Archive for March, 2011

Martha Stewart has “Good Things” and Oprah has “Favorite Things” and I now join their ranks with Thankful Thursday. I know it sounds cheesy and not too imaginative, but the alliteration helps in designating another day of the week a theme day, just like “Music Monday” here at twinklysparkles’.

I get pretty cranky and I have thought how nice it would be to have a Rant Day. But no days of the week start with “R,” so I’ve had to put that one on hold until my creative juices find a solution. Not only that, but it could be potentially toxic for me to plan on ranting once a week. I need to keep it real, yes, but I also need to move in the positive a la Stevie Wonder: “when you’re moving in the positive, your destination is the brightest star.”

While these are not the only things that made me happy this week, they ranked high enough to make today’s post:

I found 1 nickel and 9 pennies on the ground of the parking lot outside the Stop and Shop. I picked them up, damp and gravelly though they were, put them in my pocket and dropped them into my coin jar when I got home.

My daughter wrote me a note and taped it to the front door the other night. It was waiting for me when I walked in the door after she had gone to bed.

Now you see how fantastic Thankful Thursday can be. I welcome your own additions via comments. No rants, just happy things, things for which you are grateful, sunshine and rainbows, Monster Trucks and apple pie. Whatever floats your boat, flips your wig, tickles your fancy, or puts a spring in your step.

I’m here, waiting.

Love, twinkly

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Ah, me. I hoped to post a music/video combo today. With all of the pain in the world right now, Japan and Libya, and even our own bubbling turmoils from Guantanamo to Wall Street to Wisconsin, I thought it would be nice to tip my hat to an admirable human trait–our ability to create Beauty.

Did you see the Tarsem movie “The Fall?” The opening sequence is an eight-and-a-half minute, black-and-white, slow-motion scene set to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement. It ranks as one of the most stunning things I’ve seen on film and it literally took my breath away (unlike most Americans one encounters in interviews, I do know what literally means).

I saw the clip of the opening sequence of “The Fall” about 3 months ago on youtube, but is has since been pulled; therefore, dear ones, I cannot post it.

On another note, did anyone else feel sluggish yesterday? Were your children dragging ass on their way to school this morning? Tired in your marrow rather than filled with new sap running up and down the length of your limbs? I know for me it was the absurd time change (a not-so-admirable human creation).

Spring. Waking up. The Fall.

There is only one solution until I can make my coffee-blended.

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What if I throw in the towel and just write a quickie?

Here are some of my intentions and parameters for my blog, vaguely formed, yes, but somewhere in the back of  my mind:

I will not post completely insignificant crap (I know insignificant is relative and that for the most part, it’s all insignificant).

I will not post just because my cat threw up or my kid got an “A” or I had a cold or a broken nose or my car stalled out or there was a storm or my basement flooded or I lost my checkbook or I didn’t sleep enough. Well, something like that. I don’t want my focus to be so narrow that writing becomes a useless habit. However, if I can suss out what is significant and worth my attention around the mundane, if my cat throws up for say, two weeks in a row, or I don’t sleep through the night for the better part of three years, or all of a sudden I will only have sex in the back of a purple-polka-dotted cars, maybe those things are worth a post. If death is inevitable and beauty is all around us, what are the patterns? How does my experience fit into a greater whole?

I will try not to post links to other information without commentary or additional thoughts.  I would likely use Facebook for that. But who knows? I reserve the right to do it here.

I am allowed to be a jerk and I am allowed to make mistakes.

The color on the background of my blog’s “dashboard” is supposed to be a deep purple-y grey, but when I got my new Mac, it turned much purpler and much less subtle. I can’t really tell what color it is to you. Close your eyes and picture it to match the photo of the rocks and to not have any hint of rainbows and unicorns. It is a beautiful and solemn color and I am going to try to change it right now.

Sometimes the technology sucks.

I am allowed to use whatever language I need at any given time, including words like shoulder evil fuck cunt cock halo art angel God god terrible horror goddess feminist crap love gorgeous vulva anatomy vein spider asana fat. I do not fear words and I do not fear what is revealed when the flesh is stripped away.

I am but a speck in the eye of eternity, but I feel my life and labors intensely. The days flash before us and are gone. We are not meant to catch them and only by grace do we succeed in doing so.

I am the product of white privilege.

I do believe that to be human is to suffer and that the only way to be free from this bondage is to learn compassion. I am a pilgrim and a stranger.

I like the notion of opposites. One cannot have dark without light. I don’t believe that one should be positive if it is just an opportunity to beat oneself up for not being positive enough. Being positive is the same as being politically correct. It might be the wrong approach because it can lead to lies and self-delusion.

I do not know if I can write about politics or history though I feel passionately about both. I would like to be accurate and I am not sure this is possible. If I write about these things, it really will take me all night.

I do not use emoticons, but I will engage in ironic acts on occasion.

I am tempted to steal ideas and patterns from other blogs I like, but I haven’t yet for fear of boxing myself in and for fear of engaging in the immoral act of stealing.

I think about it, though. So, I have been doing “Music Monday.” What if I do add a photo day, a recipe day, a rant day, a praise day? I would love to do a word day. How many days in the week are there? Perhaps it could be every-other week, or every third Wednesday. I’m too goddamn busy, creative, and original to deal with these fucking restrictions.

Look at me. Sometimes I am beautiful.

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This coming weekend, March 12 and 13, is the annual Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Convention (“wmshc”) to be held in Northampton, Mass.

Some of you may notice that periodically there are references to Sacred Harp and/or Shape Note music or lyrics in my posts.

I first heard of Shape Note singing many years ago from a friend back in Kent, Ohio. When I moved to Western Mass in 2000, I saw a sign about shape note singing. It made a vague impression, but I was too new to the area and too busy with other things to pay it much heed, so it went into the hopper for later retrieval.

After seeing the movie “Cold Mountain,” I was finally ready to find out more and to commit to learning how to sing the music whose sound struck something old and deep in me.

Fortunately, there is a weekly Sacred Harp sing just 15 minutes from my house. Had this been a monthly sing, I have no doubt that I would never have been able to learn it. (My training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique also helped me tremendously and ties for the reason I was able to stick with the music).

This is a video I return to on occasion when I want to hear a really fine example of Shape Note/Sacred Harp music. There is much to recommend it: the boy’s consistent leading (ie, the boy’s got rhythm and he knows how to use it), his ability to connect with the different harmonic sections by turning his body and gaze, his lack of self-consciousness.

On a more personal note, this is one of the first songs I ever led and it continues to speak to me and to resonate within me. Its lyrics are an example of one of the many ways that Sacred Harp music beckons and pulls at my being in spite of its solidly Christian roots. The words speak of a passion for something in the afterlife which I experience on a regular basis as a craving in the here and now.

Another note: you will rarely, if ever, hear applause after a Sacred Harp song (more on that below), but I think this unusually large group of singers could not contain their pleasure and appreciation for so young and excellent a song leader.

I know that there might be questions: What is Shape Note music? What is Sacred Harp music? Are they the same? Why do you sometimes capitalize Shape Note, sometimes not? Why is this boy in the middle of the singers? Is this a choir? Why is everyone raising and lowering their hands? What are the sounds they are all making before they sing the words?

For me, the most important things I’ve learned are the following (keep in mind that I know far less than many of the people who sing shape note music):

“Shape Note” can refer to both a type of musical notation as well as a style of singing. The Sacred Harp, on the other hand, is a hymnal and it uses 4 (fa-sol-la-mi) of 7 possible shapes. There are other hymnals with 7 shapes (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti) and you may find the shapes in secular music as well.

Although I don’t usually see this word used to describe it, Sacred Harp is a perfect example of congregational music. Congregational music is sung by the congregation, not by the choir. It is for the people to sing, regardless of ability, vocal quality, sense of rhythm. I have heard it referred to as “communal” music, and this is just another way of saying that it is not sung by the choir. It also tells you something of its history.

Its congregational nature is also why Sacred Harp music is not sung as performance. That is not to say that you won’t hear it performed, but that is not its purpose. Again, by the people, for the people.

Calling Sacred Harp music “congregational” might lead to the impression that it is only sung in church and by church folk. While this was traditionally the case, it is not so nowadays for many people, yours truly included.

If this piques your interest and the sound leaves you craving more, check out the Convention in Noho this weekend. Better yet, find a regular sing close to where you live and keep coming back.

I’m fettered and chained up in clay,

I struggle and pant to be free

I long to be soaring away,

My God and my Savior to see.

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On the last Friday in May 2010, I was able to accompany and photograph Hartsbrook’s 8th Grade students during their final Agricultural Arts class.

It is customary for each Hartsbrook class to begin a study of Beekeeping with Nicki Robb in the fall of the 8th Grade year.

Beekeeping is a complex art, combining ancient farming techniques and the science of keen observation with a deep understanding of what is natural to the bee. The beekeeper must become a steward of nature in order to reap the benefits of the hive in the form of that most sensuous and mysterious of substances, honey.

The weather on this particular day was the best of the week, not as hot as it had been earlier, but sunny with a slight breeze. The beginning of beekeeping class found the 14 students donning their bee-proof Tyvec suits. After this somewhat elaborate ritual, they followed Ms. Robb to the hives at the back of the campus. The 8th Graders were instructed to be as still and quiet as possible and to approach the hives only from the back in order to avoid interfering with the flight path of the bees. In groups of 3 or 4, the students carefully removed the cinder block weights from the tops of the boxes. Having been taught to listen to the sound of the bees’ humming in order to assess the mood of the hive, the teenagers were transformed from chatty and excited to quiet almost immediately. Next, they carefully pried up the frames to observe the combs: to see if there was honey, to observe its color and quality, and to notice if any chains had been created. After their observations were complete, the frames and boxes were put back in reverse order. A final “bee check” with a brush was performed on each student and the space-age suits were stripped off with happiness and relief.

Having never been near a living hive of honeybees, I was in a state of awe for the 45 minutes or so that we spent there. Time was suspended in the sunshine and whispering breeze of the morning. The frames oozed with a liquid, golden light. I was never afraid of being stung, but rather soothed by the hum and buzz all around us. Nicki stood in front of the boxes and I was astonished at the hundreds of bees flying halo-like around her, to and from the hives, both as if none of us existed, but also as if they were there simply for our pleasure and beholding.

After I removed my own bee suit, I spent some time in the Great Room looking over the class’ final work displays—the material “honey” of 8 years of a Hartsbrook education.

I spent about an hour paging through Main Lesson books, poring over poems about the animals of Africa, reading about the properties of light and atmosphere, drinking in the splendor and colors of dozens of watercolor paintings, and admiring the wooden toys and handmade dolls. I was amazed at the material declaration of knowledge and beauty and at the incredible amount of industry that went in to each child’s work. It is more than I can contain in my mind at once even now.

When I ventured back to join the class, they were gathered in the shade of a huge tree, listening dreamily to Ms. Robb. Once her lecture was complete, Nicki asked the group which of Hartsbrook’s resident farm animals they would most like to visit for the remainder of the time. The resounding answer was, to my surprise, “THE GOATS!” The 8th Graders rarely, if ever, have a chance to visit the animals during the school day and this was obviously a final gift from their teacher.

In the presence of the goats and our resident donkey, Francesca, the class was transformed from a group of sophisticated teenagers into young children again. I watched as their hearts lightened. Tenderness and joy overtook them as they fed, petted, and played with the goats and Francesca.

Hartsbrook’s 8th Grade Class of 2010 had an educational path that was forged by not one, but three, different Class Teachers. This provided them with unusual and unforeseen challenges but also opportunities for flexibility and growth. Ultimately, the situation allowed the class to become intensely bonded to one another and to have a strong spirit of perseverance in the face of external pressures. I thought about this during my final time together with them. This class did become a hive unto itself, as any of its teachers could tell you.

The day was certainly blessed and I knew it was a gift to be in their presence as a group for the last time. While I overreach to apply metaphors, I still have this wish for them: May your days forever ooze with golden honey as you fly from the geometry and industry of your Hartsbrook hive and venture into whatever awaits you.

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