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    The Journey Is the Goal

    crisBy Cris Williamson

    In my youth, a wonderful Irish playwright once told me that all art must have three elements: a foot in the Past, a foot in the Present, and a gesture toward the Future. I’ve never forgotten her advice. It was handed to me by an elder. I stand today, well-footed in the first two, and thinking about the third…that is, the Future.

    I am a young elder now, still working, still performing, and never dreaming for a minute of retiring. I am so glad to have something to do, some way of saying what is on our collective minds and in our tender hearts, some way of surviving, some way of helping others do the same. I love my work in this world. Of course, I still need the support of those who love what I do, and in some ways, even more than I did before.

    As that young elder, what can I say to the next ones? I think I would say: be prepared to work hard on your craft, and value the journey upon the road, for, no matter what you think, the journey is, indeed, the goal. I know this: the Future happens minute-by-minute, spun from the thread of the Past and invested in the Present moment, and is truly unknown. But if we stay awake, we can feel our place, our part in the world. We all can ride these moments into the Future. We can all set our intentions to fulfill, to thoroughly provide—which is the original meaning of performance. We can only ever do our very best, but we mustn’t do less.

    All movements have their own natural life, and Women’s Music is no exception. Some parts of this movement have stayed steady, and some have passed away. In those days gone by, Necessity was indeed the Mother of Invention. When it seemed as though all doors in the music industry were closed to us, we turned elsewhere and created not only an alternative, but also an atmosphere in which there was room for women—and those who loved them—to breathe as they began to define themselves. It was hard work then, and it’s hard work now. Definition is a fluid thing. Atmospheres can suffer pollution of all kinds, and that affects the life of the art that lives there. Support must never fall away.

    I feel that we stood up high upon the shoulders of the women who went before, and the strong men who always supported their efforts. From that higher plane, we could see the horizon, we could imagine a Future where young women could move forward in confidence, some never suspecting that there had been ceilings there where now there was only sky. We wanted that for ourselves, and we want it still for all of us. We imagined it into being because it was necessary. We midwived ideas and music and painting and all art of all kinds, catching beauty and sending it forth into the world. We who make this music are like unto plants that when cut back, bloomed more beautifully, keeping some of the thorns for protection. It’s the way we’re made.

    We set our own intentions, living up to our own expectations. Always there will be more young women who will lift their heads, catch the music, and stride down the road as if it had always been there. In fact, I believe the Road is always there. Many may not know our names, or the work that we did, but the music we made and still make to this day streams into the world, carried still in the hearts of those who care. I know we all made a difference back then in the wild, old days, and we still do. Learned by heart, this music and the music-yet-to-come will live because it will always be necessary, and will, like all art, be invented and reinvented timelessly. The Road beckons…

    Cris Williamson’s recordings, particularly “The Changer and the Changed,” forged the cornerstone of Women’s Music. She has gone on to record 30+ best-selling albums and continues to perform around the world.