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It looks like I’ve waited a little too long to blog about my experience at Zombie Run. A week ago Sunday, it was exciting to run though the campy horror-fantasy, but today posting pics and going on about death at a race event does not seem the thing to do. So, another time for that. My 6k run in Berlin Park yesterday evening could hardly approach the impact and dedication of a world-class marathon, but I ran it as an offering of love and healing to everyone affected by the madness in Boston.
This has truly been a season of Monkey Mind for me, but Monkey Experience has been keeping pace. New romantic curiosities, absurdly awful (non)communications, another easeful friendship deepening. There was the closing of Fluid Nightclub, where I rediscovered essential bits of my being. Played at a great event last week, the first Hub City Music Festival, and got to share the stage with old friends who I admire hugely. I’ve been asked by a friend to write a song or poem about the problem of transphobia, so I’ve been letting those thoughts percolate. There isn’t a whole lot on the official schedule, but that is actually a good thing right now. My brain is busy catching up to a thousand details.
I keep trying to find words to express how I feel about the Boston Marathon bombing, but they don’t show up. It seems as if I couldn’t say it any better than the compassionate internet memes that are already trying. Petty concerns of all of the above – and just about anything – are snapped way back into perspective. I am recognizing more than ever how music and art soothe and teach, learn, respond, and heal. So, yes. More of that, please. At this moment, I am much more a listener than a maker of sounds. I will, however, be chanting kirtan this Sunday in Langhorne, PA – the more voices the better: http://rainbowsofhealing.com/kirtan-with-robin-renee/.
I want to be sure of what I think I believe and how I behave that I believe – that by living quietude we can have a small part in helping quiet the angriness in the world.
I was a bit startled to realize on my birthday this past Monday, August 27th, that it was indeed the 10th anniversary of the release of my second solo CD, All Six Senses. I had what still feels like an idyllic, dreamlike time recording those songs out in Marin County, CA with producer Scott Mathews at his Tiki Town Studios. Over the past few days, I’ve spent some time listening to those tracks with my friend Amy, who played them, intermingled with other tunes, from her iPod in her car. It is sometimes annoying to listen to old recordings, but this time I really dug hearing some songs that have mostly fallen away from the set list (“Cling To You,” “I Skate Alone”) and others that have become standard fare (“Holy River,” “First Sight”). It is a very rewarding feeling to listen and feel that All Six Senses, for the most part, really does sound like the songs that I had in my head. It does a decent job of expressing snapshots of the spiritual growth spurt I was in when I wrote these songs (there is the one cover – a slow, jazzy take on “Cruel to be Kind”). I hope it might still manage to inspire anyone listening to examine their own lives and take their own journeys.
I remembered how much I enjoy these tunes and the recordings of them, and then I remembered another anniversary. It would take more than a short blog entry to tell the many stories and make even an attempt at the impact, but the super-short version is that I was (and still am) blessed in life to have met and gotten to know one of my greatest musical/lyrical/cultural heroes, Warren Zevon. Since meeting him at The Stone Pony (his show [opening for The Band!] was August 26, 1994 – his after-midnight autograph says August 27th – now this story is even stranger), we kept in touch. The day after my official, yet totally indie release of All Six Senses, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard from WZ in a while. I happily tapped out a long e-mail asking him what was going on, telling him about my life, the new recording, everything. The response I got back was very brief:
He was ill.
“My lungs and liver are shot” he wrote.
I didn’t know, and couldn’t have comprehended on that day the seriousness of what he was saying. If it wasn’t that very day that he’d gotten the diagnosis of inoperable mesothelioma, it was within a day or so at the very most. I don’t have words for what I felt, or really know what I did the rest of that shocking day.
He asked me to send a copy along to him, so even in the midst of coping with finality he took the time to listen to All Six Senses. He said he enjoyed it, was glad I was continuing to work on the music, and advised me to “keep chanting.” I’ve definitely managed to do that.
I could say more – try to create some storyline about the impact of cosmic crossroads or the mystical fusion of wonderful-horrible anniversaries. I won’t. I will just try to sit with it all as it happened, and with my own uncomfortable twinge at having been moved to share this ball of entwined emotions with you tonight.
I began this blog last night. It was going to be something very different. As I woke up on this warmish, misty Ostara morning, it was as though all the things I was poised to worry about in writing had put themselves in order. Whether coincidental or a function of syncing spirituality with the seasons, I do feel balance on this Equinox.
The making of the new chant CD has happened in about as opposite as fashion as the last one as possible. The kirtans and other spiritual songs on Live Devotion came quickly, jumping into my head as I worked, drove, or sang other songs—anytime, and when least expected. A few rehearsals, one long day in studio, and it had arrived. I already knew that what we were affectionately calling “Studio Devotion” would be a more traditional recording experience, but I didn’t think it would be a year in the making. Given that a lot of the year was pushing past emotional obstacles ad absurdum, I am happy to say that the gestation period for what will officially be called This seems just about over. I would like to release it well – with some traditional and innovative promotion and viable distribution. I’m open to suggestion from all quarters on how that may best happen. In the meantime, it is a wonderful feeling to be just about through with recording and mixing and to feel the emergence of new spiritsong on the first day of spring.
A recent blog by my friend LauraLynn Jansen inspired me to reflect on “What is yogic?” Today, I believe it is the practice of remembering, of coming back to center, and living a life that allows all sorts of activities and interactions to be the instrument of balance. Music, when I lose myself in it, does this work. Lately exercise – especially swimming and biking – are just as much music to me, just as much a journey toward Center. I am undertaking a sprint triathlon training, also inspired by LL. I keep finding more and more depth in meeting the challenges. I have considered the workout to be a form of meditation before, but it is new for me to think about fitness as art. The metaphor of Oneness meets the day-to-day.
April is coming, and that means NaPoWriMo. It may make me very busy, but springtime is emergence is yoga is staying in the flow of writing.
I am feeling like a fully erotic being again, after too long a hibernation.
I don’t believe in raking leaves. On Sunday afternoon, the air was just chilly enough to coax me to admit that summer would not, in fact, be back until the wheel of the year turned again. The leaves on the ground were a worn, welcome home blanket. The ground is exactly the place they should be beautifying this time of year. I thought of my friend from Tucson as I noticed the deep, red orange that still hung onto the sassafras and wondered how she would regard the seasonal shift. I imagined that to someone who is amazed by the water flowing in East Coast rivers, these changes would be directly magical.
In the Pagan traditions that have come to align with much of my spiritual instinct, Sunday was Samhain, the day that belongs to neither year. I was preparing for the few people who would gather to celebrate the holiday. I did my Halloweening the night before as a banana-clad Josephine Baker at Jack & Jenn’s Fright Night Party. Samhain is a more somber affair, and we gather to honor and release those who have passed away in the year prior. We listen for wisdom carried on the last of the October wind and whispered into our ears by the ancestors. We welcome the coming of the new year and the Divine spark we will once again have the opportunity to recognize and embrace. However literal or figurative a participant’s experience, these moments are meant for quiet reverence and insight. It feels good to release what needs to go— to redefine, redirect, and get ready for what’s next. I celebrate a new year whenever I can, though this time of year, it feels most serious.
The simple altar was set and thankfully, Vigile was more than happy to start and tend the fire. That left me more able to finish preparing quinoa vegetable potluck, to relax into a ritual mind space, and to be ready to greet those who would arrive. At six o’clock, we shifted ourselves into sacred space with a song, the smoke of white sage and the recognition of the four directions to mark our circle. Over the course of the evening, the energy and love of God/dess was called and honored by Names most dear to each of us: Krishna, Ram, Brigid, Astarte, Jesus. Everyone had a turn to speak the names and stories of those who had passed through the veil. I remembered Frank Barnett, kirtan aficionado of Cleveland, a natural force for the drawing together of community. Though I didn’t know him, I remembered Tyler Clementi and all kids who have died before they were able to grow out from under ridicule to recognize their worth and brilliance.
We chanted for quite a while, and danced a little. A young woman I met for the first time at circle asked me how I came to love chanting and to know about the Hindu path. The question had me wondering: How have I gotten anywhere that I am? The times of initial impact of all the most important aspects of my life feel like vibrant blurs of information, like sudden, unexpected downloads. At its most genuine, my writing seeks to unpack and understand the visions, experiences, emotions, and intentional turns of the journey. I keep trying for genuine.
These autumn days which I once resented on behalf of my beloved summer now find me loving their beauty and metaphor. I welcome these changes, and the inner work that will follow. I am ready for a time of gentle and courageous newness.