What happens if you create a poem from a series of dreams by different people that were all in answer to the same question? What kind of a prayer will be created? That was what I set out to discover with my psi dreaming friends in late summer this year. And what is a good question? We jumbled together a collection of meaningful questions and selected one at random. And so our dream incubation was: how do we create more joy in our lives/world?
On the chosen night we all posed the same question and slept. In the morning we recorded our dreams in answer to this question. The answers were wildly varied, some joyful and flamboyant, others dramatic and sad. In some it was hard to find the joy at all, in others, the imagery danced around us easily. We shared our thoughts and impressions and then the extracting began.
Here is my poem from our night of dreaming for more joy. My own dream contained a quest for a girasol, which is either a jerusaleum artichoke (pretty much the only plants growing in my garden this year) or sunflowers in Spanish. And as I like action plans for my dreams, it was not long before I found myself in a blooming field of sunflowers, along with Michel, as we celebrated our wedding anniversary. It was the perfect setting to celebrate our joy at being together on so many levels.
In a startling sync, another of the dreamers shares the same anniversary date with his wife, who is a great fan of sunflowers. I felt propelled along by the energy of the group poem, and have since spent more time with plants and nature. I’ve harvested a handful of the girasol from the garden and roasted them at Thanksgiving. I’ve started growing herbs indoors to bring flavour to our winter meals.
So many thanks to everyone who participated and shared their dreams with me. It is an intriguing exercise, one I hope to tackle again. This mutual dream poem was included in the Dream Art Gallery of this year’s Psiberdreaming Conference of the IASD so you can read more about it there.
October 11, 2018
by admin Comments Off on Inspiration in Spain
I remember sitting on the balcony with a view overlooking the Mediterranean, filled with dolphins, with our little pet goldfinch singing in a cage near me, trying to decide when to dash downstairs to steal a stalk of sugarcane from the fields waving below. Or when to go for a swim, lying on the rocks under the gaze of the white village of Salobreña. That was back when I was twelve and we were on sabbatical in Andalucia. A few decades later now, arriving in the village I am faced with a mosaic that depicts Salobreña’s history, an image with donkeys loaded with sugar cane and I realize I too am someone returning from history. The rum factory closed a long time ago.
Granada is now only a hop and skip away on wide, smooth highways overlooking dry mountains filled with unsightly greenhouses. But that city is as beautiful as ever and could it be that the food has even improved? The tapas are still free with a drink, plentiful and now there’s also flawless presentation. The flamenco played high in the hills is just as timeless as ever. And so even though some parts of history are now gone, and others remain the same, there is still much to discover in Spain and many things that are new, at least to me. We’d never spent time along the Costa Brava before, with the beaches of soft golden sand, rolling waves and warm, delicious water. We hadn’t passed through all the rice fields of Valencia and tasted all the variations on paella which delight us now.
These discoveries came to us thanks to our stay at the Vilarchangel artist residency, directed by the multi-media performance artist Ulises Pistolo Eliza, in his finca filled with the furniture of the original orange plantation from the 1930’s. Among the many bedrooms, balconies and large, shared spaces, we gathered our thoughts, ideas and met with fellow artists who were also discovering the region.
Michel gathered inspiration for his visual scores from the varied vegetation of the plantation, while I settled in with the large volumes of poems by Federico Garcia Lorca in the library as the flamenco singing of Kiko Cortes wafted up from the front patio. Michel and I recorded music around poems I wrote on site using instruments from the artist workshop even as Sun Ho Kim, visiting from Boston, made small sculptures from tissue paper and oranges nearby. As luck would have it, this was an ideal setting for a family residency, again so vital for keeping life and art in balance, especially for a female artist and mother like myself. Multi-generational too, so my father was free to forage as he loves to do among the apricots, figs, walnuts, artichokes, oranges, plums and more. The kids made drawings with ink borrowed from Aki Hoshihara, visiting from LA, and played basketball under the bougainvilleas. They watched a few soccer matches on a t.v. that had been purchased at the request of monks that had once visited with the Dalai Lama, so that was another kind of blessing.
After the residency we discovered the villages near Castellon and stayed Mas del Gat a wonderful artistic retreat created by our great friend and best guide in Spain, Carol Charlton. She introduced us to more artists and toured us around the beautiful, inspiring countryside and perched villages. It’s a lush place, surrounded by olive and almond trees, figs and apricots, off-grid yet with a large swimming pool overlooking the valley below.
Before heading home we returned to Barcelona where we played a few wild sets of improvised music with some wonderfully inventive musicians at El Pricto’s long-running Discordia concert series in Gracia.
So now I am back home, harvesting the grapes from our balcony here as the starlings pass by, gathering all the music from this trip, the new songs, the old songs, the half-remembered poems. Many will be included in my new project, a mixtape of inventions where I sing to or with the spirit of place, the Genius Loci (working title). I’m hoping for a quiet, peaceful winter that will allow to me bring all these thoughts and ideas together so that I can share them here with you. We have replenished our stores of music so that Michel and I can be found in different parts of the house, each working on editing large amounts of freshly recorded music, while our sons and their friends take over the backyard studio and record their own new tracks. It has proven to be a productive time of creative renewal, just in time for harvest season.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the hours of powerful music making in France before we headed to Spain, with Barre Phillips and many of the musicians from his EMIR collective, above the clouds on Barre and Mary’s magical mountain. It’s all there, ripe for the picking, to be continued …
Special thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres for their contributions to our many and varied projects.
June 4, 2018
by admin Comments Off on Why I sing free jazz
Let me explain why I sing free jazz or melodic poetry or improvised music. It’s a long, circular kind of story. I was a little girl in love with princesses when I saw Julie London sing Cry Me A River in the film The Girl Can’t Help It. She inspired me to embark on a long love affair with jazz standards with all their romantic stories and singers with excellent phrasing. It was also a way to hang out with my brother when we were kids (no computers! no internet!) doing something we both liked, learning new songs together and performing them for friends and family or in bars where we had to go sit in the parking lot on the breaks thanks to liquor licencing laws. During that deep study of the great American songbook, I discovered that I love to sing.
with Reg and the VW camper in Spain
And then on a sabbatical in Andalucia in Spain when I was around eleven I was struck by the power and passion of flamenco music. This was another way to sing, raw emotions and strong sounds, timeless stories, epic poems. I also spent time listening to the radio wafting in across the Mediterranean, fascinated by the Muslim prayers from North Africa. Back home again in Canada I would loll around singing along to Stevie Wonder and his iconic Songs in the Key of Life. I still just want to be Stevie Wonder. Doesn’t everybody?
My dna as a pie
But what do you do, as a Dutch-Indonesian immigrant child living by a lake in Northern Ontario, in a mining town? What kind of music can you make to represent your own culture? Recently I had my ancestry dna tested and discovered it is even more complex than I thought. I have dna from eleven different regions in the world, including small percentages from Iberia, North Africa, Native American dna as well as the Dutch, German and Javanese I’d expected. It’s confusing and yet somehow liberating. What box am I supposed to tick off now? I will draw one in that says (to quote Kurt Cobain) never mind.
Improvising with Barre and Michel and others in Puget-ville
This issue of what to sing and why has been at the core of my creative process from the start. Thankfully I was in the right place at the right time for discovering free jazz. We had the iconoclastic jazz trumpet player Herbie Spanier coming to our home regularly to jam and he would yell into my ear, just keep singing! Sing whatever comes into your head! Don’t listen to me, just keep going! for hours at a time as we continued, hell-bent on discovery and originality. I saw concert after concert of original music, attended workshops with Misha Mengelberg, sang Jay Clayton’s scribbly line drawing scores along with her at the jazz workshop in Banff, and had the joy of singing Cecil Taylor’s shamanic poems with him, also in the mountains at Banff. In more recent decades I’ve sung alongside the wildly inventive Barre Phillips, whose dedication and energy is always exemplary, as when he inspired us to improvise for 12 hours straight, something he considered slacking when compared to Sun Ra’s week long non-stop music sessions.
I have discovered that shamanism and improvisation are closely linked, because as we open ourselves up to inspiration and spontaneity, all kinds of energies rush through us. Sometimes I sing whatever comes into my head in the moment. More often I sing whatever comes into my head after I’ve written some words down and shaped them a bit, pulling out rhythm and sounds as I go along. Words on paper compared to words that are sung have different demands. What is vital to me is to be able to convey the greatest possible emotion as quickly as possible when making a musical statement, in much the same way flamenco or fado artists are always singing at peak emotional power. There is no time for a slow, tangled build up when singing improvised music. No dipping one’s toes, no plinkity plonk. You want to say what you have to say and swiftly, and if that’s not enough, say it again.
As a result, I write poems swiftly and end up channelling all kinds of ancestral stories, which, considering the amount of ancestors I have globally, keeps me very busy. I also write poems from dreams, which is another great way of harnessing a lot of power. And in recent reading I’ve done about shamanism, notably Martin Prechtel’s Secrets of the Talking Jaguar (a book I picked up after dreaming of jaguars), I understand now that dream songs are prayers. Aha.
With Kali Z. Fasteau
When I asked some very talented and accomplished women who are great improvisers (Jay Clayton, Kali Z. Fasteau and Annette Peacock) if they thought mysticism had anything to do with free music, they all unequivocally agreed — it has everything to do with it! They had many helpful and inspiring thoughts for me which are outlined in a series of short video interviews I did back when my kids were babies and I was struggling to balance life and art (which also explains why I am so busty in the videos, btw, engorged frankly, things only female artists have to contend with, lol). I thought, why don’t I go and ask someone who knows? So I did. Annette’s interview isn’t online – she will cue me if and when she wants to share it. Hopefully their thoughts can help and inspire others, especially women and girls, as well.
It is difficult in this age of rampant nationalism to have the freedom to express your ideas outside of the boundaries of genres that are so fraught with identity. I’ve often described myself as struggling with my cultural identity or lackthereof. When I saw the author Zadie Smith (whose latest book is, aptly, entitled Feel Free) in Montreal last year she said, in a prickly fashion, that critics say she’s constantly working with themes of cultural identity but she considers it quite the opposite — she doesn’t care about cultural identity at all because the idea itself is so limiting,never mind culture bound. And that was eye-opening for me because I do agree wholeheartedly. And to think otherwise is a wild goose chase anyway. We need to transcend these ideas of who we are, where we are from. I don’t want my sons or their friends to feel that they can’t sing their own songs because they like to rap and they aren’t African American. I insist, just express yourself, make the music you want that is sincere and comes from your heart and figure out the rest later. It should be your own in any case, perhaps an entirely new genre or a new variation. We all need more music in our lives, and if we love making it, we owe it to ourselves to just do it. Freedom, really, is at the core of everything.
May 12, 2018
by admin Comments Off on When I was a web artist
Once upon a time I was a web artist, when it was a new frontier and I was cited as a pioneer in a big catalogue for an ambitious exhibition called Future Cinema. At that time websites were in their infancy. We were struggling to understand how we could use this new medium of cyberspace to convey ideas and art.
I’d been dreaming of combining photos and music and story somehow for years and suddenly it was possible, with a click here and there tying loose ends together. I learned how to code html from scratch and taught a few workshops for Webgrrls (a new movement for empowering women to use the internet) and Studio XX. My enthusiastic students enjoyed solving the puzzle of fixing code I’d deliberately broken so their pages would load properly. I created one of the first online journals, a dream journal no less, filled with drawings and photos and audio and was surprised when an internet audience followed my tangled subconscious and even surprised me with an award. I’ve found the journal back recently and will post some of the funnier entries here soon.
Museums all over the world had calls for submissions and so I submitted. The first of these was in Japan and I animated digital drawings I’d made that could tile all over the screen and combined them with sounds I’d collected from SoHo in New York for my piece One Night in Greenwich Village. I scrambled to understand code, browser issues, colour palettes and video encoding.
It was freeing, this ability to join in the art world, to make art for the sake of making art. There was no economic drive behind any of it, no monetizing, just my drawings, my sounds, there for the clicking, an offering to the gods and goddesses, in keeping with what I think art should be. I was awarded some funding for more ambitious projects I invented, my project Sunset on St-Viateur, a tribute to a street I loved, and Where Are You From? a small networked cinema project (how’s that for a cool term?) that expressed my thoughts on my ever elusive cultural identity or lackthereof.
The technology changed, ideas grew into companies, (Youtube! Blogger! WordPress!) and so those initial bright ideas were gobbled up and made redundant, automated out of existence. Thankfully Rhizome in NY still works tirelessly to archive much of the work but so much was so ephemeral even then.
The videos look small and fuzzy now in this universe where even my phone can shoot in 4k. But low tech has never phased me so now, here on my old-fashioned blog where I have set out to explain myself, I present two types of low tech – from 8 mm film to fuzzy digital video, some art I made with our home movies. It still is miraculous to me to have these images, fading but bright, so much like memory itself. To pull the best out of the past, to bring it forward with the tools of the day, that’s what I still find so remarkable. Change happens at such a remarkable pace and it seems people don’t even realize what crazy change is still ahead of us thanks to technology. Maybe by taking a minute to glance backwards every now and then we’ll be able to cope.
February 27, 2018
by admin Comments Off on Black Fungus concert
Michel and I revived our Black Fungus duo, voice and drums, at a concert at Resonance Cafe, March 31st, 2018 here in Montreal. We continue our exploration of dream haiku and what magical space it inhabits with improvised music. As well, we experimented with channeling the energy of the genius loci of various places we have visited. With sounds, songs and rhythms gathered around the world, the attentive audience journeyed with us through the music.
Here is a sample of the music, two songs of ancestral memory performed with gamelan tracks. The gamelan music was played by our son JJ and Michel and I earlier in the year during our stay at Rimbun Dahan artist residency in Malaysia. The first, Rim of Fire, speaks of how easily the island of Java disposes of its residents, while the second tells the story of what it feels like to be looking back at one’s Eurasian roots from a window in winter in Canada.
Duo performance from our recording Lone Jack Pine
February 11, 2018
by admin Comments Off on Hip shit I did as a jazz kid
As my oldest son JJ and his friends got ready to go hear Brockhampton at the Corona Theatre this week, we talked about how important it is to support live music. We’ve managed pretty well in the past year, considering how wildly expensive concerts are. We went to big concerts by Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. JJ and his pals can add Isaiah Rashad and Brockhampton to that list. He also went to a few jazz clubs here and there and two Raptors games. But it’s nothing like my life as a teen. I remember spending most of my time out listening to music. How did we afford it? What was the pace, really, when I look back?
I’ve always been an avid journal writer and so I pulled out a big box of heavy volumes dense with intense, angst-filled stories. Combing through them, past all the emotional upheaval of the time, here’s what I discovered as I looked back at just one of them from 1985. I’m not trying to present this as some kind of golden age but before all this interweb we certainly managed to find inspiration. My early musical influences were very eclectic and I am grateful to all these fantastic musicians that were touring at the time.
Live music I saw in Toronto between March and July, 1985
I printed all the photos for Bill Smith’s book Imagine the Sound in our small basement photo lab
Also tons of local bands and lots of artsy movies, and I also went dancing at Pariah, the Blitz and other clubs. Had regular 2 hour or more jam sessions with friends (usually good-looking sad young men). Recorded about three demos in studios, made two short films in university (see below), had surgery (!!), helped nurse a dying friend at home, narrowly evaded sexual harrassment in the film production department, wrote essays for Science class, went to a few art openings each week and more, got a grant to go to the Banff Summer Jazz program, performed sound poetry for a bp nichol Opera. And wrote it all down!
Economic notes: We complained that Archie Shepp was $6, even after midnight; that David Liebman was $5 for just a 40 minute set; and the Beastie Boys were $4 for a 20 minute set (the radio station issued an apology for this). I remember marvelling at that time that Michel’s uncles had earned the same amount of money playing in Quebec City with Edith Piaf in the 1940’s as we were making in jazz clubs ($100/night). More shocking is that most jazz clubs still only pay about that now, almost 100 years later, or even less. In the 80’s I was working for $3.50/hour and other people worked for $4/hour in restaurants and got about $17 in tips after long shifts. Rent in Toronto was about $250/month and my parents looked at a big house that was $110,000 but they couldn’t afford it. What strange economy do we have now, with all those houses over a million everywhere?
Economy aside, I do see great freedom in today’s music as free-styling rappers take over popular music and thus improvising lyrics and more open musical forms become the norm. I’ve seen 22,000 kids singing along to rapid-fire texts with shocking accuracy and determination, with themes of social justice and anti-racism expressed artistically. So it’s all good, the kids are alright.
February 1, 2018
by admin Comments Off on Creative renewal at Rimbun Dahan
This past summer we spent two weeks at an artist residency in Malaysia, at Rimbun Dahan, a beautiful complex outside of Kuala Lumpur. It is designed by the great Malaysian architect Hijjas Kasturi who co-founded the art centre with his wife Angela Kasturi. As we were travelling as a family of artists, Michel and myself, our two sons and my dad, with Reg arriving towards the end of our stay, they invited us to stay in a beautiful historic house on the grounds called Rumah Uda Munap, a restored Perak house carved with dragons and birds. The house is set back from the main buildings of the art centre, surrounded by tropical forest and wildlife. With its three bedrooms and large living space, the house was ideal for us. The artist residency is managed with care by Syar S. Alia who greeted us and showed us around.
As a female artist keen on balancing my creative life with my family responsibilities, finding an artist residency that is open to family stays always feels miraculous. And yet it is vital too, as our children also gain so much from witnessing our creative process. It is a great privilege too to see my children discovering Southeast Asia with their grandfather who was so often reminded of his own youth in everything he saw. So he would keep stealing fruit from trees and sharing stories with us as we went along.
Michel created illustrated scores with his new drawings, pieces of objects and plants he found, sounds that inspired him. I gathered sounds with my camera and photos while writing poems, reading and filming. We also all played gamelan together in the large dance studio and worked on our music for our performance in Sulawesi after our stay.
The break and mental space away from North American news was a great relief. We visited the library in the artists’ lounge, wandered through the underground art gallery and soaked in the atmosphere. We enjoyed authentic and inexpensive Malaysian food all up and down the road in front of the centre in Kuang, quickly realizing this was more worthwhile then cooking for ourselves. We travelled easily to Kuala Lumpur where we got our fill of shopping and delicious food courts and saw more architecture by Hijjas Kasturi.
There were many cinematic moments, like walking along the dark road at night to the soundtrack of competing mosques with only a small flashlight to guide us or tiptoeing towards the lake by the pool to watch birds and monkeys in the early morning hours. There was a day when I ate cendol, fried chicken, banana chips, okra, durian, young coconut, lemang and mango. I was spoiled by the vast assortment of uncooked krupuk available at the small shop across the street, having been raised to treasure these dried discs for years while growing up in Canada.
So here are some of the lines I wrote as we took a deep breath, discovered new things, and gathered inspiration.
We can hardly hear the prayers
over the racket of the crickets
electric on this rainy night
where the lizard jumped over the mouse
under the ceiling fans we grow silent
reading books about gardens, talking cats
country squires and the Wallace line
I mistook my brother’s flipflops for frogs
Michel is making musical instruments
from ropes and a dry broom
I am slowly unravelling
my white flowing pants
are endlessly drying in the sun
a black sarong now drapes
and flashes my legs when I walk
I’ve lost all my hair elastics again
and knot my hair into itself
a swimsuit or a bra are interchangeable
no makeup, no shoes, no bug spray even
just me, rolling in the humidity
chasing the breezes of the fans
as the ants at my feet get smaller and smaller
I am like the nutmeg shell
tumbling to the ground, popped open
As our visit to Toraja approached I spent a long time thinking about what I would sing there, within those magical mountains and mysterious caves. I knew I wanted to sing some of my dream haiku as I’d been doing in Montreal since the spring. Singing my dreams combines mystic detective work with musical ideas I’ve gathered while singing free jazz, something like Jack Kerouac’s haiku with jazz but delving beyond stream of consciousness to a stream from the unconscious.
With the sudden passing of my cousin Marianne, the babysitter of my youth, my comrade-in-arms for revitalizing hiking getaways in Palm Springs, I scoured my journals for dreams of her. And wrote my haiku based on these. As news of Marianne’s illness was unfolding far too swiftly, my friend Susan Briscoe began her blog The Death Project, which was born of her own terminal cancer diagnosis. I selected a page from the Crow’s Vow, a collection of her poems, and brought all these words with me to our artist residency and up the winding road to Toraja. I wasn’t sure what else I would sing but I was determined to sing Susan’s poem and dreams of Marianne together as my offering to the mystical caves of Ke’te Kesu, here in one of the few places of the world that treats death, not as something to be feared and avoided, but as the quest of all life.
Here is the song we performed, with the joyful accompaniment of my band and our new friend, bassist Fendy Rizk. There was dancing in the audience and singing along and one could feel the spirits were with us, helping us to send our best wishes to everyone on all astral planes.
Much of the imagery is from my travels in California, with the bighorn sheep, cliffs, sand and Susan’s coyotes, and I’ve returned to mix the song as wildfires destroy so much of the beauty around there again. So this is an offering to the fire gods to give it a rest and to step away as quickly as possible too. I don’t know if it will work but it is a song filled with wishes from the past, the present and the future. What more can we do?
October 20, 2017
by admin Comments Off on The Bumblebee Bull’s Eye
There is a psychic dreaming game played at every IASD conference where everyone tries to dream a target image in advance. Images are selected from a random pool and then someone, a sender, is given 4 envelopes, each with a different image. She pulls one of these as the target and begins sending the imagery out to all the participating dreamers, many of whom have been trying to dream the image several days in advance.
I wasn’t able to attend the latest IASD conference in Anaheim this year but as luck would have it, I’m in an online group of psi dreamers who participate in cyberspace. We all tried to dream the target image from our homes in the week before the conference.
I was discouraged by my own dreaming. I was about to begin a whirlwind trip through Indonesia and Malaysia with Michel and my family. We had a few destinations well planned out, an artist residency in Malaysia followed by the Toraja International Festival in Sulawesi. But due to our flights and other scheduling details we had a week in the front of these events when we could go to any number of places. We considered a lot of exciting options, Tokyo, Singapore, Yogyakarta but finally our sentimental favourite rose to the forefront and insisted on our attention. Once we’d decided to go to Ubud, Bali, somehow all the pieces of this complex travel puzzle fell quickly into place, like a rubik’s cube waiting to be solved.
With my family at Ubud Palace. I’m the little blonde one in the front
Ubud has drawn me in since my first trip there at age three. I was at the perfect age to be marked for life by the twirling, golden, colourful dancers who all looked like princesses to me. I’ve been back many times since so there was a nice comfortable feeling in beginning this adventure in a place I know.
In the week leading up the psi game I was dreaming of dancers in Bali, hearing gamelan music as I fell asleep, seeing all the swirling and the twirling colours in my mind’s eye. It was as if I’d already dashed ahead, impatient to get to our destination. I didn’t bother noting these dreams, as I chocked them up to mental overflow from all my travel planning.
When the four possible target images were selected, the first one I saw was of two Balinese dancers. That made me laugh, like the cosmos was winking at me to say, when you think you know what you are dreaming, you really don’t know anything. The other three images were strong and clear as well, three frogs, a pyramid and a camel, and a tuba player.
I joined in with the other online psidreaming participants and considered our dreams collectively and our best guess for a hit. We’ve been working with notions of ripples of precognition, how we should be noting syncs or hits with target images not just before a psychic game but also after. Because why should hits after a game be discounted based on some kind of linear time bias? Studying this wave on both sides of a target has now become part of our practice. We also note things that pop out at us in our waking lives as often we notice synchronicities there.
I confessed my strong attachment to the image of the Balinese dancers. But then, my upcoming trip could be influencing me. A Google image search turned up a website with the target photo that confirmed that yes, these were Balinese dancers (Wiki now tells me they are from the Sekar Jepun dance troupe in Yogyakarta), and that they are depicted dancing a less known dance called the Oleg or Bumblebee dance. Oh, I had assumed they were dancing something I’d seen often like the Legong. Apparently a distinguishing feature of the Oleg dance was the raised arms of the female dancer as she lifted the sashes of her sarong like wings. The dance speaks of how the male and female in nature are dependent on one another, a lovely egalitarian sentiment.
And then the target image was revealed! It was almost anti-climatic for me that it was the photo of the Balinese dancers. I felt they’d been calling to me from afar for decades, a kind of pull that is described well in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. If you have an island filled with people offering gifts to spirits several times a day, often in a quest to increase tourism and bring awareness of their island to others, isn’t the place likely have a stronger pull than others? It’s something I regard with a hint of suspicion, wondering, what does this place want from me or have I got it backwards and I return regularly because of what I want?
Triumphant in any case, my action plan to honour the dreaming game and all the dreams I’d had was to get my psidreaming friends a fresh new photo of some dancers very soon. I like to bring dream energy into waking life this way and the process is important to me. I thought the target photo might be vintage since the version I saw of it had a kind of sepia cast to it, and this rare dance was unlikely to be on my radar during my short 5 day stay in Ubud but I would bring them a photo with similar energy.
As it turned out, after two days in Ubud, I hadn’t gone to see any dances at all. I did pick up a program of dances in the area but none of them mentioned anything like the Oleg or the Bumblebee dance. Never mind, I decided, I should be relaxing, getting over my jetlag. What will be will be.
In the past, we always went to Ubud Palace to see the traditional dances, the same palace we’d stayed at when I was a small child, back when there were no hotels. And we did end up near there one night but instead of heading to the Palace we were at a restaurant across the street, listening to a friend play a blues gig. After he’d finished I dashed across the street, impatient to catch the tail end of a dance that might still be ongoing, questing for that elusive photo of dancers I’d promised to my dreaming pals. In my haste I left my family behind. After seeing that all the dances were long since finished, the Palace empty, I turned to discover my dad, Walter, had tripped on the uneven sidewalk in the dark and had nearly fallen flat on his face. Luckily Michel had grabbed onto his arm in the nick of time. Was my photo quest was making me neglectful?
The delicious durian from the market
It was not the first time during our trip that we’d been up and down the busy street in front of the Palace. The day before we’d stopped to buy a durian at the market nearby. While my dad was negotiating with the durian seller in Indonesian, asking me what I thought of the price and the particular fruit she was offering, we were interrupted by a tourist curious about durians. In the midst of all this back and forth, four people talking at once in many languages, my youngest son tapped on my arm, said something quickly to me and waved his hand. I nodded and went back to the durian negotiations. When we’d concluded the sale and had our prized fruit firmly in hand we turned and looked through the throngs of tourists milling around. There was no sign at all of Michel and the kids.
We walked towards the shop we thought they had gone to, but no sign of them there either. We went around and around along the crowded, noisy strip of road, blocked by cars and motorcycles, tired sweaty tourists and irritable vendors, searching endlessly. We stopped and had an ice cream across from the durian seller and waited to see if they would emerge. But after an hour or so we gave up and made our way back to the hotel, the pungent durian dangling from my arm.
As it turned out, the boys had gone in the entirely opposite direction and had also sat in front of a durian seller waiting for us, except it was the wrong seller a block away. And they went back to the hotel by a different route.
This tedious mix up, this expanse of lost time, reminded me of something from last summer. I remembered all of us being stuck in Nice, France, wandering along the Promenade des anglais, desperately trying to find a bus back to our vacation rental, wasting hours waiting for buses that never came, being rejected by taxi drivers, until finally we got Uber working and one of their drivers rescued us. I was so annoyed by it all that I adamantly refused to go back into the city the following day. That fateful day turned out to be the day a truck drove into the tourists on the Promenade des Anglais and crushed so many of them to death. I flipped my perspective on the bubble of time that had trapped us and also kept us from being there at the site of the tragedy when it happened. I was no longer annoyed but was instead grateful. What ripple or wave was reaching out before and after that tragic, violent event?
So I took this repeat of a kind of trickster energy as a sign that we should probably stay away from Ubud Palace, which now felt to me like the place of lost family and tripping grandfathers. It was a harsh decision for my photo quest but I tossed that aside. And there was a community centre near our hotel that also offered dances. Why not go there instead? It was just a short walk and would greatly decrease the margin of error and the number of hazards along the way.
The women’s dance and gamelan group at B. B. Ubud Kelod
So at the last minute we arrived at the le Balai Banjar Ubud Kelod and hastily bought our tickets. We were greeted by several women in pink sarongs, members of the all female gamelan orchestra. That was a pleasant surprise, as gamelan orchestras are nearly always male. We were seated by a breezy open window and given jasmine flowers for our hair to indicate that our ticket was paid.
I took one photo after another now, thinking how nicely these photos would fulfil my action plan. And as luck would have it, the dancers were often wearing sashes and were holding them up a lot. Gradually, after a few more dances and more photos, I saw the target image appear before me and begin to move. The female dancer raised her sashes and the male dancer moved delightedly around her. Amazing! I snapped one photo after another but it was dark and as they moved quickly the photos were fuzzy so I switched to video instead.
I left the dance hall very satisfied, excited to be able to send off a nice souvenir photo as promised to the psi dreamers, my action plan fulfilled, and all so comfortably. In the morning I asked Michel for the program we’d been handed in the dark as we’d entered so I could note the name of the dance troupe. I also pulled up the target image so I could try to grab a shot that was a bit similar.
I noticed immediately that the sarong of the male dancer was very like the sarong of the male dancer in the target image. And was that the same fan, the same head dress? The costumes were the same. This really was turning out to be rather astounding. I studied the program and discovered, aha, that the performance I’d videotaped was the Oleg or Bumblebee dance! I’d found it entirely by accident!
I uploaded the video to my dreaming friends and they were suitably impressed. In the program, I read the history of the female gamelan orchestra who had overcome all kinds of social pressure and were finally allowed to perform in public about 13 years ago. Their quest for equality was fitting with the theme of the dance as well.
Maybe it’s not a ripple or a wave to find a lovely performance of the Bumblebee dance a week after the target image was revealed. Perhaps it’s simply that I was looking for a needle in a haystack and succeeded. But with the swirl of chaos keeping me from the Palace (where no one was performing the Oleg) and my utter lack of information before heading into the performance, I can only attribute it again to the power of many, many women praying on the island of Bali. Or was it the magical power of Angel Morgan, the dreamer whose story of sending the image to the dreamers at the conference in Anaheim matched my trip to come so wonderfully?
Did the spirits around the dance know about the psi game in California and jump in to join us all? Or did the dreamers get pulled into the swirl of the dance and become one kind of tornado force of energy? Or am I making something out of nothing and isn’t this just a charming coincidence? And what if it had occurred the other way around, with me seeing a dance first and target image second, would that change how I feel?
Because the way I feel is that I have been shown time and energy as a kind of universal spiral, a linking over continents, and a wonderful dance of a bumblebee that can soar over obstacles and be seen from afar by anyone with the clarity of vision to notice. And of course everyone should go to Bali to sense these energies themselves. And what better place for a dreaming conference in the future? May many more women play gamelan and may many more women enjoy hearing them. I sent one of the photos of the women playing gamelan to some female friends of mine in Montreal with the caption, there’s still time for us, let’s start an orchestra too!
As it turned out, a week later I arrived at the Rimbun Dahan artist residency outside of Kuala Lumpur and one of the things I did there was play my own version of free jazz improvised gamelan in their wonderful dance studio. May my Javanese ancestors, female and male, be proud! One action plan has led swiftly and creatively to another and a new musical creation has just begun.
My recent Toronto weekend filled with jazz singing and dream talk was a great success. Reg and I performed jazz standards we love, as well as songs we’ve both written and songs we invented on the spot. From a bossa nova about dreaming, to our Dreamcatcher song to singing dream haiku, it was a joyful musical experience enhanced by an attentive audience of friends and fans and the great staff at the 120 Diner.
Here are some excerpts captured by our father Walter. The first song is one I wrote while travelling in Portugal. Michel and I travelled to Sintra to see the castle on a foggy day in November and as we were hiking up the mountain I tripped and twisted my ankle. Now I think back to that trip with some pain and melancholy, all the emotions contained in a good fado song. Later that night I was sure I heard someone whistling this melody on the train from Sintra to Lisbon. Maybe they were? Then I woke up and realized I was dreaming. The song is called Sintra Song.
On Sunday my dreamsharing pal Barbara Allen and I headed to a day long event organized by Jeanne van Bronkhorst with other members of the local branch of the IASD. There we began with a dreamsharing circle and in the afternoon Barbara and I led a talk about connected dreaming together, why we love it and why we do it. We told stories of how we’ve dreamt for one another, with one another and sometimes together for others. The depth of story and imagery shared and discussed by everyone was elevated and before we knew it we had spent six hours collectively discussing dreams.
Several of the members of the Toronto IASD Meetup group are authors and you can find their books here.
Before leaving my brother handed me a digital recording console he’s not using so I managed to stuff that into my little carry on suitcase with all my usual Chinatown snacks. I have the coolest big brother and get the best hand-me-downs. So I’ll be working on new music and projects this season!
As well, I’m looking forward to the Psiber dreaming conference, two weeks of great reading and discussion online with an international bunch of kindred spirits. And for the first time I’ll be giving a paper on a subject close to my heart, Dream gifts and action plans. That’s right, when I dream a recipe, I cook it. And more. See if you can find me in this stylish conference banner below. If you join the IASD you can attend the conference for free. It’s cutting edge thinking and the wave of the future, frankly.