The Fire at the Orchard and a Song About Hope

A couple weeks ago an arson’s fire tore through central Kansas burning 800 acres. My wife’s mom and dad, who live on an apple orchard, lost almost everything. About 180 acres of their trees, farm buildings, equipment etc. burned. Their home miraculously survived as my father-in-law placed several sprinklers around the perimeter before making the final exit.

Betony and I were on tour in Houston and when we got back helped out with cleanup and rebuilding. While there, I had a chance to be with Mike and Elaine as they processed the great loss. In the turmoil of emotions and the various stages of grief I was very inspired by pictures we all were receiving of resilience and hope.

As we prepped and leveled the foundation to rebuild the well, my father-in-law, Mike, recounted just how incredible it was that people came out of the woodwork to help. Neighbors rushed in on four-wheeler‘s, people called and wrote with thoughts and prayers, and a go-fund-me reached its mark within the week.

Then, as we were throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of burnt hoses, the same hoses that saved the house, Mike told me to look over at the swing-set he’d built for the grandkids. It had fully lost one of its legs in the fire but was still standing, swaying slightly in the breeze.

“Do you think I’ll rebuild that Tim? Hell yes I will.“

Lastly, we received a FedEx delivery of 10 new cherry trees. Mike talked to their FedEx delivery woman who freely cried at the sight of devastation and offered condolences. As we were digging the holes for the new cherry trees, Mike excitedly ran over to to something he saw in the dirt. There was a large patch of new buds coming up only days after the fire had ripped through. He told me these were a specific type of flower that will now bloom brightly. It actually took a fire to enact their seeds.

With these pictures of hope and resilience: people rushing to help, the steadfast spirit of rebuilding in the face of destruction, an orchard on the edge of blooming wildflowers after devastation, I’m so taken by the paradox of death to rebirth. It’s stirring how hardship, tragedy, darkness, and death is answered by such resilience and hope and new life.

This week is Easter. It’s a great time to reflect on the darkness and tragedy found on Good Friday, and the new life and new hope that bursts forth on Easter Sunday.

Here’s a song I wrote specifically about hope called “There is a Balm in Gilead”. The title is taken from an old spiritual of the same name. The writers of that African-American spiritual encountered an old testament scripture that speaks of there being NO balm in Gilead to aid in suffering. And these writers, in there hardship and turmoil, answered with such hope and resilience. They stated no, there IS a balm in Gilead. God is our hope, our freedom, and our new life.

In the face tragedy, new life will burst forth. This is our great hope.

Here are the lyrics and the song for you to listen to.

There is a balm in Gilead
it comes like a  wisdom but speaks like children
it’s a sight to the blind and a strength to my weakness
it’s something for soul, body, mind

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s a rest for the weary, a song to the sore
its like a dew to my dryness
that fills me with joy when I had none

There is a balm in Gilead
its a spring in the desert
for the withered of soul
it’s a strength and a power
that keeps making you whole
its the question your asking
and the answers you need
it’s the face you’ve been seeking
the one, the one you’ve been begging to see

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the trash and the remnants
of all my train wrecks
coming together
and still heading out west
like a blank paycheck paying off the back rent
taking me further to
whatever’s supposed happen next

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the light of the dawn
the scales without measure
it’s the bread of a baker
the blood of a maker
The water I long for
and the story on fire
its the breath and the magic
Its something to die for
it’s the laying down of the shepherd at night

There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead

Bellwether, Our Newest Full-Length Album, is Released

A few years ago, Betony and I had a chance to go to the Grand Canyon. The view was transformative in its expansive nature. As we were taking everything in a storm began to form on the southern rim. We watched the dark clouds roll toward us with a constant display of lightning. It was unimaginatively beautiful. It took our breath away in that same way entering a cathedral can.

This last Thanksgiving we spent in our own home. We usually travel to parents but Arlo was a newborn so we stayed close. The table was set, some family joined us, and the time was so simple and grounded. It felt like a sacred space. Not quite as drastic as a cathedral experience, but sacred non-the-less.

In the spring when Beatrice was 2, she had a series of seizures. After the third one in a day we took her to Denver Children’s Hospital at 4 AM under a harsh, bright moon. We prayed and we cried in fear. I remember humming “All Creatures of Our God and King”. We later found out the seizures were normal post-stomach bug. They stopped after we did a regime of medicine. It may be strange to call this space sacred, but the pain and unknowing of the situation broke something open in us. There’s something holy in that.

The guiding themes in writing this album for me was “sacred space”. In the midst of writing I realized songs were falling into 3 distinct areas: cathedrals, tables, and dark fields. We are somehow formed by these spaces.

We hope you enjoy our new album, Bellwether, and find yourself familiar with the resonating of these transforming spaces.
Listen/Purchase:

Spotify
iTunes
Bandcamp

A Song About Anxiety

I don’t want to sensationalize the story, but I want to be truthful in how it felt. 

Last year in May, Betony was admitted to the emergency room for the second time that week. We were at a loss as to what was going on and we were really damn scared.

It started earlier in the month, where she would feel a sensation that was hard for her to subscribe. Often this would come on at night as we were going to bed. It was like a quickening of the heart or like she was falling. At least that’s how she tried to describe it to me. Then she’d shake violently for 20 or 40 minutes after the rushing feeling left her. This was also accompanied by really dark thoughts, uncharacteristic for her.

She didn’t think it was anxiety, because her mindset really wasn’t in a place of feeling overwhelmed or mad or anxious. So was it her heart? Or some strange sickness we hadn’t placed?

Like I said, we were damn scared and symptoms were getting worse rather than better.

And during that second visit, the emergency room doctor, an eccentric personality mix of kindness and blunt force, sat down with us. He told us all the tests had come back clean again for this second time- heart, blood work, thyroid, etc. It all looked fine. So we have to consider anxiety. He said it several times. We HAVE to consider anxiety.

Betony was upset at this. Anxiety felt like a non-answer or catch all. In that old show “House”, the brilliant doctor would figure out what strange disease the patient actually had… the colleagues he outsmarted always thought it was lupus. A designation of anxiety felt like a sloppy, semi-educated guess of “lupus”.

In the same way I don’t want to sensationalize the story, I also don’t want the following to feel prescriptive either. What is working for us might not translate for someone else’s anxiety symptoms. But I want to share our process of the last year.

My wife approached the diagnosis as scientifically as possible. She gave the different medicines they prescribed trials and tests. She settled on a beta-blocker and half a sleep aid at night and took both of those for about 3 months. 

She also read everything she could about anxiety; what is known and what is being discovered and followed the threads she trusted. Ideas she found helpful, though may in the end NOT be proven scientifically, she held loosely to see if results followed.

One of these ideas is that perhaps her anxiety was attached to a fight or flight scenario. In this season of life she’s raising four kids and one is a baby who sleeps lightly at night and she also is a part time artist and is also homeschooling…

That’s a full life and there are moments of intensity that can happen. These moments can trigger the brain in ways we don’t fully understand yet. For example, driving all the kids home from Denver by herself and two of the kids are screaming for an hour and it’s past everyone’s bedtime, including her own. If the brain goes into crisis mode and sends adrenaline and other chemicals to her muscles and systems… there has to be some negative effects on body and brain in these scenarios. 

So alongside her medication she’s also been working out a little more, getting her heart rate up in case there is extra adrenaline or other things happening in her body she needs to move through. And perhaps this helps with the shaking as well.

With medication and working out we also added counseling. For Betony’s personality this was difficult but good. (That could probably be counseling’s tagline- Difficult but good.)

Since August of last year she went off of medication and has not been symptomatic. She’s had some rough days, but for the most part things have been better thus far. And at the very least we’re out of that place of deep fear.

Now, Betony is an immensely private person. We haven’t really shared this story publicly on social medias, though we’ve talked about it with friends and family and church communities.

We offer the story now alongside a song. While working through this season together, Betony and I were surprised at just how many stories of other people suffering from anxiety came to light. It remains fairly mysterious and scary and unexplored. It can come across like a catch all or a diminishing of something that is truly happening in our brains and bodies.

As I processed all of this I wrote this song called “Settled Down”. So we offer this story alongside this art for a since of solidarity. We hope you find the conversation we’ve offered helpful and open and caring.

Pre-Order Bellwether now and receive the single “Settled Down”

Lyrics for “Settled Down”

I’ll keep my hand here on your back
I won’t move it while you sleep
The shaking hours have settled down
Take all the help that you need

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

What the wires couldn’t catch
Fails to give a certainty
And the world stirs around
On the edge of all you see

We can put blankets under the leaves
We can fill pages and keep on the dream
I set a good table, take all that you need
I can set more if you come back to me

We can keep sleeping, be late on the rise
We can stay novel with every surprise
I set a good table, take all that you need
They all remain open, you see what I mean

We will blur edges and rid every cage
We will push candles and feel every blaze
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

We will see colors that wonder and burst
We will raise glasses that rid every thirst
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

You put it on just like a hiding place
With three separate acts, that ends in disgrace
In the morning everything is safe
and you make your way back home

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

Cathedrals Lyrics and Chords Booklet

We release a new album- the first movement of Bellwether, called “Cathedrals”. (Movements II & III releasing in June & Oct.)

Have you ever walked into a cathedral and had your breath taken away? Or maybe witnessed a natural phenomenon like the Grand Canyon and had your line of importance wonderfully interrupted? In their feel and arrangement this 5 song collection pursues this sense of wonder, with the narrative often opening towards God.

Along with this movement of songs Betony has designed a really beautiful song booklet, filled with chords and lyrics. They are available here for download in color and in a more printable B&W.

 

 

 

To get you excited about the album here is a printable booklet of the song lyrics and chords with beautifully designed pages by Betony.

Click here to download the full color version:

Cathedrals_colorful

 

Click here to download a BW more printer friendly version:

Cathedrals_Printable

February’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (7), Hattie (5), and Beatrice (2). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

February has been a month filled with lots of preparations and travel. We went to KS to wrap up some projects and visit family. As for our homeschool activities, they all had this wonderful literary bent to them. Colorado (and KS) are mostly very unpleasant in February – not much snow, just wind and cold. So it has been a perfect month to get lost in stories. Here is our homeschool photo journal for February.

Valentines Celebrations:

We had a wonderful Valentines tea party in Kansas with grandmas and cousins. Pretty wonderful. Lots of Valentines makings…

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Lucy’s valentines – little origami boxes, with Washi tape ribbons, filled with heart garlands she made.
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Harriet’s wonderful gigantic heart.

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Woodworking:

Early in the month, we all drove out to Kansas to spend some time with family and for me to do a book signing for the Bravest Adventure and to build frames for my new series of paintings with my dad. We started Arlo out young on his woodworking skills.

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Since we had access to my dad’s wonderful workshop and tools, we slipped another tiny project into the mix – making a toy tabletop theater! Here is Lucy helping with the construction (learning from the best!).

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Fables & Theater:

Thanks to the inspiration from Read Aloud Revival, one of our themes for February was Fables. Here are some of the books we enjoyed. I hadn’t realized what an illustrative force Paul Galdone was until now!
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The girls picked “The Teeny Tiny Woman” as our first fable to perform. Here we are working on the backdrops.

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And here is a photo of our debut show in our newly dubbed “Fable Theater”.

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My little theater painter helper…
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And the ever dramatic Lucy presenting the newly painted facade! Pretty cool, right!?

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Later in the month, we also put on a show of Peter Pan! More on that in a moment….

Story Telling:

Alongside exploring the wonderful worlds of fables and poetry this month, I wanted to jump into crafting more of our own stories. So we invested in a few fun new story telling games. Story cubes – (which I will be honest, I was a little skeptical about, but the girls LOVE. So simple, with endless creative possibilities.)

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And this really charming fairytale story telling puzzle I found on Amazon. The pieces can be rearranged in any order to tell different stories. The illustrations are lovely and the story possibilities surprisingly diverse.IMG_8869

Nature Study:

We really haven’t done much Nature study this month (February… blech). But, I couldn’t not mention how much we are LOVING the new Planet Earth II series. Takes my breath away every time.

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Robotics:

The fun little surprise exploration this month was into robotics. Lucy desperately wants to build a real robot, so we are digging into the worlds of electronics and computer programming. Giving this artsy mama a run for her money….

Deconstructing an old VCR for parts…
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Building “Brush Bots” (like hexbugs) thanks to YouTube… (we also made straw light sabers, but forgot to photograph)

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Poetry:

February being the cold blustery month it is, and as an ode to love poems everywhere 🙂 we did a little focus on Poetry this month. I put together this basket near our breakfast table of all of our favorite poetry books and a few new ones from the library (we fell in love with this one in particular). Each morning we took turns picking poems to read out loud as a family.

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Here is the little basket graphic I made. Feel free to use it if you want to make your own poetry basket…
pick a poem sign

We also enjoyed this kids illustrated biography of the poet e.e.cummings. Look how beautiful that sky poem is…

eecummings

Tried our hand at writing some typewriter poems…

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As well as rhyming poems, shape poems, and acrostic poems!

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Physical Eduction:

Along with our normal dance classes and as many park trips as we could manage,
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we practiced a little circus arts… 🙂
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Gymnastics at Grandmama and Grandpapa’s house…

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Ice skating…

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and Arlo and Dad watching the superbowl… Does this really count as Physical Education?

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Literature:

Our classic we read this month was J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (beautifully illustrated/interactive version by Minalima). The girls LOVED it. Lucy bawled at the end and Harriet right away wanted to read the entire book again (we did not, ha).

peter pan

As a finale to finishing the book, the girls and I put together our own production of Peter Pan performed on our tiny theater.

peter pan show

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Paris:

Attempting to build Eiffel towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows while learning about all sorts of 3D structures.

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Coloring France on our world map

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Eiffel tower drawings
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Homemade crepes and french pastries for French food sampling…so….yummy….
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So many fun Paris books. We really loved all of these.
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But especially Paris Up Up and Away. It is filled with intricate silhouette papercuts!
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Speaking of papercuts, we also made one more of these FREE printable paper structures to add to our growing collection of famous monuments.
paper eiffel tower

Art:

One of the Paris books we read – Painting Pepette – is about a little girl who takes her stuffed bunny to several different famous artists to have his portrait painted (Picasso, Dali, Matisse, and Chagall). Each artist paints Pepette in his unique style. We took inspiration from the book and did our own series of bunny portraits inspired by the greats.

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painting peppette

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Speaking of bunnies… Lucy also (probably inspired by the Butter sculptures at the Kansas State Fair) made her own butter, and sculpted it into this fierce bunny.

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That’s all for now folks! March is going to be all about Egypt, Passover, St. Patricks Day, Colors, and Coding… I am excited already….

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NEW Bellwether Art Series: Thoughts & Stories Behind the Paintings

 If you are interested in purchasing an original or reserving a print from this series, go to the live Facebook album here.

These paintings will all be on display together for the month of March at the Atlas Theater in greeley, CO.


It is always the stories of hardships where people learn most. Pruning moments are the ones that force growth. This morning I read a really lovely reflection on the season of Lent and how it is a parallel soul process to clearing out our gardens in the spring – removing dead brush and plants, and prepping the soil for new growth. I feel like that with this art series. A year ago Tim and I decided to collaborate and do a series of music and art exploring belief. We knew we wanted to call the series Bellwether – after the sheep who is a little more curious and leads the flock.

Bellwether

Bellwether        
 Size:18×24         Price: $325
       Print Size: 8.5X11

What’s funny is that belief is an area I have a hard time with. I constantly shy away from the conversation; even in my own introspection. It’s an area I’ve had this unhealthy apathy towards for a long time. I’m not really interested in digging for deeper understandings of what I believe. Needless to say, this series has been a good push for me.

Even now, on the other side of creating this art, I am not sure that I could answer those questions of what do I believe any better. But I do know that I have at least found new understandings. The more I create, the more I realize that my own process is one of excavation. When I am creating a new painting, I often don’t know what exactly I will uncover until I’ve brushed away the dirt, cleaned it off, and revealed what was hiding the beneath the surface. It is as much a process of surprise for me as for anyone. I often find I’m exploring an issue or an idea that I didn’t even realize it until I’m 3/4’s of the way through the piece. It’s a very unconscious, spiritual process just in itself. At the best of moments, there is this letting go of control and letting the work happen. And whether it’s a connection to the divine, some primal understanding, or life force, I don’t know. But I know that in that moment of letting go and discovery are found my most profound moments of connection with something bigger than myself.

Each painting in this series explores a faith archetype– a story that we find repeated again and again in literature and mythology. Like the hero’s journey, these are stories that our larger collective conscience as human beings resonate with again and again.

These are stories of sacrifice, baptism, rising from the dead, deserts, and being lost and found. They are stories that make their way into the religious texts of most faiths. Stories that have been around as long as humans have looked up to the clouds and prayed to the gods.

For me each of these pieces has a very personal narrative. They represent little moments in my own story and life that have spoken to those larger archetypes.


The Invitation/Call is a ladder up to a children’s play treehouse amongst golden leaves.

Tree with Ladder

Wonders & Ladders            Size:18×24          $375                Print Size: 8.5X11


Rebirth/Rising from the dead is seen in the prairie that’s been burned to the ground but then grows back richer and more full of blooms then ever before.

Lidice Rising

Lidice Rising              Size: 30 x 48              $770
          Print Size: 11X17


The Cathedral is a garden and a barn speaking of home.

Cathedrals

Cathedrals
        
Size:20×24 
         $410      
Print Size: 12X16


Breaking Bread/Communion is a table set with dishes that have history and story, eating food made by loving hands, of recipes steeped in story.

table

Tables          
 Size:16×40 
         $380 
            Print Size: 8X17


Sacrifice is the tiny bird found along the Poudre river trail that we happened upon while walking one summer evening; so heartbreaking and it’s stilled perfection.

sacrifice bird

Sparrow 
       Size:12×16
          $210
        Print Size: 8.5X11


The Desert is a feeling of apathy paired with an inability to stop time. A quote I pair with this piece is: In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

it keeps going

“It has to keep going“
 
 Size: 24×36                $620
                 Print Size: 11X17


Dark Fields are those moments when you look across the prairie and the air and sky are weighted down with the ominous presence of an oncoming storm and the air feels thick around you there is an anticipation and waiting and surrender to what might happen.

Dark Fields

Dark Fields          Size: 16×20          $210 
           Print Size:8.5X11


Heaven is found in a reoccurring dream of a house with many rooms where there is this overwhelming joy of discovery and exploration of new realms.

house with many rooms

I have a reoccurring dream about: A House with Many Rooms
       Size:24×30         $580
           Print Size: 12X16


The Prodigal Son story of being lost and then found and getting lost and found again is this cyclical journey we are all on where we leave home to try to find something we were missing. Yet we come back to see the light and warmth of the place we left. It is the leaving to seek adventure and then the coming back home again with a new understanding and appreciation for the beauty of home.

lost and found

Lost and Found         
 Size: 48 x36            $1100
             Print Size: 12X16


The Pilgrimage is unplugging from technology, getting in the car before dawn, and heading somewhere serene.

pilgrimage

Pilgrimage 
         Size:20×20             $290
              Print Size:12X12


Baptisms are the moments of rain when I felt uprooted in my journey and that my life was turning in a new direction. For some reason in my life whenever I have a major life change, it always rains.

Baptism          
Size:9×12 
      $150


Babel is the cacophony and diversity of birds and squirrels squawking at the feeder outside my window. And our sometimes comical inability to understand each other. Placed within this piece are birds both myself and my daughters have illustrated. (Lucy and Harriet, 7 and 5.)

babel

Babel        
 Size:20×20
          $270
            Print Size: 12X12


Miracles are in the immense complexity and beauty of the every day.

Loaves and Fish

Loaves and Fishes        Size:12×16        $185
             Print Size: 8.5X11


The Woods

The Woods             Size: 24×36
            $580
             Print Size: 11X17


All of these are summed up in a human life. A barreling journey through existence on a track from which we can but move one direction. Lighting our way as best we can.

Onward

Onward           
Size: 48X30
           $1200
          Print Size: 11X17


The art show will be up for the month of March at the Atlas theater, if you are local to our area. I would love if you have a chance to come take a look at the pieces in real life and have a moment to share your thoughts and responses to the work. While you’re there take a moment to listen to these first songs by Tim that go alongside the paintings. Get a coffee from TJ ( my personal favorite this time of year is a lavender latte in a tall glass), sit down and spend a few minutes reflecting on your own story, what you believe, and excavating wonder.

Much love,

Betony

Our New Kickstarter Goal!

Thank you so much, friends. We released our Kickstarter last Wednesday and it was reached by the end of the day! We were overwhelmed and felt really honored and thought, “We should have set the goal higher”. hahaha

All these pre-sales are going to help cover our FULL expenses in making this project (we’re close to hitting that mark soon)!

As we have 11 days left we wanted to think through a new goal. But we didn’t really want it to be a monitory one… So here it goes…

Our Next Kickstarter Goal

When we reach 175 Backers total we will:

*Produce a PODCAST with Bellwether
*Dedicate to a COMMUNITY PROJECT for 2018

We chose these two things because we felt like our backers would really appreciate and enjoy this! Plus we’d LOVE to do the work as well (while needing some good support-muscle to pull it off…)

I’ve been listening to podcasts for the last couple years fairly non-stop. I’ve found that productions like This American Life, The Liturgists, TedRadio Hour, and others are great vehicles for telling gripping and thoughtful stories. If we made a podcast we’d release shows under the themes of Cathedrals, Tables, and Dark Fields. The episodes would search these sacred spaces…

Then for a community project, we have friends here in Greeley that do incredible work with refugee high school students. Betony and I have begun talks with them as to what it would look like if we ran some song-writing or art-clinics? Our friends are already helping the students tell their stories. What if we did some grass-roots recording of the poems and songs they’re coming up with? feature the art they’re making? (And then share that all with you, our backers, in 2018!)

Again, thanks. Many of you have backed the project!

If you haven’t backed it yet or want to share the link again here it is: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/216450051/giants-and-pilgrims-bellwether?ref=user_menu

Peace,

Tim Coons

Thank You! Our Kickstarter was Funded in One Day! (with 16 days to go)

Friends,

I hmmd and hawwwed over whether to do a crowd-sourcing campaign with this new project. What if this wasn’t good timing? Would Betony and I come across as needy, desperate or self-important or any of the other dangers of posting work through social media? Is Facebook swimming in too much political-fatigue to post about art & music right now?

It’s a vulnerable thing to offer something you’re creating to the world and ask “Would you purchase this? Is it of value to you?” Bet and I have found great value in the making of the art, for sure. To then offer it to others is still such a risk.

All this to say, we are so honored today. I’m so glad we decided to share Bellwether with you through a Kickstarter! Now, rather than releasing the project (next month) deep in the red with our fingers crossed, we’ll be able to relax and unroll the work without anxiety. Thank you.

We will be continuing to share the campaign over the next 16 days. We’ll be thinking through some “stretch goals” (who would like to see us do a podcast?) and keep letting folks into the art & music we have to offer. We’re confident you all will love it.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at all the pre-sales from Bellwether we’ve released, here’s the LINK.

Thanks again. You’re support has been tremendous,

Tim & Betony Coons
Giants & Pilgrims