Songlines

The East and West MacDonnell Ranges stretch out for hundreds of kilometres on both sides of Alice Springs. The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the Ranges – they entered this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpments of the area.

While in Alice Springs we stumbled our way around these giant caterpillars, spending a lot of time in Simpsons Gap. We found it fascinating how we could walk for hours and always end up in what seemed like the same place. To the untrained eye it can be overwhelmingly disorienting with the extreme heat, blurred vision and an eerie stillness in the air.

However, the day we arrived everything was in full bloom and fresh cool water was in the rock pool. Some of the dead tree trunks showed the remnants of fire, presumably from a sacred ceremony.  I though about the stories I had heard about the ancient Aboriginal songlines, also called dreaming tracks.

From what I had learned, these (paths) songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and paintings. By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous people can navigate vast distances, citing landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. However, songlines are more than just a pre-goggle maps way of navigating the aired land. The songlines also carry the history of the land and of their people in harmony with the land. They believe the footprints of their Creation Ancestors are on the rocks and learn from their elders the sacred sites, the stories, song, dance and with them the Tjukurpa (the Dreaming Law). Thus, the songlines are acts of remembrance, involving mind and body. Through the songlines the Aboriginal people continually recreate the Tjukurpa connecting them to past, present and future.

I could feel the history of these ancient people under my feet and respectfully I treaded lightly. I felt welcomed though, welcome to take time to reflect on my own history and faith. As I sat under a giant old gum tree, precious memories of my own Grandma Grace’s¬†songlines came to mind.

I meditated on all the ways that she passed on tradition and story, of self and of God, singing in her beautiful angelic voice, sweet old hymns about the paths set ahead and those who have gone before us. She sang of a Creator God who longs to walk with us, to talk with us and to tell us we are not alone. Oh! To know we are not alone!

I remembered her voice in the stillness. As tears rolled down my cheeks, a song began to flow off of my lips and I joined her in harmony singing.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

The Making of One

From the Archives… Celebrating TEN YEARS!

Jana Holland"Jana Holland was given a rich heritage of song and spirit. Every Saturday afternoon for the first 15 years of her life, she would join her Grandmother at the local nursing home in Muskegon, Michigan, to sing hymns of old. As a teen, she was introduced to the world of performance, and recording by touring with Judy Price, her mother, mentor and gifted vocalist. 

Through these experiences Jana developed a deep desire to connect with others through song and began to write after having her daughter in 1996. In her writings she shares her life journey, offering an emotional, intellectual and spiritual response to deeply moving issues." ~CD Baby

1929856_14065906397_1539_nIn 2007 Mama Holland sat down with her guitar and recorded five heart songs. Run, Empathy, Keeper of Your Dreams, Sweet Little Baby and Windows. 

All of the songs were deeply personal and chronicle her journey out of the pit, foot set upon a new rock and a new song put in her mouth.

The name *One* came after an encounter she had at the zoo in Madison, WI. While there as a chaperon on a school trip, Jana had an interaction with a stranger. A woman and her son had been trailing behind the¬†group all day and finally approached Jana at the end of the afternoon. The woman said that she had a divine message and wanted to know if Jana was keen to hear. She answered, “sure.” The woman told her that she was going to have a baby. Bursting into laughter, Jana responded, that the physical possibility for this prophecy was quite impossible. However, the woman continued on, stating that it wasn’t a physical baby but the birth of something that Jana had longed for, something creative. This resonated with Jana as she had a deep desire to record her heart songs but no idea how to do it. She left the encounter encouraged and excited for what might come regarding her dream. She though the name *One* was appropriate because it would hopefully be the first of many new creative babies.

1929856_14065921397_2544_nA few months later, while sharing her dream to record, a fellow musician and sound engineer named Danny Lueck made a generous offer to help. He had access to all the necessary recording equipment and the expertise to guide her through. And so, the recording began.

Thinking back to the lady who had encouraged Jana, she smiled and from that moment on everything about the process was related to that of having a baby, from the CD art work, to making jokes about Danny being her doctor and the ladies in the office, her nurses. Even the process to produce a final product was laborious. Everything was done by hand from the burning of the disks to creating the hand-made packaging. Her mother and cousin were there by her side and even threw her a little shower to celebrate.

All up they hand crafted one hundred of the EP *One* and the songs were archived on CD Baby and put on to Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music, Etc…

 *One* is now TEN Yrs Old!

CLICK HERE¬†to celebrate with us! Have a listen to Jana’s Experimental Folk / Lyrical / Healing & Easy Listening tunes. Let them wash over you and encourage you!

one

 

Beyond Thunderdome

img_2714Upon first appearances, Coober Pedy, South Australia, feels like a post-apocalyptic scene out of a Mad Max* movie. And, rightly so, it was the backdrop for the film, Beyond Thunderdome. It’s eery and vast with mounds of sand and rock piles as far at the eye can see. Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual places in Australia and perhaps the world. It’s also one of the hottest places in Australia, with summer temperatures often reaching 45¬įC, and ground temperatures reaching as high as 65¬įC.

Before white fella came into the territory, Aboriginal nomadic hunters and gatherers travelled the rugged terrain constantly in search of food and water supplies as well as to attend traditional ceremonies. In fact, the name “Coober Pedy” comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means “boys‚Äô waterhole.”

img_2703The first European explorer to pass near the site of Coober Pedy was Scottish-born John McDouall Stuart in 1858, but the town was not established until after 1915, when the first opal was discovered by Wille Hutchison. Miners followed in 1916 and by 1999, there were more than 250,000 mine shaft entrances in the area. With laws in place discouraging large-scale mining  any novice with equipment and fortitude can test their luck mining for an opals. Once a license is acquired, each prospector has 165-square-foot to claim their lot.

img_2686

img_2708Coober Pedy has a modest local population of about 3,500 and attracts folks from over 45 different countries. Most of them come to Coober Pedy for one thing; Opals.

Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called “dugouts”, which are basically mine shafts, built into homes. Some of them with elaborate interiors, large ballrooms and underground pools.

One of our favorite dugouts was the¬†Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian’s came in droves to Coober Pedy to try their hand at Opal mining in the early 90’s and the church was¬†built-in 1993. It is the town’s largest and most impressive underground church, with intricate rock-wall carvings and a gorgeous vaulted ceiling. The stained glass window provide a celestial atmosphere in the standing room only sanctuary.

 

img_2952Another interesting area in Coober Pedy¬†is “the Breakaways.” The Breakaway Reserve gets its name from the massive rocks and plateaus that from a distance look like they have “broken away” from the main range.

Our favorite was the formation known by non-aboriginal people as “salt and pepper” or the “castle”. To the Aboriginal people, they are known as the “Two Dogs (Pupa)” sitting down, one yellow dog and one white dog. To the south-west of Two Dogs is a peaked hill, known as Man (Wati) who is the owner of the dogs.

Practically speaking, the town had all the amenities that one might need when traveling through. There is a local grocery store with a decent organic section, a backpackers, camping, plenty of Air BnB’s and a few nice hotels (most of which are underground), gas¬†to refuel, and one of the best Pizza joints in South Australia, John’s Pizza. There is even a golf course, which you have to play at night with glow in the dark golf balls. And, of course there are Opals.

Whether you are heading north to Alice Springs or south to Adelaide, Coober Pedy is the place to stop.

*Other major movies, filmed here on location include, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ground Zero, and Pitch Black.

Moon-fession

hi, it’s me

the moon

i have a confession to make

i have no light of my own

there i said it

it’s true

i am just an empty

dark

lump of rock

floating in the sky

but, you say, “we have seen you light up, full splendor, oh so bright”

well sure, most have seen me light up

some have even given me names like super and blood and blue

however, i am only the star of the show because the Sun has made me whole

you see, it is the Sun that gives me light

it is the Sun that makes me bright

without the Sun, I am nothing but an empty

dark

lump of a rock

floating in the sky…

…i feel much better now

how about you

have you any confession to make

quote-in-confession-we-open-our-lives-to-healing-reconciling-restoring-uplifting-grace-of-him-who-louis-cassels-339982

 

The Dusty Feet Mob

You know how it goes for us nomads, we meet kinfolk who find out were heading towards their friends. Then we meet those people who find out our next stop is in the same town as their friends and on and on. And so it was, that we made our way from Melbourne, to Adelaide to the Dusty Feet Mob in Port Augusta.

We were in Melbourne, VIC, Australia with our friends Nick and Anita Wight. We met Nick and Anita in March of 2014 at Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of kinfolk doing amazing things around the globe in their communities, from offering hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, advocating for those who are oppressed to living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world. We were excited to hear about these like-minded kinfolk and wrote Anita (who was one of the directors at the time) and asked if we could share our music or help in any other way and she said yes! And, that was that, we became fast friends and continued to stay in touch, stopping in to see the Wight family at their Footscray home on our way from here to there.

It’s an encouragement to find friends like the Wights because their friendship not only allowing¬†us to anchor when we need a rest or re-supply but their friendship fuels our hearts with love.

img_2531One night we were sharing a meal and talking about our upcoming trek across South Australia and up to Alice Springs, when their friend Ian Dempster¬†called. Ian was from Adelaide and happened to in Melbourne, driving by their home on his way to a meeting. He didn’t have time to stop over but thought of them as he passed and decided to give them a quick call for a chat. While on the phone the Wights told Ian about us and our desire to come alongside and encourage others and he said, “send them my way.”

We were blessed to meet up with Ian at the Central Market for a coffee and hear about his work with the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress). He shared about his passion to collaborate with and encourage his Aboriginal counterparts. Although our time with Ian was brief we shared our desire to meet and hear more of the Aboriginal story as we made our way north and he connected us with his dear friends 3 1/2 hours north in Port Augusta.

img_2596As we neared into the industrial town of  Port Augusta we experienced the vast rose-colored salt lakes, broken mesas and massive rock formations that lifted out of the ground commanding our attention and we were reminded of one of our favorite states in the US, New Mexico. Our hosts, The Wallace family, lived on a pink salt lake around the corner from the railroad and welcomed us to their Port Augusta home. They invited us to settle in, share a meal and do a load of laundry. We found them easy to connect with, specially after they whipped out the Settlers of Catan board. Then it was game on. As a bonus, Anna shared her gift of sewing with us and mended up some of our broken backpacks.

The next day, we joined the¬†Congress Port Augusta – Uniting Church, where we met¬†Jesse Size, Auntie* Maria and the rest of the mob*. The service was informal yet reverent. We all sat in the round, taught each other songs of praise and shared in story. They asked us questions about our travels and we shared¬†the¬†practical stories of how Abba cares for us along the way, making sure our needs are met, just as he cares for the birds of the air. A question was asked about how we deal with conflict and betrayal, an issue close to the Aboriginal heart. We shared the story of the betrayal and reconciliation in our own marriage. ¬†As a legitimate victim, I shared how difficult it¬†was to wait without bitterness or blemish, in faith, for my husband to “own his stuff” and finally how Abba liberated him from his twisted thinking; thinking that kept him bound to a false sense of justice. ¬†As we laid down our pride and trusted, Abba did it all. Faithfully the Great Physician put our marriage back together again. We shared another song or two and said a prayer of blessing over them. It was an honor to be with these saints, to tell our hard story and the story of God’s trustworthy-ness.

Afterwards, there was a lightness in the room as folks were getting ready to move to the next part of the day, a Sunday afternoon picnic. Auntie Maria invited us to join in and explained that it was a picnic for the Dusty Feet Mob, a dance troop that her daughter, Wanita choreographed. She was excited to have us join them and for us to see the children dance.

When we arrived, Maria shared the story of the Dusty Feet Mob and explained that Port Augusta is made up of 36 different Aboriginal groups and the Dusty Feet Mob is inclusive towards them all. She stated their dance troop was created in 2014 to provide a medium for elders to pass on their knowledge to younger generations and as a way to communicate about Aboriginal issues, specifically regarding reconciliation. ¬†The group’s debut performance was at the Peterborough Art Cultural Festival in Port Pirie and since then they have been invited to perform at the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week and many other state and national events. One of their most riveting performances was alongside famed Aboriginal folk singer, Archie Roach, at the Reconciliation South Australia Event in February 2016

Film Maker Dave Laslett. 

img_2628-1What we learned, and what we shared in Port Augusta was life-giving and inspiring. And, even more was the quiet evening that we spent in Jesse and Chelsea Size’s home, sharing a traditional Aboriginal meal of Kangaroo Tails that Auntie Maria made for us. It was during this meal, as the sun setting in the sky and heat lighting was bolting here and there that Auntie Maria shared her personal story. A story of resilience, perseverance, and faith.

Auntie Maria must have been about my age, maybe a bit older, (meaning she was probably in her early 50’s). So she would have been born during a difficult time in Australian/Aboriginal history. Her people were originally from Maralinga but had to flee thousands of Kilometer into Oak Valley, Cundalee Mission in 1955 after the British Government, along with the Australian Government, dropped an Nuclear bomb on their lands. Some went north, east and west after the bomb to find comfort. Unfortunately, some never recovered and many who have lived through the travesty still feel the effects today with sore eyes or blindness.

Many of Maria’s family were taken to Mt Margaret Mission, Kurrawang Mission or Norseman Mission and placed there under the guardianship board when they were taken from their families. This is now known as the stolen generation. Maria’s mum¬†fled all the way to Perth where she had Maria. However, from what Maria was told her mother died when she was 3 months old. A¬†native welfare worker contacted Maria’s extended family and her oldest sister took her under her wing¬†with other family supporting.¬†Maria was born a half-caste and expressed her deep desire to know¬†her connection to country, to family especially around native titles, etc. Unfortunately, for Maria there is not a lot written about her mum so all she has to go on is what family tells her about who is family and where she fit in.

She spoke fondly of her childhood, growing up in and around Laverton, Mt Margaret and Leonora. She said she was a bit of a cheeky child, later returning to her hometown to see her name still etched into sidewalks and buildings. She said she respects and values her¬†culture and has a deep longing to connect with country but explained that her Brother-in-law, who raised her like his own, had a strong Christian faith and for that she was thankful, for no matter what may come her way, she knows that¬†Jesus is her rock. When all else fails, and she’s seen her share of failings, she falls back on her faith as her firm foundation. Auntie Maria’s story was so inspiring and it was an honor to even have heard a small portion of it.

*Mob is a word used to describe a tribe or family group of Aboriginal people. *Auntie or Uncle are the respectful terms to address an elder woman or man

Home Sweet Home

The Hollands! BusFor many the nomadic lifestyle is a romantic notion but when push comes to shove most wouldn’t uproot for fear of being out there in the wide world all alone with no anchor. That’s OK, nomadic life isn’t for everyone. We were the same. We lived ten years of our married life in one geographical area and although we would dream of adventure, we had no idea how to deconstruct our current situation to make room for the new lifestyle. However, when we felt the call to up root, give everything away and hit the road, we decided to move into the mystery of that calling regardless of our lack of knowledge, fears or the fears of those around us and take the leap of faith. 

Here we are five years on and many have been inspired by our faith story, however there are still some who just can’t wrap their minds around not having a “home.” We are often¬†asked by these friends, “how long do we plan on being on the road?” And, ‚Äúif, as we travel, if we were looking for a new place to call home?” We can confidently say that nomadic life is our home. “Home is where you park it‚ÄĚ is a popular hashtag/slogan in our nomadic world and we have found many like-minded kinfolk along the way, all trading in the bricks and mortar for the wide open spaces.

img_8392Fifteen months ago, we traded in our bus for backpacks and began an epic trek around Australia and South East Asia. In Australia we bought a used minivan and used that as our main form of transpiration and storage. We reached out to kinfolk and found an abundance of hospitality and although we had access to tents, in the eleven months we were in Australia we only had to sleep in them twice. We were humbled by the generous and kind welcome by our Aussie hosts and cherish the opportunities we had to share in story and friendship.  

As we made our way around Australia, many asked the age-old questions, “what our favorite place had been so far or if there was a place that felt more like home and ultimately, if there’s one place that we‚Äôd feel like settling back down in?” We answered them all the same, stating every place had it‚Äôs pull, it‚Äôs charm, and most of our feelings of affection came from the people in each of the places more than the places themselves. And finally, we‚Äôd answer, that so far there hadn‚Äôt been one place that we could have just stopped and stayed and stayed. That is until, Sydney.

In August, we were invited to house sit for our dear friends, the Perini’s. We met the Perini’s in 2000 at St. Hillary’s Anglican in Kew (Melbourne). I remember that first Sunday, Michelle came right up to me, introduced herself and got my phone number. Over the next year, she would pick me up regularly for playgroups, coffee dates, lunch and to just get out of the house. We became fast friends, and she became a dear mentor to me. The fella’s connected too and even though we moved back to the states after only a year, we stayed in touch and visited every time we went back. Eventually they moved to Sydney and we were excited to see them once again. However, this time around, they would be going out of the country to Italy for six weeks and they asked us to stay in their Glebe home and mind it for them while they were gone. The timing couldn’t have been better. We had done a pretty bouncy two month stint in the Byron Shire, all with amazing host families, but our backs were tired from the unloading and loading and from adjusting to so many different beds, so the thought of being in one place for six weeks was exhilarating. 

img_6452We arrived at the Terrace house, which sat nestled in a row of terrace homes a few blocks down from all the shops and restaurants on Glebe Point Road. The Perini‚Äôs invited us in for a cuppa (that’s a hot drink in Australian slang), and they explained the nuances of their sweet home. It was a warm space filled with all of their treasures, books, loads of books and antiques. Michelle‚Äôs signature color of cherry red made the space pop with joy.¬†

img_0867They next day they flew out and we settled in. The space immediately felt like home with plenty of room to spread out but just small enough to feel close to one another. The kitchen was my favorite place to be. Oh! to have access to a full kitchen unhindered, what a delight! We enjoyed the back patio and reading their many books. We also took advantage of the close proximity to all of the shops, specially Banjo who would walk up the street on a whim to get a kombucha from the local IGA. And, at sunset we would go for a family walk down to the river front board walk, loop around and walk back up through the main road. The neighborhood was active and alive and over the weeks we found familiar faces greeting us and for the first time ever in our travels, we all stated with confidence that this was a place that we could just stay, and stay for a long, long time.  

To top it all off, we had already established relationships in the neighborhood with the ‚ÄúGleebox‚ÄĚ girls, as well as, some friends we knew through the Perini‚Äôs and new friends we had met through our kinfolk network.

Plus, we had a number of guest stay with us, including our nephew, who flew up for a weekend from Melbourne. Our friend Cass from Singapore came for a whirlwind evening where we shared dinner and story. Our friend Daryl from the US, came for a two-week stay and we hiked, went to the beach, enjoyed the local sights and sounds, food and markets.  Our friend Neelke, from the Netherlands, came for a few nights and we jam-packed as much as we could into her visit. We also caught up with our friend Andrew, who we met in Cambodia. It was awesome having so many kinfolk that we had met from all over the world come to our door front!

We enjoyed playing host, having the world come to us! We loved using our space to bring community together hosting dinner parties, afternoon teas, sharing sacred space, and providing a safe place to share story. We even hosted a house concert, where we cleared the room, made a bunch of yummy treats, set the stage and a whole slew of kinfolk that we had met through out the previous weeks came and enjoyed an evening of music. Our muso friends, Naomi Nash, Cameron James Henderson and Graciana Holland performed a songwriter in the round concert. It was intimate and spectacular and truly the highlight of our stay.  

The six weeks flew by and everyday was filled with the richness of life, community and the beauty of a city wrapped in the natural surroundings of water. If we could encapsulate one memory from our travels that we would want to keep forever, this would be the stop.

So now, when people ask us if we have a favorite place or a place we would want to settle down in, we can answer, yes, Sydney, Australia, specifically in a little terrace home just off Glebe Point Road, where we could meld into the local atmosphere, sharing life and using our space to create community, where instead of us going to the world, the world comes to us, then yes, that’s the place we would love to be. It‚Äôs a dream we know, but for now we can savor the little taste we were given and know that if we were ever to shift from nomadic life to bricks and mortar, it would have to live up to this new-found expectation. Until then, we keep rolling, taking each stop just as it is, pliable and available to be woven together with those we meet along the way, bringing with us love and light. Until then, #homeiswhereyouparkit.

Our Epic City Hike

One sunny afternoon, early August, we took an epic city hike. That’s right, I said city hike. We love our nature hikes and have been on all sorts of amazing hikes, from Tent Rocks in New Mexico, the Singing Saguaros in Arizona, to the Mississippi Head Waters in Northern Minnesota. We’ve also been to many awesome cities around the globe but¬†the city hike in Sydney was extraordinary!

syd-hike-jpgOur hike began just after lunch and took us home by dinner. We started off at St. Johns Anglican Church on Glebe Point Road and walked north to the Sydney Fish Market, had a quick look around and I say quick because we couldn’t quite handle the smell. We kept walking north to the Australian National Maritime Museum, where we walked the docks and caught a glimpse of all of the tall ships before heading east over the foot bridge into the heart of the city. The city was grand with its tall buildings but it was the gardens that really¬†caught our eyes.Sydney was definitely not a concrete city as the common spaces were beautifully orchestrated with trees, flowers and ferns.

We made our way north towards the Sydney Opera House, where we sat for a bit, soaking in all of the sights and sounds. Their were birds in the air, ships in the sea and people hustling here and there. Honestly, we could have sat there on those steps for hours and hours watching the world dance and interact with each other. But alas, the day was getting on and we were only half way. We began our trek south past the Governors house through the Botanical Gardens where we took a little coffee break at the gardens cafe. The coffee was average but the opportunity to sit for a moment and catch our breath was worth the stop.

Once we had our legs back under us we kept on towards the Art Gallery of NSW. We spent a good hour in the gallery, (which is free to enter, by the way) we spent our time specifically in the basement, which is where the temporary installments are displayed.¬†After the Art Museum we started to make our way home via St. Mary’s Cathedral on through Hyde Park where we caught a bus the rest of the way home. All up our day cost us $30 for coffee and the bus fare. Had we wanted to spend more time in the Maritime Museum we could have paid for the family pack at $75 but decided to save that for another day.

img_1727Being based in Glebe for six weeks, and it’s location was ideal for our grand city hike. The assurance of a warm and comfortable home to come back to and catch our breath made all the difference in the amount of energy output we needed to walk the 10 kilometers throughout the city.

I had made a delightful dinner ahead of time, so when we returned we just flopped down in our seats, enjoyed dinner and eventually the boys found their way back into to their favorite position.

The memory of this day is special not only because Sydney proved to be a beautiful city to hike but because we experienced it together, as a family. Our little nephew was even able to fly up from Melbourne to join us. We cherish these moments, savory them, every single one.