On this day, I remember a musical priest whose sermons I still read in the notes of his songs. We will miss you dearly, Leonard Cohen.
Priest: Leonard (Cohen)
We heard his syrupy voice as black as pitch …
preaching his dark sermons
in smoke and fire
in open ditches and underpasses
somewhere in the land of somewhere
under the veil of nowhere.
We realized it was a revival,
complete with tables and
tent poles and lost souls,
though there were no white canvases, no white lies.
He drained us of everything we had,
all our internal resources, all our desires,
all our false hopes, drowning in a sea of
questions marks, ash, and splinters,
but somehow, when we came up out of the
we came up clean.
– Gina Marie Mammano
David Bowie’s soul
floats like a giant orange nebula
across a creaking Cosmos,
luminous matter, morphing its way
past the scrape of starlight,
shocking rocky spheres of stellar
mass into sudden tufts of quiet stardust,
sending planets subtly, slowly
off their familiar tilts.
And a geomagnetic storm rages
somewhere now in the corner of
and so does a voice,
“there’s a starman waiting in the sky,
he’d like to come and meet us,
but he thinks he’d blow our minds . . . .”
Thank you, David Bowie
– Gina Marie Mammano
I’d love to have you join me for my three new Ear Candy podcasts on Whidbey Air. It’s a sweet blend of music, poetry, and essay, curated by me, as your guide. It’s easy to access, and the links and descriptions are below.
Episode 1: Winter’s Cocktail: featuring the music of Fleet Foxes, Belle and Sebastian, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Robin and Linda Williams, Vampire Weekend, and Leonard Cohen. Featuring poetry by Louis Jenkins and Mark Svenvold. Listen now:
Episode 2: Lost and Found: featuring the music of Josh Garrels, Ray Bonneville, Sufjan Stevens, Sixpence None the Richer, and The Pixies. Featuring poetry by Jeffrey Harrison and Gina Marie Mammano. Listen now:
Episode 3: Hearty Stew: featuring the music of Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, Deb Talan, Gringo Star, Joni MItchell, and Andrew Austin. Featuring the poetry of Joyce Sutphen, William Shakespeare, Margaret Hasse, and Khalil Gibran. Listen now:
Thanks for supporting the show!
Ear Candy: a sweet piece of sound for your mind to suck on.
– Gina Marie Mammano
I would absolutely love it if you would check out my new streaming radio show, “Ear Candy (a sweet piece of sound for your mind to suck on)”. It’s a lively mix of music, poetry, and prose with themes like “Winter’s Cocktail”, “Lost and Found”, “Hearty Stew”, “Liminal Leap”, and “Canticle of the Wind”. Check out “Winter’s Cocktail” now at this link: http://kwparadio.org/ear-candy-podcasts/ to hear the podcast.
And now . . . back to my (mostly) regularly scheduled blog!
Yesterday, I had the privilege of stumbling into a trio of sound- a fiddle player with fire in her fingers, a cellist with a voice dripping with tones of sweet deep molasses, and their sister, a fiddle player as well, who relished the moments of bow and string, blending in perfectly with her siblings.
The magic, though, occurred when the cellist strapped his instrument onto his front side and began playing “The Golden Apple Dance”. It was a simple song, but it drew the attention of a small boy, flaxen-haired, about 3 years old, with Down’s syndrome. As the sounds pulled him from the audience, he clapped and moved, fully engaged with the spirit of the dance. He did it with such a joy and enthusiasm that the rest of us there couldn’t help but be completely taken in. His entire being was a gleam, shimmering with the immersion of the moment- himself joining the stage of our shared experience, unafraid.
This makes me think: what is my “golden apple dance” today? What causes my soul to shimmer? How can I dance it so exuberantly and unabashedly in the presence of my own being that others bask with me in all that joy?
As for me, today, I will be open to where the sun hits my spirit, and in that small spotlight, dance like the moment is golden.
Yesterday, I practiced sitting bedside. There were three of us and our voices created a beautiful moonlike glow of sound all around a friend lying reclined on a living room chair. As the simple songs floated over her, and our voices listened intently to one another, I felt once again even in myself the healing power of song and of creating an ambiance together that helps smooth the path for another from transition to transition, whether it’s from sickness to health, or busyness to slowing down. In this case, we were treating a friend to sweet, calming music after a tiring week, and syncing our voices together to prepare for others who could benefit from this gift.
Music really can help us do that. Our little threshold choir often helps those transitioning from sickness to health, or illness to death, but, really, song has been used for centuries, millennia, to “cover the threshold with flowers”- to lift a child into the realm of sleep, to mark the changes and passages of the day, or to aid a friend, or even ourselves into hopes and reassurances. What song or melody can gently hold your hand through a transition today?
At Ginny’s second rite of passage, there was a song I knew I had to include because it spoke to me and into me the words I would have wanted to hear at age 18. As I listened carefully to the lyrics, I realized that it was actually describing my daughter and who she is right then- not a hope or a wish, but a present reality. It made me deeply smile. Finding the right words to explain the soul or character of another person can be indelibly satisfying. What do you “see” in your child?
“Suddenly I See”
by KT Tunstall
Is a map of the world
You can see she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl. And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palmSuddenly I see (suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me?I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girlShe fills up every corner like she’s born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you’re trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on her wordSuddenly I see . . .She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see, yeah, yeah (suddenly I see)
Now, you can’t leave a kid with only tunes from troubled teen-hood, can you? You’ve got to bring her up to date with your current “poems, prayers, and promises” (well, in a manner of speaking).
The next activity up for sharing was “a desired anthem”- the song we wish we could have heard in our late teens. As we shared our picks, we realized we were not only singing them to Ginny, but also to ourselves. It was salve to the heart . . . . Here’s a few tidbits from a few songs. Imagine getting to hear these lyrics sung to you as a young woman:
“Her face is a map of the world, is a map of the world. And you can see she’s a beautiful girl, she’s a beautiful girl. And everything around her is a silver pool of light. The people who surround her feel the benefit of it. It makes you calm. She holds you captivated in her palm. Suddenly I see, this is what I want to be . . .” from Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall.
“In the easy silence that you make for me, it’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me, and the peaceful quiet you create for me, and the way you keep the world at bay for me . . . the way you keep the world at bay . . .” from Easy Silence by the Dixie Chicks.
“So sit down and write that letter, sign up and join the fight, sink in to all that matters, step out into the light . . . so many years from now long after we are gone these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn . . .” from Planting Trees by Andrew Peterson.
“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces, calling out the best of who we are, and I want to add to the beauty to tell a better story; I want to shine with the light that’s burning up inside . . .” from Add to the Beauty by Sara Groves.
“This one’s for the girls who’ve ever had a broken heart who’ve wished upon a shooting star; you’re beautiful the way you are; this one’s for the girls who love without holding back, who dream with everything they have all around the world; this one’s for the girls,
yeah, this one’s for the girls . . .” from This One’s for the Girls by Martina McBride.
You get the picture . . . . what song would you have wanted to hear at age 18?
Of course, we needed to share our musical wisdom with my daughter at this second rite of passage event! So much to glean from The Cure, The Bangles, or Sting! I introduced this portion of the evening, bellies still interiorly stuck with pot pie, mashed potatoes and love:
“We’ve all picked songs that meant something to us when we were in the transition time between high school and college. When it’s your turn to share your song, describe why you chose it, the circumstances behind it, or what it meant to you without revealing the title or the artist.”
The women played their music and shared truly, madly, deeply:
” . . . was an early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn . . .”
“I played this song over and over when I made the trip from Florida to South Carolina and back again. It represents freedom. It was a time in my life when I could feel the wind in my hair and was ready for a new adventure. I still love it. I just played it again on a trip just a few weeks ago.”
Bah, 2-3-4 bah, 2-3-4 bah, bump-bump-a! Bah . . . .
Elton John. “I’m Still Standing.” My song. “When I graduated high school, my boyfriend and I broke up. This song helped me bridge through the sorrow. It strengthened me through it.”
“I know this song sounds so trite. . .I was a cheerleader at my high school and it was a time in my life, in our lives, when we were trying to figure it all out:”
“I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment’s gone . . . dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.”
“We had this whole album memorized.” John Denver’s Poems, Prayers, and Promises begins to play. “This song especially speaks to the things to me that life is all about. It reminded me of home.” The quiet folk guitar picking peters out.
“Now, going from one extreme to the next . . . as class president four years in a row, I had to invoke school spirit, so we had a routine to this song.”
“Do you see a little shack on the side of the road . . .?”
Yes, the whole shack shimmied. The whole shack shimmied.
And then, a rough-hewn voice and a twangy guitar:
“I never wanted to be better than my friends I just wanted to prove wrong the people in my head.” Ginny’s turn. “I chose this song because, for one thing, I can’t choose another that I wish I could have heard at 18, because I am 18, so this is the song I’m choosing now, at this time in my life.” “So I rode my bike like lightning and I made cappuccinos that would make the angels sing, took two showers a day and I dressed up like a princess, shook my fist in my own face and said I’ll show you who’s the best!”
Again, an opportunity to share, and to be shared with. Ginny glistened with awe and wonder (and a barely noticeable wry smile) as she watched us confess our teenage hearts . . . “lookin’ like a true survivor, feelin’ like a little kid . . .”
A taste of what I’m talking about, and then an explanation:
“Two patchwork quilts, a crazy quilt, a wedding ring quilt, and a wrapping-paper-wrapped quilt enter through the front door. Boxes, bags, ice chests, c.d.s follow. “Let’s play last time’s Rite of Passage c.d.!”
A few Charleston strokes of the foot. Some old fashioned turns. Finger wagging in 1920’s style. “Put another nickel in, in the Nickelodeon, all I want to listen to is music, music, music.”
“This one is Sharon’s.” Someone says.
“Really, this one’s mine?”
“Laughed as she came to my cradle. No, this child will be able. With love, with patience and with faith. She’ll make her way . . .”
“Don’t you remember?”
“I do now!”
Someone nods and points to Ginny. A few appropriately mimed moves, “I’m a challenge, to your balance.” A slide and a glide from Sharon and myself. A finish and final flourish of the song.
Then the raunch of a digerydoo, “oh, here it is!”
Dar Williams. “As Cool as I Am.” The long sung kitchen anthem of our tribe. Spoons are often microphones. Most of us know it. All of us know what it means. “You tried to make me doubt, to make me guess, tried to make me feel like a little less. Oh, I liked it when your soul was bared. I thought you knew how to be scared. And now it’s amazing what you did to make me stay. But truth is just like time, it catches up and it just keeps going . . .”
The miming ensues. . . an arm is flung to the sky; a sauntering back and forth, helplessly waiting for the outbound stage. . .
Goofy? Yes! Funny? Of course. Fun? Absolutely. Playful? Unabashedly! I have found that creating a rite of passage can be just as fun for the “adults” as it is for the burgeoning edges-and-fringes-of-adulthood woman . . . and here’s a little tip (ssshhhh, don’t tell!). The teenager can often be caught staring up smitten in helpless wonder at all of these grown ups having a good time! A pricelessly valuable lesson indeed! My daughter actually said to me, “Mom, why don’t you do this with your friends more???”