This is My Home


This is my house, this is my home
This temple is holy, it’s where I belong
It is my foundation, where spirit meets breath
where waters are flowing, where I find my rest

Been too many years I’ve lived without home
believing the stories that I don’t belong
But I have discovered my own flesh and blood
my gateway to everything, my expression of love

Come home to your body, despite the scorn
hurled at us through history, come find you own
Beyond the lies, the fear and deceit
your body is sacred, your body is sweet

Takes years to unlearn the things we've been told
Like we were created to live in man's world
to nurture others while nurture is good
it's only one aspect of true womanhood

So come home to your body, come home and be
one with creation, creator at ease
Follow the pathways that only you’ll know
into the center, where flesh meets the soul

Listen to "This Is My Home"

I was living in Bloomington, Indiana when I wrote this song. A friend of mine taught a class called "Yoga meets Dance,”which started out with yoga and moved its way to free-form dancing, with plenty of silliness along the way. I loved the class; afterwards I always felt great - free and light and joyful. After this particular class, I rode my bike home to my tiny green cabin on the south side of town, sat down on the floor and this song came into being. In my years of songwriting I've only experienced writing a song in this way one other time. It all appeared at once, like it was opening up somewhere in the core of me, line by line, music and words simultaneously. I wrote the entire thing in one sitting, or, rather, it wrote itself through me. It actually felt as though it was coming from deep within my body--and from something vastly beyond me. I know that the dancing put me in the frame of mind to enable this to happen, feeling free and open and connected. The lyrics of this song are about coming home into one's body--about healing from damaging images and beliefs about our bodies and violating experiences we've had in our bodies--specifically as women. The song feels like an anthem. Musically it takes the form of a hymn, or an old spiritual. I only realized this after the fact that it infused an old song form with a new perspective. Unlike many of my other songs, where I can spend weeks or months crafting this or that, I have left the lyrics unchanged.

I've performed this song with 4 different bands and a few choirs have used it as well. I don't have a favorite version at this point; the way I've been playing it most recently is to emphasize the gospel/blues aspect and go crazy on the violin solos . . . and the vocals have been more straight forward. In the past, I've had a chance to sing it with a small group of women's voices, and I love the harmonies and the feeling that comes from that. I go back and forth between wanting to keep it completely simple, and enjoying adding a number of layers vocally and instrumentally.

I started getting into music as a form of self-expression after my first partner was killed in a car accident and I was engulfed in grief. I needed an outlet and I began to improvise on my violin. (I grew up playing classical violin.) This was healing for me and became the way I connected with a number of musicians, but I longed to write and sing my own songs. It took years before this longing became a reality. I had to overcome intense fears that had stifled my singing voice, and somehow get through many layers of self-judgment and harsh critique about my ability to write music. But the passion kept me going in that direction. I began writing songs when I was living in that tiny cabin in Bloomington. I was struggling with poverty and the end of another relationship . . . in a way it felt as though I had nothing. At that point I met an amazing musician who was a kindred spirit. She believed in my songs and my voice and though I didn't believe in myself yet, her mentoring gave me the courage to write and sing my songs. It was an interesting juxtaposition; I had been performing with my violin since age 4, and it was easy for me to play in front of people and I had many years of experience under my belt. But with singing my own songs, I was a complete beginner. Bringing my own words and voice to my music was challenging, vulnerable and something that I was compelled to do.

My father was one of the largest influences on me; as a musician, he is the one who inspired, pushed and coerced me into music over the years. It has been a long journey with many chapters; at this point I can say that I've found my own musical voice and I'm grateful for many things he passed on to me. Earlier on, when I was just beginning to find my own musical voice, Ani DiFranco, Joules Graves, and a number of women who sing their own songs were influential to me. Later on, Yaya Diallo, West African drummer and healer, became an important influence in his teachings about the power of music to restore balance and healing in a community. Life-long influences have been four-part a cappella hymn singing from my Mennonite upbringing, the drumming and singing of East Africa where I grew up, and Bach.

I am currently collaborating with Daryl Snider in a project called, "Ready for the Rain." Daryl and I are both recent graduates of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU, and "Ready for the Rain" is an exploration of trauma healing, resiliency and colonial legacy through story and song. Peace building and social justice work influence what I do musically. I am no longer interested in using music for entertainment only. I am interested in the deep layers of transformation that can take place when engaging with the creative arts and in opening up the space for positive change through music.

Being a farmer--one who works with the land--also influences my current work a lot. We are just in our second year of farming, so I don't know if I can articulate it clearly; perhaps figuring out how to be a musician who spends most of her time at home - how to create community around music right where I am, rather than touring. I also think that the rhythms of farm life are shaping my musical sensibilities.

Theatre and storytelling influence my work right now, as I am beginning to do more performances that include stories and engaging people across mediums.

Over the years, my favorite projects have been collaborations between arts - music for theatre, with dancers, for film, etc.

I've been writing songs for about eight years now. What I am looking for in the process of writing has shifted. I'm not as interested in articulating my own personal story in an isolated way like I was when I started. I'm now interested in exploring my story as it relates to things I want to engage with in community. I like to write for other people, in response to what is around me, for specific events rather than just go within to find a start. But honestly, right now with us starting up the farm, and being a mother of a 1.5 year old, I only write when a specific need comes up. I'm content to play a lot more music written by other people than I used to be. I think it is a good balance. I think that I'll compose more again in the future. The next project I envision myself doing is spending time here on our land and listening for the music that comes to me from what is around me. I've always been involved in a wide array of musical expressions and I'm guessing that will continue.

About the Author

Frances Crowhill Miller

With roots in Lancaster county and Nairobi Kenya, Frances grew up amidst a rich heritage of music from Mennonite hymns to East African drumming. She was also shaped by the musical legacy and influence of her father, the late John Miller. An improvisationalist, singer-songwriter, and composer, Frances enjoys working across artistic disciplines. She has recorded and released three solo CDs ("Water Song," "Full Circle," and "River of Tears") and one movie soundtrack. She has recorded and performed with Grammy-Award winning cellist David Darling and is studying North Indian classical music with Humayun Khan. A recent graduate of the Center for Justice and Peace Graduate program at Eastern Mennonite University, Frances believes in the power of music to restore balance in both individuals and community, as well as to connect us with the earth, each other and the core of our lives. Currently, she lives with her husband, Tim Sauder and their 1.5 year-old son, Eli at Fiddle Creek Dairy, where they are starting up their new yoghurt business. Her favorite current projects are doing music work with a refugee family in Lancaster,and developing musical programs with Daryl Snider focused on trauma healing, resiliency, and addressing our "colonial legacy" through story and song.