It doesn’t feel real to me that she has left so swiftly from this earth. I thought I would have felt a loud booming roar from the heavens, or heard wild laughter bouncing off trees, or seen sudden leopard printed patterns upon every surface. But instead, I was hit with the news in silent waves, through text messages, facebook posts, and blog writings, that Annette Masson’s spirit has moved on; to a new body, to join the thunderous ranks of the gods, or perhaps to rest and sing amongst the stars, since I’m sure they have been patiently waiting to add her voice to their harmonies for lifetimes.
This past weekend I was in Tidewater, Oregon, at a music and arts festival aptly named Beloved, for everything about this festival felt as accepting, playful, soft, and kind as I would imagine anyone connecting with those they love the most. From Thursday afternoon, to Monday afternoon, I had no cell-service, no internet; no texts, no emails; no breaking news, no information beyond what the forest and those in it had to offer me. And it was bliss, truly. To not feel the regular tense heaviness I experience in what I seem to call “the real world”, as if what I experienced at Beloved, or any of the other 3 festivals I have been to, was fake in some way. Rather, the festival was a condensed reminder that humans have the ability to be with each other, to play, to sing, to dance, to create, to fall and get back up, to accept, and to be present. Nonetheless real, but certainly far away from what I often experience in the day-to-day.
And so when the news of Annette’s passing came from one little piece of text on Facebook, and seeped into my heart center while on hour 5 or maybe 7 or maybe 10 of our 15 hour drive back towards LA, I so badly wanted to be back in the forest again. I wanted to stand amongst the trees, flowers, dirt, and rain, and do drop downs, ghost giggles, soul trains, leg tremors, play like a baby, become my favorite animal, recite Shakespeare, speak in a cockney, or southern, or south african, or bostonian accent, or Salute to the Gods 100 times, sending the vibrations up the tree trunks into the night sky; I wanted to be somewhere where vocal expressions of grieving were not only okay but encouraged; I wanted to be somewhere where it didn’t have to be the real world yet. But that’s not where I was, and that was not a liberty I felt I had in that moment. Instead I had freeways, cars, and a long yet necessary journey ahead, with my two quite amazing, understanding, and open-hearted parents taking turns driving since I have yet to learn how to drive a stick-shift. Me, in the backseat, next to a futon, a packed up tent, and multiple bags, no escape in sight from “the real”.
When I was in school, there was a part of me that was so afraid of her (as I have heard was a common trend), and so I kept myself at a safe distance. For me, I realize now I was afraid of her because I admired her so much, and so badly wanted to make her proud. She embodied a confidence in her voice, and an impact of her character that I know we all wanted to emulate in our own way. And it has been a challenging and layered road for me to speak my truth, to speak it with GUSTO, and to let it ring through my body all the way through and out my anal-sphincter muscle (in her fabulous words). The freedom in her being, and lack of apology in her voice, was something that intimidated me to my perfectionist core, and so I don’t know if I ever actually told her in my full voice, the truly tremendous impact she has had, and will continue to have on my life, and the countless lives of others, by her simply being herself. Everything I experienced about her, from her techniques to her presence in a room, has taught me something about art, life, and myself.
So when the news finally hit me, there was only one thing I wanted to do to honor her: use my voice, with gusto, no apologies.
In the final leg of our journey, my parents and I were at a rest-stop with random travelers, dirty bathrooms, the sound of cars whooshing by, but still, the starry night sky above us. This was the space we had, and I wanted to use it as if it was the forest we had left not too long ago. I asked my parents to join me in a ceremony in 3 parts: Soul-Train, “All Abooooard!” and Salute to the Gods. I explained the exercises and they caught on clearly and enthusiastically, and the three of us, voices loud, open, and unapologetic, sent our gratitude into the sound waves of the universe, finishing on a “mmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAnnette!” My dad said he saw a shooting star during the ceremony, I cried and laughed at the same time, and we continued on our way home.
Though you may not physically be with us anymore, your spirit undoubtedly lives on forever at the speed of sound. Thank you, Annette, for teaching, nurturing and inspiring a generation of artists with full, powerful, and heartfelt voices. We will use them to better our world. From all of us. We love you.