Learning to live out loud.
My intention for the third course in Susan Walsh’s Hero’s painting series was “to continue to explore the wild edges of my soul – to keep myself vulnerable, open, listening,” as well as “continuing the alchemical process of painting to convert my feelings into art.” I also committed to a series of projects, one of which was to sing with Lorraine Ortiz once a week to open the blocks in my Throat Chakra (the 5th).
At the time I expressed the obvious fears of singing. But years later as I worked to frame and present this painting to show, I got in touch with a different level of fear that must have been operating under the surface for both of us as we each listened to our soul’s call for this chunk of work. Since that time both Lorraine and I have gone on to do some important speaking out in the community – both artistically and organizationally. She is also the yoga teacher referred to so often throughout my journals, and what comes through her in those sessions is incredibly healing and in tune, week after week. Right here in this practice we were opening to our true voices – not so much musically (though that too) but to the voice of our deeper selves and in doing so we model to many in our community what that looks and sounds like. No small work! No wonder we look so terrified.
I was learning to live out loud.
Each and every person is so effective when we speak with our true voice, no matter how gravely or rough or off key it sounds at first. Thus the patches in the crazy quilt frame are scraps from the birthing quilts that have been made in this community for a number of years and as I sewed a conjured our collective voices.
Journal 12/12/95: Meditating on the 5th Chakra, I found my throat full and almost pounding. I cleared a passage down and drew breath up and out. I am a fire breathing dragon – fire out my nose. Poetry, words – could words capture it? I think of Lorraine Ortiz and her request to talk….
12/14/95: A gift that came to me is my Friday morning meeting with Lorraine because during our two hours of “getting to know you better” talk she suddenly mentioned my coming to her and making a connection about her singing at a pool community concert and at her art event on the island in Nehalem Bay. I feel like we face similar barriers to art sides of ourselves – she expressed this also at my painting show in July and as a result of the show, organized/called for the next Hero’s class with Susan that she is now in the midst of. Anyway she suddenly said, “Let’s sing together.” I could tell by the way my body shivered and shook that she was exactly right. Make joyful noise. I can hardly write about it suddenly. It’s just the right amount of scary. As Skye says, “If I had your voice I’d be using it all the time.” Throat chakra has been such a point of work for me. So that’s a new adventure to come after the holidays. Tra La!
I came back from that session intending to paint the assignment for class the next day, but couldn’t resist doing one about the singing. Lorraine’s eyes are wide open and rather frightened by the sounds coming out. My mouth got smaller as I painted and streamers don’t seem so bold. I’m afraid I’m smaller – smaller voiced? I put a spruce tree in the background on my side and gave her one too.
1/15/96: Friday morning I went over to yoga stretch class so Lorraine and I could be “in tune” before starting our singing adventure. We sat in the sun on the porch of her wonderful little house on the North Fork. Ravens and hawks called which I acknowledged as very good omens – their “singing” especially appropriate. I asked Lorraine if she could sound like the raven and she did! I could only croak in a very poor imitation. But that was in the middle – in the beginning, having moved into her new studio, I suggested with start with “Row, Row Your Boat” in a round and then went into “Frere Jacques.” It was hard to let go and sing – I had moments of clarity and then would panic. At the end I belched as we left the studio – always a mark of my held in tension. And after all that yoga!
[What I didn’t write about in my journal was that I came outside to find that my car window had shattered on driver’s side. Our wonderful high notes? A shot? Most likely an odd juxtaposition of cold and sun. Funny though! A message from spirit that we took as encouraging.]
People don’t seem to understand how hard it is for me. They hear me sing with the kids at Fire Mountain School and starting songs in groups. Through doing that I’ve gotten confidence in the quality of my voice that I did not know before. (My sisters were the singers) But I am feeling a strong need to push the limits of sound and what I am willing and able to do with it. Jazzy skat improvising, howling and growling, exploring healing sounds – loosening up my blue chakra – using that to loosen deeper energies. Getting past my fear of performing – I wouldn’t even try out for chorus in high school. I stayed on the level you didn’t have to try out for. But it’s more than that – it’s play, freeing myself from conventional melodic singing. (I know a million songs). But also harmonizing – I’ve always had to hold the melody.
My favorite parts with Lorraine were playing follow-the-leader and messing with dissonance and harmony in voice improvisation – just kind of moving our voices around each other. Interesting project to have two people trying to work on each other. I found it difficult to look her in the eye while singing. Too intimate? There’s something important in all this for me – I just have to follow it to see exactly what.
1/17/96: My body has a whole system of checks and balances that are threatened by being more integrated. The secret parts of myself that are just coming to the fore are dangerous to the parts that want conventionality, don’t break rules, and don’t want to be seen as not knowing.
It became evident in telling the story about Skye playing the piano in the airport and the Philadelphia Art Museum while I hid, proud but fearful of the consequences. Not for him really, but for me. I am his mother – I should have stopped him. But what rules? And as he says if/when he’s stopped he just gets a nice game going with the guard, in collusion almost against the higher authority.
But I can’t do that – can’t imagine doing it (see!) just like I can’t camp outside designated areas and fuss about what clothes to wear for what images, and, and… Integration needed here!
So that all ties in with changing my body – the singing which should help in my general communication about what I represent/believe as well as loosening the bonds of my singing voice. I pray that I can let go of some of the audience – that judgmental chorus of voices who passes criticisms, worries, embarrassments on all my creative efforts. Not just creative – going to the service station for God’s sake or the lumber company or the music store.
1/19/96: I went to sing with Lorraine today. Didn’t want to go. Wanted to stay cozy, but knew it would be a copout. It turns out that getting to this 2nd time was scarier than the first. She didn’t want me to come – had too much to do today. Her trip. It was freezing in her space. Her fax/phone hookup hadn’t worked so she’d called the repairman and he arrived in the middle. We talked too much. I talked too much. Lorraine asked good questions and I got into answering. Until I realized what a diversion we were on. We sang a little but hesitantly, half-heartedly. Nothing really taking off – our differences (songs we don’t know or know differently) getting in the way. But if we knew the same songs we could just sing them – like I always have and not break out. She had a time limit which was probably just as well since I don’t think either of us could have stood it much longer. The work today was simply in being there – getting there.
By the time we left I was totally out of my body. I don’t know when I left and I’m still not really back. Something scared me bad. I warned her – obliquely – by telling her I do it but hadn’t thought I’d do it there. But I certainly wasn’t breathing – should have done yoga first. Got off-key in harmony several times. Was generally tight. Lorraine is wonderfully open about her avoidance trips. Her tactics are obvious. I don’t know if she’s always as open to them. But she’s a teacher for me in this.
God – my whole body aches and I can still barely breathe. Tom was very aware of my state when I came in. He says he can’t stand it now when I’m not in my body. Maybe he can more often ground me/grab me back. So I’ve done a Tarot, ending in the Motherpeace 5 of Swords (Sting) tilted midway to left: unconscious anger and a fight. I take it to mean my body/mind split having to duke it out. I’m slipping off the shields one by one and the systems are panicking. Hang in there, Lane. Ground where you can. KEEP GOING.
Astrology reading for the day says same thing: opportunity for serious change – reaching towards authenticity – but hard work. And many times where it will be tempting to give up and space out – or leave body. At least I got my body there this morning. And let out a few notes before it took off. Wonder when Lorraine took off. Will try to call her this afternoon or tomorrow to check in.
I have asked for this growth – both consciously and in the set up of my natal pattern. I welcome it. But today it is a struggle to stay present in it. The sun goes in and out. My body is hot and cold. I am being challenged in ways that are terrifying to my body – my unconscious is screaming. Am going to try to do some yoga.
2/23/96: It’s been a long struggling week of trying to get centered and inspired again. Singing with Lorraine has been hanging over my head – cancelled twice due to flood and then Fire Mountain play. I have been listening to music trying to find songs to sing and not really connecting with anything that quite works. Listening to harmonies, words, feelings. Lorraine assigned me to write words to another tune – I have a first line rattling around in my brain, but no tune connection. And a big part of me is longing to just find a way to let go. During a session with drums on the worst night of the storm – no electricity –I loosened my voice a bit. I knew I had reached some new place when Skye’s head jerked around with a grin. I overcame fears of melodic marimba and when that became automatic, was able to let my voice soar. Skye and Tom joined in.
So today Lorraine suggested we do that together. I waded through several minutes of “I can’t” and finally began to relax and do it. Adding words helped. She joined in and we really shook loose some old clumps of gray matter. Had some moments of great dissonance. So the frantic energy of the morning didn’t take over – I was pretty much in my body.
3/8/96: I’m ill and it’s nice not to be letting anyone down or making decisions about work, meetings, etc. I did call Lorraine not to come today (she cancelled last week due to work but that was also a sickness day)…..
3/15/96: Today I feel better. I was sorry Lorraine wasn’t coming to sing – though not greatly so. Nice not to push myself. Must call her to talk about process…
Then it was May again and Lorraine and I put together a celebration as the culmination of our voice project and as a community healing for the devastation floods had caused in February. We practiced three May songs to perform. Performing traditional songs was the best we could do – still a big deal for us! We went down to the bay in the pouring rain and found an alder in the flood detritus for a Maypole and got ribbons donated from Doris Bash at Creative Fabrics. Tom designed a portable stand system. Susan Walsh had set up a small linoleum block carving workshop so I created one for a poster. Then we rounded up a bunch of friends to learn the dance – and my teenage son Morgan who volunteered (what a treat!). We performed in each of the three towns and after the performance of the dance, we invited people to join and learn it. Thus I honored my urge to take this ancient pagan rite public. And we continue to do it each year.
Written for Living Out Loud Show, Bay City Arts Center, November, 2004.
This painting was gifted to Lorraine Ortiz.