Monday, March 17, 2008

Time and Transitions - the Rev Gal Friday Five Really Really Late

To help you adjust--and enjoy the process--here's a Friday Five about time and transitions....
  1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?
    Victorian. I’m fascinated by the Victorians. The popular image is of a very repressive era, but it was a very exciting and interesting time for artists, writers, and women. The suffragists were getting started, and more women were finding their voices. Industry and science were making huge strides (not without some bad consequences, of course). This was the last grand overflow of optimism before World War I. I would like to meet Dickens, Trollope, George Eliot, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Impressionists. As you can see, my interests are primarily for the arts and writing of the time. I find it difficult to imagine wearing corsets and multiple undergarments, or having to watch children eking out a “living” as street sweepers and chimney sweeps, or dealing with high infant mortality, or the dangers for women in childbirth.
  2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?
    Hmm. From a practical standpoint, I would like to see a cure for cancer. It’s odd, because I’m not sure the future I would like to see has that much to do with technology, which I always associate with science fiction. I would like a less frantic pace of life, neighborhoods where children can roam outdoors and play, more green spaces, an educational system that doesn’t focus on test scores, evangelism without intolerance masked as “standing firm on the Scriptures,” universal health care, enough food for everyone.
  3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?
    Definitely dreaming for the future, unless I’m reminiscing with old friends. That’s fun. But day to day, I am much more future oriented. There’s much about my past that I don’t like. I don’t want to forget it, exactly, but I don’t want to spend much time wandering around it. The pleasant memories are, well, pleasant, but now I have today, and it’s heading in one direction only.
  4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?
    That I actually thought, “Hey, it’s Lent. Maybe I should do something special.” I have hardly ever given thought to Lent. I grew up in a tradition that ignored anything that smacked of high church or Catholic ritual, so Lent simply didn’t appear on my radar. This year I’ve been reading some scripture with the girls and talking about the days leading up to Easter. I can’t say that I’ve necessarily been more reflective, but I’ve been more intentional.
  5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?
    I hope to do a prayer walk at my church. That’s something new this year, I think, sort of like Stations of the Cross. I will continue to talk with the girls about the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. And, you know what? I’d really like to watch Jesus Christ Superstar again. I have fond memories of seeing it as a child, and although I usually have an aversion to that particular writer and lyricist (why can’t I remember their names?), I love the songs in Jesus Christ Superstar. I watched it last year with the girls. DramaQueen was a bit annoyed—“Why did it stop there when he died? Where’s the part where he wakes up again?” Very perceptive of her, because I didn’t think about it—I automatically fill in that blank.

    And then, on the crass materialistic level, I have Easter basket supplies to buy and Easter baskets to assemble. I don’t know when Easter became a second Christmas in terms of gift giving. During the years I wasn’t watching, I guess. But, I sheepishly admit, despite the fact that fatuous consumerism dimays me, I like Easter baskets. I like roaming the aisles filled with bubbles and activity books, jellybeans, outdoor play equipment, plastic eggs, sidewalk chalk, chocolate bunnies and all that. There’s an exuberance to it—misdirected and misplaced, but exuberance nonetheless. My compromise with my conscience is to include in the basket a couple things that will encourage exercise and play. I don’t see the point of all the bunny and egg-themed stickers, coloring books, do-dads, and such, since no one wants to see all that the day after. I find Jesus tchotchkes really annoying. We don’t need another 12-piece puzzle of the cross or “real meaning of Easter” gegaws. Appreciate the message—dislike the self-satisfied smugness of countering secular consumerism with Christian consumerism. And jellybeans. I love jellybeans.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rev Gals Friday Five - Hope

This Friday Five was conceived by Sally, who says: It has been a difficult week here in Dowham Market, and yet in the sadness there have been signs of real hope, young people, often criticised have shown us how caring and amazing they are. It has also been a strange week; it snowed for almost the first time this winter, and yet many of the spring bulbs are blooming, and the trees are blossoming!I believe that if we look carefully we can see signs of hope all around us.... as for signs of spring... well you tell me....Bluebells in my garden, before the snow!

What have you seen/ heard this week that was a :

1. Sign of hope?

I must not be very perceptive. Either that or my memory is particularly dull. There were a couple of bright sunny days that made me feel that spring approaches.

2. An unexpected word of light in a dark place?

Again, I think my memory is shot. I did hear something encouraging, not for me personally, but for a coworker whose husband has lymphoma of the brain. The latest MRI was clear. That was really happy news.

3. A sign of spring?

A few warm, sunny days with brilliant blue skies and puffy clouds. The days are getting longer, which gives me a boost on the way home.

4. Challenging/ surprising?

I am abnormally fatigued this week, enough to make a doctor appointment. My mind has wandered off into the world of possible ailments: Perimenopause? Cancer? Hypothyroid? Anemia? I have this dread that one more stone is going to be added to the heap of medical challenges we face.

5. Share a hope for the coming week/month/year....

Week: I have an excisional biopsy to get through, and I want it to be completely unproblematic. Month: We have to pay a number of medical bills to meet the insurance requirements for out of pocket expenses, so I hope we can deal with that this month. Year: I would like to buy a house, but it seems so far off financially. I want Dear Husband to find his career path.

Bonus play... a piece of music/ poem guaranteed to cheer you?

See my post below about Solsbury Hill, by Peter Gabriel. It never fails to make me feel hopeful.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Life's Soundtrack

When illusion spin a net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free

In the series of books I’ve been reading, the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer, the author posts a playlist she listened to while writing the book, its “soundtrack.” What would the soundtrack to your life be? Would you play music contemporary with each stage of life? Or something thematically applicable? Instrumental, classical, alternative, pop, jazz, rock?

There are songs that can transfix you. Every element--your environment, your thoughts, the landscape before you, the lyrics, the music, your emotions, your longings—snap into place seamlessly. I suppose these moments are what James Joyce referred to as epiphanies. Life suddenly reveals a deeper meaning, but not one you feel like putting into words. A meaning that doesn’t explain anything or answer any questions.

My parents never turned on the radio when I was growing up, and they never listened to records, either. My mom would sometimes burst into song, but she rarely knew all the lyrics and would trail into humming. I was born in 1966, and there was quite a bit of interesting music, but I rarely heard it. The local radio stations weren’t very current, either. When I was five or six, I was sitting in the front seat of my dad’s car (in the days before airbags and booster seats), and he had the radio on. A song unlike anything I had heard before came on. I thought it was beautiful. The song was Light My Fire by the Doors. I didn’t start begging for an album—I wouldn’t have known there was such a thing to beg for—but I still remember that first encounter with music that made me feel excited and exuberant and different from my normal self.

My musical taste in the 70s was an embarrassment. I wouldn’t listen to any of that stuff now. I even had a Shaun Cassidy record. Sheesh. I didn’t have passionate feelings about music, and I thought most of the bands looked unwashed and unkempt, and not in a cool way, and the lyrics would cut out so you could hear endless guitar solos. I mean, Lynard Skynard seemed to be the soundtrack of Albany GA. I got so sick of hearing Free Bird.

On one trip, our car broke down in Dade County, Alabama. Some local law enforcement fellows had mercy on us and brought us in to the sheriff’s office to make arrangements. It was getting very late. My dad called one of my brothers to come get us, but he lived some distance away. So we waited and the sheriff talked to my parents. I had never seen anything quite as unsettling as that sheriff. He was portly, and he talked a lot about his big house with a fountain. He wore large gold rings on his fingers. As inexperienced as I was with the world, I was very uncomfortable and glad to get the heck out of there when my brother arrived. It was very late at that point, and I lay down in the back seat to sleep. As I was drifting off, Hotel California came on the radio. I had never heard it before. I ever after associated it with that ride through the dark, away from the probably corrupt sheriff.

Then came MTV. By the time it hit us, punk was just a memory, a bit of background noise to the New Wave, New Romantic sounds. Oh, man, British music floored me. Where has this been all my life, I wondered? And alternative music—whoa, no more Free Bird, no more KISS, no more AC/DC, hurrah! I chuckle when I hear our local station play retro 80s music. I’m already a has-been. And now the music does sound a bit quaint.

Since then I’ve gone through a jazz phase, a classical and opera phase, and a world music phase. And then I finally discovered the Beatles, the Stones, The Band—all the music I didn’t hear growing up and which I could finally enjoy now that I know longer had to be hip.

And now, I don’t know. I like to pick up the new U2 albums when they come out. I listen happily to samplers from Paste magazine, but I don’t think I’ve purchased a CD in over a year. Every now and then I will hear a new song that startles me. Or I hear an old song that I had forgotten and that still has the power to lift me above my everyday concerns.

The lyrics above are from Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, one of my all-time favorite musicians. I did not hear this song when it first came out, but much much later, after the Shock the Monkey album and So. I don’t remember what was happening the first time I heard it, but from the opening bars, it had me. Something about this song makes me tense up expectantly. Expecting what I’m not sure. It’s liberating and joyful, looking out over life’s possibilities.