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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

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