Finding voice.

I found it.

Then I lost it.

Found it again.

Lost.

And found.

The shortest 4th grade girl with quivering knees stood boldly on stage in front of the entire school and parent-clan to sing America the Beautiful.  I nailed it.  I used to have dreams of being a country music star.  But I won’t get into that here…

Last week, I got the chance to be in front of the microphone again.  And this time, I had a banjo in my hands and sang in Cajun French.  Interesting how interactions unfold…weaving and expanding to make way for something…or join forces with something else.

When a friend approached me to ask if I wanted to take part in a collaborative folk show, I responded with a…”well, I could tell a story or two.”  I loosely committed and the following weekend, I was on a plane to Louisiana.  From my grandparents house in Port Arthur, I drove to Eunice to attend the last day of the Black Pot Camp.  Arriving at the RV Park in Eunice, I was sent to the barn-house to register.  As I got close to the barn doors, I could hear music spilling out.  People were singing Cajun tunes!  The classes had begun and I was late.  I quickly grabbed my iPod recorder, a paper and pen…and made my way into the barn.  I was just in time to learn two songs:  Grand Mamou and Choupique.  I sat on the edge of my chair, scribbling down the French syllables how I heard them.  I was right where I wanted to be.

After returning home from this visit to Louisiana, I started practicing these same tunes.  Knowing that I had a public space to share what I had learned with my community gave me a boost.  The inspiration that flows from the creation of public space and time is interesting indeed.  The chance to speak and feel heard doesn’t come around often.  So…we practice.

I spend a solid 20 hours each week stocking groceries at my store.  While my body moves, my mind is off somewhere in the distance connecting to what was…or what will be.  I listen to music and pile cans on top of cans.  I wish for things.  This time, I wished for an accordion player.   Maybe the metaphysical notion detailing The Law of Attraction holds validity in a corner somewhere….because two days later, I met an accordion player on the street.  We began to play.  This stranger gave his time and flexibility.  Just like that.  And where did you come from again?  What a lovely find.  Thank you.

The night before our show, the pair of us traveled to a friend’s house to practice our songs in front of a microphone.  Walking down the hall to his music room, we passed by a stand-up bass: note-to-self.  Proceeding to the room, we played.  I sang into the microphone and got the chills.  My voice in Cajun French has caught me off-guard.  How can it be that we are already preparing for the streets of Paris or the stages of New Orleans?  Yes, I would wear my brown hat and boots.  I would have the sweetest voice of any suspender-wearing performer out there.  People would toss in quarters and give us free smiles.  We’d share fancy cheese and baguettes with friends…then sing more.

Before leaving that night, I hinted at the larger-than-self bass outside of the room.  My friend thought I’d never ask…and so the three of us joined forces.  We played again.  Something happened as the sound of the bass lifted us up exponentially.  The songs were given a ground from which to jump…and so, our trio was finalized for the show!  That night I took hold of my journal and scribbled a remembrance of hearing my gut-voice.  This is the voice that reigns in the mind-chatter with a punch of clarity.  Like when you finally sit down with a slice of homemade pie and get reminded of how much you really love it when these particular ingredients come together.  What I’m experiencing as I open the doors to the world of music…is that it is quite sensational and meaningful when you’re offered the opportunity to create sound alongside others.  It’s the give and take…extending support and getting it back in return.  This journey of learning how to sing the music of my ancestors makes so much sense to me…and being offered the opportunity to share and play it with two extremely talented musicians blew me away.  I landed in the mud somewhere…feeling light and playful, honored, happy, and strong.

The night of the show was bold.  And fun, and brilliant.  And inspiring.  There were hand-made instruments, blues guitar, ukulele’s and tambourines.  At least six people sang that night…harmonizing and not.  We shared and ate the food we prepared.  What a fantastic event of community building, contribution, and radiant work.  I performed and sang.  In great company, I was reminded that my voice is the first instrument I learned to use.  And here I am…finding it all over again.

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