I began this project on a tropical mid-January morning in Kauai. I had just read in one of the brochures that Hawaii, and specifically Kauai, being the most easterly of the islands, was settled in 400AD by Polynesians traveling 4000 km from the Marquesas Islands. They rode in 60 ft dug out canoes for months and months, at sea, navigating by the stars, the waves, the clues of the seascape around them. As a geographer by training, I was confounded.
How could that kind of travel be humanly possible? How could a vast ocean provide such clear signals to navigate these wayfarers to this extremely isolated island chain? That was sitting with me when I started writing about our city friends, the coyotes. Truly amazing animals that have also traveled great lengths to live in our land of plenty. It’s said they follow the lightly populated railways leading south, and sleep on the shoulders of highways, where they are safe from discovery as they travel. The mythology of the coyote runs deep throughout North America, and I resonated with the trickster, the wily mayhem-maker who knows way more than we give credit for. The being who sleeps in the moon, and howls at this land of plenty: geese, chihuahua, they aren’t picky. This being has made a home of concrete, and in my song anyway, he and she know when it’s time to load the dug out canoe, navigate by the stars, and head boldly for more hospitable climes.
Now, looking at the trajectory from the first pen scratch in Hawaii, there was a clear progression for me. The first part of the project I looked very critically at our relationship to nature in the the city, from the peregrine webcams to the coyote shenanigans. Our ego and fossil-fueled lives lead us to a land of hand-held, eyes-glazed distraction, and that distraction keeps all nature - our friends in the city, and our own natures - “safely” at bay.
If we are brave, and if we make time, we can settle down and touch the earth. We laugh at the Toronto Peacock that escapes from High Park, but we laugh because, man! We can relate to wanting to be free. We ARE nature. So as the songs wrote themselves, they became more and more about creating spaces of enchantment, gratitude and love. Transcending the distraction is the work of all of us, but we all have it in us to do. This city is full of love, and that is the lesson I took with me from this project.
Nature is Love, after all. And connection. Eyes met on a rainy day walk in the forest of High Park. A magical streetcar ride with your girlfriend to buy saree fabric in little india. The tune of songbirds weaving in and out of my recording sessions next to the park. And a community of people who, for better and worse, both rub against nature, and relish in the great riches it offers up to us, in this WILD city with a COYOTE MOON and PEREGRINE SKY.
released June 16, 2015
Made possible by the kind support of the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council
Since the release of her debut album in 2009 and her sophomore record Vivarium (2011), Shelley O’Brien has taken her
electric ukulele and her haiku lyrics to festivals in Helsinki, Melbourne, Tokyo and Rome, and has toured in Iceland, Holland, Japan and Germany.
O'Brien's elemental and lush third album, Turn The Dark, delves into the inner workings of the human heart....more