Look Up

Thursday, October 30, 2011 – I presented my first audio project, Fiddlesticks: Nature and Nonsense, to my Business Master Mind group for peer feedback. Scripted in the format of a children’s radio hour, the CD presents three short meditative stories I had written about walking and nature. I recorded my telling of the stories in collaboration with voice coach and audio producer, Donna Mac, and local musician and performing artist, Cathy Clasper-Torch.

Parents can play the CD for their children on a car system or on a computer. They can play a story before nap time or bed time to help children wind down. They can play a story while driving somewhere special to go for a walk or before meal time to spark some table discussion.

The peer feedback from my group turned out to be unsettling. One mom said she would not purchase it, because the stories alluded to God, which was counter to her beliefs. This gave me pause.

The context in which I mention God is more spiritual than religious. Most people I know embrace a faith tradition of one kind or another as a connection to Spirit. I myself am open to different expressions of Spirit, even as I continue to examine the faith in which I was raised – Christianity. I have been most strongly influenced by a spiritual movement called Unity. As I explore divine direction in my life, I embrace the full variety of forms in which guidance may come, including chance encounters with new people and ideas or even a message that might arrive through some creative aspect or example of Nature. This guidance has led me to work with children, and the stories I record are intended to prompt thinking about Nature, as well as about individual and collective spirituality.

The other mom in the group expressed her doubts about a particular graphic inside the jacket cover that disturbed her – a photo of a cigarette package. The brand name on the sky blue package was NATURAL AMERICAN SPIRIT. Beneath the name was the graphic of a Native American smoking a peace pipe with a feather dangling off the end of the pipe. Soaring up above the name was a stylized Thunderbird eagle, symbolizing Spirit. The side panel, with the Surgeon General’s Warning, was clearly shown. I had included the packaging graphic intentionally, because it was an important element in the third and final story, Look Up, which is about Spirit. The soft tones of Cathy’s wind instrument float around my words, imitating the wistful music of a Native American flute.

On leaving the Master Mind meeting, disturbed by the critique, I settled into my car, turned on the radio and listened as a random song began to play on FM 101.5. It was “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. Holy smoke! I laughed and my tension dissipated.

Upon arriving home, I got online to look up “peace pipe,” and clicked on the Wikipedia definition. The word calumet appeared on my screen. I read “Calumet is a Norman word.” Like Norman Greenbaum? I read that calumet is related to the French word chalumeau, which means reed. Calumet originally meant “sort of reeds used to make pipes.” The word calumet was used by Norman-French settlers in Canada to describe the ceremonial pipes used among The First Nations people of the region.

Across the land, each region’s people select local plants with special qualities, symbolic meaning and aroma, for use in sacred ceremonies. Using herbal tobacco or a mixture of herbs, natives smoked dried plant matter in pipes to seal an agreement or treaty or to send a prayer skyward to the attention of the Creator and other spirits. I pondered the words green balm as a homonym for Greenbaum. A balm is a pleasing smell with a soothing, healing, comforting quality.

The ceremonial calumet is still used today. The bowls of the pipe were formed from river clay and hardened in a hot fire, before adding stems made from the hollow canes formed by reeds. In my story. Look Up, I actually speak of reeds:


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