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May We Grow With the Trees

Posted by on Jul 8, 2020 in newsletter | 0 comments

“May we grow with the trees
May our hearts be at ease
May our education be
a lifelong ceremony”
~from The Rainbow Room Song, written with students at the Boggs School, April 2020

Hearing the gentle evening serenade of the cicadas. Noticing the vibrant orange blooms of the butterfly milkweed. Seeing the sun reflecting on the waves of Lake Michigan as it drifts towards the western horizon. Singing in the shade of a giant tulip tree. I welcome summer in Anishinaabe Aki, the land of the People of the Three Fires.

This, a season like none that has come before, presents us with our vulnerabilities as humans, our deep interdependence, and the vast racial and economic disparities of our society. The pandemic of Covid-19 and the pandemic of police brutality and violence against Black people and People of Color have laid bare the truths of enduring injustice and systemic racism that is rooted in the foundation of America.

In spite of the evasiveness and negligence of a willfully ignorant president, I have been encouraged by the consistent peaceful uprisings of people from all races and ethnicities who are awakening to the need for healing justice. Here we are, singing, praying, meditating, social distancing, marching, drawing, stretching, sketching, writing, riding, grieving, crying, meeting, smiling, laughing, listening, breathing; growing towards something greater and more inclusive than we have known before.

This is not a linear path, and there is no one perfect solution to the traumatic legacies inherited from centuries of racial oppression. Yet there are so many paths to healing. Infinite ways to learn how to be together, how to hold one another, how to listen deeply and be present to one another’s suffering. Music and songs are vital to these efforts. Our shared heartbeat. Our shared breath. The vibration of our being. Our common humanity.

We are creative, resilient, and good, we human beings. Remind yourself! Remind your neighbors! May we embody this goodness in small and great actions. May we use our gifts to help feed the fire of awakening that is burning away the fear and ignorance and transforming hatred into love. May we be the change we wish to see in the world.

I have some live streams and live shows coming up this summer (I am only agreeing to do outdoor performances where physical distancing will be supported). I have decided to move my Happy Songs mindfulness and songwriting camp online to protect the safety of all participants, making it now available to children from any geographic location. Please read on for performance and camp dates, and for a special musical self-care package just for you!

Growing with you and with the trees,
Joe

Be Still and Know

Posted by on Mar 24, 2020 in newsletter | 0 comments

Waiting in the Detroit Metro Airport for our flight to Seattle on February 28th, I told Allison “Something feels different.” I have made that trip each year for more than a decade as part of my annual West Coast Tour but I could tell that this would be like no tour prior. Without knowing it we were standing on the precipice of the corona virus outbreak in the United States. The day after we arrived in Seattle, the governor of Washington declared a state of emergency because the virus was spreading there.
 
My first response was fear. Then I remembered to breathe, and to take refuge in the practice of present moment awareness. Allison and I talked about what we should do, prayed about it, and sat with it in meditation, turning it over to the Great Spirit. We were able to have fun and joyful performances at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island. We were scheduled to end the tour on Lopez Island, one of our favorite places to visit. As we took stock of the developing situation, Allison had the idea of renting a car and driving home rather than flying, to further reduce our risk of exposure to the virus.
 
We reluctantly cancelled our Lopez Library show and used our final four days of the tour to drive across country, taking the southern route from Bremerton, Washington through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska (where a state trooper was convinced that we were trafficking drugs), Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and back home to our precious mitten-shaped state. Thankfully the weather was clear and the roads were dry. We enjoyed the journey and were grateful to have made it home safely, only to find the corona virus close behind. Soon after we returned the virus began spreading here in Michigan. Schools were closed, and just this week our governor ordered us to “stay in place,” or as I like to call it “be still and know.”
 
We have been home now for over two weeks and thankfully have not experienced any symptoms. We have been carefully taking precautions and trying to do our part to slow the spread of the virus. All of our music gigs for the foreseeable future have been cancelled or postponed. We, along with most other humans around the world, are learning how to adapt and live in this new reality.
 
Of course my old friends fear and anxiety have continued to arise. The spiritual practices of prayer, meditation, and making and sharing music have been so deeply helpful. I have been reminded that the ancestors and Spirit helpers are here with us, and that each moment is an opportunity to take refuge in their love and compassion. Music, meditation, and mindfulness help bring me back to this place of knowing; Knowing that I am deeply interconnected with all life, beyond space and time. Knowing that it is our human nature to grow old, to get sick, and to die. Knowing that I want to respond to this situation with wisdom and compassion. Knowing that I don’t know the outcome and that’s okay. Knowing that I can trust God, trust the Spirit, and take good care of this present moment.
 
Allison and I are aware that we are very fortunate. We are healthy and well. We don’t have underlying health conditions. We are currently out of work but we have enough savings to make it through the next few months. We are aware that those who work in health care are on the front lines of this fight. We pray for those workers, and for our elders and for those who are the most vulnerable.
 
In our own little way, we offer our music and songs as a refuge and support along your path. I’ll be doing two live stream music events this week and I hope you will join me. Whether you are young or old, sick or healthy, working or not, we are in this together. We inter-are. And we sing for you.
 
Wishing you and your family good health and happiness,
 
Joe

Our Human Family

Posted by on Jan 22, 2020 in newsletter | 0 comments

“We are the tribe of human beings. We are family. We are related. As self-evident as that may seem to some of us, it is an historic recognition that has yet to be achieved…Humanity still suffers daily and deeply from religious intolerance, racial violence, and endemic warfare. The most fundamental lessons of kinship seem to elude us.”
~Steven Charleston, The Four Vision Quests of Jesus

I am very familiar with fear. I know the fear of loneliness, the fear of failure, the fear of being unworthy of love, and the fear of change. I know the fear of suffering and pain, and the big fear of death. I know the fear of being vulnerable, of getting hurt, and the fear of being truly present in my relationships.

And yet my humanity calls me to overcome this fear with courage, to love and be loved even at the risk of being hurt, and to be in right relationship with myself and with my fellow humans, even the ones who disrupt my serenity.

I know that to confront fear with more fear only adds to collective suffering. I know that I must dig deep in myself to cultivate the mindfulness that allows me to embrace my fear with compassion and love. And I know that I cannot do this alone, that I can only transform my fear with the support of community.

I look to you as a part of that Beloved Community. When we join together in song, when we smile to one another, when we support each other in living and acting with kindness and compassion, we are helping to transform our world. We are recognizing our place within this human family, and are honoring our relationships with one another. We are recognizing the fear, embracing it with strong and gentle arms, and growing our collective love.

In this New Year when many in our society, including our current President, seem ready to act out of fear and lead us towards division, hatred, and war, let us work together to grow our collective love and courage.

To All My Relations,

Joe