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Great Lakes Basin Journal Entries

Members of our Great Lakes Basin community share their stories and photographs of our monthly gatherings.The easiest way to navigate going back and forth between photo links and journal text is to click on your "back" button at the left of your tool bar.


We met at 1 PM in a Windsor, Ontario high school library. Our circle was so large we really had to speak up to be heard, but when we sang everything came together. And we did a lot of singing! I took a ton of pictures and don't really know how to share them in a reader-friendly way, so maybe I'll just start by taking you around the circle during one of our singing times. Unfortunately a few women close to me did not make it into this set of pictures, but every one of them shows up later. From left to right, here is view #1, view #2, view #3, view #4. Nancy Nordlie graciously accompanied us on the guitar for many of our songs.

The day began with Pat Noonan lighting a candle in the center of the circle. The candle was soon surrounded by the objects each of us had brought from our lives, an object that represented our feelings about the part of the world that we call home. As the circle continued to sing, women came forward and placed their object on what became our altar.

Our two coordinators--Joan Tinkess from Ontario and Penny Hackett-Evans from Michigan--greeted the 44 Canadian and American women who had come together to add their voices, hearts, minds and spirits to Carolyn McDade's visionary CD project known as "O Beautiful Gaia." They explained that,

"This project will take place during the moons of four seasons beginning now, in the fall of 2002. During the course of this project a double CD will be created. It is the intention that this will be a deeply reflective experience weaving singing, ritual, study and experiences on our land. Each group--Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador), Atlantic New England and the Great Lakes Basin (us)--will ground in its bioregion for the reflection, singing and recording of their portion."

But the most important message was sharing the vision that is at the heart of our work:

"In the deepest recesses of our being we have heard the call...the first call, the deepest call, the one in no way complete or brought to satisfaction...the call of Earth...through waters and winds, forests and farmland, inviting us to become one again with all that lives."

How we will manifest that dream, how we will answer that call is for each community to discern together. We know the CD will be part of it, but expect much more to emerge during our time together. Perhaps a quilt, a book, a web site, political action, a commitment to join with land conservancy groups...who knows where we will go. As I wrote last night, nothing is beyond us now.

Our circle, that we already expect will swell to 50-60 women, is made up of women of two countries, some from urban and others from rural areas, women ranging in age (today) from 16 to over 80. We are students, retired, employed outside the home and employed inside the home. Our gifts and talents remain to be seen, but judging from today, we are richly diverse and open-hearted in our willingness to share.

One way we shared with one another was when we broke into small groups to discuss what we have fallen in love with here in our bioregion, for what we would give our lives. After deep conversations, one member from each group wrote some of what was said on large sheets of paper that were then posted around the room.

Another way we shared was when Nancy invited us to create new verses to "O Beautiful Gaia", the chant that has given the CD its name. So many of our circle responded with loving words and images that the song sunk deep into our bodies and began to beat there like a communal heart.

Since some of the women had never met nor sung with our sister, Carolyn McDade--who will be with us on October 5 to launch the project--our planning committee wisely showed the video of Carolyn and her music that Marcia Gleckler produced in 1999. It always brings tears to my eyes.

In addition to singing and sharing, we had some nuts and bolts decisions to make. For instance, what would be our scheduled meeting times during the year. We came to an amazingly quick consensus to meet from 9 AM-4 PM on the first Saturday of every month. We know that we will be recording our portion of the CD in June 2003, but will not have that date until we find a local recording studio that can accommodate us. Another issue was finances. Our financial coordinators projected a certain amount that we will need for this project and instead of deciding how to raise it, a number of women recommended we just pass the hat and see where that left us. Within ten minutes we had raised over $1000 U.S. and another $1000 Canadian. Are we committed to this project, or what!

Different members of the planning committee (each month the planning committee will change, being made up of Canadian and American volunteers) spoke on different subjects. Mary White told us about Land Conservancy groups and what is happening up in Northern Michigan where she lives. Carolyn McDade has a dream that through our reflection, study and singing will come a desire to join such groups and commit to preserving acres of land for the generations to come.

If it sounds like we did a lot of talking, let me make it clear that song was the thread that wove everything together. We sang and sang and sang and sang.

When it got close to 5 PM, Elaine Carr invited us to take back whatever object we had brought for the altar, and to take it home and hold it as sacred as we hold the women in this circle. Two moments of this process will stay with me: one, when a lovely woman named Johanna danced around the circle blessing each of us with her willow branch; the other was when Peg Case and a woman from Ann Arbor joined the two bouquets--one from Canada and one from the U.S.--into a blended whole. To me, both actions symbolized what our "O Beautiful Gaia" Great Lakes community project is all about.

Afterwards, a number of us went to one of Windsor's wonderful restaurants, Shin Shin's, for dinner. Here's Julia actually eating while the rest of us seem more busy posing for pictures, sharing stories and appreciating said stories. By the way, I wasn't the only photographer at the table, Penny was doing her fair share. You might be interested to know she and I own the same Fuji Fine Pix 2800 Zoom digital camera...happily, I might add.

This day has shown me that whatever is going on among leaders of nations, whatever wars they are planning, whatever greed and arrogance might be behind many of their decisions, there is still hope for the future and that hope often comes in the form of women coming together with shared visions and commitment to change whatever needs to be changed. We do not need to look to leaders or governments or nations to show us how to reclaim our power to be transformative agents in today's world. Often all we need to do is come together and sing our way into the heart places where all life meets and connects as one. That is what happened today. And this is just the beginning.

photos and words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


Now I know I'm going to make it through the madness that is to come. I feel full to overflowing--full of love, understanding, support, solidarity, strength and truth. Even as death and destruction swirl around the leaders of this country, I was in a circle of individuals who, as Mary Margaret Parent's lyrics say, "choose to differ from the rest." Where war is all anyone seems able to talk about these days, we spent the entire day singing and speaking of Gaia, our planet earth, endangered species, land conservancy, hope, peace, commitment, sustenance and cultural transformation. We dreamed dreams even as we looked at the hard truths. We soared on the wings of our collective creativity. We immersed ourselves in a shared vision of leaving this earth on which we live in better shape than we found it. We committed ourselves to the generations to come and their right to have a planet that can sustain them and offer them life and joy. We are not going to give into despair, apathy or numbness. No, we will shout and sing, drum and dance, circle and create, dissent and demand, persevere and participate. As Carolyn McDade, our trusted visionary song sister so aptly said, "We will not wimp out!" With such power at my side, with the wonderful women of this already amazing "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project community as my sisters, I know I will not give up the fight for justice and peace. No, not until every strand of the glorious web of life with whom I share this planet is safe from human choices that destroy. I will not give up. Ever.

But tonight I am going to go to bed early and leave you, hopefully, wanting more. Tomorrow I will share much, much more of what happened today. Until then I leave you with a smile on my face and a heart burning with gratitude.

The story:

When women gather in a circle to sing, it is an act of revolution. If those who have curtailed civil liberties in the United States since 9-11 had any smarts, they'd outlaw such gatherings as seditious, because change happens there and true change is always seditious. It rocks the boat, causes people to think, gives them courage and undermines submission to outside authority.

All of the above happened today in an old Detroit Unitarian Universalist Church near Wayne State University. Fifty Canadian and American women joined together for a daylong workshop with Carolyn McDade, a one-woman cultural transformative agent in the guise of singer/songwriter from Cape Cod. No one left that circle the same person she had been when she entered. For myself, I entered empty and left full.

So much happened and I tried to document it all with my trusty digital camera. I have as many pictures from those seven hours--eight, counting dinner--as I've had from entire weekend gatherings. Everytime I looked up there was another moment I wanted to capture, partly for myself, partly for the women at my side and partly for friends far and near who were with us in spirit. Please bear with me as I overload you with images; I just couldn't leave any of these out.

Let me start by taking you around our circle. I must apologize to the women pictured in Circle Photo #4. Maybe it was the radiation of your energies, but for some reason I jiggled my camera and you are all mysteriously hazy. By the way, this circle singing came near the end of our day together. I think you can see that in the way we look. Here we go, from left-to-right...Circle Photo #1, Photo #2, Photo #3, Photo #4, Photo #5, Photo #6, Photo #7.

Now that you've seen who we are, let me share some of what happened during this amazing day. Our altar was created from leaves that we'd asked each woman to bring from the land on which she lives. Toronto, Detroit, downtown Windsor, Ontario, the suburbs surrounding Detroit, Essex County in Ontario, Northern Michigan--we come from diverse places and live different kinds of lives. The planning committee (a rotating volunteer position) also asked each of us to bring a container of water from our region. There were as diverse containers used as women in the circle. Jean handpainted her glass jar of water with an image of the trees that shelter the Windsor canal from which she got it. We sang what has become our theme song, "O Beautiful Gaia", as water was brought up and placed on the altar. By the way, we call it the "altar" because it is the sacred center of our circle and contains our collective energy. We also began the day with a Sun Salutation in movement to the Four Directions.

Carolyn was here with us women of the Great Lakes Basin to help launch her visionary CD project, "O Beautiful Gaia." Although this project was originally dreamed into being by Carolyn, she is clear that it is now in the hands and hearts of each of the three communities involved to create what it is to become. These communities are: 1) Atlantic New England, where Carolyn lives and has been part of a community of activist/singing women for decades; 2) Atlantic Canada, which includes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador; and 3) our Great Lakes Basin, centered in the Windsor, Ontario/Detroit, Michigan area and made up of equal numbers of Canadian and American women. Much of this day was devoted to Carolyn teaching us many of the songs we will record in June, and sharing with us the ground from which this dream sprang.

As I understand it, Carolyn's purpose in bringing "O Beautiful Gaia" to birth is her passionate dedication to those who will come after us. She does not want to die without having done everything she can to help heal and preserve this precious planet on which we live so that generations to come might have a home that is free from pollution, destruction of species, human-made "natural" disasters, irreverent use of natural resources, and all that goes against the balance of nature. She is committed to land conservancy, specifically the idea of each person owning four acres of land that they will ensure is preserved in its natural state for the generations to come. But, again, she repeats over and over again that it is up to each community to dream their own dreams and create what is theirs to create. As we all now realize, the CD is a mere catalyst to form these communities and get things going.

So we listened to Carolyn with heartfelt attention whether she was sharing her dreams or improvising an anti-war song, but we also "did our own thing" as when our drummers spontaneously set a beat that got us chanting and dancing. Our community is like that: we take off sometimes and you just have to go with the Carolyn did with utter delight. Of course it doesn't hurt that we have gifted musicians like Nancy Nordlie on drums, banjo and guitar, and Sandy Yost on drums, flute, clarinet and saxophone.

There was just the right balance of talking, movement, silliness, seriousness and song. As I said earlier, much of our day together was spend singing the songs we will probably record in June. Wonderful songs, I might add. Every community will sing Carolyn's "Longing Series", but in each case it will reflect the bio-region of which we are a part. For instance, we of the Great Lakes Basin will sing the names of our own endangered species as well as writing our own verses to "I Sing the Longing."

Carolyn gave us some practice in writing verses today by playing a simple melody she'd written on Thursday night (!) that ended with the phrase, "We say yes!" She played it enough times for us to get it in our bodies and then asked us to break into groups of three and create a verse using this melody and ending with those words. While we worked, she kept playing it over and over. I suspect we were all surprised to find how easy and fun this was. Some of our number even came up with two verses and others added movement to their song. It was pure delight to hear each group and then to learn their verses. We found out we are all songwriters! If I were to have to choose my favorite part of the day, this would be it. Seeing folks who might normally be shy about singing in front of others give it everything they had was inspiring. I think Pat Noonan's smile says it all.

Even though the day seemed like one of those magical timeless times, it was over all too soon. But we concluded with a fitting ritual. Each person went up and reclaimed their container of water, brought it back to their place and held it as we sang a closing song. Such a sacred time.

Happily, we didn't have to part yet. Thirty of us walked--I scooted--across the street and had dinner together at the Cass Cafe, a wonderfully funky local restaurant. The food was good and the company even better.

And to think this was only our second time together. What power!

Most photos and words taken by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


What I will remember as today's most unexpected flash of grace was seeing a man's eyes overflow and a single tear drop down his cheek as he heard me say, "You know, I can't ever sing our song to the endangered species with their wonderfully quirky names and keep a dry eye." This man, a Pt. Pelee naturalist named John, stooped to give me a hug and whispered "Thank you." At the time, we were in the Pt. Pelee Visitors Center where he and Lauren answer questions, educate groups and individuals, and work toward the preservation of this treasure--Canada's smallest national park--on the shores of Lake Erie.

My Great Lakes/O Beautiful Gaia sisters and I were at Pt. Pelee to spend time on the land and water of which we sing. Judy, Judith, Nancy, Sandy and I had gone to the Visitor Center to borrow their all-terrain wheelchair--a funny, reclining contraption--so I could go hiking with my friends. While there, John had smiled and asked, "What are you doing out here on this cold, grey day?" I proceeded to tell him and Lauren about the O Beautiful Gaia CD project and the vision that had brought it to life. They seemed deeply touched to hear that their love of the land and water of this bio-region was shared by people they'd never met. As John said, "We need to remember the spiritual in our work as conservationists." He then asked if our O Beautiful Gaia group would be willing to come and give a concert on the land at Pt. Pelee next summer! We were honored by his suggestion and can hopefully take him up on it, but it was his tears that I will not forget.

That tender encounter sent us with full hearts and open eyes onto the land. Lauren had recommended we use our precious hour to walk the nearby Tilden's Woods Trail. Since I was reclining in an awkward position, I asked Jackie if she'd be our nature photographer. As often happens, it was a gift that benefitted her as well. She said she'd been kicking herself that she hadn't thought to bring her camera, which is a twin to mine. So these next photos are the world as seen through the discerning eye of Jackie Berz.

Led by Nancy, Judy, Jackie and I made our way through the forest beside old trees, tiny wildflowers, overhanging branches, golden curtains of leaves, and downed trees. As we hiked, we remained silent so as to hear the wind's fingers playing music in the branches and leaves overhead. The hour flew by much too quickly. I want to return.

At 2:30 PM we had a date to meet the rest of our community in front of the marsh boardwalk. When we got there, we formed a large circle around a grandmother tree and began to chant and sing. I will take you around the circle, but keep in mind that I missed a few of the women while others were photographed more than once. Circle shot #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8. I can't recall ever having felt as integrated a connection with land, water, air, women and song in my life. When the circle spontaneously began a spiral dance around me, my heart danced with them.

After our circle dispersed, Courtney and I walk/scooted out onto the boardwalk. Many of us have known Courtney, Jeanne's granddaughter, for years. At fourteen, she is our youngest sister in this Great Lakes/O Beautiful Gaia community. We are fortunate to have her with us. Courtney talked of her life and friends as we admired the marsh with its water lilies, grasses and milkweed pods, before turning back toward the land. Jeanne joined us and I was able to take a picture of this loving granddaughter and grandmother.

Before going to Pt. Pelee in the afternoon, our community spent several hours together at a high school in Windsor, Ontario. As we entered the library where we were to meet, everyone oohed and aahed over the two quilts--one based on a goddess motif and the other celebrating Gaia--that lay at the center of the circle. It turned out they were loaned by an Ann Arbor, Michigan artist who has offered to help us make a quilt if we wish.

Pat N. lit our candle, Judith and Nancy led us in doing the Sun Salutation to the Four Directions, and we were ready to begin. The first thing on our agenda was to brainstorm ideas about activities and projects in which members of our community might want to engage. Joan offered to help facilitate the compilation into book-form of writings and art by our women focussing on our theme of O Beautiful Gaia. Penny told the story of the quilts and asked if there was interest in our making one. Peg shared about the Sweetwater Coalition that is fighting Perrier Water's current theft of water from Michigan aquifers, that they sell under the Ice Mountain label. I invited the women to join the new Raging Grannies group that will be meeting at my house next Saturday. Mary W. said she would like to work with interested women on land conservancy. Joanna offered to work with anyone who was interested in sound and movement-based healing techniques. Pat N. offered to facilitate a political group to study and analyze issues of corporate globalization. Julia asked for help starting urban gardens in her Southwest Detroit neighborhood. Mary Margaret spoke for Elaine who has a dream of putting together an art show with our creative offerings about the earth and our shared vision of a sustainable future. So many women spoke--among them Marion from Windsor and Mary B. from Highland, MI--that I cannot recall the multitude of creative and politically relevant suggestions that were made. What I do remember is that this circle is made up of intelligent, committed, creative, daring women who are not afraid to speak their minds and work toward change.

As I looked around the circle I was delighted to see three women whom I'd met a year ago at a Carolyn McDade retreat at Five Oaks Retreat Center near Paris, Ontario. They are planning to drive in every month from their homes in Georgetown, Ontario, west of Toronto. We now have five women who live either in or near Toronto. That is at least a 4-5 hour drive and necessitates their spending Friday night in Windsor before every meeting on the first Saturday of the month. As I said, this is a group of committed women!

Our next activity was to break into singing sections--uppers, middles or lowers--and go to different rooms for sectional rehearsals of "Listen To the Voices", the song that Carolyn McDade wrote based on words by our own Mary Margaret Parent. I chose to be a middle and found it a more comfortable fit than the uppers, where I've often placed myself. Deanne played the piano and facilitated our rehearsal. When we moved on to "I Sing the Longing" with its truly challenging middle part, I taught the women Judy Fjell's "chinning" technique for learning new songs and it was well received.

By 11 AM it was time for us gather back in the library to sing together. The uppers sang their part, while the lowers and middles sang theirs. It was interesting to watch what happened next. Many women in the group started asking Nancy Nordlie, our Notable Women chorus director, to direct us. Nancy declined as she explained Carolyn's vision of a song circle in which there are no leaders, rather a community of voices that form as one and create music from their shared heart. How difficult for us to give up our old ways! It was finally one of our young women who offered the wisdom we needed to hear. She said, "I have sung all my life in choirs and we are always taught to listen to one another as we sing." One song we had not practiced was Happy Birthday but we happily sang it to our dear Pat N. whose birthday is tomorrow, November 3.

Before forming carpools for the hourlong drive to Pt. Pelee, Andrea gave us each a plastic bag with sun-drying clay to take with us. She invited us to use it as a tool for meditation while we were there.

A few of our sisters, like Charmaine and Linda, were unable to join us at Pt. Pelee, so we had to say goodbye until December. But we American women felt the love of our Canadian sisters whether or not they could accompany us to Pt. Pelee, and that was because each Canadian woman had packed a lunch for an American sister to take with her in the car. It was such fun to choose your lunch sight-unseen and then open it, as I did, to find your favorite sandwich from childhood--in my case, cream cheese and olives--inside the bag! Such a feeling of being loved.

I'd say that what already holds this circle together is of the earth and all its life forms, love of peace and justice, love of our children, grandchildren and those who will come after us, love of song, love of community and love of one another. Have we really only met three times?

Photos and words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


We opened the circle within the arms of the Great Spirit and made an altar with animals.  Chanted our way to the introduction by Julia of Shaun Nethercott from Matrix Theatre who entertained us for the next one and a half hours.  She spoke of Detroit as a power spot because it is the confluence of 4 ecosystems: the Detroit River which is very fast moving (5-6mph), marsh, Carolinian forest and savannah or plain.  She talked about the sturgeon and how there used to be so many in the river that one could walk across it on the backs of the sturgeon and said they are coming back.  She told us about the circle of life being divided into quadrants representing the seasons and the colors associated with the seasons i.e. spring -- yellow, summer -- green, autumn -- red and winter -- blue.  She spoke about a possible partnership between the Gaia circle and Matrix Theatre.  There was a question and answer period following her presentation.  Julia then outlined how the rest of the day would look and we processed where we were in terms of the project.  After a short break we went into our sections and practiced, then came back together just before lunch.  At lunch we broke into the groups we wanted to be in i.e. writing, quilt, land conservancy, etc. and each group talked about what they wanted to accomplish.  After lunch we got back to the big group and reported out.  A quilt is in the making for anyone who wants to contribute to it.  The writing group is going to put together a book.  The land conservancy group is going to work on a project on Belle Isle with Suzanne Campbell.  We talked about money and it was reported that we have about $3000 in the treasury now.  We continue to take donations and talked about fundraising and the need to pre-sell the CD.  We broke into our sectionals again and then came back together, sang and closed the circle.

Written by Judith Hill

The container opened and magic spilled over us! We sang and were together in a whole new way today.  We had a context for our words, our songs, our drums, our bodies, our breath.  Quiet drumming called us into our circle.  A wise woman told us our history -- one we had not known.  We connected with the gigantic Sturgeon that once swam in this region...Amazon, dinosaur fish.  We learned of the ecosystems where we live -- power confluence of river, forest, wetland marsh and plain.  Our singing of the The Longing Series deepened as we watched photos of the endangered of our area. We connected with the reality of what we so want to "continue on".

Lunch was a beehive of meetings.  Some planned a visual art-performance piece.  Others learned techniques for sewing a quilt to illustrate this gathering. More brainstormed ways to partner with people in our region trying to reclaim the natural wonder that is ours.  Women gathered to plan writing they will share --- and all ate heartily of the food provided!  We drummed and danced ourselves back into a circle for more singing.  Once again, deeply connected, we sang the Zimbabwe Women's Prayer powerfully to each other -- in parts with no music!!  Strangers to the group came from the church kitchen to sing and dance that one with us!  We ended singing "Beginners" and talked of what "we have only begun to imagine".  Yet another stranger walked into the gathering from the street -- and sat and listened for a while.  Then he stood up with tears in his eyes as he said he appreciated what we were doing -- and then he left as miraculously as he had appeared.

Magical, magical!  We were graced by this circle today.  Let it continue on!

Words and photos by Penny Hackett-Evans


Ah, what could be more lifegiving than being with women? Especially the women of the Great Lakes Basin who are forming community around the O Beautiful Gaia CD project! Today was our monthly all-day gathering and, as always, it was superb. Check out Alicia's sheer delight (head thrown back and grin as wide as the sky) as we were doing movement together in the Ojibway Nature Centre of Windsor parking lot before they opened and we went inside to sing. And sing we did...for glorious hour upon hour. Not only did we sing songs written by others, but members of our community wrote their own verses and shared them with the circle. You can see how it felt to receive the applause of our sisters. But applause was not the only thing we received--how about these backrubs?

Our day began at 9:30 AM in the parking lot of the Ojibway Nature Centre of Windsor. We wanted to do some movement together in the fresh air before the doors opened at 10 AM. As a scooter-rider, I moved a bit but my sisters really got into it. They grounded themselves in the earth below, reached toward the skies, stretched their arms from sea to sea, and bowed in reverence to Mother Gaia. And then Joanna led them in dances during which they invited me to be in the center of the circle. What healing energy!

Our singing room was cozy with a stone fireplace and a view of birds waiting patiently in bushes for their turn at the birdfeeder outside the window. We began, as has become our tradition, by chanting "O Beautiful Gaia." From our first gathering in September, this chant naturally evolved into a time of spontaneously sharing verses that we offer as prayer and the community joins in the praying. It's funny how quickly a group establishes "traditions"; another of ours is having Pat Noonan light the candle on our altar. Now, the altar itself is always different. This month our artist sister Pam created a ritual celebration of the rivers and lakes that surround and connect our two countries. And it was Pam and Diane who drummed us into a spirit of sisterhood.

This was a day of song, pretty much from beginning to end. We will be recording our section of the double CD, "O Beautiful Gaia," on June 14-15, 2003 and want to embody the songs we will be singing well before that time. I say embody rather than learn because our intention is to sing as with one voice that wells up from the love and commitment to the earth that has brought us together. This is no choir or chorus; we are a circle of women who will do whatever is necessary to protect, sustain and help restore the health of air, water, land and species that human choices have put at risk. This CD we are creating with our sisters in Atlantic Canada and Atlantic New England is not intended for easy listening; it is intended to be an instrument of cultural transformation, a passionate statement of love that will touch hearts and inspire action. There is a shared urgency to get this message out before it is too late.

So, even as we sing, we are educating ourselves and forming subgroups to work on land conservancy, river-keeping, species preservation, biodiversity and whatever other issues we feel called upon to address. In addition to working with already-formed community groups and coalitions, we plan to use creative means like song, visual art, writing and quilting to express and act upon what we learn. At lunch today, each subgroup met and brainstormed ways to enact our vision. I was part of the community art group that met with the Windsor artist Elaine Carr. We began to envision an environmental installation that would literally connect the two shores of our shared Detroit River. We will work with Marion Overholt of the river-keepers group and hope to involve Shaun Nethercott (Detroit's Matrix Theatre) who shared with us at our December gathering, and a number of other community groups on both sides of the river. This is a big project but we decided to dream big and go from there. The land conservancy group came up with the idea of bringing together inner city youth from both countries to learn about and work on projects involving the land we share. Today the quilters received their first completed quilt square. They spent much of their time creating verses to two of the songs we will be singing on the CD. The writers worked together all the way through lunch and emerged with at least eight new verses to the song, "We Say Yes."

We sang songs like "Beginners" (music by Norma Luccock; text by Denise Levertov) that have intricate harmonies and take sustained attention and repeated singing, and others like the peace song, "If Every Woman In the World," that got us on our feet, clapping our hands and singing from the depths of our being. It is this kind of heart-singing that we want to bring to every song! When we sang the words, "of every age and generation," I was mindful of the gift we share in having both Bethany, age 15, and Jean, in her 80s, as part of our circle. Every age and generation...

By 4 PM it was time for us to finish for the day. As we left the Ojibway Nature Center, a sacred land of hiking trails and environmental education programs set within Windsor's city limits, we were delighted to meet two employees and their friend: Erin and Kristine with Kaa, a Ball Python from Africa (whom she let us pet). On our way out to the parking lot, La Lucha my scooter and I encountered an impassable path...impassable that is until my friends the human snow plows got to work! Many of us then went to eat dinner at the Michigan Diner, a Windsor, Ontario institution since 1950.

Not only do I keep this ongoing photo-journal of our Great Lakes Basin community gatherings, but Penny Hackett-Evans, the American coordinator, has been making a wonderful photo album filled with collages using the digital pictures she takes each month. I remember Carolyn McDade saying in a retreat years ago that unless we share our stories, what happens will be lost. May what is happening here never be lost.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


During times when sanity is in short supply and lies are lionized as truth, there is nothing more important than coming together in a circle of women who see through the clouds of war to the possibility of peace, and are willing to sing, write, dance, drum, speak and act in ways that bring that possibility to life. And so it was today at our monthly gathering of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project.

We gathered on this snowy morning in the First Unitarian Universalist church in the heart of Detroit, 50 women ready to sing of the earth, challenge our assumptions and work toward change. We co-created the altar, informally but with reverence.  Pat lit our candle , after which we did as we have done every month since September, and sang "O Beautiful Gaia" with women spontaneously offering their prayers as new verses to be sung. We went around the circle and asked each woman to sing her name, which the community echoed back to her. And then we settled down to a morning of song. After all, this is a CD project!

Joanna led us as we sang "Listen To the Voices", a song based on words by our own Mary Margaret Parent with music by Carolyn McDade. It was easy to sing this song from our hearts. It begins:

Listen, listen to the voices
that beg to differ from the rest.
Listen, listen to the voices
That beg to differ from the rest.
The beauty of each being,
The wonder of our truth
The wisdom of our experience
Sustain and make us community
Sustain and make us community.

Next, it was Deanne Bednar's turn to share her newly created song, "The Circle of Life." This is the song she brought to our Notable Women rehearsal last month, still fresh from the birthing. As Deanne played and we sang, Sandy Yost stood up and accompanied Deanne on the clarinet. It was pure magic. Such a glorious addition to our gathering of songs for the CD!

And then Julia got up to help us with "Beginners", a song with music by Norma Luccock and text by the poet Denise Levertof. Of all our songs, this one has the most complex parts and is taking the most attention. But we don't mind; it is a stunning piece of music. Since I had decided to move today from the middle section to the high section which carries the melody, I found I enjoyed our time of singing much more. And I wasn't missed as we have lots of strong middle voices.

Julia then led us in the "Longing Series." This is a collection of three songs with music by Carolyn McDade and words created from the earth, water, land, air and species of our particular bio-region. "We Sing the Longing" has verses that our women have written; verses like:

We are the patchwork
Of water, earth, air and sky
Threads gently weaving
Our soul's design

We are the sturgeon
In search of clean flowing streams
We are the water
that swirls our dreams

We are the snow fall
Drifting on currents of air
We are the darkness
that brings repair

The second part of the "Longing Series" is a chant in which we name each of the Endangered Species of Michigan and Ontario. As we sang of the Bashful Bulrush, the Algonquin Wolf, the Piping Plover and more, Penny showed her PowerPoint presentation so we could see their faces. And then we sang to the Endangered Species that suffer the peril of war. It was hard to stay dry-eyed as we lamented the threatened extinction of innocents like the Afghan Tortoise, the Old World Otter and the Pale-Backed Pigeon in Afghanistan, and the Asiatic Lion, the Black Finless Porpoise and the Sociable Lapwing in Iraq.

We concluded this series by singing:

Let them continue on
Let them continue on
Continue, continue,
Continue, continue,
Oh, let them continue on.

As we sang I looked around the circle, occasionally taking pictures of our women. Here is our youngest sister, 14 year-old Courtney sitting in a way that only a teenager could do with comfort. And here are the women of each section--high voices, middles and lower voices--each one of whom gave it all she had.

By the time we broke for lunch, everyone was ready to chill out a little. But, after getting our food, most of us joined our interest groups and shared ideas as we ate. Mary Tiner gathered some folks around the piano to practice her French verses for "We Sing the Longing." Mary Bunker accompanied them on the piano. I am always amazed at how many of our women can play instruments.

After lunch, we sang a little while longer and then got ready for an afternoon of drumming. Lori Fithian is a gifted drum teacher/facilitator from Dexter, Michigan with whom many of us have drummed for years. She has agreed to be one of the musicians on our CD and came today to give us the opportunity to add drumming to our O Beautiful Gaia experience. A good number of our women brought their own drums, like this beautiful handmade one of Charmaine's, but Lori brought plenty more so everyone could be part of the circle. Did we have fun! You can see the delight on the women's faces and on Lori's as well. Of course, drumming led to dancing and, again, their delight is obvious! For me, there was the unexpected joy of discovering that my less-than-able hands could beat on the djun djun drum and hit a tambourine at the same time. Fun,fun, fun! Lori ended the afternoon by sharing a song about the Great Lakes that she had created spontaneously at a previous workshop. She encouraged us to do the same.

As we sang and shared in our closing circle, Lori told us about the Columbia space shuttle exploding. We had not heard of it because we'd been away from radios and TVs all day. The reverence with which the circle received this tragic news, and the beautiful way our silence evolved into singing an African song of prayer, showed the power of community.

After the official end of our day together, many of us went across the street to the Cass Cafe where we enjoyed wonderful food in a uniquely Detroit atmosphere.

How deeply grateful I am that it is this year and no other that we have come together to work on this project. How could we have known how it necessary it would be, for us and for our world? For it is circles like O Beautiful Gaia that hold the dreams of peace and healing that will sustain our earth.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


The altar was beautiful (isn't it always?!) with many candles and cloths  denoting the colour of the four directions. A few of us brought our squares for the quilt and these were placed in strategic positions. Just delightful.

The dialogue re the differences in our American/Canadian cultures was good. The topic may or may not arise again and either way the process on Saturday, which was just a beginning or part of a continuum, who knows, was beneficial.for all, in my opinion. I, for one, feel it can safely be put to rest and all is well. But if there is a need for more dialogue I certainly support this as well.

Lunch was delicious. I always like to talk about food so I will leave it at that. A bean pot recipe was available which I will definitely make.

Our singing is really coming along. "O Beautiful Gaia" was extremely emotional for me, particularly when we sang a verse keeping in mind a group of young people from various parts of the country and internationally who were at a conflict resolution workshop being held in Assumption High School, and then to those beyond the walls (our fellow world citizens) and then to our (mother) earth. We kind of bunched towards each other, clumping really, to sing parts of The Longing Series. The effect was magic. This will be such good preparation for the closeness we will have when we meet for our (dress) rehearsal.

words by Arlene Buckley, photos by Judy Drylie

Practice was good today. Joanna led us in some wonderful dances and movement pieces to start. The centerpiece had the four elements and was quite lovely. Hopefully Judy got you a picture. We broke into discussions with groups of four, two Canadians and two Americans around the responses to the questionaire. We really did not find we had many serious divisions or problems. We got out some of the feelings Canadians have about Americans in general and how they sometimes get in front of them with us, even though they know we are not with the dominant culture, or we wouldn't be in the project. We expressed some of the little things that come up, like the fact that we don't have to change our money but they do. But in general everyone seemed to feel once expressed, the thoughts can be rested and we can go on singing with gusto. Which we tried to do. We worked on Deanne's song, the Blessing song, The Longing Series, and Zimbabwe women's song. Nancy introduced some variations for We Say Yes, Blessing Song, and Naming species part. We have tentatively set a rehearsal for March 23, Sunday, I believe from 2 - 6 at Assumption. No food, just singing.

words by Peg Case, photos by Judy Drylie

The gathering on Saturday was different, as each is, but I think it was important and fulfilling for most of us in many ways.

There was a huge backlog at the bridge so some U.S. women didn't arrive until 10:00 a.m.!  We waited a while, then started at 9:30.  In all we were 40 women for the day.

Joanna did a beautiful job of building an altar with many bowls of water with candles in them and around them.  She had four pieces of cloth for the four directions.  We moved in different simple dances for half an hour. Everyone seemed to love it.

Then I introduced the topic of discussion, our relations as women of two nations, and, as Mary White and I had collated the answers from the lavender sheets, we had something to guide us in small group discussions.  Before we separated into groups, we stood up and sang "Listen to the Voices".

When we returned to the circle after about 45 minutes, there was some give and take about the ideas and feelings that had arisen as women talked. Several people told me afterwards that they had gotten a lot out of the exercise.  I suppose time will tell.

The rest of the day was spent in practice.  We worked with the endangered species chants to try different arrangments that would offer variety. Deanne  had fine-tuned her song and we practised it in parts. As well, Nancy had written harmony for "O Beautiful Gaia" and that was very lovely to sing and hear.

In our closing we tried to take our hearts back to to the morning discussion.  Arlene Buckley read a poem of Judy Chicago, and I invited the women to share what "And then..." will be like when the tenderness we want to feel for one another becomes a reality.  What will our world be like then?

Untitled poem from ìThe Dinner Partyî

And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to anotherís will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earthís abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish lifeís creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.

Judy Chicago

Deanne led us in toning for peace among all us creatures on the earth.  Then Marianne Angus read Judyth Hill's poem "Wage Peace".  We ended with "Woyaya".

The pre-sale order forms arrived and Catherine urged us each to pre-sell 10 CDs.

We decided to get together to practise on Sunday, March 23, from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 at Assumption.

words by Joan Tinkess, photos by Judy Drylie and Sandy Hardwick

SUNDAY, MARCH 23, 2003

Sometimes the Universe gives you exactly what you need when you need it. Now, maybe you always get what you need when you need it, and just don't realize it. But today I was very much aware of the timeliness of the gift I was given. Today I sang for four solid hours with my O Beautiful Gaia CD project sisters in Windsor, Ontario. Not only was it wonderful to be with these women and to sing earth-loving songs, but it was glorious to be out of the United States and in a country that is not at war. Our neighbors to the south (Detroit is north of Windsor) refuse to fight in Bush's war. It was as if I could breathe deeply again after holding my breath for a solid week. And it certainly helps to be able to breathe if you want to sing. And sing we did!

We managed to run through all nine songs that we plan to sing on the CD. This was important because next Saturday we will have a full day of singing with Carolyn McDade, the singer/songwriter from Cape Cod who is coordinating this project, and then on Sunday we will go into the recording studio to make a rough cut of the CD.

Our focus was strong and we sang from our hearts. This was particularly true when we sang a song with the following words:

If every woman in the world
had her mind set on freedom.
If every woman in the world
dreamt a sweet dream of peace.
If every woman of every nation
young and old, each generation
held her hands out in the name of love
there would be no more wars.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


Fifty women of the Great Lakes Basin gathered at Assumption High School in Windsor, Ontario for a full day of singing in preparation for tomorrow's recording of a rough cut CD. The special treat was having our sister, Carolyn McDade, in town to companion us through the process. The O Beautiful Gaia project that we've been working on since September is the fruit of this songwriter/spiritual feminist/social activist's vision of community building to protect our planet, Gaia.

We began by each of us choosing one stone from a pile of stones gathered from the shores of Lake Huron, our Great Lake to the north. We then placed our stone on the altar made up of crocii and hyacinths that was covered in brightly colored scarves. This led spontaneously into the weaving of dance, drums, song and waving of scarves. After Pat Noonan lit our candle--her traditional part of the ritual--Charmaine read a poem titled, "Crocus-Minded" by Jo Sorley. It was then that we heard of our sister, Mary White's life-threatening illness. Many of us had wet eyes off and on during this day of song. Mary was so missed and so with us.

This was truly a day of song. For hours we went over every song we plan to sing on the CD, ten in all. Nancy Nordlie directed and our musicians, Deanne Bednar on keyboard and Sandy Yost on clarinet, accompanied us for most of the day. We sang in our sections--high, middle and low--and stayed focussed amazingly well. Oh yes, I forgot, on one song Penny Hackett-Evans played the rainstick, and sometimes Peg Case added the drum.

Just before lunch, Joan Tinkess showed us the dancing woman wood sculpture she had carved for Mary White and had planned to give her today on her 75th birthday. For the rest of the day, the sculpture rested on the altar, bringing Mary's dancing spirit to our circle. But, as it turned out, we did have a birthday to celebrate! On April 10 our sister Jean Overholt will turn 85. We got a head start on celebrating her birthday in today's circle.

Lunch was delicious. To make things less complex in terms of crossing the border, it has been our habit to ask the women of the country where we meet to bring lunch food for us all. The Canadian women always pack two bag lunches, one for themselves and one for an American sister. There is something so comforting about eating a bag lunch lovingly packed by someone else, rather like being a child and having Mommy there again to feed you. My lunch bag was filled with tasty things like cucumber spears, red peppers, a firm green apple, oatmeal raisin cookies and a big tunafish salad sandwich on multigrain bread.

We returned from lunch ready to sing some more. But first, Joann led us in a circle dance that had an inner circle and an outer circle and songs that accompanied the movements. A perfect way to get back into the spirit of the day. We had much more singing to do, but more importantly we needed to receive words of encouragement from Carolyn, words that enflamed our hearts and helped us reach ever deeper into the meaning--the heart--of that which we were singing. Whether you were a high, middle or low voice, you couldn't help realizing that the survival of our earth, our precious Gaia, depends on these songs we sing. As much as we must educate ourself and act wisely, so we must also sing and dance, paint and sculpt our planet into the transformation she deserves. That is where dreams are born.

Our day came to an end when the altar was disassembled and placed in a bread basket from Avalon Bakery. It was then that Jan Devine, our visiting sister from the Atlantic Canada region gave Penny, our Great Lakes-American coordinator, a shell she had brought us from Prince Edward Island. And she so generously gave me one too. Jan and I have been working together long-distance on the O Beautiful Gaia web site and have become friends in the process.

Thirty-one (!!!) of us went out to dinner together. I know the other customers and wait staff must have wondered who was this group of women--women who kept breaking into song as naturally as other people talk. But every one of us was tired from this day of intense concentration and song. We were well aware that tomorrow would be another BIG day. The idea of bed looked pretty good.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey and Arlene Buckley

SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2003

Instead of today being tiring as I'd expected, it was energizing. Yes, it requires total attention to record a CD, even a rough cut, but somehow that very intense concentration is purifiying, rather like making love. I thought of nothing else during the hours that we spent in the studio, not the war nor our friend Mary's illness nor any of my other worries. I guess on a deep level they were with me, but not in a way that took emotional energy. It was almost restful in that way.

Next weekend we will each receive a copy of the CD that emerged from today's session. That will be interesting to hear. When you're part of a group of fifty singers, it's hard to know how the whole sounds. I do know that it felt very good, and that I was always able to hear the sisters singing beside me. That's what you want in choral singing; it generally means your voice is not standing out but blending with the others as it should. Another thing that felt very good was how often we were singing from our hearts. Carolyn McDade is a powerful example of that kind of singing; her passion inspires every sound that comes from (through) her, whether on the piano or in song. And our director Nancy Nordlie's heart is so open that she opens ours as well.

The story:

Judy Drylie and I arrived at the recording studio at 8:10 AM, about twenty minutes early. A number of our sisters met us in the parking lot and helped Judy remove Ona my scooter from the car and get her assembled in short order. As it was surprisingly cold--25º F--we quickly made our way into the studio. And what a surprise that was! I guess I'd seen too many movies because I was expecting to spend the day crammed into a dreary room filled with tons of equipment and no evidence of creature comforts. Instead we were in a large airy room painted a beautiful shade of slate blue with a wooden parquet floor covered in oriental rugs. The planning committee had even re-created yesterday's altar in the middle of the room. Yes, there were microphones, but nothing felt intimidating or scary. And Darren and his co-engineer were so friendly and professional that they immediately put us at ease. Our only challenge was one toilet for fifty women...but we managed.

Nancy Nordlie directed our singing and Carolyn McDade accompanied us on the keyboard. I don't know what we would have done without either of these women. Nancy directed us with such technical expertise and gentleness that, even though she was also having to communicate by headset with the engineers in the control booth, she never once lost her patience or sweetness of spirit. And it is always Carolyn who shows/exhorts us to sing with such passion and heart that we can never forget why we are singing/recording these songs that express our longing and love of the earth, Gaia, our beloved home. Especially during times such as these, heart is what we must bring to all our creative efforts for peace and transformation. And it was heart that we brought to that recording room on this cold Sunday in March.

The code word for the day was not simply heart, but focus. Total, complete, unremitting focus. I never took pictures while we were recording, but instead chronicled our breaks. Except for an exhilarating, spontaneous dance break that was led by our drummers and involved some wonderful silliness by our sister Patsy who always makes us laugh, even our breaks were quiet and subdued. Often Nancy was communicating with the engineers during those times and had to be able to hear. But occasionally, she would lead us in brief practice sessions, either as a whole or in sections. It was all such a learning, and one that will definitely help us feel more comfortable and confident when we do our final recording of the O Beautiful Gaia CD in June.

We had a welcome hour for lunch. As with everything else, our coordinators Penny and Joan and the planning committee had things so wonderfully organized that we could relax and enjoy the delicious pizza and salad. They pre-ordered the meal and paid the bill so things would go swiftly and smoothly. The restaurant was a short walk away and I enjoyed spending time with Linda, Charmaine, Pat and Courtney, our youngest Great Lakes sister at 14, on the way back to the studio.

Today we were fortunate to have Carolyn playing the keyboard, Sandy Yost (who also sings with us) on clarinet and sax, and Lori Fithian and Jean join us on the drums. In June we will add a flute, cello, bass and guitar. I know it will sound wonderful when the CD is completed. By the way, we are in the middle of an advance sales campaign of this double CD. The price is $25 in both US and Candadian funds, plus shipping. If you would like to pre-order a CD--they are expected to be released in autumn 2003--you can do so on our O Beautiful Gaia web site.

There was a very special component to this weekend, and that was the presence of four of the five coordinators of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project here with us in Windsor/Detroit. Not only did we have Joan Tinkess of Great Lakes Basin-Ontario and Penny Hackett-Evans of Great Lakes Basin-Michigan, but we also had Carolyn McDade of Atlantic New England and Jan Devine of Atlantic Canada. Only Chris Loughlin of Atlantic New England was missing. And not only were the three O Beautiful Gaia regions represented, but the women of the Women~Land~Spirit Sacred Web Project in the four Western Canadian provinces had sent sprigs of sage for each of us, sage that they had gathered from the Grandmothers' Hills of Saskatchewan and dried themselves. These are the women who recorded "We Are the Land We Sing", the most recent CD coordinated by Carolyn McDade. What a privilege it is to be part of such a passionate, powerful global women's community! It gives me hope "when hope is hard to find", as it says in the song.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey
photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey and Janis Grant


Today's gathering of Gaia women was quite wonderful. We were a small group for a couple of reasons. First, it would have been difficult for our Toronto and Georgetown, Ontario sisters to turn around and return after just having been here last weekend, and secondly, the storm that coated our world in ice this morning made travelling dangerous for some.

But numbers were not the point; we had heart enough for all. After having had to be so disciplined during last weekend's recording session, we were now able to allow the songs to emerge more organically from within the center of our circle. Not only did we sing the words and music, but we caressed their meanings.  Many of us became midwives to their birthing. Whoever felt called to introduce a song would do so--not simply leading it, but often sharing what it meant to them. That would lead to sharings by others as well. Often we said the words together as a poem to help us hear it more deeply. And then we would sing it until it felt like we had touched--or at least begun to touch--its heart. What a nourishing way to sing!

Even though the day fed me in deep ways, I found myself surprisingly tired by the time I returned home. I was in bed by 6:45 PM and slept soundly until 2:30 AM! It wasn't this day of song that made me so tired, it was the last two weeks of intense emotions and activity that finally caught up with me.

I am writing this entry at 3 AM while listening to our rough-cut CD. Yes, it is certainly ragged in parts, but it sounds a lot better than I'd imagined it would. And now, after having seen what we did with the songs today, I'm feeling confident that we'll be ready to record the final CD in June. We not only have three more first Saturdays of the month to practice, but we've added three extra rehearsals as well.

What a grace and a gift it is to be part of this project. How I love this circle of women.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

We gathered round bright spring flowers, allium dried and painted by Dick Schwing and loaned for this altar containing several goddess figures, gifts to Pat from her daughter, one brought back by a dear friend, Phyllis, from Greece and one purchased while with the Birmingham Unitarian Church Choir trip to Yugoslavia in 1992.

In addition, Peg and Jeanne brought back pink and yellow primroses used on last week's altar at the studio.  These, along with a vibrant purple hydrangea brought a sense of peace to many of us who lost precious trees and plants in Friday's ice storm.

Due to driving hazards and illness several of our sisters were unable to attend, so numbers ranged around 25.  Highlighting the morning was good news about our dear Mary White, who is out of intensive care, breathing on her own and attended by our beloved Joan Tinkess.  We sent her many healing wishes throughout the day.

The morning was opened by Lenore Langs who read her poem, "Crawfton Inn", written while attending one of Carolyn's retreats on our beloved Lake Erie shore.
"And while we sang together
the songs overpower
the pain
help us shed
our tight
and itching skins"

Patricia then read a poem by William Stafford entitled "At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border." It spoke of the field "where no unknown soldier died...and the only heroic thing is the sky"

Sang "Circle Round for Freedom."  We then shared our experience of our time together with Carolyn last weekend.  It was agreed the group became more cohesive, deepening in our sense of togetherness an appreciation for one another, for our differences and similarities.  Listening to the voices, not only in song, but in our life experiences while sharing at the supper at the Lumber Jack restaurant on Saturday as well as at lunch on Sunday.

We were weaving ourselves together, sharing more sense of community with one another as well as with the earth and endangered species.  As Patricia so poignantly put it, "We are all beating with one heart."  Patsy Noonan then came up with our quote for the morning...."It's just like a convent without the vows."

Then it was Julia's turn to facilitate our thinking and she led  us through an exhilarating process where we were asked to close our eyes and think of the first word or thought which came to us...deepening us into the music, it's meaning.  What do each of us bring to the circle?

We then broke into small groups to discuss the following questions:
1.  What can be our process to owning and deepening our own experience?
2.  What does owning mean?  What claim does music have upon us?
3.  What can we do individually to improve this transformation for women who will come after us....each on her own journey?  Think about the women who have sung with Carolyn over these many years whose voices have woven themselves into the fabric of our lives.  Now it's our turn.

We came back together in the circle to share our small group experiences and learnings.  Some of the comments follow:
"How can I tire of Hope?"
"Imagine the fullness of life and justice and mercy."
"Listen to our own inner voices, and the voices of our sisters who surround us in this project."  Our intonation will be affected by careful listening and blending."
"We often do not speak our own true voices verbally, but in song we have this opportunity to make a difference, to raise the collective consciousness of our listeners."
"I am here to find my voice."
"Reverence means we must be sure everything we do has meaning for someone. This could be expanded to include some 'beings'."
"If what we do as a community internalizes hearing voices we are in the Circle. A circle which shines with the radiance of love."
"Owning is singing from our being."
"We are the voice for the voiceless."
"Allow our creativity to flow thru to listener and then the listener 'owns' it."
"Our commitment has a claim on us...the drumming with Lori exemplifies this project."
"We suggest reading the poetry aloud prior to singing to words to deepen within us."
"Let us have reverential silence following the singing."

Julia taught us Spanish for No Nos Moveran
No, No, No Nos Moverán!!
No, No, No Nos Moverán!!
Y El Que No Crea Que Haga La Prueba,
No Nos Moverán!!

Examples of women who would not be moved included the situation where 3 Catholic sisters were imprisoned because of their beliefs. We must keep Ardeth Platte, Jackie Hudson and Carol Gilbert who may be imprisoned for 30 years, which would be for the rest of their lives because of their resistance to war.

We felt that democracy operates at its finest in our circle; a very important factor in terms of our success.

Peace VS. Harmony...We will be moved by "Harmony In Action."

Finally, we discussed how this project has impacted us individually.  Some of the responses follow:

"It's our Project...singing about these issues puts our own voice out there."
"Sense of appreciation for the other women in the group."
"I have a new appreciation of the endangered species and am grateful to this group for that."
"The group is an extension of me...feeling expanded."
"Have a loving appreciation of myself."
"Strength of each of us/monolithic expansive."
"These songs give us a profound way to think of the earth."
"After 61 years on the planet, I learned I could sing."
"Because of this group, the loss of our precious trees is not as tragic...I do not own the trees....they are here for a time, as we all are."
"Initially, I was uncomfortable with the process, but have come full circle and now really appreciate the process."
"Awakened a new awareness about each person,"
"Don't know where I'd be during this war without this community."
"Means a lot we are from 2 different countries.  The total intentionality of being 'equal' most meaningful."
"In touch with American imperialism."
"Hoping this experience will be transformational."
"Grateful for the honesty we be heard...and valued."
"With grateful heart, I always feel."
"Surprised by the bumps in the road and bringing them to the table to discuss and learning about letting go."

words by Pat Schwing
photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


We never know how our lives touch others. Until Conchita reads the email I sent her tonight, she could never have imagined that her faithful witness for peace in front of the White House would transform the lives of 50 Canadian and American women, only one of whom she had ever met. This is such an important learning for us all, especially now when it can seem that all our efforts for peace have come to naught. We do not know--and may never know--how far the ripples reach out from the stone that each of us drops into the lake of our communal consciousness.

This is what I wrote Conchita tonight:

From: Patricia Lay-Dorsey <>
Date: Sat, 03 May 2003 20:29:50 -0400
To: <>
Subject: To my sister Conchita

Dear sister

Do you remember me? I am the white-haired woman on a disabled scooter who spent the afternoon with you last Saturday, April 26. We have also met a number of other times that I have come to picket in front of the White House whenever I am in DC visiting family. You have always been so welcoming to me, and I am privileged to have one of your hand-painted stones. Mine is blue with a white dove and the words "peace" on one side and "justice" on the other. Sometimes you have even taken pictures of my signs. One that I remember you particularly liked said, "American Generosity, Israeli Atrocities."

Our time together last Saturday made a profound impression on me. I felt we connected heart-to-heart in a deeper way than ever before. It was an honor to stand there with you as we did our best to talk to the many tourists who wanted a glimpse of the White House. If you remember, I kept trying to get them to see YOU instead of that dwelling that houses such cruel and arrogant persons. I kept saying, "Look here! This woman (Conchita) has been here for 22 years standing for peace and justice! See what it means to be faithful and committed to peace!" Some of them heard my words and some didn't, but you just kept doing what you always do no matter what...and that is educating the people and encouraging them to wake up and see what is happening in the world around them.

I came back home to Detroit on Tuesday and wrote about you in my online journal (http://www.windchimewalker/journal.html). I have found myself thinking of you frequently since then. When I was asked by my women's singing community to introduce, "We Shall Be Moved", one of the songs that we are preparing to record on a CD called "O Beautiful Gaia", I knew I wanted to use your story to inspire the women to become ever more committed to saving our precious planet. And so yesterday I wrote a prose poem dedicated to you. It is titled, "Doing Homage to a Woman of Courage."

Today I read this poem to 50 women who are part of this CD project--half Canadians and half Americans. Conchita, they got tears in their eyes and have been speaking of you ever since. For the rest of the day, whenever our song leader wanted us to dig deeper and sing from our hearts, she would say, "Remember Conchita. Sing this for Conchita!"

You can never know how much your faithful witness for peace touches people and transforms their lives. You have done it for me, for the 50 women with whom I sing, and for all the persons who read my web journal. Your life has such meaning and purpose, dear Conchita, and I am honored to feel that we are sisters. And now I will show you the poem I wrote for you:

Doing Homage To a Woman of Courage

For twenty-two years Conchita has lived
in a small plastic-covered tent on a city
sidewalk. Inside this tent is a wooden
platform on which she sleeps. She sleeps
sitting up because she's been told it is
against the law to sleep lying down in this
federal park that is her home.

For twenty-two years Conchita has spoken
her truth to tourists more interested in being
photographed in front of the halls of power than
in examining and thinking about what happens

For twenty-two years Conchita has carefully
read the Washington Post every day to see
what they are doing in the house across the
street. Every bit of information she takes in
is seen in the context of what has gone before.
She is a living textbook of American history.

For twenty-two years Conchita has been less
concerned about snow, sleet, hail and thunder-
storms than about the military men who beat her,
who maced her and threatened her life. The helmet
she wears under a scarf-covered wig makes her look
odd but helps her feel safe, especially when she

For twenty-two years Conchita has spent her days
printing leaflets and updating her photo-laden posters
that document the horrors of war. She rides a donated
bike to a local cafe to read the paper, check her emails,
keep up her web site and use their toilet. On dry days
she paints doves and the words "peace" and "justice"
on rocks that she gives away. She lives on donations of
food, money and time.

For twenty-two years Conchita has been ridiculed,
ignored, laughed at, cursed, pitied and occasionally
listened to by those to whom she devotes her life.

For twenty-two years Conchita's closest neighbor has
been the President of the United States but they
have never met.

For twenty-two years she has stood as a presence of
peace, truth and justice in a place where these things
are often just words.

For twenty-two years Conchita has transformed our planet.


May all your days be bright and your dreams at night bring you comfort. May you know how valued you are and what powers of healing and transformation you bring to our wounded world. May you be blessed.

with love and peace from your sister


My dear friends, I encourage you to go visit Conchita at her web site, and email her if you feel inspired to do so. I know it would mean a lot to her to hear from you. Her URL is:

I also found a photo of Conchita that I had taken on September 5, 2002. On that warm late summer day, her tent was not covered with plastic as it was after the heavy rainstorm last Saturday. But, whatever the weather, Conchita is always there. If you ever go to Washington, DC, I invite you to go visit her. As the song says, "You shall be moved."

The story of our day together:

Each time our O Beautiful Gaia community meets, we drop to a deeper level of trust, heart-connection, openness and oneness. And it shows in the music we make. Today's monthly gathering was spent almost entirely in song. Now that we have the rough-cut CD to work from, we see where we need to go between now and mid-June when we will tape the final least our part of it.

As you may recall, there are three bio-regions of women who are part of this project: 1) our Great Lakes Basin; 2) Atlantic Canada; and 3) Atlantic New England. About 150 women in all. Each region will tape their part of the CD in their own area, and then Carolyn McDade and the tech wizards will put it all together in the form of a double CD titled "O Beautiful Gaia." It is scheduled for release in autumn 2003. Not only will there be 150 voices, but each region also has musicians who will bring their gifts to the mix. Each community has been meeting at least one full day a month since September. It is a tremendous commitment of time, energy and creativity. And it is about so much more than a CD: it is about doing everything we can as individuals and communities to help preserve this precious planet--Gaia--that is our home. To that end we in the Great Lakes Basin have created small groups to work on such things as land conservancy, as well as having brought in speakers to educate and inspire us.

One of our Great Lakes sisters, Marion Overholt, brought us wonderful news today. For the first time ever, our own Detroit River is making environmental history by the recent appointment of two River-Keepers, one from Ontario and the other from Michigan, who will be working hand-in-hand to protect the 32 miles of this busy waterway. Marion said it was the O Beautiful Gaia project that inspired her to join the bi-national Detroit River-Keepers committee in the first place.

Today, we also saw the tangible results of another of our Great Lakes Basin small group projects. With the help of a gifted quilt-maker from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the squares that so many of our women had made--not to mention those made by the singing circle of our sisters from Georgetown, Ontario--were before us in the form of a finished quilt that made me think of the blue-green river that we share. It was a special moment when the women who had created the squares leaned down to show us which ones were theirs.

But, as I said, we spent most of the day in song. I'd like to take you around the circle, starting first with Kobe who recently broke her foot and joined us even though she was quite uncomfortable. And here is the rest of the circle: photo #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7. With the help of our inspired and inspiring song leader Nancy, our faithful sister Deanne on the keyboard, the reflections/technical reminders presented by each song's "memory-keepers", and the total focus and commitment of each sister in the circle, we further embodied "...what sings a song into the depths of meaning."

From Carolyn McDade, the spiritual mother of this project, we received the following message:

For this is what sings a song into the depths of meaning. Each song has its character and story; each singer her store of truth and passion, vulnerability and strength. Each singer takes her place in the singing. She is fully there in presence and responsibility. She is there by an inner authority. It is singing with an unshielded heart, a deep and knowing mind--it is personal, communal.

We sing for ourselves and one another. We sing for more than ourselves and one another. I cannot hide my longing that we come to this field of songs as visionary women. We each bring that by which we gauge our living--that which calls us to our deepest and our best. We immerse ourselves in singing the store of wonder and longing our lives hold, all that we have wept over, gathered in the shelter of our daily purpose. Go deep...deeper...the singing must burn first in the heart--the song will take leaps with the power of its singing.

Carolyn McDade

--words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

SATURDAY, MAY 17, 2003

Four weeks from this weekend, we women of the Great Lakes Basin will be recording our part of the "O Beautiful Gaia" CD in an Ann Arbor, MI sound studio. Today's four-hour rehearsal was our third in three weeks, and we have three more to go. Our sisters from Toronto and Georgetown, Ontario made the long trip to Windsor two weeks ago and again today, even though this is the Victoria Day weekend in Canada. And the US Memorial Day weekend will not stop us from practicing next Saturday either. We are totally committed to this project. So committed, in fact, that I'm afraid I only took two pictures all day, and they were as we performed warm-ups (#1 and #2) preparatory to singing. After that, my attention was entirely focussed on the work at hand.

What am I going to do with my time and energy when this project is completed? The fact that our recording weekend starts on the same Friday that the kids finish school doesn't help. Talk about an empty nest!

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2003

Twenty of us got together in Windsor for a four-hour rehearsal today. We record our part of the "O Beautiful Gaia" CD in three weeks, so each rehearsal becomes progressively more intense. It's amazing how much energy it takes to sing each of our nine songs with the technical attention and depth of heart it deserves. But we used a most helpful process today, one that our sisters in the Atlantic New England region shared with us. We went through each of the songs in the following way:

1) Nancy, our song leader, and/or the song's memory-keeper began by sharing technical and heart reminders designed to help us enter more consciously into the music and its message.

2) Nancy led us in singing the very beginning of the song three times over, so that we could engage our cellular memory of it.

3) The memory-keeper or whomever felt called to do so, presented a reading intended to help us drop even more deeply into the heart of the song. A period of silence followed the reading.

4) We then sang the song through, followed by another period of silence.

5) During that silence, we each wrote down what we felt needed work and/or what of value we could build upon.

Except for a fifteen minute break in the middle of the afternoon, it took four full hours to run once through all nine songs. I believe we made great strides today, both in technique and heart.

Afterwards, seven of us went to a Chinese restaurant and talked about our Gaia project, laughed a lot and shared stories. I am so grateful to be part of this community.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey

SUNDAY, JUNE 1, 2003

Another day rehearsing with my Great Lakes Basin sisters as we make final preparations to record our portion of the O Beautiful Gaia CD. Two weeks from tonight we will have just completed two long days of recording at an Ann Arbor, MI sound studio. Only one more full day of rehearsal remains. Yipes! Actually today's rehearsal was excellent. Our focus was good, Nancy's directing superb (and exceptionally patient), and I thought we sounded quite well. Staying on pitch is still a challenge, though. As Nancy keeps saying, "Eyebrows up, smiley faces, and sing on top of the notes."

I took some photos, mainly for our dear sister Mary White. Her health continues to improve--miraculously, according to her doctors--but she remains in a rather fragile place that requires constant attention and new ways of being in the world. She recently wrote me that, "The circle of love coming in my way and on out to the universe is incredibly full! My whole life--very being is transforming." What a bright and loving spirit! So here, dear Mary, are pictures of your sisters singing love to you.

The upper voices--#1 and #2
The middle voices--#1 and #2
The lower voices--#1 and #2

During the day I discovered how fragile I was. The stresses of making arrangements for dorm rooms and meals for our recording weekend caught up with me in a most unpleasant way. I really lost it with one of my Great Lakes sisters, and got so angry I was practically incoherent. The last time I reacted with such red hot anger was, literally, in 1989. It is not my usual way of relating. But when someone keeps coming at me in a confrontational way about something that is a source of great anxiety to me, I'm afraid it can push me over the edge. Anyway, the world did not come to an end, and I learned again that I am only human.

Friday's roller coaster ride that took me from the low of hearing at 3:30 PM that the dorm we were counting on was not available, to the high of finding a dorm at another university less than an hour later--and at half the cost--had settled into a long, involved series of organizational emails and phone calls to scores of my Great Lakes sisters. To be honest, I'm not fond of organizing, especially in situations involving money. As it's turned out, 32 of our 46 sisters are going to stay in the dorm. I know it's going to be wonderful once we get there; it's just the nitty-gritty details that can cause sleepless nights. But I'm feeling lots better tonight. Things are coming along fine.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey



Magic is what I'd call this day. Not unearned magic, but earned magic. We O beautiful Gaia women of the Great Lakes Basin worked our fannies off...and it showed! We have never sounded better, nor has our singing ever been so deeply satisfying. The most amazing part of the whole day was that, after rehearsing hard for at least five hours, we were still on key. And the songs we sing are not easy to keep on pitch. In fact, that has been my greatest concern about our recording the CD. But now we know we can do it, and we certainly will do it in the studio next weekend.

A lot of the credit goes to Nancy, our creatively gifted and unimaginably patient song leader. We couldn't have done it without her. At the same time, each and every one of us Great Lakes Basin women has given her heart and soul to this project, not to mention her time and attention. We've been meeting from 9 AM to 4 PM on the first Saturday of every month since last September, alternately in Canada and the US (our group is half Canadian and half American). Long enough to gestate and birth a baby, and that's just what this process feels like. The labor pains have begun and by next Sunday at this time, the baby will be in our arms reaching for the nipple.

I wouldn't give anything for the wondrous gift of being part of this community, CD or no CD. Just being in the presence of women who love the earth with such passion and commitment has given me all I've needed to retain my sense of hope when, as one of Carolyn McDade's songs says, "hope is hard to find."

What would I have done without these women and our shared song during that long, cold winter when war was all anyone could think about? To come every month and be harbored within the safety of this circle--not as a way of denying the pain of the world but as a way of embracing it--helped me retain my belief in humanity. Yes, both the Great Lakes Gaia women and the Raging Grannies saved me from the despair that attacked so many of my brothers and sisters in the peace movement, especially after our efforts at averting Bush's war seemed to fail.

Our process today was the same as we'd used at our rehearsal two weeks ago--the process taught us by our Gaia sisters of Atlantic New England. For each song, Nancy and the song's Memory Keeper started by sharing technical reminders about the song. We then sang the first phrase three times, followed by a reading by the Memory Keeper. The reading was intended to take us to a deeper level in our heart's understanding of the song. It was followed by silence. Only then did we sing it through without stopping. Following another period of silence, Nancy or any member of the community was free to offer suggestions on how we might improve our singing of this song. We often ran through it at least one more time. Occasionally, we needed to spend extra time going over our parts. We did whatever was necessary to put these nine songs "into our cells." It took us five hours to go through them all.

The other two hours of our time together were spent enjoying the pot luck lunch provided by the American women, working out arrangements about next weekend, and discussing what we want to do with our Great Lakes quilt. The consensus was to keep it as a community and use it to raise public awareness about the earth and her needs. The women from Georgetown, Ontario, whose singing group created a number of the squares, shared with us their ideas about making notecards and posters using the professional photographs they've had taken of the quilt. Our community was most enthusiastic and grateful for all they are doing. Joan, our Ontario Great Lakes Gaia coordinator, also made a most welcome announcement that we will start meeting again on the first Saturday of September. Thank goddess! From the beginning, we'd said that this Great Lakes community was never just about making a CD. As another of our songs says, "We have only begun to love the earth."

I took few pictures today because I was using all my energy and attention on the business at hand, but I did take a picture of the lovely altar that Sooz created for us, as well as one picture of each singing section--what we call the lows, the middles, and the uppers. Thanks, Casey, for taking the picture of the uppers.

But here is probably my favorite photo of our whole time together: a group portrait of the women of the Great Lakes Basin.

By the time we got to dinner, I no longer had to concentrate on anything but my sisters, so I was free to scoot around to the different tables at our favorite Detroit eating place, the Cass Cafe. Here are dinner photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5. I think you can see pretty plainly on our faces how we felt about the day!

It is now 11:30 PM and I will soon be singing in my sleep.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey




Our Gaia daughter left her womb this weekend. After many arduous, but exhilarating hours of labour, our daughter of songs was born into the world.

There is, however, an edge of sadness and loss about our delight with this event as we, the sisters and birthing mums of the Great Lakes Basin, stand aside to allow O Beautiful Gaia's blood mother to repossess her tiny, naked, and not yet perfect body. Instead of cradling her in our collective arms, we saw her placed into the creative incubator that will be her home for the next few months.

While we know that, there in the presence of experts, her tenuous hold on life will be fortified and nourished with instrumental supplements and transfusions of other choral birth products, we feel the loss of that pulsating kernel of possibility we held close within our womb these last months.

Worst of all, the umbilical cord that bonded us, the mothers, as well as the daughter, has been cut. Although we will not all travel separate currents and many of us may raft together for awhile, we are no longer caught in this particular creative eddy of time and the currents of our various lives now swirl again among us, pulling us on in the rivers of our separate journeys.

What a wonder filled time that eddy has been. The closeness that has developed among us as we poured our collective energies into nourishing this fetus, our Gaia child, into the life form she would assume, has also nourished our own individual well being. We have learned from each other's strengths, talents and stories. We have been lifted spiritually by the many poems and readings, collective activities, and the thoughtful and beautiful altars that graced our gatherings. Our lives have been enriched by the honour of Carolyn's trust as she allowed our womb to carry her seed toward fruition. We do not move away empty.

We do not forget either the gift of our new connections to women from east to west across this continent. Even though most of us have never met or spoken with these women, we have exchanged words and symbols of encouragement with our birthing sisters in Atlantic New England and Atlantic Canada. Earlier mothers from Carolyn's "We Are the Land We Sing" initiative in the western provinces have connected to us as midwives, sending us tangible support and encouragement. The waters that carry us have gained a new energy.

From now on, we will honour and give thanks, to Carolyn and the Spirit that guides us, for this time together and for this event which has graced our lives: the joyous birthing of our mutual "O Beautiful Gaia" daughter.

Catherine Ward


Gaia Weekend

I don't know what to say, no words
come forth.
Only feelings recalling love bubbling
up through singing voices,
Our harmonies calling us to action.
Faces shining, lighting my spirit with
courage and awe,
Bodies swaying in rhythms of justice,
Words of power marching through my heart.
I don't know what to say, no words come

Jackie Berz


There are special moments within even the most ordinary of times, moments that shine forth with a radiance that makes your mind's eye squint as if it were looking directly into the sun. For each of the 46 women and 2 men involved in birthing the Great Lakes Basin portion of the O Beautiful Gaia CD this weekend, this radiance would have come at different times. Although my guess is that certain moments would be on everyone's list.

The first such moment came late Saturday morning. We had already recorded the title song, O Beautiful Gaia, using a gospel beat for the first time. And we'd been delighted that Carolyn McDade had agreed to bring us in with a heartfelt solo. It had been a great way to begin our recording process, and that song was now "in the can", as they say. We'd also successfully recorded our Great Lakes sister, Deanne Bedhar's hymn to the planet called The Circle of Life. Now it was time to bring our hearts, minds and voices to the song we dearly loved but had always found the most challenging to sing, Norma Luccock's Beginners. As our sister Pat Noonan said, these words of the poet Denise Levertov were so powerful that she always had to numb herself to sing them, for if she allowed herself to take them to heart she would fall apart. Well, we tried and tried to record this song. I think we'd completed the third take when Carolyn, the pianist Janet Hood and our song director Nancy Nordlie went into the control booth to confer with Jan Devine and Eric, the sound engineer. We women turned to one another and asked, "OK, how can we find the place we need to go to sing this song as it deserves to be sung?" After several women had spoken, Penny Hackett-Evans suggested we stand in a circle and sing it as we had always been encouraged to do, "looking into the eyes of our sisters with passion, reciprocity and love." Because of the placement of the microphones, we had been singing in more of a horseshoe-shape around Nancy, our director, and Janet at the piano. But now, with no director, no piano and no tape running, we sang our hearts into this song as tears streamed down our cheeks. After we'd finished, Penny said, "Now let's sing it with our eyes closed." And we did. When the last note was sung, the sound of enthusiastic applause came pouring out of the control booth. Carolyn, Janet and Nancy rejoined us and we did yet another take, singing as we'd just sung, standing in a circle with no direction. And although our recording did not meet the standards necessary for inclusion on the CD, we had moved to a deeper place as a community than ever before, and that was more important than any recording in the world.

Another moment that I suspect would be among everyone's recollections of special moments came on Sunday morning. We had started the day with Rachael leading us in warm-up exercises on the grass beside the tall trees--photos #1, #2, #3--and we'd ended with a group massage, so we were already in a tender space. But when we sat down in the studio and quieted ourselves in preparation to sing, we were surprised to hear our own voices singing back to us. Our fearless leaders were allowing us to hear a playback of O Beautiful Gaia, the first song we'd recorded on Saturday morning. I was too busy weeping in awe to think of taking pictures, but Penny took my camera and went around the room--photo #1, #2, #3, #4. That was when we knew that what we had been living together for nine months--our deep joy, longing and commitment to this wondrous place we call Gaia--would indeed be heard and experienced by everyone who listened to our CD. For me, it came as a profound awakening. Until then I don't think I really believed that we could record our hearts in this way. But we did.

We had been struggling for two days to record our region's verses to I Sing the Longing--our celebration of tall trees, sturgeon, the monarch butterfy, les hérons, snowfall, les érables and the rivers. Somehow we just couldn't get it. "It" being, not the words or the music, but the heart of the song. After yet another take, Carolyn and Nancy went into the control booth to listen to our latest efforts and to consult with Jan and Eric. This time Janet Hood stayed seated at her piano. Soon, swirling in the air around us, we heard an almost unearthly sound. It was Janet playing--more like playing with--the melody of I Sing the Longing. Our chatter ceased as Janet's gift wrapped our frazzled spirits in healing ribbons of beauty. And Carolyn, who heard this enchantment as she returned to the studio, had the wisdom to shift gears and say to Jan and Eric in the control booth, "We will do another take, and this time we will ask Janet to introduce our verses by playing what she has just played." And, of course, we sang with open hearts.

And I'd guess that everyone involved in this project would express gratitude for the beauty and earth-friendly setting where we ended up recording this CD. Instead of being in an industrial park as we'd been during the recording of our rough-cut CD in March, this weekend we were at a sound studio sheltered by tall trees and hugging a forest so green it made your eyes ache. This was a place where our songs of Gaia belonged...and so did we. Our lunch breaks were idyllic, with sunny skies, birds singing overhead and delicious food. And because of the thoughtfulness of organizers like Pat Schwing, we even had enough porta-potties so one bathroom didn't have to serve us all. It was as close to perfection as anyone could hope.

And now I'll continue with my own personal list of special memories. Among them are:

1) On Saturday evening, when Sooz and Doris and I met up with a group of our sisters at the Eastern Michigan University park with its paths, pond, fountains and bridges...and spontaneously broke into song. As had often happened before, the minute we began to sing, some of our sisters--in this case Sooz and Deanne--started to dance. And the magic didn't end there. We walk/scooted over one of the bridges to an area where I felt compelled to compose another group portrait. But what I will remember about that time was not captured by my camera. As we sat together between trees and water, our sister Julia shared her experiences of standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people on the West Bank last December. Her sharings led to other sisters telling stories about their work for justice over the years. We then walk/scooted back to our dorm at dusk, singing No! No! No Nos Moveran!, We Shall Not Be Moved, and We Shall Be Moved with a true awareness of what these songs mean to the people of the world.

2) When Nancy Nordlie read the following quote to help us prepare our hearts to sing the Women's Peace Prayer, I had a surprise in store:

So what do I think peace looks like? It does not look like wimping out. It does not lack conflict or differences of opinion. It is not sweetly sentimental. Peace is tough, hard to maintain, and full of harsh realities. It means sitting down at a table--hopefully with unbiased arbitrators on hand--and asking questions and listening, truly listening, to one another's answers. It means using restraint when you'd rather just go in there with fists raised. It means having the humility and gumption to admit you've made mistakes. It means hammering out compromises right and left. It means never giving up. It means being strong and not using that strength to hurt others. It means living with former enemies, not necessarily as friends but as respected sharers of this one home, the earth. It means being creative and original, coming up with ideas that have never been seen before. It means saying "Yes, peace is possible" and then proving it to be so.

As she read these words I found myself resonating with the truth they contained. So when Nancy finished by saying, "This is from Patricia's October 10, 2002 journal entry", my jaw dropped open...literally! I hadn't even recognized it as something I'd written myself. After we'd finished recording on Sunday, Nancy told me that the three verses she'd written to Karen McKay's Women's Peace Song had been inspired by my words. Apparently she'd printed it out when I'd first put it up in October, and it had been taped beside her computer since then. She showed me that she knows it by heart by speaking the words into my ear as we hugged goodbye.

3) For me personally there was a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing 34 of my Great Lakes sisters settled and content in our dorm. After two weeks of hard work making the arrangements--and changing the arrangements--it did my heart good to see my sisters sitting comfortably outside our dorm eating picnic suppers--photo #1, #2--before Friday night's practice at the studio, visiting together during our breakfasts and dinner in the dorm dining room--photo #1, #2, #3, #4--and on Saturday night, hanging out together in front of the dorm talking, laughing and singing until it was time to go to bed.

4) I was the Memory-Keeper for the final series of songs that we recorded late Sunday afternoon. No! No! No Nos Moveran!, We Shall Not Be Moved, and We Shall Be Moved are a combination of powerful songs of resistance and assent. During our rehearsals I had often read my poem about Conchita to help us engage our hearts in singing these songs, but in the recording studio, other things seemed to be serving the same purpose. Carolyn was so passionate about these songs--she had composed We Shall Be Moved in the autumn and had taught it to our community during our rough-cut recording weekend in March--that she wanted us to stand in a circle and sing them with the same energy we would use if we were out marching on the streets. Then Julia shared her remembrance of being part of a line of Israeli/Palestinian/International Women In Black marching arm-in-arm toward an Israeli tank that fired into the air as they approached. But they did not stop moving forward. Talk about We Shall Not Be Moved! There would be no piano for the first song--No! No! No Nos Moveran!--only drums. When it came time to record this series of songs, we gave it everything we had. It was now 4 PM on Sunday so our reserves were running low. After three takes, we still didn't quite have it. Carolyn, Janet and Nancy returned from conferring with Jan and Eric in the control booth and did their best to rouse us to sing it just one more time. I looked around and saw that my sisters were as weary as I. Where would we find the passion and strength these songs required? Conchita came to mind and I said, "OK, so we've been here for three days and we're exhausted. Conchita has been in front of the White House for 22 years and she's still there!" I then read aloud my prose poem, Doing Homage To a Woman of Courage. And we sang those songs as they deserved to be sung. Our last songs were in the can.

I could go on and on sharing my memories of this transformative weekend, but I'd prefer to let my sisters share their stories too. It was too awesome an experience for only one voice to do it justice. I've sent out an email to my Great Lakes Basin sisters inviting them to send me their reflections and memories. As they come in, I will be updating this Great Lakes Basin Journal. I also have so many photographs that I intend to create a special online photo album with thumbnail keep checking back.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
photos by Patricia and her Great Lakes Basin sisters

Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2003 08:18:44 -0400
To: Great Lakes Basin women
Subject: WOW!!!!!

Well, we got Carolyn and crew safely back on the plane to Boston today! What a week we've had! We can hardly wait for you to hear the astounding recording that we have made!! The musicians (flute, cello, guitar) have added a layer that takes the recording into sublime!!! After we finished in the studio on Sunday night, much was yet to be done. The musicians came on Monday and recorded their parts and then the "mixing" began -- which took approximately 25 more hours. All resulting in a fabulous recording! Thank you to everyone for your work, time, cooperation... We are such a wonderful community. Carolyn remarked on that over and over. She is off to Atlantic Canada in 3 weeks to their recording sessions. It is all coming together. Something that was presented to us as a dream exactly a year ago this week-end!
Do hope to see you at Jeanne and Peg's on Sunday. And, also, we will begin the planning for our public "launch" very soon. The launch will take place around the end of November. Don't forget to put our first meeting in the fall on your calendar -- Sept. 6. Have a very good summer (What are we all going to do with the extra time we now have in our lives??!!!) Also, thank you again so much for honoring us with the donations to Riverkeepers and Matrix Theater. What a wonderful group we are. We were honored to serve as the coordinators for this part of the project. Penny and Joan



Ann, Bethany, Carol, Carolyn, Catherine, Cathy, Charmaine, Cobe, Deeann, Diane, Dianne, Doris, Elaine, Ellen, Helen, Jackie, Jan, Janice, Janis, Janet, Jean, Jeanne, Joan, Judith, Judy B., Judy D., Julia, Laurie, Linda, Lenore, Marianne, Marion, Mary B., Mary T., Nancy N., Nancy W., Pam, Pat N., Pat S., Patricia, Peggy C., Peggy S., Penny, Rachel, Sandy, Sandy Y.

These women I met and came to know in a particular way, are held in my heart - each one named and remembered in her own special way in my memory-keeper. As time goes by my thoughts may become less crisp of the individual moments of joy, work, tears and complexity of emotion - my heart has, however, been opened and forever transformed by the "Gaia" experience. Each face is kept, each phrase placed, indelibly, on my soul.

Gratitude is the only word I can think of when I recall our brilliant leaders, the gifted musicians, the soulful studio engineers, the "uppers" who sang like angels, the "middles" who repeatedly showed us the fruits of their hard work and last, though never least, the "lowers" who grounded me throughout and gave me hope

Merci, gracias, thank you
Arlene Buckley

From: Nancy L Nordlie
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 16:51:38 -0400
Subject: Re: WOW!!!!!

Dear friends on both sides of our beloved river,

I also send my fervent thanks for the honor of being the impetus for a donation to Riverkeepers and Matrix Theater. It is an incredible gift to be a member of our sisterhood. I have felt so cared for in this community - whether it was spoken gratitude or back rubs or healing energy or a chair when I needed it. And the singing...! The dedication and devotion to the music that came out month after month and week after week was truly amazing. And it never let up, not even for one moment during that long weekend. (I had to laugh when I read Patricia Lay-Dorsey's comment in her journal about seeing "that look in our eyes" as we came out of the control room to ask for one more take.) All I can say is that it was a privilege and a thrill to be involved, along with Deanne and Julia, in the musical preparation for this recording.

May we all sing on together!


From: Carolyn McDade
Sent: Saturday, June 21, 2003 6:31 PM
Subject: Joy in the Name of Hope

moon shedding golden fur

Dear Gaians. . .

Last week we were in the middle of recording. . .So much loving effort has brought us to this day . . .tall trees and a golden dog witnessed more than forty women of two countries and one bio region sing love songs to this planet, our home, blessing life with song, promising Earth our love and the protection we give what we love. . .each singer brought something beyond measure. . .resilience, purpose, reciprocity, love. . .what has gone through this moment of recording does not drain us of possibility, but opens us to a wider realm, with every song still by your side. . .I miss you even as I celebrate all that you have been able to create among you. And Catherine's moving account of the birth of this Gaia daughter names the shades of feeling we feel, as we embraced what we could not hold.

The overdubs are excellent, and those working to include them with the singing brought deep and open ears and hearts, listening carefully, respectfully to the gifts of those who sing through instruments. You will love the lines of cello, guitar, and flute spun among the lines you have heard of piano and drum. Thank you Janet, Lori, Jean, Andrea, Abha, Steve, and Rob for that bass line that walks through the Women's Peace Prayer.

The moving work of The Matrix Theater and Riverkeepers still moves with strong energy through me, and I am so thankful to you, so deeply touched. I can think of nothing, absolutely nothing, that would honour the energy of this project and those before than affirming and supporting these stunning examples of people taking power in behalf of a good life for the whole.

Penny and Joan have provided leadership these months with such love and steadfastness and keen vision. Never have they lost faith in who we could be together. Thank you.

So many spoke to me about how important Nancy's contributions have been to this project, to making the singing strong and true, the music beautiful with harmonies. . .Nancy, your deep and beautiful spirit and skill helped us to make this day. Thank you.

Thank you, Patricia, for years ago, planting the seed of this project and for so faithfully keeping it on the web.

All the days beyond this day lie before us and nothing from here on will be separated from what we did together.

Blessings and love, Carolyn

From: Jan Devine
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 15:13:26 -0300
Subject: Re: Our deepest gratitude!

My heart is changed for having been with you all... and I thank each of you for enveloping me into your circle and energy... I am just very glad to have been able to add something into the amazing chemistry that was already there.... It was a privilege and a joy to work with you and amongst you.

I know we will feel your voices swirling from Point Pelee on the Sunday of our recording...thank you... I hope you will be singing 'Beginners' with us... lending us your hearts...

love, Jan
[Coordinator, Atlantic Canada]

I am still coming down
from the high
on the mountain top
upon which I sang

with currents of so
many mighty streams
merging melodiously together,
together. Never quite a

blend so fine, like a
particular wine we
worked and reached a
readiness for sharing

with some we will never know
as they, too, join the journey
in the sparkling stream
to the top.

Judy Burgess

Euphoria....this is the best way to describe my feelings during ourentire recording weekend!! Blending our voices was the purpose, but beneath this was even deeper for me.....blending our spirits.

Women of many backgrounds, beliefs, education. Some straight, some lesbian, some single, some married, some mothers, some not....all SISTERS!!!

Reaching out to one another in song, in love, in laughter and in tears....with one purpose in mind, to be better caretakers of our Mother Earth and to spread the word to all to join us on our journey.

I learned so much from our Canadian sisters about their culture, their view of we, who mistakenly called ourselves "American" instead of citizens of the United States. We trusted one another's honesty. No No, No nos, Moveran!!! I will NOT BE MOVED when it comes to my feelings of appreciation, admiration and love of the women of Beautiful Gaia and our inspiration, Carolyn. You will all remain in the deepest chambers of my heart forever!!

How blessed, how very blessed I am to be a part of this awe inspiring project...(pronounced with a long "o" if you please)!!

In love and gratitude,
Pat Schwing

*To see more photos, click on the Great Lakes Basin CD Recording photo album

SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2003

Each time we women of the Great Lakes Basin meet, we drop to a deeper level of connection and one another and to Gaia, our mother. How could we not, especially today? Today when we were on land, beside waters, under skies and among plants, trees and creatures that spoke so tangibly of our common heritage.

For on this bright, sunny summer day, twenty-two Canadian and American women met at Pt. Pelee National Park, a peninsula of sandy beaches, sun-dappled forests and primeval marshes that stretches its sacred finger into Lake Erie. It is the southernmost point of land in all of Canada. Our reason for gathering was to sing in solidarity with our sisters in Atlantic Canada as they recorded their portion of the O Beautiful Gaia CD up in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

And sing we did!

We sang in the Visitors Centre theatre, on the path beside the yellow blossoms of the Prickly Pear Cactus, at the parking lot entrance to the Visitors Centre, under the trees by the picnic tables, and on the beach and boardwalk out at the point. And because we connected again with our friend John Brownlie, the Park naturalist whom we had met in November, we were able to add Pt. Pelee's rare, threatened and endangered species to our singing of the Longing Series. We sang of the Hackberry Butterfly, Eastern Fox Snake, Shagbark Hickory, Butternut, Spotted Turtle, Salamander, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Swamp Rose Mallow, Prickly Pear Cactus, Pin Oak and Bull Frog. John sang along with us beside the flowering cactus and at the entrance to the Visitors Centre...his hand on his heart and tears in his eyes. Many of us had wet eyes at one time or another today.

What a glorious experience it was to sing from our hearts with no concern over microphones, recording technicalities or pitch. And to sing in a place that holds the meaning of our words and melodies within its very being. To sing with a chorus of birds, the whisper of Hackberry Butterfly wings, trees swaying in the breeze, waves splashing gently on the shore. And as we sang, we brought our Atlantic Canada sisters into this sacred space. Our voices soared together.

*To see today's photos, click on the Great Lakes Basin Pt. Pelee photo album

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Patricia & Deanne Bednar


After spending yesterday at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival, today I made music myself--in the company of my sisters--instead of listening to others make it.

Our Great Lakes Basin community had been asked by Carolyn McDade and Jan Devine, recording coordinators of the O Beautiful Gaia CD, to overdub some of our songs. According to an email we received from Penny, our American Great Lakes coordinator, "Carolyn has said over and over that what is there now is solid, faithful work. What we are adding is more melody and heart. Just singing freely and intensely." And so a dozen of us spent four hours in the sound studio on this Sunday of Labor Day weekend, singing for--and with--our sisters. We started the day with a phone call to Carolyn so she could send us her love and encouragement via speaker phone (#1, #2).

The process was quite different from when we'd recorded in June. For one thing, we each wore a headphone so we could hear the original tracks and sing along with them. Because of the computerized nature of current recording techniques, we could keep going back and changing things phrase by phrase when needed, but we'd always start by singing right through the song and trying to get it in one or two takes. Of course we never did, but that didn't discourage Rob, who owns the recording studio in Ann Arbor (Solid Sound) that we used. He was a wonderful facilitator of the process--part cheerleader, part taskmaster, part stand-up comic, and all around competent sound engineer. His thirty years experience showed.

We used four microphones--one for the two lows, one for the two middles, one for the one upper, and one for the seven melody-singers. There was as much listening as there was singing (#1, #2). And because of the intensity of this work, our few rests--#1, #2, #3, #4--were most welcome. We had one 20-minute break--#1, #2--while Nancy was re-recording her solo, but even then we used the time to practice the Blessing Song (#1, #2). After four hours we had done what we'd set out to do. By the way, if you want to order a copy of this double CD, you can do so by going to our O Beautiful Gaia web site. It is due to come out in November.

I will never again listen to a CD without being aware of all that has gone into its making.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Patricia & Alicia DeSouza


The Great Lakes Basin women of the O Beautiful Gaia CD Project met today at the Ojibway Nature Center in Windsor, Ontario. Due to a conflicting gig with the Raging Grannies at Detroit's Dally In the Alley, I was unable to attend. What follows is an email sent to the community on Sunday, September 7 by Joan and Penny, our Great Lakes Basin coordinators:

Greetings, Beautiful (Gaia) Women,

Our gathering yesterday at Ojibway Nature Centre was delightful in every respect. The weather was crisp and brilliant and everything was in full bloom around the grounds. It was so good to have the leisure time to visit, walk, sing, plan, and then do each one of those things some more!

For those who were unable to attend, we missed you, but here is a synopsis of the day's events.

The Georgetown women brought posters and notepaper with our quilt on them and sold nearly all they had. There will be more at future meetings for those who want to buy.

We decided to keep meeting once a month on the first Saturday, but in general, we'll go from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with each person bringing
her own lunch.

However, October is different because we have been invited to join a workshop on "The Globalization of Water" in Windsor and to sing our "water songs" with the other participants. I have already sent out information on this event, and will send a map and more details in the coming days. It will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There was a request from some women for more time on that day to rehearse for the launch. I am looking into the possibility of us remaining in the church hall after the workshop to rehearse for a while.

Peg Sooz Collins is looking into the possibility of using Northwest Unitarian church for our gathering on November 1.

Plans are going ahead for the launch of the CD which will take place at First Church in Detroit on Friday evening, November 21, and at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor on Sunday afternoon, November 23. A launch committee is in place and will be calling on other members of the circle to help with the execution of these days. Also, the pastor at First Church has invited the circle to sing with the congregation at the Sunday service at 11:00 a.m. on November 23. Carolyn has agreed to play at that service.

On Saturday, November 22, Helen of Troy has generously offered her home for a pot luck supper as a 'wrap up' to the work on the CD. Directions to her home will be sent out in good time.

We discussed the idea of having tee-shirts and sweatshirts with a Gaia theme made up for us. Deanne Bednar is going to bring a design to the next gathering on October 4.

In all, the day was relaxing and productive. We sang by the water and in the woods. We sang in the room. We visited and exchanged news of summer happenings. We thoroughly enjoyed one another's company ...all 30 of us.

Thanks to all present for helping to make the day so very pleasant.

Joan and Penny



I was in Windsor, Ontario most of today attending a workshop on the globalization of water. Our O Beautiful Gaia group chose to spend our October meeting time in this way. Now that the CD is completed, we'd like to explore ways to learn about and act upon environmental issues. After all, that's what "Gaia" (the earth) is all about.

The centerpiece of this workshop was a talk given by Eucebio Figueroa Santos, a Mayan community organizer from Peten, Guatemala, and translated by Marcella Braggio, a Canadian who now lives and works in Peten with CIEP (the Center for Investigation and Education). They are touring Southwestern Ontario and Quebec for a month, with the intention of building strong partnerships between their communities and Canadian communities as they educate Northerners about their struggle (la lucha) for community sovereignty in Guatemala. From the information sheet handed out today, we learned that

"On the International Day Against Dams, March 14 of this year, Alianza por la Vida y la Paz de Peten (a collective of organizations of which Eucebio is vice-president) launched an information campaign, "Water, Corn and Land are Ours" (Water in opposition to the privatization of water and dam building. Corn for food sovereignty in terms of self-sufficiency, self-determination and against genetically altered corn. Land for just land distribution) which aims to build resistance to the Plan Puebla Panama. A major focus is the effort to stop the building of hydroelectric dams along the Usumacinta River which runs between Peten and Chiapa, Mexico. The dam would endanger a region of great biological vitality and cultural rlevance. There is also huge opposition to bioprospecting by seed, chemical and pharmaceutical companies."

In relation to water, Eucebio told us that 70% of the diseases in their village are water-borne diseases. The primary polluters of their rivers are multinational companies like Bechtel that operate oil drilling operations in the northern and central parts of Guatemala. We also saw an excellent video that showed the devastation that is brought to villages that are flooded when dams are built. As Eucebio and Marcella said, there has never been a dam that has performed up to capacity. They always fall short of the benefits promised. Besides, there are other ways to generate power. Their organizations are working on alternatives to hydroelectric power, things like solar panels and wind-driven generators.

Throughout the day, our Gaia group was invited to sing. We sang--and led the workshop participants in singing--"The River is Flowing", "The Blessing Song" (before lunch), "No, Nos Moveran", "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "We Shall Be Moved." After the workshop ended, we stayed and sang some more (photo #1, #2, #3, #4).

It was an honor to meet and learn from Eucebio and Marcella. Whenever I am with persons who put their lives on the line for justice--as both of them do every day in Guatemala--I am struck by the human capacity for goodness and truth and courage. They are the ones who give me hope. By the way, if you have questions, want more information or would like to explore the possibility of forming a partnership with Eucebio's and/or Marcella's organizations, you can email Eucebio Figueroa Santos at or Marcella Braggio at

We are ALL en la lucha!

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey & photos by Patricia and Sandy Hardwick


I have just returned home from our O Beautiful Gaia CD "Listening" in Windsor. How I wish words had wings instead of commas and periods and such earthbound attachments.

The CD is more than anything I could ever have dreamed it would be when that tiny seed was planted in our hearts by Carolyn McDade over a year ago. This harvest is so abundant that my mouth hangs open in awe. As it does for every woman in our Great Lakes community who sat in the circle today.

Our eyes closed, our heads and bodies swaying to the music (I peeked), our lips curled in smiles and/or mouthing the words that are inscribed in our hearts, we listened with every fiber of our being to the journey that unfolded before us in the magic of piano, fiddle (OH, that fiddle!!!), oboe, harp (AH!), cello, flute, drums, guitar, creature's songs (the whales!!!!!), children's voices (our future), women's voices (our present), and the silence that it touched in the deepest recesses of our souls.

This CD is so much more than music: it is a call, a cry, a whisper that says "Listen!", listen to what is happening to our earth and all who share this planet, our home. It says don't ignore the song of the whales, the cry of the wolves, the chirp of the birds. Listen with more than your ears; listen with your heart. For it is there that you will hear what needs to be heard; it is there that you will learn what it is you personally, and we communally, are called to do to serve this land on which we stand, this air that we breathe, this water that is the precious stuff of life, these creatures who surround us with life and beauty, grace and pain.

The CD is SO BEAUTIFUL with its interweavings of voices and instruments, of creatures and silence. I'm doing my best, but words are failing me. There are no words to say what I want to say. Isn't that why we sing?

All of our endless hours/days/months of dedicated commitment to this project shine forth in its fruits. As I say, the harvest is abundant.

But listening to the CD wasn't all we did today. We practiced--photos #1 & #2--the Longing Series in preparation for singing it at our CD Launches to be held the weekend of November 21-23. That Friday evening (November 21) from 7-9 PM we Great Lakes Basin community will be hosting a gathering at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church on Cass and Forest near Wayne State University in Detroit. We're inviting friends, family and interested individuals to celebrate our "baby", the O Beautiful Gaia double CD. Not only will there be CDs for sale, but we will offer a program of singing and sharing about this project that is so dear to our hearts. Then on Sunday afternoon from 3-5 PM we'll do the same thing in Windsor, Ontario at Mackensie Hall near the University of Windsor. Carolyn McDade, who dreamed this project into being and whose tireless commitment helped bring it to fruition, is coming from Cape Cod to be with us for both CD Launches. By the way, our journal readers are cordially invited to attend either of the Launches.

It wasn't just listening and singing that occupied our time and hearts today. Thanks to Penny, our American coordinator, we had the opportunity to create tangible art in the form of two life-size fabric Women Banners. At the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in August, Penny had taken a workshop at which she'd learned how to make pieced fabric banners which are based on a woman's body, in this case her own. She brought the banner she'd made at Festival and invited us to add finishing touches with fabric paint, glitter, ribbons and assorted treasures. She also brought a banner on which she'd only outlined the shape of a woman. She'd asked us to bring fabric scraps so we could complete this new banner together. By the way, it's basically a cut-and-paste project. The women REALLY got into it! Here are a series of photos I took of the process as it unfolded: photos #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5. Not only were our creative juices tapped, but our funny bones were tickled too! Here's the almost finished Woman Banner #2. If you come to our CD Launches, you'll see both banners on display.

We always have an altar in the center of our circle, one created by different women each month. Today Sooz was the altar-maker and she really outdid herself. I wish I could show you how this Samhain altar looked in the dim light we used for our CD Listening time. She had sewn sparkling white Christmas lights between two thicknesses of felt so it looked like a magic carpet.

That was most appropriate because today WAS magic.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey



I'm having a hard time tending to my knitting, as my southern Mommy used to say. As I write, I'm listening to our "O Beautitufl Gaia" CD and it is so exquisite I'm having trouble thinking of such mundane things as words. Not to mention the fact that it's 1:30 AM and I'm getting very sleepy. I'll write a little and put up a few pictures, but I'm not going to begin to do tonight's CD Launch justice. Since this is going to be such a HUGE weekend, I'm not going to try to keep a good journal; I'll save that for next week when things have settled down.

Our American CD Launch here in Detroit was magnificent! If you look at the smiles on the faces of our Great Lakes Basin sisters, I think you'll see what I mean--photos #1, #2, #3. We not only sang, but drummed and danced as well. Our program was constructed to make tonight a communal experience rather than a performance...and it worked! Just look at the "audience" after we'd all sung the Assent/Dissent Movement songs together. Of course, having Jean and Lori join us--as they had on the CD--meant no one was going to be left out. Lori always brings drums, rattles, sticks, pails and whatever she needs to get folks up on their feet and moving. Actually it took some doing to get them settled down enough so we could close with "So Great A Love", but when they did it turned into a moment of deep communal connection. And that is the gift Carolyn McDade brings to any gathering. As voices lift, hearts open and barriers break down.

And now, dear friends, I have got to go to bed.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Jan Stutzman and Patricia



Oh, this O Beautiful Gaia CD Project is about SO MUCH more than a CD. Yes, the CD is probably the most beautiful I have ever heard, and yes, it will transform everyone who hears it. That is so important, especially in today's world. But for each of us personally, the CD itself can never express what these 14 months together has meant. Our individual answers tonight to Carolyn's question, "What of essence has touched you about this project?," made that fact perfectly clear. Being part of the Great Lakes Basin community has changed each of us in deep and lasting ways. For some it was the singing, for others their growing commitment to the earth. Still others were most deeply touched by the endangered species to and for whom we sing, and not a few mentioned the wonders of being part of such a loving community of women. What was obvious was that we're not done yet; we will "continue on", as Carolyn's chant says.

Today we met at Helen's house for our first-ever Great Lakes Basin community party. It was scheduled to begin at 4 PM and was to go until 8 PM. The reality was quite different. Almost all of us stayed until close to 10 PM. During those six hours we ate the delicious food we'd brought. We talked a lot about the CD and about last night's CD Launch on the Michigan side of the river. We discussed our BIG day tomorrow which will start with our conducting the Sunday service at the First Unitarian Universalist church in downtown Detroit that let us rehearse there every other month throughout the year. Then we'll be off to Windsor and the Great Lakes Basin Canadian CD Launch at Mackenzie Hall near the University of Windsor. By the way, you're welcome to join us there between 3-5 PM. And of course we sang. Have we EVER gotten together and not sung? I don't think so. We didn't just sing, we bonded in a stronger way than ever. And we gave our visionary sister Carolyn a gift--a beautiful framed poster that the Georgetown, Ontario women had made of our quilt.

And now, my friends, I have got to take myself to bed. As I said, tomorrow is a VERY big day and I'm going to need a good eight hours. If I hurry I just might get it!

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Jackie and Patricia


All I could think as I was driving home from our CD Launch in Windsor, Ontario this evening is that I must be the most fortunate person alive. What do people do who don't have a community of hope in days such as these? For that is exactly what this O Beautiful Gaia Great Lakes Basin singing community is...a community of hope. Hope that dreaming, creating and working together we can make a difference, we can help bring life and healing where others have brought destruction and despair to our fragile planet and all who share it.

What a weekend this has been!!! Friday night's American CD Launch in Detroit; Saturday's potluck gathering at Helen's; this morning's church service at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Detroit; this afternoon's Canadian CD Launch in Windsor. Could life be any richer?

The truth is I am utterly exhausted. Not many of us slept well on Friday or Saturday nights--too much energy and excitement swirling in our heads and hearts. And now it is 9:30 PM and I'm ready to hang it up. But first, I want to give you a few images that show the wonder of today...

1. Our singing at the First UU Church in Detroit this morning.
2. A close-up of some of our women singing at church.
3. A lovely mother and baby--Summarah and Njarah--at the First UU Church.
4. Examples of creativity that surround us at our Canadian CD Launch in Windsor: our altar created by Pam; a banner by Elaine's Windsor high school art students; Elaine's charcoal drawing "Emergence" (the title of CD #1 in our O Beautiful Gaia double CD set); our community-created banners inspired by Penny Hackett-Evans, American Great Lakes Basin coordinator; our community quilt.
5. My faithful Canadian CD Sales committee (minus Lenore).
6. Carolyn at the piano and our community singing at a brief practice.
7. Folks drumming and dancing after our practice and before the program begins.
8. Our group singing during the CD Launch program.
9. Moving after we sang our Assent/Dissent movement songs.
10. Finishing with a spiral dance led by Shaun Nethercott of Detroit's Matrix Theatre.

I guess I got more into this than I expected! It's now almost 11 PM and, yes, I AM going to bed right now.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Jan Stutzman & Patricia



Hard to believe that tomorrow I will be archiving this month's journal entries. Where did the time go? I guess I have been VERY busy this month...and that's no exaggeration. But not today. Today I sat in my rocking chair with a blanket over my lap and listened again and again to our O Beautiful Gaia CD. I don't think I will ever tire of it. And the fact that there are two CDs makes it even better. I just keep going from one to the other. It is truly glorious music. By the way, if you want to order a double CD yourself--$25 US or Canadian, plus shipping--just go to the O Beautiful Gaia web site and download an order form.

So I did not much of anything today except to sit and savor the wonder of this O Beautiful Gaia CD project. Even as I swam my half a mile tonight, I thought of the weekend and let images from those four magical days and nights float before my eyes. In today's fast-moving culture I think we often miss half of what an experience wants to give us by going on too quickly to the next thing. There's a lot to be said for milking each moment for all it's worth.

I didn't pick up a book and read, nor did I read anything online except for a few emails. I didn't want anything to distract me from my thoughts and feelings. I talked with two Gaia sisters on the phone and one was doing as I was doing. She said she was experiencing a powerful mixture of sadness and relief. Tears were her companion as she sat, as she took a walk in a nature preserve near her house, and as she journalled and expressed her feelings in art. We agreed that for those of us who gave our all to the project, that is how much we received.

I'm finding it hard to write about this without using every cliche in the book. Maybe that's why cliches are created--to give expression to the inexpressible. Well, I'm going to give up trying, for now anyway, and simply continue listening to the music...

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


From: Penny Hackett-Evans
Subject: whew!!!!
Date: Nov 24, 2003 11:12 AM

Well, Nancy just left in the car with Carolyn for the airport. I find myself in a state of beautiful ambivalence. It's over, it's over ... we did it! We saw it to completion. It's over in one sense and just turning into a new phase in another. We can all feel proud, relieved, joyous -- all those mixture of feelings washing over. It has all been such an honor. Thank you. Thank you. Our baby is born and now to see how the world receives her... Love, Penny


"Frozen sorrow paralyzes. To unlock our energies, to empower ourselves again, we must mourn and rage."
Starhawk from Truth Or Dare, p. 33.

December 6, 1989

The Montreal Massacre
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada-

Armed with a Sturm Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle, knives and bandoliers of ammunitions, Marc Lepine (25), while making anti-woman statements, walks through l'Ecole Polytechnique in  Montreal, shooting and killing 14 women (wounding 13 others, mostly women). Lepine ends the rampage by shooting and killing himself.The attack sparks cries for greater gun control in Canada.  Lepine had been rejected when he applied for admission to the school and blamed feminists for ruining his life.

In memorium:

Genevieve Bergeron,  21
Helene Colgan,  23
Nathalie Croteau,  23
Barbara Daigneault,  22
Anne-Marie Edward,  21
Maud Haviernick,  29
Barbara Maria Klucznick Widajewicz,  31
Maryse Laganiere,  25
Maryse Leclair, 23
Anne-Marie Lemay,  22
Sonia Pelletier,  28
Michele Richard,  21
Annie St-Arneault,  23
Annie Turcotte, 21

December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada

Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada coincides with the sad anniversary of the death of 14 young women who were tragically killed on December 6, 1989 at l'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal because of their gender. Beyond commemorating the loss of these fourteen young lives, this day represents a time to pause and reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also a time to have a special thought for all the women and girls who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died as a result of deliberate acts of gender-based violence. Last but not least, it is a day for communities to reflect on concrete actions that each Canadian can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Support the Purple Ribbon Campaign

In 1990, the Women's Action Coalition of Nova Scotia launched a Purple Ribbon Campaign to pay tribute to the fourteen women murdered December 6, 1989 in Montreal to raise public awareness on violence against women, as well as to collect donations to benefit women who have been victims of violence.

We women of the Great Lakes Basin of the O Beautiful Gaia CD Project met today and commemorated the lives and deaths of these fourteen young women whose brutal murders on December 6, 1989 provided a tragic wake-up call to Canadians to do something to stop the epidemic levels of violence against women, and to put an end to the easy access to guns. Three of our Canadian sisters--Judy G, Alicia and Doris--facilitated our remembrance ritual. It was powerful to know that we were joining our hearts, voices and commitment to action with those of women, men and children all across Canada. Would that the US would emulate our sisters and brothers to the north and institute such a Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Canada is often ahead of us in consciousness and concern for its people, and today was another reminder of that fact.

On the wall of our gathering space were the names of the fourteen women, a drawing done by Judy G, a poem by Alicia, several quotes and factual information. The ritual itself was built around a poem that brought each woman to life not only by naming her but by sharing a bit of the story of her life and death. On our altar, fourteen purple votive candles were lit by fourteen women in our circle who were each asked to be the rememberer of one of the women who was killed. Beside her candle, each woman placed two pieces of paper framed in purple--one that showed the slain woman's name, her photograph, age and brief identifying information, and the other that was the portion of the poem devoted to her life and death. Finally a single long-stemed red rose was laid at her place. During the ritual we sang two of Carolyn McDade's songs from her "Sister Carry On" CD--"Woman To Woman" and "I Am Enraged."

This was among the most powerful rituals I have ever participated in. It was an honour to be part of it.

I ate lunch with old and new friends. Deanne, Penny and I were joined by Barbara, a new member of our Great Lakes Basin community. I'd first seen Barbara dancing at our Canadian CD Launch on Sunday, Novmber 23. At that time I'd been drawn to her fire and energy. Today I found out why. Barbara and I are such kindred spirits that it's remarkable. A rather amazing moment came when she asked the URL of my web site and I said "" She gasped and said, "I know your web site! Someone once sent me not only the link to your site, but a copy of your entire home page. They said I needed to get to know this creative woman!" That gave me chill bumps.

Our program continued after reports and announcements had been made. This planning committee really outdid themselves! Now the altar was surrounded by circles of colored construction paper. Alicia introduced our next activity, one that they had found in the "Sister, Carry On" booklet. It was intriguingly named "Finding Our Insolence." Each of us was invited to choose the colour of circle that spoke to us today. We were then asked to find a quiet corner in which to sit and cut the paper circle into a spiral. On it we were to write whatever words welled up within us when we asked ourselves these two questions:

1. What helps you to spiral inward through helplessness and pain to your own inner knowing of truth?
2. What helps you to spiral outward through fear and distrust to community, connectedness and solidarity?

For what seemed like timeless time we each delved deep into our Selves and tried to articulate what we found there. When everyone was finished, we were asked to gather into small groups to discuss our journeys. I was in a circle with Doris and three of our four new Gaia sisters--Monica, Barbara and Mary Kay. Our discussion was reverent, honest, deeply touching and transformative. Other groups seemed to experience this time of sharing in similar ways, with a few also bringing humor to the mix. Of course, if you had Pat N in your circle, you'd be bound to laugh! As each group broke up, we were invited to weave our spirals in rainbow patterns around the altar. And thus, what had started as a commemoration of the dead, became a colourful celebration of the living.

We closed our day by singing another of Carolyn's songs, "Seeds of Change." I don't know what seeds are normally planted in December, but today was certainly a day for planting hope.

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey


Today the women of the Great Lakes Basin of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project met at The Hospice of Windsor, Ontario for a day devoted to the theme: "Searching for Causes of Breast Cancer." The following was the agenda we'd received by email ahead of time:

Theme:  Searching for Causes of Breast Cancer
Location:  The Hospice of Windsor, 6038 Empress Street, Windsor, Ontario


10:00 - 10:45 Dr. Sicheri, Oncologist at Windsor (with passion and interest in environmental chemicals and their effect on health)
10:45 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 12:00 First hour of 2-hour video presentation "Rachel's Daughters, Searching for the Causes of Breast Cancer"
12:00 - 12:45  Catered lunch;  Sing: "Blessing Song"  

 12:45 - 1:00 Sing: "Come Sing A Song With Me" and/or "Earth My Body, Water by Blood" and/or "Woman Am I"
1:00 - 1:45 Memory Journal of Women Affected by Breast Cancer. Please bring writings, pictures and memories to share
1:45 - 2:00  Break
2:00 - 2:45 Radiance Treatment
2:45 - 3:45 Second hour of 2-hour video presentation
3:45 - 4:00 Closing Songs: "We Are Sisters On A Journey" and/or "We Are A Gentle Angry People"

The agenda shifted somewhat as our day proceeded, most notably in the showing of the documentary film, "Rachel's Daughters"--the first hour was shown before lunch, and the second hour directly after lunch. That meant our personal sharings about women we have known/do know who were/are affected by breast cancer came after we'd experienced a period of silence following the conclusion of the film. What a tender, heartbreaking time of sharing that was. All of us have been touched by this tragic epidemic that hits one in every nine women in today's Western World.

Dr. Sicheri's presentation showed us the inescapable environmental determinants of many of today's cancers, from the presence of Superfund toxic waste dumps, to airborne carcinogens let loose through burning waste in city incinerators, to the ongoing effects of DDT spraying back in the 30s, 40s and 50s, to today's use of pesticides on our lawns. And that was just the beginning. Apparently Windsor has among the highest incidence of cancer in all of Ontario, and Dr. Sicheri gave us some of the reasons why, among them the carcinogenic sediment present in Lake Erie, sediment that came about through decades of agricultural and industrial misuse of insecticides and pollutants. Her report was chilling.

This was not an easy program to sit through. In fact, one of our Great Lakes women--a survivor of breast cancer herself--had to leave after Dr. Sicheri's talk. What we heard, learned and felt as we saw the epidemic proportions of the tragedy of breast cancer and met the women who were at the heart of the excellent documentary, "Rachel's Daughters", tolled like a death knell. All day long I kept looking around our circle asking myself, "Which of us will develop or already has breast cancer? Who of these beloved women will we lose to this dreadful disease?" I know that many breast cancers are treatable, but I also know that many women die. So unnecessarily!!! I couldn't help thinking if one in every nine men were looking at the certainty of developing as serious a form of cancer as breast cancer, there would be more of an outcry and a stronger insistence on doing something about it!

That was what I came away with today: we women must take the lead and raise our voices against all that we see contributing to the likelihood of our and/or our sisters developing breast cancer. That means taking on corporations, agribusiness, governments and whomever has a stake in keeping carcinogens in our food chain, air, water, land and homes. We can be silent no more.

And we Great Lakes women gave voice to our rage, hopes and determination as we sang songs like, "We Are A Gentle, Angry People", "Woman Am I", "Earth My Body", "Come Sing A Song With Me", and "Hip Swingin' A Safe Road" (photos #1, #2, #3, #4). We will NOT be silent!

words and photos by Patricia Lay-Dorsey



On Saturday, Peg, Jeanne, Judy and I arrived in Georgetown, Ontario at 3:30 PM after an easy three-hour drive from Detroit. We checked me into my motel room and proceeded to stretch out, two to a bed, for a little lie-down before we were to meet our Great Lakes sisters at a nearby restaurant for dinner. Our dinner gathering was fun and afterwards, folks went to Arlene's house to practice singing for Sunday's CD Launch. I chose to stay at my motel and go to bed early. The other women were staying in people's homes, but because of my accessibility needs I was staying at a motel. It was very comfortable.

Sunday, after eating lunch and having a wonderful visit together, my brother Mazen Haddad (Rabih's brother) drove me to Milton for the O Beautiful Gaia CD Launch. I arrived a little after 2 PM, just in time to practice (photo #1 & #2) a couple of songs with the ten Great Lakes Basin sisters who had travelled from the Windsor/Detroit area, our three Georgetown sisters--Catherine, Arlene and Dianne--who had organized today's event, and their singing circle with whom we would be singing. Jeanette accompanied us on the piano.

The Launch was held in the sunny, elegant Hugh Foster Hall, and at the center of the room was a lovely altar. By 3 PM, the room was full of friends who had come from as far away as Toronto and Hamilton. I recognized many of their faces because we'd attended a Carolyn McDade retreat together in October 2001 at Five Oaks retreat center in Paris, Ontario. Before today's program began--while we were enjoying the delicious homemade refreshments--I met Daphne and asked her to be my designated photographer. I knew it would be impossible for me to sing and take pictures at the same time. Many of the following photos are her work.

The program opened with Catherine introducing the O Beautiful Gaia CD project. She stressed that we were interested in so much more than simply making a CD; it was the preservation of the planet that motivated and encouraged us to keep moving forward. Throughout the day we sang, always inviting everyone to join in (words to the songs were printed in their programs). Interspersed throughout the afternoon were reflections and/or readings by members of our Great Lakes Basin community, as when Dianne introduced the round, "The Rivers Are Flowing." Thanks to hours of hard work, Cobe was able to show a Power-Point presentation of the endangered species as we chanted their names. Two of our songs were interpreted in dance. Cheryl performed a lyrical modern dance as we sang "The Circle of Life", and Valerie led the community in dancing to "So Great A Love." Daphne took this, my favorite photo, as that dance came to a beautiful conclusion. And then the Assent/Dissent movement songs led into a time of drumming and percussion, with everyone involved, including Pat N. and Jeanne dancing to the beat. We finished by singing "O Beautiful Gaia" one final time.

By the time the program had ended, it was 4:30 PM. Snow flurries were making things look even more lovely, but my friends and I still had to return home to Detroit. The snow seemed to have stopped by the time we were packed up and ready to go, so after posing for this silly picture, Peg got behind the wheel and we set off for home. It wasn't until we'd been on the 401 about a half hour that the occasional flurries had turned into a blizzard, with white-out conditions. We kept up our courage by singing Carolyn McDade and Holly Near songs, and five and a half hours later, we pulled into my driveway, deeply grateful to be home.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Daphne and Patricia


An email from Peg Case:

This was written for our Feb 7 meeting to discuss our future focus and vision for our group. It was my attempt to focus my own sense of what our music means and why it is important to keep getting it out into new communities even as we strengthen our own power to share it. I personally do not feel we have much time left to alert the humans to the need for revolutionary tranformations in the way we do business with Gaia. Gaia is getting ready to expel us. As Deborah Cramer points out in her book, all it will really take is enough polar warmth to stop the flow of the deep Atlantic currents and thus the next ice age. Thom Hartmann, in an article on Common Dreams put out on Jan 30, called "How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age..." echoes the same science in a shorter version. It's pretty scarey stuff. I don't see that we have much time to debate processes or look for a mission statement. We are a mission statement and we have work to do. As Joanna Macy says, we may not be able to turn it around, but we must act as if we can anyway. It is our only chance. So I say let us sing our music wherever we can and use it to communicate our love for Gaia, and use it to re-energize the troops. The poem is yours if you want to use it for any useful purpose.


We come to speak for the plants and animals.
How arrogant, you say.
They don't need humans to speak,
Always they have spoken
in their own voices
with their many colors, scents, and signs.
Their tracks wander the earth
through paw, petal, pollen, or piercing song.

Yes, but that was before the corner was turned
and we could not see them anymore.
That was in the old times
when a flower brushed your face
as you gathered food in the forest,
when your bare feet felt the grass
and the fertile mud wound around your  toes
just before you stepped lightly
into the cool spring, just in time
to catch the crayfish darting among the rocks.

Now they need us to speak for them.
Buried among the debris in quaint portraits
of the living earth and all its creatures
is the essense of the problem.
You embrace the pictures
but will never see the face
or brush the fine dust from the fallen fruit.
Buried in the debris is the memory
faltering against the brick walls,
locked away in the pantry in cans.

When the ocean wave just crashed
on rocks awash with creatures,
you were tugging at the sleeve
of the last person running for the city,
trying to catch the tidal wave of panic
to turn it around
so someone would really see
the wonder of it all
in just that moment of crashing wave.
The gate closed the people in
before they saw it.

So we come to speak for the creatures
and witness for the plants.
They cannot come where you are anymore.
The gate is locked,the key is small,
but we will have to find a way to use it
and speak with all the power we contain.

Peggy Case     Feb. 2004

To see the February 7 photo-journal, click on this link.


Planning the activities and program for the day were: Anne Robert, Marianne Angus, Rachel Harrar, Julia Slowik, and Pam Dutot-Atkinson.

We entered to find a phenomenal altar done by Pam. Scarves representing the colors of the 4 seasons with wonderful artifacts perfectly was wonderful!!

The morning began by singing "O Beautiful Gaia" followed by Pam's bringing in the 4 directions. Four women read these words compiled by Pam from her own writings and those of Starhawk.

Facing East: We call in the powers of the East. The element of air, the wind, our breath....Corresponds with the energy of the sunrise and new beginnings. This element of air symbolizes the mind, the intellect, illumination, wings, light and lightness, Naming and differentiation. THE SEASON OF SPRING.

Facing South: The element of fire corresponds with the sun high in the sky at noon time. The direction of energy, heat, passion, courage, the will, expansion. THE SEASON OF SUMMER.

Facing West: The elements of water correspond with twighlight, sunset and is identified with feelings, emotions, nurturing, sensuality, introspection, rain, tears. THE SEASON OF AUTUMN.

Facing North: The earth's element corresponds with midnight and represents growth, sustenance, the solidity of limits and boundaries. Earth, our home, the beauty of the natural world. Density, substance. THE SEASON OF WINTER.

After each of these readings participants were asked to name things which these elements brought forth for them. It was very moving.

Julia then introduced her friend, Social Worker and Group Facilitator, Pat Miller and Pat's graduate student from the University of Michigan, Ayanna Williams, who were to facilitate our discussions throughout the day. The theme for the day was "Transition, a Time of Change."

Standing in a circle we were paired with a partner with whom we would work for a couple of exercises. We were asked to spend some time simply observing our partner and to then give some feedback about what we observed. Then we were asked to turn back to back and make 5 changes in our appearance to see if our partner would notice these changes.

The majority of us took things "away" which we were told is a common trait. Usually when people think of change we think of giving up things or losing something. Only a few of us added things so this was an interesting phenomena. We were, indeed falling into the norms Pat expected.

We then spent a few minutes discussing some of the changes and transitions we needed to address. A quick review of the Feb. meeting brought out that we had formulated a Mission Statement, brainstormed ideas for the future. There appeared to be 2 tracks of thinking which emerged. Some wanted structure, others did not. Going public with presentations/programs, formal or not, and special events had been discussed in Feb.

Pat asked us to think about what our "Hopes for the Day" would be.

--We hoped for a process for decision making.
--A clear understanding of who we are.
--Focus of the meetings.
--Solid commitment to move forward into the world.
--Measure of nourishment among ourselves.
--Find manageable projects on which to work.
--Respect and understanding of people who disagree with "me".
--Coordination/leadership and how it will happen.
--Some wanted to sing a lot and talk little....others wanted more balance in these 2 things.
--We can always agree to disagree. Do not have to set things in stone...being "fluid" was a high priority.
--Wanted balance between in and out in terms of our goals for the group.
--Are we going to be a performing choir? If so, this requires considerable time for preparation.

Next Question: What will it look like to move forward?

We numbered off in 5 groups to do some brainstorming. Following the discussions a recorder reported out thoughts which surfaced in their groups. Some of the ideas raised are shared below.

--We have an important message on our CD which has touched many people. Let's use music as our medium to get our message out to the world.
--Tie into other groups who are like minded so as not to have to start from scratch on these projects. Infuse with our feeling of love and support for earth to support others who are doing similar work.
--Learn new songs to re-inspire ourselves as we tire of CD songs.
--Work of coming back to "ground our grounding."
--Continue to get educated in areas effecting the earth. Bring in experts who can help in this process.
--We love the companionship and spiritual dimension which our group provides and do not want to lose this intimacy.
--Some felt performance was not high on their list. Others felt we should limit the number of programs we present.
--Due to the fact some of the members have limited time to give, it was suggested we have several sub groups within the main group who could volunteer as they were able and interested in various projects.
--Have criteria established to determine if our invitations to sing are for appropriate reasons.
--Continue to "deepen" the group. Must help incorporate our new members.
--In order to keep our "Living Organism" (the group as a whole) nourished spiritually we must go out in a place of having nourished ourselves. Must continue to receive the TLC needed to want to keep coming back and moving on.
--If we keep our "Soul Connection" to ourselves diversity and depth of connection will clarify direction.
--Be flexible/drift and float with the current.

What are our musical values as we go out singing? How much time can we commit to the nuts and bolts of maintaining skill level?

Nancy Nordlie was asked for her input on her desire to continue as our Musical Director. She was frank in her feeling and insistence that if we do go out to sing we must try to be performing at a high quality, but noted she was not on a life long contract either from her stand point or from the group's. All of this is negotiable, but whether she is the leader or a participant she wants our efforts for high standards to be there.

We sang "The Longing Series" accompanied by the wonderful slide presentation showing our endangered species which was provided by Penny Hackett-Evans.

Closing Ritual Before Lunch:

Marianne led us in a beautiful water ritual where we sang "The River Is Flowing" and in our original partnerings went up to 2 bowls of water. Rachel poured water over the hands of one of us after which our partner dried our hands. We then exchanged, doing the same for the 2nd person. At the conclusion we were asked to select a stone to put into the water. A bit of Circle Dancing was done on an impromptu basis while waiting for everyone to finish the pairings.

We sang "The Blessing Song" and broke for lunch.

Following lunch: Pat & Alyanna had spent their lunch time attempting to pull from the 5 group charts the key ideas. A large circle was drawn in the middle of the paper surrounded by 5 smaller circles. The middle large circle represented the nurturing spirit of the core group, our Gaia women. The 5 smaller circles represented: 1) Singing in community with and for like minded groups; 2) Events in community; 3) Group to nourish and maintain core; 4) Marketing to manage this process; 5) Special Projects.

A general theme emerged which was "Organization is always in flux. We do need some kind of leadership. Building community is a large goal."

After considerable discussion it was decided that we could handle 3 topic areas for the afternoon. We divided ourselves into the following groups based on individual interest.

Nourishing Group, Community Singing/Establishing criteria for accepting invitations to sing, Special Projects.

Reporting out from each group follows:


Elements each month: Singing, lunch/fellowship, enrichment, ritual. Coordination: Rotation planning with 2 Canadian and 2 U.S. members who would volunteer for 2 month stints and be held responsible for replacing themselves upon retirement. Time: Suggestion we might want to be more flexible depending on our program for a given day. Perhaps shorter hours, but to keep with our First Sat. of the month. Focus on enrichment and education.

Community Singing:

Criteria for performing in public: Establish a reasonable limit of performances within a given year depending on energy of group and number of women available. (Minimum of 25) so as to maintain good quality. Need to consider logistics of places for performance. IE. Accompaniment possibilities, acoustics, funds to hire accompanist, etc. Adequate time to prepare. Criteria for types of audiences we would be interested in serving: Groups which support environmental action. Not just activists, though. We cannot always be "singing to the choir." We need to raise the collective conscience of our audiences to join us in our mission. We need to keep energizing ourselves. Because we are The Great Lakes Basin we want to respond to groups connected with water conservation, etc. Want to work with children...start young to educate. Suggestion to work within the docent programming of the zoo where they have programs already established.

Special Projects:

Otherwise known as the amoeba group. Emphasis on information gathering, coordinating and sharing info. Do not waste our group time if we can communicate via e-mail, etc. Projects must fit into our common vision...Our earth and the sustainability of the planet. Suggestions for Consideration: Share resources, perhaps a book compilation with Joan and Lenore assisting with writing of same. Visit the IHM Mother House in Monroe where the sisters have done an amazing job of sustainability in renovation of the house and property. A boat trip: The Environmental Alliance of Windsor arranges these which would be educational and fun. Deanne Bednar has a straw-built studio where we could spend a day or an overnight.

Following this reporting out Nancy managed to get us into our 3 singing groups to rehearse some of our pieces for April 3rd.

We closed our day with singing "Listen, Listen to the Voices" and each took home some beautiful stones, a sun replica and some soap shells. Exhausted and was a wonderful day!!

Pat Schwing's report



I am SO TIRED! It's now 11:30 PM. I just got home a half hour ago after having left the house at 1 PM. Bless my friend Judy Drylie for driving.

We Great Lakes Basin women started the day at 2 PM with an opening ritual (photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6) outside the suburban Detroit church where we'd been invited to perform our O Beautiful Gaia CD songs and program, then rehearsed (photos #1, #2, #3) from 2:30-6:15 PM, had a quick supper in the church meeting room, returned to the church sanctuary at 7 PM for a drum jam led by Lori Fithian and Jean, performed at 7:30 PM, finished with another drum jam, and stayed afterwards for a reception in the meeting room. Since we had a new accompanist (Karen) and hadn't sung our songs from the CD in months, we had to go through every one of them in rehearsal. I found it somewhat tedious, but the women I sat with at dinner, didn't. They said it felt great to be singing again. Probably because I sing these songs regularly while scooting down what I call the "singing street," I'd already overworked them in my mind.

After so many hours of singing full-out, by the end of the evening a good number of women were saying their voices were shot. Not surprising! Maybe we'll rethink the wisdom of rehearsing in full voice on the day of a performance.

Anyway, it was great to be with my wonderful Gaia sisters again. Not only that, the performance itself was an utter delight. Lori and Jean got everyone rocking with a drum/pail/bell/rattle/tambourine jam, so the audience was warmed up and responsive by the time we began our program. I began to see how it must be for professional musicians who have to perform the same songs over and over. Any tedium you felt in rehearsal is forgotten when you experience the heartfelt attention of an audience that is with you all the way. It's as if you're singing the songs for the first time.

But now I am too tired to write another word. Don't forget to set your clocks ahead...spring forward; fall back.

words by Patricia Lay-Dorsey; photos by Patricia, and by Pat Schwing



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