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SongSpells Op. 1: Mother Earth, Evolving – For Sky

“Hold my hand, hold my heart, Mother Earth, evolving. I am ready, I surrender, into blossoming…”

Sometimes, when I wake up, I like to give my inner chest a little hum. It feels like a gentle rub, a hand on my back, a “Good morning, Love!” Not the way you might picture songwriting, but it works for me. I wake up to the morning sun, and, before breakfast, I wake up to my own creativity.

This particular chant started one such morning, laying in bed. It was just a few notes. One richly yummy note stretching down, and then up just a little. And then, another touch, a sigh, a “Here I am, World!” and a release from my brainstem and my upper spine. 

Those were the notes. They felt real, and whole, and alive. And they stayed with me after I got out of bed. A comforting hum, like the smooth quartz stone I keep in my pocket and rub with my fingers. So I came back to it later that morning, and said, Hello. 

I closed my eyes, and asked for the spirit of this tune to come to me. I saw an octopus. It came and held my head in a very loving, comforting way. I asked for words. I heard, 

“Hold my hand…” 

And I said, 

“No! This isn’t a love song!” 

I asked for more words. I heard, 

“I surrender.” 

Again I said, 

“Nope. That sounds like one of those old praise songs that makes me want to barf. I don’t like surrendering.” 

But those were the only words the octopus presence would give me. 

I started playing with that word, surrender, in my mind, as I cooked food, did laundry, and took my son back and forth to school. 

I surrender. I surrender. What kind of surrender feels like mine to embrace right now?

Finally I knew what it was. As I sang the words, “I surrender into blossoming,” the resonance of the notes got richer and even yummier. And so the words stuck. A recipe finally tasting just right. 

The chant still wanted more words in order to feel like a complete circle. So I came back to “Hold my hand.” If I could trust the octopus with “I surrender,” perhaps I could trust them with that first line, too. 

“Hold my heart” just came. I didn’t try to make it make sense, but it is exactly what is happening when I sing those low, resonant notes. I thought of my new octopus friend, their magnificence, their intelligence, and their coming to me so full of love that morning. And then I knew who it was that was holding my hand and my heart… my very Mother Earth, evolving into beings as precious and complex as this octopus, and me. 

As I sang this chant days later with my community, my tears started flowing. The tears surprised me. They told me there was something real, and raw, here. Something worth paying attention to. They told me that this was a chant with some very special healing power. 

A few weeks later I was on the phone with my friend Sky and they were asking me to record a piece for them, for their ordination. I knew right away that I wanted it to be this chant, and I had a vision of myself with many voices, many layers, letting something big and complex grow from the seed. I told them about the octopus, and they knew right then that they wanted this chant, too. I had no intention of making a video of my head in a lot of little boxes singing different parts, and so Sky embraced the opportunity to create their own art to go along with the song. Mother Earth, evolving.

Suddenly I had big dreams for my little chant, and that’s where the struggle began. I sat down at my computer, opened my music-writing software, remembered all my favorite choral works from Byrd madrigals to Arvo Part, dusted off those voice-leading rules, and started to write a big, complex choral work. I was feeling impressive. Then, I started recording. But the surrender was gone. I wasn’t surrendering into these notes. I was striving for them, pushing myself to perfectly relax into perfect intonation, determined to gather up all my best vocal technique to make my super complex, sparkly, clashy chords shine. It sounded so good on the computer with its perfect intonation… and my body didn’t feel “good enough” to perform the task I had set out for myself. I spent a couple weeks on this. Trying to grow myself into the singer who could embody this disembodied piece that I had written. And then, I stopped.

I sat down on my bed, the place where the chant had started in the first place. I forgot everything I’d been taught about proper posture and technique, I leaned back against the pillows, snuggled up with my guitar, and sang the way I do when I am comforting myself. When I heard the recording, I finally felt like I was letting the energy flow through me that this small chant wants to bring into the world. And so, I threw away the sheet music. I looped one layer after another, improvising fresh until I had something that felt as whole and alive as it did that first day. As the layers grew, the expansion became easier, and easier. Until finally, I just scatted a playful improvisation, and captured a moment of simple joy on top of it all. 

I fell in love with the whole songwriting, art-making, creative process all over again when I saw Sky’s artwork. They found the same spirit of play that I had found. It isn’t mine any more. With Sky’s art, this chant has become its own being. It came to life in the moment of Sky’s ordination… a living gift for a dear friend who opens powerful portals, and courageously holds space for magical, radical, evolution. 



MB Bolin, The Mystic Bard

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