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Friday, October 19, 2012

Abide With Me

Somehow, I made it through 21 years of life and regular church-going with my parents without encountering Abide With Me.  We'll chalk it up to it being a Lutheran hymn and my attending a Presbyterian church. 

The first time I sang this piece was in my college choir during my senior year.  Our director Dr. Armstrong pulled out the absolutely transcendent Greg Jasperse arrangement for...I think it was our domestic tour.  I loved it immediately.  Something about it made me feel as though I was curling up in a warm, comfy blanket.  The melody is not innovative or complex.  The rhythm is straightforward.  But sometimes, simplicity speaks volumes.

As we were preparing for our concert, Dr. Armstrong's mother passed away.  Suddenly, the piece took on a new, very personal meaning.  Dr. A never said so directly, but every time we rehearsed Abide With Me, it was in homage to her.  We could see it written on his face, and we sang to lift him up.  All of this happened without anyone speaking a word to one another.  We just knew.

Singing at Carnegie Hall

A couple of weeks ago, a friend's mom contacted me about singing at her brother's funeral.  I really don't do the soloing "thing" anymore, but when a friend asks I will never say no.  Anyway, she chose one of the pieces (The Lord's Prayer), but left the other one up to me. 

I talked with my friend and he suggested the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem, but shockingly the organist did not know it (???seriously.  Dude, you are a church organist and you don't know this in the...ok that's neither here nor there) so we decided to just pick a hymn from the hymnal instead.

The organist suggested On Eagle's Wings which I immediately vetoed because: 1) it was already in the service as the second hymn, and 2) no.  I hadn't sung or even thought about Abide With Me in years, but I knew immediately that it was the right choice.

Singing in a funeral is kind of a surreal experience.  At a wedding, everyone is celebrating and even if you don't know the family personally, you just get dragged into the party.  At a funeral, you're part of the day but you are also necessarily an outsider.  I hoped I could help their family in some small way, but at the same time I felt incredibly pretentious for even thinking I could make a difference.  Who was I to even be there?

I have never felt so simultaneously honored and humbled in my life.  Honored that my friend had asked me to take part in remembering his uncle, humbled by the love I saw in front of me that day.

I'm not sure why that particular piece resonates with me to such a degree.  Part of it, I'm sure, is the emotionally charged circumstances under which I first sang it.  Part of it is also the fact that my time at St. Olaf was so treasured, and the tune takes me back to that time - but then so does every song I ever sang in college.

Honestly, I think it comes down to the last two lines of the second verse:

Change and decay in all around I see
O thou who changest not, abide with me

Whether you are Christian or not (I'll be perfectly honest - I am not.  And yet I sing in a church choir and go to church every Sunday.  That's another topic for another day), there's something to those lines.

"Change and decay" is not, I don't think, a negative thing.  It's the natural state of the world.  Everything changes, everything eventually dies. Desiree Rumbaugh said something really insightful the other week at her workshop (well, she said many insightful things, this is just one of them) - that the world as it is, is the world we were meant to be born into.  Wars, poverty, hunger and all.  This is the world we were meant to live in, and our challenge is learning to be steadfast.

I love and believe in the idea that there is something abiding and constant in the world.  Whether it is God, another higher power, your soul, the nature of the world we live in, or something else entirely is (I think) up for discussion, but it's what Abide With Me is all about.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Today in Literature and Paying it Forward

OK so I'm two days late on this one, but on October 8, 1930 one of my favorite books was published - The Waves by Virginia Woolf.  The Waves was Woolf's last major work, and IMO one of her least accessible but most rewarding.  If you thought the stream-of-consiousness...ness.. of To the Lighthouse was frustrating, just give The Waves a shot and then get back to me.  I'll be honest, the first time I picked it up (I think I was probably 21), I went "WTF" and put it down after 20 pages or so.  It took a while for me to appreciate the beauty of this novel but I'm glad I gave it another shot.  Virginia Woolf remains one of my all-time favorite writers.

The original 1931 cover

Read this article from Today in Literature if you're interested :)

...and here's a passage from the end of the novel:

"And in me too the wave rises. It swells; it arches its back. I am aware once more of a new desire, something rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first spurs and then pulls him back. What enemy do we now perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as we stand pawing this stretch of pavement? It is death. Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young man's, like Percival's, when he galloped in India. I strike spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!"

The waves broke on the shore.

And FINALLY, I am getting around to this blog award.  A few months ago, I was honored to receive a Reader Appreciation Award from the lovely Katharina of Katharina's Food adventures and I never passed it on!  Better late than never though, right?  So without further adieu...the reader appreciation award (and accompanying instructions)
The logo!

1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog.

2. Answer these 10 questions, below, for fun if you want to.

3. Nominate 10 to 12 blogs you enjoy. Or you pick the number.
I will probably pick fewer than 10 - and is it cheating to pick some of my real-life friends/family members as recipients?  I'm going to go with no.

4. Pay the love forward: Provide your nominee’s link in your post and comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been included and invited to participate.

5. Pay the love back with gratitude and a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you.
Thank you Katharina!  Your blog is lovely and your creativity in the kitchen is really inspiring.
Link to Katharina's Food Adventures

Les Questions:

1. What is your favorite color?
Deep blue, deep purple, and really dark emerald green.  Most jewel tones actually although you'd never know it from looking at my wardrobe which seems to be composed almost entirely of grey, black, cream/oatmeal, and navy.

2. What is your favorite animal?
Cats!  Sorry Sidney - I love you dude but cats win this category. 

WAT I won?!

3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Tea!  Especially herbal tea - I love all of the Yogi Tea varieties but really any herbal is awesome.  Peppermint is my new favorite.

4. Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?
I like Twitter in theory, but I never use it.  It depends on the context I guess - for keeping up with friends, Facebook.  For baseball, news and other amusements, Twitter.

5. What is your favorite pattern?
I'm a sucker for floral and paisely patterns, especially ones that have an asian feel.  Pour Example:

Awesome Turkish tiles

Awesome Indian Shawl

Wood carved awesomeness from Thailand

6. Do you prefer getting or giving pr├ęsents?
Definitely giving.  I love giving gifts - choosing presents for my friends and family has always been one of my favorite activities :)

7. What is your favorite number?
I honestly have no idea how to answer this.  I might have to go with five, just because it's purple and I like purple (synesthesia, sorry...)

8. What is your favorite day of the week?
Saturday!  Mostly because it is the one day of the week when I don't have to be anywhere in the morning.  I get to sit around in my pj's with coffee and I dare you to stop me.
9. What is your favorite flower?
I love orchids...but I have difficulty keeping them alive :/

10. What’s your passion?
This sounds really odd and generic but I think I would have to say my passion is learning.  I love reading, I pretty much devour books...I love discovering a new subject and diving into it head on, I love solving puzzles, looking at how everything is interconnected, just getting lost in discovering new things and diving deeper into the things I already know.

And as my husband could probably tell you, I am also passionate in my geeky excitement to immediately share my newfound knowledge with whoever has the bad luck to be sitting next to me at the moment.  This person probably does not care about the influence of Wagner on Nietzsche, but I'm going to tell them all about it and they really have no choice.

...and now, the moment you have all been waiting for since the beginning of never...the awards!

Coco, Melissa, Katie, Lindsey, Meri, Emmy, and Ben

Thanks again to Katharina for passing this on!  Hope you are all having a lovely week.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Not Dead

...just busy!  I can't believe I haven't written anything here for almost a month, but the weeks have just been flying by.  I'm definitely going to try to get back to a more reglar posting schedule because I need motivation to keep writing - I miss it :( 

Since the last time I posted I have:
  • Finished another Warrior Dash!  This time I ran with Ben and it was super fun.  Unlike the WD I ran in June, which took place on the mountainous course of doom, this race was on an almost entirely flat course.  I took literally 17 minutes off of my time and finished 15th in my category of 1,200 (Women 20-29)!  I know this is really not much to brag about since most people do not take WD too seriously, but I was pretty proud of myself :)
  • Triumphant Finish!

    Post-"shower" (aka getting hosed off with freezing water)

  • (It is also worth noting that on the last obstacle (a series of muddy hills that you use a rope to climb over), I straight up stole the rope out from under some guy in order to get ahead of him.  I then apologized.  And then kept running.)

  • In the past week and a half I have somehow managed to both a) fall down while running and scrape the hell out of my knee, and b) grab a hot oven rack with my bare hand.  Yes.  I am just that awesome.  I also decided that I should probably keep running for 3 more miles, after I faceplanted onto the sidewalk.  In retrospect, maybe not the best decision.
  • Attended a workshop with the amazing and talented Desiree Rumbaugh!  This was the second time I've studied with her, and both times I've left feeling like my practice was completely transformed.  Love her.
  • Played Cards Against Humanity and won decisively, proving once and for all that I am the most horrible person at the table.
  • Ate Free Pie at Baker's Square
  • Read a LOT of books.  Including:
    - 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
    - The Dog Stars (Peter Heller)
    - The One and Only Ivan (for our book club)
    - The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling - review pending...)
    Next Up:
    - Cloud Atlas (before Tom Hanks ruins it forever)
    - The Hobbit (re-read, before Martin Freeman definitely does not ruin it forever)
    - A Study in Scarlet (the first Sherlock Holmes... I am on a mission to read them all)
    - Joseph Anton (Salman Rushdie)
    - In Search of Lost Time (Proust...I foolishly committed to reading the entire thing in
      2013 as part of a group on Goodreads.  We'll see how that goes) 
Alright well, I'm going to try to sneak in a 5 mile run, cheer on the Twin Cities Marathoners, bake some pumpkin bread and make it to yoga let's get this show on the road!  Have a lovely rest of the weekend!

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