Today we are experiencing unseasonably cool and windy weather in the Greater Boston area.
I sit on my back porch (wearing a winter coat for warmth) and listen to the cardinals, robins and mockingbirds who are all taking turns singing from the tops of nearby trees, roofs, and utility poles…
I also savor the marigolds, basil, kale, cilantro, and sunflowers sprouting in pots around me.
Sprouting seeds and growing plants fill my heart with hope.
It is such a weird and wonderful thing that a tiny speck of a seed can transform into a seedling!
To me it feels very similar to the mysterious miracle of how a caterpillar can transform into a butterfly…
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
I am deeply honored to learn that last Friday Michelle at Boomer Eco Crusader published an entire blog post featuring my song “We’re Running A Big Experiment.”
I have been reading her blog for a couple of years.
I always find inspiration about ways to improve my life right now — as well as ways to improve the future lives of our children, grandchildren, and all the other beings who will inherit the fossil-fuel-driven messes that we are leaving as our legacy here on planet earth.
If you are not already following her blog, I heartily recommend you check it out by clicking here.
THANK YOU to Michelle and to everyone else who has been listening to — and sharing! — this song after it was officially distributed to various digital platforms earlier this month.
I am aware that music can at times be considered somewhat trivial/pointless/insignificant.
But at other times, it can be a vital glue that brings us together and inspires us.
Thank you to everyone who read and listened to and commented on my last blog post!
It has been lovely to re-connect with WordPress friends and acquaintances after my three-month hiatus from blogging (although I did continue to read a fair number of other people’s blog posts during that fallow time).
Last night I was unable to fall asleep.
I am guessing it was a combination of reading two more chapters of Deep Adaptation (which can be profoundly terrifying and heart-breaking) combined with falling asleep for an hour during an unsatisfying football game earlier this evening (our New England Patriots fell ignominiously to the Buffalo Bills with a final score of 17 to 47) combined with the several chocolate truffles (made in Canada for Trader Joe’s) which I ate in the late afternoon before bundling up in many layers — t-shirt, hoodie, thin down jacket, thick down vest, thin black jacket, hat, gloves, and huge winter parka — and walking around a local lake in the very cold, refreshing winter air.
I have included another new song in the player at the beginning of this blog post.
I had intended to release it at the very beginning of 2022, but two things have delayed me.
One is some confusion about whether I should continue to use CD Baby (the company that has been distributing my recordings with pianist Doug Hammer to various digital music platforms) as my publishing administrator.
In case you do not know, when one records a song, there are two main copyrights for that recording.
One is a copyright for the actual recording.
That is usually owned or controlled by the recording artist (such as Lady Gaga or Tony Bennett or an independent musician like me) or by the recording artist’s record label (which may have advanced the money needed to make the recording…)
The other is a copyright for the song itself.
That is usually owned by the songwriter(s) and/or their publishing company.
So when I record a song written by someone else (Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, for example), I own the copyright for my specific recording, and I pay a mechanical royalty in advance to the entity which owns the compositional copyright for that song.
When I record and release one of my original songs, I act as my own record label AND publishing company — and up until this point I’ve been using CD Baby as my publishing administrator.
A publishing administrator helps to track down earnings on behalf of the person who wrote the song.
I recently took an online class to learn more about how one might get one’s songs placed in TV shows and movies — and it turns out that one option is to find a sync rep to help me pitch my songs to music supervisors (who find songs for TV shows, movies, advertisements, and video games).
And some sync reps also like to act as one’s publisher — so having an agreement with CD Baby to be the publishing administrator for my original songs might be a detrimental to building a relationship with a sync rep…
So I’ve been stalled for the past month, wondering exactly what to do next regarding my publishing administration options.
And sadly, CD Baby — which once offered immediate phone assistance when it was a groovy, independent company — now only offers phone callbacks (during a window of time over a couple of days) or email responses (which also can take many days to get a response).
I assume this is because they were bought up by a larger company who decided that the immediate phone assistance option was too expensive and/or inefficient.
And it took two weeks for them to respond to my most recent questions about their publishing administration option — maybe because it was the holiday season and/or maybe because my question didn’t fit perfectly into one of their dropdown menu options for customer service assistance…
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
Another reason why I have been delayed in releasing my new songs is because a few of them are about challenging topics such as our climate change/disaster and our current Covid epidemic/disaster — which I am guessing might elicit strong feedback/pushback (the prospect of which I find scary…)
And of course there is probably good-old-fashioned denial at work, too.
Sharing songs such as “We’re Running A Big Experiment” with the rest of the world (or rather with the people who have electricity and smart phones/computers and access to digital music platforms such as Spotify and Pandora and Apple Music around the world) somehow makes the topics I am writing about more real.
I can no longer hide in my own little puddle of denial once I put them out there.
And denial is an extraordinarily wily and powerful psychological mechanism/phenomenon.
One of the things I’ve been observing — in a spirit of curiosity rather than judgement — is how much denial can be triggered when one begins reading Deep Adaptation.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a friend invited a group of us (seven total) to read it together and also to discuss it each month via Zoom.
Since we began this process, some of us have managed to write down the wrong time for our Zoom meetings, some have taken a nap and almost missed a Zoom meeting (until someone else called and woke them up), and some have gotten ill and missed a Zoom meeting.
And many of us — myself very much included — have struggled to read the recommended chapters before each monthly Zoom meeting.
What have been YOUR experiences with denial?
And with climate change?
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
I wrote in my last email that I was going to write shorter blog posts; so I’d better end this one now.
I am very grateful to you if you have managed to read this far and perhaps have also listened to “We’re Running A Big Experiment.”
I am also very grateful to Doug Hammer — for his wonderful piano playing AND his engineering skills AND his advice/input regarding the harmonies I sang on this song — as well as to the photographers and artists at Pixabay for their magnificent images.
And I remain truly grateful for all the blessings I currently have in my life — food, shelter, heat, warm clothing, electricity, a functional computer, access to the internet, a reliable bicycle, family, friends, and the WordPress community (to name just a few!)
One final deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
PS: You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find many songs (and learn more about my musical life here on planet earth if you are curious).
You can also find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Musicand other digital music platforms.
And if you are hungry for a more uplifting song as an antidote to “We’re Running A Big Experiment,” you are welcome to click here and listen to a song I wrote a few years ago when visiting friends in Toronto called “Another Good Morning” (which I recorded with Doug Hammer and released on a bunch of different digital music platforms last year).
I earn only a fraction of a cent any time someone plays one of my recordings on a digital music service — but they all add up!
PPS: If I have mis-explained the basic copyright concepts regarding recorded songs, please correct me in the comments section!
6/13/22 I finally distributed “We’re Running A Big Experiment” via CD Baby to various digital music platforms! You can click here to listen on Pandora, Youtube, Apple Music, Spotify, and more…
More than two months has passed since my last blog post.
I started writing several drafts, but none seemed worthy of completion…
This morning, however, I awoke from very sweet dreams — about returning to my elementary school as an adult — and started the day by stretching on our back porch.
A mockingbird was singing a wonderfully idiosyncratic song from a nearby roof, and the sky above me was totally blue.
Many birds passed high in the sky — swallows swooping back and forth (maybe catching bugs?), a pair of ducks en route from one body of water to another, some cooing doves, a bright red cardinal, and a seagull.
It was first recorded by actress and singer Karen Akers in 1994, and since then it has been performed by a bunch of Broadway folks including Ben Platt, Betty Buckley, Brian Lane Green, and Sutton Foster.
When I recorded it with pianist Doug Hammer, I was still working as the assistant director of a non-profit in Harvard Square — the Cambridge Center for Adult Education — and longing to break free from my day job so that I could devote myself to making music.
I had started at the CCAE by volunteering to help with a new musical series that the PR director, a wonderful singer named Tracy Gibbs, was putting together called The Cabaret Connection.
My offer to help transformed into a part-time job overseeing not only The Cabaret Connection but also another series called The Jazz Chair and a few other special events.
Then I began sharing responsibility for publicizing these events, and when Tracy left for a new job, I was offered a full-time position as PR director for the entire CCAE.
This was not my plan.
My plan was to have a part-time day job so that I could continue to do plenty of music on the side.
But now my day job would INCLUDE music — and I would gain new perspectives (such as what it was like to have performers contacting me about the possibility of being booked into one of our musical series…)
So I said, “Yes.”
After a few years, our development director left, and I took over her responsibilities as well.
Eventually I became assistant director and helped to bridge the transition between the retirement of our beloved executive director and the arrival of his successor.
Then I was laid off.
Time for a deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
This was a surprise and a shock — but perhaps also a blessing.
I had been working 40-70 hours per week for many years — and I was grateful to slow down.
I also have a fair amount of “the disease to please” in my emotional constitution as well as a low tolerance for risk.
So even though many of my more psychologically astute (and cherished) co-workers had seen the writing on the wall regarding the pros and cons of our new executive director and had found new employment elsewhere, I had remained loyal (or some might say “stuck”) to the longtime CCAE community of teachers, board members, students and volunteers.
Being laid off might have been the only way to get me to leave.
Now I listen to “Flight” with a very different perspective from when I first learned it — and was feeling such a longing to break free…
Now my time is completely my own — to vision, to plan, to shape, to fill!
I have nothing I want to escape.
My only deadlines are the minor ones I give myself AND the major ones related to climate change which loom ever larger and more terrifying with each passing day of denial and inaction.
Another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
I love the imagery in Craig’s lyrics — and the flow of the narrator’s thought processes from one moment to the next…
It reminds me of a sailboat tacking to and fro in response to the ever-changing winds.
However, we human beings were not satisfied with sailboats.
So we created the motorboat, which zooms, noisily and relentlessly — oblivious to what it might run over, hit, injure, or disrupt — in a straight line from point A to point B.
And then the airplane!
Life before fossil fuels seems like it was much less linear.
Paths and roads followed the curves of hills and streams — rather than being bulldozed or dynamited to create the most efficient and convenient line of travel.
I saw this same phenomenon in the sky this morning — with birds swooping in curvy lines while far above them a jet plane left a perfectly straight line of moisture and toxic emissions in the sky…
Yet another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
The desire to fly — and perhaps to fly away — has been with us human beings for thousands of years.
I often think about the myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus — who enthusiastically flew too high and too close to the sun (forgetting or ignoring his father’s warning about how the wax adhering the feathers of his marvelously-constructed wings could melt…) and fell to his death in the Mediterranean sea.
Oftentimes our human culture in the 21st century seems to be soaring ever higher on a frantic, teen-aged exuberance for relentless, profit-driven innovation and stimulation.
We ignore wise warnings about how our fossil-fuel-powered desires (for 24/7 computer functionality, for food at any hour of the day or night (much of it shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away), for the ability to travel via motorcycle, car, motorboat, ocean liner, bus, train, or plane wherever we want (and as much as we can afford… or choose to put on a credit card), for alternative currencies, etc. are leading us faster and faster towards global catastrophe.
One would think that any one of the challenges we have experienced in recent years here in the USA — flooding of major cities, changing weather patterns which have led to increased wildfires/hurricanes/tornadoes, as well as a year-long viral pandemic — might lead us to re-think and change our habits of consumption.
And might lead us to listen to scientists with a deepened respect.
But I don’t see much of that happening…
Denial is indeed an extraordinary human phenomenon.
I certainly understand why the likely scenarios — such as famine, wars over water and arable land, vast migrations of desperate refugees, more epidemics of diseases — are too terrifying for most of us to set aside any time to contemplate.
And — getting back to the topic of flight — the creation of rocket ships — which take our human desire for flight to an entirely different level.
I saw a posting on Facebook recently with which I immediately agreed:
“Mars sucks. Its weather sucks. Its distance sucks. Its atmosphere sucks. The little water it has…sucks. It has sucked for billions of years and will suck for billions more…
You know what doesn’t suck?
I have life.
I have vast oceans and lush forests.
I have rivers to swim and air to breath.
But the way I’m being treated — that part sucks.
You use me and pollute me.
You overheat me.
You use every resource I have, and return very little back from where it came.
And then you dream of Mars — a hellhole — a barren, desolate wasteland you can’t set foot on fast enough.
Why not use some of that creative energy and billions of dollars on saving me? You know, the planet that’s giving you what you need to live right now.
Mars can wait.
The only part of this posting with which I don’t agree is the idea that earth needs to be saved.
I am pretty confident that planet earth — having already withstood billions of years of evolutionary changes — will be OK.
We human beings are the ones whose existence is at stake — along with the millions of other forms of life (such as birds and bees and fungi and bacteria and trees and grasses and turtles and whales and algae and shrimp and wolves and bison) which are vital links in the amazing web of life here on planet earth which we are in the process of altering and destroying.
Awake, fellow humans!
Now is the time to make significant changes in how we live here on planet earth…
It was originally written for a 1931 revue called The Band Wagon — which was notable for being one of the last times that Fred Astaire and his sister Adele performed together on Broadway.
The lyrics feel like an existential poem to me.
They were written by Howard Dietz — who also co-wrote the script for The Band Wagon with George S. Kaufman — plus music by Arthur Schwartz.
Dietz went on to become the head of public relations at MGM movie studios.
He is reputed to have chosen their lion logo as well as their motto: Ars Gratia Artis (art for art’s sake).
While based in MGM’s New York office, he wrote co-wrote songs for decades with Arthur Schwartz, including “That’s Entertainment” for MGM’s film version of The Band Wagon in 1953 — which again featured Fred Astaire, who performed with Cyd Charisse while…”Dancing In The Dark.”
The message of the song seems particularly appropriate in the days leading up to a very important national election here in the USA.
I have been limiting my exposure to radio and TV because most of the news is simply very high-octane speculation.
However, I was happy to learn that early voter turnout is very high.
People are engaged with the political process!
But I am also concerned that gun/ammunition sales are very high (although I have been told this often happens when gun-using folks in the USA fear a Democratic victory which might lead to future firearm regulations…)
The state of our democracy can seem very dark these days — with our president repeatedly saying that he may not honor the results of our upcoming election while simultaneously casting seeds of doubt about the voting process itself.
And he continues to hold large public rallies during a health pandemic — after one of which his ally (and former presidential candidate) Herman Cain died from COVID-19.
All the while hospitals in cities around the United States fill up to capacity…
And nurses, EMTs, and doctors — who are working 12 hour shifts day in and day out to save the lives of their fellow citizens — continue to plead with us to wear our face masks, wash our hands, and maintain our social distancing…
I am truly amazed by our health care workers’ dedication, selflessness, and love for their fellow human beings.
I am amazed that they show up for work — day after day and night after night — while putting their own lives AND the lives of their loved ones at risk for catching this virus.
I am amazed that they treat the folks who deny the threat of Covid-19 and refuse to wear a mask with as much compassion as they treat the folks who wore a mask and still got sick.
What they are doing is astounding.
I don’t have adjectives to describe how I feel about the virus-deniers.
Or at least adjectives that I want to put into print.
I do sometimes wonder if the extreme dysfunction unfolding in our country is a symptom of mother nature getting serious about reducing the number of human beings who now live on (and some might say over-run and infest) planet earth…
Denying the science of how a virus spreads and multiplies — exponentially! — is a form of madness which has already killed hundreds of thousands of people here in the USA…
I see it as being very similar to denying the science of climate change.
One can deny it all one wants…
Yet the scientific processes — such as the fact that a virus can spread exponentially if unchecked and will swiftly overwhelm the staff of your local hospital — will continue to unfold whether one denies the scientific realities or not.
The fact that our earth’s atmosphere is changing due to our human (mis)use of fossil fuels since the start of the industrial era is also undeniable.
In fact I recently saw a reprint of an article from the early 20th century in which scientists described and predicted how our increasing use of fossil fuels would alter the earth’s atmosphere.
Some people have been aware of this challenge for generations!
The fact that climate change is increasing the severity of storms, increasing the frequency of forest fires, and changing the patterns of how ecosystems around the planet do (or don’t) stay in balance is undeniable.
It’s all over the news in the USA.
It’s what hundreds if not thousands of scientists have been warning about for decades.
Will we as a species continue to deny it is happening?
Will we continue to live our lives as if nothing huge and profound is changing?
Continue to drive our SUVs and pickup trucks as many miles as we (or our credit cards) can afford?
Continue to travel as much as our budgets (or credit cards) will allow?
Continue to refuse to put solar arrays on our roofs?
Continue to consume more resources than can be sustainably grown/harvested/produced here on planet earth?
Fundamental patterns and cycles here on planet earth will continue to tip out of balance regardless of what our leaders may or may not be saying.
There are scientific processes and realities at work which can’t be denied or spun or ignored until they go away.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
It is indeed an extraordinary time to be alive…
I hope and trust that we will persevere.
That enough people will wake up to the realities of science.
That enough people will realize that wearing a mask and continuing to practice social distancing is in fact a very loving and respectful thing to do for one’s self, for one’s family, for one’s co-workers, for one’s neighborhood, and for all the folks who risk their lives working at one’s local hospital.
And that we can continue to dance through this period of darkness, keeping a sense of love and light and fairness and respect burning in our hearts as we cast our ballots.
Thank you to Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz for writing this song during another very challenging era in our country’s history…
Thank you to pianist Doug Hammer for making music and recording music with me for the past 20+ years AND then for fixing and mixing songs with me from his home studio via Zoom in recent months.
Thank you to all the photographers at Pixabay for these glorious images.
And thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts!
I truly treasure our community of WordPress bloggers and readers and commenters…
I haven’t written a new blog post for over a year.
And I am amazed to discover — after visiting my stats page — that people have continued to visit my site.
THANK YOU to everyone who nosed around my blog while my creativity was lying fallow for the past thirteen months.
I’m sure exactly how or why I stopped writing new posts.
Partly — because we have created an economy which encourages us to replace and discard things as often as possible — I needed a newer computer, which a friend extraordinarily gave to me at the end of last year!
Partly I lost blogging momentum.
And partly I didn’t feel that I had much to share that would brighten anyone’s day.
But I HAVE continued to write new songs as well as create demos of my songs using Apple’s wonderful GarageBand program.
And I have continued to offer hour-long programs of music at retirement communities, assisted living homes, senior centers, and public libraries accompanied by pianist Joe Reid or pianist Molly Ruggles.
I was inspired to finish working on it by the youth-led climate march earlier this month.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had a somewhat unusual childhood.
My mom, siblings, and I spent our summers at my grandmother’s home in Queens, NY (where my mom had grown up) while my dad stayed home in Washington, DC.
A few days each week we’d walk to the end of the block, get on a bus to Flushing, and then ride the #7 train into Manhattan so that we could go on interviews for TV commercials, voice-overs, modeling jobs, plays, and movies.
As I look back, I realize that it was rare for us ever to drive anywhere using a car during these summer months. We just used buses or trains.
Maybe this is why I still like to use public transportation.
When we started out, my older sister was five and I was an infant. Eventually my younger brother and sister were born and joined the process.
This is what I looked like as a small child.
My family became very familiar with the lobbies, elevators, and waiting rooms of many advertising agencies (depicted in the TV series Mad Men) such as Young & Rubicam, Doyle, Dane & Bernbach, and Grey Advertising.
The ratio of interviews to actual jobs was very steep — and in my early years we considered ourselves a success if each one of us managed to film one commercial per summer.
However, the summer before fifth grade I was cast as a standby in a musical which was trying out at the newly-built Kennedy Center.
My parents allowed me to do this partly because we could live at home during the out-of-town preview period (although I would miss the start of fifth grade that fall), partly because most Broadway musicals flop, and partly because it would be exciting to watch Bob Fosse and the rest of his creative team build a new show,
The musical — Pippin — proved to be a hit, and we ended up moving to my grandmother’s house in Queens year round.
This is when my and my siblings’ careers gained a lot of momentum — since we were now able to audition for work year-round.
This is what I looked like as my career gained momentum…
During the next three years I ended up doing many commercials, a couple of made-for-TV movies, another play, and a lot of voice-over work.
Then I entered prep school, and my life as a child performer came to an end.
This is my last professional headshot.
With hindsight — and many years of psychotherapy — I have come to see how odd it was to learn to say “yes” to almost anything we were asked in an interview such as “Do you like to eat peanut butter on bananas?” or “Can you roller skate backwards?” or “Would you be comfortable singing and dancing on a tugboat in the harbor?”
People who said “no” (as one of my siblings did when asked if they liked to eat peanut butter on bananas…) didn’t get hired.
We were supposed to say “yes” and then — if we found out we had gotten a callback visit — we quickly learned how to do whatever we had claimed to be able to do during the initial interview.
Even more sobering is to realize that much of the time I was using my g-d given talents to encourage people to buy stuff that they didn’t need (more clothing, for example) or that was unhealthy to ingest (such as Ring Ding Juniors, Lifesavers, Oreos, and Dr. Pepper) as part of an economy built on our ongoing over-consumption of natural resources.
The climate march this week and Greta Thunberg’s speech in Washington, DC a few days before it — in which she explains how necessary it is for all of us human beings to pull the emergency brake NOW on our fossil-fuel-driven lives — gave me a few minutes of much-needed hope.
But I continue to feel deeply discouraged by the stuckness/denial/apathy/fear regarding fossil-fuel consumption and climate change that I see all around me — in the media, in the advertising industry, in my neighborhood, in my friends’ lives.
Almost everyone seems to be continuing to take lots of trips via airplanes and automobiles, continuing to eat lots of meat, continuing to use our air conditioners as much as we want, and continuing to behave as we have been behaving for the past many decades here in these not-so-united states.
And really, why should I expect anything different?
I know from psychotherapy how very difficult it can be to change one’s behavior.
We in the USA have grown up in an era of hopes and dreams and habits and assumptions which are based on using way more than our fair share of fossil fuels.
Of course we can travel anywhere — and as often — as we want.
Of course we can own as large a house as we want.
Of course everyone can own and drive a car, everyone can apply for jobs which require a car to commute, everyone can eat as much as we want in any season of the year — foods which may have traveled thousands of miles before ending up on our plates — and everyone can squander the amazing inheritance of fossil fuels from millions of years of photosynthesis by billions of plants that all of us here on planet earth have inherited.
And if you can’t afford to do these things, you can pay for them using one or more credit cards and become ever more deeply in debt.
As you may know from having read previous blog posts, I am blessed to have cobbled together a very modest living during the past six years (after having been laid off from my day job helping run a non-profit in Harvard Square) which depends largely on bicycling and public transportation.
And I live quite happily without a cell phone.
But my sweetheart of 27 years DOES commute to work using a car.
And I gratefully use his cell phone when we drive to see friends and family around New England and New York.
Another deep sigh.
What will it take for us to pull the emergency brake on our selfish, out of balance, unsustainable, fossil-fuel consuming, all-too-human habits?
I think of the anecdotes I have read about conventional farmers who have converted to more sustainable, organic farming practices — but it’s often (very sadly) because they or someone in their family has developed some sort of disease as a result of exposure to toxic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc.
I wish we human beings could choose to make deep changes in our life habits without having to experience health/climate crises in our personal lives.
But maybe that’s the path we are on…
What do you think?
How have you changed your daily habits in response to climate change?
Where do you find hope in these challenging times?
Thank you, as always, to the folks who share their photos and graphics at Pixabay which is a wonderful resource for imagery.
Recently we experienced the warmest February day ever recorded in Boston according to a radio announcer on WBUR.
In the short run, I am very grateful for this lovely respite from wintry weather.
In the long run, however, I wonder what’s going on with the larger weather patterns and ocean temperatures on planet earth?
Our opposable thumbs — and seemingly insatiable desire for novelty and innovation — have helped us to create all sorts of stuff.
And much of what we have created needs power from fossil fuels (in the form of electricity, for example) to function or is actually made from fossil fuels outright in the case of plastic.
Plastic wrap. Plastic toothbrushes. Plastic containers to store leftovers. Plastic bags. Plastic bumpers on cars (one of which my sister’s dog was able to chew into pieces when he thought a small animal was hiding under it!)
Plastic plates. Plastic silverware. Plastic cups. Plastic shower curtains. Plastic bowls. Plastic bottles filled with water and laundry detergent and shampoo and apple cider.
Plastic dispensers for easy-gliding floss (which is itself made out of plastic). Plastic souvenir tchotchkes. Plastic electronic devices. Plastic credit cards.
The list goes on and on.
Today I listened to a news story about an area in Texas where we human beings have been extracting oil and gas for the past hundred years.
We’ve been blessed with an inheritance of solar energy accumulated by plants growing on planet earth for millions of years — and we are withdrawing it — and spending it — in the blink of a cosmic eye.
What an amazing inheritance!
Why are we squandering it to manufacture and then purchase stuff that doesn’t usually make us feel any better after the initial thrill of acquisition subsides?
Stuff that won’t decompose for hundreds of years — thus contaminating and altering all sorts of natural processes and feedback loops on land and in our lakes and rivers and streams and oceans.
Why have we not been taught to weigh the long-term consequences of our manufacturing and consumer choices?
I sometimes wonder what an economy would look and feel like which actually honored the long-term costs and consequences of fossil fuel-driven lives on the larger ecosystems which sustain the amazing, interconnected web of life on planet earth…
I am guessing it would be simpler and slower.
It was a growing awareness of all the stuff in my life which inspired me to write lyrics for a melody by Steve Sweeting many years ago which became the song “Stuff.”
I was visiting dear friends who had moved into a large new home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle — and reflecting upon the pros and cons of our very blessed — and privileged — lives.
She is a songwriter and singer and teacher whom I met when I participated in a week-long cabaret conference at Yale.
I — and many of my singing peers — love to perform her songs, the most famous of which is probably “The Rose,” which she wrote for the movie starring Bette Midler.
She has recently finished a new CD of her latest batch of songs called Voices.
I guessed that she might be sick of listening to herself (which one ends up doing over and over and over again when one is recording and mixing and mastering a CD) and open to the possibility of hearing something new.
And, bless her, I was right.
Here’s what she wrote back after listening to Steve’s CD:
“Thank you so much for sending the lovely CD! It was such joy to hear your voice again. AND to listen to something that wasn’t ME for a change!
The songs are terrific. Your performances are nuanced and touching and lovely.
My very favorite is STUFF.
I think I have to have it.
Feels like it would something perfect for me to put in my repertoire if your friend is willing to share.”
Needless to say I was astounded and excited and humbled that she had made time to listen to the CD, that she liked Steve’s songs, and that she liked one of the songs to which I had contributed lyrics well enough that she might end up adding it to her repertoire!
Deep breath in…
Deep breath out…
It’s funny how something as simple as someone asking for the sheet music for a song I have co-written gives me a renewed sense of validation and encouragement to continue on my (still extremely humble) path as a songwriter.
Maybe it’s another example of the power of feedback loops — in this case feedback that Amanda found the melody and chords and ideas and arrangement of “Stuff” compelling enough that she might want to learn it and then share it with others.
Another deep breath in…
And another deep breath out…
Despite all of the larger patterns of disrespect and dishonesty and disbelief which are rippling around our country and around the planet these days, I will continue to count my blessings, continue to reduce my ecological footprint, and continue to sing — and sometimes write — songs.
Thank you, as usual, to Pixabay for the lovely images in this post.
Thank you to Steve Sweeting for entrusting his melodies to me.
Thank you to Amanda McBroom, for making time in her complicated life to listen to Steve’s CD AND then to send such uplifting feedback to us.
And thank you to YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.
PS: I hope you noticed the irony of me ranting about all the plastic junk we human beings create and buy and sell on planet earth and then agreeing to make a CD recording of Steve’s songs — thus creating 250 shiny, round, flat pieces of plastic which will be obsolete junk within another decade or so…