Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tending Toward Serenity

Ever in the forefront of my mind is an appreciation of the natural wonders our Pacific Northwest offers. Trees and naturally flowing waters are my talismans.

The following piece was written during a three day retreat with two other writer-friends at the Oregon coast. 

                                                        Three Days

One day, gunmetal gray skies, rain blowing sideways,
pelting the huge windows,
sliding down in liquid, sensuous sheets.
White capped waves churned and roiled.
Murres and gulls squawked,
swooped along the crests—seeking.
One morning, skies strewn with cumulous clouds.
Harbinger of an afternoon sky turning absolute blue.
Three friends, writing, parsing.
At times, silence. A camaraderie needing no words.
We reveled in the sound of quiet.
Soft susurration of waves and birdsong—
a soothing background.

That abiding sense of solace usually, easily, found in nature had been eroded somewhat by my keen awareness of the ongoing national unrest; the dissonance of the many voices and the seeming inability to compromise; the spate of human-caused destruction born out of our hubris and sense of entitlement.

These three days were a balm—a much-needed respite from the cacophony which I had begun allowing into my psyche.

                                    The sole art that suits me is that which, 
rising from unrest, tends toward serenity. 
~ Andre Gide


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Discretionary Listening

The older I grow the more I listen 
to people who don’t talk much
~ Germain G. Glien

The author of an op-ed piece in our local paper posits beginning a “Slow News” movement, a lá Michael Pollen’s “Slow Food” concept. This columnist feels most news is of little importance and asks us to “… question the value of the perpetual fast-food-like empty-calories news that is processed to keep us addicted to it.”

The recent horrendous acts of gun violence at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut were 24/7 fodder for the mediaeach outlet striving to be the first with the latest tidbit of information. Most of us wanted to know what had happened and our hearts broke for the pain the loved ones had to endure. This was not empty-calorie news.

However, as with other instances of international, national or regional importance, “breaking news” alerts bombarded us—either crawling along the bottom of our TV screens or blasting through our radios. Each media entity strove to be the one to grab our attention and tease us so that we would hang on through the looming and long commercial break.

It is in the best interests of my own emotional health that I be vigilant about the amount of processed news I allow into my psyche. Therefore, a few days after this tragedy, I stopped paying attention to the latest “breaking news." Instead I chose to concentrate on the broader conversation regarding access to assault weapons. 

I continue to be interested in sensible, non-confrontational discussions about gun control. Two days ago I spoke at length with a friend who is a former policeman, who knows what it’s like to use a gun in the line of duty and who owns several automatic weapons. He is adamant that assault weapons have no place in the hands of private citizens. 

Friends who have used weapons to legally hunt, who have had access to rifles since they were children and some who have concealed weapon permits, each and every one of them hold nothing but derision for those young men who felt the need to strut through our town with assault rifles slung over their shoulders. Yes, a “statement” was made, but I truly doubt it was the one those boys hoped for.

Timendi causa est nescire
Ignorance is the cause of fear
~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

It often seems as though the world is a seething cauldron of hatred and violence. When we take time to delve into the root causes, we frequently discover ignorance drives the vitriol and fear perpetuates it. Sadly, there are those who profit immensely from creating a feeding frenzy of fear.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Memorable Notes

Music is a strange thing. I would almost say it is a miracle.
For it stands halfway between thought and phenomenon,
between spirit and matter.
~ Heinrich Heine

My life is filled with an amazing array of delights. There are times when the emotions these “delights” engender just about overwhelm my senses. Sometimes it’s simply the random juxtaposition of life’s occurrences—one simple, pure and totally enjoyable event followed by another, far different, yet in so many ways bringing the same spark to my world. In the past week I’ve experienced three of these memorable happenings. Each one involved music.

The opening chord came to me as a gift from a dear friend: an evening of Beethoven’s compositions.

Even though I played violin and cello as a young teen, I am no musical aficionado. Through the years I’ve attended several professional symphony performances and I rate some as riveting and lively and a few as boring dirges. This presentation held my rapt attention for the full 90 minutes.

After each piece the professional musicians merited and received round after round of applause and at the finale, standing ovations with “Bravo!” echoed throughout the concert hall.

Two hours before this performance my friend and I shared a relaxing, convivial dinner. Even though I had no expectations, I’m certain this helped set the stage for my enjoyment of the evening’s music.

Three days later, I joined my son and family at a spring musical performance by 1st and 2nd graders. My 6-year old grandson, bashful smiles coming in waves, stood in the second row with his “Army Ant” hat on, intently watching the entertaining and highly animated music teacher lead the group of fifty or more children in their songs.

I sat forward in my seat, smiling as I watched the young, intent, serious faces. As I listened to their sweet, clear voices, tears came to my eyes. So much hope in those voices, so much possibility in their small bodies and so very many mountains for them to climb. I pray we haven’t left them a world too broken to repair.

The next day another friend and I attended a senior theater group’s springtime musical, comedy and dance presentation. And, by “senior” I mean several decades old! The youngest performer of the 32 member cast is 65 and the oldest, a perfect imitator of Minnie Pearl, is 96.

I sat forward in my seat, smiling as I watched the seniors, so intent and focused as they tap-danced, sang and cracked jokes. Their verve and liveliness belied their calendar ages. As I listened and watched, tears came to my eyes. So much life has been lived by these amazingly agile and talented people, so many experiences, so many stories to tell, so many mountains climbed. I said a prayer of thankfulness because their enthusiasm gave me hope…for the children.

It's not that age brings childhood back again,
Age merely shows what children we remain.
~ Goethe