Friday, March 20, 2020

Wood and Marble Spaces to Inhale in Deeply

The woman in front of us had coughed and squirmed, her face red as she tried to hold in quiet wheezes. Poor lady. I had wanted to tap her shoulder and assure her it was all right. This March 7th afternoon in Minneapolis basilica grandeur comes to my mind now, two weeks later.

Two weeks since then and the world has dramatically changed.

Two weeks ago, though, on March 7th, hundreds of us had crowded into St. Mary's Basilica for a free Minnesota Sinfonia concert, featuring world-renowned violinist Ilya Kaler. His renditions of Antonin Dvorak's Romance stirred our spirits, swirling through the giant marble-carved cathedral to hang majestic in the air.

An hour had passed in quiet peace and beauty. We listened in silent rapture. Attentive to each rise and fall of the instruments, caught up in the cascading crescendos and rivulets of song, we stopped only to applaud or to shift positions on the wooden benches polished by generations before us.

Celebrating my Mom's birthday that March 7th weekend, my Mom, sister, and I, and a friend of ours relished the symphony concert, then walked in crisp sunset down grand avenues in nearby St. Paul, where tall historical houses rose high against pink and grey sky. Bronze lions stalked an entryway and the moon tangled in a tree.

With newly-fledged precautions to reports of Corona Virus overseas, it still seemed so far off on that March 7th Saturday. We stood in line at Cafe Latte, ordering colorful salads, crusty mini baguettes, and tall luscious cheesecakes. Carefully washing our hands, using napkins to grab bread rolls and utensils seemed safe and ahead of our times, a "wise but early precaution," we wondered silently.
We had leaned in for the birthday photograph, our friend producing kazoos and pink birthday napkins from her purse. Blowing horn kazoos, we sang happy birthday to my Mom.

Two weeks later and the world has now drastically changed.

In between news headlines and aching prayer for people around the world, I grabbed my keys and kids. Daniel and my niece grabbed their sweatshirts and we headed to the wild.

We needed the beauty of lofty grandeur and the majestic sight of trees.

Driving to our favorite woods, we raced to the fallen tree.

"It's still here!" Daniel yelled excitedly, jumping into descriptive narrative to his cousin.

The silence and sound of trees sighing sank deeply into my psyche. Finding a warm log and a tree to lean against, I sat and closed my eyes. Oak trees rose regally. The winds ebbed and flowed. Leaves scuttled and whirred quiet percussion. Bird calls rang in cascading crescendos.

Time passed in quiet peace and beauty. In raptured silence I listened, attentive to each rise and fall of the instruments, caught up in the cascading crescendos and rivulets of song, stopping only to smile or shift positions on the wooden tree trunk.

If you are not receiving my posts by email yet, welcome! Simply enter your email address in the box under my bio at the top right of the page. Be part of any special invitations and don't miss a post! 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Of Sicilians and Songs

Buried high inside a wooden cupboard, we find it.

"Alley" by Carl Campbell, Creative Commons cc license 

A dusty cardboard box with black marker states "Tapes for Car Trips."  And the music for our family's road trips stands shoulder to shoulder, encased in black plastic cassette tapes labeled with my Dad's handwriting. Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Phil Collins, Dan Fogelberg and Bruce Cockburn. I'm not sure where all the Petra albums are, but here too are the Moody Blues and two cassettes marked simply, "Harmonica and Guitar, rock and blues."

Later in the day, Bruce Cockburn's husky Canadian vocals and fine guitar-playing swell through my kitchen, and the memories flood back, joy shining in.

Music is powerful.

We see it in tambourine-shaking Sicilians stepping out onto apartment balconies, stacked high to the sky. Cream-colored high rises stretch tall and the Italian men and women lean out, belt it loud, and call out new verses to each other. While quarantines fall tighter, death rates rise, and brave hospital staff around the world battle to save lives, we see beauty rise even higher.

Sicilians lean over balconies and sing to each other, keeping time with tambourines, accordions, and recording mobile phones.

I call over my husband, daughter, son and niece and hit replay on the short social media video clip of the Italians singing. Voices find their harmony, and I can see multiple instruments. Joyful, hope-filled tears rise to my eyes, and I hug my daughter. "It's happy tears," I explain to my son.

"There are videos of Chinese people shouting to each other from their homes too," Morgan says, her voice close to my ear as we all lean in to watch the clip again. "They're yelling encouragement to each other," she clarifies as my eyebrows raise.

"Where is it?" I ask and she shrugs.

"Online, you'll find it," she grins and heads downstairs.

And that's just it, huh?

As the headlines cycle, and the numbers rise, we battle it together. Together with Italy, Iran, China, and almost every other country, we can stand together.

We can stand up and lean out. We can look for ways to stand tall and to belt it out, these songs of solidarity and soul.

I hit print and watch a second sheet of paper head to our printer downstairs. "Hi, we're your neighbors at.... As Corona Virus heats up, we wanted you to know that we're here and we can try to help if you need it..."

I admit, I'm not quite sure how to do this. In a time of protective measures to guard those of lower immune systems, I don't think knocking on neighbors' doors may be the best step. So I'll pray and brainstorm how to get it to them.

For you and me today? God is big and good, and he walks beside us. He sings songs of love to his world, and I want to do that better too.

Singing beside you, my friend, and praying for the people battling hard things in our world today.

If you are not receiving my posts by email yet, welcome! Simply enter your email address in the box under my bio at the top right of the page. Be part of any special invitations and don't miss a post.