No right way. No wrong way.
No judgement. No comparison.
After 18 straight evenings of rain, the forecast called for a dry night on December 27th, and I made my annual trek to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden to see the holiday lights.
Usually I pick the coldest night in December to do my wandering in the garden. But this December temperatures were in the mid-70’s, and the evening was balmy. The garden’s flowering crabapple trees and ornamental cherry trees and witch hazel were all in bloom. Lenten roses decided to be advent roses. A cold craft-brewed beer was more welcome than hot chocolate.
I beat the lines of evening crowds by arriving about 5 p.m., and then waited for sunset in the orchid house. This year the orchids stole the show from the light displays. I’ve never seen so many in bloom at one time. These were my favorites:
The light displays are more beautiful every year. I hope you enjoy this year’s slide show of Holiday Lights in the Garden.
For a look at previous years’ holiday lights, check out this post.
I wish you all a most magical and joyful New Year!
“What if 10,000 (or more!) people journaled together for 30 Days?” That’s what Lisa Sonora wants to know.
On July 1st I’ll be joining thousands of other new and experienced journalers for “FLOW – The 30-Day Journal Project.” Every day I’ll receive an inspirational quote and related journal prompts delivered to my email address. And best of all, it’s free to participate. That’s right – completely and totally FREE!
If you’ve never kept a journal before, this project is the perfect way to start. There’s no need to fear the blank page or wonder what you are going to write. The daily journal prompts will guide your writing as you explore making your creativity flow.
If you are experienced in keeping a journal, this project will help you dust off and freshen up your journal practice. I’ve kept a journal since the early 1970’s, but only recently began using journal prompts as part of Lisa Sonora’s Creative+Practice on-line class. Writing in response to a journal prompt opened up new information and understanding about my creative blocks and emotional patterns, especially around music and performance anxiety.
Our minds love to solve problems. When we give it a prompt to respond to, both our conscious and unconscious mind are activated to search for the “answers” to the questions that the prompts evoke.
If you’d like to participate in the FLOW- The 30-Day Journal Project, click the link, and sign up with your favorite email address. June 30th is only a week away. Don’t dawdle! You won’t want to miss your first journal prompt on July 1st.
a: the act of devoting <devotion of time and energy>
b : the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal <her devotion to the cause> <filial devotion>
It’s another Tuesday afternoon, and I’m rolling my harp and gear down the hall at the Hospice unit. As I walk past an open door I can see a family in the room across from the nurse’s station. Curled on her side in the huge hospital bed is an impossibly old woman – tiny, wrinkled and weathered, wizened, and dying. Sitting at her bedside is an impossibly old man – not as wrinkled, but equally weathered. He rests his head on the bed beside his wife. He is looking into her eyes, and gently stroking her hand that lies atop the turned-down sheet. I can see his love in how he looks at her, in his delicate, soft touch. He loves her even as she leaves him, even as the life he knows with her comes to an end. I see devotion that grew and strengthened over the decades they spent together.
And so, I play for him today. I play hoping to ease the burdens of letting go, of saying goodbye. I play hoping to show that he is not alone as he walks the path of endings, that others knew and felt this pain, and told their stories of losses and leavings in these old tunes from Celtic lands. I play tunes for a breaking heart.
Towards the end of my hour on the unit, his granddaughters help him slowly shuffle down the hall to where I am playing. They find a chair and help him sit close to me. He listens so attentively, leaning towards me to hear the music. There’s a light in his eyes, a twinkle, and he smiles broadly when I finish. He looks deep into my eyes and says, “Thank you.” I look back as deeply. There are no words – the music said all that is needed.
This is why I play music, why I play the harp, why I devote my time to harp lessons, to practicing, to learning repertoire. This is why my love and my energy and my desire are all found at my harp bench. This is why I haul my harp and bench and music stand through the hospital parking deck and corridors and elevators on Tuesday afternoons. I play music for connection, and for transcendence. Today I receive both – gifts from Music, and from the ripened fruit of devotion.
It’s magnolia time again. Walking through clouds of their heaven-sent aroma each morning tells me that the earth turned ’round the sun to another May.
Last May, I was at the coast on a rented pontoon boat, sifting Ruth Ann’s ashes through my fingers and into the ocean she loved. This May, I sit in a hospital room, watching another friend sleep after exhausting afternoons of leaking IV’s, painful turnings, disgusting lunches, and procedure after procedure as various doctors engaged in “the practice of medicine” attempt to find the cause of her downward spiral from vivacious, sparkling musician to bedridden invalid.
Calling her my “friend” isn’t exactly right. We are friends, but it’s more than that. But we’re not like sisters, and we’re not mother-daughter either, despite the difference in our ages. After days of sitting with her, I decide that she is as close as I’ll ever come to having a fairy-godmother. For she’s made my wish of being a musician come true.
I first met her at a concert that I attended solely because the advertisement said a harp trio would perform. I was looking for a harp teacher. After the concert I asked her if she taught harp. She quickly said, “Oh, heavens, no. But I have a wonderful teacher. Let me give you her name and phone number.” And so I found my teacher and started my harp journey.
I met her again a year later, when I started playing in the community college harp ensemble. Then, I could barely read and play two notes per measure with my two index fingers. She sat beside me, and counted out the measure numbers while she played so I would know where I was supposed to be in the music.
When rotator cuff surgery ended my African drumming days, I dusted off my 7th grade recorder and decided that I wanted to play in the community college recorder ensemble that she directs. I asked her if she could teach me enough basic recorder technique to be able to join the group. She took me on as a student that summer, and I joined the ensemble in the fall. She continued my lessons so that I could keep up with learning the ensemble repertoire. A couple of years later, she told me it was time for me to up my recorder skills and go to the Mountain Collegium, a week-long summer early music workshop. She then set to teaching me how to play the alto recorder, so that I would be ready for the intensive Collegium classes.
Sometime during those hours of sitting beside each other in lessons, playing our recorders together, we became more than just student and teacher – we became friends.
Three years ago, after one of my most disastrous performance experiences, she dragged my reluctant self to a Hospice volunteer recruitment lunch. While I was ready to never, ever play beyond the walls of my practice room again, she told me that I needed to play on the Hospice unit. As we walked through the doors of the Hospice offices, she told the Hospice staff that I played the harp. The volunteer coordinator grabbed an application and a clipboard and shoved them into my hands, and insisted that I complete my volunteer paperwork right then and there.
One of my favorite things since becoming a Hospice volunteer is playing with my friend at the hospital. We have a program of recorder duets, harp and recorder duets, and harp and viola de gamba duets, that we play both in the hospital lobby and on the Hospice unit.
She was my chief cheerleader and practice coach when I played in the Early Music Consort. Eating our lunch together after Consort rehearsals, she would always tell me the things I did well in my playing that day. She was my antidote to the overall negative experience of playing in that ensemble.
All of my adventures in music trace their paths back to her. In addition to connecting me to all these opportunities, she taught me about being a musician: how to listen, how to hear the music inside my head before playing, how to use my breath to create a flowing musical line, how to play well with others, how to keep moving forward in the music despite my inevitable train-wrecks, and most of all, how to share my love for the music and the instruments I play with whoever might be my audience.
Now she’s facing her biggest challenge, far worse and more difficult than anything she’s ever faced on her music stand. The result of all her tortuous medical procedures is a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. The chemotherapy she began this week has only a 50-50 chance of bringing about a remission. And that is only if she has the strength to endure the four different poisons that will kill the cancer cells.
The treatment pretty much destroys her immune system, so she is in a specialized hospital chemotherapy unit that is designed to reduce the risk of contracting what would be fatal infections. She’s not allowed visitors outside of her immediate family. Fairy-godchild does not meet the hospital definition of “immediate family,” so my time spent sitting at her bedside is over.
I don’t know how this story is going to end. Ten days ago, when she didn’t recognize me, when playing my harp in her hospital room failed to spark any response, I thought Music had left her heart and her time was over. This week, she wishes that there was a piano in her hospital room so she could “just play something.” Music remains her dearest friend and strongest ally. I don’t know if Music can keep her heart and spirit safe enough for her to survive this assault on her body. But today I believe in her spunk, and in Music’s potential to save her. Today, I do not have to say another goodbye.
We are all shaped by our wounds, but we are not defined by them.
Yesterday I spent time with a friend who is enduring a great loss. I came home and did this page in my sketchbook. While it won’t make my friend feel any better, my heart was a little lighter after I finished it.
It’s week four of Dreaming on Paper: The Creative Sketchbook , and Lisa Sonora gave us additional techniques to play with, complete with photo instructions. One of the techniques is “napkin collage.” I saved this napkin years ago because I loved the color of the poppies. My napkin collage page turned out to be the perfect background for what is either another found poem, or wisdom from the world behind the world.
As a card carrying introvert, I totally love this t-shirt posted by C. B. Wentworth. If you have any idea where it can be purchased, please post the info in a comment. You will be adored, quietly of course, by introverts the world over.
Earlier this week, a friend of mine posted a picture of an awesome t-shirt of my Facebook timeline. She knows I love a good nerd shirt (see last week’s post) and she just had to share a spectacular find.
We’re both introverts, so it’s amazing we ever became friends. And it’s even more amazing that our friendship has continued despite our complete and total social impairment and awkwardness. In many ways, I think our friendship hinges on the fact that we can relate to each other because we share the inability to function in larger groups (or small groups). She gets me and I get her. And boy do we love to laugh about it.
So when this t-shirt popped up on her radar she knew I’d love it. And I do. I want it!
The problem is the picture was not linked. I have no idea where to…
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