For most of my life, until I discovered visual art, I was a singer. Back in the 70s, when it was all peace and love and marching for social justice and Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens … my dream was to sing for the world and use my voice to inspire change.
My big sisters had a singing group, all hip young people in flared jeans and tie-dye tops. There were two guitarists, and six or seven other idealistic teenage singers and I thought they were the coolest people in the world. They sang everywhere – all over the country, and in many parts of the world. And the best part – they let me sing with them, even though I was this tiny little nine-year-old kid when I joined them!
As I got older, I learned to play the guitar, and my best friend and I used to skip classes and hang out at the back of the school, playing Morning Has Broken and Peace Train. When I turned eighteen, I took my guitar with me to remote villages in far-flung countries. I even spoke and sang on the radio in the highlands of Papua New Guinea!
The first time Greg heard me play guitar and sing, I had just arrived in Australia. Being a musician himself, he stopped to listen and check out ‘the competition’. He quickly realised I didn’t pose much of a threat!
But we eventually formed a singing duo and life became hectic. Weddings, Peace Festivals, Folk Festivals, Harmony Week, Refugee Week, travelling to Indigenous communities, large conferences, small gatherings… Greg and I were there. At some point, we got married, and he formed the New Era Baha’i Choir, a group of people from really diverse backgrounds. We were all united by the ideal of using music to uplift hearts and promote oneness.
From then on, his music became bigger, four-part harmonies instead of two, musicals, touring the country. I remember Mary, our daughter, being passed around the audience of an outdoor performance when she was just four weeks old.
A year after Greg died, I organised a memorial concert for him. His choir sang for seven hundred people, and that was the very last time I sang a solo in public. After singing solos and duets for most of my life, I stopped. Just like that. In fact, I almost didn’t even do the solo at that concert, if not for something that happened in the shower. (But that’s an entirely different story.)
It was as if without Greg’s voice filling the notes, I was singing half a song. The absence of his voice drained all colour from the music. And all I heard was a silence that once were harmonies beside me.
So I stopped.
It’s been six years since he passed away, and last week for the first time since his memorial concert, I sang a solo in public – a prayer for peace at an interfaith service. People of many faiths: Jewish, Christian, Baha’i, Muslim, Buddhist, Indigenous, a microcosm of the world, had gathered in a sweet little church and were coming together to celebrate the oneness in our diversity.
Something beautiful happened in that church that day at so many levels. With the unrest and turmoil around the world, this little gathering represented peace and possibility. Bridges of friendships were formed across what once were vast chasms.
As I raised my own voice, it felt as if my heart lifted with it, and all thoughts of my own incompleteness fell away. I asked, in song, on behalf of all the beautiful and diverse souls gathered, that “the light of unity may envelop the whole earth.” And for a few hours, it felt like that prayer was answered.
A few days later …
It’s the early hours of a freezing cold morning. I’m drifting in and out of sleep, warm and toasty under my blankets. I dream that Greg and I are singing together again. In real life, Greg appears in my dreams frequently. In fact, he’s in most of my dreams – not doing anything memorable, just lurking about. So it wasn’t particularly significant that I dreamt of him. Still, in the six years since he died, I have never dreamt of us singing together again.
I woke up feeling such calm contentment.
Suddenly my beautiful reverie is broken by frantic ‘paw-pacing’. My dog, Ruby, runs into my bedroom, agitated and unsettled. Finding herself on the far side of the room, she gets wound up in my curtains and is unable to extricate herself.
Ruby is going blind and deaf, so getting her out of the curtains and back to her bed was … complicated. Especially when I was still mostly asleep and keen to return to singing with Greg in Dreamland…
But Ruby was beside herself, and I didn’t know why! Finally, I got her out of the curtains, and she ran back to her bed on the landing, cowering on one corner of it, ears pinned back, tail tucked in.
And there it was. She’d done a poo on her bed.
A day that held so much promise was actually starting with me shaking dog turds into the garden and cleaning up after my dog.
Aaah … The highs and lows of life!!!!
I’ve thought about this sequence of events a lot over the last few days: My personal victory of finally singing alone again. The collective hopefulness of the interfaith gathering that I was fortunate enough to contribute to. The gift of that beautiful dream of singing with Greg and how it made me feel. And the way I was unwillingly brought back down to earth by my dog’s distress, as she ages and struggles with unfortunate accidents.
I am reminded that everything in the world is cyclical. There are seasons in nature, in our bodies, and even in our journeys.
We start with youthful energy and zeal and mature into wisdom and measured action as our bodies and minds adapt to change. We resist change, as I resisted leaving my dream-state! And when faced with loss, we might move from inconsolable grief to peaceful acceptance in a slow progression.
Every season offers us gifts. Even when I have to drag myself out of my warm bed to rescue my dog 🙂
“I want to sing like the birds sing,
without worrying about who hears
or what they think.”
Malini Parker is an artist, writer and teacher.
From her home studio perched amongst the eucalypts,
she runs art classes in Perth, Western Australia
to help awaken creativity and amplify joy!
Find out more here: www.maliniparker.com
You are welcome to scroll down and leave a comment!
UPCOMING EVENTS FOR YOU in the STUDIO …
FINDING YOUR WAY HOME – a Two Day Art Workshop
With all the challenges of this year, I’ve been getting increased enquiries and bookings for my special two-day workshop, FINDING YOUR WAY HOME. This workshop was designed to help us return to our strong centres. To see the gifts of our lives, using art, reflection, yoga (and chocolate) no matter what the turmoil is around us (or within us).
Imagine making a unique tapestry of NINE paintings and finding yourself replenished by your creativity and by the tranquillity of the forest outside my studio in the tranquil Perth hills.
Any level is welcome, especially beginners and dabblers, you have a special place in my heart, as you have SO much ahead to discover.
Curious? Read more, watch a short video, read student’s feedback and FAQs, and if it calls to your heart, book online HERE.
July 24-25 (sold out)
Aug 8-9 (sold out)
Sept 12-13 (BOOK HERE)
CREATIVE MENTORING for individuals – a NEW OFFERING!
I’m excited that I can now offer private creative coaching and mentoring in my studio! If you’ve been yearning for personalised, intimate guidance in your creative practice over a period of months, I’m ready to help. How does it work? We set up your goals and vision, we make a plan and move together to take you forward.
I have just two spaces left for this personalised programme, so if you’re interested to know more, email me for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Suspended during the winter rains, the One Day Intensive workshop, PAINTING FOR BEGINNERS is back in Spring! This is the workshop for you if you want to learn a whole bunch of things about creating art quickly and easily with texture and colour, in my seven-step process. If you’re curious about this workshop, see if you’d like to join 1500 other beginners who have taken this class OVER HERE:
IMAGINE – THE ART WORKSHOP
Once a year, I teach the new IMAGINE art workshop. This one day class for you if you’d to learn all about what I call ‘creative imagineering’ – intentionally using your creative practice to expand your dreams.
Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
Our CREATIVITY is that tool inside each of us that can harness our imagination and do amazing things!
Creativity + Imagination = Infinite Possibility!
I share how I “imagined” my beautiful studio into reality, how I used my painting to navigate some of my hardest challenges, and how you can cut through the noise to amplify your vision for your own life. Full of stories and activities, you can find out more about the new IMAGINE ART WORKSHOP:
Sunday October 4: MORE DETAILS AND BOOK HERE
I hope you found something to inspire you!
Till next time, with love,