Words and background music written, performed, and recorded by Renée Coughlin


What are the practices that connect us back to who we are, inside of our bodies, so that we may know who we are within the larger body of this planet?
I am a singer and a songwriter. When I use my voice in this way it causes vibration in my body. It creates a resonance that I find hard to ignore.
I’ve learned to feel my voice inside of my body by moving it around. By making it loud. Making it quiet. Stopping it. Starting it. Sustaining it and sporadically throwing it around following an unpredictable impulse, emerging from an energy so beyond my comprehension that I do not know what to call it. Words seem far too futile and rigid to accurately describe such an overwhelming feeling.
I’ve played with sounds and harmony to articulate feelings for most of my life within this body. It soothes me. It wrings out the ache that always seems to settle its way into my blood and bones. It reminds me of my vitality. My life force. The same life force that connects me to the rest of life on earth, and I imagine, maybe even beyond.
Music has a way of housing stories that feel hard to hold. It lets my body take up a new idea and express its tension in a way that doesn’t seem as permanent and as heavy as words.
Music, like me, has permission to flow and change. To tense up and then release. To rise, fall, and linger anywhere along the way. To rattle and soothe. To repeat, slow down, speed up, begin again, or end abruptly.
I’ve always felt most at ease working with music to tell stories. This one feels no different.

On the way to the forest I pass by fried worms on cement sidewalks, a quick reminder of the precarity of life in rising temperatures, and the unending, simultaneous presence of forces that both create and destroy.
We move together through the forest, our feet firmly packing down soil, decaying leaves, broken twigs, and countless other things and beings I’ve never bothered to learn the names of.
I imagine that one day I too will become soil that will be trampled by the feet of eager doers, creatives, mind dwellers, and skeptical optimists who seem to move with a kind of collective gentle anarchist energy.
It is my hope that one day, far away from now, I have the privilege of being feasted on by earthworms and earwigs as I begin my slow journey back to the earth that I was born from.
It is my fear that before that time comes I, along with all other life on this planet, will be tossed out into oblivion. Oblivion, in my mind, looks like a place where all vitality is absorbed into infinite nothingness and there is no life. Oblivion, in my body, feels like hard edges in empty rooms. It feels like plastic chairs, synthetic rugs, hard tiles that used to be mountain tops, and posters of suffocating trees that will never know the wholeness of a full life cycle.
It is becoming a consistent truth I cannot evade that my hope co-exists with my fear. That institutions co-exist with the trees they choose to let stand or cut down, and that creation will always co-exist with destruction.
For 3.8 billion years, this planet has sustained life.
What are we, as humans, sustaining? What do I, as a human, sustain?
In many ways, my life sustains death.
To live relies on the ending or transformation of other lives and absorbing them into mine.
In what ways will I continue to live and create, knowing that destruction is the air I breathe?
What rituals will I embody to honour the lives that transform into mine?
As I slowly waste away under the daily pressures of gravity, what will my destruction give life to?
Who’s life gets to be lived when? And for how long?
Who and what decides when those lives are done being lived?
In what ways can we humans learn to re-negotiate the space around and between creation and destruction?
Who and what will we allow to be our teachers of negotiation?
In what ways does the more than human world negotiate?
For 3.8 billion years, this planet has sustained life.
Mostly in the absence of the thinking human mind, and without the writhing tongues that spray our spoken word like pesticides, as if we’re accomplishing something.
Where is our restraint? Where is our humility? Who and what already knows and practices these ways of being?
What do we need to silence, in order to hear and understand a different story about who we are and how we can be human in a more than human world?
Today, I look to this lump on a log.
A perceptibly still, but gradually slumping presence that bears witness to the life around it.
It’s lazy and beautiful.
Of all the life and all the sustainance we passed by in the forest today, this lump on this log has captivated me.
It defies colonial logics of efficiency, material expansion, and extraction.
Oh to be a lump on a log. Oh to be lazy. To be still. To observe time and life as it interacts around you, and in you. What a gift.
To spend time being still, and let that stillness slowly move you.
In a world of rapid expansion and destructive evolution, how might we, as humans, sustain meaningful stillness? How can we sustain restraint? How can we sustain our observations long enough to be struck by awe? How can we sustain and celebrate an emotional response that doesn’t drive us to extract and stake claim over what elates us?
How might we, like this lump on this log, sustain life while bearing witness to the life of all others.
In what ways might the spaces we occupy encourage us to take pause?
In what ways might the spaces we move within remind us to acknowledge the trails we leave behind?
In what ways might the spaces we think in demand that we pause and engage with alternative intelligences?
In what ways might the spaces in which we take up life in our own human bodies work to soften our assumptions of superiority and celebrate what it could mean to live a more gentle and attuned life as part of this earth’s body?