Yesterday, I had the opportunity to ride the way back machine in both directions in the presence of a multi-generational audience that sang, danceed, swayed, clapped, smiled and laughed with delight to the words and music of septugenarian musician and consummate storyteller Peter Yarrow. He was appearing at the Doylestown Book Shop, which is a treasure in the Bucks County suburbs. It is a frequent gathering place for the word loving community and each time I go there, I’m fairly certain I will run into people I know. This snow melting Monday morning was no exception as I hung out with my cousin and a few friends as our blast from the past experience was about to begin. This still energetic, cool, gracefully aging hippie (I count myself in that fold too) was touring in support of his new kids’ book called I’m In Love With A Big Blue Frog. Although the coffeee table sized book was freshly born, it is based on the lyrics to a song penned by Les Braunstein (lead singer of Blue Oyster Cult in 1967) and performed for the first time that same year when I was but 9 years old, by the legendary trio Peter, Paul and Mary. I had the joy of interviewing Paul Stookey back in the 1990’s and sadly, never had the same opportunity of speaking with Mary Travers who passed in 2009 of Leukemia. For those who are not familiar, their most famous (and may playfully raise eyebrows of those of a certain age who question its meaning:) song is Puff The Magic Dragon. It is 50 years old and a favorite of kids of all ages. On this particular day, it was the closing song to the mini-concert with mini to maxi back up singers lending our voices to the choir.
The book and the song that were the reason for celebration for what looked like several hundred shiny, happy people is a call for racial equality as well as relationship equality, since it highlights a red haired freckle faced human woman whose choice of partner is a lanky 6’4″ irridescently hued amphibian whose “mother was a frog from Philadelphia, His daddy an enchanted prince.” The gorgeous illustrations come from the imagination of University of Hartford grad, who earned his M.F.A., Joshua Brunet. They are whimsically and brightly hued depictions of people and animals who stare and point, grimace and scowl at the happy couple, since their beliefs are fear induced, rather than notice the love that flows between these two. The beautifully packaged book also contains a 3 song CD with I’m In Love With A Big Blue Frog, The Froggy Went A’ Courtin and Inside. Each one is sing-along-able for kids of all ages, and they focus on open hearted loving, regardless of appearance and what’s on the outside.
Known for their fervent support of civil rights causes, Peter, Paul and Mary sang out for love and reconciliation, rather than just against hatred and bigotry. Their anthemic song, If I Had A Hammer is the perfect example….”I’d hammer out the love between my brothers and my sisters….all over this land” (followed by a string of oooh oooh’s…my favorite part to this day.
It occurred to me; not a difficult stretch at all, that it could just as easily apply to same sex couples whose fight for equality and acceptance mirrors those of multi-racial couples whose marriages were illegal back when this song was written and sung. An anthem for us all.
http://youtu.be/svoVxWcGNzA I’m In Love With A Big Blue Frog by Peter, Paul and Mary
In one way or another, we are all hoisted on the shoulders of the ones who came before us, like a child rising above the crowd on those of a parent, the better to watch the parade pass by. Many’s the time my own mom and dad did that for me physically and emotionally and I thank them most hardily for it. If not for the encouragement of family and friends in the past 5 decades of my life, I wouldn’t be doing most of the things that so light me up, including writing this column. Sadly though, every day I hear about people who don’t count themselves as that fortunate. They are surrounded by naysayers whose own insecurity and fears spill over onto those they encounter, whether they are their children, partners or friends. What’s even more devastating, is that they believe these folks who may, with all good intention, thinking they are protecting them from hurt or disappointment. What manner of magic could they create if they believed the truth about themselves and their abilities, rather than the lies? My take on it is that if you have a dream, then you just gotta see it through, even if it isn’t exactly as you have it planned. It may take time and fortitude, persistance and support, change of course a number of times, forays into unknown territory, that may feel frightening and soul searing, but arrive you will at your destination. That’s just the way of things.
I invite you to consider who is on your support team. Make a list that could include those in your life now, who have been with you all along, those who are now in Spirit, a line up of ancestral cheerleaders, teachers, mentors, role models, books, movies, and music that all inspire you to be your best self. I know that it would also include those who have not yet entered your personal spheres, who are waiting eagerly to connect with you; humans, animals, and even angels rubbing their hands together with a ‘goody goody gumdrops’ flair wanting to see what you will create. Now the question is: are you on your support team? There have been many incidents over the years during which I have been less than willing to cheer myself on, as if embarressed to put myself out there. These days, I say to you and myself “If ya got it, flaunt it!” We are not meant to hide our light under a bushel. If one of us shines, it invites us to coalesce our collective lights and beam even more brilliantly.
Can you be a yaysayer for those in your life? Are you willing to be a lifter upper-er?
http://youtu.be/mzDVaKRApcg Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher-Jackie Wilson
It starts out with the words “I think we all need a pep talk.” and quotes a legendary poet (“not cool, Robert Frost”). The speaker of these words is a cherubic looking youngster with the wit and wisdom of an ancient sage, juiced up on life. He waxes forth with quotables such as “The world needs to stop being boring.” “If life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team?” “I want to be on the road that leads to awesome.” “Create something that will make the world awesome.”
This wise man is 9 year old Robby Novak from Tennessee; on the surface, a ‘normal’ kid with a sense of humor that belies his age and likely as a result of being ‘broken open by life.’ Born with Brittle Bone Syndrome, formally known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Robby (a.k.a. Kid President) has broken over 7o bones in his body. Some of his videos show him sporting colorful casts. Do you think that stops him from keepin’ on keepin’ on? No way! And if he can dance through life, literally and symbolically, so can we.
With his brother in-law as camera man, he created a series of home made videos that have him waxing philosophical and silly, encouraging grownups to stop being boring and boo-hooing over things that we can actually change. Rainn Wilson from “The Office” and Soul Pancake, got a glimpse of the videos and invited KP to play. Over 7 million views of his motivational. transformational, inpsirational words and moves have made this young man a viral phenom.
In his Pep Talk video, he queries: “In high school, what if [Michael Jordan] had quit if he didn’t make the [basketball] team? He would have never made Space Jam. And I love Space Jam. What would be your Space Jam? What would you create that would make the world awesome? Nothin’ if you keep sitting there.” “If it doesn’t make the world better, don’t do it.”
When asked what policital party he affiliates with, his brilliant response was: “Don’t be in a party. Be a party.”
What I love most about this brilliant beam of light is that he is a thriver who moved beyond being a victim and even survivor of a serious condition and is a role model for kids and adults alike about the power to overcome challenge through love and humor, playfulness and deeply held values that we can and are called on to make a difference in each others’ lives. If I could meet him, I would hug him and thank him for shining his heart so magnificently. For now, this will have to do.
http://youtu.be/Tc3FPwpZ9wY Kid President Answers Your Questions
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcZVGjG6LWM&feature=share&list=SPzvRx_johoA-YabI6FWcU-jL6nKA1Um-t The True Story of Kid President
“I love how each day starts with a blank canvas. What masterpiece shall we create today?”-Mark Semple
Each morning, we are given the gift of 1440 minutes. It comes in a package wrapped with a ribbon of infinite possibility. You may think, as you are presented with it, that you know what it contains, but the reality is, it is truly a surprise. Each moment is ripe with possibility and it takes only one tweak of thought to change what you find when you open it.
The same is true with regard to the artistic metaphor that New York based coach, who refers to himself as a “Passion Dude”, Mark Semple uses. Imagine beginning with a completely clean slate, despite what may have transpired before your head touched down on your pillow and you snuggled beneath the blankets and journeyed off to dreamland. While the seeds we plant moment to moment, grow our bountiful harvest, we can still ‘start a new life’.
In any given day, we may be faced with joys and challenges, illness or injury, fun and frolic, inspiration and indignation; all part of the mish-mosh, soul stirring soup pot that we immerse in. We are offered an opportunity to pick up metaphorical markers, prodigious paint brushes, creative colored pencils and go for it. No artistic training needed.
Today, mine began at early o’clock when my son got up and I heard him rattling about. Drifting in and out of twilight state, the Muse beckoned me to awaken to be a partner in creation of word pictures. When She speaks, I am often helpless to resist. Once I finish this entry, I will head over to the gym for my playout, and then to my ‘day job’ that involves counseling with folks who are in recvovery from addictions of various sorts. Somewhere in this next 24 hours, I intend to write more, do promo for my radio show, and my other endeavors, plan a fun weekend with whoever shows up to play. I will then plant seeds for next week’s activities, which in typical oddly juxtapositional form includes being a guest on a radio show, seeing a childhood musical icon Peter Yarrow; from Peter, Paul and Mary at a local bookstore and getting together with and interviewing relationship and sexuality educator, Reid Mihalko who created Cuddle Party for which I am a certified facilitator (and that’s just on Monday!)
Somewhere in there, will be sleeping, eating, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping, getting tax info together for my accountant and likely shoveling snow, since we are going to be visited by Jack Frost here in the Philly area. Cosmically coincidentally, as I am typing these words, the song A New Life sung by Jim James from My Morning Jacket is coming out of my computer speakers.
Regardless of whatever presents itself, Mark, I do intend to create a masterpiece.
How do each of you intend to take up your art supplies and color with your creative juices?
http://youtu.be/Ge8ryYC8E08 A New Life by Jim James