In the spring of 1995, Chrissy unexpectedly brought home a puppy she had gotten from the Wal-Mart parking lot. You see, our family has a habit of acquiring pets unexpectedly. And we also have a habit of loving them well. One of the things I love most about my family is our compassion for animals. So, needless to say, we fell in love with this sweet little puppy and named her Champ. For 14 years, we loved Champ and she loved us, and as is always the case with Love, we were transformed by it. We never did find out exactly what breeds she had in her, only that she was the sweetest, smartest, and most loyal dog any of us has ever known. She was an integral part of our family. What I loved most about Champ was her sensitivity. She healed our wounds in more ways than one. And the fierceness of her loyalty is a lesson to us all. I think she would have followed my Dad to the ends of the Earth. She was as Special as they come. And truly, she was a Champ, indeed. We miss her presence already, but the memories we have of her, the lessons we learned from her, and the Love we shared with her, will always be with us.
Mary Oliver writes poems about her dog, Percy. Here is my favorite:
"I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life"
Love, love, love, says Percy.
And run as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.
I just wanted to get the word out there about kiva.com. If you haven't already heard about it, it is a great program to finance small businesses in the developing world. By using a type of credit, termed microfinancing, poor people in developing countries are able to get small loans to start a successful business and pull themselves out of poverty. Microfinancing was developed by Muhammad Yunus at the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh to give loans to very poor people who were traditionally not deemed credit worthy. By giving small loans to poor people at reasonable interest rates, microfinance programs not only allow people to raise the necessary capital to meet initial business expenses, but to build credit that is essential for securing larger loans in the future, allowing them to expand their business or diversify. This is the important difference between microcredit and charity. By giving people loans that they have to pay back, they get to build up a credit rating that will show traditional banks that these people are credit worthy, and we know how important that is. The great thing about kiva, is that you don't have to give a great deal of money to help support an entrepreneur. Twenty-five bucks will do, and it will go a long way in helping these people build their business. It is easy to give, and the website keeps you up-to-date on the business' progress. So, if you want to do a little bit to help someone a whole lot, go to kiva.com and find out more.
Hey, just wanted to remind everyone that Earth Hour 2009 is just around the corner! I love any movement, initiative, or event which benefits our precious planet, but I am particularly proud of and excited about this one for 3 reasons. For one, this event was initiated by World Wildlife Fund, where Jason works. For another, Earth Hour began in the country Jason and I will soon call home: Australia! In 2007, 2.2 million homes and businesses in Sydney turned off their lights for 1 hour as a symbol of commitment to climate change. In 2008, it became a global movement and grew to 50 million strong. This year, the goal is 1 billion! As of today, over 1,000 cities and towns in 80 countries have made the pledge to turn off their lights for one hour on March 28 at 8:30 pm. Washington DC has signed on as an official flagship city for Earth Hour 2009, which is another reason I am so excited about this event. Please make the pledge to participate! A successful Earth Hour will send the message to the world's leaders that the citizens of Earth are ready and willing to rise to the challenge of combating climate change. And make no mistake that what we face is a daunting challenge in deed, and one that will require commitment and sacrifice. Let's do this!
Music is one of the most important things in the world to me. It adds so much beauty and depth of perception to my life. I believe it helps me to be a more open and happy person. My friend Sarah posted her 15 life changing albums here: sarahreed.wordpress.com/ and encouraged me to do the same. So, here they are in somewhat chronological order:
Acappella: Better Than Life
And here my love for singing and for harmony was born. Growing up in the Church of Christ, the human voice as instrument reigned supreme. I have always had a love for singing, but I never liked to sing in Church because I was shy and awkward and didn't like that I couldn't hear my own voice amongst all the other voices. But, singing at home was another story, and so when our family discovered Acappella, to say I took to it would be an understatement. I knew all the words to every song on every album. We listened to it on trips, my sister and I tape recorded ourselves singing it, we went to their concerts, and my parents donated money to them on a regular basis to support their mission work. I always loved to try to sing as many different parts as possible, even the ones which were clearly out of range. Oh, I don't even know how to describe the extent to which these songs are ingrained in me. I still sing these songs quite often; they seem to surface out of nowhere. I chose this particular album because it served as my introduction to the group, but there are really no clear winners, every album was a joy for me!
The Temptations: Greatest Hits
My dad is a music man, and early on, he was definitely my biggest musical influence. And while he has fairly eclectic taste, one thing he is for sure is a Motown man. I fell in love with this album, again because of the vocals, the harmony, but here was also born my love for rhythm. My favorites were definitely Ain't Too Proud To Beg, My Girl, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone, Just My Imagination, and Cloud Nine. I especially loved singing these with my dad. He has a great voice. I still love these songs.
John Denver/James Taylor: Greatest Hits
Oh, JD and JT!! My dad also introduced me to these two fine fellas, whom I still love today! I couldn't bring myself to pick one over the other as I listened to them around the same time and they had a similar affect, which was to ignite in me a passion for more introspective lyrics and acoustic sounds. Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby James, Carolina in My Mind, and Shower the People were (and still are) my JT favorites. I do remember being shocked (and probably disappointed) by the "mother fuckin'" he threw into the live version of Steamroller Blues, so I probably didn't listen to that one much. And as for JD, I've always loved Annie's Song, and my sister and I got such a kick out of Thank God I'm A Country Boy and Grandma's Feather Bed; they were so much fun to sing! While I probably didn't appreciate the lyrics all that much as a young girl, I "rediscovered" JD in college and felt such a strong connection to the way in which he sings so lovingly of Nature.
Garth Brooks: No Fences
Uggh. I hate to even put this down, but if I'm honest I just have to do it because this was my very first CD (the above mentioned were cassette tapes), and it also represents my country music period. As Sarah put it, "I wouldn't be a Texas girl without it." I pretty much despise country music today. Some of the old school stuff is alright, but the pop country that you hear on the radio today is just the worst. But, anyway, back to good ol' Garth. The Thunder Rolls, Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House, Friends in Low Places, and Unanswered Prayers were huge for me in the early 90's. We actually had Ropin' the Wind, The Chase, and In Pieces as well. We had a good run, but thank God, it's done.
Wilson Phillips: Wilson Phillips/Debbie Gibson: Electric Youth
Another tie, two more musical blunders. No, there is a time and a place for everything, and while these artists have definitely not withstood the test of time for me, in the early 90's, I was quite smitten with these lovely ladies. And boy, did I love to sing with them. Somewhere there are cassette tapes of my sister, our friend, Lyndi and I singing the entire Wilson Phillips album. And I just about cried every time I heard and sang Lost in Your Eyes by Debbie Gibson. I wish I could go back in time and watch myself belting this one out in front of the mirror while thinking of whatever boy I happened to have a crush on at the time. It was all so emotional. And although I have a hard time finding ones I like, I still dig chick singers.
Caedmon's Call: 4o Acres
Caedmon's Call, and this album in particular represent my Christian music phase. These guys got me interested in and excited about Christian music as I felt their music was so much more quality than the Christian music I had heard before. Their lyrics and music had so much more depth. And while I don't listen to Christian music these days, I still stand by this album. It's a classic.
Bob Dylan: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
This was the start of a beautiful friendship. I've always liked music, but college is when I really got serious about it and started seeking out music that was meaningful to me rather than just listening to what was popular at the time. Bob Dylan is the greatest lyricist I've ever heard. His words are poetry, containing rich imagery and profound meaning. I feel like his music really broadened my life perspective as his songs enabled me to see the world from a different point of view. And I still like the view. I don't care what people say, I think the way he sings is quite beautiful. And I love just about every song he's written.
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
And my deep, deep love for Jazz was born! Jazz stimulates my mind more than any other type of music. Though it's great for background music, what I really love is listening attentively to it, and seeing in my mind's eye the shapes formed by the space between the notes. With other, more formulaic types of music, I can often guess where the music is going before it gets there, but jazz is like a joy ride, you never know where you'll end up. From here, it was on to other Davis and then to Coltrane and Dizzy and Parker and Mingus and Monk and so on and so forth. And eventually into more experimental, contemporary jazz, like Medeski, Martin, & Wood. Miles will always have a special place in my heart.
Smetana: The Moldau/Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
I took an introduction to Music class my freshman year of college, and in that class I was introduced to Smetana's The Moldau. I hadn't realized until then how emotionally evocative classical music could be. I found the single in the used section at Hastings and got it, along with Vivaldi's Four Seasons because I read that Dave Matthews liked Vivaldi, and I was really into DMB at the time. It was then that I fell in love with classical music in all of its splendor. It is simple and complex at the same time and can evoke a wide range of emotions, and in this way, it echoes life. I love everything from Mozart to Arvo Part to Kronos Quartet. This was truly a life changer for me.
Bob Marley and the Wailers: Legend
Like many other people, I definitely had a Bob Marley phase in college. I was all about it. Not only did I love the music, I loved what it represented. One Love. I also got into some other reggae like Third World and Burning Spear during this time. And while I still believe in One Love for sure, I don't really listen to much reggae these days. I guess it sort of ran its course, although I still like to listen to it every now and then when the mood is right.
Rusted Root: When I Woke
I got into these guys in college and wore this album out! This represents my transition into what I call "hippie music." I started getting into bands like Phish and Grateful Dead. This music is earthy and playful and free. Back to the Earth is one of my all-time favorite songs. "Back to the Earth I screamed, and no one listened to me, back to the Earth I lived, and they all followed." Ahhh, yes! And this music is also significant because it got me into tribal sounds which led me to get my first djembe!
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Shahen-Shah
I was really into Jeff Buckley during this time, and I heard that a guy named Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was one of his biggest musical influences, so I had to check him out. I got this cd and immediately fell in love. I still remember sitting in Red Revvy in the Hastings parking lot listening to it for the first time on the disc man I had plugged in. It moved me to tears; it opened doors in my heart. It was especially pertinent considering that I was really interested in broadening my world view through the study of other cultures and religions. (Nusrat's music is called Qawwali, which is Sufi worship music.) I think he has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. Kehna Ghalat Ghalat To Chhupana Sahi Sahi is one of my all-time favorite songs. It makes me want to dance and give thanks for life and the giver of life and to produce joy and receive joy and to laugh and to cry and to be rooted, but walk lightly, and oh, how I could go on. This represents the beginning of my journey into world music. Other influential world music: Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate, Ravi Shankar, Fela Kuti, Bembeya Jazz National...
My bluegrass representative. I first got into bluegrass after my dog, Marley and I went to the Old Settler's Reunion in Buffalo Gap, TX one summer day and met this sweet, older fella who was performing with one of the bluegrass bands. We got to talking and he ended up basically reciting the history of bluegrass, and he even gave me a mixed tape he had in his truck of bluegrass pioneers, like Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, and Flat and Scruggs. He was the coolest. Bluegrass is the coolest. It's music to be played and listened to on the bright side of the road. It's music that speaks to my spirit, and this is what it says: Get up, give thanks, and MOVE! It's rooted, but isn't afraid to take flight. So, after spending some time soaking up the classics, I turned towards more progressive, contemporary bluegrass, and stumbled upon this YMSB album. These guys are fast and free and incredibly talented musicians. I have seen them twice now, at SmileFest and ACL Festival, and let me tell you that they aim to please, and please they do.
Yann Tiersen: Amelie Soundtrack
This is my favorite film and my favorite soundtrack. I can't say enough about the genius of the film and the music and the extent to which I identify with them. They both remind me of the beauty and excitement of being in Love. I like to think that Amelie, Yann Tiersen, and I are kindred spirits. Yann's music is so hopeful and whimsical, yet is grounded in the real, in the tragedy and comedy of everyday life. And I have a special place in my heart for the sound of the accordion. My mom got one as a kid, and my sister and I played with it when we were young. It was so special to me, particularly when my mom played the one song she knows: Pop Goes the Weasel! It was pure magic. And that's precisely the word for Amelie and the Amelie soundtrack: Magic!
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
This is one of my all-time favorite albums. It's one that I can listen to all the way through, over and over again and never tire of. It's just brilliantly fun and wonderful and quirky. It restored my faith in modern rock music. I think in a way it represents my return to the present. As you can see from this list, much of the music I love is from the past, but this album got me excited about present and future music, and perhaps it wouldn't be a stretch to say it played a role in my becoming a more present person in general. This return to modern music has contributed to my acceptance of and excitement about the HERE and NOW of everything. Speaking of here and now, what's on my current playlist, you ask? Charles Spearin's The Happiness Project, Dark Was the Night Compilation, Amiina, Micah P. Hinson, Detektivbyran, Gotan Project, Animal Collective, Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid's NYC, Cave Singers...
Thanks for encouraging me to do this, Sarah. It's given meaning and perspective to my musical journey. We're definitely gonna have to share music when you come visit me!