Notes from the Songwriter
Erika Lundahl: Origins of Brambles
Grief and gratitude. Introspection and outward action. These are the constantly renewing cycles that we each live within in a world of climate change.
Many of these songs took root while cycling from Seattle to the tar sands or Alberta, Canada in 2015- the third largest reserve of crude oil in the world as part of The Road to Athabasca. Bits of lyrics and fragmented verses churned over the miles. It was exhilarating and empowering to move my own body across hundreds of miles. I felt like I was connected; to the land and the wind, but also to the semi-trucks blazing past and to every farm stand and gas station that I passed. I was in the world.
Along the way I shivered at the magnificent jagged crags of the Canadian Rockies, and the power of the Frasier and Athabasca rivers, coursing with life. But I also mourned, knowing that all of the beauty I was traversing was directly over the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, a pipeline carrying bitumen and crude oil set to be expanded three times over. A pipeline that I knew had seen dozens of ruptures over its lifespan, and would surely see more.
I cried in Jasper, Alberta, standing in awe at the foot of the rapidly melting Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Glaciers, the “beating heart” of the entire bioregion, feeding the rivers and farmland and wildlife. Cloaked in smoke, blown north from Washington’s blazing forest fires, the glaciers are forever etched deep into the groves of my mind’s eternal record player, singing.
I cried again, and harder with the Fort McMurray First Nation, as we walked around the tailings ponds of the tar sands at a healing gathering, and saw how the oil industry had devastated their ancestral lands, created a food desert where there once had been plenty, and overwhelming health problems for the indigenous peoples of the region. Over the last year, the same community in Fort McMurray experienced massive, climate-induced forest fires, followed by flooding. The connection between an exploitative and colonial energy industry and the real, human impacts of climate change had never been clearer to me.
Over the course of the Spring, I took part in events like international Break Free from Fossil Fuel protests in May 2015, where thousands of people came together to take a moral stand against the continued expansion of fossil fuels. It was a jubilant and terrifying experience to stand on the railroad tracks with hundreds of others, blocking passage of oil trains to the Anacortes refinery, but also, deeply troubling.
We never should have had to be here, a voice in my head shouted in anger. We shouldn’t have to stand on railroad tracks, risk arrest and bodily harm to make sure we have a future on this planet, but here we are, standing. Here we are, doing what we must to survive—maybe even thrive on a changed planet. Here we are stepping into vulnerability, and into resiliency. Stepping into love.
These songs were written as invitations and prayers, to myself mostly. Inviting myself to step into vulnerability and into a deeper connection with the land, and with each other.
Today, with the Indigenous-led protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota, we are witnessing one of the greatest shows of resiliency and coming together in history; hundreds of North American Indigenous tribes and allies uniting to fight the Northern Access Pipeline. As I am writing this, a U.S. Federal judge has denied a request by the Sioux Nation for a temporary halting of pipeline construction, despite the destruction to sacred land and danger to the water systems that the pipeline presents. There is much to grieve, in the violence to land and people that we are seeing at Standing Rock, and all over the world. But also so much gratitude for the brave people who are standing up and standing with this fight.
We stand with the great Sioux Nation, and with Standing Rock. #NoDAPL
The air is dirty and the land is torn
but we’re still breathing so we’re stitching up a love song