Carsie says . . .

Singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton’s music and writing, as I have written here before, have given me hope and inspiration over the past 20+ months. Whether she makes me laugh or cry, she always makes me think.

Like other performers, Carsie is back on the road, with a new album to hawk and stories to tell. Unlike many other performers, Carsie speaks truth to power at every opportunity.

Sometimes, this means talking tough, as she did last week when she learned that Joe Manchin, a Democratic Senator who is more of a Republican than some Republicans, and who receives the largest coal, gas and oil industry donations of any senator, was in the audience for her performance at the Kennedy Center. Manchin has indicated that he will not support a bill to extend the child tax credit, even though the state he represents, West Virginia, is the sixth poorest in the United State.

Carsie decided to play him a new, unreleased song called “Dealin’ with the Devil,” which says, in part:

“There are good men in this world/it ain’t all lies and sin/But they don’t run for office/because they don’t never win.”

Carsie didn’t beat around the bush when she introduced the song:

“There’s someone in the room tonight who could personally reduce child poverty in the U.S. by 40%. Senator Joe Manchin, this one’s for you.”

Other times, telling truth to power for Carsie means talking gentle, as she does in her song Be Good:

“Be good to the people you love, and love everybody alive.”

On the road again

Like Carsie, although playing to somewhat more modestly sized audiences, I am back on the road, too. Last week, I spent four days working in Sault Ste Marie.

I loved everything about it, including the things that before the pandemic would have irritated the hell out of me. I loved the travel (although I almost didn’t make it off the ground when I discovered  that my ID had expired four months ago; thanks to the very helpful Porter check-in staff, I got that sorted out in just a few minutes and off I went), I loved the lounge at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, I loved my hotel room, I loved eating in restaurants every day. I loved seeing the sun rise from my hotel room. I didn’t even mind producing my proof of vaccine seemingly every time I turned around. Negotiating space in the hotel elevator with teams of teen hockey players in town for a tournament was an opportunity to connect with still more people.

Mostly, though, the love was all about the women I was there to work with. Many have been colleagues and friends for years. I had seen none of them outside a Zoom meeting for almost two years. First, there were tears and hugs; then, the joy of working together in person. I wasn’t tethered to my computer camera, so I walked around the room while I talked. I wasn’t restricted to power point slides, so I wrote on flipchart paper and stuck it to the wall. As we got our work done, we shared a lot of laughs and some amazing personal stories. At the end of each day, some of us went out for dinner together.

There was also alone time, which is one of the things I have always liked about being on the road. The days are filled with other people, which I thrive on, but then my hotel room beckons. I had forgotten just how much work I can get done in the privacy of that room with nothing and no one to distract me. I came back from the Soo with a lot of work taken care of in addition to the work I had gone there to do.

This trip, where I was once again in-person with women in the violence against women movement, has reminded me why I do this work and reinvigorated me to carry on. The past many months have been such a hard time for frontline workers in all sectors, including those working in women’s shelters. And yet, these folks have hung on and hung in, continuing to find creative ways to offer support to women in very difficult circumstances.

As Carsie wrote in Sister Says, another not-yet-released song:

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live/In the shelter of each other we know peace..”

Coming home

It was four wonderful days. When I came home, happily, to my partner and cat, we had stories to share – a rare commodity in times when we are almost never apart from one another.

I will be repeating the experience next week, when I head to Kenora to do some work; a trip that offers the added excitement of flying on Bearskin Airlines for the final leg of the journey.

Carsie wrote this from her road trip a few days ago:

“I’m happy to be out here again, singing songs and cracking jokes. . . I’m tired, I’m smelly, I need to eat a vegetable, and I’m right where I belong.”

In every respect other than being smelly, I second what Carsie had to say. I’ve had a taste of my old work life, and I am ready for more.

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