Monthly Archives: October 2009

“You’ve got us feeling alright”

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Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  –Berthold Auerbach

Last week was not particularly noteworthy.  Nothing exceptional happened to me.  I worked too few hours, spent too much time alone and did not do anything that really qualifies as remarkable.

I am prefacing this post with the admission that I am not a “music person.”  A music person knows all about the up and coming artists, rattling off names and bands that most people won’t hear of for months.  They actually spend money on music, make playlists on their iPods, and go to concerts.  I’ve always been a movie or tv person.  I’m becoming more of a music person, but if I am at home, the tv will be on as white noise long before music.  In my own defense, it is rare that music is not an integral part of film or television, and I can’t live without a radio or cd in my car.  However, I would never claim the title of “music person.”

Now, despite my lackluster week, I was a part of something special involving music.  A friend of mine,  Trent, is an incredibly talented musician (check him out at www.myspace.com/trent.hancock !).  Essentially a human jukebox, he can play almost anything on the guitar and sing right along, as well as write his own music.  As someone with no musical talent and only a few failed singing lessons in my past, I have high respect for the dedication and talent involved in creating music.  I appreciate the passion involved in playing and the world that is created with notes and chords.  

Trent plays at different places around the city all week and, as he is moving on to bigger things and places, last week was a lot of lasts for him.  I joined a couple of friends at a small dive bar for one of his farewells after a difficult day at work.  I hesitated going, considering how comfortable my pajamas looked and preferring solitude, but went out.  I had spent the day over-analyzing something a friend had said, which is not a new thing for me.  I had thought myself down, let something small upset me, and was ready to just hide away in my self-pity.  However, in a rare move, I decided to be social and go out despite my blue mood.  It was one of the best choices I’ve made in a long time.

As I walked into the packed bar, I regretted my choice.  I’m not a huge drinker and not especially outgoing, so a room full of drunk strangers was not inviting in my sobriety.  I sat down as he began to play and talked with my friend a bit, but it was too loud to really have a conversation.  As he continued to play, something interesting happened.  The crowd was amazing and a mixture of people who love him and were there to see a friend and those who had heard him play and love his music.  It was such a welcoming, enthusiastic room, filled with people who simply wanted to celebrate someone they had come to call friend.  And then everyone began to sing along. 

Plenty of people were singing from the beginning, but once everyone else was going, my self-consciousness eased and I joined too.  For an introvert, it was an amazing moment.  As sad and introspective as I was feeling, I completely lost myself in people and music.  As much as I wanted to be alone, I loved being wedged in between strangers.  The singing drowned the insecurities in my head and all of my thoughts disappeared.  It was the most wonderful feeling to simply lose myself in something bigger than my mind.  This is not the first time that this has happened, and I’m really not the hermit I seem, but it was such an awesome feeling.  My words do not do jutice to the freedom I felt that night.  It was so nice, in a world of twitter and facebook and (yes, I see the irony) blogs, to be in such a physical, visceral place.  Every last sense was stimulated and involved and set free the moment I let myself stop being so internal. 

It was a fantastic send-off for Trent.  I hope he enjoyed himself, because if he had half as much fun as the rest of us, it was a successful night.  For someone who will probably never be a “music person,” it was a moment of clarity of what it is that makes music people. 

“And the manager gives me a smile/ ‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see/ To forget about life for a while” –Billy Joel

“Delicious Autumn!”

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“Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils.” –Cyril Connolly

This afternoon I had the pleasure of meandering through downtown with a good friend and nothing to do.  We wandered, talked, took in our city, and simply savored the day.  It was gray and breezy and as close to Fall as we get.  I love the season of Fall.  It’s understated, milder than its neighboring seasons, and one that not all areas get to enjoy.  I miss it.

Spring gets most of the glory.  It is the beginning of life.  Days grow longer and temperatures begin to rise.  The chill of winter fades away and green floods the earth.  Summer is the fun one.  It’s free and exciting, no school or worries.  It’s about water and travel and lazy, late nights in the cool hours of the day.  Winter gets a bad rap.  It is dead and dark, but it is also about celebrations: Christmas, the start of a new year.  It, in its own way, is about life as well.  Fall doesn’t get the attention it deserves. 

I love the gradual chill that creeps in as Fall takes hold.  It starts with a breeze, with scattered clouds in the afternoons.  Suddenly it’s dark in the evening and cool all night.  Sweaters emerge from their hiding places and blankets cover beds.  Grilled cheese and soup replace snow cones and iced tea.  As leaves crisp and fall, it seems that the season brings about death and an end to fun and long days.  On the contrary, Fall is about life, about what we work and live for.  Harvests come in.  What was once a seed, a hope and work, is now fruit, sustenance, results.  Our expectant patience is rewarded with abundance.   

Fall is filled with memory.  I can smell the sweet, freshly cut wood delivered to our home.  Still sticky with sap and bark, we piled it up for the winter.  I can feel my hand fill with the strings and seeds inside of our jack-o-lanterns as we cleaned them out.  The first crackling fire glows at my back as its heat penetrates my pajamas, drying my hair after a warm bath.  The rush of a cold wind across my face brings back lunches outside during school and changing leaves bring home to me.  I can hear the rake scraping across the grass, gathering the crisp leaves.  They scratch as we jumped into piles of them, the smell of them crumbling in my hand.  Fall is childhood more than any other season.  It is togetherness.  As darkness comes faster and faster, more of our time is spent together.  More hot dinners bring us around the table.  It’s the excitement of school beginning, the adventure of Halloween, and the anticipation of Winter.

 As much as I love the experience of Fall, or perhaps the memory of it, I also appreciate that it has a place in the cycle of the year.  The winds and rains would not be as welcome if Summer were not so brutal.  The red leaves would not draw my eye if green were not so rich before.  Crops would not be ready to gather if they had not grown and matured through the rain and heat.  Fall puts the other seasons into perspective.  In the cold darkness, we remember the warm sun.  The empty branches create space for Spring’s buds to grow.  I like the Summer best during the Winter.  And it’s the other seasons that make Fall so sweet.  It’s not as severe as the Winter that follows, kinder than the Summer that precedes it.  It is the older sibling of Spring, somehow wiser, slower, more deliberate.  It has more restrain and grace than the excited and eager Spring.  It is part of a cycle, balancing and offsetting the other seasons.  In the city of 73 degrees and sunny, I miss the beauty of four distinct seasons.  However today, for a few hours, Fall wandered the city with a couple of friends.

“It takes some cold to know the sun/  It takes the one to have the other”  –Jason Mraz

“If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred”

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“I stand in awe of my body” –Henry David Thoreau

From time to time I become very aware of my body.  I am constantly self-conscious about it, but sometimes it catches me by surprise.  I don’t consider myself a tactile learner, but I am a much more physical person than I realize.  I touch and feel things as I walk past.  For example, when I drive, I prefer to be barefoot.  I like the feel of the pedals under my foot.  I know the resistance of the gas, the give of the break.  I drive better when I feel.   

Walking through the store a couple of weeks back, I was struck by the act and feel of walking.  It was a quiet moment with nothing in particular drawing my attention.  In that moment, the feel of my legs moving overwhelmed me.  The bend of my knees, the stretch of my muscles.  The momentum of my body as I propelled myself through space was the only thing I could concentrate on.  It boggles my mind how we walk every single day with no second thought.  I watch my cousin struggle to find his balance as he learns to stand and walk.  What is so intuitive to me is such a labor for him.  Beyond our toddler years, we walk on instinct.  We balance, move, coordinate our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones while doing a hundred other things.  We don’t need to think about the act of walking.

Then I hurt my knee.  For no real reason, it simple betrayed me.  While it is nearly back to normal, it is still stiff.  I still can’t straighten it.  I feel weak.  A small sprain changed my body.  My back ached because my stride was off.  My calf cramped and hurt because it was stretched and used differently.  My hips didn’t align.  Something so small threw my whole body off.  It’s been said for ages that you don’t know what you have until it is gone.  I think we don’t appreciate our bodies until they malfunction, the routine and mundane until they are interrupted.

I think one of the most amazing sensations I’ve had recently is the first drink of cold water.  I guess it’s a similar feeling when you take a drink of something hot on a cold day, but for just a moment, that chill runs down my throat and I can feel it moving into my stomach.  Eating comes as naturally as walking.  While we eat we talk and watch movies and do so many other things.  We may savor flavors and enjoy the feeling of fullness, but how often do I stop and feel eating?  It’s incredibly rare that I appreciate the act of nourishing my body.  However, there are still those cold drinks that wake me up, pull me into this body that carries me around, that I ignore much of the time. 

The body is simply amazing.  I’ve been especially aware of it lately with my minor injury.  That’s not to say that I ignore it most of the time, because I’m a hypochondriac and notice every bump, itch or tenderness.  It just never fails to amaze me when I learn something new about me.  The mere fact that I have been breathing this entire entry is amazing.  I recently talked with a friend about the sense of smell.  It is so closely tied to memory recall, to attraction, to a mother knowing her baby (in under an hour, 90% of mothers can identify their babies by smell alone!).  However, if asked to give up a sense, so many people choose smell.  It goes unnoticed and, thus, unappreciated.  I was blown away when I started learning about the hormone oxytocin.  In part, it  is released in a woman’s body when she breastfeeds and has intercourse.  It is a bonding agent.  We are designed, in a chemical way, to love our babies that we nurture and our partners.  It’s old news that our pupils dilate when we look at something (or someone) pleasing.  There are millions of these crazy little facts that seem so trivial, but they add up to something huge: the human body.

All of this simply serves as proof to me, personally, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  There is so much that has to work perfectly, work together, so much in place to sustain us, that all of this isn’t chance.  I’m sure some will argue that it’s million of years of evolution and adaptation, but I tend to believe that it’s simply the mysterious beauty of creation.  We are so intricate and ornate, still so mysterious, that a Creator far beyond our understanding is seen whenever I learn more about me.  That’s really not where I mean for all of this to go, but it simply did. 

This is a little disjointed and random, no where near as complete as I would like to be, and not the real writing that I had hoped to be working on, but it’s been a constant thought for me lately.  I’m just amazed that I don’t think about it more.

“Your body is a wonderland” –John Mayer