cenote-hubiku-mexico

16 Things About Pixar’s “Coco”, Mexico, and Death

We took the kids to see Coco on the weekend – just as much for us as for them. Here are some notes (avoiding  spoilers, don’t worry).

coco-movie-miguel-dante

  1. We all loved it. Even with the high expectations I always have going into Disney/Pixar movies these days, they still impress. They are consistently worthy of the big screen, too.
  2. It’s not scary, in case you’re wondering about taking your kids. There’s the one moment when you’re like “Yikes! Lots of skulls!” and then everyone quickly gets used to the dead folks and it’s all cool.
  3. I had somehow managed not to know anything about this movie until a week or so ago, when I heard Anthony Gonzalez (who plays the 12-year-old protagonist, Miguel) in a CBC interview on Q. He’s (recently turned) thirteen, and just seems like the most earnest little cutie you’d like to hear on the radio. Sings like a wee Mariachi angel. (Even when crying, which is quite an accomplishment.) Aware of his talent but not obnoxiously so – and full of gratitude for the success he’s had. He began the audition process when he was nine years old, so he’s obviously learned something about patience and determination, too.
  4. Coco was released first in Mexico, and in time for Día de los Muertos. Appropriately.
  5. The movie is voiced by an all-Latino cast, and they do their own singing. Did you know that Benjamin Bratt can sing? I did not (I actually didn’t even know he was Latino, having not seen him in much), but was happy to find out.
  6. Imagery, imagery, oh-so-fantastic imagery. I have always loved the way Disney and Pixar go ALL IN with the beautiful details of cultural artistry. Land of the Dead? WOW. Obviously a ton of thought put into the visual feel of… everything.
  7. I adore listening to even the little snippets of Spanish in this movie. Makes me wish I had someone to practice my Spanish with. And I was thrilled to realize that the soundtrack (as streamed on Apple Music, anyway) has all the songs as sung in the English version, followed by ALL the Spanish versions!! YAY!
  8. The singers in the Spanish soundtrack for Coco are different, except for Gael García Bernal (who plays Héctor). This version’s Miguel is played by Luís Ángel Gómez Jaramillo. His voice is just as sweet (and stunningly similar) – and he also happens to be adorable.
  9. On that note (ha), the music is great. Exhilarating, actually. (Tons of thought and research put into this too.) As a person who deliberately finds Latin music to listen to when I need some musical/mental sunshine therapy, I relished every song. The kids loved them too and have been singing them at home. A child’s off-key-yet-earnest warbling of “Our love for each other will live on forever!!” is rather charming. (See below for AB’s renditions.)
  10. The big song, “Remember Me”, was written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – who also wrote “Let it Go” and other faves from Frozen. So you can imagine. (Other songs are by Germaine Franco and Adrian Molina and are wonderful also.)
  11. The one song that is sung only in Spanish is “La Llorona” (“The Weeping Woman”), a Mexican folk song about “the ghost of a woman who lost her children and now cries while looking for them in the river, often causing misfortune to those who are near or hear her” (according to Wikipedia). This song is like Cohen’s Hallelujah – it has one jillion verses so anyone singing it has to just pick a few.
  12. As usual with Disney/Pixar, I cried watching this movie. A couple of times. You’ll know which moments if you see the movie. I sit there thinking Seriously, Pixar?? YOU ARE DELIBERATELY DOING THIS TO MAKE ME CRY. LOOK AT THOSE TINY HANDS. But I still love it. Being moved to tears is something a soul needs every so often. And Pixar is great at grabbing themes that speak to so many of us: loss of loved ones, sorrow of parting, difficulties of aging, passion for art, and the highs and lows of being part of a family.
  13. I really appreciate the apparent facility of this movie in talking about death. Whatever one may personally believe about the afterlife and whatnot, it makes total sense to me for death to be seen as the part of life that it is. Not something to shield the kids from. Not something to fear, although we take the sadness into account and share it. It’s just the way things are.
  14. I’ve never celebrated el Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, November 1st), but I wish we did. (Maybe we could? I do know some gringos who do…) What a great concept, setting aside a day to think about our loved ones who have died, and to feel the connection that is still there – simply through love and memories.
  15. I don’t know whether this movie includes any deliberate in-your-face defiance in terms of Mexico and its people/language/music/beauty/cultural significance, etc. versus those particular “pro-wall” Americans… but I sure felt it. As the movie ends (with the song “Proud Corazón”, a statement in itself), it’s all “Annnnnd Mexican awesomeness FTW.” *mic drop* (Or possibly *guitar drop*.)
  16. If it sounds like I’m gushing about Coco, so be it. It’s my prerogative to be childishly exuberant and uncritical on my own blog every once in a while, right?

coco-movie-land-dead-muertos

***


 

P.S. Just for interest, in case you don’t already know, I wanted to mention the big watery underground hole with the natural skylight that Miguel ends up in at one point in the movie; it’s called a cenote. It’s a natural sinkhole that forms when limestone bedrock collapses underground. I gave Sean a nudge when we saw it – we got to go into one in Mexico once. They’re tourist attractions, as you can see by the photo below. (Surrounded by tiny children who will eagerly sell you picture postcards of them.)

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5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 4: Music

In my bakery-café of the 5-Day (plus an intervening month) Artist Challenge, how to metaphorize music? How can I possibly convey, bread-wise, what music means to me? The truth is, I can’t. But I’m going to use some more it’s-my-blog leeway and say: it’s COOKIES.

Some cookies need lots of practice and training to make. Some cookies you can just whip up on instinct. Some are stunningly intricate, some are satisfyingly simple. Some you’ll make over and over again, and they never fail to comfort. Some cookies are so sublime, you have to drop what you’re doing and close your eyes to enjoy them properly.

Mozart cookie: lovely and mathematically precise.

Christmas_Viennese (1)
Classic Viennese cookies via andrewingredients.co.uk.

Debussy cookie: sophisticated, with deceptive lightness.

Colorful macaroons
French macarons via bonepi.com.

Miles Davis cookie: smooth, sweet-salty, and ultra-cool.

Double-Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Salted-Swirl-Ice-Cream-Sandwiches-glitterinc.com_
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich cookie via glitterinc.com.

Gordon Lightfoot cookie: deliciously chewy and sturdy, with lots of traditional ingredients.

Cinnamon-Oatmeal-Raisin-Cookies.ashx_
Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin cookie via recipeshubs.com.

Rage Against the Machine cookie: hard-core, with principles.

badass cookie music
Vegan Power cookie via chicvegan.com.

Justin Bieber cookie.

golden oreos
Golden Oreos via thecolorless.net.

Now that you’d rather be eating cookies, let’s get back to Music. At this juncture, I’ll admit that cookies still don’t fully express what I want them to, because I could FAR more easily live without cookies than live without music.

In utero, I was already learning to depend on melody and harmony; as my mom sang with her Renaissance choir, I frolicked along.

During my childhood, we listened to music in our house all the time – from Sandra Beech and Raffi to Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins to Brahms and Prokofiev to Bruce Cockburn and John Fahey to the Beatles and Jethro Tull. We often attended the symphony and the opera as a family in those days, too. We would take turns staring at the performers from the second balcony, using binoculars.

Music was always full of images and emotion for me, even when I was quite little. We often listened to music to fall asleep, and certain pieces moved me so much, I felt bereft when they ended. I can remember a long pre-teen afternoon spent nerding out with my little sister, writing interpretive poems based on Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring; it was so beautiful it had to be poemed.

As for my musical training, it’s been a bit spotty. I sang a lot, from toddlerhood on (we have audio footage of my Raffi covers). I cheated through about three years of piano lessons from my mom; I could play well enough by ear that I didn’t need to read the music – until it got too hard, and by then I was rather behind in my music-reading abilities. After that, I mostly contented myself with making up pieces to play, so that I could forego the reading of music. (Well, not completely – I did also learn the soprano recorder.)

In high school music class, I learned to read music for flute and piccolo, and eventually alto saxophone. I love love loved being in the Concert and Jazz bands, playing in big, thrilling ensembles. Making awesome music with a large group of humanity… it’s a rush I wish everyone could experience.

In my teen years, I began making mix tapes (back when they were actually tapes) that would later by replaced by playlists, collecting songs I loved and cherishing them like shiny shells. I also fell in love with a whole bunch of musicals. The significance music takes on when you’re a teenager in the midst of your identity quest (plus lots of hormones)… it’s just EPIC.

First live rock concert, just for reference, was the Grapes of Wrath at the Hamilton Tivoli in 1992, with my best childhood friend Natalie. We were 14.

Since high school, I’ve fit music-making into my life here and there – choir and concert band at the University of Toronto, a women’s choir for a few years here at home, and in recent years, my ukulele, and Massed Choir for one week a year at OELC. When I have a compelling enough reason, I open up GarageBand or a score-writer and make a record of music that’s been in my head, waiting to get out.

I still use music constantly. It’s therapy, energy boost, relaxer, comfort, distraction, focus aid, pick-me-up… you name it. Music helps me celebrate when there’s joy, and process and heal when there’s pain. I do not know how I’d live without it.

Furthermore, I think we all need it, on a fundamental level. Like, as a species. Why else would we have vocalized and pounded out rhythms together, since forever, in all the corners of the world we occupy? In this way, music is almost more like water than bread, transcending political boundaries, flowing through us, connecting us, keeping our souls quenched. You know??

Yep. That’s what music does. Makes me wax friggin’ lyrical.

What music keeps you alive?

***


 




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Dilovely’s Playlist: 30 Summer-Sunshiny Beat-the-Winter-Blues Songs

It’s the first day of spring! Maybe if we talk about warm weather, it will happen.

800px-Aracaceae_under_the_sunlight

When I was a teenager, I made a mix tape every summer. This was back in the days when there was no hipster definition of the term “mixtape”; when mixes were made on actual cassette tapes, and the process involved piles of tapes, painstaking rewinding and forwarding to find songs, hovering in readiness to stop at the right moment, and deciding whether the convenience of high-speed dubbing was worth the loss in quality.

By gum, kids making mixes these days don’t know how good they have it.

To me, a summer mix is a sacred thing. It needs songs that are true anthems of summer, but it also needs songs that are just good, classic, solid songs to sing along to – preferably ones that evoke, with their vocals and/or instrumentation, sun/sand/porches/patios/hammocks/dappled shade.

Right now, here in Southern Ontario, we’ve had some tantalizingly mild days, but the cold keeps coming back. Meanwhile, on the East Coast of Canada, they just keep getting more snow to decorate the 40 cm they got a few days ago. And now the Northeastern States are expecting Winter Storm Ultima for spring, just to remind them who’s boss (i.e., not the calendar). Sigh.

This is for all the folks who are finding that winter just won’t quit. I’m posting it with all the warm, sunny vibes I can muster.

1. Here For A Good Time, by Trooper (1977). It’s danceable, singable, air-drummable, and frankly just captures the whole essence of summer: you know it will be gone in a blink, so make the most of it.

2. The Tide Is High, by Blondie (1980). I love the sunny brass and the steel drums in this one – not to mention the sweet vintage video – although the original by the Paragons is great too.

3. Good Vibrations, by the Beach Boys (1966). I know, it’s not a surfing song. Sadly, I’m not a California Girl and I don’t live anywhere near the ocean. But we all can relate to good vibrations, while enjoying the surfy sound of the BBoys.

4. Stir It Up, by Bob Marley (1973). Practically any Marley song could work here, since they’re all so mellow and sunny, but I’m partial to this one.

5. Sunny Days, by Lighthouse (1972). It’s so fun and quaint, and yet I love the line, “Ain’t nothin’ better in the world, you know, than lyin’ in the sun with your radio…” Even in our screen-obsessed age, it’s still true. Simple and awesome.

6. Me Enamoré, by Chichi Peralta (1998). You can’t help but dance to this li’l song about falling in love (like never before), and the exuberant Latin sound conjures palm trees and margaritas. (In my mind. I wish it could actually conjure them.)

7. This Is The Right Time, by the Corrs (1995). They speak true – sometimes the sunshine in your window is the perfect catalyst for creativity. Be in the zone.

8. Jack & Diane, by John Mellencamp (1982). It may just a little ditty, but the word “classic” doesn’t even do it justice. (I happened to have this one on my summer mix in 1994, the year I could sing “Hold onto sixteen as long as you can” with especial fervency.)

9. Summer in the City, by the Lovin’ Spoonful (1966). When I was a kid, my sisters and best friend and I produced a “Sounds of the 60s” singin’-and-dancin’ spectacle for our families and neighbours, based on – what else? – a cassette tape of 60s pop masterpieces. I have loved this song ever since.

10. Walls Fall Down, by Bedouin Sound Clash (2007). As mentioned above, NSS/SV: not strictly a “summer” song, but a summery vibe. And a good message.

11. Saturday In The Park, by Chicago (1973). So many images, you feel like you’re there with the ice cream. Yes, we can dig it.

12. Brown-Eyed Girl, by Van Morrison (1967). Green grass, waterfalls, sunlight, laughing, running, skipping… Perfect. (Kinda made me wish I had brown eyes, back in the day.)

13. Le baiser, by Alain Souchon (1999). This song is actually about a mysterious (kissing) encounter with a stranger on a beach in winter, but to me it sounds like summer. Mostly the guitar, but also because it talks about Dunkerque and Malo Bray-Dunes, which is where I lived in France, and I got to know the song when my time there was almost over, just starting to break into warmth. The lyrics are pure poetry.

14. Groovin’, by The Young Rascals (1967). Could there be a more quintessential hot-lazy-days sound than this?

15. Simple Pleasures, by David Myles (2011). Love this guy (whom I happen to have seen in concert). He knows what’s important in life.

16. Ukulelove, by Dilovely (2014). Whoops, did I just stick that in there with all these other legit songs? Why yes, yes I did. Mostly because the Hawaii pictures can’t help but cheer you up if you have the winter blues. *insert winky face.*

17. Red Red Wine, by UB40 (1983). Sad song, happy groove. There are other UB40 songs I like more, but this one gets people singing the most.

18. Hot Fun in the Summertime, by Sly & The Family Stone (1969). It speaks for itself.

19. Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974). Again, NSS/SV – especially if you’ve seen Jenny and Forrest dancing to it in Forrest Gump (and if you haven’t, wha??). This song’s iconic guitar riff is one of only two things I’ve ever learned on the guitar. And if you’re interested, the politics of the lyrics are more complex than they seem.

20. Jump In The Line, by Harry Belafonte (1961). Gotta have some calypso on the list, and no one compares with the legendary Harry. I loved this song as a kid, back when I had no idea of Belafonte’s varied and inspiring activism. (Also, did you know it was originally composed by Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Kitchener? Thanks, Wikipedia.)

21. Summer of ’69, by Bryan Adams (1984). Because naturally, this list would not be complete without it. Plus, it explicitly mentions the porch.

22. Beast of Burden, by The Rolling Stones (1978). NSS/SV. Sooo mellow and… dare I say, grassy?

23. In The Summertime, by Mungo Jerry (1970). Not politically correct, per se, but so sincere at the time. Plus, jug solo.

24. Long Time Running, by The Tragically Hip (1991). NSS/SV. It doesn’t get more laid-back than this. And the “long, long, long time coming” bit seems to go poetically with summer, for many of us.

25. Montego Bay, by Amazulu (1986). Sounds like paradise – except I’d be more vigilant with the sunscreen, myself. Original by Bobby Bloom is good too.

26. Dela, by Johnny Clegg & Savuka (1989). NSS/SV, simply one of the best songs ever. (Only now am I finding out from YouTube that it was in George of the Jungle… huh. Not sure I’m down with that.)

27. Here Comes The Sun, by the Beatles (1969). Even if you can’t see it yet, the sun is coming. It’s all right.

28. Under African Skies, by Paul Simon (1986). NSS/SV. Just a gorgeous, twinkly-starry song, with “the powerful pulsing of love in the veins.”

29. Reggae Night, by Jimmy Cliff (1984). At the end of a long summer day, the ground is stays warm and it’s time to dance with all your friends. And if you’re wondering, all your friends are in this song, singing along.

30. Sleep Walk, by Santo & Johnny (1959). Finally, it’s time to get into your hammock on the beach, and nod off to the sound of the waves.

How do you feel now? Sunny and happy??

Just in case you need a little extra, here’s one for the kiddies:

And a sizzling hot number for the symphonic music-lovers:

And that should do it. YOU’RE WELCOME. Happy spring!

***


 

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Sometimes it’s hard to find words.

Dear Sebastian,

I hope you enjoyed the music yesterday. I loved listening, and feeling so close to you.

The three women whose voices delivered our lullaby were singing with you in their hearts, thanks to the initiative of my dear friend C, who loves the song and felt that it should be shared in person.

I haven’t been to a traditional Sunday morning church service very many times in my life – it felt a little funny to gather with a congregation that is not Quaker, and not in silence.

But it was really nice to be there, sincerely welcomed by strangers with smiles, hearing about the people that the community is presently holding in the Light (they didn’t use those words exactly, but I knew what they meant), following along with the hymns, watching the music director’s exuberant piano-playing, listening to the reverend speak about love and what an important part it is of each of us.

And when our song was sung, the notes soared sublimely up to the vaulted ceiling, and it was lovely to be gazing at the candle flames, the flowers, the jewel-coloured windows, and the most beautiful organ pipes I’d ever seen. Of course, I was crying too.

It is hard to describe what was going on in my head and heart.

It was exciting to be announced as “the composer” of the piece – I almost felt like the genuine article… And it was incredible to be given the gift of finally hearing the song I made for your first birthday, live and real, for the first time ever, sung by people who care about your story.

Most of all, it meant the world to feel close to you.

The truth is, I missed you so much over the holidays this year. I thought of you often, and wore your necklace every day, but mostly – I’m so sorry – I tried not to think about you. Usually I welcome the connection I feel when I think of you, even though it’s sad for me. But this time, for some reason, the grief felt harder, chilling. When we put your special ornaments on the tree, I had a taste of the dark kind of sadness that reminds me of cold baby graves with teddy bears beside them, and devastating family tragedies that blacken December. I did my best to steer clear of those thoughts.

But in a big room filled with beauty and sunlight, listening to our music, I was okay. We were okay.

And somehow, the singers wanted to thank me for the song. I couldn’t remotely find the proper words to thank them.

Even though part of me would have liked for everyone who loves you to have heard the music yesterday, it was easier that only a few people present knew your story. C’s mom gave me a big, bolstering hug (which I really needed) when the song ended, but the general audience had no reason to wonder how I was taking the experience, thank goodness. Many of them told me afterward that they enjoyed the song, and that was all I wanted.

After the service (and lots of hugs, and a few more tears on my part), the three singers took the song to the hospital with them, to say goodbye to a dear friend who won’t be with them much longer. They had asked permission, which I gladly gave; that was when I fully realized that this lullaby has always been meant to be a comfort to both the listener and the singer. It’s just that, until now, the only singer had been me.

What a blessing, this experience.

I still can’t come up with all the words I need right now. I’ll just remind you that I love you and I miss you. As always, I am glad that you are part of my heart. I wish I could kiss your little cheeks.

***

To listen to the original lullaby, please click here.


 

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BANG Music Review: James Hill – The Old Silo

 

the old silo james hill

Y’all already know I’m an ardent fledgling ukulelist and, as such, a James Hill fan. (Actually, I was a James Hill fan first.) Therefore, I need to tell you that his new album, The Old Silo, was released on Tuesday. Even better, you can stream it live, RIGHT NOW, at jameshillmusic.com.

As it happens, I have already had my signed copy of this album for a few weeks, as co-crowdfunder of its production (if I sound smug and boasty about it – yes, I totally am), so I’ve had lots of time to listen to it and ponder it.

If you’re familiar with James’s other original albums, you will find this one different. From the first chord, it’s harder and rockier. The uke is still in the forefront, but for the most part not the shimmery, folksy acoustic sound. Not exactly the same sound I fell in love with, but so much fun. (A few songs feature the baritone ukulele, whose sound I did not even recognize as a uke at first.)

Also, Sean and I agreed – there is a certain Plaskettesque quality to the sound. Joel Plaskett, famous Canadian rock sailor (whom Sean and I also enjoy), produced the album and performed in seven of the eleven songs, and although the songs are James’s, the influence is audible. (I mean… it is if you know it’s there.)

Here’s what I love about the album as a whole: it has this epic, image-rich, brimming-with-history feel to it. Listening to the whole thing in order, to me, is like watching a movie – my imagination runs away with me and there’s so much drama.

You’ll notice on the album cover, above, that there’s an hommage to American Gothic going on.

american gothic

Right? Not just me?

So, in my mind, The Old Silo is flashbacks and alternate realities that this couple might have experienced. Did you ever look at this picture and wonder what it was like when these two fell in love? What they looked like when they were young? What would have happened if they hadn’t found each other? What secrets of their past they kept from each other? What their sex life is like? What will happen when one of them dies?

It’s all here, guys. I’ve completely lost count of how many times I’ve listened to The Old Silo straight through, and I can’t get tired of it.

A few other notes:

  • A silo up close looks like a giant fretboard, what?! Effing brilliant.
  • Several songs sounded similar to each other the first time I heard them, and sort of overlapped in my head. The more I listen, the less alike they sound.
  • I finally looked at the lyrics for the first song, “New Moon”, after I’d been singing along for a couple weeks. It’s “My faithful Datsun Bluebird”, but I’d been hearing “dachsund“. It never occurred to me I had it wrong, but actually Datsun makes a lot more sense in the context.
  • The entire album is very singable. And danceable.
  • The one we like to sing most in our house is “The Village Belle” – it’s such a foot-stomper. One of those Stan Rogers-ish songs that sounds like it must have existed for over a century already. LOVE IT.
  • (Also, E asked what “village belle” means, and I told him it’s the prettiest girl in town. He thought about it and said, “Mummy, you’re the village belle. Actually, you’re the galaxy belle.” He often speaks galactically. Oh little-boy mama-bias, I cherish you.)
  • E’s fave is “She’s Still Got It”, which makes me giggle. Since, you know, he’s five, and it will be at least a few years before he figures out that it’s about sex. Between elderly folk. 😉
  • There are no purely instrumental songs on this album, which surprised me a little. But there are a couple of delicate, quiet ones that might just break your heart.
  • As in Man With A Love Song, there are lyrics that make you shake your head because they’re so astute, not to mention neatly-rhymed. (“Are you with old money or the nouveau riche? Did they put you on a throne, or on a leash?”)
  • The song that has grown on me the most is called “Tie One On” – and it’s actually about the old silo. It didn’t particularly grab me the first time I heard it, but I like it more with every listen. Mysterious, haunting, bitter, raucous enough to hint at violence in the backstory. Because there’s definitely a grand backstory, if I only knew what it was.

So, to sum up:

If you didn’t already do this at the beginning of this post, go on over to jameshillmusic.com and take a listen. The worst (and best) thing that could happen is you’ll become obsessed.

***


 

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Remembering What We’re Built To Do

sunshine through the trees
Image from http://www.ForestWander.com

When I was 18, a boy at Camp wrote a poem for me. Although I didn’t requite his crush, I still consider his poem one of the most romantic things I’ve ever received, because of its candour. The second line was “She’s just like sunshine through the trees,” and to this day I still feel kinda thrilled about that. Sunshine through the trees is one of my favourite things in the whole world.

A while back, I heard on CBC about a study showing that spending time in green space improves our mental health. Apparently, being in the presence of leafy trees actually makes us happier.

I think most of us can vouch for this. At the end of a long, white winter, I’m sure I am not alone in feeling an almost physical thirst for those luscious green leaves. It’s nice to get this confirmation: we are built to feel that way.

Family Camp at NeeKauNis last month was full of reminders of the things we are built to do and enjoy.

Here we are, in the age of modern medicine, where Westerners rarely worry about diseases that used to kill us in great numbers – smallpox and tuberculosis, for example – and we’ve handily encouraged a phalanx of new maladies all by ourselves.

We eat packaged food so far removed from its sources that we don’t even recognize the ingredients; then we wonder why we have troubles with our various organs and our energy levels.

We’ve surrounded ourselves with harmful chemicals in our food, clothes, grass, household products, and everything plastic; then we are devastated when opportunistic cancers have a field day.

We spend hours a day sitting, hunched over some screen or other, often sacrificing sleep for addictive overstimulation; then we realize – too late, sometimes – that our heart or lungs or joints or brains don’t work properly anymore.

We live in our container-homes, put in our earbuds so no live people can distract us, and avoid eye contact with the humans who serve us coffee or check out our groceries; then we shake our heads at the rise of prescription anti-depressant use.

I’m not speaking in self-righteousness. I do most of these things too. I’m not condemning modern medicine either, or technology in general. I really appreciate the benefits of ultra-portable computers, affordable antibiotics, high-speed transportation, laparoscopic surgery, and the wondrous capacity of the internet. I like Cheetos and Toaster Strudel, I watch TV on Netflix, I love Facebook, and as I’ve mentioned, I am very grateful for the existence of prescription anti-depressants.

But when I’m in a restaurant and see a family of four at the next table, not speaking, each absorbed in a separate hand-held device, my husband and I look at each other and quietly vow: That will never be us.

And at Family Camp, I remember that when those contemporary facets of life drop away for a few days, it does good to every layer of our selves.

It helps that there are children of all ages there. They’re all over the things that humans are meant to do. Just watching and listening to them is therapy.

built for 3

Children run and jump and climb and slide. They laugh their heads off, and cry hard when they need to. They sing and dance with joy. They build and knock down. They splash and spin. They scrunch their fingers and toes in the sand. They get dirty with real dirt. They want stories, hugs, their own little space, and their own accomplishments.

I want those things, too.

When I think about what really, actually makes me feel good, it’s mostly simple things. The things I’m built to do. The same things humans have been doing for centuries – or longer.

Dancing until I am out of breath.

Cooking for someone I love.

Making art.

Getting lost in a great book.

built for 2

Sitting in dappled shade. (Sunshine through the trees.)

Hugging.

Plunging into cool water on a hot day.

built for 4

Sipping a hot drink on a cold day.

Listening to music I love – or better yet, making some.

Hearing breezes, birds, crickets, rivers, waves.

Writing.

Looking closely at something beautiful.

built for 6

Reading to my kids.

Going to bed when I’m really tired.

built for 5

Walking in fresh air.

Laughing.

Eating something truly delicious.

built for 1

Sharing thoughts and feelings with a friend.

Doing a job well.

Having an adventure.

I know, they read like clichés, worthy of a curlicued garden tile. But there are reasons the inspirational-message market is so successful. Mostly, it’s because

1) It really IS good for us to dance as if nobody’s watching, sing like nobody’s listening, etc., because we’re built to.

And

2) We busy humans are remarkably good at forgetting the value of those seemingly easy things.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the thousand little jobs you have to do on a daily basis. I could easily spend all of every day doing small, necessary, basically mindless tasks. Which is not satisfying at all.

For me, I know, I need to think of those good-for-my-soul things as medicine. Taking my medicine is my responsibility, something I must do for my health. And in order to take it, I have to notice it. I have to be truly mindful and present.

That way, any time I can grab a bit of dappled shade or kid snuggles or good conversation, they will heal what ails me.

What precious things are you built to do?

***


 

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cenote-hubiku-mexico

Ukulelove, for the winter blahs.

Okay, lovely Di-hards, here it is – the antidote.

In all honesty, I love winter. (Mostly.) So if I’m feeling blue, as if this particular winter may never end, I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same way. Especially if you, like me, are not going anywhere tropical or even remotely warm this March break.

Today, the temperature is up to almost freezing – relatively balmy – AND it’s my Hubbibi’s birthday! (I love you, Sean. xoxoxo) Birds are singing – the hardy ones – and hope is in the air.

SO, I decided to send you all a silly little song to help lift some winter blahs, like a sun-kissed virtual hug. It features:

  • my beautiful ukulele
  • my neophyte ukulele-playing skills
  • a little word-nerdery
  • a repetitive refrain so you can sing too! And best of all,
  • gorgeous photos of Hawaiian scenery. So you can pretend you’re there.

That should do the trick. Right? Oh, and maybe take some Vitamin D as well, to complete the illusion.

And just so you know… This performance of “Ukulelove” is dedicated to all the ukulele-learners out there, especially my inspiring musical friends Wild Wes, StarGirl, Ozfire, and their sunny mama. xoxo

And now for the credits:

  • Music and lyrics are copyright D.C.S. Stephens (aka Dilovely), 2014.
  • Vocals, ukulele, and body percussion also by Dilovely. Oh, and whistling. Recorded using GarageBand for Mac.
  • All those breathtaking tropical photos are courtesy of my wonderful cousin Q and her also wonderful new husband, who honeymooned in Hawaii last fall.
  • All those beautiful scenes with penguins in them are movie stills from Dreamworks’s Surf’s Up.
  • Other movie stills/posters are from (in order): Blue Hawaii (starring Elvis Presley), 50 First Dates, Hotel Transylvania, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Me and Orson Welles, Lilo and Stitch, Her, Some Like It Hot, and The Princess and the Frog.
  • Right near the end, there’s a photo (by Merna Ryan) of my uke hero, James Hill, and cellist/accompanist/artist/wife Anne Janelle. Because obviously.
  • Photos of koa tree and artisanal toffee from Wikimedia commons.
  • That’s me playing with my head cut off because I don’t love videos of myself, but wanted to show you that I can indeed change chords, for real. Lucky for you, I put on pretty nail wraps (from Jamberry) and a lap blanket (crocheted by my mom) to hide spruce up my yoga pants.

AND, here are the lyrics, in case you are wondering.

This is my Lady, hear her strings a-singin’
She sounds like ocean breezes and skirts of grass a-swingin’.

(Refrain) I love to play my uku-uku-le-le-le,
Ukulele let’s go play.

Her lovely shape is round like a pineapple,
She’s got a sunny sound that’s indefinable.

(Refrain)

She’s made of special wood from a tree called the Koa,
Her shiny toffee colour is beautiful, for shoa. (told you I was nerdy)

(Refrain)

Her case has a pocket, a flap, a strap, a door-hinge
a zipper, and the colour’s a happy dapper orange. (oh yes she did)

(Refrain)

I L-O-V-E my U-K-U-L-E-L-E
with an A7, D major, C sharp augmented, E7

(Refrain)

The best part, from my ukudelic point of view
Is when I get to strum and sing and play with YOU!

I love to play my uku-uku-le-le-le,
Ukulele let’s go (ukulele let’s go) ukulele let’s go play!

***


 

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