A Dolphin’s Song- My Great Adventure!

Last month, I embarked on an amazing adventure with wild dolphins. Not only was it a great escape to the tropics but also into the underwater world, (one of my favorite places). Plus, the dolphins taught me a lot. Many people think that dolphins are more intelligent than humans. They have large brains, very complicated social lives and can communicate using a combination of clicks and squeaks. Besides that, they are exquisitely graceful and truly amazing animals!

The three species are Spinner Dolphins, Spotted Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins:

a-dolphin_grace

Bahamas, Grand Bahama Bank, Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) underwater

Bahamas, Grand Bahama Bank, Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) underwater

dolphin-558x371

WildQuest, is a retreat center located in Bimini, (Bahama Islands) and they manifested our remarkable adventure. They have been around for 17 years, and work very hard for 30 weeks out of every year. The loving WildQuest team includes two ship captains, a wonderful cook, photographer, yoga instructor, several competent deckhands and an administrator. All of them met at an Ashram in India, and 5 are from the Czech Republic.

Our group was coordinated by animal communicator Terri O’Hara. http://www.animalwize.com. All together for 5 full days, 20 of us (most of us complete strangers) sailed the seas in a catamaran in hopes of being able to swim and experience being with dolphins in the wild. Thanks to the Wildquest Team we were able to swim with them every day we were there (except one during the hurricane that eventually missed Bimini by 160 miles). Dolphins of all ages and sizes swam up to the boat and literally played and showed off their abilities for sometimes up to an entire hour! They were extremely sociable and engaging, and interacted with everyone in our group. Perhaps the most incredible experience was this: One in our group was a stage 4 cancer survivor and a wonderful mother and wife. She had come on this trip with her daughter as a “bucket” item on her list. I felt an immediate bond with both of them. The first day we were in the water, four female dolphins and their babies appeared out of nowhere and swam around the mom and her daughter. There was no explanation and we never saw them again. Somehow the dophins knew just what to do though. And the mom and her daughter had a very healing experience and time together.

When dolphins communicate, it sounds like a symphony! Using chirps, high pitched noises and squeaking they have an elaborate language! They use it to help determine their surroundings, to call to and communicate with one another and they use echolocation to evaluate exactly where objects are. Some scientists think that echolocation can determine the where abouts of objects up to ½ a mile away!

Individual dolphins have their own unique sounds. Just as you and I have our own voices, so does each and every dolphin. They utilize their blowholes, air sacks and valves, and their sounds can even enable different species of dolphins to communicate!  Take a listen here to hear Dolphin Sounds.

I can’t wait to learn more about these amazing musical creatures.

Learn more about Dolphins with your little ones! Click Kids Zone- Dolphin Facts

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It Wouldn’t Be Summer Without………

MUSIC!

Summer wouldn’t be summer without music! Everywhere you go you are welcomed with familiar summer sounds- kids laughing, splashes in the pool, wind blowing the trees or the sound of waves crashing- a typical soundtrack to the season. No matter who you are or where you go, music fills the air.

I notice sound and rhythm wherever I go. Music as a backdrop to life isn’t a facade, you just have to listen. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered about the power of music on our bodies, our brains and the arts. Much of this curiosity comes from a statistic I read naming music as one of the only art forms that involves the use of the entire brain!

Someone who has done much research on this topic is Dr. Sacks. Oliver Sacks book, “Musicophilla” explores the effects of music on our neurological system by studying the effects of music on patients, musicians, artists and every day people. Read more on Dr. Sacks: http://www.oliversacks.com/about-oliver-sacks/

Another great innovator and performer is Bobby McFerrin. His contribution as a musician and his dedication to the arts is so noteworthy that his TED talk gained over 3M views! His reviews claim- “Side effects may include unparalleled joy, a new perspective on creativity, rejection of the predictable, and a sudden, irreversible urge to lead a more spontaneous existence.” Can music really change ones attitude that much? The answer, yes! Watch Bobby’s TED talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/bobby_mcferrin_hacks_your_brain_with_music

Where do you get your inspiration from? Is it from nature? Sounds of the city? Human interaction? Take David Zinn, a talented street artist who runs around the city of Ann Arbor creating chalk masterpieces! His creativity takes place primarily on sidewalks and streets. Check out his amazing artwork here: http://zinnart.com/2013/12/06/chalk-art/

Whenever I teach songwriting workshops, I use artful activities to help students find words and express themselves. I wonder what kinds of music David Zinn is hearing as he does his amazing street art?

Choose a song, a word or a beat for each of David Zinn’s drawings below:

tempting_the_gerbilsaurus_hires

 

 

 

 

 

rockband_sluggo_hires

 

 

 

 

 

midland_dig_hires

 

 

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IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL—REALLY.

In April I took my 87 year old amazing mother on a trip to Kentucky… Yes, we did get to see a serious horse race at Keenland—including some of the horses that raced in the Derby, but that was not the reason for the trip! Ever since she was a small girl, she has been obsessed with miniature rooms—I’m talking museum quality miniature rooms—the kind that sweep you into a life you know nothing about and if you took a photo of one, you wouldn’t know which reality you were looking at—life-size or tiny. During mom’s life she created about 59 “room boxes” (as they are called in mini-circle groups and clubs). Fortunately I am the recipient of three of them and unfortunately she has macular degeneration, that she swears is genetic, but I know exactly how it manifested: staring for hours and hours at teeny tiny objects. Since I happen to love all things that are ethnic, she made me this Spanish-style casa. Note the concho belt hanging down from the chair near the hat and sandals? Mom made it out of aluminum foil. And the ristra (strand of red chili peppers) on the wall? The red peppers are tiny bits of paper painted with nail polish.        

The art of making and collecting miniatures has been around for several hundred years but the fad swept through the US in the early 70’s. People were crazed with it and dollhouses and museums cropped up everywhere. One collector, Kaye Browning, started her collection some 40 years ago and it’s now housed at the Kentucky Gateway Museum in Maysville, KY—just south of the Ohio River, in what is supposedly THE most charming town in the whole US! (And indeed it is)!  

 

I had never been on a trip with my mom—not since she was changing my diapers or driving me to school or some extra-curricular activity. And since it was her 87th birthday, and Mother’s Day, I decided to treat her to a short trip that focused on her interests.  It was fun and truly fascinating—to learn more about her love of  miniatures and being one of the few surviving women in her age group, I loved hearing her thoughts on family and life in general. I wish we had done more traveling together.  

 

In some ways, this trip was a “thank you” for initiating one of my biggest passions, music. The first music assembly I had ever been to was hers. She sparked my interest, love and quest for musicality in everything I do. To this day, one of my most prized possessions and favorite guitars is the one she played at that assembly! Though it took me three summers of work to “pay it off,” I strum it with pride and fond memories of songs she once played, including our favorite- I Ride In Old Paint

 

Anyway, off we went to KY.  We drove from Louisville through horse country and arrived in Maysville and the Gateway Museum to see the miniature collection.  It  was housed in it’s own wing. The focal point was an exact replica of The Spencer House in London, where Princess Diana grew up.  Apparently Ms. Browning was so inspired after seeing it in person, that she commissioned two renowned miniature artists to recreate every room. If there was a huge gold gilded mirror on a wall of the Spencer House in London, you can be sure that the exact same mirror was reproduced perfectly only 3 inches in size– yet also gilded in real gold. If the chairs were hand-carved out of birch wood, inlaid with ivory, with needlepointed seats, they were that way in miniature! Tiny cabinets with tinier hinges and handles made from real brass opened and closed– and even locked with an even tinier key!       

 

Have a look at the images above, and I will bet that you can’t tell the difference between the real Spencer House and the miniatures. The collection Kaye Browning has amassed over the years is simply mind-boggling. Each piece is one-of-a-kind and many miniature artists throughout the world have created these incredible replicas of inlaid wood, tile, ceramic pieces and even silver– all in miniature. We marveled as we stared through a magnifying glass at an “ugly Christmas sweater someone had knitted using surgical wire for needles! And we were both stunned and amazed. I knew nothing of this small magnificent world. Yet Kaye Browning often purchases her miniatures at auctions, and guess who often bets against her? The Emir of Qatar!

 

It’s hard to understand how anyone could have the patience, eyesight and ability to create such treasures and works of art—especially since few people ever see them. And naturally, just like other art forms, the houses and room boxes we saw were made by true masters in their field.

 

We fell in love with one master’s works: a woman named LaVerne Sullivan. Her room boxes were titled and full of humor. The one below was called “Time Out for the Soaps” (as in Soap Operas Pre TV). Note the pink radio on the kitchen table and if only you could see the pared potatoes in the kitchen sink, you might start obsessing about miniatures too.

Her other one was called “Bed Bath and Breakfast” and it’s a room box full of teeny tiny birdhouses- complete with a fountain, robin’s nest with eggs and minute butterflies hanging by a spider’s web!

     

I hope you have an opportunity to tap into the very small world of miniatures. It will take your breath away, allow you to see the world from a different perspective, and be an unforgettable experience.
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Earth Day, I wish it were a true National Holiday

I wish it were a true National Holiday, but still it’s on my calendar. While touring in CA I came across the oil fields outside of Bakersfield… There were hundreds of pumps literally neck to neck as far as I could see burying their heads over and over in the desert floor. Some were old and rusted, clearly personalized with various signs, graffiti, initials, etc and one was brightly painted bubblegum pink.                            

Last week I was going through some old photographs I took while traveling in Borneo. Even in 1989, the rivers were filthy while piles and piles of humongous logs floated alongside waiting to be shipped downstream along with the river muck. 

In Denver where I live, a thick layer of brown hangs over the city when the wind and snow don’t blow it away. Some 34 trains with 40-50 cars full to the brim with coal, rumble past our windows day and night. I met the PR person from Exxon on a flight and asked her about the black stuff… “What happens when all the coal is gone?” She said: “Well, it won’t be a problem in your or my lifetime, so I dont worry about it. A PR person?  Hmmmmm

Scuba diving is one of my most favorite hobbies. I travel long distances to see what lies beneath our oceans. Vanuatu was recently destroyed by a cyclone. It’s in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the New Hebrides Trench is one of the deepest places on Earth. But when I was diving close to the Island, only about 60 feet down, I found a large formation of what appeared to be “bones” stacked near the bottom of a coral reef. When I surfaced with a small shred in tact, it turned out to be plastic. 

These days, I see our beautiful planet Gaia/Earth as a wounded giant… its precious life forces being damaged beyond repair. Please on this Earth Day, commit to do ONE small gesture below that will help heal the wounds: 

Leave the car alone and bike, bus, walk or carpool, to work

Turn off the television and other devices

Install LED lights

Stop using paper towels

Drink from stainless steel or glass containers instead of plastic bottles

Avoid plastics

Steer clear of overly packaged items

Use biodegradable soaps and cleansers

Insist on foil or cardboard containers for take-out rather than Styrofoam

Buy locally produced organic products

Cook at home

If clothes arent dirty, wear them again!

Hang clothes in sun to dry them

Carry shopping bags with you

Play music, sing and dance 

Childrens Music Network has a wealth of wonderful songs with environmental slants. http://www.cmnonline.org   One of my favorite songs in celebration of Earth is

✔ Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Over The Rainbow & What A Wonderful World –

 

 

 

 

 

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California Dreaming

I just wanted to share a small photo journal from my road trip/ California Tour a few weeks back. As I left Denver to start the long  journey ahead, not only was I excited to capture my trip via photos, but it also made me start thinking about the great, classic sound of California!

As I left CO the first things I saw were Rocky Mountain sheep grazing on the foundation of this home:

 

 

 

 

 

I soon made my way to Utah, where I stopped for a day to take in the beauty of the mountains and Great Salt Lake.  There is something inspiring about Utah’s crisp air, stark red rocks and scenic roads:

 

 

 

 

 

I then entered the desert! There, I came across a lot of open land, much of which was scarred by ATV tracks:

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I made it to California!!

 

 

 

 

 

Understandably, the first thing that comes to mind musically, is the Beach Boys! How did they create such a novel beach sound? In my mind, they defined the sound of California. It’s incredible how one can decipher it within the first two seconds of listening to a Beach Boys’ song. They accomplished a dream that all creative artists strive for: to stand out, create something original and have others receive and accept it. Songs like California Girls, Good Vibrations, Surfin USA, I Get Around, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Little Deuce Coup, Help Me Ronda, Surfin Safari and California Dreamin are just a few songs that achieved the notoriety that I associate with the California lifestyle. Being an “outsider,” a.k.a someone who is not from CA, the Beach Boys were always successful at painting a beautiful picture of this “dreamy place.”

By the time I arrived in beautiful Santa Barbara, I was definitely in a “California State of Mind.” And especially excited about this tour because I was able to establish some great new relationships with libraries I had performed in several years ago. I tend to love these smaller tours because Libraries play such a vital role in early childhood development and their communities. Being an advocate for literacy and the creative arts, it’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when the importance of musicality is acknowledged. I was honored to play at the Eastside Library, followed by Goleta, and Santa Barbara’s main Library. Next, I made my way to Carpinteria, followed by Montecito. Lastly, I climbed my way north, ending the tour with the San Luis Obispo and Atascadero Libraries. It was a great week of shows, and although a long drive, truly relaxing because I was in that CA state of mind! All the kids and their parents (I did 2 shows for babies) seemed to thoroughly enjoy the performances and I got to interact with captivated audiences. The smiling faces and overall beauty of this road trip made me want to return again and again.

Please take a peak into the journey!

A photo album from my road trip can be found here: Road Trip to CA

A photo album of my performances can be found here: CA Tour: Show Performances

 

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Chinese New Year Festive Tune: Version 2

A wooden goat, (Baaah)

Is what you are

If born in 2015.

Buddha said you’re artistic and sweet

According to a Chinese chart!

 

You’ll celebrate

If you’re alive

60 years from now (Baaaah)

That wooden goat only comes again

In 2075 (Baaaah)

 

The Chinese New Year’s old as time

So celebrate the year of your birth (Baaaah)

12 animals plus five elements:

Water, metal, fire, wood or earth.

Monkey, dog, rat, dragon, sheep, snake or pig

Rooster, rabbit, tiger, ox or horse

And in 2015, the Chinese sing:

“You’re a wooden goat!”  Of course! (Baaaah)

 

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Chinese New Year Festive Tune: Version 1

The Chinese lunar calendar,

Is an ancient wonder, it’s true–

Their New Year lasts for fifteen days

And ends with the brightest moon.

Connected to a dozen animals,

Plus one of five elements too:

Earth, metal, fire, water or wood,

Mark the year you were born into!

 

Buddha blessed twelve animals

With a year and special traits

Horse, dog, dragon, monkey, rooster, pig

Rat, rabbit, tiger, ox, or snake

This is the Year of the Wooden Goat,

You are sensitive, creative and sweet,

Though depending on which Chinese chart

You might be a ram or sheep!

 

Do not sweep or wash your hair

Pick a quarrel or fight

For if you do you’ll sweep your luck away

And you’ll argue all day and night.

 

1955, 2015, or 2075

Every sixty years that wood goat reappears–

If you are still alive!

And whether it’s bound to fire or wood,

Water, metal or earth…

The Chinese New Year celebrates

The incredible year of your birth.

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Are You A Goat? Happy Chinese New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year! Yesterday, Feb 19th, marked the launch of “the year of the Goat.” This year is particularly special as the Chinese Element Theory deems 2015 the year of the “Wood Goat.” The Element Theory states each Zodiac sign is associated with one of five elements: gold (metal), wood, water, fire, or earth. The Wood Goat only comes around every 60 years!

Unlike our Zodiac calendar, the Chinese calendar is a Lunar calendar associated with the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac has 12 animal signs. This includes rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Just like in the U.S, the New Year is a huge celebration. In China, families gather to eat, reunite and participate in traditional festivities. People hang LUCKY red decorations everywhere! Red is the main color of this spring festival and is thought to bring the greatest luck and fortune.

Are you a goat? If so, enjoy some fun facts about yourself?

  • Lucky numbers: 2, 7, or numbers containing 2 and 7 (like 27 and 72)
  • Lucky days: the 7th and 30th of any month according to the Chinese lunar calendar
  • Lucky colors: brown, red, and purple
  • Lucky flowers: carnations and primroses
  • Lucky direction: north
  • Unlucky colors: green, blue, and black. Goat people should avoid wearing these colors
  • Unlucky numbers: 6 and 8
  • Unlucky direction: southwest
  • Worst lunar months: third, sixth, and tenth. Avoid these months if you have some important business to do or want to plan an event
  • Love annd relationships: Married Goats will get along well with their spouses and will enhance their relationships through daily quarrels
  •  Single Goats will find their lifelong love under the guidance of elders, however they should show more care for their partners in order to avoid family disputes.
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