From the journal

8/4/11 Julius Caesar dress rehearsal

Political lions
Switching tongues
Speaking two-sided lies
Conspirators argue amongst themselves
Over gold & land & legions
Great orations of persuasion
To push the mass to fear or love
Revenge & retribution
The great empire cracks
Common men weap
While those in their charge
Trade blades & rain blood

Dragon Year

2012 Black Water Dragon

Song for the Black Water Dragon

Swift stealthy
circling the ship
unpredictable
lift to damage
carry the goods
water dragon
evens the flow

might listens to humble voice
forms the alliance
bringing light to the dark
overturning the tyrant
showering the meek
with good fortune

divine serpent
wash away diseased land
allow new growth
to begin

Holy Daze

Happy holidays, or holy daze as I’ve been calling them this year.

Mom's Tree
Mom's Tree

Once again we’ve completed another circle of the sun and reached the point where the days gather light again propelling us forward into a new year. I had the opportunity to fly back to the northwest this year and visit with family and friends between the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel rush. What this meant is that while everyone else was rushing around preparing for a “big day” I was rushing around visiting with old friends and family trying grab at least a few hours of conversation in the real world and as many hugs as possible. It also meant that I time warped to a place where sunrise and sunset fell closer together a few hours skewed from what my body was used to at that point. So, when I returned the days already seemed longer even though they were still getting shorter and my internal clock wanted to stay up later into the dark. Being born during the longest night of the year a few decades ago has often been my excuse for being a true night owl. It also may be why I’ve always been a star gazer looking for things that light up in the dark. I thought I’d share a few photos of things that lit up in the dark for me this season as we celebrate the return of light.

Sunrise from Mom's next to Mt. Rainier
Sunrise from Mom's next to Mt. Rainier

This time of year is also the point when I often find myself reflecting on the year that has passed and making wishes and plans for the year to come. Rather than ask Santa or Baby Jesus for toys, I found myself having real discussions with family about the tools needed to progress in the coming year.

Step-mom's Tree & Dad's Village
Step-mom's Tree & Dad's Village

 

 

 

Sun break in Dad's yard
Sun break in Dad's yard

During the dark this year rather than seeking out malls, I found joy gathering with all my different “families” to share food and stories around the table.

Chanukah Dinner
Chanukah Dinner

 

 

 

I also found warmth around the fire sharing tunes with some of my musical “families.” We even hooted with a real night owl in the woods gazing at the three wise guy stars in Orion’s belt pointing to where the sun would return on the horizon a full minute earlier in the morning.

Solstice Bonfire
Solstice Bonfire

 

As the year turns, I now seek to build my own fire in my heart to fuel a new year of adventure and travel guided by love. I wish you & your kin peace and prosperity as well as a big bundle of joy in 2012. May it be brighter for us all.

Heart Prayer
Heart Prayer

Ghosts of October

Looks like I completely missed blogging in October. Just to slip something in I’m writing from my phone while on the go. Sometimes life moves too fast to process & write about it all. Often at these times it is stranger than fiction.

In the past month I’ve juggled more jobs than ever to keep afloat and found more joyful surprises to cheer my soul. Ghosts of Halloweens past brought tears of sorrow and joy along with a glimpse of brighter tomorrows.

At the same time the Occupy Wall Street movement has swept the nation and continued to whisper ideas to change the world.

I’ve occupied a few hotels in towns recently touring with Poetry Alive! where I arrived a stranger and immediately found a community to share resources and make our stay more joyful. It’s amazing how when we all share what we have, we all have what we need. It’s easy to sit back, point the finger at someone else, and complain that life is unfair. However, when you honestly step forward and share your skills and talents there’s really very little to complain about. As we enter the giving season please consider this and avoid wasting time at the malls and super box stores full of “cheap stuff.” Consider what you have to offer your friends and family as gifts and when spending your hard earned dollars check out local handmade goods and services from local crafters, musicians, and merchants whose taxes pay for your local community services as well. Invest in your community and find ways for your local community to share it’s bounty with nearby communities in need. Occupy your community this holiday season and watch it flourish.

On that note, there’s some live jazz in front of me stealing my attention and calling me to participate in the real world once again. May you find such cozy company where ever you occupy.

Talkin’ about a revolution

September has nearly slipped by and I realize I have yet to post a blog this month. Since I’m working on an article for a deadline and completely distracted by facebook, twitter, and the Occupy Wall Street news feeds it seems the perfect time to slip one in before the month is gone.

I actually spent a lot of time talking to many new people this month and scrambled to spend conscious time with a few good friends when possible. I am thankful that I live in a household where three adults are able to share space respectfully and none of us seem to be going hungry in this economy. I am thankful to have a neighborhood that includes teachers, nurses, construction workers, mechanics, artists, musicians, and even a politician. There are no corporate moguls, bankers, or stock brokers that I’m aware of in the neighborhood. If there are, they don’t talk to the rest of us. A year ago, when I moved into this house we had a small porch fire that our neighbors kept from being destructive by responding faster than any fire department could with extinguishers. My roommate fixed our neighbor’s lawn mower when it broke. The neighborhood dog & kitten come hang on the porch when I’m playing music with my friends. We eat fresh organic produce grown in our own yards. The city councilman up the road has been organizing clean up crews through facebook showing the DOT that if they don’t do their job and keep our sidewalks and roads clean we’ll do the job for them. He is hands on and active in connecting with the community he represents.

However, once we send representatives to Raleigh and DC they start to become disconnected from the community they supposedly represent. It costs a lot of money to run for office these days and now the corporations with interests in patenting all the food Americans eat and selling them a lifetime of drugs to keep everyone “normal” have been granted unlimited spending to buy us some candidates and tell us to whom we should give our vote. The people paying for the ad campaigns care more about the dollars they can make selling people insurance that is mandatory by law (because they made sure everyone has to buy what they’re selling). But, for all we pay them, they never cover the cost when a real crisis occurs because they don’t care about people, they care about profit. I believe that if most people put the money they spend on insurance into a savings account they would have the money when it was needed and a strong community can help each other survive crisis.

Now these corporations are considered “people” by our government. They also control the media. They decide what “news” Americans will watch and for 13 days now have not even bothered to mention that there is a peaceful protest happening on Wall Street and spreading to other cities. Why? Because the people are protesting the corporations. Your television shows are brought to you by Monsanto, Pfizer, Geico, American Express and Capital One. Drug and insurance ads flash at you every five minutes between sound bites of “reality” shows where adults act like adolescents in front of the camera to win a cash prize. Our government bailed out Wall Street and the auto companies so they could spend more money selling you stuff that you don’t need. The average American does not need to buy a new car every year, but they will do their best to convince you that what you have is not good enough. Turn your TV off now and start paying attention to the world where you actually live and work. Stop buying the lies that Time Warner and Disney wish to sell you for profit and spend your hard earned money in your own community.

I recently saw an exhibit by Connie Frisbee Houde at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County during a Poetry Alive! visit they funded for the local schools. One of the most striking images was flipping through her book The Forgotten: Images of Afghanistan & New Orleans and seeing on the left a image of emptied stone cave homes with nothing but a few pieces of beautiful wood furniture and on the right washed out piles of debris at a storage unit after Katrina. Americans have become so weighted down with collecting stuff that we sometimes fail to see what is truly of value.

Please get to know your neighbors before the winter sets in and prepare together. My grandparents didn’t survive the dust bowl era in the mid-west because of any corporation or government help (They were true conservatives unlike today’s Republicans). They worked with their neighbors to survive and helped each other weather the weather. The only way to stop the oppressors is to teach them how not to oppress. If American citizens get off their couches and start making their communities beautiful and joyful places to live, the media can’t sell us an imaginary dream of something better. Vote with every dollar you spend for a better tomorrow instead of funding the status quo. We must be the change we seek.

Where I’m From

One of the writing prompts Cheryl Bromley Jones introduced to the Poetry Alive! teacher institute is a little exercise called “Where I’m From.” I’ve written many of these and they keep changing as time moves on and I find myself “from” more places than before. This is what came out of the in-service we taught at C.W. Post Long Island University last week still in rough form:

I am from exploding mountains
& calm inter-coastal salt sea
From hidden driveways
& cedar trees

A garden box of love
Though the main geranium died
two others took root
& are better than one to have by my side

Autoslaloming home built race cars
Smokey bowling alleys & sunny amusement parks
Girl Scout camp, horse racing
dance, sing, dance, play

Rocky Mountain escapes
& choreographing lawn gymnastics
Collecting river rocks
to rattle in pockets like grandma’s Yahtzee dice

I’ve heard “if you love some one set them free”
& we’ve never meant to be for each other
the miles stretch further
from one generation to another

I am from raging garage band grunge
& flapper jazz
Give me that back beat boogie
cause it’s all rock & roll to me

I am from cool mountain air
& honeysuckle tickles my nose
while puppies & kitties tickle my toes
Ride my bike cause I don’t own a car

I hear good old mountain music
teaching my ear to understand rather than fear
Though bluegrass wasn’t ever my style
I’ve learned to appreciate it after a while

I’ve collected scars & bruises
& dirt under my nails
City girl in the country
Country girl in the city

I’ve been stargazing
ever since I was born
& seek out light
to help it shine bright.

Harmony

A young friend of mine recently went to Pirate Camp for a week and came back singing a song I had also learned at camp years ago. As we were playing in the river I remembered an alternate ending so that we could sing the end in two part harmony. It was so easy for us that I wonder why it is ever difficult.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently playing music with new people always searching for the synergy that allows for a truly balanced sound. I’m loud. I’ve met people who have beautiful sweet voices, but find myself holding back in order to balance and blend. I love the feeling when singing with someone who has enough vocal strength that we can open up and sing from the soul together.

I also find a magic in the moment when an audience opens up and sings out loud. “Play another campfire song that we can all sing along,” as the woman said on a porch the other night. I’ve been building a random repertoire of such songs to play on the ukulele that speak to me, through me, and to others allowing us all to sing together. I know the music industry pressures us into believing we have to make and buy new music, but to me every live performance of a song is a new story. The more people who sing along, the bigger the story. Yesterday Andrew Fletcher and I shared some traditional jazz standards at LaurelHurst Retirement Community and it was fun to realize that not only did they recognize the songs, but often they were singing along. We all had smiles on our faces by the time we were done.

My mom never stopped me from singing, so apologies to those musicians who are annoyed when the audience begins to sing along, but I wasn’t raised that way. How can we ever have harmony if we don’t sing together?

Yin-Yang Harmony

Raw songs in rehearsal

Last fall I applied for the NC Arts Council’s Songwriter’s grant. Hopeful that I’d win the luck of the draw I’ve been working on getting ten songs ready to record my first solo album of original music. Unfortunately, I found out Friday that I will not be one of the two grant recipients this year.

However, below in raw form is song number nine given to me by journalist and songwriter Dave Shiflett who I met at the Mt. Airy Fiddler’s Convention and song number ten that I’ve been fussing with the words for until today.

Without the grant I do not currently have any funds to pay for instruments, studio time, other musicians, album artwork, and copies of the CD. I might be able to do it though with a little help from my friends. If somebody better with dollars wants to help me run a kickstarter campaign that would be great. Otherwise, know that I’ll bake you cookies, clean your house, weed your yard, watch your kids, or help you in whatever way I can if you have money, time, or talent to throw at this project.

Recycling the tales

I went back to a journal from 2000 to find a song I’d never finished. Out of curiosity I flipped the page to find a story that might have been or is yet to be.

From August 2000:

This is the story…

It begins somewhere & someplace else
writing itself out of time.
A boy and a girl,
like most stories have,
are the center of the tale.
But what is the magic in this particular combination?
A difference of opinion or the development of trust?

A lucky break under a lucky star,
with just enough difficulty for romance.
A meeting of strangers
mistaken about meeting before.
The blind meeting the blind
finally realizing they can see.
A heartbreak,
a rebound,
ten thousand songs whirling the night till dawn.

Chances are this never happened,
but that’s what tales are made of,
a circumstance that could never be believed.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction.
So who can say?

He was going to kiss her,
but he left the chance untaken,
left her pouting to herself.
There are plenty of other things they could have done,
but this is what they chose.
An opportunity missed
or disaster side-stepped?

But that is not what the story is about.
This is a chance taken and a flame ignited
because that’s what stories are made of…

She liked to be alone in public.
He liked to be in public alone.
Both were happy with their arrangement.
A butterfly’s moment of conversation between notebooks & games.
One day she told him he was beautiful.
Without hesitation he replied that she was too.
That’s how it started or ended or was about to begin.
He could play music that would make her dance.
She could write songs that would open his soul.
A tentative exchange begun balancing on the edge of a knife.
This left her alone in public not wanting to be alone.
He held a phone number in his hand that burned with a fire
he wasn’t sure he wanted to play with.

And that’s where the story ends
or begins again.

a little spot for notes & words to dance