Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

Singing through the storms

Here we go again. A major US Supreme Court decision that threatens to decimate democracy gets made a few days before the Fourth of July—our US celebration of freedom and independence.

I have no words. My stomach is roiling. Which helps neither me nor the world. I can’t turn to pundits or soothsayers for wisdom—the future is unpredictable and fraught with challenges.

Instead, I turn back to song.

The morning after the 2016 Presidential elections, I could barely move. I crawled into a fetal position and rocked back and forth on my bed until I finally got up, drank tea, and trundled off to my cabin to sit quietly and search for words of wisdom and solace on the Internet. I turned to a favorite source, author Parker Palmer, and discovered his colleague Carrie Newcomer’s song: You Can Do This Hard Thing.” Listening (I put it on repeat) opened up a torrent of emotion, and I sobbed my way back to sanity—a place where I could still write about life and keep going.

Music has the power to move us, sustain us, and remind us who we are.

This week, I turned to another female Midwest singer: Iris Dement, a country/folk/gospel-inspired singer whose clear voice and potent lyrics were just what I needed. I first met her music through my sister, who loved Iris’s song “Let the Mystery Be”—a kind of secular hymn to not knowing what lies ahead.

Photo by Dasha Brown

Iris came out of the Pentecostal Church (she left) and now lives in Iowa. She moved beyond the binary (good/evil) dogma of her church but still asks the big questions about how to live a life that makes the world better. She pulls no punches when it comes to speaking out against social injustices and the current abuses of power by people in high places.

Iris sings truth with a twang and a toe-tapping beat that makes her music easy to hear and hard to forget.

Her songs reinforce the mantra of some of the world’s powerful social change activists like Martin Luther King and John Lewis: Hold the course over the long-haul and don’t give up.

Iris reminds me to keep “workin’ on a world we may never see”—grateful for those who came before and those who will come after.

And here’s a fun, honkey-tonk-like challenge to guns and blatant abuses of power.

In the wake of this week’s disastrous decision, I’m turning back to music—music that has helped humanity through dark places.

Music that has provided the background soundtrack to different fights for justice.

Keep the faith.

And if you’re on Vashon Island July 18th, listen to Iris sing at the Vashon Center for the Arts.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Sally and thank you for Iris’s song. I’ve saved it and will share it (and some of your blog) with my High Watch friends. We all must remember the generations that are not yet born and include them in our work. Whew! Love you dear friend! Keep writing!!!! If you would like to attend a drawing class now and then, you are always welcome!

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