I have been playing with a teleidoscope, partly because it is fun (and admittedly escapist,) and partly because it strikes me as a very significant thing, this ability to change what is right in front of you, to fracture and shift and re-orient your world. To make something beautiful. It is a good practice, I think.
It has been hard to even know where to begin this month, this fall. Looking back, the whole year seems marked by difficult decisions, and the living-out of them. Good things have come, and there is much to be thankful for, although I cannot pretend there has been a lot of easy recently.
But yes, I am thankful.
Thankful for the truth spoken out, no matter how loudly or quietly, no matter how many hear.
Thankful for every act of kindness, no matter how large or small, no matter how many see.
Thankful for every human connection, no matter how tenuous, and for the glimpses of that web around us. Oh, when it catches the light.
Thankful for the beauty I have seen and read and heard all year, and for the generosity behind it.
Thankful for the infinite Goodness holding it all together, no matter what else.
My hope is that this year our thanksgiving--yours, mine, everyone's--may be both fierce and humble. May it reach far beyond our own homes, and far beyond this day.
For more thankfulness, please visit my archive. It all still holds.
The checkout line at the grocery store was long. The list of things-unsolvable banging around in my head was long. My face, a little on the long side anyway, was maybe a bit longer than usual.
The gentleman in front of me, as he finished gathering his bags, leaned in to the clerk and said with a nod towards me, "I'll reward her with a joke since she's been waiting so long." Or something like that. And he turned to me with a smile. "What animal has more lives than a cat?"
I could not even pretend to have a clue. "Frogs. They croak every night." He grinned. The college student behind me was clearly amused, and the cashier, too. We all smiled, exchanged looks and smiled some more. I cannot remember if I thanked him, but I hope I did. I can at least pass the moment along. Because long live kindness and generosity. Long live laughter and compassion, and what Youngest recently referred to as softness, as in soft-heartedness. Long live taking the high road. Long live truth and honesty. Long live seeing the good in the mess, or at least seeing what it could be.
Summer camp is kind of a magical thing. When I think of how much learning, growing, playing, crying, and stretching I and the people I love have done at various camps through the years it is overwhelming. So I loved finding the online anthology "How to Pack for Church Camp" recently, and I am honored that they have now included my piece, "Bowlful of Light," on their website. There is such a wonderful collection of stories here, touching on what must be millions of raw/odd/beautiful/funny/deep/painful/holy stories that play out at camps every summer. Hope it stirs up something inside of you, too.
Last fall my friend Sarah asked me to share what I had carried with me into adulthood from my childhood Suzuki training. There are many things--part of what I love about teaching is that it keeps showing me more about not only my own musical training, but my whole upbringing, deeply informed as it was by Shinichi Suzuki's teachings and philosophies. But this answer, what I am starting to think of as the discipline of beauty, is the one closest to my heart. I think it transcends the Suzuki philosophy, actually, to all of music and art, but this is where I encountered it in my own life. I am thankful to the American Suzuki Journal for giving me the chance to share my essay, "That Hard Passage," with a larger audience, both in their most recent volume (44.3) and here on their website.
I have been quiet for a long time. Partly because my children are getting older and I want to respect their privacy. Partly because I do not feel comfortable writing what is on my mind about my students—again for their privacy, as well as for my own. Partly because I haven’t figured out an honest and real way to communicate the things pressing on my heart and mind the most. And partly because to some extent I have been avoiding writing about those most pressing things, because the thought of doing it is exhausting and terrifying.
Wednesday night, though, I shared some of my feelings on Facebook following the shooting in Orlando. I have been silent too long. I am re-sharing them here, but not before I tell you how beautiful the responses from many of my friends were. It was overwhelming. We have wonderful people in our lives, and if I had stayed silent I would not have realized how many. My children would not know, either.
The fact is, every time I have chosen to speak up about something important, yes—there were people who stepped away, and yes—it hurt, but yes—there were many who stepped closer. Each time I spoke up I found out I was not alone. And each time I spoke up others found out they were not alone. I will keep at this.
I rarely feel ready to speak about something before the rest of the world is on to a new topic, especially because I am not always convinced adding my voice to the noise will make a difference. This time, though, I have to speak up. It has been brewing for months.
I have prayed, I have signed petitions, I have given money. I have read and read and read to try to understand this from different sides. I will keep doing those things, but I also want my friends to know that as the mother of a gay teen it breaks my heart that he is a particular target for violence. That some people may never be able to see what a gorgeous human being he is simply because he is not straight. That practically every day at school he has heard his peers using words that described aspects of who he is as synonyms for stupid, or perverted, or worse. That he has friends who are terrified to come out because of how their families and communities might respond. That he and his sisters woke up Sunday morning not just to the renewed knowledge that this world is full of violence and hate and horrible loss but also to the knowledge that there are people out there who would kill him if they could, without knowing anything else about him.
I have not yet gotten over the fear of judgment from my friends, especially my fellow Christians. But I love my children more than I fear what anyone else thinks, and to me it is a matter of faith to stand beside my son and support him fully. I pray that enough others are heartbroken by what happened in Orlando—that enough people will allow their hearts to be broken—that they will start listening differently. The most important question I ever asked myself, years before my son came out but still not soon enough, was “What if that were my kid?” I believe it is a question that saves lives.
but most of what we are doing during lessons and classes is not actually about violin.)
Recently one of my 3rd graders caught a glimpse of the top of my head while I was tuning her violin.
"Your hair is turning white!"
"Yes, it is! That's okay. I actually kind of like it."
"I guess I'm getting older and changing, just like you are." It was really only as I said these words that I realized how true they were. Had I known this, before it came up?
I cannot tell you how often something like this happens. It seems like it would be enough, just learning a skill like how to play an instrument. But there is always so much more going on. The focus is violin. We work pretty hard on that. But what it is about lies always just below the surface of what we do every day, and sometimes rises above, glimmering. I love these moments more than words can say.
Music and dance and field trips and State Solo and Ensemble contest and recitals and concerts! And plans for the summer and plans for next year. It is hard to even think straight, this time of year, but somehow we always make it to summer. In between, especially as the kids get older, are conversations about music and art and justice and politics and kindness. Oldest shares what he is listening to. Middle, even if she is sleeping over at a friend's house and her phone is dead, will make sure I know the moon is rising outside, full and magical. Youngest shares her art and her passion and her compassion. Husband brings home mystery snails and we delight in them, some of us maybe wishing we could move through the world the way they do. And there are small treasures to find outside as the world warms and greens: seeds and sprouts, fireflies, the sound of frogs, the scent of lilacs and honeysuckle.
other things were growing. Many are now in full bloom, and it is every bit as right to be stopped in one's tracks by the obvious beauty out there as it is to be stopped by the quiet and hidden beauty. I suspect they are working together. And clearly nothing is ever finished.