Dorothy's Blog


There are giants around here!

Posted on December 22, 2015 at 3:01 PM Comments comments (123)
Last Saturday, while having a good time offering some great sing-along kids music at the Amherst Winter Farmer's Market, this giant came walking up to me.  Who......? As a retired kindergarten teacher of 27 years, plus five other years teaching preschool locally, occasionally I find myself in this situation. But I don't usually have to look up quite so high. But the big smile, and the twinkling eyes waiting for that moment of recognition, sang loudly and clearly into my brain: kindergarten graduate! Kindergarten graduate!  Elijah!!
I truly do not know if I would have known this youngster, now YOUNG MAN, if I hadn't bumped into his mother a little while before. Elijah, now a graduate in journalism, working to keep us aware of events in Central and South America.  Oh my gosh!  Am I thrilled to see him! YES!! Am I thrilled every time this happens? Yes.  In fact, there was a similar very tall good-looking guy who watched me singing, even left me a donation, but that we didn't quite say hi that morning since I was busy singing, that I suspect was another long-ago, now grown kindergarten graduate. Emmett? Was that you?  

Wherever you all are out there, please do say hi when we cross paths. It lifts my day immensely. It was not easy to decide to retire, and I LOVE seeing my "little ones" and hearing what you're exploring as you grow.

It is because I loved you so much that I still offer a children's chorus for kids and hope that they too will grow up and surprise me at the farmer's market some day.  Meanwhile, if there are new youngsters out there in the 4-10 year old age group who would like to be in our first upcoming musical version of "Make Way for Ducklings" in the spring, please get in touch.
Life is one awesome trip.  Happy holidays to all. 

The Curious Giraffe Visits the Amherst Farmer's Market!

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 3:32 PM Comments comments (64)
Welcome back!  

The Curious Giraffe is on the move!  We will be singing and telling stories at the Amherst Winter Farmer's Market this Saturday from 10 AM to 12 Noon.  You will find us in the Amherst Middle School Cafeteria.  We will surely add some songs of hope and light and encouragement during this darkest time of the year.  Today it is wet and rainy and chilly, but inside it will be dry and "sunny" and warm. 

Hope to see you there!

Why I Do the Happy Valley Children's Chorus

Posted on November 21, 2015 at 7:53 AM Comments comments (62)
The Happy Valley Children's Chorus has their next concert December 6th, at 1:30, at the First congregational Church of Amherst. The title of the concert is "Funny Friendly Songs." 

Sometimes we have a large group of kids, 15 or more. Sometimes we have fewer than 10. Children's lives are just so full these days, or parents cannot get them to the practices, and so participation varies. But whether many or few, every voice that sings is a light on this planet and I am happy to encourage this in our area. Our little chorus accepts kids from age 4 and up, which is something many children's choruses just don't do.  But come and see what able singers they are!  

I find that when the music is fun and meaningful, kids are hooked.  I find that when I hear children sing, my heart is lifted a zillion times higher than when I read about trying to be happy.  I find that when a child is singing, they are finding their voices for the rest of their lives.  They are learning to be heard. They are learning that they are part of a community and that every voice counts.

Come and join us for our concert. If you have a young singer, contact me for the spring session which will start the first week of March. 

"I sing and the song within me, wants to join with the song in you!"

Farmer's Market Musings

Posted on July 7, 2015 at 6:03 PM Comments comments (213)
Ah the joy of making music with a friend at the Farmer's Market in Amherst.  The open air, the dancing grandchild, the curious toddler, the movers and shakers responded so freely out there in the open.  We were grateful for the canopy but we felt connected to those who were free to move to the melodies and beat. What a way to beat the heat.  These summer days slow us down to hang out together in the center of town. Sniffing homemade goodies, nibbling fresh strawberries or slurping up a yogurt popsicle, families strolled by just drinking in the slower pace.  Heaven is right here, right now, when we make music together. Here is one of my original summer songs, inspired by a tiny creature on the shore of Maine one late afternoon.

Second Chances

Posted on December 16, 2014 at 1:37 PM Comments comments (24)
Well, the best laid plans must be held loosely.  After all of the work and publicity for the Happy Valley Children's Chorus Concert at the beginning of the month we had to postpone it until Sunday, December 21st---that is this coming Sunday at 1:30! (For local friends, it will be held upstairs in the First Congregational Church of Amherst, 165 Main Street, Amherst, MA, 01002.)

My apologies to anyone out there who came and did not find a performance. My beloved father, at age 90 1/2, suffered repeated heart attacks the week of Thanksgiving and I hurried to be with him and my family. It was a gift, as those were his final hours with us.  As we hold the concert this Sunday, I will keep in mind an experience we had during the ice storm that arrived the day after we returned home.  It made such an impression that I wrote a little song about it:

Two little juncos landed on the railing
Jumping all around, flu-flapping their wings.
They did a side-step like dance partners,
Bobbing and bowing like anything!

They didn't mind the chilling weather,
Freezing rain just pouring down.
They dipped and twirled and tipped their heads back,
Opened their beaks with a joyful sound!

Can't help but think they were my parents
Showing us their joy, that their song goes on.
They're back together and oh, so happy,
Free as the birds, their love goes on!

There may be stormy days with some dark clouds.
There will be challenges, oh yes.
But look at those birds right in the midst of  it,
Singing their song brings happiness!

So, as the children sing their songs they will bring me happiness in the midst of my sorrow.  May they do the same for you, whatever you may be experiencing this holiday season.  Perhaps you are free from pain or sorrow and your inner life reflects the stubborn cheer of the holidays. Perhaps you carry other difficulties, in spite of the lights and glitter.  Either way, I promise you that being in the presence of 18 children singing songs of community and hope, you will experience community and hope. If it can fit into your life, make it a priority!

The Next Generation, Pete Seeger Style!

Posted on November 19, 2014 at 8:44 AM Comments comments (40)
It is almost time for the next Happy Valley Children's Chorus Concert! This session we have 18 kids, ages 5-12, excited to share the Pete Seeger songs they've been learning.  (The photo at the side was last spring's group.) The concert will be held at the:
First Congregational Church of Amherst, 
165 Main Street, Amherst, MA 01002.
Dec. 7th, at 1:30 PM

Some of the selections are familiar to the whole wide world, and some are rare finds pulled from Pete's own "Singalong Memoir: Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Every song will feed and strengthen their souls for a lifetime. 

This is why I do the chorus. In my experience the songs we learn stay with us, encouraging, lifting us, carrying us all the way through life. So I take my time choosing our repertoire. Some songs are gentle, some songs are peppy, but they all provide sustenance for the lifetime journey. Pete's songs have hope and they have courage, and they create community. 

So many of us love to sing, and singing is something one can do anywhere, anytime. But it is so much more fun to do together! That feeling of blending one's single voice with a whole group of others is like diving into the rush of a river. The full sound of many voices raised together in song is a natural high! 

Singing and movement go together. Our performance will include some sign language, some choreography (created by a third grader!), and a rousing dance from the Middle East!

Following our planned selections, the children who choose to will offer solo performances of favorite songs that they have learned outside of chorus. This will be the surprise part of the show!  We hope many will join us and encourage this next generation of singers.

The Dance Goes On!

Posted on June 9, 2014 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (15)
I received this surprise photo yesterday. My granddaughter was dancing to the CD.  When I asked which song, I was told, oh, all of them between "I Sing" and "Freeway, the High-Flying Pig!"  Wow.  When I checked, that was 9 songs worth of listening and dancing!  What a delight to know that not only is she enjoying the collection, but it is getting into her bones and into her movements.

A dream begins in the ethers. It nudges, it calls again and again as life flows past.  Finally, it will not be put aside and steps are taken to bring it into this world of sound and touch and "reality." I put that in quotes because I do not believe the world of the senses is the only one that is real.  But it is the one that we are most conscious of experiencing. And so, with months of work on the written sheet music and in the recording studio, the dream took shape.

Finally, the CDs and songbooks started going out and after that, like your children that you raise, they go beyond where you'll ever know. Like into kitchens where little girls dance. Or into cars where families will sing together. Or into mother's laps who can talk about the sorrow and love for a family pet who has died.  Or into a lesson on the environment and our responsibility for it. 

I will never know where the music actually goes or what it might do with its own energy. I was lucky enough to get to know about Meghan's dance.  I know that I have shipped them off to Maine and Alaska and Colorado and New Mexico.  I am thrilled and I release it to do what it may do. 

I almost chickened out and didn't invest the time and money and effort.  But then Pete Seeger's lessons spoke to me and I reclaimed the dream. My little voice, my little songs, like others, are meant to be shared, to be sung, to build community and hope. Pete danced his dance and sang his songs, I will dance mine and sing mine. And you, my friends, will dance your dance and sing your songs too, whatever they may be. Wherever they may go!

I stand all amazed!

Posted on October 26, 2013 at 10:38 AM Comments comments (41)
Like the rest of humanity, I have never found a word that adequately names the Un-nameable, that is generally referred to as God, YHWH, or Abba.  I think the Native American term "The Great Mystery" comes closest for me.  What I do have confidence in is that there is a deeper, wider, higher, and wiser SOMETHING that I am saying more and more "Yes!" to, doing my best to step out of my doubt and allow it to move through me into this hurting world.
That said, I am a witness. 
Leadership does not come naturally to me.  Being in the younger bunch of a family of eight, I always had others to set the agenda and to cooperate with.  Being a twin who strongly resembled my twin sister (family debates on whether we were identical or note went on for years), I blended in and it might have been me or my sister at any given moment. At home we were called, "the twins" and at school when we were in the same class and raised a hand the teacher would call out, "Mary/Dottie, Dottie/Mary, whoever you are!" I got used to being this blurry person. Liked well-enough, but not exactly a stand-out!

So it has taken a lifetime to unlearn those early experiences.  Living 1000 miles apart from my sister now, nobody mixes us up anymore. But my inward "hide in the crowd and watch and go along with"  rule of the day has taken much longer to shake. I missed the incognito mode of being lost in the crowd and had to start taking responsibility for what was or wasn't happening in my life!

Fast brought lessons of curiosity.  I hung around with people learning about energetic healing.  They could see auras, hear channeled messages, see movies inside their heads that they felt were spiritually inspired.  I was fascinated but didn't experience those things.  Occasionally I felt a bit of heat in my hands.  That's it. I wished I had their gifts! But I didn't.

Then, one chilly winter January day five years ago, a friend at church invited whosoever would to go over to the local nursing home and sing Christmas carols with the people there.  Sure, I thought, that would be a friendly thing to do.  

That day changed my life. When singing in a sunroom where several residents were hanging out, one woman started crying. She explained that the young woman in the wheelchair next to her was singing! In four years since that young woman had been placed there after a tragic car accident in college, she had never been able to speak! And today she was singing!!

For a year I went around telling people about that powerful experience.  Music, the act of singing, could heal!  Could reach places medicine couldn't and free the soul! We must do more of this!!  The simple act of singing was within reach of anybody any time!! We must do more of this, especially with people who are hurt, in body or in soul!!  Let's do it!! Let's do it!!

And I waited for someone else to name when, where, and for whom we would do it.
One day I finally got it.  They weren't going to do it. This call had been laid, planted, and nurtured in my heart. Not someone else's.

 I was filled with self-doubt.  I felt there were so many stronger musicians than me who would be critical of my efforts. I just felt smaller and less smart than the many capable people who led other projects at our church.  I felt embarrassed to stand up and say I was doing this and would others please  join me?

But then I thought of the woman who had been trapped in a silent world until our singing visit.  I knew there were others who could benefit.  And it was really such a simple thing to do....

Well, for the first year it was as I had feared.  My wife came in support of me, and two long-time friends. Occasionally one other woman would drop by.  But that was it. 
We hung in there, the four of us, until I got very sick and was bedridden for months.

But something we couldn't see was happening during that inward time.  When I was strong enough to return to this intention, there was new response. Now we have a thriving circle called The Healing Circle Singers, where 9-18 people come together weekly for one faithful hour to sing and pray and do hands-on healing for one another and the world.  It has a life of its own and I am clear as a bell that it is in our opening to Spirit, the Great Mystery, moving through us, and our willingness to open our hearts and voices, that healing love and energy is channeled.

I know that God works with the small and the weak.  It does not need to be any bigger. This is abundant and enough. 

But God is doing a new thing!  Wednesday we had someone new visit for the second time.  She loved it and wrote about it on Facebook.  An alternative healer, an oncologist in Columbia, South America, saw it and contacted me. Yesterday we talked, and next Wednesday she will be starting two different healing singing circles, one of 15 people, and one with ten!
I stand all amazed!

We bring what we have, some loaves, some fishes, what we've got.  And God will do the multiplying.  It's an old old story, and I am reading it in a brand new way.  Jesus knew what he was talking about!  Blessings to all.

School begins without me!

Posted on August 28, 2013 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (17)
Well, it's been a whole summer since my last day of school, and I still can't sleep in.  I'm still waking up right around 6 AM. So, when I woke up today, I was immediately aware that school would be starting without me.  It was okay, but I did wish I could sleep in! So I said a prayer for all the teachers and then all the students.  That the teachers would get to know, and then get to like, and then get to love all of their students.  Then I prayed for the students, that every one of them would feel welcomed and wanted and included.  That they would feel okay about what they know and what they don't know YET.  That they would go home having felt a connection with the teacher and with at least one peer.  Ahhh, my heart is still in the process I guess.
Yesterday, in a nostalgic way, I re-read the wonderful book that the parents had made for me when I retired.  Twenty five years of class photos and activities, twenty five years of students and parents, many of whom wrote letters and memories of their time in my class.  What came out again and again and again were memories of the songs. 
 "{My daughter} was in the talent show. She dressed up as Pocahontas and sang "Colors of the Wind." Dorothy played guitar and really helped her through the performance. It was awesome!"
"One of the songs, Barges, stayed with me for years, and I would quietly sing it whenever I felt sad or when it was raining or if I was bored in the car."
"I remember learning the song "Black Socks" and singing with the class as Dorothy played her guitar."
"I really liked singing all the old hippies songs like "Leaving On a Jet Plane" and the "Pebble Song."
"I always remember all the songs we sang: "Take Me Home Country Roads," and so many others. I love singing and still sing, a lot."
"I loved all the singing that we did. We sang folk songs, a donkey song in Spanish that we did at our own talent show...and of course the "Buffalo Song."
"I really liked singing in the chorus and learning sign language."
"I remember when our class did the musical, "Make Way for Ducklings" and I played Mack. ..I still know all the words to the Compost Song!! (And I will always remember that even my bicycle may be recyclable!)"
"{My daughter} still remembers all of the words to "Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue" song."
"Dorothy helped a class full of "first-day-in-school" kids feel better by teaching us "The Butterfly Song."
"I learned many songs, and how to be kind. I met all the friends that I have now."
"There was one chant that I remember doing, usually before nap time.  I didn't like nap time or this chant (probably because it was meant to calm us down). I ended up liking this chant because of the way Dorothy taught it to us.
"My favorite song was "May We All Fly Like Eagles."
"I love singing songs with her on guitar. It's the awesome part."
So, the children have spoken.  They remember the songs and the joy of singing together.  That is my inspiration as I choose how to use my retirement.  As one of my favorite songwriter's, Helen Fortier, says, "And I will keep on singing, keep on singing, with a grateful heart, with a grateful heart!"

Free to Follow My Joy

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 1:42 PM Comments comments (36)
Many of you have been asking what I will do now that I have re-retired!  This web site is my announcement of the direction my life is moving now that I am more free.  I am very excited to pull together my different activities into one focus, "Building Community through Song."
 I hope you will take some time to explore the different pages, "Like" Pioneer Valley Singing, and share it with others. 
Would you like to add your group to the Networking page? Use the "Contact Us Form."
May we find one another and make music together!