Friday, November 27, 2009

...on the boundless bonds of thanksgiving...

Here in Indiana (ironically, mere hours away from my mother's birthplace in a neighboring state), I'm mystically pondering the two-sided coin of separation and unity...having been absent for a third year in a row from my side of the family's California Thanksgiving celebration. There I am the 'baby' of four sisters...yet my role in the central time zone is as the eldest among siblings/mates at the Chicago Martins festivities.

Having promised the Kingdom of Chocolate as my contribution to dinner, I brought pie to the festivities here - the 'derby' variety (pecan with chocolate chips) that is my California brother-in-law's favorite (I remember leaving the inevitable extra one in the Los Altos freezer on more than one thanksgiving), along with a chili chocolate torte that none of my family yet knows exists. This year, I made fresh cranberry relish - almost, but perhaps not quite as good as what has become the California favorite...while my inlaws here bemoan the lack of my mother's traditional cranberry sherbet I would usually bring to accompany the feast. Yet, the smell of my grandmother's onion dressing baking in both kitchens most certainly crossed the country's atmospheric borders of two time zones.

We ate gratefully and heartily in glasses and coffee cups sang in our hands as, I imagined, my family continued their tradition of grabbing theirs after dinner to walk through the neighborhood, over an enchanted bridge, to a school playground, where grandchildren - and some adults - have been known to swing and climb until almost too dark to get home. We frolicked in hamlet of Woodstock here today. And I couldn't help musing on how all four of us Ormsbee sisters might be unanimous in wishing to have been present at the festival of the same name!

These past two days, I held and made eyes at my granddaughter...while in California, my sister Susan's newest grandchild was welcomed and properly photographed through the keen eyes of a niece. Sister-in-law Susan was the only sibling missing here, but was somewhat 'nearby' with a FaceBook pre-comment. Here and there, most of the main cousins (a newly coined phrase here!) are present for the main event. But this time, NY Sarah was missing from our arms and my heart ached.

The spectre of our mothers' aging, heart-aching lives looms large for both families. My fragile mother has not made the trip from the central California valley to the bay area Thanksgiving for a handful of years or more. Dan's mother is always present here, but shares with my mother the pressing weight of the lack of a co-host and a capable and supportive companion at such events. Both Maynard and Elson died with Alzheimers. But, in and through their lives, they both graced their precious families with humor and a love of life together...and the amazing gift of being able to fix or build anything needed for the benefit of such, with their mantles taken up by the next generations, including willing sons-in-law, grandchildren as well. But the hole these two men have left in spousal hearts and at festive table is, most definitely, unfixable. 'Mind the gap' comes to my mind, not to avoid falling in it, but to be tenderly mindful...and perhaps even respectful of it.

Also missing this year's feast here were our son Jordan and his wife Angela...who, at this moment are closing gaps, forging links during a two week trip to Brazil. Elson Martins - the patriarch of the U.S. clan - was the only one of his family to leave that homeland...and not return for any Thanksgiving equivalents. From Rio to Sao Paulo to Bahia, Jordan & Angela will sit at table with the Brazilian family they became part of during his master's studies there a few years ago. They have before and will again eat, hug, laugh, kiss, converse. I wonder - can they smell the mystical onion dressing from there?

Love happens in spite of and even through distance. Life cycles and swirls around us, making us one and making us miss being one. The being and the missing are all part of the whole. And I suppose it's meant to be that way.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saith a Reviewer: " See this film. It will remind you of how thrilling it is to be an active thinking, feeling member of the human race."

Ten minutes ago, I entered a dream...via the TV remote and Independent Film Channel. So...while utter and completely transfixed, I saw the last ten minutes of bloody brilliance in 'Waking Life'. AND - the tango music interlaced throughout is based on scores of the master - Astor Piazzolla.

Got 98 minutes?

TV info: A young vagabond listens to such varied subjects as existentialism, evolution, alienation, dreaming and the media. (Rated R)

Here, you can see a worthy review and fascinating info on the making of a masterpiece.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the oh so Lovely 'A Chloris...'

Utterly hypnotic art song by Reynaldo Hahn. Sung sublimely by French sensation, Philippe Jaroussky. Piano accompaniment puts me into a trance.

While packing in California less than 18 months ago, I went through binder after binder of accompaniments I had played in a concentrated year - looking for one two-page pearl: A Chloris. I did not find it. (Unwisely, I discarded almost everything else, thinking I would never need them. Surprise: by grace, vocal accompanying fell into my lap here.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

life in death and death in life...

My mother's most fascinating life story is of her near death experience. She was an older teen, living at home...perhaps 17 or 18 years of age. She remembers being in the kitchen and saying to her mother, 'My heart has stopped beating'. Her mother insisted that was a ridiculous statement. But to Susanne, it was true: She began floating upward into the sky, irresistibly drawn towards the Light. Smelling salts and slaps brought her back to earth. I asked how she felt: 'Disappointed' was her reply. She had been happy and safe in the warmth and peace of the interrupted journey, and wished it could continue.

Recently, I received a long, poignant email from a friend who was heavy laden with the loneliness of loss...four friends, from near and far, having passed recently. 'Driving through a waterfall of tears' is how the grief fell on him. I feel that time in my life coming at me like a train - hijacking my intentional journey and slapping me with an about face. Tonight, news of another death from our California church family. Surely, this lovely lady is in a crystal place of light in God's love...light years from earth's sod.

But, what of us - those in the middle...between our making and our remaking? The juxtaposition of 'here' and 'there' is often too much to comprehend or bear. At times I rail, Why is it that we are left here...sometimes with lead footed heaviness... weary of being encapsulated in the imperfect state that traps us - a state perhaps most accurately defined by the unknowns of our exit details.

When my father died, I rejoiced for his separation from his painfully ailing body, so that he could be the radiant person he was made to be. So perhaps tonight I weep not for beautiful Dorothy, but for someone left behind who loves her. And for us, also left behind in a place we were not made a life that we love and live, but that seems, sadly, light years from my mother's interrupted flight to freedom in the heart of God.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

fall leaves...

"Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance!"

-- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

video d'resistance...

Fr C is soft on Lucy...but it doesn't turn out quite as he expected:


Sunday, September 21, 2008

by popular demand...

The latest video of Lucy and Bat Girl. (She does have circles with the bat symbol on both sides of her body - very fitting, we think.)

Note the starting position, with the little trouble maker draped across Lucy's jugular.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

good work...

My mother always encouraged her four daughters to 'put your shoulders back' - a vehicle for lauding the importance of good posture. I couldn't do it. It never felt natural or right at all. Later, I would hear from others, 'hold your chest high'. Ditto there, for what seemed to me to be artificially manipulating the human body and perhaps the human spirit as well. Then there was 'Picture a string pulling you up from the top of your head'. Well, perhaps we're getting closer here.

Our daughters model good posture for the rest of us, a result of vocal studies. There is a lifting of their torsos out of that place of bodily solidity - the hips/abdomen - that naturally aligns everything in its path as it grows and stretches into proper position. To me, this technique doesn't artificial but rather very organic and natural in its action and result. I do it, when I remember to! And it just feels right.

When our children were young, I walked an inner tightrope between wanting them to know how wonderful and amazing they are - and not overly praising them for good work done or stressing how proud I was as if it is the latter that makes them the former. "I'm so happy for you" would sometimes be on my lips after an accomplishment. I'm sure I didn't balance the implied tension very well at all. But I didn't want them to think of the performing parts of life (from school work to recitals to degrees...dinners prepared and fabrics & paints, sewn and applied) as something that was to impress others or define their worth, but rather as some good work from and for them. Something to relish, enjoy and be grateful for. And also to ponder in that, in the mystery of how it interlaces with life. Something natural. "You're wonderful" was always in my heart because it's true - but in a much more cosmic sense than we know.

Wendell Berry's 'Good Work', (from What Are People For), offers a somewhat spiritual interpretation of good works that puts the natural back into a what is sometime an artificial concept in life:

Good work finds the way between pride and despair. It graces with health. It heals with grace. It preserves the given so that it remains a gift. By it, we lose loneliness: we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us; we enter the little circle of each other's arms, and the larger circle of lovers whose hands are joined in a dance, and the larger circle of all creatures, passing and out of life, who also move in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.

Friday, August 29, 2008

weeping for wonder...

The spiritually profound O Magnum Mysterium by Morton Lauridsen.

UST Alumni Singers, both incredibly able and obviously popular (over 80,000 views).

Below, proof that a group can be seamlessly one, even when comprised of solo quality voices, one of which is deliciously featured here in Unusual Way (from the musical Nine, Maury Yeston, composer). Arrangement by their director.