Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stormytime storytime

I'm sitting here on my bed recounting how summer is flying by so fast. Outside, a beautifully epic summer storm is raging. I have only the dim light glow of my laptop screen to illuminate my room such that most of my room is dark. Every so often, the lightning will cast eerie shadows by permeating my window and blinds with its pale green flash. There it was! Now wait. It is coming, I promise. It always comes. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. Clap! The thunder rattled the loose panes in this rickety old house. Gone forever. Damien Rice's "O" is keeping me company.

It is times like this where I always kind of wish the power would go out (despite me currently typing this entry on a depleted battery). If the power goes out, the family huddles. We find the quick fix flashlights to use only for a few minutes, enough to fumble some lit matches to light to some candle wicks. The candles are spread out around the main rooms of the house: the kitchen, the bathroom (for aiming purposes mostly), and the living room. We all usually gather in the living room and sit around waiting. It is a patient waiting, not in any sort of rush for the electricity to return. The point is that all the modern entertainments to which we normally flock use this juice that is not currently supplied. Televisions and computers are just black reflective glass plates. Around this time is when all the good stories come out. We sit around and recount the heavy hitters (the stories that we all know well, have heard many times, and could probably retell in our sleep) but also dig up old memories, lesser known stories of interactions with people and events that brushed us across our souls quickly and simply but have left some lasting impression that we can recall. It gets into your psyche and messes with you, makes you think about how you and your parents got to be the people you are, how you are influenced by the small occurrences and what makes your unique stories define you.

But since the power IS on, everyone is milling about, doing their own thing around the house. Thus, I will share two recent anecdotes from my life with you. Enjoy.

I was at the mall recently. It is an outdoor mall with nearby woods and ponds, full of deer, squirrels, birds, and other typical wildlife. I had just finished running my errands, and I was carrying some bags back to the car. I was also halfway trying to type a quick text message to a friend, stopping at a busy intersection between stores and parking lots. A kind older man walked up behind me, patted me on the back, smiled and said "You better watch out, huh?" I didn't know exactly what he was talking about so I looked up from my cell phone to see where he was pointing. On the sidewalk right in front of me was a family of ducks, one mama duck and a small consortium of baby ducklings scurrying to follow closely behind her. As if that wasn't already cute enough, they were all peeping at the top of their lungs, while shoppers stopped to smile and enjoy the tenderness of the moment. The mama hopped off the curb into the road to cross the busy street, and like any good ducklings, all the little babies followed her. Needless to say, this stopped traffic. No one was moving, as the ducks paraded slowly into the lane. By this point, the mama duck must have thought it was dangerous to continue this way into the path of cars, so she turned around and hopped right back up onto the curb in front of me. Well, the anxious fuzzy ducklings turned to copy her lead and attempted to hop up onto the sidewalk as well. They could not do it. The curb was just too high for their little legs. The peeping grew louder, and the mama duck turned around to get their attention. The interaction between them was beautiful. She was watching them so intently, guiding them and making them feel safe. Once she had their attention, she slowly walked down the edge of the curb parallel to them as they walked along the road. She checked back frequently, making sure they all followed until they reached the dip in the sidewalk, the ramp area meant for handicap accessibility, where the curb lowers. The ducklings waddled and scuttled up the concrete ramp and huddled as close to their mother as they could get. Some shoppers clapped at the reunion. Traffic restarted. And the mama duck merely walked away into the nearest brush, leading her babies in tow.

Last week, my church transformed into a Jerusalem marketplace for this year's vacation bible school theme. There were tents set up in and outside the building, decked out in canvas, woven baskets, antique-style throw rugs, and other decorations to resemble a worn biblical era thoroughfare. Outside, a sizable well was "constructed" as a hub of conversation and activity. There was a makeshift synagogue and carpentry, musical instruments, herbs and spices, weaving, and jewelry shops with busy merchants (members of the church). The theme was set up as a character immersion technique where each vendor stayed in character throughout the night as they interacted with the children and other characters. I ran the instrument shop and wore biblical garb all week, talking to the kids about the whereabouts of Christ and helping them building little rubber band harps. One of the most enjoyable kids to hang out with was this little girl named Kellie. Kellie is 5 years old, small and skinny with a beaming toothy smile that never quits and a heart of gold. She got very wrapped up in the week and was definitely having a fun time learning, doing the activities and crafts, and being in the experience.
The week was structured loosely on Holy Week, Monday being Jesus entrance to Jerusalem on the donkey, Tuesday his teachings, Wednesday his praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Thursday his arrest and crucifixion, and finally Friday as the finale and culmination where Jesus is ressurected. Everyday leading up to Friday, we merchants in the marketplace talked
about Jesus but the kids never saw a Jesus character. But then Friday came, Easter day, and word was being spread around VBS that Jesus had been risen and was coming to see everyone. This piqued our interest (and was a little offputting with people walking around saying "Jesus is coming..." You get the idea). Anyway, at the closing ceromony/celebration, we did our usual, singing songs and making some announcements when, from out of the side door of the church, Jesus comes out in a white robe and purple sash (played wonderfully by one of my church's pastors-in-training). He took everyone by surprise and begins walking among all the children, shaking hands, giving hugs, and blessing them and telling them that he loves them so much. Truly a poignant and poetic scene. But then, I saw Jesus come up to Kellie. Now this pastor is a tall guy, so the constrast between him and 5 year old Kellie is immense. She just looked up at him straight in the eye in wide-eyed wonder, then wrapped her arms as far as they could go around his legs, burying her head in his robe around his knees. She seemed a bit upset so he leaned down to her and asked her what was wrong. She just looked back at him with slight tears welling up in her eyes and said (and I quote), "We missed you so much."

Take from these what you will, but these small little interactions have made somewhat of a deep impact on me the last week. I cannot shake the simple displays of innocence and love, and I hope I told them in such a way that you can relate. Love can be found all around. Look for it. It may surprise you when it is revealed. It whispers quietly in the world.

Anyway, this post has gotten away from me, and the clock is nearly 2AM without my knowledge. I will end with a small sampling of the album that has gotten me through writing this. Afterall, this is a music blog, not a duck and VBS story extravaganza. Sheesh.

Download fo sho.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Judicature duty?

Summer has officially kicked off.
Finals are done (triumphantly), books are sold back (at less than half of what I paid), everything is moved home (successfully), and nothing can stop me now (well.....)

Jury duty thoroughly and utterly ruined my Monday. From 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM (NINE HOURS MIND YOU), I sat on an unpadded and uncomfortably small chair in a room full of people of every color, religion, race, and so forth murmuring about politics, celebrities, and other nonsense. I made small talk with some folks. We all mostly just discussed our poor predicament and commented on what else we could be doing with our time. I eventually caught the attention of some attractive college-aged girls who were also there for the first time. They seemed to know each other, and we shot the breeze and found out we know a lot of the same people. Small world.

Other than my fancy dress wear (apparently you don't have to look nice for jury duty, but I didn't get the memo), I had on me my wallet, my keys, my cell phone, and Walden by Henry David Thoreau. So save for a couple text message conversations, I was quite bored and nonplussed about the whole situation. I didn't feel like reading the provided periodicals. With names like (and I am NOT making this up) Court Review, Trial Magazine, and (my favorite) Judicature, they did not seem very appealing. Instead, Walden kept me company, but I would have preferred my iPod to let the smooth sounds carry me away from that courthouse.

It would have been nice, but alas, they do not let such electronics into the building. It makes no sense to me. Surely, I would not listen to music during an actual trial. So do they think the lyrics of songs may sway a juror's opinion in a case? Ridiculous.

Save that monstrosity of a day, which when over felt like I had completed a marathon (of sitting), the break has been good to me. Today, I broke out my hammock for the inaugural first outdoor nap of the season. Mother Nature afforded me a sweet soft breeze, and my eyes shut without restraint. And out of this serenity, I made a playlist of all instrumental music that I would love to share with you. An hour and a half of lyric-free swells and crescendos. So, without further ado...

Let the Instruments Play
1.) Rudiments of a Spiritual Life - The American Dollar
2.) Yuki! Yuki! Yuki! - Anathallo
3.) The Confusion Before Dreams - Casey Driessen
4.) First Breath After Coma - Explosions in the Sky
5.) Backward Blues - The Fire Theft
6.) The End of Dying - Foxhole
7.) Road - George Winston
8.) Altogether Remarkable - House on Ponce de Leon
9.) Soft Sculpture - Incubus
10.) On the Nature of Daylight - Max Richter
11.) Do You Think There's a Heaven? - Mychael Danna
12.) Andy Wolff - Minus the Bear
13.) Smoothie Song - Nickel Creek
14.) I'll Be OK (Instrumental Reprise) - Sondre Lerche
15.) To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region... - Sufjan Stevens
16.) Mr. Tortoise - Technology
17.) Untitled - theHOPEsymphony
18.) Carnival Barker - Third Eye Blind
19.) Old Ironside - Unwed Sailor
20.)La Valse D'Amelie (Orchestra Version) - Yann Tiersen

21.) Nuclear Summer (Instrumental) - Youngblood Brass Orchestra
22.) Ravel's String Quartet In F Major (Second Movement) - Ysa├┐e Quartet

DOWNLOAD and enjoy.