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.

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Happy Birthday Little Song Bird

So apparently today is Neil Youngs birthday. It’s all over my news feed. More importantly thought, it’s Graciana Hollands birthday. Our little song bird turns 17 today!

This ride wouldn’t be what it is without our daughter, Graciana. She is a bright star and we are so blessed to share family life, music and this nomadic journey with her.

Some children play basketball, soccer, or other sports, participate in art or poetry competitions, are science guru’s, 4-H, boy scouts, etc… Our daughter sings! A little history and some proud moments…

Holland Family Web Photo
Photo by Richard Steinberger

Graciana Holland has always had a song in her mouth and began singing publicly with her mother, Jana Holland, when she was nine years old.  Her first appearances on the stage featured cameo’s for Jana’s original songs as well as sharing the stage with her grandmother leading  old spirituals. Her natural talent for harmony was extraordinary and her poise on stage was developed beyond her years.

At the age of 12, Graciana joined Mother/Father duo, The Hollands!,  recording thier 2009, “To Holland, With Love” album. She was in 8th grade and wrote her own harmonies to Arise Ye Sons and Daughters, a song that embodies The Hollands! philosophy of “one love, that when one falls, we all fall and when one is honored, we’re all honored.”

She also offered contributions on the Glockenspiel, an instrument on loan from her band teacher. Graciana wrote parts on songs Winter by the Bay and The Shack. She began to tour with her family, performing in the Midwestern regional market.

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Photo by Bloom Photography by Kara

Two years later, The Hollands! released, Ashes to Beauty, an album that chronicled the love, loss and reconciliation in marriage. Although a heavy topic, this album included more of Graciana’s harmonies and her role in the band was becoming more established. She was beginning to take more responsibility on stage and off, specifically helping her brother, the youngest Holland, find his place in the band.

The Hollands! toured with this album across the US, breaking new ground in the Plains states, Pacific North West, the coast of California, the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains.  And, then, with two albums under their belts, The Hollands! sold everything, bought a bus and hit the road. touring full-time, including Australia.

The two younger Hollands, found themselves with more time on their hands. Homeschooling offered a fresh outlet for music and over the next two years, Graciana would learn new instruments, hone her writing skills, develop a confidence on stage and find a powerful voice that could move listeners to tears.

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Photo by Bloom Photography by Kara

In April of 2013 The Hollands! released Over Land and Leas. This album would not only include Graciana’s harmonies, but her song writing, guitar work and lead vocals as well. In fact, it was her song, Over Land and Leas that ended up becoming the title track on the album. Her song, Lanie Done Did, a murder ballet, became an instant hit on Public Radio stations across the US, Europe and Australia. In May, Graciana showcased those songs at the South East Regional Folk Alliance Conference.

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Photo by Bloom Photography by Kara

As band mates, we are so proud of Graciana for her committment to this gift and although the future is unknown, we look forward to whatever may be in store for her. As parents, our hope is that our little song bird will spread her wings and fly higher than she ever imagined, whether she is singing in the privacy of her own room or through or microphone. Our hope is that she will have learned through all of this hard work, that success is not measured by fame or fortune but by a peace of mind, joyful spirit, grounded soul and willingness to share our gifts even if there is no return.

Happy Birthday daughter!! We love you.