Wednesday Wonders: Spring Sacraments

Standard

Spring in one of the best wonders I know and I’ve got a few photos to prove it.

Blossoms and acres of green keep finding me wherever I go:

The spring fair:

Dogs that bark at me from windows while I walk deep in the hilltop:

IMG_7554

Of course, the black cat who curls up on rainy afternoons:

IMG_7587

New-to-me things like glasses with modern miracles like progressive lenses:

IMG_7570

Kids at those insane birthday parties and in living room tents that make them grin and the heads of the parents spin:

And more flowers — especially the ones in my mother’s back yard.

IMG_7577

I keep up a good show after spring passes into summer but I never feel quite as alive as I do this time of year. I agree with Emily Dickinson. Just existing in this season feels like a sacrament.

 

May you find flowers and grace as we fall down into summer-

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

Advertisements

Wednesday Wonders: Young Clarinet Player Wins Award Named After a Clarinet Playing Doctor

Standard

Special Note: This is a piece I wrote for the Puyallup Valley Community Band, a group I rehearse and perform with throughout the year. It’s a wonder to me that music can mean so much to so many at all ages. 

Katriel Looney_2015

For Katriel Looney, reeds are the biggest problem with playing the clarinet. It’s a constant struggle to find good ones and maintain a decent supply.

“Brass players have no idea,” she said.

Recently, she found enough good reeds to audition with Puyallup Valley Community Band and win the 2016 Lovezzola Music Award. Originally called the Outstanding High School Soloist Award, the band renamed the scholarship after a local doctor when he passed away in 2012. Dr. Mike Lovezzola was a founding member of the Puyallup Valley band and played clarinet with the group for twenty-two years. Looney is the first clarinet player to win the award since Lovezzola left the bequest to help fund it.

Looney’s private teacher Stan Purvis knew she was going places when he first met her in her 7th grade year. “I don’t think I’ve ever told her anything she hasn’t remembered.” He praised her innate sense of tone, ability to project, and knowledge of phrasing.

Katriel isn’t a newcomer to the Puyallup Valley Community Band. She’s been rehearsing and performing with them since she was fourteen and the youngest member of the all ages group.

Now eighteen years old, the Puyallup High School senior practices an hour a day after her chemistry class at Pierce Community College where she is also a Running Start student. Not short on ambition or talent, she is considering a double major in molecular biology and bioengineering along with music performance.

For the Lovezzola audition, she played the same concerto by Carl Maria von Weber that won her a college scholarship to the University of Washington and a superior rating in the Valley Regional Solo Ensemble Contest.

Purvis said he knew she needed to challenge herself with the more athletic and aggressive piece to expand her abilities even though it was not the more lyrical style she often favors.

His encouragement and her years of hard work paid off while Lovezzola would surely be pleased to know she found the right reed.

You can hear Looney perform Weber’s Clarinet Concerto in a concert with the band at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20th at First Christian Church of Puyallup, 623 9th Avenue S.W.

Admission is free.

Wednesday Wonders: How a Storyteller can have Superpowers

Standard

She-Ra 12

 

My mother-in-law Vivian likes to read popcorn Christian romances. You know the type. There’s a swooning woman and a shirtless guy on every cover of the stacks of books she keeps close at hand. God is always a player in these stories so they are not exactly Harlequins — but they aren’t far off.

Once I picked up a book with a title something like Breaking Love and read the first chapter. The writer knew what she was doing with an engaging opening scene and tension that made me wonder if Priscilla was ever going to unfreeze her heart after that last horrendous breakup with Jonathan because she needed to in order to save the farm.

I always thought these book were just silly things that Vivian read until my father-in-law Jim got sick. A retired home health nurse, Vivian took care of him for about two years as his health got slowly worse and worse from diabetes and cirrhosis caused by medications.

As he sunk deeper and deeper he became less and less engaged in the world around him. I could see Vivian becoming more and more alone in caring for him 24 hours a day.

One day I asked her about this. She said yes it was lonely but she often lost herself in her books. I could see how much those stories of Pricillas and Jonathans meant to her.

The writer in me perked up. Sometimes it feels as though the job I do with words is not worth much to others. People often ask me to do it for free. It is a vital piece of what I do in my paid work but not recognized much for its own worth. I work with student nurses who will likely save physical lives in their careers. The value of what I do is not nearly as clear cut.

But a story that could ease my mother-in-law’s burden. Now that was worth something. I honestly believe those silly plot lines saved her sanity and helped to heal her breaking heart in a way that no pharmaceutical could have.

Recently, I heard another story in a Radiolab podcast that reminded me of Vivian and her books.

In this a father desperately wanted to do something to help his premature daughter as her translucent body slipped back and forth between life and death. She was born at twenty three weeks and 6 days and was not at all fully formed.

_DSC5721

A baby much healthier and older than the one in an incubator whose father read to her.

He started reading her Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The mom and dad noticed that her oxygen saturation levels went up whenever he read — unless he tried to act out Hagrid’s voice. Then her numbers went down. His wife made him stop scaring the baby but he kept reading.

DSC00028

Maybe the little girl was not reacting to the story. Maybe that is not a medically sound analysis. But it was clear to me that the dad needed to read it like he needed her to keep breathing. (She lived and is now a five year old ready to begin kindergarten.)

I realize what I am saying here contradicts what I said last week about writing for myself and not worrying about the interest or approval of others. I have found that most good life answers have an opposite side to them.

I do need a reason to write outside of myself. It can’t be my everything but when I hear how much stories matter to others it helps me to keep going.

In fact, I am such a sap that the story about Harry Potter and the baby made me cry.

That’s why I do this, I told myself. I don’t know that it will help a grieving widow or a desperate father. But what I do is for me and it’s also for others who might need the story I’m writing as much as they need any other kind of medicine.

I don’t know that what I write will work for them. But it’s worth a shot.

May you find your own story medicine-

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

Wednesday Wonders: Leap into Making the Art, Good or Not

Standard

I do kid crafts. Sometimes I do them without kids.

My latest big idea was a Leap Year Day with a frog theme. (Get it? Leap? Frog? I found this grand idea surfing around the Internet.)

I planned to make a time capsule out of a Pringles can, green construction paper and various cheap decor. The idea was to put mementos from the lives of my kid and the kids of my friend Billie Jo into the capsule. We’ll store it and check it again on the next leap year in 2020. (Egad, that feels way beyond a space age year.)

There was only one problem.

My kid wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. Neither was my friend’s boy. They both would rather bounce off the walls and fight over possession of various toy trucks than make a craft.

I didn’t let this stop me. I made my own parts for the time capsule. My friend and her two girls had a good time with me as we made handprint frogs and decorated the capsules.

This is one of the beauties of being an older mother with another older kid who also has no interest in crafts — I’ve learned not to depend on the interest of 5-year-olds for my own joy.

I reminded myself of this lesson recently as I started to fret over the submissions I made a few months back. I waited patiently for a response for about a month, and then I began to get antsy. When would they get back to me? 

Worse, this impatience started to stall me out on the projects I was doing.

I remembered leap day and thought maybe writing and other life arts are an awful lot like doing crafts with kids who may not have any interest in playing your games.

I make the stuff. I put it out there. And then I make more.

Maybe others will be interested. Maybe they would rather fight over their possessions, bounce off the ways , or do some other surfing on the internet. Whatever they choose to do, if I keep my head and my heart in my work, I win.

Neil Gaiman had something to say along these lines. He once tried a project only for the money and it failed. Here is what he shared in a commencement speech I love:

“I decided that I would do my best in the future not to write books just for money. If you didn’t get the money then you didn’t have anything. If I did the work I was proud of and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.”
― Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art

And I would say that you can substitute the word ‘money’ with ‘approval’ or ‘the interest of others.’

I don’t know if my frog party was ‘good art.’ But it sure was fun. I’d do it again even if I were the only one at that party.

And I guess that’s what I do every morning I wake up and make my art, good or not.