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25th October 2004

A Word From Margie
Labyrinth Walk Here it is, just days before one of the most significant presidential elections in my lifetime. Don't things seem strangely quiet - like America is asleep- or in some kind of suspended animation? Quite odd. Not everyone is asleep though. There are strong stirrings and agitation in this eerie silence.

I spent all yesterday facilitating a labyrinth walk for hundreds of open-hearted people who attended A Day of Meditation and Prayer for Peace in San Francisco. This event, sponsored by Cheri Huber of Living Compassion, also included Sylvia Boorstein, Michael Lerner and Lakota Harden among others. Several of us spoke with urgency about the real threat facing the world in this moment. We all talked about integrating spirit and activism, social responsibility and compassion.

Margie with Carole King and Gloria Steinem
Margie with Carole King
and Gloria Steinem
My last communication was written on May on a library computer in a tiny town called Kinlochleven, deep in the Scottish Highlands. I had just encountered Carole King and Gloria Steinem at the same event in Washington, DC and performed for a million people the next day at the March for Women's Lives. Thanks to Katie Merrill of Sen. Barbara Boxer's office for finally tracking the photo down.

I spent three weeks dropping deeper into the landscape of Northwest Scotland and the Callanish Stones of the Outer Hebrides. I also took a side trip to Wales where I spent a week in a small cottage just minutes from the Avalon stones and right on the moor next to the Gors Fawr stone circle. This is a circle that chortles! The unbelievable joy in this sacred space is palpable. I laughed and laughed. I came home renewed, and profoundly affected by the spiritual path I am being so clearly called to follow.

Margie with Avalon stone, Gors Fawr moor, Callanish Stones When I returned home from Scotland, I dove headlong into an intense fund-raising effort for a grassroots event which I helped produce in Berkeley, CA for John Kerry's presidential campaign. We intended to bring LGBT people and our allies together for an event that would give visibility to the progressive community who supports Kerry's campaign. When the dust settled we had raised $150,000 identified as "LGBT/progressive money."

At the same time I was fund-raising in earnest, I launched a home renovation project that I have been preparing for the past five years. Ai-yi-yi. reframe the disruption of all the big-boot guys, noise and dust, I posted the definition of "Renovate" all over my house - on my computer screen, my bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator. I must say that simple action helped me keep some sanity in this process. In two weeks the 120-day project will be complete. 120 days. In a row...

Renovate: To restore to life, vigor, or activity; to revive, renew.

Minnie Mouse holding the CD AVALON I look forward to having my house back soon. I look forward to having America back on the right track with a new president. I look forward to an early winter in Northern California. I look forwad to another trip to Disneyland to visit Minnie Mouse and take advantage of the high-speed thrill rides. I look forward to more deer sitings like the one I had tonight on the way home from the movies. Two stags walking along the sidewalk nibbling flowers as them went.

Onward and Outward!
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7th May 2004

Standing Between Two Giants...

As your read this message I am somewhere in Scotland. I'm still reabsorbing... For some thoughts on the March For Women's Lives, click here.

Believe me when I tell you that making this turnaround from Washington, DC back to Berkeley, CA and then on to Scotland for a month-long pilgrimage in a four-day period has been some serious gear-shifting. And.. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities that have put me here.

I want to share one such singular opportunity I had over the March weekend. Those of you who are familiar with my work over the last thirty years will appreciate this. I attended a Barbara Boxer fund-raiser which honored Kate Michelman of NARAL/Pro-Choice America, Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood and Ellen Malcolm of Emily's List. Gloria Steinem was the "Special Guest" and Carole King was the "entertainment." Gasp.

Gloria Steinem and Carole King. If someone were to ask me to identify the two most influential women in the constellation of influential women in my life - stretching over 57 years - without hesitation I would say: Gloria Steinem and Carole King.

I have shared many an event, conference, dinner and political meeting with Gloria Steinem since I first began to perform at feminist gatherings and I have been inspired and educated by every one of these experiences. In every one of my encounters with her, she has embodied and demonstrated the best impulses of feminist values and political organizing.

As I told Carole King in the note I gave her with my CD Avalon: "I am one of your 'children.' I am one of the women who never would have had the nerve to sing my own songs had you not recorded 'Tapestry.' I have had a 30-year career ride as a result of the wheels your music gave me. In that time, I have recorded 8 CDs but never anyone else's music until my latest recording, Avalon. The first time I heard your song - "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" (over thirty years ago!) it moved right into my heart and has never left. I hope you will think my rendition of your beautiful song has done it justice."

If I had had five more minutes with that hastily scrawled note, I would have added: "You and George Gershwin taught me everything I know about binding melody to lyric over synchopated rhythm. Oooohwee!" Sorry I forgot the OooohWee!

We were all standing - jammed in a small ballroom empty of chairs - when she stepped on stage, sat down and "claimed the piano." She asked us if we would mind sitting on the rug-covered floor so she could see us and we could see her. Memories of the first concerts at the Women's Building in Los Angeles, 1974 came flooding over me. There we were, 200 well-dressed women (most of a certain age) sitting on the floor happily singing along with Carole King as she sang "I feel the earth move under my feet..." What a joy!

And there - for all to see - as this genius singer-songwriter-activist swayed with such unabashed pleasure... was her left foot - beating time to her music, running energy to the music- just like I do. After all those early years when I tried to break myself of that habit... I was completely undone as I watched her abandon herself to her Muse.

Somewhere in the Boxer campaign office there is a stack of photographs from that VIP reception. In those photos you can find one of me standing between two giants - in a complete swoon of joy and gratitude. If I can track the image down, I'll put it up on this page.

In Sisterhood, in Scotland!
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23rd February 2004 Harriet and Alma
Mothers and Daughters....

My mother, Harriet McCollum, died in late November after a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. Although the worry and torment that has resided in my heart for many years has suddenly dissipated, the space these feelings took up is strangely empty. I know some will know what I mean when I say that the wind has been knocked out of me - and my sails. I am sure that for me, the practice is to sit with the feelings and let them roll on through. I am grateful for having turned 57 years old February 7 because at this point in my life, I can sit still.

The first verse of "A Woman's Work is Never Done" (Click here for the lyrics and soundclips) was inspired by my mother's wonderful care-giver, Alma Davis.
Harriet and Alma
As I've sung that song in concert around the country after recording it on Avalon, I have taken the opportunity to talk about Alma and what I've learned about care-givers - what it means to give care and take care of someone else. I have been thinking a lot about our leaders, the executive directors of our organizations, the feminist bookstore owners, the feminist therapists, the women's music distributors, the feminists in political office. I have also been thinking about what it means to be committed to a community and feel a calling to take care of it - do what we can to hold our various overlapping communities together through the dark times we're in.

Phyllis & Del listening to Goin to the Chapel
Phyllis & Del listening to "Goin' to the Chapel"
So it is in that context that I share the following..

I have just completed an interview with a reporter for USA Today who is doing a profile on Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. These extraordinary old feminist lesbian warriors were the first couple to be officially and legally married in San Francisco, California during the recent civil disobedience action there.

Del and Phyllis being married on Feb.18th In the interview, I was asked why these women are significant. Well... have you got an hour? Del and Phyllis have been involved with every significant civil and human rights movement since the McCarthy era. They have put their passion and intelligence into both progressive policy development and political action - whatever was needed whenever it was needed - to help create a world that is inclusive and just. They have been mentors to a generation of women like me who identified in them the essential impulse of feminism: to reach out to and work with other communities while taking every part of our feminist lesbian selves with us.
Margie with Debra Walker (CA Democratic Party LGBT Chair) and Vicki Randle
Margie with Debra Walker (CA Democratic Party LGBT Chair) and Vicki Randle
For decades many of us have looked to Del and Phyllis for political analysis, a fresh understanding of shifting progressive politics, and for pragmatic inspiration. These two women are the definition of being "in it for the Long Haul." (Click here for the lyrics and MP3) Whether they were organizing to get a "lesbian and gay caucus" at the White House Conference on Aging or working with a resistant democratic party to support more women to local and national politics or helping to integrate feminist organizations with both lesbians and women of color, these two women have had a blazing vision of an inclusive world and they have put their lives and hearts on the line to achieve it.
No Secret Anymore The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon
I loved working as associate producer on the 2003 documentary profiling them - "No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon." because I got to hear so many parts of their history I didn't know while helping to be sure their legacy was captured on film for posterity. Raising money for that film was truly a labor of love.

However, NOTHING tops escorting these two extraordinary "Community Care-givers" and true "Lesbian Mothers" to the wedding reception held February 22, 2004 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel - in the biggest ballroom they have - for lesbians and gay men who have been married in the last days. Thousands of people - newlyweds and well-wishers - joined Linda Tillery, Vicki Randle, Melanie DeMore and me as we sang four-part harmony to "Chapel of Love." What a complete knock-out!
(Click here for the latest on marriage equity.)

On the path-
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P.S. Gay marriage is out of the box. It will never be put back in. The noise is just politics.

18th September 2003

Preseli Hills, South Wales
Preseli Hills, South Wales         
Answering the Call...

Dear Friends -

My last message, written in early June, began: "Just a quick note... I will write a blow-by-blow on this page in the near future..." Hmmm...

Now it's the middle of September and I find myself gearing up to go back to Glastonbury and Cym Gawr in early October! While I'm there, I will travel to the Outer Hebrides Islands in Scotland to visit the Callanish Stones and Iona.

Cym Gawr Stones, near Rosebush
Cym Gawr Stones, near Rosebush
There is so much I don't know about this journey I am on. But I do have a reference point which gives me some sense of solid ground in the midst.

I remember well being called to write music on purpose when I was in my 20s. The Call was so strong I couldn't do anything else. I simply had to quit teaching junior high school and compose and sing about women - about being an independent woman, about loving women. Everything in my life organized itself around this Call - once I answered it - for the next eleven years.

On the road to Cym Gawr
On the road to Cym Gawr       
Those of you who know my music and have followed my work know that my activism has always flowed from an intuitive and inclusive progressive feminist point of view. Each of those descriptors is packed with meaning for me. Intuitive. Inclusive. Progressive. Feminist. But if I had to choose one word that informs all the others, it would be "intuitive."

I feel deeply fortunate to know what I'm supposed to be doing most of the time. And when I don't, I usually have a sense that I'm going in the right direction even when I'm in the dark.

The Tor, Glastonbury, England
  The Tor, Glastonbury, England
This is the context for my return trip to the UK. I have no idea why I'm being called to this particular location on the planet, but I know I'm supposed to go. I have no idea what is there for me but I know I'm supposed to go.

This page is filled with images of landscape I will be inhabiting. I share it with you because it is the landscape itself that has called me so strongly - that has inhabited me in some strange and wonderful way so that finally... I can't do anything but put myself in it.

On the path-
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Onward and Outward!
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