The highlight of my summer for the past umpteen years has been an event called The XPoNential Music Festival. The third weekend of July brings with it fun, friends, sun (usually), music, dancing, laughter and love. It is sponsored by member supported radio station, WXPN and is a place to showcase heritage musicians The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Mavis Staples, as well as introduce up and coming talent such as Darlingside whose harmonies and uplifting tunes grabbed a hold of my musical heart today and wasn’t about to let go. As the sun blazed down in the mid 90’s, baking avid musical fans, there was much merriment among the all ages crowd. Babies and young children were getting a good start in sonic appreciation and (hopefully) they will have great memories of summer fun. Blessedly, a light breeze off the Delaware River that spans the border between Camden, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, made it tolerable. Clouds skittering across the sky helped a bit. Abundant refills of water in the members area (I have been a member for decades) kept me hydrated and slathered on sunscreen prevented what could have been lobster red skin.
I was there with my friends Gary, Clare, Chris and Phyllis. The first three are part of the regular cast of characters with whom I share a blanket. Phyllis is a new face to face friend who I cyber-met five years ago after she read a Beliefnet piece I had written. This weekend, she ventured northward to Philadelphia from her home in South Florida. Interesting viewing it through a newcomer’s eyes. I have become accustomed to tooling around the grounds as if on auto pilot, since I know them so well and yet, I never take the magic for granted. Other friends, Nancy, Naila, Anna, Virginia and Sophia were wonderful to run into if ever so briefly. It never ceases to amaze me that in the midst of multitudes, I see kindreds.
Long about late afternoon, the heat was mellowed by a torrential downpour. Crashing thunder and flashing lightning sent us all running for cover as the shows were called to a temporary halt. We were instructed to go to the parking garage across the street where my Jeep was ensconced and hunker down until the storm passed. We followed their good advice. While Phyllis and I were chillin’ as we waited for the rain to cease, a young woman named Steph approached to greet me. She is the lovely daughter in-law of friends of my sister in-law and brother in-law. She recalled meeting me at family gathering years ago and we remain connected via Facebook. How she recognized me looking very much like a drowned rat is beyond me. Ran into my cousins Jody and Dan and Dan’s girlfriend Leslie, under cover as they had bolted for their car too.
Because I thought we would be returning to the concert venue, I left my two purchased-that-morning camp chairs; one in vibrant orange and the other in vivid blue, to fend for themselves. Hoping they find good homes; that is, if they weren’t swept into the river by the passing storm.
One of the most delightful parts of the day came while Phyllis and I were taking shelter from the storm, as I was hugging dripping wet, laughing strangers as a Hug Mobster Armed With Love. It is becoming a regular aspect of my life as I have the joy of embracing folks from all walks of life.
The downpour called to mind something similar that occurred three years ago when I invited my friend Greg to join me at the festival to celebrate his birthday. The day began in much the same way as it had today. Brilliantly blue sunny skies, friends and lively music greeted us. As it had today, the horizon bore ominous clouds that hovered above. Rumbling thunder and startling lightning flashes had the field cleared as he and I grabbed up our belongings and attempted to keep ourselves upright as we dashed for my car. The umbrellas we had wisely brought with us were rendered useless as the wind and sideways rain turned them inside out. At one point, when we could go no further, we took shelter under an overpass in inner city Camden. The water rose above my knees (I am 5’4″) and a bit lower on my much taller (over 6′ high) friend. It was both exhilirating and frightening as I found myself laughing wildly that I had promised him an adventure and that we got. When we realized that we couldn’t possibly get any wetter, we shrugged and made a dash for the Jeep.
I am eager to return tomorrow and indulge in melodic magic; sunscreen and purple umbrella, hugs and a sense of humor at the ready.
“La clave es vivir sin prisa, pero sin pausa.” (The key is to live without hurry, but also without pause).
My friend Greg Petitti shared this thought on his Facebook page today. It had me pondering the meaning since it seems paradoxical. As someone who has lived her life in hurry mode, or as one friend described it, “like you are running around 100 mph with your hair on fire,” I question what it would be like to really take pause. Opportunities to do so have presented themselves in the form of meditation, yoga, time in nature or just sitting in silence by myself or with others with whom it is comfortable. When I am in that sacred space, I can re-evaluate my life and determine if I am on the path that will take me where I most want to be.
When I asked him what it meant and how it was possible to accomplish both things, his two word answer was, “with joy,” to which I replied, “I can do that.” It is something that I engage in every day. I call it living a joy drenched life. Maybe the re-frame means not pausing in the action of joy; because I have come to see it as a verb; just like love.
Since I experienced a major life shakeup wake-up two years ago, I recognize how in the past, I did indeed put my life on pause; not fully living my joy, even though (good actor that I can be at times) it would seem to others who observed me, that I did. The truth is, for many years, I sleep walked through life, on auto pilot. I thought I was being spontaneous, when in fact, I was relinquishing responsibility for my own happiness. I let others and their opinions be the arbiter of my reality, instead of claiming my own truth. I tiptoed through my days, fearful of setting off landmines; some I had planted and others tossed by others.
How do I actively engage in a life without pause?
Last night, I attended Greg’s 55th birthday party and was delighted to be part of the overlapping soul circles that comprise his world. One of his roles in my life is challenger of my thinking, stretcher of my comfort zones who calls me on my stuff when I play it too safe. He dares me to reveal the real. Such a mixed blessing at times.
This morning, I headed down Rte 95 to the Philadelphia International Airport to pick up Phyllis Klaper who has been a Facebook friend for five years. A few weeks ago, she tossed out the idea of coming up from South Florida to my neck of the woods and, with delight (and not pause), I said a hardy (and heart-y) YES! In the past few hours, we rambled on about life, the Universe and everything. With many of the same perspectives on life, we found ourselves laughing at some of the absurdities of our thoughts and the ways in which our mischievous monkey minds trick us into believing that certain things are true, when they are just NOT.
The next few days I will be immersed in music at the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, New Jersey that is hosted by WXPN. Sunshine, cool breeze off the Delaware River, familiar faces of old friends and new folks coming into my life, singing, dancing and basking in the awe of it all.
On Monday, I will traipse into Philadelphia during the DNC to offer FREE Hugs to willing recipients as a Hugmobster Armed With Love. This will be an experience of a lifetime, as my intention is help defuse tensions that politics can induce. Who knows how many lives this will touch.
And I will do it all, ‘con gioia’. Thanks, Greg, for the reminder.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.”-Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – 13th century Sufi poet
What does it mean to be a nomad? A wanderer, a wayfarer; one who has no permanent home. This could be seen as both blessing and bane. In the newly birthed CD by singer songwriter and instrumentalist Ed Creamer, called Becoming Nomad, it seems as if it is the former. The runes on the cover spell out the word Nomad and the labyrinth design beckons the listener to enter and move through their own Hero’s Journey, since this structure and meditative tool offers both a way in and out, one step at a time.
It brings to mind the J.R.R. Tolkien quote, “Not all who wander are lost.”
In the opening track Becoming Nomad, Creamer goes within to observe his thoughts and allows for guidance to arise as he embraces the experience of love and loss. “The journey is the gift of love I find. As I wander, I never feel I’ve lost my way. Becoming Nomad is my destiny. The symbol of my life is my labyrinth, it’s the key. It’s the choice to reach the center. The gateway to my peace.” Guitar and hand clapping rhythm accompany the poignant words.
A Secret Sky ponders what awaits beyond this incarnation. “At the end of my days, with no strength left, I’ve given all I can give. Just before my last breath, you will comfort me, with precious treasures”. This selection evokes a sense of soaring and a reassurance that “Love is the bridge for us,” between where our feet our planted at the moment and where we may be going when we ‘leave the building’.
The roaring guitar riff in Rubble has a darker side that accompany the lyrics wailing, “Break down your barriers,” which stand in the way in of recognizing true identity and dancing on the detritus left behind, “even if you dance alone.”
It’s Okay carries a reggae feel with steel drum sound opening the song. Creamers’ signature line, “Stay loving,” is a highlight of this upbeat, dance-able piece. I found it hard to sit still while listening; although it is challenging to type and dance at the same time. The lyrics: “Remember always, it’s okay. All love all the time, it’s okay,” would do Bob Marley proud.
Echoing chanting opens the song Seagull as a dark dialog occurs between man and bird. “Seagull, you fly across the horizon into the misty morning sun. No once asked you where you were going. Nobody knows where you’re from. You fly all around, until somebody shoots you down.”
Amazonian rain stick and percussion pulls the listener into By The Fire “Sparks fly from their eyes. Rising passion sizzling,” are the words growled seductively to a samba beat. Hip swaying, eyes closed, being carried along willingly in this positively incendiary song.
Power of tears reminds the listener, “My tears are not a weakness. My tears are a cleansing. My tears reflect your love. Sacred power. A healing.” Tears are the unspoken words of a narrative that express what can’t otherwise be shared. Creamer sings of a painful leave- taking that allowed them to flow. “It’s the sacred power of tears,” that is the healing we experience as result.
Fingers caressing piano keys in Light carry the words “Light the only real creation, light discovers ancient mysteries….the source without ceasing,” is the sweet beauty of this transcendent selection.
The final cut that ushers the listener out of the co-creation with the Divine, is called I rest in God. It begins with “We ask for peace today and still this is the midst of turmoil.” and ends with the idea that when releasing the illusion of control over life and ‘sinking into stillness’ as well as ‘resting in the peace of God,’ it is possible to rise above fear and limitation. The crescendo of life.
The quality of Creamer’s voice calls to mind a combination of two of my favorite songsters: Van Morrison and Randy Newman.
Each of these songs bring with them a sense of certainty within the ‘just don’t know’ of life that all is for the highest good. Without knowing the artist, it is not difficult to imagine that this is an ode to major life transition for him. A personal and professional triumph.