David Suzuki Wish Li… on David Suzuki Wish List & N… Musings of a Michael… on Musings of a Michael Jackson…
– reprinted from Oh-Toh-Kin, Volume 1 Number 1, Winter/Spring 1992
The following interviews with Lyle Ironstand and Louis Cameron have been reprinted from Paper Tomahawks: From Red Tape to Red Power by James Burke, published in 1976 by Queenston House Publishing.
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Does your garden rejuvenate you? Can you start out feeling troubled about something; but as you wander around planting, weeding, harvesting, watering, does a feeling of peace and contentment come over you? Do you feel yourself slowing down, breathing deeply, tuning in with the singing of a bird, the wind sighing in the trees?
I recall a very special garden I had the privilege of encountering in 2012, quite the thing of beauty already in May of that year. The striking entrance through the deer fence a mystic star with poles sweeping up teepee style. Whoever originally designed the garden chose to shape the beds in a configuration of an Egyptian ankh. The cross piece in this case circles around several large stones, which warm up the immediate beds to speed up growing time by a few weeks. In May, beds of kale and brussel sprouts had over wintered from the previous season.
The circling raised beds making up the arms of the cross, consisted of three rows of raspberries – in spring just recently leafing out and brilliantly green; with an inner bed added while I was there, separating it from the inside row of raspberries to create another vegetable bed. I busied myself during my stay, putting in coriander, beets, radish, quinoa, broccoli, a patch of sunflowers for sprouting and another patch hopefully to see yellow heads bobbing. Bending and squatting, dropping in each tiny seed it’s easy to fall into a meditative rhythm. I found a fellow volunteer, Ollis, entranced by the whole community of bugs, ants and worms he had disturbed turning up a rock, all living harmoniously in the cool rich earth.
The other arm of the cross had a wide bed of strawberries – all looking by early June like they had been putting out new energy as the days lengthened and warmed. At the end of the strawberry “patch” a lilac bush, promised soon to be in bloom. The inner wide bed was again a vegetable patch with a plum tree at one end – under which I put in a few nasturtium and onion sets. I spent a while putting in two varieties of beets giving them a longer season by covering with a small moveable greenhouse in the fall. Had I had more time with this garden, I planned more vegetables to go in over the month of June.
The legs of the cross being more shaded were established borders of perennial beds of blackberry, grape and asparagus on one side and more strawberries on the other. A bed of blueberries, and many beds of kale, chives, garlic, lettuce, collards, spinach, tatzoi, sorrel, oriental greens, amaranth and more kale were already in the works by June, with plans for tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and squash. What abundance!
Although the area of this garden’s location is the side of a mountain which nature didn’t originally plan to be a garden, one would never know it now after many years of building up the soil. On arrival in early May, I turned in horse manure, from the hard working Taloume, and compost. Everything of course organically grown so no worries as far as chemicals and fertilizers.
Taking out a few weeds and adding in some rows of greens toward the end of one day, as the shadows lengthened I was grateful for my sense of well being and for the quiet concentration of another volunteer, Jan-Michael, helping with some transplanting. Listening to the ch cchchcchc ch ch of the irrigation nozzles from the patio over supper; seeing the robins flitting in, I recall being assured of the garden’s ability to heal through the food it offered up and through the work it required, not only for that season of 2012, but for many a future season
As with the conventional mountain pose which is carried over into all other poses, so too with this variation (refer to “Another Approach to Mountain Pose” posted May 9). Also I’ve been trying this stance in other positions, such as wide legged, cross legged (that’s a challenge), seated straight legged with feet pressed against a support, or ‘v’ body again with feet pressed to a support. For me, it has the same activating effect of many of the yoga poses with the bonus of getting my brain completely involved as if new pathways are being built between it and the muscles. Physiology has never been my strong suit. All I know is, this is fun.
Just listened to an hour length interview of Allegra Fuller Snyder and Jamie Snyder (daughter and grandson of Buckminster Fuller).
Some of the main points I got out of the video:
- Bucky’s belief that all children are born geniuses with a comprehensive view which is drummed out of them by a school system which compartmentalizes thought processes.
- In the face of such big problems as global warming, there is a tendency for people to feel hopeless and helpless. Allegra pulled out her shopping bag, noting that in the course of a day shopping, she might save 15 or 20 bags. This may seem incredibly insignificant, but “each one of us can do these very, very small things that add up to the big thing. The individual must feel absolutely responsible and effective within their everyday life.
- As of 2001, of a world population of 6.5 billion; 1.5 billion is in extreme poverty (not making it); 1.5 billion are in moderate poverty (basic needs met, have food, shelter); 2.5 billion are middle income (basic needs met; have a little put away); one billion are wealthy (the rest of us)
Very encouraging ending with Jamie saying:
“One of the fundamental insights that he (Buckminster Fuller) presented was that for the first time in history, we’ve learned to do so much with so little in terms of resources; so for the first time in history, we have the potential to sustain 100% of humanity in a way that is ecologically sustainable while phasing out the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. That’s very central. AND
It is important to realize that there is a very large global consensus now; there is a very large coalition of people around the world who now understand that we can end poverty on the planet.”
Listen to the interview at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj_lyn0982E>
How does one become a Michael Jackson “Person”? I’m sure there are any number of ways to finding oneself including MJ on the journey. As a simple example, one young woman told me she grew up immersed in popular culture at a time when Michael was playing a major role in it, that she was proud that he was involved and that he was one to admire and his talent was unquestionable.
For my part, being a few years older than Michael, I of course knew of the Jackson 5 and one could hardly miss Thriller, Billie Jean and Bad. But other than his greatest hits, I have to admit I largely was unaware of Michael’s career and his impact on music and popular culture. Perhaps it was because his music came under the pop genre that I never paid much attention. Pop wasn’t to be taken seriously in my view, blues and rock and roll was where it was at.
At any rate, probably 99.9% of my becoming an MJ person had to do with the existence and access to computers and the internet. One day late in August 2010, browsing YouTube, which at the time, if it can be believed, I had no personal history with, a video of Michael’s was just one click away. Later I learned August was the anniversary of Michael’s birth which was perhaps why one of his music videos came up and not something else. A second click brought me to the 30th anniversary concert, Madison Square Gardens, NYC, 2001 at which Elizabeth Taylor introduced Michael as a great humanitarian.
If anyone in popular culture is going to get my attention, the aspects of their character that have to do with what they are giving back to the world is a huge draw. What was Taylor referring to? I was soon to find that the proceeds from entire tours had gone to charity and to the Heal the World Foundation, to learn of the visiting of children in hospitals and orphanages around the world and of the creation of Neverland, Michael’s home, and it being made welcoming as a retreat and outing for sick and/or underprivileged children.
Wanting to find out what MJ was like as a dancer and during live performance on tour, it wasn’t long before I came across the Live in Bucharest concert and then watched everything I could find featuring his moves. Later looking up Jackson 5 videos, it was evident the years spent honing his stage skills from early childhood on.
Michael Jackson the humanitarian, followed by Michael Jackson the dancer and yes eventually Michael Jackson the artist drew me in. I was to discover, that no matter which song Michael Jackson either wrote himself, was given or collaborated on, I liked them all. Unusual for me, as is more often the case, just one or two songs of a recording artist will grab me, not their entire catalogue. Early on I began to recognize the music of Michael Jackson reached far beyond just one genre. Just now, looking it up, I find it included soul, R&B, disco, funk, gospel, synthpop, hiphop, rock, New Jack swing, and adult contemporary.
I recall my research mushrooming in any number of directions simultaneously. I needed to know about it “all” and how it “all” started: the history of his childhood and family background; the influences he cited, which again led to weeks, months of researching anyone whom he had credited like Sam and Dave and of course James Brown; his years performing with his siblings and family and learning all about Motown and all the performers and groups, Michael’s musical contemporaries, coming out of Barry Gordy’s Hitsville, many of which songs were familiar to me as a child growing up in the 60’s with a radio clamped to my ear listening to an American station in the middle of the night.
Having always been a voracious reader with a wide range of reading interests; biography, autobiography and memoirs some of my favourite reading material, it was time to reread Moonwalk, although I found little of interest in 2010 otherwise. The library shelves were bare in comparison to other contemporary artists such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Elvis.
However, what an exquisite pleasure it was to find that Jackson had penned another book in the early ’90’s Dancing the Dream. He described the book as being “just a verbal expression of what I usually express through my music and my dance.” Just? It has been a few years since I borrowed the book, but I remember it as being a lyrical take on what truly inspired and moved Michael, including children, nature and the environment.
Back to the internet, I could find endless entertainment in the Jackson 5 performance years, leading me to set up another social media account on Twitter wanting to have some connection, however illusory, with people who had lived and breathed and worked with MJ, his brothers being all alive and right there a “tweet” away. Another Jackson family member, Katherine, was also of particular fascination for me. In MJ interviews I noted his chosen speaking voice. From whom did he learn to become so soft spoken and articulate? Perhaps they had drilled him at Motown or was Katherine’s example, his initial template to emulate?
And so it went. I was thrilled to catch the Cirque du Soleil – Michael Jackson The Immortal show in Vancouver in November 2011 and again in August 2012. I found it to be an exceptional opportunity to be able to see in action people who had once worked with Michael: Sugarfoot Moffet and Greg Phillinganes with the show creatively collaborated on by Jamie King, a former dancer on tour back in the day. (Those who have done their research are welcome to correct details.) A spectacular show with the live band, the acrobats, the dancers, the visuals, I felt MJ’s artistic integrity had been ensured by involving so many who had originally worked alongside Michael.
I thought that my journey as a Michael person would be a solitary one. After all, at the time, I lived north of the 60th parallel, in Whitehorse, Yukon so I thought it highly unlikely I would find anyone to share my obsession. However I was wrong. After leaving the Yukon, I received an email from my former boss, with “Michael Jackson” in the subject line. I thought my boss was teasing me, as he had caught me once in his office practicing The Drill.
I used to have a bit of fun at the bakery where I worked. On the front counter, rested a basket of white gloves which we used to take the freshly baked loaves of bread off the shelves. One day a new customer asked me what they were for. “Oh,” I offered, “we’re all Michael Jackson fans, stick around long enough and you might catch us breaking into Billie Jean.” For a moment I think she believed me.
The “Michael Jackson” email was to introduce me to Wendy, (for whom Whitehorse is home), who having found Michael was searching for others to relate to. Corresponding via email I felt that at least I was not entirely alone on the MJ path. After a near miss when Wendy and I were to meet at the Jackson family home in Gary, Indiana; we finally got it together (without benefit of working cell phones mind you 😉 ) and as is with friends who have met because of our MJ connection, I found our time all too short. I relish more get togethers to come in the future.
Several years ago it was Wendy who had introduced me to the In the Studio with MJ seminars offered world wide by one of MJ’s former sound engineers, Brad Sundberg. A story teller extraordinaire, he invites other artists who once worked in some capacity with Michael, in the studio to share their stories. I have thus far had the privilege of meeting the genius who is Brad Buxer, musical director on tour and collaborator with MJ ….yes I think it now well appreciated that Brad Buxer deserves great credit for the existence of Stranger in Moscow; and Michael Prince, the understated and self described “knob twister” in his working relationship with MJ.
For someone like me who would never have thought much about the anatomy of how a recording is made, and to hear the break down of a completed piece on the best studio equipment out there at near MJ decibels are experiences I never imagined to have. These workshops can be quite addictive and with content being switched up from time to time I’ve had more fun than a person should be allowed at two of these events, one in Boston, another in Toronto.
In Boston, I was able to thank Joe Vogel, the author of The Man in the Music, letting him know in my opinion the book should be available in every library. Speaking of books, Elizabeth Amisu’s The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson is on my to-read list. There is now considerably more literature, and yes, unfortunately still a lot of mediocre tabloid type material on library shelves. With just a bit of thoughtfulness, it is easy to find the gems to gain new insights into the legacy left by Michael. Then there is other media worth watching out for such as the never ending source of information that is The MJ Podcast. I look forward to continuous discourse of depth now beginning to emerge.
In 2018, I had the distinct privilege of meeting self described MJ devotees, Brenda, author and Siren, artist, who graciously and generously opened their hearts and homes to me and included me on their respective Michael paths intertwined beautifully one with the other. For them, Michael is a remarkable before and after, life altering, muse creating, all encompassing experience. They can tell it better and they have, through their art, books, charities, blogs, posts. If Michael’s oft stated “all for L O V E” were an embodiment, it would be in these two.
Interesting the intersection of our paths crossing was because of a tree planted by Brenda and Siren in Michael’s memory in Calgary, happening to also be old stomping grounds of mine from life times ago. When I contacted Brenda on line, I thought I was simply getting directions to Michael’s Love Tree with no expectation to actually meet. Having experienced much loss in the way of friends who I thought I would have for a lifetime, it is reassuring and gratifying to find that any new friends some of whom I will meet because of Michael will be for life.
The journey of life can sometimes take on a treacherous turn. On the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s birth in 2018, I was to discover a “Michael dream” I had in 2014 had powerfully much greater significance than the initial lighthearted interpretation. That being a happy premonition of a dear friend, Aija, and me making a journey to New York City before “knowing” anything about making the trip. While taking a break from the reason for being in NYC, being the People’s Climate March, at the time the largest climate change march in history held September 2014, we found ourselves sitting on a memorial bench dedicated to Michael Jackson at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The 2014 dream was to go several layers deeper when on August 29, 2018, Aija’s earth bound road came to a sudden end.
My new Michael friends, Brenda and Siren, saw me through the initial shock and remembering the dream, I was to feel and still do, “held up like the River Jordan”. If I can in some small part bring forward Aija’s care and love for her art, for others especially children, for her son and for the planet, (at the NYC march, Aija, began writing the lyrics for Our Climate Song), then I will be doing well. The lyrics to Aija’s song may be found at http://www.uncannyperceptions.com. It was her dream the song be sung at climate crisis rallies and marches. Having participated in many of these, obvious other choices which I have heard used are Jackson’s Earth Song or They Don’t Really Care About Us.
How or why a public figure’s life has enduring impact on one’s own is of interest to me and I was asked why, in my case, “Michael”. I identify with Michael and his journey, through my own and I have duly noted the many similarities, parallels and passions of our lives: our ancestors repeatedly geographically displaced, for Michael in both his African and native American roots; both from very large families, 10 and 9 respectively, one of whom passing at birth; both breaking away from a strict religious environment, while retaining what really mattered; both with fathers who raised children with the old adage of “spare the rod spoil the child”, being a girl in my family saved me; both starting to work at a very early age, Michael had a few years on my ten; both capable of being incredibly naive but still cerebrally sharp as tacks; both having lies, beliefs, and judgments made of us resulting in being turned upon and enduring through it all, because “lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons” and finally having a raison d’etre of giving back which in Michael’s capacity to dream big included, “healing the world starting with the children”.
When I found that one of Michael’s ancestors on his father’s side included a shaman of the Choctaw tribe, it was of great personal significance to me as I have no doubt of the power of what we bring forward on our DNA. Michael took on many roles in his life, and the case for Michael Jackson, the healer, is obvious. My own passions, specifically when it comes to ecological concerns tied in as they do with reconciliation with first nations peoples, evolved along side that of Michael’s who said, “Our goal is to change the world. To change world consciousness about children, the ecology and the planet, to make it a better place for everybody, starting with the children. ‘Cause that’s the future we live. And I’ll stick with it forever until it’s done.'”
Finding myself in 2019 once again reconnecting to the indigeneity (spelling?) in my own DNA it is comforting for me personally to realize that I am living the dreams and desires of my ancestors from seven generations ago and that these without a doubt in my mind are tied in with those of Michael’s ancestors. On the same theme, the ideals I dream about and those I presume may well have been dreamed by Michael (will have to get back to further research) will without a doubt come to fruition within seven generations… or as it seems perhaps much sooner.
Michael will always be “just another part of me“. Aside from his music sustaining me through a heavy turn, MJ has been a reminder to also keep the journey light, impish and carefree. Recently a psychic, who knows nothing of my Michael interest, informed me I have a helper from the other side who is a prankster and loves making jokes. “Does that make sense? He wants you to lighten up.” I laughed out loud. Again on the more serious side, Michael reminds me, through the Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard memorable song Man in the Mirror to “make that change” whenever possible while at the same time to just allow for that sheer escapism that Michael often talked about wanting to provide through his artistry.
Someone recently said to me, we are so tremendously lucky to have lived at the time of the music scene of the last half of the last century. So I am always happy to celebrate that my happening to be around when Michael happened to be around just so happened to coincide. Right now I am celebrating another musical legend and whom I like to imagine was a friend to Michael when their artistic lives crossed, “Freddie Mercury” through the bio-pic Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s a whole other story.
Oh and by the way, for my own journey, I once “asked” to be spared boredom. In becoming a “Michael Jackson Person” I can be assured it will NEVER be boring. ;))
I shall quote Desiderata in full. I had it on my bedroom wall in high school.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Soak black beans overnight. In the morning rinse well and allow to begin to sprout over two days or so, rinsing regularly. Cook until just tender.
When ready to bake, add molasses, dried hot pepper, dried pear or apple, garlic, onion, kernel corn, kelp or other favourite seaweed, tomatoes, salt, dried mustard (amounts to your taste). Bake in a slow oven (300 F) for about 4/5 hours.
We are having this tonight with baked potatoes, brussel sprouts, garden salad with house dressing, pickled beets and sour cream. Loreena McKennitt’s The Mask and the Mirror for accompaniment .