The only stranger to Marie Manning is the person she hasn’t seen yet. Connecting with people is at the core of who she is. She may be working out in the community, or traveling on a musical tour, or communing with God at church. Wherever she is, she’ll bring light into that moment.
“Conversations are one of the best things that can happen between strangers,” she said. “It’s been good that I can be so active in the community and in the church. Now I know that no matter where I go the grace of God is going with me.”
Manning was raised in a spiritually active family. Her mother taught her to worship in a Native tradition.
“I’m a member of Grace Community Church now,” she said. “They’ve been so accepting. I really like the people I’ve met there. They don’t try to make me feel bad if I don’t go to church at times. They like my quirkiness. The grace of God has helped me through losing my mom. I grew up with Great Spirit. My mom was Native American. She was all about Grandmother Earth, Grandfather Sun and Great Spirit. I learned to give my stress to God when I was young.”
Her mother also taught her to build strength in her community.
“I want people to be proud of where they live,” Manning said. “I’m proud to tell people I’m from Roswell. This is where you work and earn your living. This is where you borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor. Why would you put it down? You can move on at any time. You’re in charge of you.”
The rawness of losing her mother has inspired Manning to reach out in support of others.
“2019 has been a rough year so far,” she said, “but it’s all a learning opportunity. I’m choosing not to be a victim when things are bad. I’m also trying to show people that it’s OK to vent when things are hard, but then you let it go and move on. The power of positive thinking is key.”
She makes the most of her social media experience in much the same way.
“I love Facebook because you’re not alone and it’s a beacon,” Manning said. “I use it to show what’s going on in Roswell and what’s going on in my life. There are so many talented people here in Roswell.
“Also, I want to show that yes life is tough, but you’re not alone and you’re the person in charge of making it not tough on you. You’ll jump over the hurdles or you’ll let them knock you down. The power of reaching out for help, especially on social media, is crazy.”
Manning has worked for Main Street Roswell. She’s served coffee at Stellar, ice cream at Sippy & Opal’s and beer at The Brewery. She’s organized events, worked at the UFO festival, and is an on-air personality at KBCQ radio. But the thing that seems to make her life brighter is music.
“My mom was a big part of music and art at the Yucca Center, and in the community,” she said. “It’s always been in my life. Music is a kind of therapy for me. It’s helped me feel less anxious. I played at the Unity Center when it was at the old airport. It was there that I started facilitating other acts.
“The first show where I earned money was at the Ponderosa, way out on East Poe. There was a band called Psycho-Stick that came through, and Lower Than Dirt, they were metal bands. We had local bands playing too, No Such Silence and Children of a Lesser God. They asked if I wanted to play between sets. I play acoustic guitar. I don’t play metal. But I did it and people liked it. A lot of women told me they loved my music. I played some cover songs, but I also played my songs. I’d written about being a young woman trying to find my way.”
Manning’s music has taken her from coast to coast. She’s created memories and friendships along the way.
“I’ve toured in Florida twice,” she said. “I’ve toured in California three times. I’ve recorded in Nashville. I’ve toured in the mid-west. I’ve played a lot of regional shows. I’ve played for free. I’ve played a lot of festivals. I’ve helped out at a lot of festivals. I’ve cried because I was homesick for Roswell. But I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I push myself to email places and ask for gigs, and it’s scary, but you know what else is scary? Never going for what you want.”
At 31, she doesn’t see herself settling into a career just yet. There’s too much life yet to live. Mostly she wants to be a living example of choosing to rise above troubles.
“I’m going to continue to make music,” Manning said. “I’ll continue to work with all the people here. The people I’ve worked for have facilitated a stepping stone for music and positive influence.
“The negative stuff can bring down a city. I want people to take the bull by the horns and ride it. There’s only a little time we have to live and to make a difference. Everybody has talents that God instilled in you that makes you different. Run with it. It’s scary to look outside and see that nothing’s going to change unless you change it.”