Fragile Oasis

Connecting Space and Earth: Learn. Act. Make a Difference.

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Fragile Oasis - My Orbital Perspective

"We are all spinning around the same thing, all cyclical turning,
around this notion that we could love, and be complete."

Every night I looked out through the same window, the tree-line high against the ravenblue sky. I'd sit, ritualistically like a teenage monk practicing a mysterious ceremony. Half-lotus on my low futon bed, a pen and blank book to one side, a guitar on the other and nothing but the shadow of trees and a glimmer of the twinkle-twinkle, universe-afar, somewhere out there...

Orion, setting over our Earth. Photographed by Dan Burbank from the International Space Station 10:13 GMT March 17, 2012

Songwriting, and a dream of singing for people around the world, are a far cry from
astrophysics, but there's connective tissue in the pursuit of the unknown and the
universality of music and stargazing.
If the universe is, in essence, vibration - then space and everything that fills it is a universal song. For as long as I can remember I've felt the pull of universal mystery tugging at my heart strings. Growing up all over a little place on planet Earth called Connecticut, in inner-city apartments and later in the woods I never felt a sense of true belonging. I did love the rolling green lawns, dairy farms-saved-by-ice-cream-cows, and my ever-present sentinels of trees outside my bedroom... But my curiosity about the world beyond echoed like a catchy-chorus in my soul.

Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts photographed from the International Space Station by Ron Garan June 3, 2011

A passion for music was nearly-innate, who knows how many hours of classical flute
scales reverberated right through my mama's belly as she practiced with me inside
her. I found my voice at nine years old, grabbed a guitar at thirteen and the dream of
connecting on a global scale, with humans of all kinds, became my song. Maybe the
kids at school didn't get it, I was more interested in singing by starlight than going to parties, and I wasn't invited anyway. I spent those hours practicing and asking the
diamond-bright constellations for melodies and the courage to play one more half-empty
club, write one more song, find the magical alignment the would unlock a
destiny that seemed as real as Polaris but maybe just as far away...

Earth's star produces a show. Other stars watch. Photographed by Dan Burbank from the International Space Station 17:22 GMT March 4, 2012

But somehow even in the darkest nights I believed it wouldn't guide me astray.

If curiosity and a spirit of exploration are part of the human psyche, then throughout
time technology has been their greatest wing-man. Whenever a glass ceiling is
smudged by the eager handprint of someone who reached too high, the raining down
of shimmering shards is never too far off.

These past-shattering moments, whether personal, global or universal often seem to
happen in a shocking split second, an overnight success, a magical mistake... But
they're almost always the ice-berg tip result of many brave souls, many years of dedication and even distant strangers who's names we may never know, all
contributing to the same goal.

Just like so many life-changing moments of discovery and breakthrough... Last
summer I didn't realize I was living through mine until I was staring it in the face.

The global faces staring back at me, were as beautiful and perspective-altering as
seeing the Earthrise from a weightless place in space.

Earth rises over her Moon

On a wet weekend in July of 2011 I was lugging my guitar amps through the rain to
play a dive bar in the middle-of-nowhere-upstate-NY. Little rivers of rain water rushed up past the curb and gushed into my paper thin converse sneakers, and just then my
phone rang. It was my big brother - a writer, builder of board games and lover of strategy - calling from his home in California, "Hey, did you hear Google started a social network called Google+? Maybe you should try to be one of the first musicians on
there!" Trying to shield my phone from fat drops of rain I blurted out, "Google-what?!
Ev, I'm at a show, I gotta make sound check, I'll call ya tomorrow." Click.

Earth's moon photographed from the International Space Station by Ron Garan July 31, 2011.

Fast-forward through a slightly too-empty bar, glasses clinking as patrons watched on,
and I looked out from the 5 inch-high stage trying to cut through the room with my
voice, while nearly everything that could go wrong did. In that moment I reminded
myself that I'm grateful for any chance to sing, even here, even tonight... And the little bar transformed into sacred space of sound inside my own heart and the room even
hushed... for a moment. But on the ride home, the moon followed pace with the car,
busting through the gloom, shining a light on my "in the world, but not of it" feelings, I knew I needed something to happen.

Three days later - a new-fangled social network, my global music dreams, and surely
the planets must’ve, aligned - and my life changed in an instant.

I'd joined Google+ and saw an unassuming little feature called "Hangouts"- a video
chat where you could see and interact with up to 10 people at once, for free and for all.

I thought, "Maybe I can use this thing to play a show without having to lug my amps
through the rain!" I didn't know anyone on the site, and that was part of the thrill - an undiscovered country, an unexplored land, an untapped chance to try something new.

I'd seen other musicians play "online concerts" with a fly-on-the-wall's eye view of a
rehearsal room or a packed stadium brimming over with fans. But what happened that
night was something entirely new, an authentically heart-altering happenstance,
surprising enough to make me believe all that wishing on a star may actually work...
Just not in the way you ever expected.

I stood in a little recording studio in the woods with my producer and bass player
beside me, fingers trembling as I pressed a button that said "Start A Hangout". It would be my first Hangout Concert. The first of many. The first minute of what would end up a 6.5 hour global gathering and performance where my legs nearly gave out, not from exhaustion, but from joy and gratitude.

It would be the first time I met someone from Buenos Ares. The first time I saw the sunrise in Norway. The first time I watched little girls dancing to my songs with the light from their Australian Sunday morning streaming through the computer screen into my Saturday night. We were bending spacetime with song. It was the first time I heard global applause, clapping from different cities on different continents all together making one otherworldly sound.

It was one small step for live music history, one giant leap for me.

That night marked the beginning of many thousands of international interactive
interpersonal encounters, and the kick-off to meeting millions of new friends who are
now a living breathing part of my world that is ever-expanding, like the Universe itself and all the songs, echoing out forever and ever, in it.

To borrow a brilliant phrase from one of those new friends, astronaut Ron Garan, the
"Orbital Perspective" is what you gain when you look back at Earth from space.
Suddenly, in one of those heart-skips-a-beat instants you see the entirety of everything you’ve ever known, every worry, every argument, every mistake or over-slept alarm reduced to the size of a pebble, and what comes rushing in to fill all the vast new space in your awareness... That’s the Orbital Perspective.

It becomes so clear that things that divide us, as humans, are invisible from a distance. We're all on the same team, all connected. And the dreams we dare to dream, not only do come true... But they might’ve been far too small to begin with.

Just a few months ago I was looking longingly out of my bedroom window at the stars
and dreams that seemed just too far away to touch, singing a song I'd written called
Space, "We are all spinning around the same thing, all cyclical turning, around this
notion that we could love and be complete."

That global love beats like the heart of our little blue planet, it defines us and connects us across all perceived barriers of culture, country or consequence. It's ringing in the notes of the stars that surround us, in the buzz of bumble bees, the hum of hard drives or the intake of your own breath. It's that beat that kept this singer-songwriter singing...

The song I sing now and always, is the song of The Orbital Perspective. To be continued.

Join Ron Garan and me for a G+ on air hangout today, Thursday, May 31st 12:30 PST. Space, music and our Fragile Oasis!