Mudbone Orchestra

Some years ago (2005) I performed songs under the moniker Mudbone Orchestra. Most notable was the “Scrap the Inauguration” benefit for SCRAP on Inauguration night in January 2005. It was me on vocals and guitar and Bruce Orr playing bucket drum. Subsequently did not often use the name Mudbone Orchestra. Well… It’s Back!

After mulling various options for a name to use for my musical persona on Soundcloud.com (a site where people can easily access recordings of my songs) I decided to revisit Mudbone.

I like it on various levels. Fundamentally (and philosophically) it is about what we all are: earth in symphonic expression. Clay that sings. The embodied soul singing its truth and madness in everything it does. I am that, we are all that. So I am the Mudbone Orchestra.

So far four songs uploaded to SoundCloud, more soon (up to the max I can get for free, after which I’ll probably hunt down another free cloud storage option.)

I’ve been recording lately on the grand piano in Wiegand Recital Hall at Marylhurst U., and I must say I like the results, albeit the levels are too high. But I like the route I’m on with these piano adaptations of my songs. Guitar stuff too, since that is the majority of what I have, but I’m really feeling the piano. 

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Becoming Still

In these clamorous and (yes) revolutionary times, I find that I act and speak my best when I have paid enough attention to the basic silence/stillness that all things rest in and erupt from. The stillness is always both around us and inside us, yet we must be deliberate in remembering it and cultivating it, in the midst of the storm. Dorothy Soelle  speaks to this in her outstanding book The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, a learned and penetrating exploration of the roots of effective resistance to the Powers and idols of empire: “Becoming ‘still’  is the ground for the clear and even clamorous NO! uttered in resisting”. And within and beyond the NO, the YES to who and what we know we really are.

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fear and Joy in the Streets of Portland

An account of my participation in the events of early Sunday in downtown Portland.
Short capsule: Riding my bike with a group of fellow cyclists in a loop around the Occupy site for 7 hours straight, in an act of deliberate witness and protection. Hard to convey everything that happened but there were some almost tearfully tense moments of direct confrontation with riot cops that, in a magic and an alchemy that I have never quite experienced the like of, transmuted the energy of confrontation into retreat (by the armed batallions) and victory (however momentary) for the unarmed and joyful people.
                                                                                  *
So, as you may know, Mayor Adams of Portland gave the Occupy Portland encampment at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares (2 square blocks at 3rd and SW Main/Madison) a 48 hour notice to be gone by 12:01 AM Sunday Nov. 13, 2011. The reasoning (long and short) is that the encampment had become a haven for homeless and variously wounded and addicted people. A place to camp relatively unmolested, free food from a cooperative kitchen, etc. In the previous days there had been two drug overdoses and a supposed rise in petty crime in the immediate neighborhood. Granted not a good situation. But also obvious to me and many others that Occupy did not create these problems, only brought them into an immediate (and apparently unwelcome) focus, even while providing services at the level of inspired volunteerism that the city has abjectly failed at over the years. But that is an editorial digression.
                                                                           *
Truth is, while definitely a supporter of Occupy and its aims/aspirations, I was not a 100% fan of the encampment and the idea that the Occupy movement should be about holding stubbornly to crappy little pieces of downtown park space.
                                                                           *
Nevertheless.
Some moments are moments of truth. So when I saw on Bikeportland.org that there was a notion to have a “swarm” of bicyclists continuously encircling the encampment blocks during the time (minutes? hours??) during which the police would attempt to roust it, I basically knew that, whatever internal skepticism I might feel about the effectiveness of such a gesture, I had to go down there and participate.
                                                                          *
So I did. When there is a massive show of intimidating armed force against unarmed citizens who are doing nothing worse than congregating in a large number for peaceable purposes, you have to be on the side of the unarmed people. You just do.
                                                                          *
I showed up right at midnight (after a lovely and energizing earlier evening of interaction with good friends) to find that THOUSANDS of people were at the parks and lining the streets on all sides to witness the unfolding events. The streets themselves were still open to traffic, and i quickly joined what at first was a fairly small contingent of about a dozen cyclists (soon growing to many dozens), riding around and around the parks. South on 3rd to Jefferson, west on Jeff to 4th, north on 4th to Taylor, right again to third, and so on… and so on… and so on. Stopping on every round at 3rd and Jefferson (away from the main crowd) to regroup and do a “people’s mic” self-check and on-the-fly reconnoiter of the situation. Again and again past an ever growing and cheering throng, and also an ever growing phalanx of police encircling the parks.
                                                                          *
One hour passes. Two. 3rd Avenue becomes more crowded with every pass, several cars are now trapped by people, but the crowd parts just enough every time for the “swarm”, cheering and giving us high-fives.
1:50 AM. We are now walking our bikes through the 3rd and Main part of the route because the crowd is too thick.
                                                                          *
At the very moment… the very MOMENT, that the bikers are crossing Main at 3rd, and I am exactly at the edge of Main on 3rd, two phalanxes of riot cops in full robo-cop armor march in and block off 3rd Avenue right in the middle of us, and  exactly in front of me. I knew the general possibility of such a moment arising, but the reality was alarming. Moreso: a squadron of Police horses now suddenly charges up Main behind the phalanx and toward the crowd occupying Main and the parks. A huge hail of boos, jeers, goes up from the crowd. Suddenly something flying through the air, onto the ground among the cops in front of me, a quick bang, smoke, the sulpherous smell of rotten eggs. I am quite sure it is teargas. (Turns out to have been a homemade stink-bomb. That the cops did not go absolutely ape-shit at this moment is a testament to the fact that, however distressing the turn of events, this is not yet the NYPD.)
                                                                                 *
Two of the riot police are DIRECTLY in front of me. Another just behind them, tall, a riot-control rifle raised to his shoulder, sighting, aiming directly at us… at me. Another, perhaps the most sinister of all, holds a digital camera on a long pole, aims it directly at the faces of me, of everyone around me. I look around. I am completely packed in by other protesters, both with and without bikes. There is no possibility of retreat. I am afraid. The realization: I am about to be arrested, and possibly injured. The way they are using the horses makes me sad and angry. The way they themselves are being used, dressed for a riot with armor and deadly weaponry, arrayed like cyborgs against unarmed (stink-bomb aside) people whose only crime at this point is to be congregating in the street in defense of an encampment of society’s most vulnerable people, this all makes me sad and angry. I shake, tears well… I look directly at the two full-armored cops in front of me. I see their faces behind the plexiglass masks. I am not chanting or yelling. I am, literally, speechless. Somehow, in my fear, I am grounded. Chaotic noise, yelling, off-the-scale intensity… I am NOT calm feeling. But I am simply there. And neither do flashing anger-words make sense to me as a response, the way they would have when I was younger (at Critical Mass, at Iraq War protests, in Seattle long ago). Maybe I’ve learned something over all these years. I just stand. Then I say to them, loudly, directly,  the only words that come to me. “I *LOVE* you. JESUS loves you.” I swear, I swear and yes I know it was my heated imagination, that they registered something. Something real. A human reaction. A connection. Maybe even a slight discomfort, but a good kind. They are PEOPLE after all, encased in that terrible black armor. They have homes, lives, dreams, families, just like me. (Thank you Lisa Naas for recalling that to me.)
                                                                               *
The crowd keeps yelling.  But suddenly the police horses back up, wheel around, trot back down Main the way they came. A huge cheer goes up. The cops in front of me, the ones I just felt some glimmer of connection with, they and the rest of them step backward, coalesce together into one huge mass, and back their way off of Main to the adjacent Justice Center (jail building). Massive cheer goes up. The crowd spills back into 3rd and Main, “in it to win it” now.
                                                                               *
The bicyclists reconnoiter. A general consensus to keep riding, to ride until 5:00, until 7:00, until daylight at least. Keep the energy up, the circling and circling and circling. Every pass some new nuance. This time a song as we ride, then a chant, then silence, then just giddy yelling. Three AM. Four. Five. Angels with water and snacks appear, fortifying us. The crowd is thinning, thinning, but still holding fast at 3rd and Madison, banging on buckets, chanting, singing. The riot police nowhere in evidence for nearly 3 hours. Then they appear again, marching up Madison to 3rd, and the police loudspeaker demands the crowd vacate the street. A quick consensus, the remaining crowd (still several hundred) removes swiftly from the street to the park. The riot-phalanx remains in array across Madison, billy-clubs and zip-tie cuffs at the ready. We take one, two, three passes past them on our circuit. Our route had bypassed Madison (one-way eastbound) because of the crowds but now we note that Madison is completely clear… except for the cops themselves. Our choice is so obvious it needs little discussion, though we do discuss briefly at 4th and Madison, for the sake of unity and coherency of action. We will ride peacefully down Madison to the line of riot cops, face to face with the force that is blocking the street to save it from us. An amazing woman named Katherine who was a vocal leader of the bike group all evening does one last “mic check”. “Does anyone have? (DOES ANYONE HAVE?) Any ideas for chants? (ANY IDEAS FOR CHANTS?) Someone yells out “Who’s Blocking Traffic NOW?” So we launch, slowly, measuredly, down the block, chanting this. The crowd immediately joins in with obvious delight. We are at the intersection now, face to face with the phalanx in their riot gear. There is a moment… in which it is obvious that the police are almost comically in the wrong to be still lined up BLOCKING a now-clear (clear for 10 minutes actually) street that they are demanding to be clear. It makes no sense, unless they are planning on simply swooping in and arresting everyone regardless. (Which in truth they probably were.)
                                                                             *
And so they stand aside. And we roll past them. And they leave.
It is hard to describe the sheer joy of this moment, in which a kind of in-the-moment tactical genius and courage arose in the crowd and our bicycle swarm, and the forces of armed response simply stood aside.
Of course I knew, we all knew, that eventually the Mayor and the Police Bureau would have their way and the encampment would be cleared. People can’t stay up forever without sleep. We become vulnerable. But we rode for two more hours (until after 7:00), until I at least was almost falling over and had to head home (yet with a full day of improv workshop still ahead of me), and the police eventually rousted the remaining campers at around 10:00 AM.

But people: it was a victory, make no mistake. It was an evolutionary moment for Occupy, and for people’s (including my own) experiential understanding of how there can be a sheer power to joyful non-violent action by a large and energized group. It was joyous, nearly every moment of it, including the most tense and frightening.  Other than the probable agent provocateur who tossed the stink-bomb, the crowd was intensely, almost passionately, positive. Many hundreds of people knew they were risking arrest, but were okay with that. There are worse things in life. Yes, Occupy needed to evolve past the encampment, but it was wrong for the Mayor and the Powers to scapegoat it when all it was doing was shining a spotlight on the deep inequities and woundings that are manifest in our society. The business-bureau types don’t want to see that shit. But that is the world we live in today, more and more every day. It is a serious time. The impetus for this movement is deep, widespread, something that cannot and will not be wished away or swept under the rug. The more the “Law” tries to push it down, the more it grows and strengthens. Tomorrow, next week, even next month may or may not look like objective “progress”. But these times are a radical disjuncture. The question is not whether there will be historic change. The only question is, for each of us, do we stand with the most vulnerable? Do we stand for and act within a new-old  conceptualization of power as mutual empowerment, gift, communion? If so, then we’re already there.

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Speaking Now in the Whirlwind

13 June, 2009

 

I see the hand

that holds the brush

That yields the blade

That broke the silence

Written in the fire

across your face

As you awaken beside me

 

I see the hand

that plows the earth

that plants the seed

that holds the matches

Written in the ashes, drifting in the morning

After the bonfire

 

I see the eyes

that sang of roses

That stilled the armies in shining valleys

Speaking now in the whirlwind

O symphony of sky

 

I hear the voice

That carved the granite

That filled the cup

And from it rivers

Falling now in joy, into the circling ocean

As we walk the endless shoreline

One eye on the waves.

What a day this will be

 

I see the eyes

that sang the bonfire

Speaking now in the whirlwind:

What a day this will be

Published in: on October 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Again, now is the time

Journal entry from 2-19-1998

The internet/computer-media/infotainment age we are entering is the final triumph of industrialism. It may not, however, last long. At one and the same time we are entering a time of regionalism, renewed community ties, volunteerism, self-awakening, cultural and creative diversity.

The two trends are somehow running in parallel. The latter, I suppose, is the natural reaction and response to the former. The bigger grows the machine the more people will learn to escape its grasp. Even as it triumphs, human biology and culture will have learned to transcend it precisely because we are human, of nature, intextricable with the wild world.

Published in: on October 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now is the time

I wrote this in my journal on Jan. 31, 2009. Now is when it was really about.

People will rail and rail against the seeming end of the easy times. They will demand of politicians a return to them. They will fail to see the enormous gift that is the end of high-flying easy-credit consumerist industrialism. But they’ll come around, if nothing else out of sheer necessity. That’s what this new time is about. Back to earth. Back to reality. The “working out” into a new pattern will take awhile. It will be tulmultuous. It will be challenging for practically everyone. I will also be enormously exhilarating and joyous for those who choose to experience it that way, to embrace it and enter into the spirit of the thing.

Published in: on October 7, 2011 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Maybe I Know Nothing

Maybe I Know Nothing  (8 Dec. 2007)

*

I see your expression as you open the door,

A falcon with your treasure.

Your call is frightening to the untrained ear

I hope I can keep the secret.

*

But something’s different this time:

I don’t think it’s just the light.

Something is carving marks

Into your granite

Little noises from the fault-line

Where now is just a plain

Soon a mountain crashing skyward

As you whisper

*

And you reach out your hand

The way you always do

But there’s something new

About the way you touch my skin

Once a leopard on the prowl

Seeking flesh for her children

Now content

To lie alone in the tall grass.

*

I step inside

Like every time before

And even though a waltz is playing

We just sit down

And wait

And wait

for the blue of early morning

*

And maybe I know nothing

Yes maybe I know nothing about these things.

Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Angels of Love

Angels of Love be with me.
In the morning as incantations
of birdsong,
of crawling things
beneath Spring’s last falling petals,
food for Day’s bright Leviathan,
its thousand mouths
closing in joy on this feast of teeming grace.

Angels of Love be with me,
Your wings lifting, falling,
strong in perfect silence,
bearing you laughing into scenes of
invented sadness, anger, ecstasy, boredom,
blindness, perfect sight,
cloaked in robes of the ordinary,
building toy houses of twigs and lichen,
leading us in on fools’ errands
and setting them ablaze.

Angels of Love be with me.
Your voice and your melody,
up from the untended yard,
blackberries amok,
thorns promising sweetness
in August’s hot evenings,
the peril of the harvest,
blood given for blood.
Then the banquet and the cool night,
ocean’s air come again
from across the blue hills.

Angels of Love be with me,
your arms ready
from another season of digging and gathering,
palms callused,
shovels now laid to rest
against ancient fences.

Angels of Love be with me,
even as I breath again this shadow,
this flash of light,
this small moment of weaving.

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

What is Folly?

What is folly? The deluded pursuit of ego gratification, yes, but of Love too. “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” But the basic underlying impulse is pure beneath it all. Yes, it gets misdirected into mazes of illusion, ever-branching pathways, schemes upon schemes within schemes. But the one thing is always right there, right here.

Published in: on July 11, 2009 at 9:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nov. 11, 1997 journal entry

“America” is over. Long live America. America is splintering. It has been slowly cracking at the seams for 50 years and it will be rent asunder on many and diverse fault lines in the next quarter century.

I love America. America is the greatest. I hate America. America embodies all that is wrong and wretched in the human spirit. But the shards of the broken America are also like the seeds of a ripened grain, which will fall back into the rich soil and sprout anew.

Published in: on April 13, 2009 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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