Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful, 11/28/13: Sharing

We traveled today, our family. Shared cross words (and some thrown elbows and one shove,) and also hugs. And snacks. Husband shared the Great Courses CD he’s been listening to—“The Symphonies of Beethoven.” Youngest wanted to borrow my iPod and asked me to choose the music for her. She wanted “classical” and “fast,” and I shared the last movement of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. Twice we heard a quiet Oh! from the back seat while she listened. Oldest shared some of his music with me, as well as things that make him laugh. We will share his asthma medicine while we’re away from home, since mine didn’t make it into the car. Youngest shared the first glimpse of sunset with everybody. Husband and Middle shared goofy haiku, taking turns writing lines (they also share a particular sense of humor.) We all took turns sharing sightings of birds—bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, Canada geese. Middle pointed out how a swath of wind turbines all blinked their lights at exactly the same time, and then she shared with us the non-goofy haiku she wrote about it.

My parents shared their table with us when we arrived, we brought cranberry sauce and toffee and wine. We ate and talked and ate and talked. Over the years we have shared many words, much laughter, many tears, much love—we have each been the cause and the recipient of each of those things. I believe, in the end, the love will be remembered above the rest. I do not believe any of us forgot to be thankful.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful, 11/27/13: Always a Story—

Which means that everything contains some element of mystery. Always something to learn, always something to understand, and always a kind of freedom in knowing that it might not all be known. I see richness in that, and beauty.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful, 11/25/13: Easy Toffee

I have this recipe for toffee that is ridiculously easy. Also ridiculously fast and ridiculously delicious.

Cook a stick of butter and ¾ c. packed light brown sugar in the microwave on high for 5 minutes, stirring every minute. Pour out on a foil-lined cookie sheet, and sprinkle with a ½ c. of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Cover with another, overturned cookie sheet or muffin tin for 1 minute to soften the chocolate, then spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. Break into pieces.

It does not take much time, but it requires me to stay in the kitchen and not do other things while I make it. It is an excuse to stand next to the microwave and read a book in between stirring sessions. And stirring! Bubbling butter and brown sugar—it is beautiful and rich and fragrant, and captures all five senses. And although the making of it is fast, the scent of toffee lingers in the house and in my hair all day, and I cannot get enough of smelling it.

It’s not completely foolproof—like other candies, you cannot make it on humid days because the texture won’t turn out. Also, it seems that different brands of brown sugar have different moisture contents, which will also affect the texture. (What the texture not turning out means, though, is that while it’s not good enough to give away, it is still good enough to eat. Chewy-soft and gritty, it is just as sweet. Addictive, in fact.)

Texture aside, this is a favorite thing to make, because it is special, sweet, good enough to make a gift of. And easy.

I am resigned to life not being easy. I accept that good things—the things I really want—often require work, effort, sacrifice of some sort. They are worth it. But some good things are, in fact, easy on top of everything else, and those are a wonder. I am so thankful for them: when I look up and notice that the sky has changed from beautiful to beautiful and there seems to be a promise with it that beauty and change never get used up, when relationships flow easily and with love, when my lungs fill deeply and without effort, when life works—these things are a wonder. And on top of all that, there's toffee.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful, 11/21/13: Natural Light

A rainy day yesterday. Something about the sound of thunder in November is particularly enjoyable—maybe it’s the surprise of it. Maybe it’s just the comfort of being inside and warm when I hear it.

It was dark inside, but after everybody else left for school and work in the morning I felt little need to turn on lights. Letting the light come in from outside, dim as it was, felt perfect. Enjoyable, seeing things differently. Good, to welcome in what presents itself.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankful, 11/20/13: Bits of Magic

This was put here with the hope that I would see it—a surprise, a gift:

These weren’t personal, but I got to see them on a morning run:

a sidewalk laced with slug trails, glittering all the way up a tough hill

another patch of sidewalk—bare, but due to some effect of light and wet, bearing the image of many fallen leaves—a tapestry.

I am thankful for how the ordinary is anything but.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful, 11/18/13: "Et incarnates est"

From Franz Josef Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis (The “Lord Nelson” Mass): “Et incarnates est” (He became incarnate) Please listen. 

God made flesh. Descending to earth, joining us here. The Unreachable, reaching out to us. This is hope and mercy and grace, this is light in the dark.

I am thankful for this, and for the earthly things that, in their own ways, speak of it.

Last week was especially busy, leading up to two performances over the weekend, both out of town. Youngest and Middle were sick, Oldest was preparing for a competition that was also out of town. I’ve been fighting illness, myself—again or still or whatever it is at this point. Our schedule seems on the brink of un-doable. And in general I feel like I am in a semi-constant state of failure, which means I’ve also been sort of a bear to be around.

In the midst of all this, music. Beautiful stuff that meets me wherever I am, stays with me, infuses everything.

The organ music that soaks into my bones, healing something deep within.

The pieces I am teaching my students, that—in the midst of antsy-ness and distraction and crumbs and glitter and runny noses—shift sometimes into glimmering moments of pure, focused music.

My own children’s singing—odd tunes at odd moments, an old song with new words: small windows, bits of levity.

And then the music I got to take part in, this whole last week, myself: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade”, Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass, Finzi’s “In Terra Pax.” 

Could I do all the day-to-day stuff without this music that descends, reaches-in, transcends? My lungs have not felt right since April. The degree of not-right has varied greatly and I am actually quite good at ignoring it, but it wears, just the same. The busyness, the ever-present not-measuring-up—they wear, as well. When I am wrapped up in the music, and the music is wrapped around me, I do not even have to ignore—I can be beyond it completely.

I do not believe this is escape. I believe these are whispers of Et incarnates est, of Immanuel, God with us. The words have been mingling with the music all week.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankful, 11/15/13: Just Right

Each day, for The Violin Project, I carry eight small violins to and from the primary school where we meet. Eight small violins, plus my own, plus—twice a week—either Youngest’s or Middle’s violin. Along with my purse, my teaching bag and my laptop, this is exactly the limit to what I can carry from the car into the school in one trip. It’s maybe a little crazy-looking, but it works.

I admit that I worried I would not have enough students to do this, or enough donations, and I never did recruit volunteers the way I intended to. Turns out, the numbers, size, pacing, and the people all turned out to be what they needed to be in order to get this project off the ground. That is such a comfort, and such an encouragement. And it’s just one example of what I’ve started to see around me over the years.

There is strength in this, I think, to trust the effort, the work, the journey. Strength to trust that what is supposed to happen will happen. Strength to keep showing up and pour into it all I’m able. Strength to maybe even relax a little and enjoy it. 

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful, 11/11/13: Wonder

Can I say this without sounding sentimental and goofy, that my first impression was that I was looking at something wide-eyed and amazed? That’s what I saw: wonder first, a seed head second. The moment has stayed with me, and I’m glad.

Who’s to say wondrous things don’t look back at you sometimes in awe? 

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thankful, 11/10/13: Quiet

I get that these are The Busy Years. I know they will fly by. I try to be as present as possible as all of it overflows, crazy and beautiful and everything else, too.

But the quiet moments—those are especially beautiful. I crave them. Earlier this weekend I found myself staring out the kitchen sink window, completely absorbed in the feel of warm water running over my fingers. Yes it was a stolen moment, and that just added to the deliciousness of it. This is something I’ve done all my life—zone out, daydream, get lost in my own world—and I’ve always enjoyed it. What has changed is that the ability to do it feels a lot more like a gift than a quirk. 

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful, 11/7/13: Details


and this:

and this:

The light and shadows and colors were extraordinary this morning. Every direction you looked, something beautiful, and yes it’s always like that really, but today was more so. The fact that this beauty goes deep—that you can go closer and closer in and the details never falter—amazes me over and over.

I will stay happily distracted by it all for ever and ever.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful, 11/6/13: Honey

“I’m sorry to hear that, Hon.” It took me by surprise, saying that to a child who was not my own. The words, though, came easily. I am thankful for that.

There was a time I couldn’t imagine being comfortable enough to use a term of endearment with anybody. It seemed so natural for some people. Surely it would sound fake, coming from me. And then there was a man who called me Dear. Later on, children, whose breaking-in to my life produced rivers—torrents—of special names. Even when they aren’t so sweet. Maybe especially because of the un-sweetness that marks some days, that laces through all of us.

Breathtaking, how a life can expand and contract, sometimes all at once.

And now, habit, and age, and expansion-and-contraction—and the words slip out, Honey, Sweetie, Love. I never would have believed I was the type, but it sounds different coming out than I thought it would. Not saccharine, not flowery. Simply recognition: You are precious. You are what I love, contained all in one spot. I refuse to forget.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankful, 11/4/13: Less Lost than I Think

As in: the things I think are lost, or forgotten, or wasted, usually aren’t. Time, effort, whatever it was that slipped through your fingers today—they have this way of showing up later in beautiful-odd forms, never the way you’d expect.

And also as in: the times I think I am lost and turn off the road in a panic in order to find my way. Usually I just haven’t gone far enough. Usually the issue is not that I’m lost but that I am impatient. Or doubting myself. (Still. Again.)

Oh that relief, when I realize I was going the right way all along.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thankful, 11/2: Salt

and everything else savory. The people who draw out your best, the happy surprises, the moments you replay over and over in your mind. All the things that leave you thirsting for more of that, please.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful, 11/1: Mask Optional

Yesterday I watched a friend’s three year-old son while she helped out at his older brother's class Halloween party. We laid down wooden train tracks in the living room, colored pictures, emptied jars of crayons onto the floor and sorted them. He presented me with the leaf he found in our yard and had been wearing, hidden, under his hat. I made him a mask, which he wore briefly. It didn’t fit right. Got in the way.

My favorite part about Halloween has always been the costumes. The chance to be anything or anybody for a few hours. All you need is the right disguise.

The problem is that the mask or the make-up, the costume, even the fake nails I put on in seventh grade—they never quite fit. The mask was sweaty, the eye-holes were in the wrong place. The makeup dried out and itched maddeningly. The costume was never warm enough for trick-or-treating. The fake nails made it impossible to pick up or do anything.

The only thing that ever fit right, that didn’t get in the way somehow, was my own face.

Such a relief always, to get back to it at the end of the night.

I’m thankful for the chance to try on different faces. I’m even more thankful for the way my own skin fits.

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