Small Changes

Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

My 16 year old son announced that today is “singles awareness day.”  Valentine’s Day, it seems, has become somewhat politically incorrect as we strive for inclusion and compassion for everyone, regardless of their state of romance or relationship.

I do understand that when someone has been hurt, all the hearts and flowers and happy couples can be upsetting. When we performed in Astoria Oregon a couple of years ago I was talking to a man before the show who seemed like he was really looking forward to the evening – then out of the corner of my eye I saw him walk out after our second song. I knew he was a friend of the club owner, so I asked him about it. He said he was going through a divorce, and he was having trouble watching how in love we were. I was torn. This is who we are, after all. But should we tone it down a bit, recognizing that it can be upsetting to people who are struggling in their own relationships?

We want to create an environment of love and respect for everyone. And we recognize that love does not exist only for the couple in a committed, romantic relationship. Love is the source of everything, the power within us all and the guide that joins us together as one community.

Yesterday, we participated in a re-commitment ceremony at the Center for Spiritual Living in Fremont, California. The importance of this seemingly small departure from our otherwise very hectic existence (moving, recording the new CD, taking care of business, etc.) was profound for us… and somewhat unexpected. There is power in pausing to renew and recommit to what we believe in, what we trust, how we love, and who we love. We then return to our greater causes in the world refreshed and with the capacity for even greater love.

Dr. Jay Scott Neale offered these words from Khalil Gibran’s On Marriage at Sunday’s re-commitment ceremony:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

This message of love and relationship speaks to our individuality and mutual respect. It speaks to the expectation that we are each on our own journey, while supporting and respecting one another’s. I submit that this is not only true of marriage or committed relationships, but of all our relationships.

So, today we’re celebrating love in all of its glory. Because without embracing the essence of love, we have no room to love – or to support – another person, whatever role that person plays in our lives.

– Love, Bev

Spook Handy’s Canadian Border Crossing

Here’s a fun story from New Jersey-based folk singer Spook Handy.  Spook had a house concert tour scheduled in Canada recently that had been set up by a non-profit group called Home Routes, and his story affords a first hand look at border crossing as an event between two people, rather than between two faceless countries.

We belong to several email discussion lists for musicians, music presenters and others sharing issues from working in new media to touring. A few weeks back, Spook asked for help on the Folk Alliance list, because he wanted to make sure he had is ducks in a row with right paperwork to take his CDs into the country. There are specific rules for taking product for sale into Canada – and most countries in fact.

We’ll, Spook got a lot of advice on the list – and a couple phone calls from friends who actually knew what they were talking about. The bottom line was, no matter how big or small your operation, you need to get the paperwork in order. And the next word of advice was to  just be honest. Don’t try to scam anything, its not worth it.

This was right up Spook’s alley – he’s a pretty straight shooter.

Spook’s  most recent release, Whatcha Gonna Do is all about encouraging individuals to make a difference in the world. Check out Spook’s Whatcha Gonna Do page and send him your suggestions… as he says,

People all over say they want to live in a better world. I believe it is up to us as individuals to make a difference and not depend on someone else to do it for us.

Back to the story. Spook obviously walks the walk. In this case, he walked it right into Canada. In a time when we see and experience fear all around us – especially at our borders – we just loved  Spook’s account of his Canadian border crossing, used here with his permission:

I successfully crossed the border but not without trepidation.  I told the guard I was here to work – to play house concerts and she sent me into immigration.  There, an unhappy fellow asked me the purpose of my visit.  I said to play house concerts.

“What’s a house concert?”

“People gather at someone’s home and sit around listening to and singing songs.”

“Are you doing this for money?”


“Do you make a living doing this?

I didn’t know how to answer that.

“What’s your definition of making a living?”

He was not amused.

“Where are you playing this concert?”

“In Mississauga”

“Where in Mississauga?”

“At a friend’s house.”

“What’s their names?”

“Umm, I don’t remember.”

“How do you know them?”

“Well, I don’t really.”

Just being totally honest.

“How come your playing music at their house?”

… and on the questioning went.  I told them about Home Routes and the folk music scene.  The fellow asked for my tour book and contract which he read thoroughly.  Then he asked,

“Why would people want to do this?

I paused for a moment.  Do I tell the honest truth?  “Well, we’re a subversive anti-government movement out to brainwash the public with left wing propaganda.”

I decided to tell a slightly different version of the truth:

“Beats me”  I said.

The fellow looked me up and down, handed me my papers and said, “Enjoy Canada.”

We’d love to hear how Canadian songwriters like John Wort Hannam have been treated coming into the US on similar ‘business.’

Pay it Forward

Think of an idea to change our world – and put it into action.

That was the assignment that Kevin Spacey's character Eugene Simonet gave to young Trevor McKinney's seventh grade class in the 2000 movie Pay it Forward.

Can you believe, we've never seen the movie? We just don't go to the movies very often. I think we'll rent this one.

— Bev

Love CAN Change the World, and we all can play a part

When we sing "love can change the world – I can play a
part…", its personal. Its a reminder that it really does start with us.

Holdinghands For
almost a year, we have been talking, planning and beginning to implement our
own plan to simplify our lives. To live a more sustainable lifestyle. To focus
on the difference we can make, rather than just surviving.   We've
sold our now 'too big for us' house and we're taking a leap of faith that we'll
find a smaller, comfortable home to rent before moving day in mid-March. We're
focusing more on our work in music because that's
where our hearts are. We're taking better care of ourselves, making sure we
leave time to rest and relax, and making sure we let each other know – every
day – how grateful we are for each other.

Sound like a love fest? Well then so
be it… because this is where it starts. Next step, making time to help
others. This 2008 blog post from the Zen Habits Blog details 25 Ways to Help a Fellow Human Being.
Don't worry, this topic can't possibly go stale. Author Leo Babuata challenges
readers to: 

…strike back against the selfishness and greed of our modern
world, and help out a fellow human being today. Not next month, but today.

are 25 wonderful – and simple – ideas for how to do this. Ending with the
biggest and most wonderful idea of them all:

#25. Love. Simply finding ways to
express your love to others, whether it be your partner, child, other family
member, friend, co-worker, or a complete stranger … just express your love. A
hug, a kind word, spending time, showing little kindnesses, being friendly … it
all matters more than you know.

How will you begin to change the world today?

Valentine’s Day

What if we celebrated Valentine's Day by making a decision to love ourselves? And to actually, really, love our neighbors as ourselves? Could that love change the world?

We've all know the Margaret Mead quote, "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed its the only thing that ever has." Its true, of course. And it starts with each one of us.

That's the message. Let's live it, starting today.