Let Me be So Attuned

For those of you who would like to Tune In suitably, the concert that was being prepared when I wrote today’s post will be performed tonight by the University of North Texas A Cappella Choir, conducted by my esteemed spouse Richard Sparks. Click on this link, and it’ll take you to the live-streamed concert at 8 pm Central Standard Time. Or, if you can, come on over to UNT’s Murchison Performing Arts Center and enjoy the concert (with me and a host of other fans) in the lovely Winspear hall.

Digital illo from a photo: A Cappella HarmonyI am listening to a superb vocal sextet as the singers demonstrate the purity of tone and the achingly clear, clean dissonances and harmonies that their conductor has just been coaching the listening university choir to attempt. When they two sets of singers all join forces and achieve this without putting undue stress on their breathing and without letting anyone’s vibrato widen far enough to fall off its assigned note, the whole room, no matter how large or small, dry or reverberant, empty or crowded, becomes electric. The power of even the faintest pianissimo, when perfectly tuned to the chord of the moment, scintillates in such perfect proportion, one note to another, that involuntary shivers of pleasure run up and down my spine.

The conductor admonishes the singers to embrace the more tender expressive qualities of the passage they’re singing; instead of attack-and-cutoff beginnings and endings to notes and phrases, they attempt to let the notes open and close naturally with the breath. Attack becomes the almost imperceptible awakening sensation of even, steady onset, and cutoff loses its hard artifice in favor of the easeful grace of release. I think that this, too, makes a fine representation of what it should be to live in tune with my fellow beings, to breathe in consonance with them whether we are making pretty and perhaps predictably agreeable chords or exact and shivering dissonances.

This is the gorgeous, staggeringly intense experience of listening to genuinely sensitive music-making, of powerfully accurate tuning. A wonderfully skilled musician will no doubt say that the experience is even deeper for the singers themselves, as the physical sensation can only be intensified when one is physically part of the sounding instrument in this fundamental way. But I have been in those rooms, at times, where the perfectly timed phrasing of notes and passages and the confluence of vibrations are so perfectly aligned that I feel I am no longer a solid object, distinct from all other things, but have become an integrated element of the glittering cosmos. This, I think, is what it means to gain true harmony.Digital illo from a photo: Score

Your Youth is Calling

Photomontage: Lakeside IdyllsIdylls & Idealism

A lake as cool as fishes’ silver flanks

and ruffled less by wind than lily leaves,

where children roll their pant legs up, and sleeves,

to shepherd pollywogs along the banks,

Right where the river empties in its pool,

sending out eddies limned in leafy green

and damselflies all hover on the scene

as shadow changes sun to shady, cool,

Pale reminiscent ghosts of yesterdays

that elders at their picnics on the shore

remember by their scent, if little more,

and are transported thus into a haze,

For idling lakeside, childlike, it seems,

inspires sweet, idealistic dreams…Photo: Reminiscing

In an Evergreen State

Photo montage: Evergreen 1Visiting the region of my birthplace is a grace and a privilege in many ways. This past July’s visit was typically so; being around the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Washington, whose nickname is The Evergreen State (and despite the unusually dry year, still an entirely fitting name in more ways that one) renews and refreshes my spirits. Its seemingly limitless variety of tones, shades, and hues of green never fails to bring about a sort of awakening response in my heart, a deeper sense of belonging and of potentiality, something almost inevitable and just-about-to-happen, that makes me quietly giddy. Being enveloped in the green liveliness that is a northwest forest, ankle-deep in slopes of bursting greenery spangled with wildflowers, and looking over the green-tinged waterfalls and shallows of the mountain and coastal waters there are an elixir, a potion that surpasses the most wild and sprightly of sparkling wines and tinged with a faint zing of adrenaline.Photo montage: Evergreen 2

So when I go Home I am remade into a newer, shinier version of myself. This happens in other, similarly intensely green places, as I’ve learned, other places where by virtue of this quixotic and quintessentially pure life’s-blood of mine I find myself at home in the verdant glories: Scandinavia, the British Isles. While the turf from which I sprang will always be beloved in a unique way, home remains portable as well, so long as I’m immersed in the loves of person and place that shape and color its vital character.Photo montage: Evergreen 3

All the same, every one of these photos is from this summer’s visit to Washington. The Evergreen State that always puts me in an evergreen state of my own.Photo montage: Evergreen 4

I Wish…

If you spend any time here, you already know how I fear any political, religious, social, or philosophical position that claims to have all of the concrete answers about who we are, what our purpose is for existing in the first place, and how we are supposed (or not) to accomplish it all. I, limited in my capacity as I will readily admit to being, cannot fathom how there would be any point to having invented creatures with brains and character like ours let alone the will and sense of individual privilege and/or responsibility that we humanoids have, if the astonishing Force that invented us didn’t expect us to actually use all of those incredibly complex and admittedly imperfect attributes to find our way forward from birth to death, from initiation to completion. That we are here as a hugely diverse populace rather than as one or two measly individuals says to me that it takes a whole colorful, widely differentiated, bunch of us to have any hope of getting the job done. Whatever the job really is.

I long for the day when the wider world will get tired of telling each other how a “normal” person must look, feel, and think, or what is “natural” and acceptable in one’s sense and definition of self. These judgements are based on generalizations that fit remarkably few with exactitude; the Sun King‘s male courtiers and any number of Victorian era boys grew up wearing frilly little white gowns very like their sisters’ and were no less, or more, likely to be LGBTIQ as a result; high heels and cosmetics and elaborate jewelry and clothing haven’t been exclusively feminine accoutrements from very early recorded history onward, any more than it was ever true that only men could build houses or repair cars, or farm, hunt, and fish. No gender or sexual orientation predetermines what one loves or is good at doing or automatically consigns the person to any magically specific role in the universe, any more than there is any clear rubric in any of the literature, scientific or religious, that I’ve read or heard discussed that proves to me with any conviction that our bodies are and must remain our destinies.

While not a scholar or living exemplar of Christianity by any measure, I did grow up in a mainline Christian household and do a reasonable amount of reading and study over the years, enough to convince me that anyone claiming to be a Christian but promoting the idea that any race, sex, age, intellect, or social status confers special Goodness and sanctity (or the reverse) upon anybody has conveniently forgotten that, according to what Biblical and historical records anyone has, Christ was not white, clean-shaven, conformist, English-speaking, well-behaved (according to the standards of his day and community), immune to anger and other human failings, or unwilling to consider the value, even the occasional urgency, of change in the longtime beliefs of his compatriots. I certainly didn’t see any injunction of his to Go Forth and Hate Others.

While not willingly a declared member of any political party—I suspect lots of politics have little or nothing to do with the good of the ruled masses—I consider myself a very tiny step left of center. Yet I don’t doubt for a second that anybody who assessed my lifetime’s voting, let alone the details of my actual personal views, would gladly challenge my self-definition, thinking themselves obviously more liberal, more conservative, more centrist, or more what-have-you, than I am. I don’t find much use in any of the labels so often applied for political recognition these days, any more than I do religious ones, social or cultural or intellectual ones. We are who we are, and I can only imagine we’d do best if we simply acknowledge it, try to keep learning, and move forward.

What a lot of pointless, counterproductive hangups and sorrows we design for ourselves. I think, wish, and hope we can, could, and should instead be experiencing the true Normal and Natural of differing and disagreeing without hatred, uniqueness without fear, and love and compassion without boundaries. Including the bounds of my own shortcomings.

Digital illo: Psycho-delic

Somewhere, rainbow or no rainbow…we might find a meeting point in a better place in human history. We’re wonderfully, wildly different. But different can be a great thing, if you ask me.

My Little Night Music

Invocation

From the settling of the evening to the whispering of dawn

Lies a tenebrously winding way that wanders bleakly on…

What’s ahead is hid in veiling; what has been, lost in a mist,

And with strength and spirits failing goes the wayfarer, who kissed

Fond farewell to all familiars, bade goodbye to every known,

And set off to see tomorrow; now it seems all hope is flown.

But a flicker in the darkness sparks the vision of a wing,

And the silence now is shattered as a voice begins to sing!

Glorious, the song is lifted in its swelling, sweet refrains,

And the wayfarer is gifted with new courage in his veins.

What a loveliness is in it when such music comes along

To illumine every minute; what great powers in a song!

When the journey seems unending and the dark rules every vale,

For whoever needs the tending, let me be

A nightingale.Digital illo: Nightingale

Short & Sweet

Digital illo from photos: Dark Waters

Waves of sorrow will pass soon enough…

The interlude between uneasy emergency-room visiting and the expected, probably not too fun, Expulsion of a certain little hunk of rock from the Paradise of my innards is a brief one, but it’s amazing how lovely it is to feel pretty good in between times. The stone has kindly opted to not move during this intervening couple of days, and I am grateful! It meant, among other things, that I felt well enough to deal with a heap of post-hospital laundry, tidying up the general wreckage of a house neither of us has been free to visit much in the last week, and just admiring how lovely it is to have an ordinary day. I fully intend to be a poster child for pain-free, speedy resolution to kidney stone fun, but I have to be fair and say that I’ve already had about the shortest and easiest passage through this little form of bedevilment anybody could have. And I am cognizant, more than ever, of how incredibly fortunate I am not to face the chronic or the deepest forms of pain.

Remind me of that when I’m whingeing about my suffering later. Because, being human, and being a pretty unspectacular specimen of the species as it is, I will. I apologize in advance. But I really, truly, and with all of my heart thank everyone who has been so stupendously kind and supportive when I do get all misty-eyed over my supposed sorrows and tribulations, because it’s you who make any and all of it bearable. And keep it, despite my foolish self-centeredness, in perspective.

Joy for the day!

Digital illo from photos: Time to Make Waves

Let the happiness and love wash over us all!

Playland

Digital illo from a photo: PlaylandIs there a place that’s truly Playland for you? Where, if you need respite from reality for a while, you can be and let go of all your worries, can stop having to be the designated Grownup, can be rested and at peace—even for just a little while? A place that, if you only think of it with great concentration and meditate on its virtues, you can almost feel yourself there and come away from it renewed?

I have a few of these tucked away in my head, some of them real and some entirely made up from the candy-floss and butterfly eyelashes of my imagination. There are times when it’s almost too much to bear that I can’t be there in the physical world, so dreary or tragic-seeming that I can hardly even allow myself to think of my Playland wishes lest they, too, be tainted by the grim reality around me, but when I finally unclench myself enough to believe it’s okay to retreat to that safe and kindly haven, I find relief and renewal there. When I have resisted too long and at last revisit its splendors, there is always such sweet goodness in the moment of solace found in its fond welcome that I ask myself what you, too, should perhaps ask yourself, if you dare:

Why don’t I visit here more often?