Transitions

Hey beauties!

Just a quick head’s up – I am in the process of converting my html website over to this here WordPress website.

So it probably looks a little redundant around here! I’ve got a Sharon’s Website link in the nav, above, yet this already looks like a full website.

So which is it? The answer is both!

Hang with me for just a week or two, and if you aren’t finding answers on this site, just click the Sharon’s Website link.

This will be straightened out shorty!! :+)

In the meantime, you are always welcome to ask me any questions at sharon@sharonknight.net.

Hugs!

Cinque Terre, Italy, part 1 – Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

We arrived late. We had ridden the sleek German trains through the Alps and into Italy, arriving at the coast as the sun set. Rolling past palatial villages and dilapidated “social housing” alike, we took in our first glimpses of the Mediterranean sea. It was flat and calm here, and gave no indication of the sweeping natural drama I was soon to witness.

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Turns out, this was the view that greeted us upon waking.

We arrived at the train station too late for the regional train, so got a cab to Il Borgo di Campi, just outside Riomaggiore. Our cabbie whipped through the hills at speeds fit for James Bond, and I hung my head out the window like a dog and drank deep of the sea air. A mist had crept in and clung to the valley, so there was no hint of the sea beyond the scent. As we climbed higher and higher, I could only imagine what views I’d be met with upon waking.

We stumbled down 200 stairs to our apartmenti, a small stucco studio clinging perilously to the the edge of a cliff. We slept with the soft lilt of the waves in our ears, and awoke to the Ligurian Sea.

Thus began our inevitable seduction by the siren of this land, the soul of nature at her most devastating.

As far as my own inner landscape was concerned, I did not bring a wholly rose colored view of the world to the occasion. Ferguson, MO, had erupted in a wave of protests over police violence just days before, and was met with an alarmingly militant response by police. The growing police state in America is a concern that eats away at me with increasing frequency, and it weighed heavily on my mind as we entered this phase of our adventure. It seemed irreverent to try and tune it out, yet I desperately wanted to give myself wholly to the experience of Italy, for it isn’t often we are able to afford ourselves such a majestic experience.

Conflicted, I carried with me a mix of melancholy and wonder as we embarked on our first explorations.

How much farther to Mordor?

How much farther to Mordor?

We chose to hike into the town of Riomaggiore. We took the Telegrafo up to the No. 3 trail. This was about a two hour hike for us, and some of it was very steep. It was also breathtakingly beautiful. One of the things Cinque Terre is known for is its many hiking trails along the coast. As we took in these sights and smells, this region became a part of us, and began to wash away all that was not part of its grandeur.

We are part of the soul of nature. This belief is at the core of my entire understanding and experience of spirituality. We not only dwell in her, but she also dwells within us. To walk along the coastal trails of Cinque Terre these 6 days has changed me, has brought a fresh nuance to the poetry in my soul, has deepened my capacity for beauty. Do I sound like a mush head? Perhaps. It would take a far more stoic soul than I to resist the romantic allure of this stretch of sea.

IMG_1158Some of the charms this particular trail held for us were the many votives to Mother Mary that were ensconced along the walls as we approached the town. I’m just going to say it: I like religion. I know it is not fashionable to be enamored of something so ‘quaint and outdated’ as religion – after all, are we not modern people, fully equipped with the faculties for rational thought? Surely I risk my membership in that most venerated of social orders, that of the pragmatic and educated Western thinker, to admit to such a provincial predilection. A certain bitter cynicism is, after all, required to maintain my place among the serious adults of the world.

Except that for me, scientific materialism has never held the be-all and end-all of answers to everything in the universe.

This is not to say that I think religion has the answers. I don’t. In fact, I think religion is often laughably bereft of any answers at all. What I do appreciate about religion, however, is the human striving to understand  mysteries that lie beyond the reach of scientific knowledge. Religion itself is not God, but a structure that we have created to help grapple with that sense of moreness that lies at the edge of perception. It is this yearning toward something, that which beckons from the deepest reaches of our being, exquisite in its vulnerability, yet insistent in its promise to fulfill some part of our humanity as yet untouched, that keeps me enchanted with religion.

As a Goddess gal, I was particularly pleased to see how very well represented Mother Mary was here in Cinque Terre!

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Riomaggiore

We entered Riomaggiore invigorated. The weather was perfect; just overcast enough to keep the sun from being overbearing, and with the remnants of the morning mist lingering in the air and on our skin. We had a “fruits of the sea” laden lunch. We roamed the town, with its twisting cobblestone alleyways and lazy cats draped over windows and walls, with the zeal of children, our imaginations utterly swept clean of the modern world.

It was wonderful.

Eventually the sun came out, and I walked right down the harbor and into the sea fully dressed.

The restaurant at Il Borgo Di Campi

The restaurant at Il Borgo Di Campi

It was a glorious day, full of physical exertion, astonishingly beautiful nature, new sights and smells, delicious food, and all manner of old world wonder. We returned to Il Borgo Di Campi at night to a delicious meal at the villa’s restaurant, and I fell asleep again to the sounds of the sea.

 

The next day, I was utterly empty. That stillness one hopes for as the fruit of meditation, but is only rarely granted (if you’re me), was mine this day. It was delicious. And so very needed! The 5 lands of the Cinque Terre are themselves pretty remote. Il Borgo Di Campi is part of a tiny hamlet well outside of Riomaggiore, and it was very quiet. Being a city girl, to achieve this level of quiet is the mythic equivalent of riding a unicorn. There were virtually no other sounds except the rhythm of the sea and an occasional bird.

But it wasn’t just outside that was quiet. Allowing my soul to open to this environment, allowing it to flow through me and attune me to its rhythms, created a stillness within that I rarely possess but frequently long for. My mind ceased its chatter, its worry,  its angst and uncertainty, and was utterly present.

We stayed on the property this entire day, just being with the quietude within and without. Meditating, reading, writing, lounging, listening.

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Our private garden.

The weight of the world will still be there when we return, and I will always ponder whether there is more I can do for the world, but one thing that remains true for me is this; we need these times of stillness. Far from being mere escapism, these times replenish us and reinvigorate us so that when we return to the world, we can be our most effective. We must return to the Well from time to time, to remember that there is beauty in this world, and that it is worth fighting for. When we return to the Well, we bring ourselves back to the world fully charged. These moments allow me to hear the deepest parts of myself, that aspect that is at the heart of what I think of as true religion, that pure presence that allows us to experience that something, that glimpse of eternity that graces us so rarely yet fortifies us so thoroughly. For this day, I was granted the gift of dwelling within this world view, and it was a sacrament.

I was so grateful to have this stillness, to have this monk-like existence in our little studio cottage on the cliffside of Cinque Terre. I could have easily spent another day here, if not several, but it was not meant to be. For the next day it was on to Monterosso and a quite different experience indeed.

 

Kassel, Germany

Lowenburg

We are currently in Winter’s hometown of Kassel, Germany. This town has many charms, not least of which is this castle on the hill. This castle is called the Lowenburg, which means the Lion’s Castle, and it is but one of the many gems in the Wilhelmshoehe Park.

You might think Kassel is named for this castle, but in fact, the Lowenburg is not as old as it looks. It was built by the landgrave Wilhelm IX at the end of the 18th century. It was modeled after a medieval castle, but is not nearly as old as Kassel itself. The city’s name is derived from the ancient Castellum Cattorum, a castle of the Chatti, a German tribe that had lived in the area since Roman times.

Kassel is an extremely green city, filled with numerous parks, footpaths, cobbled streets, and plazas where cars don’t go, making this a very friendly place to walk. There is also, in typical German fashion, one of the most efficient street train networks I have ever experienced. I have often wondered how Winter’s parents get by without a car, especially as they get older. Turns out, the answer is “Quite easily”.

Within a block of their home they can walk to a kiosk and buy a fuenferkarte, a 5-pack of tram tickets, and then catch the tram right across the street to any number of places in the city, including the castle.

Kassel has a number of neighborhood markets, so many that you are only ever within a stone’s throw of fresh bread, meat, cheeses, eggs, fruits and vegetables. The food we have gotten from these markets has all been remarkably delicious, fresh, and of outstanding quality. Growth hormones are banned here in Germany, and the standards for meat production are quite high. I find that I feel more ease in general about trusting the food I purchase here.

I also appreciate how clean everything is! You can run your hands along a stair railing or public door handle and there is no grime. Fine craftsmanship can be found just about everywhere, from door handles to wooden furniture to shower heads. German engineering, baby! It’s a thing.

Speaking of German cliche’s, sausages are quite popular indeed. They are served for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. They are given as gifts. They are as ubiquitous as the beer gardens that pepper virtually every street corner.

photo 5-6

Just outside Cafe KaKu, the ice cream shoppe.

Today we had delicious home made ice cream in an artful little shop owned by a charming Algerian man with warm soulful eyes and a radiant smile. He knew Winter through music, and has apparently worked closely with Peter Gabriel in the world music scene.

Winter’s hometown is the home of the Brothers Grimm, and we visited their museum yesterday. In truth, I expected more. It was mostly a collection of art – some quite good – based on the faerietales, plus some furniture from their home. I suppose I was expecting more along the lines of full on installations that brought the tales to life, and more about the people they collected from. I still enjoyed it though, and for 3 Euros who can complain?

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The hospitals don’t look like this in Oakland.

I adore the old world brick and stone buildings here, with their stories etched in their very stones, revealing an ethic of pride in craftsmanship. This is something that has largely been lost from the world; even here in Germany you can find the plastic, the modern, the superficial. But these things are mingled with history and old world charm in ways that are harder to find in America, particularly on the west coast. As someone who finds great sustenance in beauty, I can easily see that convalescence in this hospital surrounded by trees would facilitate healing quite naturally!

One thing we have both been struck by is how safe it feels here. America has been feeling like a tinder box for some time now, a constant civil unrest ready to burst into flame at a moment’s notice. Germany has certainly had its share of turmoil, but for the time being, it feels at peace with itself. It has been a welcome relief!

Tuesday morning we take the train for 12 hours to Cinque Terre, Italy, a group of 5 medieval villages nestled amidst the cliffs along the Mediterranean sea. I will unplug entirely for this, and allow myself to fully soak in the beauty of land and sea. We all must find ways to replenish ourselves with renewed grace, and this immersion in the naturally world is what fills my cup more than anything else.

When  I am back at the computer again in a few weeks, I will share some gems from the Five Lands! Until then, kiss your sweethearts and breath in the fresh air!

NEW MUSIC!! – The Transmigration of Cora Riley: Music and Words

CoraRileyEP_Cover_Letter_BCWe have new music for you!

And it is a bit off the beaten path from what we usually do. These three songs are based on an urban fantasy novel written by upcoming author Ellie DiJulio, and combines the feel of my solo work with the harder rock of Pandemonaeon, with a hint of Tori Amos vibe thrown in for seasoning.

The story goes that Cora Riley arrives at her 30th birthday wondering what the hell happened. How did she end up here? Had she just been sleepwalking through her life this whole time? She can’t shake the feeling that there must be something more to this world, something more to her life.

She finds it, alright!

The story continues, chronicling her adventures as she stumbles into the Underworld, and comes to find that all is not well there. In her quest to get back home, she must draw on resources she never knew she had. In so doing, she finds the life she was meant for.

It is a fun read, and one that our tribe will likely resonate with.

Ellie-DiJulioI first met Ellie DiJulio in an online group, where I was struck by her clever writing style and her commitment to her craft.

So, I was delighted when she asked me if I would like to collaborate by creating a music collection to go with the book.

Winter and I wrote three songs, inspired by three characters in the book; Cora Riley herself, a mysterious secret agent who holds the key to Cora’s destiny, and the self-appointed Queen of the Underworld.

Winter and I are proud to offer these songs along with the book!

You also get a supplemental PDF with song lyrics, character insights, and details about Ellie and I, your devoted creatrices.

This project is offered as a bundle called The Transmigration of Cora Riley: Music and Words. It can be yours for $8.00!

Yep you get:

  • 3 Original Songs by Sharon Knight and Winter.
  • The Full eBook of the novel “The Transmigration of Cora Riley” in both .epub and .mobi formats.
  • A supplemental PDF with song lyrics and other details about the book and it’s authors.

For Eight Bucks. 

You can check it out right here:

https://sharonknight.bandcamp.com/album/the-transmigration-of-cora-riley-music-and-words

 Want to learn more about Ellie ?

You can visit her here: http://elliedi.com

Just want the songs and the PDF without the story? That is also available for $5, right here:

https://sharonknight.bandcamp.com/album/the-transmigration-of-cora-riley-original-ep

I hope you enjoy our latest offerings much as we enjoyed making it!

May life be ever more full of magic!

Tour Vignette: Wildcrafting in Western Mass

We drove like truckers, we set up, played our hearts out, shared laughs and stories and food with hosts and patrons alike, slept the sleep of the dead, and did it all over again. Day after day for two weeks. We landed in a charming wooden witch hut in a forest, with quirky angles, an overgrown garden, and herbs steeping in jars. By Sunday, we found ourselves beneath a canopy of trees with a master herbalist. Our mission: wildcraft 40 pounds of witch hazel.

That’s a lot of witch hazel, yo!

We were led in a prayer to the witch hazel plant before we began. A treehugger cliche perhaps? For a split second I thought so, and right on its heels the following thought: this is such a lovely way to live one’s life! To take a moment to speak to the tree, to acknowledge its consciousness and bring our own presence to the tree, allows us to be aware of its life, its needs, its limits. The dismissive judgement of “treehugger” is someone’s voice, to be sure. But it is not mine. Just something I heard somewhere, and took on. I let it go. For my part, this way of approaching the world is far preferable.

A plant will tell you what it wants. You can feel when you have taken enough leaves, and when you should stop. You can feel its rhythms, a kind of humming. You can feel its relief as you prune away the overgrowth, allowing it to shed its burden and drink the sunlight. Likewise you can feel it begin to strain if you take too much. All it requires is a moment to acknowledge the tree, a moment of prayer or communion, and you can establish this type of communication. It is so simple, so obvious, it is a wonder to me that we could ever have become so disconnected from nature as to lose our awareness of its life force. And yet, we have. As I wandered through the woods plucking witch hazel leaves, the interconnectedness of life was so prevalent, so right there, that I could no more deny its reality than I could deny the reality of love.

I wondered, as I gathered, whether my ease of communion with the plant was totally intuitive, or whether there was some teaching deep in my memory that was guiding me. I seemed to know a fair bit about best pruning practices. My dad had been a gardener, perhaps I had picked up some things from him. And then I remembered it was Father’s Day, and I was awash in such an intense hit of grief, memory, and missing my dad, that I burst into tears right there in the woods.

Life had been too much for my gentle father. He had no idea how to navigate the world of women’s emotions, and my stepmother had plenty of them. This dynamic destroyed our family, and he died with a great deal of loss and regret. There was something of a “visitation” about this experience, cathartic and healing, as though parts of my relationship with my father that I had lost could be regained in this moment. It was as though the forest opened me to places inside myself that I keep safely tucked away, and allowed me to commune with my father, or at least, with his memory. This grief was a gift, for I would rather have moments of true sadness than to tuck my love for my father so far inside myself that I forget where I’ve left it.

I continued on, going from tree to tree, taking what leaves were offered – in some cases the trees were glad to be rid of them; I’d go to pluck one leaf and five would come off in my hand – it occurred to me that the life of the wanderer is a sort of wildcrafting process. You meander along, never really knowing what you’ll find, but you open yourself to life, and pluck what seems most fitting from what is offered. There is a certain amount of trust that must be extended, and this too is a lovely way to live one’s life. You don’t know what you’ll be given, for life is anything but routine out on the road. Yet somehow you always find what you need.

Sometimes that ends up being a gas station burrito, of course, but that just makes the home made soup all the sweeter when it comes!

 

The Call of the Winding Road

Road at cloudy sunset copy

We are on the road! And with the exception of two weeks in July we will be on the road until mid-October.  As we get ready for life on road, there is a commingling feeling of anticipation and anxiety, a feeling I have grown so accustomed to that it doesn’t bother me any more. The “will I get it all done” anxiety is just part of the process, and I know that indeed I will get most of it done, and what doesn’t get done will be non-essential.

I love the feel of the road, the roll of the tires beneath the car. There is something so meditative about it. The rhythm of the road lulls me into an introspective trance, and I am thankful to have the space to settle into deep contemplation. Over the years there have been many who’ve told me that I would hate this life. Would that I had realized sooner than, no, in fact it was they who would hate this life. For me, it is a salvation. I cherish this time of introspection, for in these moments of stillness and rhythm do I find the jewels of what life has to offer.

Then of course, there is the arrival. Somewhere new. A different setting entirely. New scents, new tastes, friends we haven’t seen in many months. Changing up my surroundings always makes me feel fresh. My mental habits are challenged and upturned, and I find it easier to break free of the ruts we all tend to fall into.

Yes. I am inflicted with an incurable Wanderlust. When I think back to how I came to develop this taste for travel, the answer comes easily. My Dad. He had an unquenchable love of travel. When I was thirteen, he packed up our entire family and carted us off to Thailand for a year. I admit to feigning torture, as such upheaval can be challenging for a teenage girl hopelessly trying to be cool. Yet, the memories from this time in my life remain some of my richest. Over the years, my Dad saw as much of the world as he could, trading his skills as a teacher for the ability to live abroad. I didn’t live with him for much of this time, but I always admired him. When he died, I inherited his travel scrapbooks, and they held me in thrall. My sister and I spent hours pouring over them.

So as I prepare myself for an extended journey, I think fondly of my Dad. I thank him for instilling in me the value of travel. Of seeing the world and how others live. This year we make our first foray into performing in Europe, with two shows in Germany. We’ll be staying with Winter’s family in Kassel, very near where the Grimm Brothers lived and wrote many of their famous faery tales. I plan to write some songs here, based on a few of Grimm’s tales. We will also visit Cinque Terre in Italy for our 20th wedding anniversary. It is only 10 hours’ drive from where we are staying, and will be the fulfillment of a dream I have had for several years now.

The life I have chosen is precarious at times. Not brimming over with security, and yet it answers a call in me like nothing else ever has. Like my father, I find myself trading on what skills I have to enable a life of travel. To drink in as much of the world as I can, tasting as many different expressions of life as possible during my short time here, is a spiritual experience for me, and one of the best ways I can think of to show my gratitude for the gift of this life.

Since I have now embarked on a journey lasting the better part of  six months, this blog will become a travel journal of sorts. I will share my stories, foibles epiphanies, laughs, and any travel tips I find useful. I hope you’ll visit often!

Let the journey commence!

Sonic Alchemy – the Song of your Soul

SoundHealing

As I have several Sonic Alchemy workshops coming up, I figured it would be a good idea to talk about Sonic Alchemy a bit, and explain exactly what it is.

If you know me at all, you know I love singing.  When I am singing clearly and powerfully, I feel completely free. It is as though my soul is breaking through the struggles and strife of the world and soaring among the clouds. This unfettered feeling of liberation gives me a vantage point that I don’t have when I am mired in the struggles of a sometimes heartbreaking world. For a time, I feel exalted, and from this place of exaltation, I gain insights that guide my life. The gift of song is one of the great joys of my life.

I want to share this with you.

Sonic Alchemy was created so that you can experience the power of sound in a more intimate setting than performer-audience. Rather than being carried on the current of the performance, Sonic Alchemy facilitates your own experience of singing, and of music in general. Sonic Alchemy is a way for me to share just how deeply sound and music can grace our lives.

Sound moves energy. We all know this.

We’ve heard about vocalists shattering glass with their voices.

We’ve seen how specific resonances can create geometric patterns out of salt crystals.    

We’ve heard accounts of sound’s ability to harm, or to heal

But how often have we stopped to consider how sound might be used intentionally to shift what is stuck in our own lives?

Consider for a moment the catharsis of crying to your favorite song.  How the music moves you to tears you’ve been needing to cry, and how refreshed you feel afterwards.  

Sonic Alchemy is a gently guided journey through our inner landscapes, where we open, deepen, confront roadblocks, release, discover, and commit to our deepest desires.

In Sonic Alchemy, we use sound to orchestrate breakthroughs that may have been inaccessible otherwise. We can feel the resonance of sound in our bodies, which is why it can move us so profoundly.  Through opening ourselves to song, we can gain perspective on aspects of our lives that we may have been too enmeshed in to see clearly before.

Sonic Alchemy uses singing, drumming, percussion, Tibetan bowls, and Acutonics tuning forks to create a symphony of sound crafted to gently open us. We set the stage with Tibetan bowls, to ground us and call us to center. In alternating periods of singing, meditation, journaling, drumming, meditation, and more journaling, we surrender ourselves to sound. We let it stir us and shift things inside us. We allow it to fortify us for the journey ahead. We write about it so we do not forget. By singing together, we bring ourselves into resonance with each other, instilling feelings of empathy, compassion, and camaraderie. We feel seen, and we feel less alone in the world. We complete the session with the humming resonance of Acutonics tuning forks, to ground us and seal sound into our bodies.

At the end of the workshop, we take what insights we have uncovered, and make one commitment.  We choose one action we can take to bring our insights to fruition in our daily life. Each participant will be given a token of remembrance for their altar.

You will leave a Sonic Alchemy session with more clarity, more energy, and with a feeling of rejuvenation and renewal. You will feel closer to yourself and your community. And you will most likely have a renewed sense of conviction about some of the things that matter most to you.

We can use sound to orchestrate our own lives.  We can craft our lives to be a symphony of  meaning.

————————————

(Next Sonic Alchemy workshop: 

October 5th 1pm-4pm
Sonic Alchemy workshop
Life Fore Arts Center
1609 West Belmont
Chicago, Il
$45 Advance $55 door
$55 concert and workshop special package deal – advance only
Get Tickets here:

http://www.lifeforcearts.org/site/calendar/monthly-calendar/icalrepeat.detail/2014/10/05/6188/-/sonic-alchemy-to-re-enchant-your-world-with-sharon-knight

Concert Details the night before:
October 4th Doors 8pm show 8:30pm
Mankind Project
1900 W Fulton St
Chicago, Il 60612
Tickets $20 advance $25 door|
Advance tickets here:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/820570

Want to learn more about Sonic Alchemy?

Try these:

Experience Acutonics Tuning Forks with this FREE Sonic Alchemy meditation

An amusing little rant about singing together.

An early article on Sonic Alchemy and the healing qualities of sound.

Love – it isn’t just for Hallmark Cards Anymore

CupidLove has become cliche.

It seems trite now, a meaningless hippie platitude.  Love is not all we need. We also need water. And oxygen. And preferably, all our limbs. We need banks to stop robbing us blind. We need a stronger economy so that we have a chance to thrive. We need to find sustainable ways of living on our finite planet. We need a healthy immune system. We need to be able to defend our loved ones. We need competence and compassion. We need reliable news sources. We need creative outlets.

So, with a roll of our eyes, we toss “All we need is love” into the rubbish bin, alongside “We are all One” and “Visualize World Peace”.

Which is too bad, because it is one of the most ennobling experiences we humans can have.

How can we reclaim love? How can we remind each other that it is more than a sentiment for Hallmark cards and pale pink hearts and cloying romantic comedies where all problems are solved and everyone lives happily ever after within a 90 minute time frame?

Maybe we need to remember how fierce love can be.

  • Love is the strength of a mother to lift a car to rescue her child.
  • Love is a Tibetan monk setting himself on fire in protest of his culture being destroyed.
  • Love is giving up a cushy job so that you can devote your life to ending sex trafficking.
  • Love is speaking out against the oppression of others.
  • Love is keeping our commitments.

To reclaim love, we can also think about the awesomeness (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, not with “dude” added after it) of life itself . Consider our situation: We experience our lives from within these automated meat suits, itself a miracle. We are breathing air because a long time ago a bunch of chemicals decided to bunch together for whatever incomprehensible reason – or no reason at all – and create life. And here we are, with a zillion different types of flowers and animals and rocks and things to eat, look at, and experience. We are on this planet alongside music. And Fjords. And Lions. Lions! And a gajillion stars that are 200 million miles away from each other. And those are the close ones! Just the ones right next to us in this one galaxy, which is frigging huge. And of which there are a gazillion more.

If this doesn’t inspire love, or at least awe, you might already be dead.

I believe this level of awe is also love. For what is love if not an experience that cracks our hearts open to the beauty, wonder, and amazement of creation? What is love if not to be overcome by the majesty of this glorious, mysterious life?

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! May you fall in love with everything!

 

In Honor of Beauty, Mystery, and a Life Well Lived

Teresa

Teresa Morgan, Sep. 20, 1956- Dec. 26, 2013
Rest in Peace. I love you.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, one of my closest friends died.

It wasn’t unexpected. But it did come more suddenly than we thought. The whole thing seemed to happen so fast.  Last year, we had plans to visit her and her sweetie on New Year’s day, and she decided to take a rain check as she had an important doctor’s appointment the next day. Nothing serious, she just wanted to get something checked out.

That something turned out to be cancer.

Less than a year later, she was gone.

We got the call on Christmas, as we drove home from Christmas dinner with my sister. Her husband wasn’t sure she would last the night. Thankfully she did, and was still with us when we arrived on December 26th. She passed at roughly 11:36pm that night.

Here’s the thing – her death, sad though it was, for she was far too young, was also strangely beautiful and inspiring.

Does that sound callous? Delusional? Did I make it beautiful in my own mind, to buffer myself from the pain of losing a dear friend? It is possible. However, I have  borne witness to 3 deaths. 5, if you count cats, which I do. They are family too, after all. Each death had a different quality. My father’s death, although fairly peaceful, was much more matter-of-fact.

Teresa was a trained magician. And honestly, I have no better explanation for why her death was so much more majestic than my father’s. She departed this world in an array of lights, shimmering blues and golds and whites. I began seeing these lights as soon as we got the phone call on Christmas night, and they lasted several days after her passing.

Admittedly, I have always been a very visual person. It’s as if my third eye came into this world on acid and never came down.  I have had to find a framework for this, and the language of magic fits better than anything else. Either that, or I’m in need of medication, but this interpretation has always felt annoyingly dismissive.

That said – Teresa’s passing was psychedelic as all get out.

This is what it felt like:

It was as though she was streaming out of her body for 48 hours. Gently diffusing like an essential oil, permeating the room with her essence, slowly and steadily rising out and up, as though she were rising on the plains. And the lights! The air around her was positively crackling with lights! Blue and green and white and gold – like fireworks. As her life force ebbed away from her body, the room was infused with this pulsing energy and light.

When she was gone, she was gone. Her body was an empty husk, nothing of her lingering.

And yet this perception of light lasted a good 3-5 days. My perception shifted to the view of all life as a river, that the things of our manifest world are not so solid as they appear, and that all life blinks in and out of the world of form in an endless dance of light and energy, never truly ending, just returning to a great sea of consciousness.

I have perceived the world like this off and on since childhood, and it has always struck me as somehow more “real” than our day to day mindset. It has always felt like an undercurrent that exists just beneath the surface of habitual perception. I don’t always live in this mindset, due to the need to participate in the day to day world. But it came back to me as a consequence of Teresa’s passing, as if she were leaving me a final teaching before she went, a reminder not to forget. It was utterly beautiful, to the point of ecstasy.

Were my brain inventing a story to protect me from the pain of  loss, I would expect comfort. But ecstasy?

Were my brain inventing a story to protect me from the pain of loss, wouldn’t it have produced a similar experience when my father died?

“What exactly is going on with consciousness?” remains, for me, one of the most fascinating question life has to offer.  What is this experience of life being a river, of the separateness and concreteness of matter being rather less absolute than they appear?  The postulation that we can explain away these experiences as mere brain chemistry does not hit the mark for me at all. It feels like just the very tip of an unimaginably vast iceberg. Why do we have these experiences? Why do they so often strike us as more profound than “real” life? These are the questions that captivate me. Our brains give us the ability to have them…but what purpose do they serve, and why does it feel so essential to who and what we are as humans?

I don’t have answers for these questions. I do have a conviction that these experiences are vital.

Larger questions aside, I sit with the observation that each death has its own story to tell, its own current that manifests as an extension of the quality of life that person lived. My father, who lived his life without any strong spiritual convictions, felt as though he sunk into the earth, dissipating into the elements and molecules. My friend Tara, who passed a few years ago, felt to several of us in the room as though she shot out her heart and into the body of Hecate. (Complete with a spontaneous song to Hecate shooting through T. Thorn Coyle at the moment of Tara’s passing).

Teresa felt as though she rose up into a vehicle she created for herself through years of magickal practice.

In writing this, it is not my intent to attempt to prove or disprove magick. Only to stay open to mystery. It is my will to acknowledge Teresa’s friendship, her wisdom, and to honor this feeling that as she departed, she left me a very great gift, a feeling that life is so vastly more beautiful and fascinating than we can ever imagine. Teresa was a friend that I spent many years exploring life’s mysteries with, and as she departed she gifted me with an experience of mystery that I will not soon forget.

Thank you Teresa. May you be blessed on your journey, and may we meet again!

A Tale of Two Stories

One upon a time there was a girl with stars in her eyes. She had tumbling red curls and a song in her heart. But she realized, she was sad. She had abandoned her dreams. So one day she turned to her charming prince and said “let’s hit the road and be musicians”. And so they did. Across the land they roamed, singing songs and making friends. Tentative and bumpy, but overflowing with passion, was this humble musical venture of theirs. When times were tough, they always had a place to stay. One day, they decided to take the leap and give up their home so that they could afford to take more risks and spend more time on the road doing what they loved most. They were nervous, but they had support and love enough to feel good about taking the plunge. They were in love, they lived a creative life, they travelled the world singing, and were very happy.

Meanwhile, in a parallel reality -

Times were tough. Everywhere you looked, folks were losing their jobs, their homes, their security. Debt was increasing, jobs were decreasing, and people were having a much harder time weathering basic life challenges. Folks who had little to begin with were hit especially hard. Such was the case for our protagonists; struggling to make a living in an uncertain industry, they were eventually confronted with the need to abandon their home in order to stay on top of their bills. They just couldn’t keep up with the demands of daily life, and became yet another statistic in the saga of the dwindling middle class.

Both of these stories are true. One sounds like a wonderful adventure and the other is a hard luck tale. I would so much rather be the person in the first story, wouldn’t you?

As it turns out, I am.  I am also the person in the second story. These stories are both about Winter and I, where we are at in life, and some pretty big changes that are coming up for us. In some ways these changes are brought about by events that could be considered unfortunate. But we are pretty excited about them!

In a nutshell, we are giving up our darling Lake Merritt apartment with the hardwood floors and the bay view, and moving into a tiny loft bedroom in an Emeryville townhouse. We will have considerably less space, for considerably less cost.

This is something that we have been discussing for a few years now. Most of our musician friends have given up their homes at one time or another to live on the road, and saving on rent costs really helped them get ahead. They invariably describe this time in their lives as challenging, but ultimately beneficial. We can’t help but imagine the possibilities for ourselves.

However, we’ve been reluctant to give up our own space. A place that is just ours, where we can let our hair down and not have to be “on” for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – being the celebrated “Artist on Tour” is loads of fun. But sometimes I just want to sit around in my underpants, you know what I’m saying?

So we put off making this choice.

Until Winter’s dentist made it for us.

While we probably could whether this new expense, it feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. We want to invest in our business more than we’ve been able to. We want to get out of debt faster than we’ve been. And the more we are on the road, the more it hurts to send back a giant rent check for a place we aren’t even living in.

So we are taking the plunge, and for the most part, we are feeling pretty excited about it!

Of course, it could be said that medical bills are driving us into downsizing our lifestyle. There are those who would interpret our situation as tragic. There are those who will shake their heads in pity, thinking us fools for chasing this music dream. There are those who will see the second story as the hard truth, stripped of the romanticism I am known for.

But frankly, I identify with the first story so much more! And since it’s my life, I get to define what is adventure and what is tragic. I have dreamed of being location independent for years, traveling the world as I sing songs for people and work from my laptop. As I see it, this is the best of both worlds! I will get to experience the benefits of location independence, and still have a place to hang my hat. This is freaking awesome!

I can see wanting to have a larger home again someday, where I can spread out and have art projects all over the place. Indeed, owning a home is a significant measure of success to me. But I can do the gypsy thing for awhile and feel just fine about it. I am so thankful to be given this opportunity (thank you – you know who you are) and it really brings home the point to me that community, love, is what makes the difference between whether our stories are tragic or exciting. It is community and love that makes the first story ring true.

It also brings home to me just how much we live in our stories. How much our stories color our world. How many different viewpoints can be simultaneously true, and what it says about each of us which version of truth we choose to live in.

I live my life as an epic saga. Every day is an adventure, and if someone wants to tell me my life is nothing more than a sad newspaper statistic they can kindly piss off.

I am looking forward to sharing this new phase of our adventure here on this blog as I step more fully into the life of the touring musician! Will I freak out sometimes? Undoubtedly. Might I fail? Well sure. But you know – when I am on my death bed I am going to be damned thankful that I took my best shot at living my dreams rather than clinging to the (rather flimsy) promise of security and the American Dream.

How about you? What parallel stories do you have going on in your life?  What stories do you claim as yours? What stories define your life?