer, it’s real. It’s all of a sudden real and you know it. And you never escape that. It is kind of a scary thing, but you also get something back in exchange: It keeps you focused and it keeps you grounded. At the end of the day, no matter what you’re going through, it could always just be over. So you come back to earth really quickly.
TC: Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said, “Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.” Can you speak to the natural forces that reside within you? How did they aid your recovery from cancer?
LH: I don’t know how to explain it, but there was a weird sense of well-being that I had from just going through a death with my father. There was a weird sense that the fear factor was not there, for me. I was not afraid. I was sad for a minute like, “God, this is a drag. I’m so young. This is gonna suck,” (laughing) but I wasn’t afraid ever. And while I was in treatment, I was always doing music and music to me is like the highest elevation of my life. I’m not a religious person, but for me, music is that: Music, art, beauty, those things that make life worth living and the good things in life. Because I had that music and because I could embrace that always, that lifted me.
TC: Let’s apply the North Pole to the rest of the dangerous parts of the world that Todd has traveled to for his Travel Channel show. Robert Falcon Scott said, “But we have been to the pole and we should die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind.”
LH: I think that Todd always regrets leaving behind – leaving the kids behind, leaving me behind – just for the sake of the time that he loses with the kids. They’re at such a young age right now that even a month makes an enormous difference in their lives and when he comes back, he’s coming back to different kids then he left. I don’t think that Todd and I think about the regret in such a dramatic fashion as [Robert Falcon Scott] did (laughing), because we don’t feel that Todd ever goes out the door to an actual chance of finale. I trust that Todd is coming back each time and I know things happen – things happen getting in your car everyday – but Todd truly loves his family. He also has that abstract desire to go out and be part of the world, which I totally understand from a musician’s perspective. Sometimes I don’t know why he’s doing what he does, I can’t relate so much but I always trust in it.
TC: A close friend once told me, “Every time I’m working on the road for long periods of time, I’m always using technology to talk to my wife (Skype, cell phone, etc.) but it’s never the same as it is in person.” More importantly he said to me, there is a period of time upon return, in which he has to earn his way back into his wife’s heart. Does Todd have to earn his way back into your heart when he returns from from his numerous trips filming Dangerous Grounds?
LH: You know there’s definitely a truth to that. I don’t know if he has to earn his way back into my heart, but there’s definitely a payback when he’s gone for a long period of time. Whether it’s just when he left me behind or whether he left me and four children behind, so I feel like a single mom here with four kids out of nowhere. I think relationships are a rhythm. Todd and I talk on the phone, Skype or satellite phone all the time, so the connection isn’t broken, but the rhythm of your life is broken. When he comes home, it definitely takes a minute to find that again; whether he’s away or I’m away.
I think the bigger part of it is that you just kinda miss the time. The things I love the most about this home here and our family is just the time we spend together. Even if we do nothing, it’s just being together and when he’s gone, you can’t replace that. Time is finite and those moments are so important that the payback is when Todd comes home he spends time with his family. He spends time with his kids, he spends time we me just going for a walk, having a conversation just the one-on-one that you really miss no matter what communication you have – you miss when you’re not face-to-face.
TC: Author Amy Tan said, “A mother is always the beginning. She is how things begin.” How do you relate with Amy’s statement?
LH: Todd and I adopted four kids in a very short amount of time and in reverse order. We adopted our first, who was 7 and then a 5 year old and then an 18 month old and then a 9 month old. For children who experience so much loss, the power of what and who a Mother is, was so powerful, so overwhelming and so challenging because I’m not the birth-mother. I had to earn my oldest daughter’s trust. I had to earn her love and I did it just by being.
When we adopted our 18 month old, Selah, we had seen pictures of her half way across the world in Ethiopia, dreaming about them and what she was like. Every picture we received… it was never a smile. It was a sadness about her that just was (deep breath) it was the most powerful point you could feel: Her sadness. Todd thought, “do we have what it takes to make this child whole?” and I repeatedly said to him “don’t worry, she’s just looking for her Mother.” We film the meeting of our children for the very first time and the anticipation right before (“Oh my gosh. Are they going to like us? Are they going to think we’re crazy, Will they be afraid?”). The moment that I held Selah, she looked at me and there was an unspoken communication that we knew who each other was. She knew I was her Mother and I knew this is my child and she was a blank slate and I totally got her.
To hear the word “Ma” or “Mom” or “Momma” from them is incredibly powerful. There’s nothing like it. I thought that I knew it all. I mean, I’ve led a pretty dramatic life. I have a lot of incredible experiences that most people will never have – some have been horrible and most of them great. I did not anticipate being a Mother. I’m sure all moms and dads feel that way, but for me, just maybe because I’m an artist I’m going to express this in the most exquisite manner (laughing). I’m a writer and for me, I have no words that really adequately describe what that was – traveling across the world to some place that on paper makes no sense for us to be connected and yet we went ahead, halfway around the world to find – to be with these children as if it was just meant to be.
Interview by Theo Constantinou.