Updated: Mar 23, 2018
Like every adventure, this blog will inevitably take on its own cast of characters. I want to introduce you to a few main characters that have inspired the creation of The Great Blue Song Project and shaped the direction of this blog.
Nicole and I became friends in 2010. She had a way of making somewhat mundane things feel like mini adventures. We would meet for coffee and crepes because we both loved
Paris. We would go to carefully curated secondhand stores because Nicole loved “funky junk.” She taught me about synchronicity and the protective powers of amethyst. We descended upon Borders as it was going out of business and her intuition put Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance into my hands. She, and that book, helped me traverse the most seismic shift in my reality to date. She had an amazing ability to love unconditionally and she was always looking for the perfect gift. She gave so much. This angel was the first gift I ever received from her.
Nicole, like all humans, had human problems. She smoked like a chimney and drank lots of Coca Cola (but only from McDonald’s because their fountain coke was the best). She suffered from a mysterious illness that included chronic migraines and put her out of work. In an effort to cope with the pain, she sometimes took too many pain pills (by her own estimation) because other helpful remedies were not covered by Medicaid. My theory is that Nicole, like other social workers, tried to take on the pain of the world so that no one else had to feel it. In February of 2016, that mysterious illness took her life, but my relationship with her did not end.
For several months before she passed away, I was unable to communicate with Nicole because she was in so much pain. It hurt to talk and to send text messages. It was like I lost her before she was gone. In one of our last conversations, she expressed her frustration that I had stopped calling. She said that even though she couldn’t talk, she wanted to know I cared. I didn’t know what to do.
After she passed away, I decided to write her a song and get her mom and her fiancé involved. I only knew her for a few years and I wanted to see her from other perspectives. Through this process I got to bring out her essence, including her ability to delight, her gift giving, her love, her inner mischievous adventurer, and her playfulness. I don’t really have regrets, but it would have been fun to share this with her before her passing to show her that I cared even though I didn’t call. It would have been fun to have her input into her own song. I wrote Nicole's song in May 2016 and that set in motion this idea to write songs for other people who may not be able to access the power of songwriting on their own. I believe Nicole was guiding me in February 2017 when the entire business plan for The Great Blue Song Project poured out of me in one afternoon. So here we are. What started as a coffee date continues as a grand journey together.
Meet Arnie - Our Spirit Animal
Nicole also connected me to Arnie, the Great Blue Heron. Each day as she left her job as a social worker in a prison, Nicole noticed that a Great Blue Heron stood watch. She felt he was her protector. I had been going through a period where large birds were making themselves very known in my life and we were having a discussion about what that might mean, what I might learn from them. I made an offhand comment that it would be a clear sign if I saw a Great Blue Heron because I had never seen one before. The next day, one appeared in my life and ever since then they have shown up when I need guidance.
In the Spring of 2014 I needed some space from my job and I needed to heal a heartbreak. I was being called to the Oregon coast. I got in my car, drove to Portland to pick up my best friend, and we headed to Astoria. We checked into the super cool Norblad Hotel and then walked down to the water to find some dinner. What we found at the pier was a Great Blue Heron who told me his name was Arnie. He sat solidly perched on top of a post about 20 feet from the dock. I thought he would surely fly away so I stood frozen, observing him as long as I could before my chance passed. After 30 minutes or so, I realized he was there to stay and my hungry belly decided I could walk away. It felt like he was holding space for my healing just as Nicole described her Great Blue Heron was holding space for her work in the prison. (The "Arnie" who appears in this photo lives in Florida. The photo was taken by Gregory Wagner and you can see more of his beautiful work at www.wagnerphotography.me. Thanks Gregory!)
Arnie has graciously agreed to hold space for grief, trauma, loss, and pain throughout our conversations on this blog and he has agreed to guide us gracefully through healing and the exploration of our everyday immortality.
Meet Grandma Jan and Her Black Coffee
My grandmother, Jan Lerew, introduced me to the concept of soulmates. Soulmates are not just two people in romantic love. A soulmate can be any two people that feel a connection that seems easy, comfortable,
and sometimes magical, from the start. Grandma Jan always said we were soulmates. I was blessed to be able to spend some of her last months in the physical world typing up her collection of poetry. She had several poems about death, perhaps because she also struggled with pain and illness. She had open heart surgery in her 50s and, as she approached her death in her 80s, she found it hard to breathe. I think of her often and she joins us on this journey as well.
Each year on October 12, the anniversary of her death, my family has a cup of coffee in her honor. It’s an event started by my cousin Rainah called the “Jan Lerew Black Coffee Social.” Rainah reminds us that “Jan loved coffee and she loved to talk.” Although my family is geographically separated, we take some time on that day to slow down, pour a cup of coffee, and connect with each other. I find comfort in the experience of drinking coffee (tea is nice too) and being in coffee shops. I often write in coffee shops, meet up with friends and colleagues, and occasionally just stop in to read a good book amid the bustle. The coffee cups that show up in many of the images on the website and in this blog are a nod to Grandma Jan and to my experience of coffee as comfort. (P.S. I'm still looking for a photo of Grandma Jan holding a coffee cup. There has to be one somewhere!)
Meet Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Elisabeth entered the scene as I began to gather content for the blog. Like most people, I vaguely knew her name and had heard of her 5 stages of grieving, but that was about it. I wanted to read some books about terminal illness, caregiving, support groups, and related topics so I went to the library and started wandering to see what I would find. Elisabeth’s memoir, The Wheel of Life found its way into the stack I checked out.
The introduction to The Wheel of Life spoke so powerfully to me that I read it out loud to my friend a few minutes later. Elisabeth was bold. She was born knowing her calling and doggedly pursued the practice of medicine despite many hurdles along the way. She stood up for people who could no longer stand up for themselves. She cared about people who had been tossed aside by society. This introduction felt like Elisabeth took me by the shoulders, looked me squarely in the eye, and said “it’s your turn to be the death and dying lady.” But more importantly, it seems that my task is to pick up where she left off. Her works, and perhaps her spirit, will be with us as we explore life and death.
Meet Stella and Franklin
Stella the Lab-Boxer mix and Franklin the Weimaraner are my companions. They teach me things every day and they sit near me as I write — currently with only a tiny amount of patience. They will undoubtedly make their way into the written words of this adventure but are an integral part of it even on the days they don’t. Now it is time for a walk.
I'm (we're) so glad you’re here.
Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.
Dare to be immortal.
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