Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Music

slow cold drizzle

slow cold drizzle
hangs in late winter air
song sparrows sing spring

I’m just back from a morning errand. Chilled to the bone, umbrella in hand, winter hat and gloves in place along with multiple layers of warmth. As I walked down our driveway, I heard and then saw a resident song sparrow getting a jump on competitors that might want his staked-out territory! Here’s to an early spring–which we seemed to have for two  glorious days this week before another cold front came through yesterday.

Enjoy the birdsong, if not the weather, wherever you are. (There are two song sparrows on the short video.)

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 February 2018
Video found on YouTube – by Lang Elliot at musicofnature.org

Counting the hours

A small
Limited world
Greets me
With a question –
And what of today…?

Indeed –
What of it?
With or without me
It will cycle by
Rehearsing its hours
Yet again in a chain
Of semi-predictability
Without need
For me to sit
At this window
Watching the day slip
Before my eyes
Through fingers chilled
By winter’s dull sky
And frozen vegetation
Waiting for spring
And release

Life is in a different key these days
I’m still not sure what it is
Or how to play it

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 January 2018
Image found at ytimg.com

Thank you, Louis Armstrong….

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong, for recording this amazing song, first released as a single 60 years ago today. Your smooth and grainy, gravelly voice is an inspiration. The seniors among us remember what it was like in the USA in 1967.

  • Viet Nam war drags on with no end in sight
  • About 2500 mothers of drafted soldiers storm the Pentagon, demand a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
  • LBJ doubles down–determined not to ‘lose’ this war
  • Edward W. Brooke, Attorney General of Massachusetts, seated in the US Senate as the first elected Negro Senator in 85 years
  • Muhammed Ali refuses to be drafted into the Viet Nam war, is stripped of his world heavyweight boxing championship
  • Anti-war protests break out across the United States
  • Blood poured on draft records by a Roman Catholic priest and two companions
  • California Governor Ronald Reagan suggests that LBJ ‘leak’ the possibility of nuclear weapons being used
  • Stokely Carmichael calls for a black revolution in the US, using skills “they taught us” in Viet Nam
  • Thurgood Marshall confirmed by Senate as first black on the Supreme Court, opposed by one Republican–Strom Thurmond of South Carolina

I know you didn’t write this song yourself. Yet you chose to record it during a difficult time in our history. Perhaps because of the chaos, you wanted to shine a light on the simple gifts and beauty of this world, and on everyday life with our neighbors. I need this as much today as I did back then.

With admiration and gratitude,
Elouise 

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 August 2017
BBC video found on YouTube; pop ballad written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss 
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Grainy

slow motion

outside my window air hangs heavy

yesterday’s rain now stale
drops in slow motion from the gutter
exposed trees stand breathless
caught in damp morning heat

I hear the rhythmic beat
of tires coming and going
on the road beside our house

August is the saddest month
weary of relentless summer
it languishes—
counting the days

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Symphony

Captured on camera

In the blink of an eye
Memories take me back
Surrounded by music
I want to stay here forever
Feeling the harmonies
The ebb and flow of
Joyful voices surrounding me
Filled with hope for tomorrow
Lost in a magic sliver of time
When all was right with the world
We were ambassadors
On a mission
Ready to die if needs be
My heart aches for what we lost
On our way from there to here
So many hidden wounds and
Untold secrets and yet
One concert after another
We entered gladly
Into His gates with thanksgiving
And into His courts with praise
Eager and ready for whatever
Tomorrow might bring

This photo was taken in 1962-63. It’s the Ambassador Choir—the concert choir of Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina (now Columbia International University).

It was D’s senior year, my junior year. He was president of the choir; I served as accompanist to the choir. Mainly piano, and a little organ. D is on the third row from the top, 2nd from the left. I’m on the same row, 3rd from the right (with glasses).

We’re in the college auditorium, in front of the college motto and a huge globe of the world. Many students studied at CBC/CIU because they wanted to be missionaries. Among them were bi-lingual ‘missionary kids’ who came from all over the world.

Bill Supplee, our beloved choir and music director, was a stickler for getting things right. In the photo we’re grouped according to gender and height. However, each concert required a new lineup created by Mr. Supplee. We stood in groups of eight (eight part harmony for many songs), never next to anyone singing our part.

Getting it right meant on pitch, from memory, with no sliding notes or coming in early or hanging on late. Precision mattered. Articulation was paramount. Drawing attention to oneself by swaying or making head motions was absolutely forbidden.

This wasn’t about us, it was about the Gospel. Always presented in a carefully crafted sequence of music. The choir processed from center and side aisles onto the risers. Unison at first, breaking into eight-part harmony at the end. All to invite the congregation into the Lord’s gates with thanksgiving.

Each concert ended with a brief challenge to consider what God might want you to do in response, followed by a glorious recessional. The message was clear, and always well received.

Not clear, however, was how many of us carried hidden, unresolved pain from our childhoods as we processed down the aisles. Today I’m aware of stories I didn’t know then, and have shared my own. Many of our friends are already gone.

Still, I’m no cynic. I value the privilege of having been part of this spirited endeavor. It gave me the privilege of being regularly surrounded and held by music that kept my soul and my spirit alive. And, along the way, gave me the gift of knowing and falling in love with D.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 July 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Gate

a grownup’s prayer

I want to be in tune with You –
Listening to my heart sing
Surrounded by music

Maybe You could arrange for me to live in nonstop song
At home in my skin, content, grateful and unafraid
Connected with those I love or haven’t yet learned to love

Would You kindly spare a few moments
to sing me back together?
I’d rather not have another operation.

***

A few evenings ago I was listening to choral music, singing along from time to time. A bit weepy though happy. Grateful for small gifts during the day.

It dawned on me that I’m most content, most at peace when I’m surrounded by music. Especially, but not only, grand hymns old and new.

So I dreamed a bit. What would it be like to live in nonstop song? And might my Creator be willing to oblige me? Without ungodly pain?

Coming from a grownup, the ungodly pain part seemed a fair request. After all, I don’t have as much time for fancy procedures as I used to have. Besides, who wouldn’t love to be sung back together?

Hoping your day/evening is filled with music that softens your heart and sings you back together.

Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 July 2017

from a nearby tree

from a nearby tree
a catbird sends waves of song
spilling to the ground

Have you ever heard a catbird? If so, you already know their song is unmistakable. Loud, almost hyper mimics, they punctuate their unending songs with sharp ‘catcalls.’ Sort of like the sharp ‘meow’ of a cat. Unlike other mimics (thrushes or mockingbirds), they don’t usually repeat their songs.

We hear them every day. Especially now, when birds are nesting and nests need defending. They crank up their musical contributions before sunrise, and continue past sunset. We heard one yesterday evening when we went out walking. It was perched in a tree just above our heads, well past sunset.

Catbirds don’t seem worried about running out of songs. Instead, they’re worried if you come too close to a nearby nest. When that happens, they aren’t shy about dive-bombing around your head, descending from a nearby thicket to cajole you into leaving the area. They don’t give up, and they aren’t bashful.

God doesn’t swoop down from heaven to defend us or to scare intruders away. Still, there’s something god-like in a common catbird’s defense of its nest and determination to frighten off or redirect the attention of possible intruders.

My real-life intruders are often discouragement, fear or loneliness. Sometimes God descends to my aid when I listen to music I love and let it fill the airwaves, spilling into my heart and tense body. A sign that majesty and power are present in ways I don’t understand.

This doesn’t solve my problems. It simply makes things bearable, and invites me to relax, knowing I’m never out of the range of God’s care. I think another way of naming it is Sabbath rest.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 May 2017
YouTube video found on Google

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Descend

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —

This poem from Emily Dickinson makes me smile every time I read it. My comments follow.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

c. 1860

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

From about 1860 until her death in 1886, Emily lived as a recluse, writing and serving as a caretaker for her family and servants. She left her family’s house only rarely. Today’s poem comes near the beginning of this prolific period of her life.

Imagine Emily looking around, seeing and hearing life in a great outdoor Orchard Dome. Perhaps leafy branches overhead? Like a cathedral dome, this one echoes with music–birdsong, a bell tolling and a soloist. And then there’s that noted Clergyman God, whose sermons are never long. Emily doesn’t need special Sunday clothes. She just dons her Wings and joins the chorus! Is she an angel? I doubt it. I think she’s probably a little bird. Perhaps the Bobolink?

The contrast is clear. Unlike others who keep the Sabbath by going to Church, Emily keeps it by staying at Home. Is this by choice, or due to the circumstances of her life? Probably by choice, temperament and the circumstances of her life.

In any case, Emily isn’t explaining or defending herself. Instead, she imagines a great advantage in her situation. She also suggests there’s more to Sabbath than meets the eye when we confine it to one day out of seven days. In fact, her situation is far better than the one-day-a-week slow track to Heaven.

Emily isn’t arguing a point of theology. Nor is she explaining why she isn’t showing up in church every Sabbath.

Rather, she celebrates God’s presence in the created world, and the delightful participation of all creatures great and small. As she sees it, she’s going to church daily in God’s outdoor cathedral! A mysterious world of truth that invites her to draw nearer to Heaven. Unlike the slow trackers, she doesn’t have to wait until the end to get to Heaven “at last.” She’s going there every day!

For me, this poem is about more than sunny days and a beautiful orchard. It’s also about more than Emily’s religious practices. I hear an invitation to view every day as a day of rest. A Sabbath. Why? Because Heaven is reaching out, wanting to connect with me every day. Not simply one day a week.

As for my part, I don’t need special clothes. I just don my Wings, retreat to the orchard, listen expectantly for nature’s music, join in when I feel like it, and listen to a short sermon from God. I, too, could be going to Heaven all along — with Emily! Even though I may never leave the house.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 March 2017
Photo found at midewinrestoration.net

A Shock, an Album and a Milestone

certainyears

Our daughter and her husband released this new album recently!

This morning I woke up to a shock. My hard-won weight plummeted this week. So did my body fat. Not good. So, like Ms Garmin, I’m recalculating my route from here to there–wherever that would be.

A few days ago I told D I felt I might not be long for this world. I think about death often. Am I ready? Probably. But do I want to die in my 70s? No. I’m not raising an alarm here—I’m just trying to point to change in my inner world.

I never used to think this way about myself. Not even when I was in desperate need of retiring from being dean. Back then I thought retirement would improve my health and wellbeing, including the likelihood that I would live to a ripe, healthy elder age.

Still, this past week had plenty of good news. Most exciting was the arrival of a vinyl recording of our daughter’s latest album, Certain Years. Our daughter is Two Ton Boa. She and her husband, also a musician, just released this album in several formats. It’s stunningly beautiful. A different take on life than her earlier recordings.

Our daughter has kindly given me permission to blog about the lyrics on this album and in any of her earlier truth-telling music. I don’t know when I’ll begin doing this. In the meantime, if you like music that haunts you in a really good way, at least take a free listen to the second track on the album, Lion Snow.

The other wonderful event—well, sort of wonderful—was turning in our two cars and downsizing to one. We went for a hybrid (Prius), and took advantage of year-end specials. We just picked it up two days ago, and though I haven’t driven it yet, I hope to get my chance this weekend.

And why was this only ‘sort of’ wonderful? It’s hard to give up that symbol of independence! So I’m counting on the heated front seats being so soothing this winter that I’ll forget all about my dearly beloved wheels that now languish somewhere without their proper owner.

Thanks for listening to this ramble. I pray your health is good enough to get you through today and the weekend without too much distress. I pray you’ll have a good Sabbath rest this weekend. And I pray you’ll be cheered and comforted by memories of certain years that, in wondrous ways, shaped you into the person you are today.

Love and hugs from the blogosphere,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 August 2016
Album cover for Two Ton Boa release, Certain Years

Music | #3

Van Cliburn performing in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory during the First Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958

Van Cliburn performing in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory during the First Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958

I’m out with D, my temporary chauffeur, for a quick trip to *Raider Joe’s, aka Trader Joe’s. On our way home, heavenly music begins pouring out of the car radio. When I get into the house I turn on the radio to listen to the entire piece….

#3
Music from heaven
Washes over my soul and body
Soothing beauty from angelic fingers

It’s Van Cliburn playing Tchaikowsky’s Piano Concerto #1. Read the rest of this entry »

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