Sunday, October 27, 2013

Impressions of Beauty

When it was too late, I realized that I had only once in my life had a picture made with this woman I love so much. And that picture was across the ocean, where it had been since I framed it and set it out in our living room in our house across the ocean.
So, when the man I married made a trip across the ocean earlier this year, I asked him to bring the picture back so I could have it over here.
And he did. And here it is.
As you can see, the frame is too big for it, but it is what I had twenty-something years ago. What I didn't have back then was any normal kind of matting for it. This was wartime Yugoslavia/Croatia we were living in, and there wasn't a lot of choice about a lot of things. And decorating wasn't my top priority at the time, in any case.
So, odd as it seems to me now, I found some crinkledy paper that at the time matched the color of the flowers on Mama Neva's dress. And for twenty-something years, that is what was in the frame behind the photo. Over time, it had changed color and faded around the edge, and at any rate it just didn't look so great, so I took it out.
Being sentimental to a degree some might find pathological, I couldn't bring myself to throw the pink paper away, and it sat on my prayer desk for a couple of weeks until I decided I had to do something with it. (Meaning, it was time to throw it away.)
But when I actually looked at it, rather than simply looking over it or beyond it, I had a surprise:

The twenty-something years of light shining onto the photo had created a second image behind it!
So now I feel as if I have a sort of shroud of Turin, or something like that, and I don't know how I will bring myself to throw the paper away....or what I will do with it. This may be how hoarders get started, who knows?
On a more serious note, discovering this unexpected image gave me hope and resolution. The secondary image is not the same as the original photo, but it is recognizable as an impression of the original. And I know that I am not like Mrs. White in many ways. No one could ever mistake me for her. I certainly don't play piano like her, and I don't live my life as well as she did. But I hope that with the years of Light shining through her onto me, maybe there is something about me that can be recognized as a faint image of her. I would love to bear the image of her compassion, her grace, her gentleness, her joy.

I would like to be beautiful like her.
Because she was beautiful.
She was the best kind of beautiful.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lux Aeterna

A little over ten years ago the music above entered my life. From the first measure, I loved it. It is Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna," and we sang it in the Rhodes Mastersingers Chorale.

Here is my music, placed in front of my preludes and fugues, one of the first books of music I bought when taking piano lessons from Mrs. White back in high school. After I got a CD of the Lauridsen music, I took it to her house on a visit home, and told her she was going to love it. As we listened, during that very first long, high/low note you see above, she whispered, "I already love it!"

The night we performed it, with Lauridsen himself present, I thought about my high school English teacher, Ray Wright, and how much he would love this music. He was in a coma at the time, though I did not know it, and a few days later I attended his funeral.

I've written a whole article on that year, so I won't go into detail here. But over the next six months, my grandmother died, a precious young cousin died by suicide, an old friend was murdered, and a close friend my own age unexpectedly died shortly after giving birth.

It was a very hard year. I found odd comfort in Hopkins' comfortless sonnet:

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked 'No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief."'

    O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

Of course, with time and a lot of love, hearts can heal, and mine did.

Last year, nine years after that beautiful music came into my life, and those beautiful people left my life, I was working on a paper for school, and I found a way to work this Hopkins poem into it (only partially cited here):

Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
                           Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
                            Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash:
                            In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
                            Is immortal diamond.

Well, the marks these people left on my mind were not gone, but I was able to find great comfort and joy in the hope of resurrection.

While working on that paper, my beloved piano teacher was in a coma, and this time I did know it. I so hoped to see her once again, but did not. Tomorrow will be the anniversary of her death.

And thus this post, as tonight I reflect and remember these beautiful people and the blessings they have been to me and to many others.

Music is everywhere, so I trust they are enjoying beautiful music even now, as we wait for the flash and the trumpet crash and the Day when all immortal diamonds will shine in splendor in the presence of the Lux Aeterna.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Music Everywhere

I remember several years ago hearing John Michael Talbot talk about how in a way, everything in the universe is a sort of music. Because music is, essentially, vibration. We sing because our vocal chords vibrate in a certain way. A violin makes music because the strings vibrate as they are bowed or plucked. Drums vibrate when they are hit. Brass and woodwind instruments involve vibrations of reeds and lips.
And everything in the universe, as we understand it now from the physics folks, is a form of energy vibrating at some rate, whether slow or fast.
And that's about all I can say about that, not having studied physics.
I like the idea that the whole universe is made up of music.
And I found some the other day in a most unlikely place......
Of course I couldn't hear this music, but it does look an awful lot like notes on a staff, doesn't it?

If it's not music, then it's certainly visual art. Who would guess that the ivy growing six or seven feet away from the window would combine with the shades to produce such a musical shadow?

Music is always migrating from its point of origin to its destiny in someone's fleeting moment of experience.
                                                                                        -- Alex Ross, "The Rest Is Noise"

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Remembering Francis

October 4 was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I wasn't able to do anything in particular in remembrance of it, beyond remembering it.
But I am thankful for his life, for what we know of it, and for how his influence has spread way beyond Assisi, way beyond the centuries he lived in (12th and early 13th), and way beyond the Roman Catholic Church he was a part of.
Five years ago I took these pictures in Assisi. This is the church of San Damiano, where Francis heard the call to "restore my church," which he did first by working to physically repair this church which was crumbling in disrepair. (It was later added on to; this is much more than the original church, of which you can see the outline.) Only later did he realize the call and the need were to work to restore the larger church itself, which was falling into spiritual disrepair through various struggles in those times.

Assisi is full of men in brown robes and white belts, dressing as Francis did and seeking to live their lives as he did, as is possible and appropriate in the century we live in. Obviously part of this man's vocation is to share the story of Francis and the various places people visit to learn about him.

No one stakes their lives on it, but they say this tree was there during Francis' lifetime and played a role in one of the popular stories of his life. Olive trees are known to live an average of 500-900 years, so there is no reason not to think that this could be the tree.

I came upon this in Villach, Austria, from the same trip five years ago.

And on the same trip I saw him on this building in Zagreb, Croatia. His influence really did spread amazingly far, especially in a time with no television, radio, or Internet. His teaching and example of radical poverty and returning to very basic church teachings had a profound effect in his lifetime and continues today.

This is   one of my favorite photos from Assisi, the woods up on Mt. Subasio, where Francis and his friends used to go to pray. The trees are so gracefully wild, or wildly graceful, and I can just imagine  how he loved to be up there away from the city.

From Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi--

". . . .we prefer saints to be either perfect in every way or so ordinary that they conform to our own stature and do not challenge our spiritual indolence. But saints are in fact heroically in love, and like lovers, they sometimes become eccentric, and even overstep themselves; holiness does not preclude humanity, after all. Above everything, however, saints keep God firmly in sight. They remain faithful, and that is why they are saints--not because they are invariably models of polite or even imitable conduct."

" How much more credible and moving are the truer accounts of those who endured daily struggles, to remain true to their beliefs--those who constantly had to battle temptations to discouragement and despair; those who suffered physically, emotionally and psychologically; those who felt betrayed and abandoned . . . .holiness is certainly (like conversion) a lifelong process, and genuine saints probably never think about it. Their energies are directed toward God, not toward a consideration of their own merits or excellence. Most of all, their lives proclaim to the world the existence of a reality that transcends it."