Noe Venable

A Juniper moment if ever there was one

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015

A Juniper moment if ever there was one

I had to share this sweet moment from yesterday– Ember dreaming up in a tree he climbed.  We love the Botanical Garden these days, and the AIDS Memorial Grove, where we spend our mornings with other parents and little ones.  We dig in the dirt, splash in the puddles, savor simple things…  A pint of raspberries.  An almond cookie.  Talk and laughter under the trees.     At home in the wee hours, I spend every available moment working on my new album.  Percussion plays a big role on this one.  So I went all out with New York percussionist Mathias Kunzli.  Following our sessions, I found I had as many as thirty different tracks to sort through on some songs!  Since then, I’ve been arranging and rearranging, cutting and pasting, winnowing it down to what needs to be there, and nothing more.  Mathias says this album is my Graceland.  That’s not an album I’ve listened to a whole lot, but I’m certainly inspired by some of the same musical traditions that Simon was drawing on there.  I envy him his time spent in South Africa.  Miriam Makeba has been a heroine of mine since I read her incredible autobiography this past year.  There are so many world music musicians I would love to learn from, so many traditions I’d love to immerse in and explore. The world feels wider to me since I became a mother, more full of wisdom, connection, and other forms of richness.  Now I see and feel how many things there are to learn about beyond the radius of the places we go every day.  It’s humbling and fulfilling, learning about hunter gatherer peoples who long lived according to wisdom which I as a mother am only just now beginning to uncover.  And it’s heart wrenching to also see how much these peoples have had to endure over the last few hundred years, forced to abandon those ancient ways and languages, having their precious children taken from them and “educated,” pulled out of their sacred context and thrust into a world that made no sense. As a Mother in this world, I pray that we are now in the midst of a Great Turning.  Sometimes I think we are.  Some of you, listeners and friends, have encouraged me in this– have pointed to people and movements who swim against the tide of forgetting, and to how those movements are gaining members, gaining steam.  But in the end, I think we are each alone in...

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Madame Mugwort

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013

Madame Mugwort

Today I was at the Nature Playground with Ember when I ran into a friend.  My friend is a wildcrafter, wise to the ways of things green and growing.  She knows where to find Elderberry, Mugwort, Chamomile, and she knows how to prepare them to unlock their powers.  Elderberry to keep well in winter, Mugwort for the intensification of dreams.  She shared with me that recently she had gone to the Mugwort patch as usual, but this time she felt strongly that she should not harvest from a single plant.  It was like a voice had spoken, she said.  You have to listen to the plant itself to know whether it is appropriate to take from them. I had been all morning hatching a song about similar, spectral certainties, and was intrigued. “What is it like,” I asked her, “when you listen to the plants?  Does each plant seem to have its own spirit?  Or does it all seem like part of the same voice, the same spirit, whether it be Madame Mugwort or Herr Thistle?” “I do experience it as a unified spirit,” she said.  “Sometimes it’s almost like I hear a voice.  There was one day, I was foraging in a glade, I was going to do some harvesting when I heard a surprisingly strong ‘don’t do it!  Turn back!  Don’t come near us!’  I was taken aback, and stopped to look and listen.  Then I saw t– right where I had been about to go, there was a man lurking, hiding himself in the bushes.  He looked like a shady character.  I felt like they had been warning me.” Such is the value of listening. Her story made me wonder, do I know how to listen like that?  Could I know?  Would I hear the same thing in a similar circumstance, and tune it out?  Could I learn to become more open to plants, as I have learned to be open to songs, and the mystery from which they come? “I would love to learn how to listen like that,” I tell her.  “How does one begin?” “You already know,” she said.  “It’s just a matter of learning how to let it...

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First Foray

Posted by on Oct 5, 2013

First Foray

Dear listeners, dear readers, It has been some time now since I maintained any kind of web presence beyond occasional updates on Facebook.  So much has happened during that time…  I went back to school.  I started a teaching career.  This past year, miracle of miracles, I had a baby. Given all these happenings in my life, I haven’t played shows in a while.  But it’s more than that…  Withdrawing from playing shows has  been one aspect of a broader pulling back from a lot of things I once cleaved to.   So many ideas I once held dear I have now departed from.  So many sureties abandoned in light of the discovery of necessary new uncertainties.  So many places where my priorities have rearranged themselves to accommodate new life and new possibilities. Amongst these changes has been a big shift in my relationship to technology.  Whereas once I delighted in new gadgets (primarily musical ones!), and shaped music accordingly, I now seem most drawn to things un-electric.  Hand hewn or God hewn.  Candlelight.  My acoustic guitar, unaffected, the way it sounds in my home recording space.  A wooden recorder; when my little son, Ember, gets into something on his own, I can pick it up and cheer us both with a tune.  The way the sunlight looks, filtering through branches in the park. Over the last years, books such as The Shallows have bolstered my determination to limit media usage in my life.  My worklife as a Waldorf teacher has been an conducive environment in which to do so. While some teachers face pressure to respond to e-mail multiple times during their work day, I happily purchased a granny phone to free me from the potential perpetual distraction of texting.  I removed all screens from the living areas of our home. It wasn’t just communicative media I began to release from my life.  I also stopped listening to much in the way of recorded music (though I never lost interest in recording it myself!)  Instead I joined a chorus, and even led a few.  I fell in love with what it feels like to sing with people in a room, how alive it is, a song just breathing in the air between you all, raising you up with its beauty. When I reflect on how my life has changed in the years since I pulled back from performing,...

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