We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: dreams & frank ocean by Melanie Ida Chopko

 Monterrey Cypress, Point Reyes Station

Monterrey Cypress, Point Reyes Station

I don't know about you, but over the past few years I just sort of checked out on the refugee crisis. It felt too big to understand, too much to drown in. And it gnawed at me, to turn away like that. A new friend suggested I read a book by Wendy Pearlman, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria. Through interviews with Syrians of all ages and backgrounds, the book crafts a history of the country - what happened during the Arab Spring, the war that followed, the stories of folks that left, and their reflections now. (She also writes a more linear account of the history, which can be read at the front of each section.)

"Our dreams have changed in stages. Our dream before the revolution was different than during the revolution, and it's different now. We've accepted the fact that we need to make our dreams smaller if that's what it takes    to keep dreaming." - reflections

I was profoundly moved by this book - stories of people so much like me, grappling with impossible choices in uncertainty and fear, and with profound love for their home and families. It took me a whole month to read it. I could only do it in pieces, only during the day, only with some beauty or kids nearby. I think that's so important, to buoy ourselves with beauty and joy, so we can have a heart strong enough to crack open when it listens.

These women and men to me live the very definition of resilience, courage and commitment. Over and over they shared how things would have been much different if the world had listened earlier.

I know there's lots of reasons not to, but it there's something you checked out on, something happening to our human family, it's not too late to lean in. It's not too late to listen to what our grief has to show us, and where it points.

I'm with you while you do it. And Frank Ocean too.

Love,
Melanie

PS

I think there's no greater call to us artists than to create songs to sing during all of this.  Here's a live audio peak of the music video I'm making next month, sung by the audience at the Ivy Room. Listen close and you can hear our arrangement sung by my incredible friends Kin, Mandy Paige Bayless and Kele Nitoto.

 

new music video: below the weather & the waves by Melanie Ida Chopko

below the weather & the waves

I'm proud to share this new video, made for the NPR Tiny Desk Contest (hence the desk marooned on the beach) It's a dialogue between myself and the ocean, the centered around a Zen-ish teaching: "During difficulty, see the place that has no difficulty." I find this teaching so profound, for both my inner life and how I engage with making a more just and beautiful world. When I orient toward the "quiet constant truth," something different is possible.

(My favorite part is how the sun sets over the course of the take, the light changing from warm to cool. If you like it, please share it with your meditation friends, and leave a comment to let me know what you think!)

Special thanks to Jason Simmons, Manon Rudant and Juan-Carlos Foust and so many others for making this one with me. I'm also in the midst of making a full band arrangement of the song, gorgeous in piano, arco bass and guitar. It's just plain beautiful.

Pale Blue Dot - Reflections for the new year by Melanie Ida Chopko

This year I've thought a lot about stories, the stories I tell myself about my own life and the larger world I witness around me. And I know more than ever that the extent to which I am exposed to the horrors of the world is the extent to which I need to seek out its beauty. 

I'm wary of blotting out 2017 completely, with all of its loss and explicit displays of hate. For when I zoom into my - to our - grief and anger, it always quietly reveals a central pearl of love, the pearl of giving a damn. For so many years I didn't know how to slow down enough to respect that pearl, care for it, instead of whack-a-moling my emotions away. But when I do, there's space. Alot of it.

So, at the very beginning of this year, I'm thinking a lot about the profound practice of zooming in and out, both into the dignity of our experience, and out to the wholeness of it. I recently was so moved by Carl Sagan's reflections on a photograph of Earth, "The Pale Blue Dot" monologue from Cosmos.

That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines...every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child...

Every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 
- Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Somehow acknowledging all of it, respecting the wholeness of all its brokenness and beauty, I'm less drowned by it. Somehow there is the new spaciousness to do the work I need to do in this time.  

I don't any better way to hold vast, varied truth than through honoring the basics - sleep, meditation, real food, connection & empty-space-outbreath/play. May our New Year's intentions hold these as well.

Also, news to me - some most stunning contributions of humanity yet happened this year - read about 99 of them

Love,
Melanie

PS. In the Dark was fantastic, and I'll get some video to you soon. And, what a year to celebrate in my music-as-a-force-for-good department, below! You can read more about all of these and the goofs/splats/dreams behind the scenes, here.
 

UPCOMING IN THE REAL WORLD
Thursday, January 25th
- House Concert (stand by just a liiittle bit longer for deets!)
Friday, January 26th - Private Show
Singing Outside the Shower: 21st Century Folk Repertoire
January 10th - February 14th @ The Freight