House concerts can be interactive! Click this link for Instagram video peeks inside a house concert . . .
Between Michigan and North Carolina: 25 hours down and 36 back. During an 11-hour layover in Greensboro, NC, I recorded the below song.
First, let me explain the context:
- Train travel is more carbon-efficient than plane or automobile travel, which I’ve known for awhile. (Here are online writings – 1, 2 – capturing trains’ superiority for delivering freight.)
- After a year of considering this, I finally got my life to a point where I could spare time to travel by train.
A little about the experience:
- Pros: Nearly everyone was extremely kind and friendly. I felt like I was traveling not among strangers; I made new friends. The scenery was beautiful. The bathrooms were clean. My conscience felt clean in line with my own ethics. I found the rhythm of the rails soothing, which almost everybody says.
- Cons: The train ride back took 36 hours. A few days later, I was still tired from that. The wifi was intermittently available.
During my 11-hour layover in Greensboro, NC – at 4:00 in the morning, in fact – I recorded this song to express the need for increasingly sustainable, high-quality means of transportation, and other aspects of sustainability. Hear, hear! to a Green New Deal!
Dates: November 2019 – TBD
Places: Specific events listed here. Roughly: Michigan & Indiana in late 2019, North Carolina & Florida in early 2020, a brief trip back to Northern Michigan in late March, and hopefully out west after that, including to California. Shows to include house concerts, small venue gigs, song circles, and open mics. If you are interested in hosting a show, please write me.
As water takes the shape of a container, I have been striving to allow this trip’s plans to unfold to fill the space.
I love these quotes about water from a spiritual book called the Tao Te Ching:
“Nothing in this world / is as soft and yielding as water / Yet for attacking the hard and strong / none can triumph so easily / It is weak, yet none can equal it / It is soft, yet none can damage it / It is yielding, yet none can wear it away / . . . the soft overcomes the hard / and the yielding triumphs over the rigid” (Lao Tzu, trans. Jonathon Star, 2003, v. 78, p. 91)
“The most yielding thing in the world / will overcome the most rigid” (Ibid, v. 43, p. 56)
“The best way to live / is to be like water / For water benefits all things / and goes against none of them / It provides for all people / and even cleanses those places a man is loath to go / In this way it is just like Tao” (Ibid, v. 8, p. 21)
I’m very sad about the recently unfolding Kurdish situation. I’ve heard reports of families with children being killed. I’ve heard reports about thousands of people identified with ISIS who’ve been detained by Kurdish people, whose oversight may be uncertain. I’ve heard many concerning likelihoods. My friend, Travis Moe, explains a critical heartbreaking element of what is unfolding, which I’ve reposted on my personal Facebook page. I ache today with this situation.
I wish I had art to contribute to the situation somehow but I don’t have much. Based on my personal experience interning and working with military veterans and refugees I feel certain that each person impacted by the delicate and harsh balances we call military conflicts will never be the same. Here’s one piece I’ve shared recently: this song expresses sadness over lack of peace and the lack of a trajectory toward care in the world. If you have ideas about how to be of service as we experience this hurt and pain please do share.
Please consider ordering one! Modeled off veggie shares, this program allows me to share consistent doses of song with people in my world, at prices or trade set-ups that work for you! Membership information here.
My July 17 post listed challenges to societal well-being in a description of Mackinac Island (consumerism, militarism, unjust immigration policy, racism, and rural poverty). You could get the impression I was against them. I still am . . . .
Partway through this summer I became convinced loving life is as important as is protesting it, perhaps more so. When I say “loving life,” for me this does not mean sitting beside a pool with a favorite drink in hand and cucumbers on my face, sighing, “I love life.” I mean cultivating within myself a spirit of celebration, tenderness, effervescence, nourishment that makes life more worthwhile, worth fighting for. I am shifting out of living from a spirit of disgust and desperation about certain aspects of society around me into living out a try at lively counterbalancing.
Quakers (I am one) are rooted in protest and also in the idea of listening to and living into “the virtue of that life and power that [takes] away the occasion of all wars” (George Fox, 1650).
Midsummer, I began working on cultivating in me softness and creativity which, transmitted around the world, would make life more worthwhile. (For me, here, “more worthwhile” equates to more freedom and less sadness and pain for each person.)
I still protest. I aim to live in protest of that with which I disagree. And I want this protest — including through song — to be in a spirit that itself helps to shake off shackles of enmity and fear. As Rev. angel Kyodo williams writes:
“We cannot have a healed society, we cannot have change, we cannot have justice if we do not reclaim and repair the human spirit. We simply cannot” (2016, p 97).
Where were you on October 6, 2018, as Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Senate?
I was at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, singing along with Ani Difranco‘s timely punch back toward our patriarchal system. I was also sitting in a bushy area that would give me a tick bite to plague my next six months. I was also experiencing the beginning of a bad concussion (from hitting my head on my apartment ceiling twice hard) and thoroughly questioning my life.
Human services had been the focus of my career for about a decade. I’d secured a Master of Social Work degree the year before, focused on community systems. I’d next moved to Northern California and was working on a peace-related community organization project. I care about peace very much, but I felt like I was fighting against the grain. I’d always loved creating music, but I had long been holding it to the side of my life.
Following that fall day at Hardly Strictly, months of a concussion and infected tick bite symptoms transpired. With this sickness, it was hard to focus on computer work, logistics, and driving in the peace organizing work I’d been doing. I got headaches easily; simple things made symptoms worse.
However, I wrote songs at a fast pace. I meditated to make sense of this time. I aborted my focus on my human services profession and began a dive into sharing music as a way of interacting with life. I focused energy on this desire I had set to the side for years.
Significant support from people dear to me made my transition easier. The past year, I have picked up the pace on musical writing, practicing, performing, identifying my musical goals, and finding my way in music business. I have experienced internal wind in my sails. I look forward to embarking on a tour late this fall.
I’m encouraged remembering other musicians – I’m thinking of Kate Rhudy, Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Joe Pug – who at some point chose to set another goal to the side: creating music is now the direction for each of them. I share my own story in case it has any wisdom in it for you . . . in case you some time feel called to change directions, and turn so you can feel the wind in your sails.
I’m preparing for a tour starting this late fall. I’m recording for my CSA program. I’m lacking tools to emphasize and play with rhythm, noisemakers and accentuators. I could duct tape my own bottles of rice, staple plates of beans, and decorate them “funky” and “fun,” but that sounds like lonely business to me.
A more personal approach: Send me some of yours? Dusty shakers you have lying around, clickers made of spoons, or any bright, small, and shaky idea that comes to your mind to contribute to my budding plans for a tour. I’ll delightedly bring them with me on stage. For me, small would be a bit better!
Til October 28, 2019, I’m at P.O. Box 1785, Mackinac Island, MI 49757. Beyond that please write firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where to send things.
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, symbolizes inequality. One of the island’s largest employers, most of its workers come to the U.S. on work-related visas to help their families survive. It blows my mind to imagine the difference between the lives of those who spend hundreds of dollars each night per person to stay here, the people who work to keep it running, and their family members around the globe.
Working on Mackinac myself, I snuck into the cool, lush garden of the Grand Hotel to record songs, mostly songs about hard times. Boat horns and pressure to finish measures quickly in order to shoo mosquitoes color these recordings. The environment speaks to me about persisting inequality in the arrangement of our world.
My Grand Hotel Garden Recordings include:
This summer I returned to Mackinac Island, MI, working for the state park and focusing on the side on song. I visited here when a child and worked here for a summer when I was 19.
Where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron connect, the Straits of Mackinac feel wide open, and they hold history, from indigenous sacred usage and military conflict and takeovers to the annual policy conferences held here today. Today, this tourist destination showcases seething and converging consumerism, militarism, and nationalism colliding with immigration, racism, and rural poverty. Here I am with my heart open . . . grateful for the constant birdsong, bright yellow snails, trillium, and earth inhabiting this island as well.