New Single: ‘Act of Love’ for water protectors

*Proceeds from this song will go to the 5 Valve Turners – Ken Ward, Michael Foster, Emily Johnston, Leonard Higgins and Annette Klapstein of the #ShutItDown act of civil disobedience, who face massive, mounting legal fees.*

 

This song was written for the water protectors, the valve turners, and all for those who put their bodies on the line to fight the continued extraction and transportation of tar sands and other extreme fossil fuels. The words were inspired by the testimonies and interviews with the 5 valve turners that in October 2016 shut down all tar sands entering the United States via pipeline, with the help of their support crew. They now face federal charges and massive legal fees.

As of Feb 1st, the trial for valve turner Ken Ward resulted in a hung jury. Ken shut down the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which runs from Edmonton, AB to Anacortes, Washington, and is in the process of being expanded.

This song honors their brave act of love, made in solidarity with Standing Rock. We must all use our bodies to raise up the severity of the climate crisis, and the colonialism and racism that underpins it. Only in vulnerability, and in community, may we come to a deeper place of truth with the grave, and inequitable situation we are facing for life on this planet.

Read more about their trials at www.shutitdown.today
“Act of Love” Lyrics
This is my act of love
This is my hand uncovered
For you and me, and everyone we seeThis is my gift
of vulnerability
This is my body, I turn the valve
I turn the key,
Reveal the sorcery
The systems as they be
The systems as they be..This is fragility
What we’ve built our gospel on
God is not a paragon,
a pentagon, a president, an oil baronGod is you and me
God is everything you see
I am grateful, grateful for
your actionsTo keep this place, to keep this place
Breathing, breathing, breathing,Breath out, breath in, breath out in,
breath out, breath in, the work we’re in,
the ancient hymn, breath inThis is my act of love,
This is my hand uncovered
For you and me and everyone we seeThis is my gift
of vulnerability
this is my one body

Post-election: Here we are, older now and ready to sing

I started writing a poem several weeks ago while we were on the tour, while reading too much election news in the car on the drive from show to show, and reeling in the collective anxiety of a nation in crisis. This country, folks, is BIG. And it’s filled with so many different realities. It’s hard to process how we can really even be one country, a fact that was illustrated in spades with this most recent election.

We passed by trucks hauling the mammoth wings of wind mills about to be erected in Iowa, and drove past literally hundreds of fracking fields in Wyoming. The water tasted like chemicals for a hundred miles. We went to Standing Rock, our car heavy with donations and witnessed the most incredible Indigenous resistance movement of our generation. We heard the stories of dozens of Indigenous and non-indigenous people who had come: a Palestinian family from the deserts of New Mexico and a line-cook from Southern California. At the time we were there, over 250 different Indiginous nations from North America were present, in solidarity with the Sioux Nation, fighting the North Dakota Access Pipeline – and they are still fighting now (If you would like to support Standing Rock, you can do so here). A few states over, we also spoke with people who worked for energy companies, who thought the protests would pass and that everything would go back to “normal” soon.

We stayed with some friends in a beautiful, queer neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, and played a show at an adorable vegetarian restaurant. Two days later, we were in a gas station in rural Nebraska, where the brutal violence on the bumper stickers being sold made me afraid and sick to my stomach as a female-identifying human:

“I still miss my ex, but my aim is getting better

“Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend’s wife for president”

“FBI: Female Body Inspector”

That kind of bold-faced violence towards women’s bodies in the form of legally-sold merchandise was absolutely terrifying. How do you even begin to bridge the gap with someone, when the merchandise they carry displays such contempt for women’s safety? How do you explain how that kind of language effects your ability to sleep at night, or your ability to feel safe getting gas and a cup of coffee at any given random stop along the roadside? Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you pay for your coffee and drive away feeling scared and heart sick.

Not even an hour after we visited that gas station, the news broke that the 5 pipelines that brought tar sands into the United States had been shut down by individuals at valve stations in 4 different states.

“This is my act of love” wrote Annettte Klapstein, one of the #Shutitdown valve turners. Annette is grandmother who truly believes this kind of direct action is the only way to insure a future for her grand children and combat the climate crisis we are facing. Annette and the other valve turners are facing federal charges because they acted on their moral conscience. They did the exact opposite from driving away from the problem: they are facing it head-on, and facing great personal risk doing so.

It can be confounding to try and hold the diversity of the American experience. Reckoning with our diversity as a nation is the work of a lifetime, and we shouldn’t be OK with the parts of the American experience that terrify us and make us feel unsafe. We must find ways to build our power, and find ways to confront those forms of violence, whether they target the earth, or ourselves and the people in our communities.

***

On Wednesday, November 9th, we went to the Seattle anti-Trump rally in Westlake, and gave our voices to the anger, the injustice, and the rallying cries for an intersectional, big-hearted movement toward justice. Amongst the cries of “Not My President” were other cries; “Stand with Standing Rock” “Black Lives Matter” “Water is Life” “We are the 99%.” All our movements are in conversation with each other, always. All our movements toward justice need to support each other, and be in solidarity with one another. Marching against all the things a Trump presidency stands for is, in many ways, a reflection of this basic truth.

After the protest, we filled our bodies with some food, and headed to an organizing meeting. That was the protest that felt the most real. It’s the work we do now that will keep us grounded, along with our community, participating in creating beauty and art.

On Thursday, November 11th I got up the courage to play music with Doug and with our violinist, Julie. It felt more than cathartic: It felt essential. We’ve lots to do, and there are so many hands to do it. We need song and art and community and love and humility. We need to listen and learn and look hard at this country, both for what it is and what it can be.

In love and in prayer, we will calm this crisis down. We will rise.

***

Here we are, older now and ready to sing

By Erika Lundahl
The women measured him
scaled the stones of his throne
found him wanting in the usual way
a barrage of bold come-ons and violent entrées,
but behind fresh pressed suits of providence
the Blitzkriegs of business intended to separate
the haves and have-nots:
the good ol’ boys bravado
is a frail and sickly tyrant exposing
the bullshit of generations of power unopposed

and it bleeds a foul smell
that hangs angry in the air around
like rotting meat, turned
a burning acid permeates
the precipitation in the air here
leaves a thick yellow film
on the truck windows, on the seats of our chairs
on the ocean’s edge, as we troll
for our supper in this sea of despair

…and every woman wonders to her sister,
wanders through her secret soul
asking, how? How? How? How is it
that we are still here, still stuck with the grinding task
of confronting the bluntness of contempt for any gender
not purely masculine, not purely born in
to the principles of power and accumulation.

And I know I know that oppression has many faces,
many aces of diamonds mined, and I must own
that so much oppression looks kindred to privilege of mine.

***

It’s October 19th, 2016 and I watch the talk show
pundit after the debate, white, blond and preened,
a perfectly made-up airlines hostess
in first class, a lady in waiting,
she offers him a warm towel,
adjusts his seat as she fights his corner,
excusing his language of assault,
laughing off jabs at her intelligence,
brushing off his unwanted touches,
undermining of her experience
with words he gave to her:

boys will be boys, the lines she tried
and tried to swallow for years with her tears,
before she learned she could
grow the fire in her belly to a roar and began
to spit flames, honing the tools
her mother gave her into a finely tuned instrument,
ready to ready to bring

So here she is, older now and eager to sing,

so impatient with the suffering,
impatient with the erasure that made her,
slowly, instance by instance,
that systematic lowering of her insistence for a reckoning
time is a tricky tool, an untamed flame
that will curse as soon as caress, it’s true

but she is too restless to rest now,
too awake to play at being helpless
oh just arrest me with the agitators,
that is my tribe, we who are through with being
pleasing and supine

It only takes a handful of humans to resurrect the resistance,
take the reins, stand firm and make seen
the invisible vines that squeeze the breathe
from this tree of life supreme

It only takes a handful of humans
to make the violence that runs like acid
through history’s veins seen

We are honing the tools of our mothers into finely tuned instruments,
ready to ready to bring
So here we are, older now and ready to sing.

standing_rock

Photo credit: Erika Lundahl

BRAMBLES: Notes from the Songwriter

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

 

New Track!!

Here’s another track from our upcoming album “Songs of Shattering” featuring the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  This one shows off Edna’s sultry side 😉 Check out our Soundcloud page to hear more of what we’ve been working on lately.

Announcing the Release of Other/Wise: Writings on Fragility & Earnestness

Print

Hello Internet —

My book of poems & pros, Other/Wise is officially out today and can be ordered on Amazon & BN.

I know. Crazy — right?

Hope you are well — Sincerely, Erika

 

Advance Praise for Other/Wise

Sagacity is a heavy word to use about a collection of prose and poetry created by a writer not yet even a quarter of a century old, but Erika Lundahl’s Other/Wise supports and merits it. Personal essays and autobiographical free verse purposefully meander and connect in exquisite exploration of life choices that reach the reader as universal. ‘Like a bird to the sky my brain’ shedeftly repeats, quoting Ani DiFranco, and indeed her book, as a celebration of the process of inner and outer survival, is a flight that tests control and freedom. This first collection, which in the author’s words embraces ‘the vast uncertainty of “how to be”’ and bravely questions the complexities of time and memory and love and identity, is true philosophy that engages and enlightens.”

– Dr. Katharyn Howd Machan, author of Wise Woman

“This startling collection of poems and essays, psalms and parables on the postmodern condition, reads like a conversation between Julia Kristeva and Soren Kierkegaard. Erika Lundahl is both an ardent feminist who thinks with her body and an existential pilgrim who wrestles with her Nordic Lutheran heritage. Her style is aphoristic. Every word cuts through our collective lies like a knife carved from caribou bone. This book will afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Read it and learn how to acknowledge and identify with the strangers in your midst.”

– Anthony Di Renzo, author of Bitter Greens

“As Erika Lundahl reflects on her position as a young woman leaving college, saddled with debts and questions, I am reminded of Adrienne Rich’s searching, self-reflective voice. But Erika writes with a wit and directness all her own as she turns over her experiences like stones to see what’s underneath. At the heart of this book is a desire, a drive to understand oneself, one’s actions, one’s relationships. Erika undertakes her self-examination with a frank and charming honesty that will speak to anyone who has reckoned with their own painful truths and challenging life transitions.”

– Rachael Stoeve, poet & journalist. Yes! magazine, Truthout

Click the cover for a sample of Other/Wise.

Other/Wise
by Erika Lundahl
978-0-9910209-8-0
Retail: $15.00 Softcover

Available now at
Amazon.comBN.com
and your local bookseller.

Works in Progress: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Over the last few months we’ve been in and out of the studio working to set the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay to music.  The recordings are a mesh of carefully plotted out songs, as well as our recordings of first encounters with poems of Edna’s. Poems are teachers and friends. They are pathways to discovery. Illuminations of the world as it is, and what it could become. There is nothing quite like the discovery of a new poem that truly moves you. In that vein, it has been an unexpected delight to record what, in some cases is a first encounter with a poem I know will be a teacher for a long time to come.

We’ll be posting new tidbits here for you to encounter along with us, as we’re finishing up this album and figuring out the best way to share it with you.

Meet Edna St. Vincent Millay: Uber Bad-Ass Lady Poet

 

Hello Internet!

We’re so excited to talk to you today about one of our very favorite poets: Edna St. Vincent Millay. Edna was this bad-ass lady poet from New England in the early 20th century. Doug and I have been spending the better part of the last few months putting a bunch of her poems to music. She kicked a lot of ass.

During her life, she was an outspoken feminist, openly bisexual, and a much-lauded poet (She was the third woman ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry!). She criticized war efforts, spoke out against social injustice and sexism, coined the popular phrase “My candle burns at both ends.” and was famous for having many male and female lovers. Her work is, in turns, flippant, dark and irreverent — and then —  poised, lyrical, even demur. She criticized Her public life as a writer is an incredible testimony to the complex and shifting climate for women in the first half of the 20th century.

We’ll be airing some of our songs with her poetry this Saturday at LUCID Lounge (7-9pm), but we wanted to give you a little preview of what we’ve been doing. SO without further adieu, here is an early recording of Edna’s poem “BLUEBEARD.”

BLUEBEARD

THIS door you might not open, and you did;
    So enter now, and see for what slight thing
You are betrayed…. Here is no treasure hid,
    No cauldron, no clear crystal mirroring
The sought-for truth, no heads of women slain         5
    For greed like yours, no writhings of distress,
But only what you see…. Look yet again—
    An empty room, cobwebbed and comfortless.
Yet this alone out of my life I kept
    Unto myself, lest any know me quite;         10
And you did so profane me when you crept
    Unto the threshold of this room to-night
That I must never more behold your face.
    This now is yours. I seek another place.

Animals of Grace on Sabrina in Seattle

 

We had a great time heading over to Critical Sun Records a couple weeks ago and recording a podcast with the lovely Sabrina Hamilton of “Sabrina in Seattle.” The studio was beautiful, and we sang a few new songs. Check out the podcast HERE. We’ll be making the recordings of just the three songs available in the near future as well, so stay posted!

Cheers!

~ Animals of Grace