Wednesday, July 24, 2013

...when you're singing a song...

(I have to go into blogger edit to make these videos viewable on mobile devices, but I haven't yet. At some point I will.)
No gloom or profundity for today, just a favourite collection for you to consider. My mother was a professional singer all her life, with a beautiful and rich alto voice. She also had a brilliant memory for remembering songs. It wouldn't matter where or when, she could immediately offer up all the verses of a song she knew, and she knew thousands, in perfect pitch.

As a result, although my songstress skills are nothing like hers, I have always had a tendency to collect songs that I try to know all the words to, so that driving in my car or cleaning house or just bopping down the sidewalk, I'll have a song. Some are fun, some are classics, some are lifesavers. But I have them IN me, and they just bubble up, and I can heartily recommend that you learn some songs all the way thru, and can sing them without benefit of iPod or radio. That way, you'll always have a way to entertain a child, look foolish in public or just keep yourself entertained on a slow day.

The first came up this morning on Facebook, when the screen jerked and I didn't, resulting in an awkward misplaced comment. Sometimes they don't even have to hear you to embarrass yourself, but you do have to get up in the morning, so this one is a fav for getting a body in motion first thing:

Irving Berlin, Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning

The next is a John Prine tune about his grandpa, who seems to have been the same generation as my Pop. When I first heard this song, the line about "put a penny in a burned out fuse" sent me back years to when I first saw Pop do the same thing. The better version is on Will The Circle Be Unbroken: Vol 2 (a collaboration album with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.)

John Prine, Grandpa Was a Carpenter

Next up, because every woman should know at least one Patsy Cline song by heart, here's one that will not break your heart, regardless of lyric content. Something about the tune and the jazzy little piano riffs always make me want to dance. Of course, this one needs a partner to dance with, one who can spin you out and bring you close again, so you might get a little bluesy after all.

Patsy Cline, Walking After Midnight

Are you with someone whinging about how impossible something is, how they will NEVER... fill in the blank? Start singing this and Really make them mad. It's fun!

Rosemary Clooney, It Could Happen to You

I was a big Linda Ronstadt fan in my teens, convinced those love songs were the sorrow filled truth. Forget that trash, she also taught me those cowboy songs were worth keeping. The first old cowboy classic:

Linda Ronstadt, Old Paint

This one will make you laugh for miles down the highway and it brings up that old and fine talent - yodeling! Truly, get Suzy Bogguss' first big album, Somewhere Between, and learn every song. The title track is a great interpretation and every song is for singing along with.

Suzy Bogguss, I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart

Well, it seems I favor the golden oldies, but that might be the trick, seeing as how they were written to sing. I haven't even scratched the surface of all the songs I'd care to recommend, so I'll do this again sometime. I'll sign off with with a direct link to another of Suzy's best and one of my theme songs - "Handyman's Dream" (This video is an awesome collection of country ladies singing, if that's your fancy.)

Remember, get you some songs to sing when it's just you by yourself. Not everything has to be perfect to be thoroughly delightful.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dressing the loom

I should have known, but somehow things just slip my mind. Since I challenged the Lord in public to make something of me, I should have known that he would take up the dare. He dismantled my dearest dream on my birthday this year, and having lost that prospect, the dismantling of other projects and goals has continued. I am now able, not just willing, to give away most of my books, along with any other project that I've been saving the stuff to do but never have done. You know - furniture, clothes, memberships, browser bookmarks - all those things that I wanted to do something with but just never found the time for are disappearing.

I'm not nervous about it, I'm not grieving anything, all most of my tears have been shed and it's just a persistence of motion to clear things out. The only reason I mention it is that I'm a little shocked at my own behaviour. Books? Hundreds of books going out the door??? Any stick of furniture without a home will find one somewhere else. I find myself rebuking myself at length, out loud, every time my mind starts to wish for my old dream back again, and I listen and obey like a little child. It feels like a bit like the Ghost of Christmas Past having his chains pulled off his shoulders. We all see the futility of those chains, but we know it takes more than a good idea to get them off.

I suppose I could fight the process if I wanted. I'm sure I have before, but I'm in a sweet spot right now. I know about the ADHD now and I'm learning more about the neurological quirks that come with it, I have no family member for whom or to whom I am responsible, I'm not attached to my job or have any particular career goal to achieve, and I am very clear headed and know whom I have believed. Not many opportunities like this come along.

I recognized what was happening in my imagination first, saw the image of a loom being torn down and redressed from scratch, and as it turns out, the analogy holds very well indeed. I'll let a professional explain it:

"Dressing the loom is what took the most time.  For those who don’t know what all that means it’s a lot of work.  Dressing a loom just means getting the thread on a loom so that thread isn’t breaking all over the place.   It’s a lot of meditative work.  First are all the decisions:  are you making something specific and if so, how long and what length? ...
What it means though is cutting  a lot of strings a certain length and threading them through all these parts of the loom without tangling them.  Hence the meditative part.  Weaving, if nothing else, has taught me how to separate mandatory things to do and nice things to do."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Living people

I'm the youngest in that photo, my great-grandmother is the oldest. Her grandfather was living with her when he died in 1922.  He had been in Pickett's charge on Round Top at Gettysburg, where he was wounded. He had become a pastor after the war, but had enlisted from Stokes county, N.C. under Stonewall Jackson. My mother became a Methodist minister and pastor herself after her divorce, and always spoke very highly of the godly example her grandmother had lived in front of her.

I also knew my maternal great-grandmother on my father's side, and it is my great-grandfather who bought the farm that we still own and love. My father's paternal grandmother is the one who supplied our (my father's and my) sense of humor and and ability to find the funny in just about anything, a trait often mentioned with fondness and relief by my great-aunts, and it is to her family's reunion that I go in two weeks. My ADD comes from my mother's father, and it is his creativity and talent for drawing that got passed to my nephew, who now works as a computer graphics illustrator.

If you are a geneticist or some sort of materialist, you might find all that information is some sort of confirmation that genes will out or we are all acting out of some sort of determined path carved out for us by Nature's influence on our physical composition. If you are the member of a family, you will recognise the cascade of taps on the shoulder, words spoken in season and out, and family legends passed on not in story or myth but in lingering examples that shaped one person and then the next.

As I woke up this morning, I was thinking about the image of a gloved hand reaching thru time and the generations. If you were a scientist, you might think of that hand as ideas carried in people, and how powerful an idea can be as it stirs up change and influences every generation that finds it and acts on it. If you wanted to clothe that same idea in religious garb, you might think about how powerful habits, weaknesses and proclivities get passed from one generation to the next and how spiritual forces shape and move human beings. 

If you grew up in a family, then you'll know that hand as Una Mae patting you on the shoulder and pointing out how ridiculous Portly was in all his affectations and seriousness. You will watch Hallie sketch in the evening to relieve his stress and draw dry cleaner advertisements in the day to earn a living. If you are descended from a family, then you will pull out a doily and wonder how "Mom" made fabric out of thread and still cooked and cleaned and kept the grandchildren long past "retirement age." In every case, you will see that it is not ideas that are being passed thru time, but people who are giving of their lives to those that follow, and I am not a copy of their DNA, but I've been touched, tangibly altered, by the works of their hands imprinted onto living people.

The god conundrum works the same way. Some people think of god as an elemental force, the set of existence whereby things, including people, came into being and we describe his nature in physics and biology and sociology as great waves of events as effects ebb and flow. The more philosophical or religious elevate god to a plane where he has made laws and principles or declarations of intent and we all are measured against his standards and plans, creating our successes or failures along the way as we work with those concepts and ideas. Then there is the third way, where God is a person who is creating a family.

The way I met him was to watch him in red letters while he lived in front of his family. He loved little kids, like me, and he seemed to be always looking for the next guy to feed. I always liked how he could talk to the wind or the sea, and how the fishes would do what he asked, and how at the end of a big city disaster that got averted he said how glad he was the animals wouldn't have to suffer any more, too. When I got older I really appreciated how he didn't talk down to women and he would never embarrass someone if he didn't have to, even if they got themselves into a bind. I liked how he loved being with people so much that it didn't matter who was having the party, he was going to be there - so much so he got a rep as a drunk! (Man, talk about not worrying about what folks think about you!)

My favorite story of all time is when he was coming into town and and everyone came out to see him, but there was a blind beggar sitting in the dirt asking him for help, too. My God? He stopped, he turned around, and he saw blind Bartimus on the ground, and he touched his eyes with the palm of his hands. Blind Bartimus saw like a natural man. That I can type out a lyric that says God stopped, turned, saw and touched just blows my mind and is completely out of line with nature, but a living person can see and move and touch with love and kindness. To be family with this man is incomprehensible, but true.

Update 07172013

If you want to hear some more about being part of a family, and that image of a living person's hand in a glove, listen here.  I didn't have that link in mind when I first wrote this, but it sure fits, and it's true.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Badlands

Well, we're out of the deep blues (old background picture for the blog) and onto the crisp, blue heights of a mountain range (new background picture) - I have no idea where. I did not know that walking on thru the darkness would find me at dawn's bright light looking at country I've never seen. No really, I still can't see it today, I just know I've crossed a ridge line and we're moving on to new country.

I don't like words like "accept" or "resigned," but the Lord and I are on the same page regarding my expectations and dreams. I've set aside my lists and wanna do's and we are agreed that we're just walking along day after day and won't be talking about those things anymore.

The best analogy I can give is like those pioneers headed across the deserts of the West sometime after the War (between the states.) You might start out from the green hills of old Virginia, hire the best trail boss and load up a fine new wagon pulled by the healthiest of oxen, and yet somewhere before the salt of the ocean would breeze across your face again you would still have lost the wagon train, roasted the remains of those oxen with the last kindling from the family chifferobe, and be walking the trail in uncertain company.

I thought certain I was at least allowed to keep a list or two of dreams. Surely one is allowed to have goals to light one's path, some kind of markers to let you know you were headed in the right direction? Not so much. The very last dream I had - ancient, sweet, and of great sentimental value - has fallen onto the trail for the last time, not leaving even a recognisable remembrance of it to carry in my pocket for old times' sake.

The only aspect of the journey that remains the same is the Friend who sticks with me. I've never paid him too much attention, I always thought he was too busy for me, but now that all the other has disappeared, he is it.  I don't know where I'm going or why I'm going. I feel somewhat like a beast of the field, going from one clump of grass to the next, and really, I'm not an outdoorsy, let's go camping kind of girl AT ALL. Nonetheless, I'm trying to not be so completely aimless, I try to remember to ask my Friend what shall we eat, what shall we wear, shall we go by the northern route or the southern route to work today, do we have a shopping list,  I don't want to call the hotel - help me, where's that check I was supposed to deposit, and where are my glasses I CAN'T SEE!!!

All day long like a lost shiny baby. Decades and decades of trying to do it myself with the least of help, I thought independence was the goal. Now I don't even know what "it" is, and I am becoming more dependent with every evolution. Unless I completely botch this up, without him I can do nothing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The hills, the highways and the byways

I'm reasonably happy, I still have a job in this economy, my friends and family, my house projects are moving along, I'm progressing one step at a time in grief and what all recovery - things are okay. Yet, amongst the happy tunes and the French pop and the bluegrass whine and the piccolo solos in the airs and flourishes, my fingers dialed up this song on the way home this afternoon. Maybe it was the rain and the daily disappointments, but by the time I got to my own neighborhood I was quiet in my heart with tears streaming down my face, but not because I was sad.

This is the hardest thing to try to explain to someone, and I know I've heard a hundred personal stories and a thousand sermons trying to explain it to me, but I never understood a thing about it until this year. You see, I'm technically alright, until I turn to look into God's face and he lights up all my frustrations and anger, and all the things I've tried and failed, and all the things I know are waiting for me in Him but I cannot find no matter what I do or pray. 

I've heard it said that people who have died and gone to heaven and come back report it's always dark down here in comparison. No matter how bright the sun or pretty the day, nothing compares to the light of God's presence in all its fullness in heaven. In much the same way, I look and see God's character and goodness in Jesus, I hear his heart declaring his love for me in all the scriptures, and then I do my chores and my job and my laundry and my patience and my alms and my prayers and I rail at him because it's so tiring and I don't want to keep doing all of this. It's dark and cold and wet, nearly an endless Scottish night, and I want a lit hearth and a welcoming smile to greet me at my door.

Maybe we never notice these songs when we are still wet behind the ears. When we are young, we're sure we won't need them, but ones like this have meat and marrow - life to keep us moving on to the next step. I'm home in my own driveway now, the devil is beating his wife, and I'll get on with the next chore. But I'll let my tears fall with the rain one more time, because I have a Friend trudging along with me, even if he is just out of my sight. 

Now God walks the dark hills,
the ways, the highways.
And He walks on the billows
Of life's troubled sea.
And He walks in the cold, dark night
The shadows at midnight
God walks the dark hills
Just to guide you and me. 

God walks the dark hills
to guide my footsteps.
He walks everywhere, 
by night or by day.
And He walks in silence
on down the highway. 
God walks the dark hills
to show me the way. 

Then God walks in the storms,
the rain, the sunshine.
He still walks in the shadows, 
Or thru glimmering light.
He helps us walk up our mountains so high,
Cross our rivers, thru our valleys.
God still walks the dark hills,
He loves you and me.