Liner Notes For Real To Me

This collection of songs, spanning 34 years of songwriting, has waited patiently while other musical projects-the Womansong Circle CD, Welcome To The Circle, and the mindfulness children’s music, Calm Down Boogie- pushed to the front. Most were written in the past 15 years, and draw on a patchwork of my life passions- social change, spirituality, parenting a teenager, the fragile state of the planet, and living sanely in these times.

About the Songs:

  • Holy Is The Flesh: As a minister’s kid, I got the basic Old Testament story of the sinful body (Eden, the snake and all that)—so to celebrate the flesh as “holy” gives me great delight (especially when I sing it in churches!).  Another dimension: this musical exuberance and celebration of life poured out two months after a wrenching pregnancy loss; I marvel at the way deep grief can open up wellsprings of gratitude  and appreciation for life. “I know I’m mostly Spirit, but I sure do love the flesh”.
  • Real To Me: Conflates parts of my own and my son’s experience; he pronounced “bird” (I swear!) at 11 months or so, and he chatted with some invisible presence while we hiked Pt Reyes. David and I have often told him this story- of the day Matthew talked with the fairies.  My parents, too, believed in the worlds I saw and felt, whether they could grasp them or not. Without their faith, I would not be able to stay engaged, and even joyful, in these times. “I will always believe there’s more to this than we can see”.
  • Candles in the Window:  Created for the 7th anniversary of September 12, 2001, (the day after) when a global outpouring of care and concern temporarily united the world. In 2008, amidst threats of attacks on Iran, we created an Axis of Friendship with Iran festival and I wrote and sang this song. “Don’t you still remember that day when we were one/The day we were w=the wounded not the heroes in the sun”
  • Today I’m Wearing Pink: During the Bush years, I felt impelled to look for a more direct, creative and spirit-lifting way of responding to the Iraq invasion and all that followed. I looked around for some group that was thinking and acting “outside the box”, and I found Code Pink Women For Peace. Theatrical, in-your-face, fearless, sometimes rude, highly committed, colorful, and FUN- truly in the spirit of Emma Goldman (“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution”). Admittedly, finding a balance of compassionate, wise intention, and feisty unapologetic in-your-face action is –well, tricky (see my blog, “How Would Buddha Protest” for more on this!). “Throw out your basic blacks and grays and show the world you’re pink”.
  • These Hands: When I see the powerful and tender ways that women advocate for children and for each other, push back against corporate takeovers of farmlands in India, plant trees in Africa, build and staff shelters for abused girls and women, risk their lives to educate girls in secret in Afghanistan-the list is long and rich- when I see all this, it is so clear that our world desperately needs the balancing, healing gift of women’s leadership. “Nothing can be changed ‘til the power’s rearranged, and we put our trust again in women’s hands””.
  • So Close To Christmas: December 23, to be exact-my birthdate. Mom and I shared not only the alto parts in the family singing, but sweet times of driving to and from music lessons, teaching me to read snuggled up on the living room sofa, me warbling “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” at church events (before I became an alto!), with her at the piano. “Winter children know the dark, we warm our hopes on any spark, learn to have a patient heart and learn that endings are a part of being born”
  • Daughter of Earth: Was born in the bleak days of the Bush administration, from the need to affirm the power and truth of what is “real to me”. On the night of his enlightenment, the Buddha was assailed by temptation and disempowering messages from “Mara” (the demon within who undermines our courage, faith in ourselves, and general sense of worth).  The soon-to-be Buddha reached down and touched the earth, invoking the power of all spirits, ancestors, earth energies, to be his witness and support him. At this, Mara vanished, and the Buddha became fully awakened.In Daughter of Earth, I touch the earth; it reminds me of what my true source and ancestry are, whose child I am, and to what I pledge my allegiance. “How do I know all that I know? I am daughter of earth, this is my home”
  • One Day At A Time: My hope is that this song may be a companion and support to anyone struggling to let go of addiction of any kind. May we all find the power we need to change what we can in our lives. “You tell me to take it one day at a time, swear I can make it one day at a time…It’s the only thing I haven’t tried”
  • Cary Black in studio

    The “Still Your Mom” Sequence
    (songs from the ongoing parenting saga- as the teenage years unfold)

  • The Mother I’m Going To Be: Ah, the arrogance of the un-childed!. I remember before I became a parent how much I knew about good childraising  (wisdom I was happy to share with you less- informed parents).  I blush now to remember all the inner tsk tsk-ing I did over the impatient, stressed and clearly incompetent parents I observed and judged. I KNEW what kind of parent I was going to be! (Just think Mary Poppins- practically perfect in every way).“There’s so many sins other parents commit- I’m glad that I’m not like them!”
  • Still Your Mom: They pull away, they run back, they reject you, they need you; you can’t stand them, you can’t imagine life without them. It’s a roller coaster for everyone.“I understand that you’re breaking away, becoming a man more and more each day… you’re not out the door, but your hand’s on the key,  I’m still your mom and I’ll always be”.
  • Teenage Baby Boy: One of the many gifts of parenting- you learn to look beyond the appearances—”one ear pierced, sagging pants, you want a tattoo- hey, not a chance” –and see the shining child you will always love, against all odds.
  • I’ll Be All Right: Matt left for college- my only child- and I wrote this to reassure us both.“I know you’ll be just fine you’ve been chomping at the bit now for a long long time, and they promised they’d watch out for all the freshman- gotta trust that they’ll watch mine”)
  • God’s Little Joke: If parenting teenagers doesn’t give you a sense of humor –and humility- nothing will.. “Oh mothers take heart, take a breath and take hope–This is all temporary, just God’s little joke”.


  • No One Will Dance Here Again: My life partner David urged me to record this song of loss and heartbreak from a much younger Betsy (1976). I would not have thought to include it so many years later, but he’s known me a long time, and I trust his opinion (in some areas!) Thanks, Dave! “But something still burns, a shadow still turns, but no one will love here again…”
  • Going Home: “Life is long, life is brief, first a green and tender shoot, then a falling leaf ..We were never meant to stay, we are always on our way”. I sing this at memorial services, but also anywhere I can-it is a precious reminder to me that life is mysterious and impermanent. A deep bow to the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence.


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