Tag Archives: Brave Voice

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 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 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.

The Magic of Brave Voice: Everyday Magic, Day 172

On the first day of the year I brunched with the BVDs — the Brave Voice Divas & Daredevils,  people who attended past Brave Voices, the 6-day retreats Kelley Hunt & I have been offering in the Flint Hills of Kansas since 2006. A bunch of BVDs had come to our fair city to dance in the new year the night before when Kelley played Liberty Hall with her band. As way of catching up, of course we ate and visited, but mostly, we sat in a circle and sang, read, made up poetry, drummed and jammed together for several hours as is the way of the BVDs.

When Kelley and I started designing the Brave Voice writing and singing retreat about seven years ago, we envisioned a clearing, a place where people could gather and have enough solitude and community, enough spaciousness of being, enough inspiration, humor and tenderness so they could create what called to them freely. What happened surpassed our imaginations. As we head into our sixth Brave Voice retreat — May 8-13 in the Flint Hills of Kansas — we bring with us layers upon layers of witnessing magic.

Yes, there is the magic that can come when writing, singing and songwriting workshops are well-designed and facilitated, but there’s a magic that met us both at the site of the retreats and in the souls of those who come. We do the retreats at White Memorial Camp, which is located on an arrowhead-shaped peninsula in the middle of Council Grove lake, surrounded by rolling hills in all directions and held in very big sky. The location of the camp is also where tribes from throughout the plains would meet in council (thus the name “Council Groves) for hundreds, probably thousands of years.

The people who came are drawn to immerse themselves in Brave Voice from near and far. While we often have a contingent from Kansas and especially our hometown, Lawrence, we’ve had people come from British Columbia, Florida, California and Vermont too. BVDs are writers, singers, musicians, artists, yogis, ministers, community leaders, and people who’ve lived quietly while creating wildly in their lives through homemaking, parenting, contemplating and reading. I’m sure if you could look up the phrase, “the ones who show up are the ones who should be here,” you would see a picture of BVDs at the end of a retreat, falling into each other while laughing and hugging. The community that emerges each time is so rich and life-giving that it cannot help but to support everyone in taking creative leaps in their art, writing, music and lives….and it cannot help but continue over distances all year long.

So here’s to the magic that we create together when we open our voices. Thank you, Brave Voices!

Thanks to Julanne and Danny for the photos!

Braving Brave Voice

Several years ago rhythm and blues singer-songwriter Kelley Hunt and I started talking about how singing can open up our writing voice, and visa-versa, all of which couldn’t help but to enliven the rest of our lives. That was the impetus behind Brave Voice, the week-long retreat we developed that brings men and women together in the wilds of the weather and their own experience to recover, discover and express more of their voice and life.

As a writer, I’m long-acquainted with the value of entering a new piece of writing through the backdoor, which means being committed enough to write without making such a big deal about doing it perfectly that the words get too scared to show up. Instead, I show up, put myself out there on the page, and bring enough curiosity and respect for the art, for the poem, story, or song to unfurl and show itself. In bringing singing and writing together with Kelley, I realize we’re walking into all kinds of new places through back doors, opening up the physical voice through singing and then watching what happens with that voice on the page, or speaking from the heart and then leaning into a song to see what it has to show us.

This kind of engagement allows us to access far more of our lives, experiences, perceptions, magic, music and words than putting only our brain’s frontal lobe in the driver’s seat. Yet such engagements benefit from enough patience, time, safe enough space to take creative risks, and good enough witnesses to help us see what we’re creating. It’s a date with the mysterious to witness what wants to be said, written, sung or performed, and both Kelley and I believe in having outrageous fun and making sure to get up and dance on such dates.

At Brave Voice, we come together to listen deeply to ourselves, to each other, to the land and lake and sky around us, to the calling of our own voice, and the sightings along our own path. We witness each other, and in doing so, we learn how to listen more deeply to our own creative process. We are witnessed, which helps us feel and know the full weight of our music, writing, and art.

Where we meet has much to do with what we find. The retreat is held at a camp on an arrowhead-shaped peninsula surrounded by Council Grove reservoir. The location, in the center of the Flint Hills (endless hills of tallgrass prairie that look like voluptuous women lying on their sides), was key meeting ground for Plains-area tribes, which came together in council to share news, celebrate, meet and make and keep community. The location of the camp is the precise place where thousands of tribal people met for hundreds of years.

Coming to this sacred ground, we experience both resonance and reverence that’s inherently healing, grounding and renewing. We come to a particular place, and in doing so, we also find our ways into our own particular songs, stories, poems, plays, rhythms and motions. Such a place, combined with such a process, uncovers the utter bravery of our voices, and what we have to say, sing or write to the world.

Check out Kelley’s new site: http://www.myspace.com/kelleyhuntmusic.