Tag Archives: Flint Hills

West Into Winter: Everyday Magic, Day 147

Coffee in the cup-holder, books to sell piled in the passenger seat, and down coat over layers of clothes (down to the season’s first outing for the cuddle-duds), I headed west early this morning. The sun was bright, the sky clear, and the air void of any warmth whatsoever. I turned up the music, pushed down the gas petal, and flew soon enough past the usual Lawrence-to-Topeka jaunt, then through the northern wrap-highway of Topeka, to where the land begins to ungulate, rise and drop, widen and round: the mythic and present Flint Hills.

I was on my way to give a talk on Jubilee — what we release and learn from, embrace and start fresh and alive with, beginners all of us at each moment — at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manhattan. Michael, my old friend of 20 years — lost for a while due to the wild weather of both our lives — was the minister of this very fine congregation, and soon enough I would be standing in front of people in a lovely and sacred space, framed by windows leading to woodland and prairie, slope and ridges, soon enough, but for now, I was driving and in that happy-driving-music where space becomes a good friend just as I speed through it.

Easy enough to cultivate such appreciate especially when that space is made of reddened grasses, wide bowls of horizons, blue bright sky, all shining together in the centering of one of the shorter days of the air.

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.