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Reasons to Hope

Posted by on Jan 5, 2021 in newsletter | 0 comments

Our Mother Earth rests under a blanket of snow here in Anishinaabe Aki, the land of the People of the Three Fires, Michigan. She reminds us of the importance of stillness and renewal, and gives us the hope of spring within the dormancy of winter.

We have made it to 2021, and what a journey it has been! As we grieve those who have died as well as the multitude of losses we have suffered in 2020, let us anchor ourselves in hope for the possibilities that lie ahead.

Indeed we have many concrete reasons to hope; the days are getting longer, COVID vaccinations are starting to be distributed, and we will soon witness the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, signaling much needed relief from the past four years of divisive and destructive politics and policies. President-elect Biden has nominated the first Native American cabinet secretary in his choice of Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior. Yes there are many reasons to be hopeful!

We are hopeful not only for a “return to normal,” but for new ways of living and working together that can bring healing change to our society and our world. How can we live in ways that generate justice, peace, compassion, understanding, and respect for all people and all beings?

I am excited to offer my humble contributions in this coming year to these new and old ways of being together. I have been inspired by my friend and fellow songwriter Sue Fink, in whose Virtual Dream Cafe series I will participate on January 6th, to continue to develop creative ways to share music virtually. I hope you will join us and experience the warm and intimate online musical experience Sue curates.

In that spirit I am happy to announce the launch of Children of the Earth, an online children’s music series using Zoom, which will occur every Thursday afternoon for 6 weeks starting January 14th. I am inviting families and classrooms to join me in these live and interactive virtual concerts. Come to any or all Thursday sessions and sing, dance, and play together from the comfort and safety of your home.

And in the end of January I am looking forward to teaming up with some of my fellow Earthwork Music artists for a virtual Songwriter’s Summit for Resilience. Come vision, create, write, and sing with us!

May the music remind us of the many reasons to be grateful, hopeful, and loving while staying rooted in the present moment. Let us continue to cultivate the spaciousness and possibilities for hope to bloom in this new year.

Yours in the music,
Joe

Vote for Mother Earth

Posted by on Oct 13, 2020 in newsletter | 0 comments

Allison and I voted last week, completing our absentee ballots at the kitchen table. We first lit a candle and burned cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco. We prayed for our ancestors to help us make wise decisions in the interest of future generations. And we utilized our internet connection to research candidates about whom we knew little, doing our best to make educated choices.

In each case we chose candidates who stand for justice and whose work seems rooted in environmental and social ethics. We sealed our ballots, signed them carefully, and drove them to our city clerk’s office to drop them off. It was so easy and satisfying. Although ours are only two votes, we recognize them as important components in our work for healing and progressive change.

I vote because I care deeply about our public health and the health of our planet. I believe in environmental justice; the right for all people-regardless of race or economic status-to have a clean, healthy, and safe environment. This includes the right to safe and fair policing for communities of color and the right for all people to have food, water, shelter, and health care. My vote is rooted in love for my fellow humans and our Mother Earth, and in the courage to change the things I can.

During these past four years we have lived through a relentless onslaught of attacks on environmental policy from the Trump administration, from his pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement to his green lighting of oil pipelines through Native communities and opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. At the same time Trump’s encouragement of white supremacy has amplified the devastating effects of systemic racism on communities of color.

Our country is in desperate need for a change in leadership. We need leaders who will stand up for the health of all people and of the earth. The Biden-Harris ticket is a necessary step in the right direction. Senator Gary Peters will continue to fight to protect the Great Lakes and the people of Michigan. Who on your ballot will fight for Mother Earth and environmental justice?

I encourage you to use your voice and your vote to advocate for the issues that matter most to you. Below are some voting resources that I have found helpful in making my vote for Mother Earth. I hope they are helpful for you too.

With love and courage,
Joe

The Great Awakening

Posted by on Aug 26, 2020 in newsletter | 0 comments

The seed of the song was first watered by my Dharma brother Jon Hart, an ICU nurse in Tulsa who shared honestly about the immense suffering he and his colleagues were facing as the pandemic took hold in the US. I asked Jon what I could do to help support. He suggested a song. It seemed small and inadequate, but also something within my power to help create. I continued to listen to the elders and the bearers of wisdom, to my own heart and mind, and to our Mother Earth.

After hearing Dharma talks given by many wise teachers in the Plum Village tradition as part of an online retreat, including Peggy Rowe-Ward, Larry Ward, Sister Peace, Thay Phap Luu, and Thay Phap Vu, I picked up my pen and journal and began writing. I picked up my guitar and sang.

I shared the song in a video call with fellow members of the Earthwork Music Collective, a Michigan-based group of artist-activist friends, who encouraged me to record it as a collaborative project. Soon we were doing our best to record sound and video from our homes, turning our bedrooms, offices, living rooms, and backyards into makeshift studios.

Elisabeth Pixley-Fink, Samantha Cooper, and Audra Kubat wove together tapestries of beautiful vocal harmonies. Seth Bernard added a compassionate acoustic guitar part and Mark Lavengood contributed haunting dobro slides. Jordan Hamilton created a deep bed of cello love and Peace Be Free wrote and rapped a whole new lyrical verse chock full of wisdom and insight. Chris Good added an electric bass line and Sari Brown sang a verse and danced with the other vocalists during the chorus parts. Dan Rickabus helped bring it all together with a solid rhythmic foundation of drums and percussion, Mother Earth heartbeats.

Using our cellphone cameras we captured our own images and the places around us that were helping us to remain connected to love and compassion. We enlisted the help of audio and video engineer friends Brian Woodring and Charlie Steen who worked with the raw footage and audio files to help us create something beautiful for the world.

Out of the compost of suffering, a flower is now blooming. Please, enjoy it’s beauty, witness any transformation that it helps to inspire, and take those seeds and plant them in your own soil. May we cultivate fields of compassion so that our world can harvest bushels of love. May we generate energies of peace and healing, so that our country can continue to evolve into more inclusive, compassionate, sustainable, healthy, and safe communities for all people, for all beings, for all our relations.

Listening with you,
Joe