Thursday, January 12, 2012


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (1/14/12)

“Growing up with chaos, trauma, violence, and alcoholism, music became my lifeline. I picked up the guitar at around age ten and the clarinet and saxophone shortly thereafter. It was a lifeline to some form of spirit and a way to connect with my true self and others. I don’t consider myself to be, first and foremost, an entertainer or actress but music keeps me alive. I can lose myself for hours in the pursuit.”

Lori Crowe’s story is not uncommon for children growing up in domestic violence, victims of abuse, and young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with stories of unspeakable horror. The experience is terror, a terror not just of the moment, but for months and years on end. I’ve been terrified four times in my life, but they were for a few hours, not years on end. Such a terror as Lori’s, unless it is to dominate of one’s life, eventually means some way of looking back at the experience, not as a victim, but as a victor.

Lori Crowe has dealt with her years of terror with music. She fugues in beauty, carrying her spirit on graceful journeys, not as an escape, but as a re-creation and reenactment of her life’s story. If those who’ve lived in terror want to move beyond being dominated by the terror, they eventually become psychic pilgrims, traveling from being victims, to becoming survivors, and finally to prevailing as pilgrims on life’s journey, becoming “more than conquerors.” It is a journey in which they are liberated from the tyranny of the past the better to celebrate the present and anticipate the future.

Music was Lori’s vehicle for her journey, not merely as an escape, but as a means to power. Victims first see themselves as powerless, and making music, as is any other form of art, is an experience of power, such as making a melody. It also is orderly. Chaos is the life of a victim. We thrive in the stability, knowing we have a purpose.

Another of her fugues during her childhood and adolescence was ranching, horses, and the great out-of-doors. Her father homesteaded a ranch in California’s Gavilan Hills. She experienced the gradual creation of a ranch. If anything, ranching and horses, give a person a sense of power and purpose. She felt an affinity with the land and the sky.

She was drawn to NAU because it was set in the midst of a wilderness. Both she and her husband, Jeff Karl, graduated in 1975. She studied sociology because she liked it and to “gain insight into her childhood.” She says: “I was able to squeeze in classical guitar and saxophone classes, and I found I could make some extra cash playing guitar and singing at various venues around town.” She became a country and western chanteuse.

When she moved into her present home, she replaced the grassed-over front yard with native plants, wanting something of the wilderness, such as blue fescue and wild gooseberry, but in her backyard she set about gradually reclaiming the land for a garden of berries and vegetables. She started out with a couple of small fenced parcels with high anticipations of gradually turning the chaotic debris and detritus left by the contractors into backyard garden. Gardening for her is, as is it for everyone else, an experience of power, turning chaos into a design, enriching the soil, and drawing both beauty and food from the earth.

And so it is that she became a tutor at The Literacy Center, wanting to share the power of language by equipping others to read, write, and speak English so that they could read a menu, a manual, a ballot, a magazine, and a newspaper, as well as carry on a conversation and get an education.

Speaking as a pilgrim, she says; “There is always so much to learn and relearn. So I try to play as much as I can and see what comes of it. My hope is that the listener can feel a similar connection to the musical muse that I do and be uplifted by it.”

Copyright (c) Dana Prom Smith 2012 

Dana Prom Smith edits GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun in which this article appeared 1/14/2012.  His email address is

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