Jazz Bird in the Neighborhood

So today I got to mow the lawn! (Trying on the Timothy Leary “Life is an opportunity” approach to this chore.) I got to be outside in our BIG backyard. I got to walk, bend, push, lift and carry – all great functional exercise. I got to observe butterflies and birds gracefully fluttering around me. It was cool and overcast, so all in all an enjoyable experience.

AND —- I got a huge gift for doing this. As I was mowing the front yard, I kept hearing this bird call that sounded like the first four notes of a jazz standard that I like. Over and over, this bird sang this little intro and my brain voice would fill in the rest. I thought, “I need to go get my digital recorder and catch this sample. Ohhhh, but as soon as I do that, the bird will be gone.” So I continued mowing.

Later, while I was taking a hydration break in the house, I heard the bird again. I thought, “Dang, now is my opportunity.” I ran in my studio, grabbed the Zoom, went outside on the porch and captured this:

Isn’t that cool? I love that the bird is singing the beginning of…what is the song? I can’t identify it. It has a similar tonality to “My Blue Heaven”, but the melody pattern is not right for the beginning of that song. Here it is lined up the way it goes in the song. It repeats and then changes slightly the third phrase (of course, the bird did not change, so you are hearing just the first two iterations):

So I need your help. Can anyone tell me what song this bird is singing? Can anyone identify the bird? I never got a sighting on him either. Thanks for your input.

Joy to the World

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The year 2015 coming to an end has me thinking about time. Not time as a mechanistic ticking off of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years, but time in a larger sense as moments and experiences that we organize into the “story of my life.” Every thought, feeling, action and reaction we bring into the corporeal world imprints on the matrix of being. And we weave all of this together into a fabrication of who we are, both individually and collectively. How is your story going? What is it about?

I wish all my friends wrote blogs so I could read their stories. Some friends do send year-in-review letters this time of year. I enjoy reading those immensely. I have the good fortune to be surrounded by interesting people who are passionate about love, food, creativity, and holding a high vibration. We are the light tenders, the love snipers; we do what we can where we are to energize the highest vibe possible. We love and respect the individual paths we are each on, and we shine light for each other along the way.

At the Interfaith Celebration this week, Rachel Wooten reminded us that to love is to be present with, to focus our loving awareness on another. In order to do this, we must first be present and aware of self. Loving one’s self is the foundation for loving everything outside of self. Acts of self-care and self-love are some of the most powerful healing actions you can take in the world. Our spiritual traditions, educational system, social/familial beliefs discourage loving of self in favor of service to others. Loving actions and service to self/to others are both sacraments of the compassionate heart. It is the good in people that calls us to give and to help others. But, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so our first responsibility is to take very good care of self.

There is a general feeling that the world is a scary and dangerous place right now. Even a cursory read of world history confirms that this has always been the case! Gertrude Stein said, “Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really very frightening.” – a wonderful example of a koan whose meaning shimmers just out of reach. FDR said “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Ghandi said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” “Fear not” and “Do not be afraid” reoccur throughout The Bible. All of these teachings point to a path away from fear. The scary and dangerous world (which we cocreate together) is shifting.

At dinner the other night, our soon-to-be teen granddaughter Erin, said, “well, I am afraid ISIS is going to come and kill us all.” Ah, yes, I remember the bomb shelters and the threat of nuclear devastation I came of age within. My mother came of age during the depression and World War II. Are we recognizing a pattern here? I love the state of the world at this moment because all of these patterns are coming to light. Patterns of belief that no longer serve and are no longer supported by the new energies flooding into our realm. The new energy fields of the planet do not support the political yammering and the media frenzy creating the “world about to end” story. All the patterns of control, cruelty and subterfuge are coming out into the light.As we learn to turn our attention within, and then without, we are creating a vibration of integrity, generosity, love, and acceptance of the incredible diversity this world engenders. We have the opportunity to use our most valuable currency – our moment to moment attention – to help the world evolve into a place of greater compassion and less violence.

How do we accomplish this shift? First, stop watching the news. Take in just enough mediated info to have some perspective. If you are watching hours of news, your currency is being used against you. After turning off all the media, sit in silence and stillness. Give full attention to your breath. Take three deep breaths into the heart. Ask for guidance from within. Just ask! And then pay attention throughout the day for signs from your guides. They love you dearly and will help you to live from your heart.

The next thing is the hardest to explain and of signifigant import – we must give up our “victim thinking”. Where else is there to go for one who has been victimized? Throughout time, people have been and are being vicitimized in some way by others. As a victim,  I feel the need for justice, reparations, and retribution. I feel the need to stay vigilant against further victimization. This gives my victimhood identity and value.  So some of my attention is taken by my need to keep my identity as victim alive in the world. Maintaining victimhood undermines personal power and free will choice. Once one is free from the victimizing situation, drop the need for vengeance, for rehash, for continuing to victimize yourself. Let it be finished.

Actually, “victim thinking” is part of a trio of roles we actively engage in that must ALL be given up. The idea here is from the teachings of Eric Berne and Transactional Analysis, which came into my life in my twenties. (Thank you, Dan Vice!) The Karpmann Drama Triangle has helped me be kinder and more present in all my relations. In our interactions we often play the role of either the victim, the rescuer or the persecutor, or a combination of these roles.  Recognizing when I am playing in the triangle, deconstructing where my attention is focused, and shifting my attention away from the drama in my mind and into the present moment, into this particular situation, with these people. When I look at my life so far, I see that I chose to play the victim or the rescuer most of the time. I so indentified with victim or rescuer that I could not even recognize when I was the persecutor.

I am starting a practice of questioning my own righteous indignation in all its guises. It is an anger discharge mechanism that brings about injury to myself and others. Anything that gets me riled up, or annoys me, I look for ways that I AM the thing that annoys me. I caught myself bullying Trudie the other day about something trivial (she forgave me!) This interaction haunted me for several days as I replayed my superior tone, accusatory language, and tightly-held body. I felt fiercly justified in my reaction. In this case, I was victimizing Trudie with my righteous indignation about something she may or may not have done. Giving  up these roles, means waking up to all the ways we create our own misery, lack, need, contempt, anger, rage, depression, fear by interpreting our experiences through filters of drama and pain.

Pay close attention to how your thoughts and beliefs shape your reality. Stay in the flow as much as possible. Say yes more than no. Always say no when you want to. Challenge your thoughts whenever they create pain in your gut, in your heart or in your head, in your life! We are taking an evolutionary step that involves a shift from “survival of the fittest” to “survival of the kindest.” Our brains are evolving so rapidly that medical and behaviorial sciences are struggling to keep up. Breathe deep, allow your conciousness to expand a little bit more with each breath, learn to listen to the guiding voice in your head that comes from your heart. Whatever may be happening feel the joy and love that carry us through each moment.

And, if you can’t feel it just now, trust it is there. That is faith, and it is a relief!

For Heather “So Far”

About a month ago, a friend asked me if I would do a “commissioned” piece for her fortieth birthday. I was thrilled and honored by her request, so we made a plan to talk on the phone so I could get a sense of what this birthday means to her.

Heather Barnes and I have known each other for over a decade through singing with the Common Woman Chorus, and more recently as Facebook friends. Over the years, I have enjoyed singing with her in small groups and hearing the funny, charming stories of her daughter’s escapades as she becomes her own unique person. When Heather and I talked  about the end of her fourth decade of life, she spoke of the double-edged sword of being a mother. She relishes her relationship with her daughter AND she acknowledges the need to heal from postpartum depression. For this birthday, she wants to “lay down a marker” of the journey she has been on. She spoke of creating healthy and flexible boundaries, feeling more confident, and appreciating the person she sees in the mirror each day. The future holds the promise of strong connections with people she loves.

I felt a powerful sense of self-love and positive feelings about her own physical body as a part of what Heather is feeling in her life now.  So the the piece should invite movement. As I began to work, I needed a bit more direction, so I did a tarot card reading using my favorite Motherpeace Tarot deck. (Thirty years ago I often consulted tarot and I-Ching for perspective and guidance. I just recently returned to this practice.) Heather’s reading indicated a strong negative force that she is working through and leaving behind. The Death card and the Moon card pointed to this movement. The path through this force is the penetrating intensity of the Ace of Swords combined with the stillness and patience of the Son of Cups. A sense of mourning and letting go combined with deep surrender to the unknown – “let the Goddess work in your life” was the deep message.

Our conversation and the reading shaped the piece in terms of structure, voicings and themes. “So Far (for Heather)” begins with a bluesy swaying dirge and a trumpet wailing grief, anger and sadness.  There is a feeling of sloshing through a great heaviness for a while. This movement gives way to the metallic piercing of bells creating a clearing in the sonic space. There is rattling, ringing, a sifting through and letting go of the bones of the past. The final section is a percussive and joyful release with an invitation to celebrate and dance!!!

Happiest of birthdays to Heather Barnes and much appreciations for including a soundpainting to mark this time in your life.

Lamentation (for Paul)

Our youngest brother, Paul, died on November 8, 2014 from the effects of excessive consumption of wine. There is so much more to his story than we will ever know. I keep trying to fill in the blanks, but all I can find are my own projections and the limitations I place on love.

I sense that Paul died of a broken heart and a broken spirit. He was a kind man who could not seem to deal with conflict. He had many skills as a teacher, artist, friend and lover of life, but could not manifest his skills in the world. He seemed to need the approval of others to a debilitating degree. When we give our power and sense of worth to other people, we wither away – and he did just that.

Our parents raised us to be kind and gentle, and not to make too much of ourselves. It was very important that we get along with others at all cost…at all cost! While these guidelines are admirable, one must always be discerning whether a guideline is serving you in particular situations. In this world where “success” often relies on a certain amount of bullying behavior (especially for men), sticking to these guidelines can be our downfall rather than our salvation.

In the end, Paul may have been killed by his own defensiveness. Every “tough love” moment from his wife, brother, and friend was met with “Don’t tell me what to do! You are not my Dad! You are crazy! I am out of here!” He determinedly walked his path carried by the anger and pain that he could not abide and did not know how to heal. I want to honor the path he chose, but I am not quite there yet.

While I use many tools to work through and release my emotions, a primary one is creating sound paintings. I spent many hours in my studio with Paul’s ashes at my feet working out the sadness that was in my heart. This short piece was the result. I appreciate that I had the opportunity to share this with my family at Paul’s remembering last Sunday. Special thanks to Luke Christie for hooking me up with the amplification necessary to share this painting. And thanks to all who honor me and Paul by listening.

 

 

People Who Need People

Barbra Streisand burst into my conciousness in the 1960s when she became a media darling for her role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. I always assumed she WAS Fanny Brice reincarnated. Look at old footage of Fanny Brice and you will see a strong resemblance. And Fanny did a mighty fine job of reincarnating and doing all the things she COULD NOT do when she was alive due to her gender and limited technology. Fanny/Barbra used her resources for all the power they are worth.

As a singer, Barbra Streisand engages with songs in such an intimate way. She plays with them, enhancing each one with nuanced emotion. She makes them sparkle; and the songs make her shine. Her first signature song was “People” from Funny Girl. And she could sell that song – I believed her completely.

People… people who need people… are the luckiest people in the world!

In recent years I laughingly revise the song to be “People….people who need people….are in dee-ee-p doo-doooooo.” Many folks would be quick to correct me with beautiful examples of compassion in action, as people respond to natural and person made disasters in loving and giving ways. Yes, I see and love that about people. When we are called upon to assist others in need, we usually respond. What I want to look at is the idea embedded in the song that “people needing people” is a fortunate characteristic of being. A “lucky” aspect to have in your relations with others, as the song says.

A quick look at the song lyrics, reveals the Romantic ideal that I need another person to complete me.

…a feeling deep in your soul, says you were half now your whole, no more hunger and thirst, but first, be a person who needs people.

On the surface this seems to be an ideal to aspire to and I think many of us spend some portion of our life searching for this ideal. The problem is that it is based on a false premise – that we are incomplete as individuals. We are born complete and whole. We are not broken or full of sin. We are in direct relation with the energetic force of love that creates the Universe. All this longing we feel, this emptiness we mistake for lack, all this need is the overpowering desire to be reunited with the source of our being. We feel like dried up little creek beds parched for water. We feel lack. A lot of lack. And we look to each other to help, save, complete us. Take a moment to think about all the songs, books, movies, performances you have witnessed that reinforce this very idea. And I love these stories! They make me laugh, cry, feel alive, AND they create some debilitating beliefs that can wreck relationships. Needing to be completed by your partner is one of those injurious beliefs.

What if, we were people who WANT people, who enjoy and respect people, who cherish people. This engenders an entirely different way of relating to others. I can be complete with or without other people. No need arises, just desire. Desire is easier, more relaxed than need. Desire springs from an attraction energy that entangles us with each other. Desire allows the dance, while need taps her foot and looks at his watch. Feel the difference between these two states of being. It is immense. Then choose the one that brings you relief and ease. While I know there are times when I will need people and there will be times that other people will need me, being a person who needs people may be a questionable practice on which to build lasting, loving relationships.

Case in point: Fanny Brice pitches this idea to Nicki Arnstein through the song “People” in the show Funny Girl. I love this scene in the movie because Omar Shariff has this bemused smile the entire time he follows Barbra around while she sings. It is like he is thinking, “You really believe this, don’t you? Hmmmmm, maybe I can believe it too!” The film then proceeds to illustrate the disappointment inherent in trying to live a relationship based in neediness, roles and duty. But it is so sweet the way they try. It is poignant. Because, in fact, they are both whole people and neither of them needs the other to be complete. They might have had a very different relationship if they had started from that premise.

Resurrection (R)evolution

This is the time of the year when most everyone is aware of the story of Jesus Christ’s end without end. No matter what your faith, Holy Week activities resonate throughout our worlds. So I want to pay attention to this event and consciously invite it’s vibration into my life. This means becoming still inside and asking to be guided to the vibrations meaning. What does Jesus’ life and death mean to ascending beings?

All the ancient stories that make up the sacred traditions of the world contain a vibrational essence that has survived and driven them into this present moment. Because we are evolving at an increasingly accelerated tempo, these stories are shedding the baggage of mammon embodied in theological dogma (which has helped them to survive up to this point.) Now these stories are being distilled to their vibrational essence. This essence becomes more and more available as we look deeply into our own fears and how they shape our lived experience. What is the vibrational essence of the story of Jesus?

No one doubts that Jesus loved humanity and reassured us of that love over and over again. And directed us to be loving toward each other. When I look out upon the world, I see alot of people saying Jesus name, but taking actions that are way out of line with this teaching of love. Christians like to point to Jesus teaching’s on obedience and righteousness first and foremost. Then they set up their checklist of “acceptable” sins (any sins that I, my family and friends have committed) and “unacceptable” sins (any sins I wouldn’t dream of committing and no one else had better either). And they seem to be completely unable to see the disconnect here. They say let God be the judge, and then they step in and lay down their judgements. They say embrace Jesus, and then rarely celebrate the light this action would bring to their lives. Instead, they shut out the light with righteous anger and dogmatic judgements. And here I am doing the same thing. We become what we resist!

One of the reasons we revisit this story each year is because it is a lens through which we can refocus our lives. Jesus, like all the inspired beings who have pointed us toward this moment, was more of a guide than a teacher, more of an antennae than a glorifed human. The teachings of Christ have been processed through thick filters of language, politics and humanity’s struggle for power and control. While it is next to impossible to sift out exactly what Jesus said given the many translations, interpretations and omissions that have been visited upon the Bible over the millenia, the theme of love and the theme that we are the children of God are essential to Jesus’ teachings. And when I hear his teaching voice shift to the terms and conditions of this love with allegiance and obedience and giving over your Will – it doesn’t sound like Jesus anymore; it sounds more like the spin team. I think we might be hearing some reinterpretations coming from the people and institutions that need obedience and aquiesence in order to survive. Don’t look now, but the Bible may have been hijacked, packaged in fear and marketed to the angry, anxious and righteous.

I have many people in my my life who identify as Christians. Some are more “devout” than others, meaning they talk about their beliefs more and it is important to their personal identity. When people are excited and lit up by this, I love talking and sharing with them. When people routinely and unexaminedly judge others, exclude others, and believe themselves in some way superior or victimized for their chosen belief, I have a struggle connecting. The reason is complex as I recognize the mirror for what it is and begin my inquiry. In what ways am I judging, feeling disdain or righteous indignation at the Christians who dissassociate their actions from their beliefs? Can I forgive them their hubris? Can I forgive myself my own hubris. I would like to wake up to it before I die, and it is nice to know I will wake up completely when I die. Everybody does.

So here is my take on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – human beings had been living on the earth for centuries with the opportunity to witness flowers, trees, grasses, most of our outdoor environment posture the cycle of everlasting life from seed to bud to flower to fruit to wilt to dried to dead and back again, year after year. But still human beings lived in fear of death which really made evolving in joy and love much harder. It seems we needed this wack up the side of the head wake up and smell the coffee example of Jesus Christ to make perfectly clear – “LIFE IS ETERNAL!”. He was a bullhorn announcement: “YOU ARE ETERNAL!” We were not quite ready to receive this message. Now, 2000 years later, as we begin to evolve into this knowledge (that can literally ease our fears and judgements), Jesus’ resurrection brings this eternal message into sharp focus…AGAIN.

Don’t miss this!

New Year, New Sounds, New Ideas

2015 ushers in a burst of creative energy with many potential collaborations hang-gliding out there, and lots of time and space in the studio. Trudie gave me an Ableton Live upgrade, so I am now using Ableton 9. Excited to explore all the new features and hear how much more expansive the audio field is in the latest upgrade. I have only upgraded twice, but each time the Ableton Team has improved the functionality and expressiveness of the software by building on the strengths of previous versions. Upgrading always makes me nervous especially when I am perfectly happy with what I am using, so it was very satisfying to jump right into Ableton 9 and be delighted with the sound immediately. The upgrade includes new instruments and samples. (I don’t use the loop libraries as I prefer to make my own loops.) Much to explore and learn as I convert all my projects over to the new platform. Plus I am taking a Coursera course on Ableton Basics through Berkeley School of Music in February. That will be helpful as the instruction will be based in the new version. It will be like a four week tutorial!

Trudie and I are committing to spending time in our studios everyday. We identified “home” as a topic we both want to explore in our art. We have had several hours of discussion about different ways of relating the idea of “home”. I keep wanting to cover home up, obscure it so that everything that home contains is set free. I started with trying to cut the fundamental tone out of the recorded wave form leaving only shimmering harmonics. (“real” sound engineers would be laughing very hard right now) I thought,”If I can cut off the attack, I can erase the fundamental tone.” But, no! Where EVER the sound begins is the attack, so a fundamental tone is always present. The tone is like an earthworm in reverse, you cut off it’s front and it makes a new front.

So I decided to back into exploring “home” by working on “New Music 4Trude” since she is a big part of what is “home” to me.This piece came about because we have seen two really fine versions of the musical, Ragtime, and Trudie loves the song “New Music”, which is about how the new music of ragtime touched and connected people. When I think of ragtime, I think of a one-two rocking feel and a simple, cheerful melody. Yesterday we listened to the song and I asked her what she liked about it. She said it made her feel like dancing. I can’t really feel a dance beat in it except for gentle rocking. I will study this song more deeply.

Right now there is SO MUCH information coming to us from the Universe/the Divine WoW/ God. Everyday I receive a new understanding about myself and my beliefs/perceptions and how we shape the world together. In meditation the challenge has been identified as feeling warm and loving heart connection with people who I do not feel love me back. You know how easy it is to love someone who is looking at you, seeing you, loving you. The heady out-of-this-world feeling of a deep and special connection with another. The kind of feeling that makes you feel impatient, bored and disdainful of having to spend time with those who are NOT the beloved. After years of chasing this felt ideal and withholding myself from anything (I perceived to be) less, I have woken up to the here and now. I WANT to be FULLY present to love in this space and time. I WANT to deeply connect with and SEE others as much as I want to be seen and connected with.

I believe this may be the path toward home.