Category Archives: creativity

Expanding the Possibilities

6/5/20

Expanding the Possibilities

I am responsible.
I am one who said to the Universe:
“Let the Truth be known”
and now Truth is spilling out
all over the place.
Voices being seen and heard
that had long been silenced.
Except by the Truth-averse
of which there are many
maybe diminishing.
In this time of chaotic
tumultuous upheaval
Love steps forward to help, to serve
Fear continues acting from apparent self-interest.
And to the Universe I now say
“Let Love transform Fear
with all necessary reassurance.
Let deep healing of chasms begin…
and soon please. Thank you. Amen.”

We are One
standing in shadow, in sun.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2020

I “heard” the opening lines of this poem for a week or more before I was willing to follow them and see where it took me. (The original title was “I Was Reluctant, This One Insisted.”) Some poems come to me easily and even intact, in their final form. Some, like this one, come slowly over time with words that shift and new lines that come out after several weeks of patiently checking in and reading the poem aloud over and over. In this case, once the poem was finished, the title no longer fit and I sifted through many possibilities before this one settled.

Thank you to those who read it or listened, encouraging me that it was good enough to let it go.

These are extraordinary times of upheaval, with great potential for lasting change. What we do with this healing opportunity, each in our own small ways, is our responsibility. For me, writing and releasing poems is part of my contribution, however small. Perhaps this poem speaks for or to you or someone you know. Please share it you think it may help.

Peony from My Driveway, Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2007

How Life Changes Sometimes—the surprising backstory for “The Vision: A Fable of Our Times”

Read poem here          Listen to poem-video

In April, 25 years ago, I healed from multiple sclerosis and then left my job teaching in the Biology Department at Lake Forest College. I didn’t know where my life was going from there, but I had a wispy notion that it involved music and healing.

For 8 years I’d been singing alto in the Waukegan Concert Chorus (WCC). Our conductor was going through a rocky period and I wanted to write something to support him. I tried writing a letter, but nothing came together.

That summer, my husband and I were listening to a Chicago classical radio station and heard about a concert that night at Ravinia, a nearby popular outdoor music venue. This concert was Montserrat Caballe, a Spanish operatic soprano we had not heard before. We got two inexpensive seats on the lawn.

As it turned out, the people around us were more interested in talking than in listening to the music. Frustrated, I went and stood behind the pavilion where I could see her performing. She sang Spanish folk opera in a lighter voice and then for an encore, three classic opera arias. The hair stood up on my arms. I could feel the full power and heart connection of her singing. I thought that the healing vibration of the notes would soak into even those who were not paying attention.

At home, as I was doing my nightly stretching, getting ready for bed, words began lining up in my head, “There was a Teddy bear tall and true who sat on a throne…” The words felt very compelling, but it was late. Still, I thought, if I don’t write them down, they’ll vanish. I got up from the floor and began handwriting in a spiral notebook, several pages in all. There were gaps I left blank where I knew something was supposed to go. I worked on the piece for a week. Although I was interested in writing, I had never done anything like this before.

On a sunny Saturday morning I knew the piece—a poem—was done. My heart beating fast, I went outside and asked my husband if he would listen to it. He said poetry was not really his thing, but agreed to listen. I read it to him and later to my voice teacher, Kip Snyder, who was the vocal techniques coach for the WCC. My voice lessons were in the room next door to my conductor’s office. Kip treated my poem as if it was a normal thing that people did. And we talked about how I wanted to present the poem to my conductor.

I wanted him to hear the poem the way I had heard it. I had a boom box with a REC button, so I got a blank cassette and gave it a go. The first time through my reading was too fast, the second time was a more conversational pace, about 5 minutes long.

Since the poem is a fable, it takes place in another world. I wanted to indicate this so I tried printing it on various illustrated papers and played with fonts. I chose one with misty pine trees on the side and a kind of medieval font. I also got a Teddy bear (on sale at Kohl’s) that was very dignified with a plaid bow. And I wrote out the story of how the poem had come to be.

When I gave it all to my choral director—the poem on special paper, the cassette with my reading, the bear, and the handwritten account—I asked him to sit and listen to the recording before reading it.

It was several months before I heard back from him. He burst into my lesson one day (which had never happened before). He was very happy with the poem, etc. I was so surprised I later didn’t remember any details of what he’d said, only the feeling. It was as if a lightening bolt went from his open heart to mine. It was quite astonishing.

As it turned out, he did stay with the chorus for another couple years (including the year I had treatment for breast cancer) and he then left the WCC. Shortly after, I also left.

At the time, I thought that someone might illustrate the poem—like a children’s picture book—and with the recording, it could be sold to support the chorus. Instead, it sat in my computer for all these years. Every so often I would think of doing something with it, but nothing ever happened. Shortly after I wrote “The Vision,” I began a poetic journal, writing poems with a healing intention. With my first cancer diagnosis had come more writing and more healing. And life moved on. I continued writing and the poems became the core of my new life, with greeting cards, books, recording, a workshop series, a website….

Why bring “The Vision” back now in this strange, chaotic time? At first, I wondered if I could even find the poem. I didn’t have the word processing program to read it on my computer any more, but a written copy was in my office files and I retyped it in.

I didn’t know if I would still like it. The writing style is very different from almost all my other work. Twenty-five years of practicing writing craft and living life led me to write in quite a different voice now. But as I read the poem and got to the end, I knew I had to let it go out into this world, at this particular time, to do what healing was possible from the divisiveness and harshness of today. “…Then the world could be changed / based on love and not fear…”

Recently I asked a number of people to read “The Vision” to get their feedback and ideas. Thank you so much to Melissa, Midge, Carol, Mary, Crystal, Marie, and Carol! Your positive comments encouraged me to take the leap and let this poem go. For now, it is a blog post and poem-video. I am working on a chapbook illustrated with my photos.

So…25 years ago, with this first poem, the writing, the recording, the visual, the design of the “whole” was all laid out, as I followed my heart’s longing and healing intention. From not knowing what direction to take, with just a wisp of an idea, my new life began. Weaving these poems used all aspects of me, what I thought, read, felt, experienced, what stories I was told or my own stories, all of my life, no parts left out. And the writing could then go out and help others, my dearest wish. It all began with this one poem and following an inner prompt to write it and let it go.

We can all be of service in various ways, however large or small, during this extraordinary pandemic time. What is your role to play? What has your heart been longing to do? Tell me your story.

Read poem here              Listen to poem-video

Turning “Wagon Wheel” into…Something Else

How will we participate in creating the new world that is becoming, all of us contributing something? What I want to know is: what will inspire the best in us, the most kindness and compassion? How do we keep going in times of trouble and not sink, exhausted, into despair? What will you make from what you have been given, your unique perspective and vision?

On Facebook, in September, singer / songwriter/ performer / artist, Joe Crookston, posted a new video of how he had created a new song from the words of a tired old song (“Wagon Wheel”). I like the metaphor of this process. Watch the video here.

And that inspired me to write this:

9/16/19

Turning “Wagon Wheel” into…Something Else

Inspired by Joe Crookston

Take what doesn’t work—
are you listening—
chop it up, not even all
that compulsively straight

But use it all to create
something else
use it all according to
rules you made up yourself

I like the new song
I like the metaphor
I like the process
the cutting , the choices, the paste

I like the melody, the voice
the instruments, the video of all of it
the hope, the inspiration
the conscious letting go of outcome

I like the decision to share
to include, to invite in. And
in joyful wonder at the birth of a new song
I soaked it in and sang along

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

Writing this new poem reminded me of resonant lines from an earlier poem:

“uses the bricks from the wall
to make something else altogether.”

Here is that poem:

2/25/03

The Poet

I am my mother’s daughter
and I am the Mother of my Self—
one who made the form
and one who filled it.

And I am the mother of my daughter,
a beauty like no other.
She forgot to wash her socks until midnight and,
smiling her smile, asked if I could put them
in the dryer and I did…easily…again.

Who rules on any given day?
What boundaries between the roles I play
tying me to sanity?

No instructions, no models or even myths.
In all the worlds there ever were,
no one has ever been exactly like me…or you.

Or has done what we are about to attempt.
I am tempted to stop, not life, but struggle
to be more, to become what I imagine.

But a poet who is fearless,
who carries on regardless,
whose words are kind and true and honest

is more than essential for survival…
is the compassionate and dispassionate glue
that holds it all together,

or later after the fall,
uses the bricks from the wall
to make something else altogether.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2003

This poem was published in several places, including in my book, Letting Go and New Beginnings: A Mother’s Poetic Journey. I also read it on my CD, Full Blooming. Listen here.

Thank you, Joe Crookston!

5 Star Review for Transcending Boundaries

Thank you, Elisabeth Smith!  Here is her review:

It’s like she read my mind…

I have always struggled in finding the words to express what it feels like experiencing the music of Eric Whitacre and the concept of Virtual Choir to someone who has never heard it. Now all I have to do is give them a copy of Transcending Boundaries because Margaret has been able so eloquently articulate it for me. Most of what she has written about, I was either with Margaret in person or listening/singing virtually on line. So I can validate first hand these immense emotions. And also how we who participate in Virtual Choir truly transcend boundaries of space around this world to form a family founded on this love of music. Thank you, Margaret, for allowing us to be a part of this personal journey that so many of us are still on…”

 

 

My 4th book, “Transcending Boundaries” is Out!!!

I’m thrilled to tell you that my 4th book, Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir, is out!!! The paperback is on amazon (and elsewhere). I am still working on the ebook. It took over a year longer than expected, but there were additional poems…and life…. Here is my reading of a poem inspired by a VC friend, “ On Imperfection: For Corax.”

Have you ever felt deeply moved by a piece of art? Perhaps a movie, book, dance, painting, or piece of music even spurred you to create? Transcending Boundaries is a wide-ranging collection of poems inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir. These poems of inclusiveness and love act as an antidote to divisiveness and fear.

I first heard about Eric Whitacre from his TED talk. He’s a Grammy award-winning composer/conductor who envisioned what became the global phenomenon of Virtual Choir. The way it works is this: From anywhere in the world, singers learn and record their individual parts (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) to one of his choral pieces. The videos are sent via the internet, compiled, and released. The first 4 VC videos have been viewed more than ten million times! Singers of all ages and abilities, from everywhere in the world, are encouraged to join in. Thousands of singers from more than 100 countries have participated. No one is turned away.

My whole life I’ve loved to sing. Once I heard about Virtual Choir, I longed to be part of it. For VC3 and VC4, I learned the music, recorded, and sent in my alto videos. For five years I also wrote a series of poems sparked by Eric Whitacre—his glorious music, gracious interviews, and Facebook posts—and the compelling stories and true connections with VC singers. My intention with Transcending Boundaries is to aid in healing what seems to divide us, enhance compassion and empathy, and awaken the imagination, encouraging yet further creativity.

Who should read this? Anyone who has ever felt the power of music (or any art) to move us: listeners, singers, musicians, and of course, those who are part of Virtual Choir. These reflective poems allow you to experience optimism, generosity, playfulness, kindness, and beauty, celebrating the open-hearted, richness of being human.

May healing inspiration continue to ripple out. Thank you for your support!