Here are a few pics and some random details about last week's study break. It was all too quick, but it sure supplied a lot of bang for the buck! I really enjoyed the time away, for a multitude of reasons. Recently I've been reading Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence and reminding myself how amazing and incredible mere silence can be. We are so busy with ourselves that the concept of being still and quiet and simply sitting is almost inconceivable. I experienced some of that - not nearly enough - but it was a great reminder of the power of presence- not mine, but God's! Barton says that it takes us getting out of the world, completely disconnected, simplified and reduced to no activity, no productivity, in order to recognize the truth about who God is. 'Cause He ain't me. And I need to stop thinking that I'm in control of everything.
Anyway, it was a great trip. The photo at the top is for Syd, my own trombonist. This guy was stunning. I caught him, pre-show, out back warming up. He was among a group of stellar musicians who play just for the love of the music. It was wonderful.
Aside from my awesome time wandering in the woods, I was so blessed to sit at this Steinway and play for several hours. I approached it, alone in the 300 seat auditorium, with reverance, understanding that it was something like a holy moment. Indeed, I just wanted to be with God, after silence, by expressing something through my fingers. So I played....I started with 'Be Thou My Vision', one of my favorite melodies of all time, and I cruised through jazz and pop and blues and worship songs and complete improv stuff and whatever floated through my head. It was cathartic and almost surreal. The longer I played, the more I felt as if I "knew" the piano; I was very aware of the relationship we developed as it responded to my touch. It was really cool.
I took a break for lunch and then went back to play some more, and when I came back in and threw the lights, it was a different experience; not new, not awe-inspiring, just comfortable. I found that very interesting. I brought some pieces to play and dug into a bit of Mozart, which I find a great blessing. The man knew beauty - he wrote the most stunning melodies, and then wrapped them in their simplicity around complicated harmonic and rhythmic interplay to produce masterpieces. I love Mozart sonatas....
When I left, it was a good drive. Through the mountains, no cell service, so I cranked up the iPod with some Martha Munizzi and got ready to relax with my cran-water and drive. I cruised right along, until I encountered the pinnacle of small town excitement - a parade! I happened along at the tale end of the event - in fact, it was as if I was in the parade, because folks still lined the streets as I rolled over horse dung and followed the sound of the band. I rolled my windows down and said 'hi' to folks as I sat, parked, or moved, at 5 mph. It was surreal, truly. One guy threw a piece of candy into my car and said, "Enjoy the parade!" Another guy was offering cans of Coors to everybody who drove by; I declined and he drunkenly howled, "Hey! You look like a teacher!" To which I smiled. It was a very interesting half hour....and later in the trip, before I arrived home, I got in at the beginning of another parade. Just a good weekend for small community celebrations, I guess.
I stopped at a road side park in the National Forest to take a break. I hadn't had time to do my journal and Bible reading that day, so I decided to do it at a picnic table in this setting. It was special and a memorable - and beautiful - time. Of course, I kept fighting off thoughts like, "Woman Traveling Alone Disappears From Roadside Rest; Nothing Left Behind But A Bottle of Cran-water and A Bible". It was a little freaky.
I went closer to the stream, reliving my childhood when I could have spent hours playing in any source of running water - the ditch, the spring behind the house, the river. It was beautiful and melodic, the water running and dancing over rocks and fallen trees. I kicked off my shoes and stood in the midst of it all, saying prayers of gratitude to God for such simple beauty.
Coming out of the mountains, I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the valleys and hillsides. I find myself wondering about those who live, surrounded by rolling meadows and mountains in their backyards. It is a world far-removed from that in which I live.
I want to get there more often, even if only in my head, my own stillness and centeredness.