When I was 20 years old, I sat with my knees bent up, and journal in my lap in the bed I was given at the Women’s Shelter. I had just gotten out of three months of inpatient trauma treatment, and now I was starting my life over on the West Coast in Seattle. My illusion that I had grown up in a good family was in wreckage. The ugly truth was coming up from the depth in my body to be seen and felt. There was no going back to pretending things were fine. I knew I was going forward without my ‘family’ and I needed my new last name.
I closed my eyes and whispered, “What is my name?” I wrote everything I thought I heard night after night. On the third night, I received a vision. I saw a council of Native Elders as clear as if they were right in front of me. They turned to me and one of them spoke, “Your name is Landsong.” I wrote it down. I believed them because I felt it through my whole body in a way I had never known before. This new name became my North Star.
That week, I got my legal name change. The day after that I got my Washington State Driver’s license. I could hardly believe they really let me use my new last name on something official. I went to the bank, opened an account, and filled in Robin Landsong on the form. The teller asked me if I was a famous musician. I felt I was nothing but a bag of trauma that could smile and fool people that I was a normal person. The teller worked up her own excitement thinking she was talking to someone famous. I let her keep her story because it seemed to make her day. I did not correct her that I was just trying to survive until my next therapy appointment.
When I was leaving the Women’s Shelter for abused women, the staff asked, “What do you need?” I said, “A desk, a warm coat, and a guitar.” They put the requests out to the community. The Head nun came home, and asked me to help bring things in from her car. I opened the door, there was a guitar case in the backseat. I cried. It was for me. The Head nun cried when I held it in my arms. I was relying on the kindness of others to make it, and someone giving their guitar meant the world to me. I received a coat and a desk with a lamp (where I would end up creating all my early art).
I learned chords and wrote songs on my nylon string guitar. I sang the trauma out of my heart. I even had the courage make an album and give a concert at a bookstore in downtown Olympia. All my trauma survivor friends filled the front row. I belted out my fiery rage, tender grief, and finished with my new growing dignity. My friends jumped up and applauded because my story was their story.
A man, who came by himself, sat in the back row. When he bought my cassette tape he asked for my autograph. At first, I thought he was joking. Then I looked at his face. I instantly knew he had never told anyone about the sexual assault that he endured in his childhood, and I had just sat up front and sang my story in a microphone. He came to see it is possible to have a voice. I signed my name very slowly while I sent him kindness and a wish for him to have community of male survivors. He took the signed cassette in his hands and quietly walked away. It was the first moment I really began to understand my last name. I was to be of service by singing from my whole body so other people could feel their body.
Fifteen years from when I first had my Landsong vision. I was fortunate enough to be in a Native Ceremony that welcomed all nations. Benson, a Lakota elder was walking around the circle speaking. He said, “Sometimes you can receive a vision that can take you 15 years to really understand.” I almost fell over with relief. I am not slow, I am right on time.
That night we danced. One of the women leaders walked up to me and did a bear growl in my ear. My knees buckled, I wavered, I fought it, but then I fell to my knees, and then on the ground into a vision. I saw the ammonites (like nautilus) in the ancient ocean and I heard them singing to one another, singing to everything living in the primordial ocean. Then the land rose up and the ammonites became fossils and their songs to one another became embedded in the bedrock.
I know understood that this is the original source of the songs that moves through me. I began to cry that I have the honor to singing ocean songs that became part of the land. I opened my eyes after the vision ended to see that another one of the elder men had bent down on the ground with his ear right next to my mouth. He asked me to sing. I did and he nodded yes.
All those who had danced gathered back together and the lead elder asked, “Who has a vision to share.” A white man began to cry that in his vision he saw the massacre of an entire Native tribe. He wailed and fell to his knees when he said, “And their songs died with them.” My body answered, “I HAVE THOSE SONGS.” It was beyond my personality, beyond my choice. I began to sing so loud that I was shocked, and a concerned for my vocal chords. The man behind me held me up as my whole body shook and sang for every tree to hear.
When I was done, two people held me and another fed me. Benson, came to me and stood before me. He said, “Tell me all your names.” I stood up before him. “My name is Landsong. My African name is Aisha. My Buddhist name is Rigpay Pamo.” He nodded and accepted all my names.
A decade later when I met John and we sang together, something very old moved through us. It was not about us, it was through us. It was a rich gift to sing with him. We became a couple and I jumped into parenting with him. Over the years, I became so out of balance trying to help what I saw as not well in the family system. Eventually, the push back against my efforts reached a pinnacle beyond repair. Relationships blew apart at their fragile seams. For my safety and wellness, I knew I had to go forward and be with people who welcome the love and health awareness I have to offer.
After I survived the massacre in Zimbabwe, and I was the only living person around, Shiva showed me, “Out of destruction comes new creation.” You can’t see it when you are in the crushing loss part. It is not our job as humans to see it then. Just get through it. Then eventually, much longer than we would like, something new begins to emerge.
When I was in Mount Shasta I had a dream. In the dream there were eighteen guests. When I became lucid in the dream I saw the eighteen are ancestors in the land around Mount Shasta and in California. They are inviting me to a trail. A trail they will lead me from one song to the next. I am to sing the song of the land back to her so she may hear her own beauty, “You are real, you are important, I cherish you.”
Just like I moved to Seattle then Olympia, I now will move to Mount Shasta and listen. I am to live my name, Landsong. To follow the trail of song. I will be shown in some way to find this trail. It is my calling to connect to what is missing in our modern confusion. It is my work to help myself and others remember – we are home now.
With all my love, Robin Aisha Landsong