Raised on Rabbit
Blessings and greetings friends. I've spent a lot of time living on rivers and on boats in the ocean. My music has water in it. These songs are Americana on a musical axis between Ireland and Brasil, with folk, jazz, blues and hillbilly gospel influences. Frequent themes are those of sacrifice and resurrection, and the pervading presence of the Trickster Fool--who appears in many cultures in the guise of Raven, Coyote, Br'er Rabbit, Reynard the Fox, Tanuki the Raccoon Dog, or High John de Conquer. Able, as Zora Neale Hurston said, to 'make a way out of no way and hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.' Or as Coyote Caroline Casey says, 'Against all odds is the odds the Trickster likes.' Leaping out of winter into spring, the compassionate Trickster Fool bridges the sacred and profane, making art out of drama and humor out of adversity. This is the powerful magic that shows up in dangerous times, the secret of our song and laughter, the blossoming of egalitarian culture. I have howled with wolves, run from bears and co-habitated with killer whales. I am a child of rivers and a friend of rain. For sure I'm a wandering fool. I was born in the Ozarks of southern Missouri and grew up near the mighty Missouri River (the word Missouri translates as 'River of the big canoe' ). Like a migratory bird or salmon, I first arrived on the northern rainforest coast of Alaska in 1977, and have been migrating in and out ever since. Over the years one of my main pilgrim routes has been between the north and south poles of the Pacific Northwest coastal rainforest, which I call FishTree, or Salmon Nation-a great living being that communicates all the way from Prince William Sound in Alaska to Monterey Bay/Big Sur in California. I've been a musician all my life, though lyrics never used to come to be. In more recent years words have been pouring out of me like a river. My fingers start dancing on the guitar, I open my mouth and a song pops out. Damnedest thing. I'm a bard, a singer and songteller, a mariner, environmental activist, wilderness guide on river and sea, a former commercial fisherman, and a blessed nitwit. Following the 1989 Good Friday Exxon Valdez oil spill (epicentered in my home waters of Prince William Sound), I have been one of the many artist/activists working and playing to help protect and restore wild ecosystems such as the Sound and the Copper River-which to me are beautiful earth organs fundamental to our health. My dear trickster friend Marie Smith Jones-honorary chief of Alaska's Eyak Indian tribe, and last speaker of the Eyak language-died January 21, 2008 at the age of 89. Marie said she believed her language wouldn't truly go extinct when she passed away since 'the language comes from the land, and as long as the land and water and animals are alive, the people will learn the language.' I dedicate my music to the land and water and animals, human animals included. In 1994 I was adopted into the Eyak tribe's Eagle moiety, but I'm pretty sure I'm actually a Raven disguised as an Eagle. Chief Marie gave me my Eyak name, YaxadiliSayaxinh--which means 'The Thinker', or more literally, 'He who causes his mind to involuntarily roam in an indeterminate direction.' Whew. Now and again I get down to writing, and my essays have appeared in a number of anthologies including 'Ascent', 'Prarie Schooner', and 'From the Island's Edge'. In the realm of film, I co-produced the 1989 citizen's oil spill video, 'Voices of the Sound', and as a wildlife film guide I've worked with National Geographic, Survival Anglia, the BBC, the Sierra Club and the Cousteau Society on films concerning killer whales, sea otters, wild habitat protection, and the Exxon oil spill. Recently, I've been working with the wonderful and rascally wildlife photographers Kennan and Karen Ward, providing soundtrack music for their film 'Making Tracks'-about the adventures of young grizzly bears growing up. With the wonderful Artists for Nature Foundation I've participated in projects in Alaska, Spain and Israel. ANF is a group based in the Netherlands that organizes wildlife and nature artists from around the world to visit threatened natural ecosystems, and by using art as a universal language, help remind humans of the importance of beauty and natural diversity in the health of our world. It has been my blessing for a number of years to cavort and collaborate with Caroline Casey of Coyote Network News-whose weekly Visionary Activist radio show (broadcasting live every Thursday on the web and on Berkeley's KPFA radio station) provides crucial bits of magic, alchemy and laughter to this dire and beautiful time on earth. Most years I get out on the water to assist the North Gulf Oceanic Society with whale research in Prince William Sound and the Kenai Fjords. And for many years I have spent much of the summers living out on the Copper River, guiding wilderness trips that renew the spirit and rekindle tribal shenanigans, often in collaboration with my Eyak brother Dune Lankard and the Eyak Preservation Council. It is our belief that the earth-the wilderness world of land and water and animals-needs us just as much as we need it. There's nothing here but Nature, and all of us were born Native to campsite earth. On the Copper River my favorite boats have been named Tasnuna, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and Grey Matter. And the two favorite boats I've been partnered with on the briny deep are the 'Orca II' and 'Senang Hati' (the Happy Heart), both cedar over oak with well-found souls of adventure, grace and destiny. Lovely boats like these prove Mae West's statement that 'The most beautiful distance between two points is a curved line. ' My escapades, larks, adventures and foibles have appeared in a number of books including John Keeble's 'Out of the Channel', Art Davidson's 'In the Wake of the Exxon Valdez' and Grant Sim's 'Leaving Alaska', as well as in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Audubon, Outside, the Amicus Journal, Sierra magazine, and periodically on National Public Radio. I currently have two CD's of song and music--'Raven River' and 'Raised on Rabbit', and I'm working on a book tentatively entitled 'Escapades, Larks and Adventures: being Tales of Human Redemption through Synchronistic Reconnection with the Rest of the Creation'. Many blessings to you all, and may your compassionate dreams bloom and dance into being. Create art or live drama. Maximum effectiveness with most amount of fun! Play fair and dream big! Panic early to avoid the rush.