by Chick Barnes

A hand playing a pianoAs a young mother 30 years ago, I sang the foundational songs that came before me: rhythms, rhymes, and folklore.

I knew the value of lullaby in society: a tool for bonding and play, for language development, and social identity. I valued the role that music plays in supporting and strengthening a transfer of traditions, values, and culture.

As a first teacher, the lyrics of traditional lullabies did not always meet me where I lived. Not my era, not my experience, not my values.

Many lullabies speak of stories past, written as a kind of necessary relief from strife, poverty, and despair. While I realized my immediate reach, I had not yet found my own voice of awareness and beliefs.

Like music, personal guiding principles for living are often an emergent process. So, I sang what I knew, right where I was: from my memory, my exposure, and my own culture. I sang the old songs.

Thirty years later, as a concurrent graduate student and new grandmother, I found such lyrics even further from my ripened, chosen values. I found myself searching the ground upon which to make my own ethical stand.

Without a solid platform such as a classroom or community program, how could my voice alone, come to bear in contributing to change?

I went back to my own beginnings, unearthing memories and mistakes, acknowledging fears and biases there.

I realized how they were cemented in my origin. I acknowledged their beginnings, and their usefulness at the time, but like all thinkers and feelers, I had to chisel out my own understanding, seeking knowledge that supported a deeper wisdom.

In this revisiting, with my head in my hands, I recovered the joyful tradition of music and storytelling cast deeply by my parents; the inspired purpose of the place where words meet music. I heard the country-and-western static of my ma’s reliable, kitchen radio. I felt the gentle vibration of my father singing “Song Sung Blue” move right through my body.

I was there: 1976, in the warm glow of a chartreuse living room on a gold and rust, paisley print davenport. Dust and a little cat hair caught in the late-day sunbeam, swirling like a galaxy.

In that presence of being, that recollection, I excavated the influences of my own hopeful experience, and I poured myself a new foundation. Right where I was, I’d found my platform.

I recognized myself as a multi-generational influencer of the contemplation of values. I found my voice as a soothe-sayer, a wise-enough woman, and a change agent. I sat down at my piano to speak new stories into being; to present music as it was presented to me, as a meaning-maker in society.

In my thesis work, I would write a collection of humane-themed songs that could act as “a resource for doing, being and naming” considerations in ethics within a social reality I wanted to touch.

I would write music that I wanted to hear and sing; that would matter to me, and to my grandchildren. The work would speak to those topics that society faces collectively now, as creators, and caretakers of our shared world.

I let the music speak for itself, sharing it to media through the internet; a window on the world, far beyond the reach of my own geography and time. In this way, if someone else out there had not yet found their own voice, they could borrow mine.

Or they could simply listen … to nine inspired songs, written by a grad school grandma who cares deeply about influencing the overlapping interests of humans, nonhuman animals, and our shared environment.

Perhaps if we hear a song sung new, and learn to listen well, it will start conversations among all of us, as contemporary families, and as choice-makers.

Speaking Our Own Stories:

  • Understand where our beliefs come from, acknowledge any cracks in our belief foundation.
  • Honor the intention behind their origin, acknowledging how they once served us.
  • Collect more data, have conversations that lead to more thinking options.
  • Replace outdated beliefs with those that align with our current vision for deeper wisdom.
  • Express our gifts right where we are, by recognizing our sphere of hope and influence.
  • Consider ourselves and our audience as equal thinkers, and learn to listen well.
  • Share our learning through our authentic voices, and speak our own stories.


Chick Barnes is a wife, mother, grandmother, and solutionary artist living in the hills of Northern Utah. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, and a Master of Arts in Humane Education. She is an activist for humane causes. Find her songs here.


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