~The Water is Wide, as sung by Pete Seeger
I knew it had been raining all day but I wasn’t prepared for the extreme flooding that took place in southeast Michigan this past Monday night. As I left the American Indian Health Center in southwest Detroit and drove to stay with my good friends Janet and Cindy in that same part of the city, I quickly understood that this was no ordinary rainstorm.
I had to turn my car around and adjust my route as I realized that an underpass I was approaching had become a lake, with water up to the windshield of several cars. Streets turned to rivers and basements were transformed into holding ponds. Freeways were closed and cars were stranded.
As I ventured into the watery street with Janet to try and clear out the storm drains in front of her home (they were clear by the way, there was just no where for the water to go), I was surprised to see that the water reached up to my knees.
The downpour was torrential, powerful, beautiful, and dangerous. Truly water has the power to give and sustain life and also to take it away. Thankfully Allison and I and my generous friends Janet and Cindy are just fine. I pray for those who have not been so fortunate, that they may find the help and support of friends, family, and strangers in their time of need.
Although I do not want to read too much into it, I find the symbolism of this flood profound. Many poor residents of the city have been experiencing water shutoffs recently due to unpaid bills. The city water department has faced intense criticism for these harsh actions, and has temporarily put a hold on the shutoffs. Yet many in the city remain without water, one of the essential needs for all people and for all living beings.
Monday’s storm reminded me that there is a greater power in control here, a Great Mystery that does not discriminate based on money. When it rains, it rains on everyone and everything. The water is a right and responsibility of all of us. This storm reminds me that we are all deeply connected and interconnected, and that we need to respect the water as well as one another’s basic human needs.
Tomorrow (Thursday) I have the privilege of being able to sing on the shore of the Detroit River as part of the wonderful childhood literacy program Reading and Rhythm on the Riverfront, sponsored by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. Later this month I get to return to the Detroit Zoo with the Community Gardeners for a fun evening family concert. I even get to perform in Riley Park this month!
I am also helping to organize An Evening of Music and Mindfulness in Ann Arbor on September 5th with many musical and spiritual friends, including some monastic students of Thich Nhat Hanh who will be visiting from New York.
“We have a sacred fire, burning between us. Your heart I admire, so full of kindness. I can see it in your eyes, burning so bright. From sunset to sunrise, our guiding light.”
What is it that can lift our mental perspectives above the daily grind of traffic and bills, beyond the continuous news cycles of violence and politics, and through the anxiety and fear that plagues our fast-paced society? What gives us hope and courage and inspires our hearts? For me, a crucial answer to these questions has always been music, the language of the heart.
Listening to music and creating it with others gives me a doorway into a world of hope and possibility, and teaches me how to harmonize the dissonance of life. Music has become my livelihood over the years and remains an essential part of my being human. It gives me purpose and direction, joy and community. It is food that nourishes my spirit. What a gift it is to share music with other musicians, with intergenerational audiences, and with diverse communities! What a blessing it is to be able to sing prayers in support of healing and wellness.
And so I am very fortunate to have found a true musical heart companion, Allison Radell, with whom I have been privileged to share this beautiful gift of music. Although I have been accustomed to traveling this path as a solo act, I have really enjoyed performing as a duo over the past couple of years with Allison. She continues to teach me many things about collaboration, musical discipline, and the creative process.
We have decided to give our duo an official name, Spirits Rising, to reflect the role that music plays in our lives and our intention of using our collective musical gifts to help inspire and uplift others. We will make our official debut this summer at Native Fest on the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan and will both to continue our solo performances as well.
We hope that you will join us on this path and that our music may help your spirit rise. Hope to see you and sing with you this summer!
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Walking in the woods behind my apartment, I greet the forest as a community of dear friends, supporting me gently with each step I take. This healing forest has been part of my foundation for many years now. As I gradually slow my pace to a more relaxed and natural rhythm with the earth, I notice the small miracles happening all around me.
New green life pushing up through the mud and melting snow. Birds singing intricate and beautiful songs of spring. The sun shining on my path and warming my face. Slowly, the rushing and the busy-ness of my life fades away and I am brought back to the present, to the true nature of the moment.
The forest reminds me that I am not a separate individual but that I am intricately and deeply connected with all other beings. Knowing this, I smile and release my fears and stress. Mother Earth holds and transforms these things for me. The forest gives me an immense gift of hope and renewal, support and refuge.
And so I must take each opportunity I can to return to the forest, giving myself time to slow down and be renewed. Even if I can go for a 10 minute walk it is worth the time and effort. This spring I am relearning this lesson again and again, my need for renewal and refuge in our Mother Earth and in her community of all beings.
I will do my best to walk gently along the tour path this spring, singing songs of celebration and gratitude for the miracles that surround us. I look forward to sharing the journey with you, and I am so grateful for my place in this immense family and for all my relations.