Tuesday, December 1, 2009


There is no such thing as a coincidence. We all know that deep down, don’t we? Sometimes the alignment of circumstances that grabs our attention is a big thing, like meeting someone seemingly by chance, and recognizing them instantly as a meaningful part of your life. I’ve been there more than a couple times. And sometimes, it’s just a little moment that serves to remind us that the universe really is lined up in our favor. This past Sunday, I was leading a discussion session with the lovely folks at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks – Kitty Hawk, NC. Part of the talk had to do with the importance of creating quiet time in our lives, especially to give our brains a break from the blinding onslaught of information enabled by modern technology. In particular, I brought up something we all know, that these days almost all of us have communication devices strapped to or near our person so we can avail ourselves of information, and make ourselves available to others anywhere, any time. And, don’t you know it, right as I finished making that point, what happened? You got it - a mobile phone went off. Coincidence? You may call it so, but I say no way. The universe has great timing, and a great sense of humor, and all of us in the room enjoyed a big laugh at this small reminder. The laugh got even bigger when I shared that at my home church, there is a suggested love offering of $100 if your cell phone goes off during a service. The owner of the offending device on Sunday morning took all the playful ribbing in stride, and I sent out a silent thank you for yet another reminder that the more I look for positive outcomes, the more I will find. The opposite is just as true. Don’t we all know someone who looks for trouble, and finds it without fault? I choose to look for good, even in the face of outer turmoil, and my life is filled with little reminders of the universe responding in kind. For all of this, and for the appearance of “coincidences”, I am thankful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Songwriting Journal - Passion

The process of songwriting, for me, comes from a place of interpersonal exploration. Little moments with loved ones, whether frustrating or inspiring, an enticing string of words in conversation or movies or books, old memories that want to be explored – these are the things that catch a tune in my head and morph into songs. As the writing process goes along, the songs take on their own unique character and point of view, eventually bearing little resemblance to the point of inspiration, which still remains, but only as a shadow in the background.
The original inspiration for the song Passion is taken directly from conversations with my mother. I can, on occasion, be heard whining about growing up in a non-artistic household. True, there was appreciation of the arts, but since neither of my parents had artistic leanings, at least none that they acted on, they encouraged me in areas within their comfort zone (academics, athletics), and I was left to sort out the rest for myself. My efforts on stage did not go unnoticed - my father was known to swell with pride following one of my performances at school. And, I am certain that my mother did all the things moms do to support their kids in their activities, driving to and fro, buying costumes and uniforms, etc. But when it came down to it, my mother looked upon me as some sort of oddity, something outside the norm; a puzzle she knew existed but had no clue how to solve.
I think my mother was actually concerned about my path in life, and perhaps with good reason. Lawd knows show business ain’t easy. More than once she pointed out how my focus on performing arts was making my life more difficult than it need be. If only I could set aside this drive, this passion of mine, then I might have a chance at a normal and easier life. But I am who I am, and even after having children, which provided some common ground for the two of us, my work continued, and I could sense the cluck of her concern in every conversation.
My mom was certain that my drive, my passion was unique, but I disagree. I think everyone has a passion. It may involve career, a relationship, a hobby, an addiction, watching TV, or a behavior pattern that feeds some deep seated need – but we all have something. We all have a passion. So, that’s what the song Passion is about, the thing that blows you skirts up, or gets your juices flowing. Very often at live shows I’ll ask if anyone is brave enough to share his or her passion. One night, a fun lady I know announced to the room that her passion is belly dancing. So, there you have it – this song is about belly dancing, or whatever it is that lights your fire.

© cheryl fare 2007

You have a passion, she said, you have a drive
But she made it sound like something dirty,
something I should hide
You have a passion, she said, well don’t we all?
To build, to eat, to breathe, to learn
Or do nothing much at all

Hmmm I think about it all the time
Hmmm I dream about it all the time
I can’t put it down, and I can’t make it fit
No matter what I do, there’s just no cure for it
Must be a passion

What is it you crave? Can you give it a name?
Does it bloom into love, or curl back into pain?
Do you use it to heal, or just cover up
the hole in your heart that never gets enough?

You have a passion, uh-huh, you have a drive
The devil voice that calls you home,
Or the angel by your side.
You have a passion, uh-huh, well don’t we all?
To build, to eat, to breathe, to learn
Or do nothing much at all

Hmmm you think about it all the time
Hmmm you dream about it all the time
you can’t put it down, and you can’t make it fit
No matter what you do, there’s just no cure for it
Must be a passion, Just a harmless passion
A yen, an itch, a passion, I can quit when I want - passion
We all got one – passion, Can’t put it down – passion
Can’t make it fit – passion, It’s just a little passion

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beyond Brain Tumors

This week, I had the privilege of speaking at a healing service at my home church, along with my daughter Denise, age 16, a 10-year brain tumor survivor. I truly believe that our children are our finest teachers, especially those who face uncommon challenges. Denise has agreed to allow me to share her written remarks from the service with you here. Enjoy:
“Now and then we hear a story of how positive thinking and a good attitude can help cancer patients live longer. That optimism can keep us healthier and even extend our life span. Well, though some of us may believe differently, this idea is very much true. When we feel happy, we are happy towards everything and everybody. But when the bad feelings; fear, loneliness, or doubt set in we consume them. They influence our thoughts and our actions. If we let these feelings of fear take over our whole body they have the power make us sick. If I had put my fear first in front of hope and love, many years ago I wouldn’t be here.
When I was six years old I was diagnosed with a brain tumor called “craniopharyngioma”. This tumor was large and growing fast. The first time it was MRI-ed it was approximately bigger than the size of a golf ball. I was scared, sure. The morning of my first surgery I woke up and found myself tangled in my bed sheets and on the opposite side of the bed flat against the wall. I felt scared, mainly because of the things I didn’t know. What could and would happen. But I kept going through after the first surgery and then a second, and MRI’s and IVs. After the end of the second surgery I went to MCV hospital for 5 days a week for radiation. Every school day I left early, to go and get the pieces of killer cells “zapped” out of my head. Those last few remaining pieces of fear.
The thing that helped me a lot were the people that wanted to help me, to see me get through. Every day going to the hospital I would have a friend to ride in the car with, people I really loved. We would read books and share stories and often I would get little gifts J, so I walked into Radiation Oncology, Level B feeling happy. The process was long, tedious and intense. Most patients will completely lose their hair, but I didn’t. This was unexpected, and made me really happy. And that’s where I remember that I began to feel the confidence that I would be all right. And the fear began to go.
I feel that same confidence now. It’s only become a stronger part of me over the last ten years. Along with the help of the people, and surgeons and family, my confidence steadily grew, and I was cured. I cured me. I am ready to take on my challenges in life because I don’t think my small certain disadvantages can stand in my way. My only hope is that my family can fully see this in me the way I do. I want to go to college in less than two years and I know I can do it. No past can block my future - because I cured me. And knowing that, I can get through anything, anything else.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Uppity Blues Women

Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women recently gave their final farewell concert as a group, in their hometown of Fredericksburg, VA – and I got to go! The show was held on the University of Mary Washington campus, which provided me with a trip down memory lane, since I spent 4 years studying there when it was still called a college. Although a stately college auditorium is an odd fit for blues concert, the ladies of Saffire seemed quite at home playing for a full house of friends and fans from near and far, supporters from their 25 year history, and luminaries of the blues world. In the course of the evening, the tremendous trio was showered with accolades, bouquets of flowers and thundering rounds of well-earned applause.

Over the past quarter century, Ann Rabson, Gaye Adegbalola, and Andra Faye have taken Saffire from a largely local group in Central Virginia, to an internationally respected cornerstone of acoustic blues. Their impressive talents were all in fine form on Saturday night, all three showing off their abilities on multiple instruments, as vocalists and songwriters, and performers extraordinaire. The music was naughty and raucous, at times gentle and poignant, and touched on themes ranging from domestic abuse, to odes the generous attributes of the band members, and powerful anthems of pride and power. By far the greatest achievement of Saffire seems to be not only a deep musical catalogue in acoustic blues, but also the overreaching theme of empowerment that inhabits all their work. As their songs celebrate the empowerment of women, victims of domestic abuse, people of color, homosexuals, so they empower us all through the cleansing process of enlightenment. As they go on to other musical pursuits, I hope to catch each of the Saffire ladies playing their individual brands of joyfully naughty and Uppity music.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time to Speak Out About Domestic Abuse

I had the pleasure of performing this past weekend in a benefit concert for Safe Harbor, a domestic abuse shelter and service organization in Central Virginia. Initially, I was lukewarm about the event, not because of the gig itself, but because finances (or lack thereof) had forced me to pass up on a theatre reunion kinda thing at my grad school alma mater. So, with a pout firmly in place, I said yes to the benefit gig, and even agreed to attend a rehearsal or two, since I was going to be around anyway. As things got closer, and I took the time to plug into the cause promoted by the show, it became more and more clear to me why participation was not only meaningful for me, but has become a catalyst for me to step out on an issue very near and dear to my heart.

I have always had plans on the back burner to take action, speak up, find a way to do more than write a couple of songs about the abuse us humans visit on each other. The kind of abusive behavior I have the most experience with is the yelling, name-calling, ridiculing, controlling kind. It’s a sneaky kind of thing. It doesn’t leave any scars on the outside, but you can spend a lifetime trying to run down and heal the internal damage. In some ways, I think that the walking wounded find their way to each other, no matter what kind of abuse they have suffered, or whether they talk about it openly. Over the years I seem to have collected a great number of lovely souls with abuse stories as friends. Both men and women, it seems we strive to say the right thing for a loved one who has rarely heard a kind word, be the shelter for a moment’s peace, or solace in helping each other find an authentic way to stand in our own truth.

Themes of release and healing have surfaced repeatedly in my writing, whether intentional on my part or not. No doubt I will circle back around related ideas in the future, but for now, I’m looking for something a little more tangible. Following the concert for Safe Harbor, I dialed up their website, and filled out a volunteer application form. How I will find time for this, I don’t know, as my life is already well populated with issues and causes. But, the time feels right for me to step out on this issue, and I look forward to whatever opportunities come my way.

To learn more about Safe Harbor and their crusade against domestic abuse, go to: http://www.safeharborshelter.com/

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Songwriting Journal - Stones in My Pocket

On the surface, Stones in My Pocket is a bittersweet remembrance of a song, a reflection of a past relationship, still treasured, but long gone. But below the surface, there is something more to be shared and explored. The impetus for this song, written back in 2000, came from a ripple of memory, some words said by an old friend that took on new and deeper meaning. And isn’t that the quality all our truly meaningful relationships have? No matter who the people are that fill our every day lives, the relationships that really matter are the ones that stick with us over time, through changes and ins and outs, continuing to echo with meaning at every step along the way. Maybe we see them every day, or never will again - maybe they we there for years, or maybe just five loaded minutes every few years or so. Whether or not we see them every day, the impact our treasured few have on shaping who we are becoming stays with us, mirrored in how we see the eyes in our reflection, and in the choices that we make. It’s as if we carry them, like little stones in our pockets, taking them out in quiet moments to roll around on our palm, noting the new ways that old snippets of conversation resonate from where we are standing now. It’s these people, the relationships that continue to sing with meaning, that are celebrated with this song.

stones in my pocket
© cheryl fare 2000

Carry you with me, roll you around some
Carry you with me, deep in my heart
Carry you with me, like stones in my pocket
Memories bittersweet and never forgot
never forgot

The minutes fly, the stars spin
My hair's gone grey and my eyes are dim
But your face it shines, those sweet words you say
My mind falls back like I met you today, and I

Carry you with me, roll you around some
Carry you with me, deep in my heart
Carry you with me, like stones in my pocket
Memories bittersweet and never forgot
never forgot

Reminiscence all my own,
recollection calls my heart home,
all these years could pull you away,
but the longer you're gone, the closer you stay
the longer you're gone, the closer you stay, and I

Carry you with me, roll you around some
Carry you with me, deep in my heart
Carry you with me, like stones in my pocket
Memories bittersweet and never forgot
never forgot
never forgot
I never forgot

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Readers' Theatre

In one of my ongoing activities involving theatre and writing, I write short plays and direct a readers' theatre program at my home church. These short sketches are not designed to so much to present issues or provide answers, but more to promote thinking and ask questions. I'm working on one of these writing assignments today, and it's going about as smoothly as a molar extraction. But as always, if I can mange to get myself out of the way, the words will flow, and the results will hold a message meant for someone in my audience. For now, please enjoy the text of one of my previous works:

Bus Stop Scene
©Cheryl Fare

(Actors come to center stage, and face the audience. They are waiting for a bus. Pause.)

1: I think the bus is late. I always hate it when the bus is late.
2: I think it’s hot out. I always hate it when it’s hot out.
1: When the bus is late, then I am late, and it ruins my whole day. Nothing to be done.
2: When I start feeling hot, my cheeks turn red, I get light-headed, and I can’t think all day. As you say, not a thing to be done.
1: For some reason today, it crossed my mind to wonder if it really matters. Imagine that.
2: Really? Curious. Very curious, indeed.
1: Did you hear about what happened with the lady with the big you-know-what?
2: No. I must know all about that. Do tell.
1: Well, if you must know,……it fell off.
2: No! I didn’t know that was possible.
1: There you have it. You spend your time looking back to keep an eye out, as they say you should, and then looking ahead to be sure, as they also say you should, and then it happens. After all that time being there, it falls off, and that’s bad.
2: Yes, bad. So they say, very bad.
1: But I wonder, if it happened to me, would it be all bad?
2: What a thought! They always said it would be bad.
1: Yes, but I wonder.
2: (dubious) Well, that seems worth considering, at least.
1: Every day I come and wait. I did it yesterday, and I expect I will do it tomorrow.
2: I made a mistake once, and now it happens over and over again.
1: One day I did not come, just to see what would happen.
2: Really! So, what happened?
1: I didn’t know how to act, so I thought it was a mistake.
2: No matter what I do, I still make a mistake. It happened yesterday, so now I’m just waiting for it to happen today.
1: There’s an expert on TV. He says that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So, there you have it. Nothing to be done.
2: Well, if he said it on TV, we know it must be true.
1: Just so. Nothing to be done.
2: Just so. Not a thing to be done. (pause) Do you ever wonder what words mean? I mean, once you say something over and over again, do you forget what it means, or wonder if it really means what you think it means?
1: Um, maybe. Pardon?
2: If there is nothing to be done, must that be a bad thing?
1: It always has been before.
2: But what if it is not a bad thing? What if it means something else?
1: Really? But what else could it mean?
2: Perhaps, just perhaps, it means that we need do nothing.
1: Do nothing? But what are we if we do nothing?
2: We just are. I am, you are, and everything is in order.
1: Radical. Brilliant, really, for you to think such a thing.
2: Oh, I don’t think I thought of that myself. Perhaps it just is.
1: What an idea. But then, what about being late?
2: Perhaps you need do nothing.
1: Huh. And what about being hot?
2: Perhaps I don’t mind.
1: Maybe.
2: Maybe.