The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Songs Beyond The Traffic-Music Review

susanherrickheadshot

 

I met Susan Herrick back in the 1980’s when this music therapist turned singer songwriter was beginning what has been a twenty some year musical journey. A multi-instrumentalist and sacred sound healer, she has a 2  1/2 octave vocal range that can seem like various instruments in and of itself. Three previous releases, entitled Soul Chant, Paint and Truth & The Lie have become perennial favorites. I listen to them when I want to feel wrapped in a blanket of melody and harmony. Some of the selections are about self discovery and love songs to the woman in the mirror as well as other dear ones.
Her newest creation called Songs Beyond The Traffic is a love affair with nature, as it takes the listener off the bustling main road into a world of sonic serenity.  The opening piece called Who Am I? begins with the musical inquiry:  “Cars, trains, passing lanes, high speed liners,  jet airplanes, who am I?  Be here, then be there, so much to do, no time to spare. Who am I?”
Blessedly, the response comes from the throat of another song-bird; a WoodThrush 1 as this piece starts out with road sounds and then flute that is calling the winged one to match her tone note for note.
In Frogs, Susan explains her desire to use music for healing and claims her role as a ‘citizen of the world’ to bear witness to the sounds of nature, before they are no more. She is a stand for the environment and social responsibility.
Dove cajoles with cooing and percussion that evokes a desire to dance swayingly to a Caribbean breeze, with the instructions to “let go and rest your soul.”
Chimes, piano and mystical chanting are fused with raucous cries of Gulls in the following selection.
Breathing in the Ocean air, Susan bemoans the fate of marine creatures and claims “I can’t write another song til I write this one down,” with the intention of being a guardian of the sea.
It is easy to imagine Crickets hovering under shrubs as footfalls crunch leaves and Susan’s voice weaves around the insect serenade.
Seal  has an unexpected disco sound to it, as the listener can imagine the sea mammals shaking it to the rhythmic beat.
Wood Thrush 2 enters with piano and woven words ” The truth of the Earth awaits us all …. it is generous enough.” A 1960’s anthemic feel to it, with shaking tambourine and overlapping vocalizations.
The CD closes out with Bird meditation. Resting on a glorious summer day, feeling the melting sun beams cascading down and a fully orchestrated improvisational concert for the pleasure of anyone who will take the time to stop and listen with the ears of the heart.
Songs Beyond The Traffic is an Earth prayer in which Gaia leads anyone with the willingess to hear and the open heart to join in.
The CD will be available on February 1 on CD Baby. Go to CDBaby.com. Mother Earth thanks you.
Proceeds from this CD go to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center  in New Jersey.

Cargo Cult- A Book Review

cargocultcover

 

Before we begin; a word of clarification …. the word ‘cult’ has come to have pejorative meaning, bringing to mind the shadow of control and abuse. This is not that type of cult. Rather, it is an homage to a man called John Frum who was representative of an experience during WW II when GIs landed in Melanesia, carrying with them, the bounty of the West. This theme was played out with whimsy and purpose in 2013 at an annual gathering in the Black Rock desert in Nevada, called Burning Man. The design for the to-be-torched platform for The Man, was a spaceship, since to the islanders, it was as if John had descended from the heavens.

For those who are not familiar with the week long epic event, it began in 1986 in San Francisco when two friends built a figure and burned it in effigy on the beach. Since then, people have gathered from all over the world to live in community; sharing inspiration, food, water, shelter, clothing and a bond that connects humanity. There is a sense of acceptance of various lifestyle choices and an over riding commitment to eco-sustenance. One of the guiding principles is that the attendees are to leave no trace of their presence; so cooperative clean up is essential. Would that be the case in every aspect of life and in each spiritual practice.

Their Mission and Vision Statements speak volumes about the inspiration for the glorious coffee table book called Cargo Cult, which was created by talented photographer Karen Kuehn whose work has been showcased in ad campaigns for Campbell’s Soup and MasterCard, as well as magazine covers for Travel and Discover. She has been a regular participant at Burning Man for years and was tapped by her Muse to document an aspect of the experience.

Mission

“The mission of the Burning Man organization is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world. This culture forms an integrated pattern of values, experience, and behavior: a coherent and widely applicable way of life.”

Vision

“The Burning Man organization will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.”

Although I have never been there, I have experienced it vicariously through friends who have attended over the years. They share stories of packing clothes, toys, art supplies , bicycles (the playa, which is the site for Burning Man, is many miles in expanse) and enough food and water to carry them through.  Free spirits all, they have delighted me with off the wall tales of serendipitous meetings, huge life changes, emotional breakthroughs and long lasting loving relationships that were sparked. When I opened the hefty book, it was as if I was magically whisked into that world, sans dust and heat. I could feel the bonds created by those Kuehn photographed and interviewed.

She begins the book with this delving question:

“If you could board a REAL spaceship to fly away and create a new world, what idea would you bring with you to create a better humanity?” And from there, she is off to the races.

Responses ranged from the succinct:

“Happiness.”- Heather Thompson

“As much laughter as possible.”- Michael Christian

“Collaboration”-Jessica Hobbs

” PASSION. Without it, we are empty.”- Charlotte Strawn

” A fair wind and a following sea.”- Greg Barron

“LOVE OUT LOUD”- Blaze Nash

 

To the lengthier and more in depth:

“Music. All kinds of music and lots and lots of dancing with our people.” – Kristin Ingeman

” I would want to share Picasso’s insight that the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”- Arnaud Paris

“Drawing on our camaraderie, diverse talents and resources, I can envision a brighter future.”- Tom Mays

“Unconditional gratitude. Saying ‘Thank You’ to someone goes a lot further than most people expect.”-Adi Azulay

“FREEDOM to be ourselves, fully self expressed, living in love, joy and balance with respect for all life.”- Consouer Valerie BrightHeart Olj

 

The images leap off the page, some of wildly imagined sculpture and others of people in all their glory. Various rituals and ceremonies are portrayed with a blending of reverence and exuberance.  I have not met these folks …..oh, except one, my friend  Valerie BrightHeart, I feel a kindred spirit connection. The photos are, at turns silly, poignant, playful, rustic, rugged; powerful depictions of an emerging humanity that sees beyond color, national origin, socio-economic background, political affiliation and love-style choices.

I strive to live in a world as portrayed through Kuehn’s lens, which is filtered by her vivid imagination and wide open heart. Utopian fantasy?  I think not.

Oh, and if she were to ask me that question, my response would be: “An overwhelming sense that life is for loving and not harming, that people are gifts that come to us for our mutual benefit and that together, we really can create a new Eden.”

 

 

All At Once

This morning, I am listening to my favorite radio station, WXPN in Philadelphia,  while tip tapping away at the keyboard. Two of my beloved activities. Sipping ginger tea to soothe a wee bit of a sore throat. In a few hours, I will be sitting in session with a client who I have been counseling for nearly a year. After that is a visit to cardiac rehab where I have been engaged in my own healing process, following a heart attack in June. The next stop is home and computer once again, for more writing, promo for presentations I will be doing in the upcoming months, reading books I am reviewing, as well as prepping for my radio show tomorrow night. Then a visit with my son and grandson for some much needed playtime.  To most people, this may look like an outrageously packed day. For this recovering workaholic, it is a huge reduction in my schedule. In my crazy busy years, I would be working at a counseling center for the better part of 12 hour days and then coming home and writing until midnight and teaching and doing my ministry work and volunteering and going to the gym. My mind would be spinning with even more seed planting ideas for future endeavors. Even as I am writing these words, I feel a contraction in my gut and heart thumping body memory of how much it took to keep up that pace. I had no clue how long I would have required myself to live at such a speed.

The funny thing is that I get as much accomplished even while slowing down to do it. There is such ease and grace in the idea that it really all does get done, when I know I am not doing it alone. It isn’t that I doubted I had celestial assistance before, it is that I lean into it far more now and I remind myself that it doesn’t need to happen all at once. I had feared that I wouldn’t be able to support myself if I didn’t keep up the pace. It was when I began to affirm that “I work for God and the salary and benefits are out of this world,” that all sorts of abundance flowed in.

I was telling the director of cardiac rehab recently that I am no longer a Type-A overachiever. I have, of necessity, become Type-B+ which is actually an upgrade. That is, and I am, more than enough.  And to my fellow workaholics, remember that you are too.

Following the Sun

 

I love sunflowers. Not only are they big and bright, but they have a particular talent that I admire. It’s called heliotropism and it translates to ‘sun tracking’. In other words, it means that they follow the sun. When I lived in Homestead, Florida in the early 1990’s, these beautiful stalks with their vibrant faces lined the fence around the back yard. I would watch with fascination as they soaked up the rays and was determined to emulate them. All these years later, I would like to think I do.

Last night, I watched the film Wild- starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed and Laura Dern as her mother Bobbi whose devastating loss sends the young woman on a 1000 mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail and a lifelong quest to ‘become the woman her mother raised her to be’. Along the way, she experiences terror and triumph and much of the story is revealed in flashback. In one memory, Dern’s character is singing and dancing around the kitchen, much to the bewilderment of her daughter. She wondered how her mother could possibly be happy, when she had married a man who was an abusive alcoholic, from whom they had fled; now at a time when both of them were working as waitresses while going to school, living in a house that was falling apart.

Cheryl asks, “Why are you happy?  We have nothing,” to which her mother replies  “We’re rich in love.” ”

What part of it do you not get? “, demands Cheryl

“There’s nothing I don’t get. If there’s one thing I can teach you, it’s how to find your best self and when you find your best self, how to hold onto it for dear life.”

This, to me is the essence of the sunflower. Dern’s Bobbie knows where the darkness exists, since she survived it, with her sanity intact. She also knows that, in her best ‘Annie-esque’  sensibilities “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” That is the direction to which she turns. That is the direction to which I turn, when the shadow lingers behind me. Over the years, I have had cause, like Cheryl, to be skeptical and incredulous that people might feel happy in spite of their challenges. These days, I am certain that they, and I are happy BECAUSE of them. They have been the fertilizer that has helped the sun flowers to blossom and grow.

 

 

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