award winning media midwife + artist + producer + professor
My Letter To You, Dr. Angelou
Dearest Global Renaissance Woman, Dr. Maya Angelou,
Although your body and spirit have separated recently, your presence is undeniable.
I'd like to take this moment to thank you for living your life with such an exquisitely insatiable curiosity for truth.
You were a remarkable example of dynamic resilience and creativity inside the human form, moved to fill page upon page of translation from your rich and fertile being. Not just in the written word, oh no. In music, film, theater, dance and other various expressions, you mastered the craft of tuning inward to listen, inquire and then create. Even your tweet a mere 5 days before your death wisely said, "Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God." The voice of creative force in all of us is the very truth of existence, waiting, beckoning to be received, held, and, then, released, hopefully, to bring more light to this world.
You lived that way, Dr. Angelou, all the way to your quiet, dignified passing at home with loved ones surrounding. Your soul was able to completely let go, rest and expand into the Great Eternal Mystery where we will all return. Because of our common origin and destination you were able to see the beauty and possibility in yourself and, hence, in all human beings.
Today, the capacity to listen to ourselves is becoming a biological imperative, particularly when inundated like never before with marketing, technology and the mass quantities of stuff we think we need outside of ourselves to be ok, to be enough, to be worthy. We cannot buy our way out, but we can imagine a new way through, and that, I think, is by listening. It gives me great solace to know that you, Dr. Angelou, didn't write your first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, until your 40th year around the sun. Before you focused on this historic writing, your despair and grief must have been so unbearable to realize "the need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind."
You couldn't be caged. Oh no. You liberated yourself from darkness into the healing waters of your destiny by owning your uncommon, unlikely path as a best-selling author, poet, editor, essayist, screenwriter, director, actress, playwright, producer, dancer, singer, teacher, civil rights activist, and mother. I salute you! I celebrate you for your courageous, inspired life of bone deep compassion, unwavering humility, and tremendous gratitude for a brilliant turnaround. You re-framed your life to make it thrive!
Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou, Global Renaissance Woman, for living a life so alive and real and connected to life far beyond your own. You will inspire me until my last breath, and beyond.
Healing Matriarchal Lineage
What a journey we have lived, side by side for 40 years. Sometimes enmeshed. Sometimes in sync. Sometimes distant. Always connected deeply in the heart, even through cycles of insane triggers, projection, drama, and fear. Our vast spectrum of charmed and crazed engagements have never been boring.
At this point in my life, I am weathered and humbled. We have come through enough to see each other as mutually distinct fellow Warrioresses of our lineage. It is now clear that we have been given this chance, in these bodies, to tap critical clues and answers to the gateway, The Holy Grail, of healing our family.
You inspire and mirror in me the will to dig deep and uncover the wisdom of dark, raw emotion. To now know, without a doubt, that we have been living with, and playing out, the particular pain body of Jean from 100 years ago, liberates me. To actually feel and release our shared unmetabolized trauma, to think about and feel the sorrow she could not access makes it possible for these feelings to finally move through us! Hallelujah! Her grief lived in our cells to be transformed into light in this lifetime together.
You truly are a great mother, woman, grandmother, alchemist, and friend. I love you. It is an honor to be your daughter. Happy Mother's Day. I wrote this song as a tribute to you and all moms everywhere.
Life Changer of an Article
There have been times in the last 9 years of parenting my children where it was the sweetest of molasses days, where I learned to slow all the way down, where I learned to heal my heart by showing up and loving unlike any love I've ever imagined. To unplug from the world in deep time pockets to grow wider when stretched beyond the emotional and physical limits of my perceived comfort zone was my Jedi training.
When something felt hard (ie: the MESS of my house, the crying up all night, the mounds of laundry, toys everywhere, the backlog of emails and responsibilities that gathered cobwebs, a dwindling career with a terrifying lack of focus, poop on my hands, the countless vulnerable moments in a day, children running around my house with sparkles and markers and dirty hands on the walls), I learned to let go into the delicious mess of it most of the time. These experiences have given me a rich context for what it actually means to be productive and effective in the world.
As the kids get older they are thankfully forming their own ideas, interests, and pursuits. My psychological blind spots have been growing right alongside, pretty much always identified and sometimes wildly triggered by these little teachers. This is the new mess to navigate.
When my son behaves in a flippant, disrespectful way, or if he's being too this or too that, there have been times when I get super, well, controlling, which is, in another word, powerless. It is maddening to attempt sourcing power from a place of powerlessness. It is infuriating to feel ineffective with my son. That said, he has been getting me ready for raising my daughter. There have been too many times when I threaten to take things away or he can't go here or there if he doesn't do this or that. It sucks. There has to be a better way! Sometimes I can see his light dim when that character in me comes out. We always re-establish connection and, ultimately, know the true essence of the other with our idiosyncratic methods of making amends, but sometimes it takes awhile.
In light of this, I stumbled upon a most helpful article from which, I imagine, others will benefit. It examines the raising of moral children and the difference between using shame and using guilt to shape them. Adam Grant wrote about this brilliantly in his recent NYTimes Sunday article "Raising a Moral Child", which directly speaks to my experience in a most life-changing way.
The other night at Passover Seder, my son was being crazy wild and almost dangerous to the other little kids. When he gets to be "too much" like that, I often bust out with a controlling face of threats and anger. This time, I did something very different. I gently asked him to come into the other room with me. I closed the door. I laid on the bed and asked him to lay down with me. He sat at the edge of the bed and said, "Do you think I'm bad?". I said, "No, love. I think you have a lot of power and you're 9 years old. It is your responsibility to learn how to use that power wisely and it is my job to help you with that. Sometimes I don't know how to use my own power but we're learning and growing together." He got closer. "Tell me what you need, love. Why are you choosing to be so wild out there with all of those little kids when you know better than that?" He got closer and said, "Mama, I just have so much energy but I do think I'm not being so responsible." Then he started to cry. My heart was bursting open with him. Then, he came out with the unforgettable of unforgettables, "Mama, I never want to leave you. When I go to college will you come with me?" I told him, "Oh love, you feel that way now, but when you're 18 I bet you'll feel differently." He turned 9 on Tuesday (he was born before the 2nd Seder 9 years ago which in the Lunar Calendar makes his birthday this week). Then, we hugged and he cried in my arms. It was such a tender, magical moment of my life. I loved every part of it. Thank you, Adam Grant, for writing this article and helping me understand how the hell to deal with my feelings and get to the root of what lives beneath my experience of too muchness. I needed to get this morsel of wisdom to move forward with this leg of the journey in Jedi training.
Also, when we left the room, he immediately went to help clear the table and bring the dishes to the sink without me asking. Then, he looked at me and gave a smile and a wink. Amazing.
Delve at Esalen + On the Radio
In two weeks I will be heading to The Esalen Institute to sing my songs inside the context of a workshop about ecology and ritual. There really couldn't be a more perfect place to develop Delve's presence in the world. Please do come if you can!
This will be our time to unplug from the busy modern world and, at the Pacific Ocean, in the midst of majestic Big Sur, we will remember our intrinsic humanness as a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Together, we will gather for those who lived before us, for those who have yet to be born, and for now, as one global beating collective heart, with the individual capacity to heal through connection.
While my music takes root, I have had a couple of people hire me to help them bring their visions to life which is why I started offering my services as a creative consultant. Also, my photography business has been moving forward as well. I see these threads of expression within the same creative rainbow ball. I see and I am seen. I hold and am held. I love the process of creating and sharing. I love writing, singing and producing. I also love to be quiet and curious about seeing others. This passion is met in my photography work, and in shepherding people through their creative process. These skills tap the aspect of my public radio work that I absolutely loved and have missed.
Speaking of radio, Della Duncan will be interviewing me this Saturday from 11am-noon on "Women Hold up Half the Sky" on KALX Berkeley 90.7FM through UC Berkeley. To be an interviewee is new skin. I'll sing Delve songs a cappella, along with new excerpts of song written for the Esalen workshop, as well as share my process of making Delve. It should be fun!
I give thanks for the force of life that lives in all of us. There were many days and years that felt professionally stuck and idle so I suppose I've been exposing my creative geyser as an invitation for you to feel yours, if you're not already. It lives just beneath the surface when ready to explore.
Compartmentalization of Beauty
After two sessions of filming the Smitten video (the first song on my debut album Delve), we have two more locations and then go into post-production. The video will come out next month (assuming all goes well) to coincide with Spring, a time of change where buds bloom into a new possibility. This cycle of time in the year has always inspired me, as life bursts forth from soil.
Speaking of beauty and timing, Taly Serota and I kept on crossing paths at the corner where I pick up my daughter every day from school in the afternoon. Taly is a funky, elegant, interesting, open-hearted, vibrant person. When we would see each other, there was a knowing. Then, we "friended" on Facebook, then next time I saw her on the street she told me she was a stylist. Ah ha! An angel has come to help me think through my ideas of beauty, which has interestingly triggered anxiety and a general wretched discomfort with being objectified.
Good to have a place to process this. Writing does that for me although often it is held in the pages of my private journal. No, actually those are far more raw and unpolished. Here, I edit.
Taly was my stylist during the video shoot of Smitten which means she listened to my grappling and how it felt to wear this or that. Between shoots, she would run up to make sure the lines on my clothes were clean and clear. She would talk with me through color, lighting, fabrics and textures. Earlier that morning, I went to CVS and bought makeup for the first time since my last year of high school. Literally. I bought the powder, the coverup, the blemish stuff. Had the lipstick and mascara already. I like lipstick a lot actually. Mascara comes out only sometimes but I can get into Mascara, a little. Face paint was triggering. That said, after shooting my first video, Be Who You Are, I wanted the next video to be a bit, well, cleaner. For that shoot, I just threw on some clothes, went out to a beautiful forest with Julia, my videographer, sang the song a bunch of times, brought a change of clothes, earrings, scarves, went and did it without a lot of thought beyond that, and no-make-up.
I was avoiding the opportunity to treat the videos as carefully as I have treated the sonic, still visual, and written experiences of my work. Magnified onto a moving visual expression of something so intimate and from my soul is quite different than anything I've done before. In public radio, music, writing, and even in photography, the receiver of the piece is an active participant. They are able to imagine and interpret their own experience of the work at hand. With video, the artist imposes ideas of what the visuals will be, without as much room, I think, for engaged, experiential media. That said, this Smitten video is beginning to feel like a canvas for the visual and unseen emotional landscape of a song, and its beauty, projected out through the lens of my beauty. I tremble to write that. Feeling a melody about to burst!
I am beautiful, broken, flawed, and imperfect.
I am beautiful, awkward, off and clunky sometimes.
I am beautiful and a part of the light that shines on this living circle.
The Circle of life
One leaves as another comes in
Circle of life
Here we are today
Circle of life
No one really knows when our time will come
Circle of life
Rhythm beating beneath the chest tonight
You are beautiful, broken, flawed and imperfect
You are beautiful, awkward, off and clunky sometimes
You are beautiful and a part of the light that shines on this living circle
The Circle of life
One leaves as another comes in
Circle of life
Here we are today
Circle of life
No one really knows when our time will come
Circle of life
Rhythm beating beneath the chest tonight
Let us live to shine
Our gifts of and for humankind
A way to stay recycling the living line
I love it when the skeleton of a song just comes out like that, without effort. When in doubt, my sense of "trust in the process" gets restored in minutes like these. The words and melody (which will be shaped and honed more) are recorded and I will sing a version of this song with participants in a workshop about ecology and ritual at Esalen next month.)
Back to beauty, when I had my pre-production meeting with Julia Robertson, the filmmaker for Smitten, she asked me to describe the message I intend to communicate with this video. I told her: "Elegance, modesty, connection, depth, grace, power, confidence, and humility." Julia said, "Can you describe that in one word?" And I replied, "Feminine."
One Week of Delve
Something has been forever changed in me since sending Delve out into the world.
I am still integrating the change. There is a lot here. Delve is doing something that I cannot see, or hear. When I broadcast my public radio documentaries it was vulnerable, but this is something completely different. This is a piece of my heart and soul, my ideas and experiences, my fears and dreams and wishes held in 10 songs. It is deeply personal and yet the role of an artist is to create that which is both personal and universal, and then it must be released. It is no longer mine. It never actually was. The muse came through like an electric current and now it is being received how it will be received. Breathing into it all.
I hope Delve is as helpful to listeners as it has been for me.
To read the lyrics, you can click on the picture above.
Delve Is Born!
Delve was officially born to the world on Thursday, February 13th 2014, just in time for the release party...
and the launch of Delve's first music video
Be Who You Are
Click on the album cover to order your copy
And, give the gift of Delve to anyone interested in moving toward personal growth and transformation.
When we begin to heal our pain and lead from the heart, I believe anything is possible.
I cannot help but contemplate the precious, precariousness of life this week. Two beloved people died in the span of 7 days, one in my extended community, the deeply loved Tamar Bittleman, and one of the greatest talents of all time, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both young. Both sudden, tragic deaths in the same week.
Definitely a moment for pause.
I try my best to seek the gift in everything, as painful as the experiences might be. For the living, I find that death can be a purposeful reminder to dig deeper and truly live while here at all. We get to soak in the elements of right now. Oh this beautiful full breath into our lungs! What a fleeting, rhythmic gift of aliveness to be gone in an unknown flash.
Why not stretch beyond our comfort zone and live boldly and bravely into who we are becoming? With this overarching vision to do something that positively impacts the world, there is also the necessary art of balancing these big ideas with knowing our neighbors and the practice of daily life tasks: dishes, laundry, food shopping, cleaning, pick ups, and drop offs.
Why not act on what our soul is calling us to do inside the seemingly mundane rituals? Why not use our fear as fuel to take us through the fire, and into the magical light force awaiting us all? While we are here for this tiny little window, what radical acts of healing can we muster so that at the end of our lives, we can rest peacefully, knowing we did our very best to show up to life?
I have a magnet on my fridge that reads, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do then by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
When I first bought this magnet I was at the very beginning of hearing the very scary DELVE whisper inside my gut. What is your whisper? Do you have one waiting inside of you?
I've partially written 10 new songs for another album and just need a week retreat to focus on writing. The thought of such an experience sends tingles from head to toe. It will come in the right time. For now, I write in the windows that come. I look forward to delving into another exhilarating production process when the time is right. But for now, I am feeling very full and pregnant with, and ready to birth, DELVE.
DELVE songs and art are ready for duplication upload! DELVE will officially be released on February 13 via iTunes and Amazon. Thrilling!
I am IN LOVE with this process. I am so turned ON by creating, honing and shaping the vehicle for vision to move into form. It doesn't feel like I am doing it actually. There is a force propelling me forward - this momentum fascinates me. I also LOVE to help others shepherd their visions to life. In fact, I'm starting to make a side business out of it.
What drives us forward at particular times in life? What holds us back? Almost always, the culprit is FEAR. When I started to become curious about my fear, my sheer terror, the weight began to lift. I was able to listen to the faint whisper inside my gut, that, over time, became so loud that I had to respond accordingly. The negative messages we internalize as children are not necessarily the truth of what our souls long to express.
As a mom, I see the inherent creativity in my kids and in their friends. I also witness the ways in which children tend to lose those impulses around age 8. It is no longer cool to be original. So, adults, if we can mine for our own originality, our deepest truths, our truest, most authentic selves, then we model that for these little people navigating a crazy world. When we are brave, then they realize it is possible to be directed from the inside out, rather than be guided by the incredibly intense pull toward external candy as self.
It is painfully uncomfortable to dismantle the architecture of our learned identities. That said, when we dare to dig, it liberates us to become whole human beings again. I say "again" because we are all born whole. Dr. Lissa Rankin says it well in this TED Talk.
Final Mix + Transparency + New Doors
Happy New Year! 2014 is going to be a powerful one.
The final mix for the album is underway. We will be ready to get the album mastered in two weeks and once the mix is 100% set, then time for CD duplication. In parallel with mixing, I've been working closely with the very talented Philip Wood on the DELVE CD design.
This process has been cathartic and frightening, yet, overall, the ease of creative flow has been on my side. Time constraints, boundaries and goals, I find, allow for creativity to move forward, sort of like the imminence of giving birth. There is a power that takes over when we catalyze something so much bigger than us. A light bursts through the dark, guiding our way through the hidden forest within where everything is as it is.
That said, I had a moment when Izzy, my 8 year-old son, was listening to the sound montage leading into the song Trust Myself. I was curious to see his response and noticed he was shocked by it. Then, I felt nervous. "Do I want this out there? It is SO raw. Perhaps too raw." I asked him what he thought. "Mom, is that what happens inside of your head?" I responded, "Sometimes, yes, when I feel afraid, but then I write about my feelings or share them with the people I love, or make art or move them through yoga or dance." Izzy said, "When I feel afraid I just tell you or Daddy and then it goes away." "Yes, love, hard experiences happen to all of us and if they don't get talked about and moved then those feelings can get stuck inside of us, sometimes for our whole lives." He heard me although I don't think he completely understood. Then I thought to myself, "Do I keep it in? Do I edit? Shit! What if my great-grandchildren listen to this and think their great-grandma was insane?"
These voices are real, honest and taboo. These are not just my voices. They are voices that reflect a broken culture in the midst of transforming itself through us, the people who create it. And even if these particular words of "I'm not smart enough. I'm too much. I'm not enough. I'll never have enough money. I'm not responsible enough" are not everyone's words, we all have our own voices. They might be "I'm suffocating or I'm not lovable." They might be "I have to do everything myself or everything will fall apart or I'm alone and disconnected." Whatever the voices are, they can overtake us humans when we feel afraid or threatened. So, this montage is intended to normalize that which is taboo in the culture. "Don't show your weakness" and "Never let them see you sweat" are the marketing mantras I remember from childhood, not to mention the inheritance of the perfect 1950's narrative.
I find that we are living in times of transparency, authenticity and in search for meaning and true connection. Fascinating that these trends come at a time when technology and editing who we are and what we have to say gets projected out unlike any other time in human history.
So, with that, during my solo hike up in the Berkeley hills last week, I came upon this striking visual moment to welcome in 2014. It inspired me to write in my journal: "When we are open, new doors show up. When we are willing to be vulnerable and brave, we have the courage to step through these doors into the wide unknown. The ripple effect of this movement lasts for generations to come, but for now, it is written in a white funky font right here."
And, my wish for DELVE in 2014 is to generate seeds of connection, empathy, and healing so that we have the vision and courage to co-create a better place to live for us, our children, our grandchildren and many generations to come.
For all of us, may 2014 be filled with courageous acts of kindness, both for ourselves, for the people around us, and, hence, for our global village.