The Brave Voice of the Iris: Everyday Magic, Day 1006

The irises are falling all over themselves with the weight of their beauty. It’s banner year where they’ve gone beyond simply showing off to flinging their gorgeousness at us with IMAX screen intensity. For the last 15 years, I’ve cut and bundled them carefully in a cacophony of vases in a large box. Then I placed the box carefully between the driver’s and passenger’s seat in my car, Kelley Hunt on one side, me on the other, calling out, “Have iris, will travel!” as our motto as we headed to Brave Voice.

This year of cancellations, postponements, mask-making, and stay-at-home directives means we’re not going deep into the Flint Hills to welcome people from across the country to this 6-day retreat of writing, singing, art-making, prairie-wandering, and magic-manifestation. I woke up this morning distinctly sad about this. While I’m counting the weeks until our rescheduled Brave Voice for Sept. 20-25, I’m missing this deep spring immersion into community, imagination, and prairie. At the same time, I realize many of us are missing events as well as people, places, ordering some extra hummus at a restaurant, or casually walking into a friend’s house and plopping down on her couch.

But the irises are blasting headlines across my heart about this particular event not happening because the iris is surely the Brave Voice floral mascot (we also have the cougar and pineapple, but those are other stories). Every year, we place overflowing bouquet of iris in the center of our circle where we gather to write about a time we experienced a miracle or sing in a 3-part-round with what could easily be 7-part-harmony “Breathe in…..Breathe out…”. We bring armloads of irises with us to place in the cabins and on tables, most from my yard, which increased in its iris population as I kept planting more each fall so for Brave Voice each spring. The camp often has its own herds of iris blooming, and everywhere, there’s the scent and promise of this resilient flower.

Irises look so delicate with their almost transparent-thin petals and complex bends and curves, but they’re powerfully strong. Put a bunch of iris in a vase, and with enough water and care, they can easily last a week or more. Plant an iris bulb, and it will reproduce itself underground, burrowing into the dirt to gather all the nutrients it needs to send up sturdy shoots while multiplying over time. Even when the weight of their tops makes them fall over, they keep opening their buds. They can survive horrid winters and mind-melting summers. They can find a way around stones or, as in our front yard, wayward kayaks blocking their usual trajectory. Even in a time of drought or harsh conditions, they still come calling, blossom and all. In short (although they’re tall), they’re brave.

I also think of irises as vibrantly musical. Synesthesia is when one sense takes on the qualities of another, and irises to me are synesthesic creatures. Their scents and shape sing to me, and not in a whisper kind of way, but full-throated, putting it all out there. If we could translate them into sound, I think they would belt out tunes like the love child of Laura Nyro and Josh Groban. Their brave voice is velvety and resonant, occasionally lilting through high notes while also encompassing us in a raw warmth that says home is so much more mysterious and alive than you can imagine.

So here we humans are, out in the wind and the rain of a pandemic, trying to stay upright and rooted enough. But we’re as beautiful in our vulnerability and propensity for music and magic as the iris. Let us keep remember, even celebrate, our brave voices at this time. Let nothing impede the courage that comes from digging down deep, soaring high, and opening our hearts completely.

You can find out more about Brave Voice here.

Brave Voice’s Round Rainbow: Everyday Magic, Day 703

IMG_0328At Brave Voice last week, we sung a new song repeatedly, a signature tune for the week:

A round rainbow is called a glory.

What you survive in life is called a story.

You only see the arc of it after the storm.

To see the whole miracle, you have to hold on.

The workaday miracle is where you belong, where you belong.

The story of how this song came to be may be a pebble in the ocean of the story of where this song is going, now that it’s inscribed in the memories and hearts of all of us who took place. But the song came in a miniature miracle kind of way: several week ago, watching Kelley Hunt perform at the Dakota in Minneapolis¬† I couldn’t help thinking of one word repeatedly: miracle. It’s a miracle she gives us this life-lifting music, and it’s a miracle that so many of us who create in any form for 376920_10201106479481349_1759454154_na living/for a life find sustenance for our art in this culture. But we do, and it kept coming to me that this was a workaday miracle, the kind you help to unfold word by word, note by note.

On the way home from Minnesota, Ken took a photo of a round rainbow with the shadow of the plane in the center of it. I posted it on facebook, and past Brave Voice participant Sandy wrote that “a round rainbow is called a glory.” Both Kelley and I emailed back and forth about that line, the photo, and the idea of a new song that encompassed all this.

A day later, I was walking the dog when we both got tired. I sat on the gravel driveway with Shay, and I began singing quietly, not really paying attention to myself. Shay cocked his right ear and leaned in. Soon I realized, I was singing “A round rainbow is called a glory./ What you survive in life is called a story…” and the rest of the song. I soon went to Kelley’s house, sat with her at her kitchen table, and sang this. “I think it’s the chorus of a song,” I told her, but she told it would work beautifully as a little song. Within a few hours, she found/created several other parts, mostly comprised of stretching the word “glory” into beautiful arrangements. We decided this song would travel with us to Brave Voice, but once there, Kelley found some verses to grow this little song.

401952_10201113625019983_517343383_nOn Tuesday morning, Kelley led the group singing in three-part harmony to this little but mighty chant, and on Wednesday evening, we ended our performance with the fuller song, complete with breathtaking cello playing by Teresa (one of the BV partipants) before surprising everyone with the chorus they all knew by heart. The song itself became a round rainbow for all those present in that moment.

Singing this song with others all week, by myself while walking across the prairie at Brave Voice, and in my mind as I fell asleep many nights, I feel its power seeping into me with each repetition. The glory of the workaday miracle is where we belong.

Top photo by Ken Lassman; other photos of Brave Voice by Dianna Burrup.

Pinneapple Power, Couger Blessing & Other Wonders of Brave Voice: Everyday Magic, Day 551

Friday, I landed home from the 7th annual Brave Voice: Writing & Singing for Your Life retreat that Kelley Hunt and I blessedly do together, along with our fellow artists extraordinaire Laura Ramberg and Ardys Ramberg. Back at White Memorial Camp — located on an arrowhead-shaped peninsula in Council Grove Grove surrounded by the Flint Hills — we were at home with the beauty, art, music, words and other surprises of the Brave Voice participants (called BVDs for Brave Voice Divas & Daredevils) and the lush land.

While what happens at Brave Voice stays at Brave Voice, some things I can share with you involve the magical combination of a pineapple, a cougar, canoes and kayaks and a whole lot of music. Here’s some highlights:

  • Did you know the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality? Somehow a pineapple ended up at the center of many of our circles, and conveyed to us how such hospitality needs to extend to the ways in which we welcome our creativity, compassion, acceptance of others and ourselves, and power. Thanks to some singing involving drawing on the power of the pineapple, we ended up with a pineapple power hand gesture and affirmation.
  • Cougars are notoriously shy when it comes to keeping at bay from the humans, especially on the peninsula where the camp is and particularly during mid-morning (like other species in the wild, they tend to be on the move more during sunrise and sunset as well as in the night). When we were doing our first writing prompt during the writing workshop focused on writing from our callings, I happened to look out the window, having opened all the blinds earlier simply because something told me to let in the sky. And there the cougar was — 20 feet or so away, walking around the back of our building. A bunch of us rushed to the window to see him/her — a long, sleek mammal, golden brown with an outrageously long tail. Some later wondered if we needed to take precautions, but Laura reminded us that seeing a cougar here and now was a blessing. I’ve longed to see a cougar in the wild for decades, and now, here one was. Our only generic cialis no prescription canada pictures of it were fuzzy, a little like trying to photograph the Loch Ness monster, but we know what we saw.
  • A bunch of us took to kayaks and canoes one warm afternoon, floating or paddling on Council Grove lake. Because of the heat, I tended to park my kayak in small coves, marveling at the shade-viewed green and blue world all directions. Of course, when we came together, we ended up singing on the water as usual, and moving fast or slow across the expanse. Some got on the water this way for the first, or the first in decades, time self-propelling over water, but all of us found solace in the sun-laced water.
  • Although it’s hard to remember what was so funny now, at the time, there were frequent forays into laughing so hard we cried as well as writing and music that broke our hearts open in the name of life, in remembrance of beloveds gone, and in joy for what and who we love most.
  • Laura and Ardys set up art stations as usual, and this year, they had supplies out for pen and ink drawings and the making of yantras, a traditional kind of mandala using geometric composition as a kidn of meditative ritual. Some of us painted, scribbled, colored, designed, drew and collaged, art at the edges and centers of our week together.
  • Walks, talks, quiet and song punctuated our time together in between workshops on singing, songwriting, writing, conversing with our callings, opening our voices and coming home to where we are.
  • Buddha the sheepdog mix, Isadore the brown and black puppy, Tomcat and other critters of the camp accompanied us whenever they could. Tomcat even slept on our blankets one night when Laura and I dragged mattresses out to the field near our cabin to sleep under stars and near the lake. The animals were as loving and welcoming as the camp, probably because of the hospitality powers of the pineapple.

We’ll be announcing the dates of Brave Voice 2013 soon, but for now, I’m thinking of pineapples in a whole new way and keeping my eyes open for what other wonders move quietly along the edges.

Holiday Gifts For the Heart & Soul: Everyday Magic, Day 461

I believe in giving gifts whenever the spirit moves us as well as giving ourselves whatever gifts feed our souls and lift us up to live out our callings. In this tune, I want to recommend these possibilities for you to give others and/or give yourself, all of which are home-grown (benefiting the 99% and not just the 1%) and offered by people I believe in.

  • Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves & Others, an online class with Sharon Bray: Sharon is fabulous at helping people connect with their deepest truths, and she’s very experienced at offering superb online classes. She writes of this one, “What is the story you want to tell? In ‘Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves and Others,’ we begin with you. Your experience. Your story. We will work together to create a virtual community that has as its ground rules an atmosphere of safety, support and mutual respect, one that allows you to write authentically and deeply from painful life experiences. In this way, we will experience and model the ways in which writing can be healing, for ourselves and for others.” This class is offered by the Transformative Language Arts Network.
  • The Music of Kelley Hunt, Greg Greenway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leonard Cohen, and Others: Music keeps speaking through us and to us, and a gift of music goes, like the song, on and on and on. These are some of my favorites, but feel free to ask people around you who their favorites are, and then investigate! Also, Kelley has an amazing New Year’s Eve Eve concert coming up on 12/30.
  • Great Books!: I recommend these books I’ve read in the last year and loved: Chris Offutt’s The Same River Twice, Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, Harriet Lerner’s The Marriage Rules, Betsy Sholl’s Rough Cradle, Katherine Towler’s Island Light, Dick Allen’s Present Vanishing, two anthologies I edited (so of course I love these poems!) — Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, Stephanie Sandmeyer’s Broken for You, and anything by Pema Chodron.
  • Solitude & Beauty: Consider a retreat, particularly in Kansas at Shantivanam, a beautiful center just an hour from Kansas City or Lawrence. It’s a great way to recharge and relax.
  • Brave Voice: Writing & Singing For Your Life: This six-day retreat I offer with Kelley Hunt is all about recovering and celebrating your creative spirit. Past participants have gone on to write and publish books, release CDs, perform and read, and most of all, make enduring community with others who support their art and share the riches of their voice and vision. We have a solstice sale — $60 off if registered by 12/21 — here.

Brave Voice: An Everday Magic All Week

I won’t be posting too much this week because I’m going to camp. Well, actually I’m going to Brave buy cheap viagra and cialis Voice, but it’s like camp in all the best ways: We sing, maybe roast things on sticks, wander in the woods and fields, kayak, write, make art, and because this is camp for adults, we also do Tai Chi, yoga, get massages and collaborate on all manner of amazement. Brave Voice, which Kelley Hunt and I co-lead, is coming in for its sixth annual landing all this week, and I look forward to living for five nights in a small red cabin on a peninsula in a lake surrounded by the Flint Hills.

I’ll be back next week with photos, words, and probably some new ways of breathing in this shining world.