Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When the Water Came to the Town

I recently published an article in the 2014 Planet Bluegrass Folks Fest program about the different ways the tragic Front Range floods inspired songwriters to be creative when writing songs. Here is an excerpt. You can read the full piece by clicking here.

We heard you were having a hard hard time
We heard you were feeling down
We're gonna come over and pick you up
There's a party on our side of town
-Cheers, by Carol & Arthur Lee

During the confusing aftermath of Colorado’s 500-year flood, singer/songwriter and Song School Instructor Arthur Lee Land and his songwriter wife Carol Lee evacuated along with most of the population of Lyons. Not knowing when they would be able to return, they took their RV. It broke down numerous times, they lost a bunch of gigs because they were so disassociated from the world after the trauma of the flood, and upon their return, discovered they lost their home of a year. 

It was while they were packed their house that Carol wrote the lyrics to their first post-flood song. “I was just so upset, so I sat down and wrote, ‘Sunshiny Days,’” Carol Lee says. “I felt so alone. ‘What were we going to do?” But not long after writing the song, says Lee, everything changed—they received funds from the Musician Relief Fund to pay for a storage unit, they found a place to park the RV, volunteers to help them move, and they reconnected with the community. 

“I feel like if I hadn’t sat down and got it all out, that I couldn’t have reconnected,” she explained. “It takes tremendous creativity to survive.” And that creativity translates to song writing for some.

“The flood cracked life open for us,” Arthur Lee Land explained. “I call it the no reverb vocal mix. Life is right in your face. You can’t be anywhere but present. It’s a powerful place for people. You have these intense emotional experiences that need to be expressed. They are inspirational because you’re compelled as an artist to get stuff out.” The byproduct of this, both songwriters agree, is how powerful and impactful these types of songs are for the people listening.

“There’s healing in sharing the songs, when the community is listening or dancing to a song,” Arthur added. The couple has had “massive” response to another flood song they wrote called, “Cheers.” 

“It’s uplifting, but it also acknowledges what people are going through and how bad we can feel,” Carol Lee explained. “But the last verse is about how the clouds are really clearing. People love it because it’s so what they need to hear.” 

Singer/songwriter and Song School Instructor Justin Roth is expressing the pain and helplessness he felt watching one of his favorite communities wash away on an ongoing basis. He wrote and now regularly performs his song, “Rise,” around the country.....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Drepung Monks from Loseling Monastery bring healing to Lyons & Planet Bluegrass

For the entire week of Song School and 24th Annual Folks Fest, Planet Bluegrass is hosting Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery. The monks have frequented Planet Bluegrass events, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and past Folks Fests. This year is special because they are doing a variety of healing ceremonies dedicated to Lyons, as well as leading meditation classes for Song School students every morning.

I had the pleasure of chatting with two of the monks—Gala and Geshe Loden—this afternoon about the purpose of the various ceremonies. On Tuesday evening, they will be doing a Mandala Opening Ceremon. According to Gala, over the course of the next week eight of the 11 monks will spend 30 hours creating a mandala for healing the environment. Then Wednesday night, August 13, they will do a sacred smoke ceremony—called Sang-Sol in Tibetan—dedicated to healing the Lyons community (open to the public). Finally, they are doing a Mandala Closing Ceremony, which will take place Sunday.

According to Gala, “The Mandala is the map for enlightenment—the GPS for spiritual life. It contains all the instruction for how to reach the destination (enlightenment).” Mandalas are paintings of colored sand, which utilize five colors that represent the five elements: earth (yellow), water (green), fire (red), wind (white), and space (blue).

“The beauty of this depends on the millions of grains of sand of different colors,” Gala explained. “If you reflect back on life, you have millions involved to make your life beautiful.” The mandala is a representation of that, and much more. There’s emotional and physical involvement behind its creation. “When we engage in this long process of spiritual sacred art, there’s a lot of power and energy that goes into it. It benefits all sentient beings.” There’s also a lot of power in the tradition of destroying the mandala when it’s finished.

“It’s one of the most important teachings in Buddhism—that everything started with something, but it’s never going to last,” Gala explained. “It has its own expiration date, and it’s important for us to remember that impermanence in a constructive way.”

The traditional Sang-Sol ritual in Sandstone Park is another offering. “Sang” means to purify all negative energy, while “Sol” means to heal. According to Geshe Loden, the monks will burn incense and fragrant Pujas that will send clouds of white smoke to the sky, they will chant from a liturgical text, and use ritual music with traditional Tibetan instruments. The combination of these things is used to invoke the deities and the local protectors. “These are offerings… tools we use to invoke a spirit to create a spiritual ambiance. We don’t entertain just human beings, but also the spirit world!”

The ceremony will conclude with everyone gathering in a large semi-circle and in one grand celebratory gesture, praising virtuous and compassionate actions, collectively throwing handfuls of barley flour in the air, proclaiming loudly, “Ki Ki, So So, Lha Gya Lo!”

According to Gala, “We come not just to entertain, but mostly to bless and then resonate that blessing into individuals’ minds so they can live peacefully internally and externally.” The monks explained that they have various blessings and mandalas that they create for different reasons. Some communities have a lot of conflict, so the monks will do a Conflict Resolution blessing; while others might have many sick people, and so they’ll do the Medicine Buddha blessing.

“Last year you had a terrible flood, so this year we are doing an environment blessing,” Gala explained. “We want to revitalize the affected energy of nature and to rebalance the elements.”

The monks agreed that coming to major festivals like this was not only a great way to share their culture and offer healing ceremonies, but that just being in places like Lyons and Planet Bluegrass is, in itself, a positive, healing experience.

“You have the river flowing, natural sounds, and people are here with their full heart connected,” Gala added. Buddha nature, he added, is when people use activities like song and dance to bring joy to each other. “There is some connection between you and God and you and Buddha when you come together to make music. Festivals like this make people more connected with other human beings.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stuff I'm working on...

I've just finished two articles, both reflections on the flood and how it affected my community. One is going to be published in 5280 this fall, and the other in the Lyons Folks Fest program. The 5280 piece is about building a ukulele at the RockyGrass Academy as a metaphor, of sorts, for the rebuilding of Lyons. It was a powerful experience both to be at Planet Bluegrass for it's "rebirth" and to be celebrating that with my community at the Planet. Building the uke was difficult, exhausting, and emotional. I'm so grateful for the experience. The second article is about how tragedy inspires creativity in songwriting. I interviewed various local singer/songwriters about the songs they've written and how the floods inspired those songs. Needless to say the past week was tough, as I revisited a lot of emotions that haven't been close to the surface lately. I cried a lot, and I reflected. Lyons is not back to normal yet, but we are sure fighting like hell as a community to make the best of a really terrible experience. And I love living in Lyons and being a part of this community because of that.

On another note, I've decided to look for full-time work in the field of writing/editing/communications. I have loved running my business, and I plan on continuing to edit the AMGA's GUIDE Bulletin, since it is one of the coolest publications I have had the privilege of editing. But I realized after the flood that I don't want to run or grow a business. I want to be more involved with the creative process--the nitty-gritty of writing, editing, public relations. That's the work I'm truly passionate about. And it will be all the better if I can be of service to a greater cause!

To check out some of the photos of the process of building my ukulele, please click here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Product Review: Joshua Tree Skin Care Sunscreen

After writing various product reviews for Stonewear Designs and for other companies as part of my work with MountainGear.com, I've decided to continue the process. One caveat here: I'm not going to write reviews of products I don't like. I don't feel the need to spread negative energy about anything. I will, however, be honest in telling you the pros/cons about the items I do review. Mostly I'm just going to review things I love. What's to come: my favorite summer clothes & my favorite winter clothes. Today, I want to review my new favorite sun screen--Joshua Tree Skin Care's SPF15 sun screen with clear zinc.

I've always disliked sun screen in general. I put it on, and immediately I have an awful taste in my mouth that lasts for at least an hour. It's a chemically, nasty taste that doesn't go away even if you eat or drink something. So, when Dave Lawrence and Che Wentz came to Lyons for the Lyons Outdoor Games (they sponsored the event), and brought me a bunch of samples of their all natural sun screen, I was super stoked. It's definitely all natural. And I love it. I love it so much that I carry it with me everywhere. They have a bunch of different kinds (see them all by clicking here). My favorite is the item that is pictured, though I also like the Sun Stick (though not as much because it feels stickier than the lotion).

I love it mostly because I don't end up with that nasty taste in my mouth, but also because though it's made with zinc, it doesn't make your face white (or fluorescent green or pink :) I love it because when I put it on I feel like I'm also putting on moisturizing lotion. I don't feel like I have to wash my face immediately when I get home, and I can apply it over and over again without feeling like I'm poisoning myself.

The only downside to this sun screen is that you do have to apply it frequently in order to avoid sun burn. As the bottle says, "reapply liberally every 2 hours and after swimming or towel drying." So, if I'm out for a really long day of rock climbing, I have to resort to the other kinds of sun screen. Also, I think if you have children, you'll have to be super diligent about reapplying it on them really frequently. But, pretty much for everything else that I do besides long days rock climbing in the mountains, I will always have this lotion on hand.

Monday, June 30, 2014

It has been awhile

I've been up to numerous fun things lately. After wrapping up my part as the marketing/PR/sponsorship manager for the Lyons Outdoor Games (read more about my involvement on my website by clicking here), I took off for a week and climbed at Freemont Canyon with an old Yosemite pal of mine. A few weeks later I attended the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where I enjoyed myself immensely but also worked hard on managing the social media for Planet Bluegrass as a volunteer. I'm still posting and building their social platforms. Check out their Instagram page, which I started and for which a half dozen awesome photographers are regularly contributing. Thanks guys! Also check out their Facebook page; click here to see one of the posts that got more than 1000 likes. I've never had that happen with a post. People are so engaged with the music scene and the Planet, and music is my new passion. I play my mandolin and practice singing at least 5 days per week and wish I could do more. Luckily I am not working too much this summer, and so my focus will be on music. I still love climbing, of course. I always will. But it seems less important now, especially since the floods. My focus has been to do a bunch of fundraising and rebuilding of Lyons, and luckily music is an integral part of Lyons. Check out this video I made just 2 weeks after the flood. It was the first video I had that actually went mini viral; it got 4000+ views within a few weeks, which blew me away since I just created it to express myself and nothing else. It's not even very well edited... :)

Next week I'm off on a rafting trip, and then later in July I'll be building a Ukulele at RockyGrass Academy. Stay tuned as I'll be recording the process daily on social media. Sending all my friends, community members, and family (and my two cats) big hugs and lots of love! Life is super sweet, and I am grateful every day for each and every one of you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I have an article in the Alpinist 46!

Super psyched to have recently published an article in The Alpinist magazine on my battle with ankylosing spondylitis and how it has affected my climbing life. :)

The Lyons Outdoor Games

I am super stoked that the Town of Lyons/Louzan Consulting asked me to run the PR/Social Media/Sponsorships for the Lyons Outdoor Games. This event means a lot to me, especially now considering it's a fundraiser for our parks & trails. Here's a press release on the event that I recently wrote. More to come!!!


Contact: Lizzy Scully, lizzy@mergethismedia.com, 303-903-2768

Lyons, Colorado, April 15: Lyons to hold 13th Annual Lyons Outdoor Games & Oskar Blues’ Burning Can Beer Festival May 31st to support Parks & Rec Flood relief. Anders Osborne to headline

The Town of Lyons, Colo., announced today that despite floodwaters damaging most of its parkland, trails, and waterways, it will still hold its signature Lyons Outdoor Games multi-sport festival and the accompanying Burning Can Beer Festival on Saturday, May 31.

“The Lyons Outdoor Games is one of the premier events on the Front Range, showcasing some the country's finest canned beer, most exciting extreme sports, and this year, Anders Osborne,” said Parks & Rec Director Dave Cosgrove. “The Games are a Lyon’s tradition. We have a long history of offering world-class opportunities to both expert and aspiring extreme athletes in kayaking, mountain biking, and rock climbing, among others. The floods devastated our town, but not our adventurous spirit.”

The event will be held in unaffected portions of Bohn Park and will include the Outlaws of Dirt BMX series, a rugby tournament, limited pro kayaking events (slalom, freestyle, and BoaterX), plus a family friendly area with slacklining (by Gibbons) and a bike area for kids. New Orleans national touring act Anders Osborne will headline Saturday night’s concert, and the Burning Can Beerfest will bring more than 40 national canning breweries to Lyons.

Bringing the Games back is an important way to revitalize Lyons, stated Chad Melis, Oskar Blues’ Marketing Director and the Director of CAN’d AID, the non-profit fundraising arm of Oskars.

“The Games brings together many aspects that create the social fabric of this creative and outdoors centric community,” Melis explained. “We have celebrated the Games under views of Steamboat Mountain and Rocky Mountain National Park for 13 years, and this year it means even more to come together and continue to raise funds following the flood.”

“With the lineup of events and music that we have, this will be the Town’s finest Lyons Outdoor Games yet,” Cosgrove said. “Lyons is thrilled to be able to offer one of its flagship events as it works through its recovery efforts. We are excited to invite visitors to join us as we celebrate the outdoors and our dynamic small town.”

All proceeds from this fundraising event will be donated to Lyons’ Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Events’ rebuilding efforts. The Town needs approximately $18 million to rebuild its St. Vrain Corridor Trail, which was completely destroyed, as well as significant portions of its kayaking features and its two main parks.

About the Games
The Lyons Outdoor Games: Local kayakers created the Lyons Outdoor Games to bring world class athletes to its famed White Water Park to compete in freestyle, downriver, and slalom events as early as 2001. Since its inception, it has steadily expanded to include dozens of other events, from dog events and running races to BMX biking, dirt jumping, and the Oskar Blues Burning Can Beer Festival. For more information, please visit: www.lyonsoutdoorgames.com

About Lyons Parks & Rec
The Lyons Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Events strives to develop and enhance recreational and cultural opportunities for its residents and visitors, while improving and preserving its community parks, open space, trails and facilities. For more information, please visit: www.townoflyons.com/parks-and-recreation-othermenu

About LOG Title Sponsor Oskar Blues Brewery
Founded as a brewpub by Dale Katechis in 1997, Oskar Blues Brewery launched the craft beer-in-a-can apocalypse in 2002 using a tabletop machine that sealed one can at a time. In 2008, the makers of the top-selling pale ale in ColoRADo, Dale’s Pale Ale, moved into a 35,000-square-foot facility in Longmont, ColoRADo. The brewery has since experienced explosive growth—packaging 59,000 barrels of beer in 2011 and 86,750 barrels in 2012. In December of 2012, Oskar Blues opened the doors to an additional brewery in Brevard, North Carolina. Together, the breweries packaged 120,000 barrels of beer in 2013, distributing its trailblazing craft brews to 32 U.S. states.

In addition to breweries in Longmont, ColoRADo, and Brevard, North Carolina, Oskar Blues operates the original brewpub in Lyons, Homemade Liquids & Solids Restaurant (Longmont, 2009), a craft casual burger joint, CHUBurger (Longmont, 2013), the Bonewagon Food Truck, REEB Cycles and The Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation.  Oskar Blues also announced the opening of Cyclhops—a Bike CANtina, and home to REEB Cycles retail location in December of 2013. Oskar Blues also revealed in 2013 that the 5280 Craft Bar and largest rooftop deck in sports house a second CHUBurger location. The Denver craft casual burger joint location will open during the Colorado Rockies home opener on April 4th, 2014.