Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winter in My Neighborhood

The fog rolled in this morning. I woke to see it, damp and gauzy.

My mother once pointed out how the mist quiets everything as it lays like a down comforter. I have appreciated that nuance ever since... how it muffles the morning noises: the clunking of car doors as neighbors leave for work, the traffic and birdsong, as if God depressed the huge una corda pedal on His piano and every earthly sound wave was subdued and dampened.

The lamb's wool atmosphere creates the acoustics likened to a recording booth where

tones hit a wall,

resonances recede

harmonics are rendered one dimensional.

Fog signals the arrival of Florida's winter. That's how one knows the season has turned. The mid-day warmth hardly indicates Indian Summer's end, as temperatures still hover in the low 80s and air conditioners run strong.

Another clue showing the change is the long silver trailers full of eager thoroughbreds, geldings and warmbloods arriving for the Winter Equestrian events.

That's when the expansive fields, sleepy barns and trainer's quarters come alive after summer's hot lull.

We who live in this British-named town welcome its winter visitors as they heed the call:

Wellington Calls! 
Jumpers while the sun is setting
Turf is tossed where hooves are treading
Palms and pines stand straight and tall
Hopefuls for the cup, they traveled
Roads of air and sea and gravel
Wellington Calls!

Morning glow on fields and ranches
Fog lays low on green expanses
Softly shrouding barns and stalls
Trainers from the mist emerging
Reins and horses gently urging
Wellington Calls!

Polo's afternoon attraction
Crowds erupt with loud reaction
Cantering roars like cannonballs
Riders, ponies bump and pivot
While we race to stomp the divots
Wellington Calls!

Regal Dressage elegances
Hunters clear the rails and fences
Embrace the speed, renounce the falls
Audiences line arenas
Hats, high boots complete the scene as
Wellington Calls!

Hopeful hearts for purse and prizes
Pain rewarded, dreams realizing
Chance to grace museum walls
The equine captivates and courts us
Both spectator and skilled sportsman
Wellington Calls!

Angela Shaw

(Inspired by Will Oglevie's Aintree Calls)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

From Crazy to Quiet: Seasons of Parenting

When they were small, it was nuts! One wanted this. One wanted that. Potty, candy, a drink of water.

There were days, all I did was follow toddlers around cleaning up smeared lipstick, spilled food, trails of toilet paper, spilled food, lego minefields, and more spilled food just so the house wouldn't resemble a third world country.

Somehow I survived the glorious madness of growing children.

Now it's quiet. I can hear a pin drop. Other than the distant drone of TV, and the ringing in my abused ears from years of leading a worship band, evenings are disturbingly still.

So last night, I recorded a song in my dining room. Not being used to finishing things or being interrupted five times before completing a piece on the piano, I actually recorded 4 tracks, overdubbed and edited an entire song.


Back then, it was everything I could do to feed, bathe and bed down 5 children to grab a creative moment on the keyboard. One night years ago, I had done just that, only to find Elliot, my now 24 year old, crying, stumbling toward me down the hall, sick and about to throw up all over the carpet. Thus abruptly ending my introspection and much needed respite after a crazy day of childrearing.

No one walks down the hall now. No one needs me because they're sick or scared or thirsty.

I have the time to myself I coveted all those years.

And it's really freaky!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Music to My Ears

Sometimes it doesn't matter what a loved one is saying. Just the mere sound of their voice and their near presence is enough.

Like Whitney Houston's 80's song, So Emotional where she sings,

"When you talk I just watch your mouth."

Rather, "When you talk I just hear the sounds."

It could be a spouse taking time to converse. It could be a child, grown or small recounting seemingly insignificant bits of their day. Or an old friend dredging up shared histories; bringing to life experiences that seemed all but buried and forgotten.

In this case, it was the sound of her 36 year old voice. Lost once for 33 years, then lost for 3, and back again last week. Hearing her voice on the other end of the phone was truly...

Music to my ears.

She has a bubbling brook laugh (like the stream that flows outside my brother's Idylwild cabin) and a Southern California way of talking. At times there's a fleeting yet familiar inflection and pitch...Where have I heard that before?

A sound for sore ears ....soothing the maternal yearning I am too proud to admit that I have. I'm not that needy or grasping. After all, I have 5 wonderful children.

It's like Jesus' story (Matthew 18) of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. Though we have the 99, it's the lost "1" we pursue, longing to know and make ourselves known to.

Then there is the wondering during the years void of communication.

Plaguing thoughts.

Was it something I said that caused the recent silent years? Was it something I did?

Hesitant to really ask and risk spoiling it all again, I just listen...and choose safe questions that hopefully, won't result in any more long periods of quiet.

Each phone conversation is like another verse, another chorus or bridge that fills in the holes of the story that occurred in those 36 years after I let her go, when I was too single and too young to offer a proper home.

So...let the music play on... the healing sonic rain...let it pour...

verse after verse,

chorus after chorus a never-ending song that is such beautiful

music to my ears.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Contraband Song Sheets

"Are you going to play the guitah?" Her voice, crackled with age, heavily stained by a New York accent. "No, I'm playing the piano tonight, and singing," I answered with a 'please-like-me-anyway' smile.

She nodded unsatisfied.
"They said there was a latin guitarist, tonight."
Petulantly, she asked another half-a dozen times, "Are you playing guitah?"
"No, I'm sorry, piano."

Finally I got the retirement community's activity director to explain to the puzzled audience that there was a mistake in the entertainment schedule, and that Broadway piano was the night's line-up.

Thus the evening began. I did a little Spanish chord progression, hoping to humorously satisfy their expectation. Then put on my best vintage Broadway voice and sang songs from Can-Can, Annie Get your Gun, Show Boat, Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls- all the pre-1950 offerings I could get my hands on.

Singing along, they exchanged knowing grins and nods excavating a mother lode of golden times; decades lost and mysterious to me. With platinum hair, pink hats and thick glasses, they visibly enjoyed the music they grew up on.
"All I Ask of You" from Phantom ended the evening, the best part yet to come.

I'm no Sarah Brightman, but they heaped on thanks and compliments.
"I loved your selection."
"Beautiful piano playing."
"You brought back so many memories."

'Memories like what?" I asked. "Tell me one."

Her words twinkled mischievously. "When we were teenagers, we would buy these
contraband song sheets
You know, they were made without permission, so the songwriters didn't get royalties. We would sit around the radio and sing along to the songs we loved. All the kids did it. You could buy them anywhere. Sometimes the words were wrong, because whomever took the lyrics down just got them off the radio themselves." (And I thought 'Napster' was a new thing!)

We were happily caught and drenched by a Florida downpour of laughter, handshakes and 'God-bless you's" brought on by the magic of song.

Music had worked it's inimitable, transforming miracle.

Marked by their glowing faces, spirits were lifted, though bodies hobbled. Smiles emboldened as tired limbs lumbered toward their rooms. Hearts full within their frail, aged frames.

I could play for these people every night, I thought...

Maybe I'll brush up on my guitar!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Marriages and Mega-Churches

I work at a mega-church counseling center taking calls from people who are depressed, addicted, angry, anxious, floundering and doubting their faith.

By far, the majority of requests are for marital issues.

Peak times for calls are fall and January after couples have been saving face for the sake of summer vacations and Christmas.

It's disheartening that it's April and the phone is ringing off the hook.

There are couples my children's age who no sooner have taken their vows, are ready to throw in the towel.

I merely schedule appointments. I am not a counselor, but can offer prayer and encouragement. I say things like,

"God is a God of reconciliation."
"With Him, nothing is impossible"
"Help is on the way"

...anything that might ignite a spark of hope to keep them trying.

I say these things to myself as much as to them because marriage can be hard. My husband is the sweetest person, but we get just as mired in bad communication, fears, conflict over money, intimacy and child rearing as anybody else. Sometimes to a real point of desperation. What makes us stick for 33 years has been our stubborn belief in marriage.

Marriage is a multi-level mystery with its spiritual metaphorical implications: Jesus, the Bridegroom and his church, the Bride.

The depth of its meaning is somewhere between the four walls of my home and the span of Eternity.

Mastering marriage is an art form; like learning to paint, sculpt, dance, write poetry or play the piano, (the last two I know a little bit about). It takes long, hours of patience, practice and perseverance.

And somewhere there's a masterpiece to be seen, a sonata to be heard, a well choreographed dance, a poem that speaks what our souls feel.

We just have to stay around long enough to experience the beauty of loving long.

Easier Said than Blogged

Good Evening.

The blank blog post frame stares me in the face.

It's far too easy to set up a blog page; much harder to fill it.

What now?...What NOW?...

Now, I have to organize and compose all the thoughts and music that have been swirling in my head for the last three months while I've been wrestling with intentions to put into action a New Year's resolution to "post my music and musical commentary".

Now.... I face the proverbial music and actually have to do what I say I am going to do.

And I will.

Stay tuned.....literally.

Leave your email address here to receive automatic blog updates.