Sunday, January 07, 2007

An artist to admire

Yesterday as I perused my hotmail inbox, I came across an update from Quinlan Road, the community and website of Loreena Mckennitt. My children were asleep and most of my quiet, during-naptime household duties were complete, so I settled in with a steaming mug of "women's liberty" herbal tea and caught up on an old friend. Now, it's only in my dreams that I know Loreena as a friend, but somehow the way she writes and the music she records draws me into a sacred space around her where I feel like I am on a leisurely walk with her, along the celtic countryside.

I was introduced to her music during my first year of highschool. My good friend Jason lived on his own in an old fixer-upper in the downtown district of Tucson. His parents owned the house but agreed to let him live rent free in exchange for his help with renovations and his willingness to take on at least two roommates.

One of his roommates was a girl into goth-style everything who listened to Nine Inch Nails REALLY loudly, chose to paint her room black and covered her windows in tin foil to eradicate the chance of natural light gleaming its way in.

His other roommate was a stocky, gangster-looking African American guy named Lindsey. The name didn't fit his appearance and neither did his taste in music. I expected heavy hip-hop and rap beats to pound from behind his door. But one day while I was waiting for Jason to get home, Lindsey and I hung out and I discovered that the top shelf of his CD collection was filled with Loreena Mckennit albums. She was his favorite artist. He suddenly came alive as he noticed my interest and he began to play me his favorite songs. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of her music and began a small collection of my own.

I admire Loreena Mckennit for many reasons. She is a deeply compassionate and open individual with an insatiable interest and curiosity in cultural roots and traditions. She has traveled widely and has loyal friends around the globe. Each album has been for her both a physical and spiritual journey into a vast array of cultures, textures of food, and nuances of sound. She reads a great deal for each album and processes her experience through the hovering luxuriousness of her harp-playing and the brave passion of her voice. Recording is a global journey as she revisits each country in her mind and generously draws the listener to travel alongside her.

Loreena grew up in rural Manitoba and is most "comfortable on a farm, or in an informal gathering of friends." She is involved environmentally and politically and makes a point to stay connected to her community. In her personal write-up, she writes, "Each spring, I carve out time to plant my garden in order to keep some remnants of an intimate relationship with food, the land and the seasons and every autumn, I set aside time to celebrate the harvest at Thanksgiving." Integration and groundedness is important to her.

She has a list of "compass points" that she revisits often during times of decision or redirection. And over the years, I myself have revisited these principles and have felt encouraged to live more honestly and abundantly alongside them.

**Be compassionate and never forget how to love.
**Think inclusively.
**Reclaim noble values such as truth, honesty, honour, courage.
**Respect one's elders and look to what they have to teach you.
**Be empathetic.
**Look after the less fortunate in society.
**Promote and protect diversity.
**Respect the gifts of the natural world.
**Set your goals high and take pride in what you do.
**Cherish and look after your body, and, as the ancient
**Greeks believed, your mind will serve you better.
**Put back into the community as there have been those before you have done the same and you are reaping what they sowed.
**Participate in and protect democracy, it does not thrive as a spectator sport.
**Undertake due diligence in everything.
**Seek balance and space, and solitude.
**Don't be afraid to feel passionate about something.
**Learn to be an advocate and an ambassador for good.
**Be mindful of your limitations.
**Indulge and nurture your curiosity as it will keep you vital.
**Take charge of your life and don't fall into the pit of entitlement.
**Assume nothing and take nothing for granted.
**Things are not necessarily what they seem.

Her most recent album "An Ancient Muse" took her "in search of the Celts’ easternmost paths, from the plains of Mongolia to the kingdom of King Midas and the Byzantine Empire." It is another intricately woven musical masterpiece that draws me into unique stories of human experience. I look forward to incorporating these new rhythms into my understanding of the world in which we live. If you have never experienced her music, I recommend starting with "The Book of Secrets." You won't be dissapointed.

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