Settling into the new norm: travel stories, recording update, Homegrown Fest Recap, and Upcoming Creativity + Yoga Retreat in Bali
Hello friends! This is gonna be a kind of long blog – a synthesis / digest of the last few email newsletters (please sign up for the newsletter here if you’d like an email from me once a month or so)! Feel free to skim to what interests you!!!
I spent the month of March 2019 traveling in Bali, Indonesia and a few cities in India. I’d been home just a weeks when I wrote this … and honestly felt a bit in a cloud. So much to process. This was not a “vacation” per se, but kind of an adventure travel, cultural experience, spiritual pilgrimage, and most definitely an escape from winter.
While I was gone, I wrote a poem every other day or so 😉 and released them to my lil’ community of supporters on Patreon (explained below). Here are a few samples for you!
Our own Taj Mahal (poem #20)
Wasn’t even planning on it
But sitting in a car to drive to the Taj Mahal
almost felt more relaxing than walking down the busy Delhi streets
So much honking
So many hawkers
So many touts looking for a schmuck
But truly, we all are just looking for a buck
Looking for love
Looking for a cure
To end the constant craving
And when Shah’s wife died
During her fourteenth birth
He decided to look for a cure to his grief
Pure symmetry of white Indian marble
Inlays of Jasper, carnelian, jade, and onyx
When the moon is full on cloudless nights
The dome shimmers and glows like it belongs in the sky
A monument to a beloved wife
Who requested he not take another
To prove it he brought in 20,000 men
To create this glimmering beauty
I wonder who else lost their lives in the making
And his own son made his move
And sent dad to prison
Who could only then gaze at the Taj til the end
Life can be such a bitch
We can try, we can fail
We can build our own Taj Mahal
There are offerings everywhere
Every corner turned, my heart gasps in delight
The thresholds of homes have alters
Every storefront has small banana leaf baskets with flower petals and incense
Even the gd ATM had an fun-sized banana boat of prayer on top
The tops of buildings are crowned, much like we would top an Xmas tree …
Meanwhile back on home turf, we can barely pick up the trash
I see no nests for the gods lining the streets
The world is white, and cold, and full of cheap shit and big box bargain warehouses
14 hours across the world, the time taken to devote to prayer with offerings, with each intricate detail of decoration … the labors of love and sweetness appear with every step.
While conversion is not in my future,
The reminders to raise hands in glory to nature and to the beauty that surrounds
To give thanks for the ATM and that it continues to work for us
To FEEL the great love and artistry in creating something beautiful
That is what can be invited
into the cave of the heart
(Uhhh what is Patreon??)
… I love Patreon and it is such a gift. Many artists are doing it these days, to try and create a more sustainable creative life for themselves. For as little as $1 / week you receive exclusive stuff like these here poems, and sometimes you get fun mail right to your casa, and always glimpses into the inner workings. I support 9 folks on there – bloggers, musicians, film makers. If you have an artist you’d like to support and get the scoop on what their days really look like, I highly recommend searching for them on Patreon and cutting out the middle man. Music doesn’t sell much these days as many of us get our fill from Spotify (where the payout per song is less than a penny) or YouTube, or just folks putting their music out for free (I have lots of free songs and projects on my bandcamp). So, if you really want someone to keep putting it out, consider checking out Patreon or of course their kickstarters and things! And check out their shows, art openings, musicals, book releases! YAY! So much good art out there and we NEED IT BECAUSE SHIT IS GOING DOWWWWWWN! Lol. Okay, off the soap box. You are already reading this and so you know what’s up! Thank you for reading this!!!
That soapbox led nicely into the RECORDING UPDATE! As many of you know and supported the kickstarter (THANKS AGAAAAIN!) for the new album, I am SO please to say that I finished recording it the DAY before I left for Bali, late February! I had one last recording session, got all my parts in, and hit the airstrip. ANNNND I was stoked to invite into the studio the week or two before I left the following beautiful humans: Shannon Frid-Rubin (Cloud Cult!), Crystal Meisinger (one of my earliest collaborators, and first tour mate in 2004!), Stephen Kung (The Suburbs) and Adam Levy (The Honeydogs!). So the record is FULL of shimmery harmonies, violin, a taste of trumpet, and some sweet guitar licks. And don’t you ever ever forget the masterful guitar of Jeremy Ylvisaker throughout, Steve Price holding down the bass, Richard Medek and his solid drums & percussion, Julia Floberg gracing it with cello … I hope I’m not missing anyone!
Now comes the waiting game as my manager will work towards getting it out on a record label. Woo hoo! He will be doing a lot of searching for the right fit, and of course that depends on the tastemakers and soooo many other factors which are completely out of my control. If you have any good juju to throw my way, I would be so grateful. I am proud and I truly can’t wait for you to hear it!!!!! WOOOOO!
About the travels:
I have never traveled so far away as Bali and India. I looooove traveling and spent much of my twenties / early thirties traveling around the united states playing solo shows. I was an exchange student in Germany when I was 16 — I believe that really sparked the wanderlust. At 18 I studied abroad in Birmingham, UK (and sang in a drum/bass/funk band!) and had the great privilege to travel western Europe (I honestly can’t believe that I’m still alive! No cell phones? Paper maps? 18 years old in Rome and Greece and Norway and AMSTERDAM? EI YI YI!!!) After that I hunkered down mostly in the United States, but moved from coast to coast. Providence, Rhode Island and Seattle, WA were my nests for a few years, and played shows all around those havens. A couple of trips to Costa Rica, and the Virgin Islands … but a huge voyage to Indonesia and Bali??? A fucking dream come true, and it felt a long time coming with some pent up wanderlust after hunkering down running the yoga studio for a few years!
In Bali, I stayed in Ubud and attended Jessa Walter’s INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL 2019 Sacred Womxn’s Retreat. This retreat included movement, self reflection, astrology, group sharing, a purification ritual, and a death / rebirth ceremony. We were in Ubud during the Balinese New Year – Nyepi. The day before the new year, there is a huge festival called Ogoh-Ogoh and all across the country people are making giant paper mache demons and evil spirits to parade around town on their new year’s eve. From what i understand, these demons and their racket is meant to draw in evil spirits that have landed on the island, and then after the parade these puppets are set on fire, to blast out the demons. The next day, Nyepi, an island-wide day of silence is practiced. Even the airport shuts down and you could get fined! It was truly magnificent. At our retreat, many of us hung out in the stunning yoga shala to be silent in community. We practiced yoga asana, journaled, drew, napped, whatever. I loved every second. It rained all day in Ubud. It was perfect.
Ogoh Ogoh demon!
Stunning flower petal mandalas every day at the retreat
Pura Tirta Empul – water temple where Jessa and her friend Wayan Sie performed our purification ritual
Also in Bali, I tried surfing (!!!) which was a pretty big fear and it was a hoot! And I traveled up the west coast to an eco resort right on the ocean where I mostly just stared into the void and watched the waves and tides. And also cleaned up a LOT of garbage that washed up on the beautiful beaches. I made a vow to reduce my single-use plastic consumption AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE upon return. SO HARD! Toothpaste tubes and bottle caps, wrappers and shoes and razors and toys … it all was washing up. I would love it if you tried to reduce your plastic, too! Or at least just begin to notice how much plastic enters your daily life. Food container wrappings. Plastic covering magazines. Plastic on all the packaging from Target. How can we make little moves to cut it out? Let me know how it goes!!!!
Ultimately, Bali was a dream. So beautiful, sensual, delicious in flavors and scents (incense burning everywhere). The kindness of the Balinese, the care and meaning in all that they do from offerings to architecture. I am so grateful to Jessa for providing the oomph to get me there (I’ve been wanting to go since 2003!) and now trying to figure out how to get there on the regular. Maybe a retreat at the Eco Resort along the ocean? Are you interested??? Let me know!
And finally, India.
Varanasi, sunrise boat ride along the river Ganga
As many of you know, I’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years now, and practicing since I was 17. I always have felt kind of fraudulent, teaching yoga and loving it SO MUCH for all that it has healed and transformed in me, and yet never traveling to its root. I have honestly felt afraid or “not ready” to visit India. But over the last few years I met a few amazing people who made me consider that now I have friends there. Vineetha Mokkil who is an author of short stories (we were artists in residence at the Wurlitzer Foundation, 2017), and Jai Oltman who founded Varanasi Walks tours (featured in Lonely Planet). I am also dating someone who is awesome and also had interest in visiting India, so we met in Delhi and started our 12 day galavant.
For every 1 person in USA, there are 7 people in India. It seemed that there were barely any stoplights or stop signs, or even lines on the roads for which traffic could follow! The honking was non-stop, but they honk not out of road rage, but to let other drivers know they are gonna make a move! In Varanasi (Banaras) cows, water buffalo, and goats roam the streets and drivers just maneuver around them. And yet, it seems to work. And it was also far more chaos than I am used to!
We visited countless temples and holy sites, including the beautiful Taj Mahal, Sarnath where the Buddha gave his first discourse (many Buddhist temples reside there), and Bahá’í House of Worship Lotus Temple. We saw temples for goddesses Durga and Lakshmi, and many for Shiva. We experienced darshan (sacred viewing) of many deities. We visited Manikarnika Ghat (pictured above) which is Varanasi’s main cremation site, right next to the river Ganges. We walked past deceased bodies on wooden stretchers, covered in garlands of marigolds, ready to be placed on their pyre and burned to ashes right next to the Holy River. Just a few yards downstream from the cremation sites, pilgrims would be bathing in the river. Downstream from there, sewage flows.
So close to death, so close to life.
I hesitate to say it, but I am even more confused about teaching yoga after visiting incredible india! So I am very glad that I closed my yoga studio. I am confused not only because of cultural appropriation, but because the magnitude of the teachings of yoga are far beyond my comprehension. With my twenty years of dabbling, and 500 hours of teacher training plus TA-ing at programs here in the states, I feel, remarkably, like I know nothing. And yet I am still so drawn to it, and regard the teachings with immense respect. I am also grateful that since returning and feeling such inner conflict, that I’ve read bits in two wonderful books Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananada and The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar – both have said that one need not be born and raised HIndu to practice yoga, in fact many Hindus don’t practice (I did know this from Yoga Sutra study, but it was a timely reminder). Also that both of these teachers felt that the teachings of yoga (beyond stretching and flow class! – meditation, pranayama!) could benefit those in the west seeking liberation from suffering of ego, attachment, and the uncertainty and sorrow and bliss that is the human experience. So, I’ll carry on for now, knowing that there is SO much more to uncover, and humbly offer what I can. I know that from these travels, any bit of bravado I had of what I knew with yoga has been BLASTED with a Kali-like force! I am ready to begin anew, with beginner’s mind. Ha!
India was transformative.
What I do know, though, is that LOTS of songs and poems are incubating. Music, always, is my heart. AND I purchased a harmonium in India! Quite a hefty souvenir to lug around on all the flights, let me tell ya 😉
Thank you so much for reading! I appreciate you! See you out there, fellow life traveler! BIG LOVE!! Mary
Flower market in Varanasi
Homegrown Music Festival Recap
(May 2019) It’s been a fun few weeks of being home. Had an amazing return to Duluth with the new band for the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival. I am grateful to that organization for all the grunt work and glory. It’s been running for 21 years and began as a birthday party for the one and only Scott “Starfire” Lunt. Yes, there is a Low song named after him and also a Fitger’s beer 🙂 Performed on Wednesday at historic Clyde Iron Works (an repurposed refinery) with Steve Price, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Richard Medek and special guest / new bandmate (GASP!) Molly Maher! We had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the stunning Superior Siren and epic Alamode. I was soooo grateful to see so many friends out there! Didn’t get out to see much because had to be back … but Duluth, you’ll always have a piece of my heart. While not a native (moved there in 1998 as a senior in high school to start UMD Post-secondary), I lived there on and off like 4 times in my young adult life. What a thriving place of art, community, and weirdness! PS: I recorded a solo rehearsal session (12 songs) and gave it to my Patreon subscriber club, so if you are interested in exclusive recordings and stuff, please head over and join my small and mighty little community! $1/month or more helps create a sustainable artist life … Cloud Cult, Gaelynn Lea, Amander Palmer are all doing it!
Pic by Rich Narum
The Duluth News Tribune caught one of our new songs on a video and said, “Mary Bue returned with a new band of people who’ve maybe never even lived in Duluth. She’s always been a rock ‘n’ roll activist, and this go-round she added an apocalyptic song that references climate change and another about an abusive relationship. But she’s got love songs about all the kissing and she flashed back, Retro Bue, to her once-a-week four-hour solo shows at Sir Benedict’s. She performed new music from her upcoming album, her sequin top blinked under the stage lights and she closed with her ode to D-Town, “The Sh** I Left in Duluth” (potentially the most Go-Go-esque of all songs referencing Duluth).” – Christa Lawler
Here is the video or click on image below.
OMG FRIENDS!!! JOIN ME FOR A RETREAT IN BALI!
My dears, it is with great excitement to announce my first Creativity and Yoga Eco-Retreat in Bali March 6-13th 2020 at the stunning Puri Dajuma, Beach Eco-Resort & SPA, West Bali! Please join me for 7 days and nights by the beautiful Indian Ocean for an adventure and relaxation retreat to delight all of the senses!
Included are 3 meals a day (vegan food here is PHENOMENAL), round trip transport from the airport, creative writing + self-reflection activities, yoga for all levels, a Balinese aromatic massage, excursions to WWF initiated sea turtle conservation site, a pristine waterfall for a swim, traditional Balinese market, a trek through tropical fruit plantation (cacao! dragonfruit! jackfruit! mangosteen!). We can learn the art of Balinese flower decoration, you could take a stone or wood carving lesson or try your body at Balinese dance. OR, since everything is optional, just relax by one of the three ocean-view pools!!! We’ll have a full moon ritual, an optional day of silence, and I’ll serenade you a little bit every day.
I fell so in love with this place last month and with the blessing of my friend Jessa Walters who led the Sacred Women’s Retreat, it is ON (thank you, Jessa, for being an incredible guide to the island I’ve wished to come to since 2004 – can’t wait for your 2020 retreat)!!! … Also, astrologically my Jupiter line runs straight through Bali – expansion, abundance, and so much to give and grow!
All the info and registration details are at marybue.com/bali/. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions!! SO MUCH LOVE!
LASTLY, lastly, House Concerts
While I’m not playing many public shows these days as we want full band events, I’d SO love to connect with you if you’re interested in hosting a house concert. These events are fun, on your own turf, with your own friends. Musical set is approximately one hour long, I bring the PA and entertain with piano, guitar, uke, and maybe friend sitting in. If you are interested, please respond to this email and will connect you to the management to set up a show in your living room, barn, backyard, or wherever! If you like the solo stuff and stories and entertainment that you don’t have to leave home for, I’m your person! Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or just hit reply!
THANK YOU!!!! BIG LOVE!!!