Giggling among the Snapdragons

Digital illustration: Exploding SnapdragonSo many real-world things have such fanciful names that it’s a pity we really don’t pay much attention to them very often. Magical, rollicking words and names just roll off our tongues like music, yet we fail to pause and marvel at the wonderfulness of the sounds or ideas contained therein. If we must talk and listen and cogitate, why not relish, too, the sheer flavorful euphony of the language in which we do it?

I know, even as someone who barely manages a few words and phrases in various other languages (most of these, not surprisingly, food-related), that each language has its own elements of amusement, astonishment and alchemy embedded amid the ordinary terms and concepts of everyday use.

In the vestibule is one of the most wonderful of places one can be, in my estimation; it’s not for any innate fineness or elegance or appeal the room itself may well have or that being in it might confer upon me, but rather for the arcane and esoteric quality of the very word Vestibule, which leaps from lip to tongue to tooth with alacrity and verve long since arrested in lesser words that we use too commonly. For the same reason, one should seek out Encumbrances and Perspicacity, Snapdragons and Doodling and Capybaras: no such thing as a mere dictionary can explain the depth of pleasure derived from slurping the juices of a luscious, under-exercised word.

Strange Attractors

Living things, like certain mathematical systems, are attracted (or not) to each other in a wonderful variety of ways. It’s pretty hard to predict what will constitute an individual’s attractors. Some people might say that a warthog, for example, could only be attractive to another warthog, but that’s a very limited notion, because we all have different definitions of beauty and those definitions can be strictly visual but can easily also include appeals to our other senses, not only the standard receptors of touch, sound, taste or scent but also our sense of curiosity or contentment or spirituality or a whole range of other concepts.photoIf I were a little tiny Texas Spiny Lizard, for example, I might be interested in mating or procreating only with a similar little tiny lizard, but I could also very easily be attracted for other purposes to the warmth of a sunny concrete slab, the smorgasbord of yummy insects that visit a group of potted plants, or the shady shelter between the bricks on which the pots are perched, where I can hide from the patrolling cats of the neighborhood. If I were one of the cats, I can imagine I’d be very attracted to the lizard, not just out of feline curiosity but because cats apparently like Texas Spiny Lizards, I suppose because they are small, moving targets for the hunt and possibly just because a cat might enjoy a good set of lizard drumsticks or baby back ribs or tenderloin on occasion. Do cats analyze their dining on a basis of whether or not a meal ‘tastes like chicken‘? I don’t know, but I do know that small, moving objects and food are both common cat attractors.photoI’m sure it’s also safe to assume that others are attracted to these little reptiles. Most likely that’s the main reason I’ve rarely seen one on our patio or porch any larger than this three-inch/10 cm specimen. If one of the local hawks swoops close enough to notice them, such dainty critters would logically look like the animal equivalent of fast food, and some of the smaller but reasonably aggressive birds (I’m looking at you, bluejays) might compete for such a snack. Snakes, if any of those nearby are larger than my typical garden snake visitor, would find them delectable. So it goes. We are attracted to partners and friends, but also to that which will sustain our progress toward finer dining or just plain survival.photoMy admiration of Texas Spiny Lizards, tiny or not, is based on several of these elements. There’s the simple appeal of the handsome patterning on and sculptural shapes of their infinitesimal-alligator bodies, of course. Those zippy dashes they make from one spot to another first catch my eye and then intrigue me, especially when one of them stops to practice his pushups for a while. I like the way they hold very, very still in between moves, moving only their eyes as they seem to scan for bugs to eat or new heights of patio slab or plant pot-dom to conquer. And very often, I like to contemplate them at equal leisure, attracted most of all to their very differentness from me.

Tintinnabulation

photoOn the Hour

I hear a distant clamoring, that clear and golden hammering,

the calling so enamoring me of this hour of day,

That chorus of the chiming bells change-ringing, as their music swells

until no other parallels the news they swing to say,photo‘Til every other sound should cease as swiftly as the bells increase,

work stop, hopes rise, hearts fill with peace; the ringing calls that soon

The echo of its chimes will fall where it sang out from wall to wall

in waves of life over us all to tell us it is noon–photoNo wonder, in this ringing sphere of tonal loveliness I hear,

I sense a sweetness drawing near and beckoning to me

To join the clangor of the song, to strike at every chime and gong

and bell, that each must sing along and set the midday free–photoRing every bronze and silver note, ring brass and gold, and keep afloat

all of earth’s joy–the antidote to death is in this tune–

Ring happiness, ring love and peace; ring out the hour of sweet release;

ring the refrain of this caprice until another noon!

Good Conduct Medal

graphite sketchesEvery season of music has its marvels, masters and moments. In my life of following a conductor and his fellow artists around, I am privileged to be on hand for more such fine pleasures than most, and I never forget that this is a great bit of good fortune indeed.

Still, not every instant is guaranteed to be a glowing example of the highest and best of the musical arts. After all, there is all of the practice that must come first, and to be fair, no amount of practice can assure us of perfection. Mistakes happen; if  we’re lucky, learning happens as a result. But the distance between first-try and performance may be a long one indeed, and sometimes the distance isn’t quite long enough.

So I am grateful all the more when I attend a performance and hear something magical and meaningful and magnificent. I know that it took the performers a lot of concerted effort to come from wherever they started the process to this peak, and I am all the happier and richer for it. I know and appreciate, too, that it takes massive amounts of effort and energy and other resources on the part of organizers, managers, fans, logistics handlers, boards, angels, financiers, educators, ushers, ticket dealers, audience members, and all of those other assorted friends of the arts needed to make this work pay off in any way beyond the artists’ own satisfaction in the process, and that’s yet another level, another realm of generosity entirely that makes my little spot in the aural universe fuller.graphite sketches

Most of all I give my fervent thanks to all of the singers, players and conductors who strive to make this miracle happen again and again. Without your dedicated pursuit of the musical muse, there would be no such happy task for all of the friends of music who are not musicians ourselves. And unquestionably, the world would be a far less beautiful place.graphite drawing

The Sound of Inner Peace

 

photoSilence is both elusive and therefore, golden in this life. Even when we can escape the ambient clamor of our everyday existence it’s rather rare to achieve the sort of true silence that’s found in deep contemplation, deeper meditation or deepest sleep. Our own brains make an immense quantity of distracting and sometimes just plain disconcerting noise so much of the time that it’s rather remarkable we even know what silence is or can be.photoIt’s almost ironic, then, that what makes inner calm and silence possible for me is often music. The way that music can clear my mind of mess and detritus, allow me to empty myself of unproductive or unpleasant things and focus on things of grace and beauty until my mind opens up so wide that it can embrace genuine calm, peace, contentment and meaningful introspection, achieve a kind of silence that transcends nothingness and surpasses quietude. Music makes me whole.photo

A Mockingbird Appears

photoWhen ideas and inspiration have ceased, at least for the time being, to well up from the inside, it’s a mercy that the wide world contains so many and will hand them to me if I keep my senses ready enough. I often find myself too distracted by the busyness and pedestrian chores of the workaday world to see the magical other dimensions right within my reach, and need some helpful pricking from a sight or sound or scent as I pass through to remind me to open up the eye and ear and heart and take advantage of the universe’s generosity when it’s poured out so liberally right within my grasp.photoI walk in a haze of dully daily thought, lost to the world of rich and rare delights I’m walking in, when suddenly a mockingbird appears and turns its bright eye on me and seems to contemplate how absent I must be to almost pass it by when it’s quite nearly underfoot. In that shining eye a world reflects in which the other me is wrapped around with blooms, with drifting clouds sailing across a broad blue sky; with jasmine-scented breeze, with mist as the sprinklers spring to life, with happy shouts from a handful of little playing school kids passing me, looking for miracles of their own everywhere because they are yet too young to have forgotten them so foolishly as I have done. When the bird takes to its stripe-blazed wings and dives back into the air, my thoughts begin to follow and fly with it again: I am awake once more to flight and tune in to the rippling, rolling variations of its song as it rises to the trees, and soars above, and makes me remember that I am in a world full of wonder, if I will only let it fill me again.graphite drawing

Gleaming Afternoon

While I would soar, would gladly fly

Wide, in an arc across the sky

Whose dome of hotly burnished brass

Encompasses at every pass

The great wild height of atmosphere

That would engage to hold me here,

I can, eyes shut and spirit wide,

Pierce heaven to the great Outside.