Friday, January 25, 2008

The Urban Fox . . .

We live in the middle of a small Midwestern city, and we've had a bit of snow here this week, enough so the backyard looks like a winter wonderland.

Early this morning, just as the sun was rising, we were having coffee in the living room when suddenly my husband stood up. “There's the fox,” he whispered.

The fox is one of a small fox family living in the back yard next door, just across the creek. We saw them often last fall, loping through our neighborhood's back yards.

The fox was skinnier than I expected, smaller, sharper. With the rest of his fox family, he likes to play and prance, and he moves fast. We've noticed a steep decline in our rabbit population, but so far our saucy squirrels seem to be holding their own.

We're used to animal visitors around here. Large back yards with trees, brush, and a small creek make this a welcoming place for owls, opossums, raccoons, hawks, an occasional deer or two, and lately, the fox family.

Our guest this morning came right up to the house and into a corner where he sat, watching the yard attentively, ready, it seemed, to bound off toward breakfast if it should appear. It didn't, and after a few moments he slipped around the corner, under the windows, and into the next yard by way of the pine tree.

We settled back with our coffee, watched the sun continue its rising, and thought about our own breakfast, just steps away in the kitchen, even as the fox shopped our back yard.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Savoring January

It's cold outside – the temperature is quivering around zero or just below – but the sun is shining so it doesn't seem quite so bad.

One of the women's magazines, probably Woman's Day, used to print a small feature called “Life-Savors.” I don't remember the author, but whoever it was simply noted some of the small things that make life lovely – the things we savor about our lives.

Here are some of mine this cold January morning:

*furnaces (and hot water heaters!) that work

*hot coffee, warm bread, and simmering soup

*small birds twittering in the holly bushes outside the living room window

*late afternoon sunshine slanting through the trees, crowning them with golden light

*Thomas Mangelsen's print, White River Aspens

*garden catalogs in the mail

*watching little ones playing with the blocks or the dollhouse

*a phone call from someone I love, just to chat

*a long afternoon with a good book

There are a lot of other wonderful things in our lives – what are some of your favorites this January?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Eight years . . .

Tonight it's been 8 years since my dad died. A flurry of e-mail notes from my brothers and sister this morning was comforting. I talked with my mom this morning, too, and she reminded me how much she still misses him.

Since dad died, I've learned that even when a person we love dies, the love between us doesn't die. I still feel the force of his love for all of us even though he isn't here with us now. I often think of things he shared with me, and am still guided by his wisdom.

Shortly before he died, Dad gave me a photograph of himself, and on the back he'd signed it, finishing with his signature. “Loving you always,” he wrote, and I think about the “always” part of that a lot. Love doesn't die, even if our experience of it changes.

One of those little father-daughter games we used to play involved the telephone. When we'd finished our conversation he'd say “Goodbye” but then he wouldn't hang up. I'd say “Dad, you haven't hung up yet,” and he'd laugh and say goodbye again. We'd continue on a few moments longer, laughing, then usually I'd hang up, still laughing.

I wish we could have just one more of those conversations . . .

The promise of heaven has become more real for me, too. It's not that I ever didn't value that promise; I just had no real need of it. I'd lost my grandparents to death, but they didn't live in my everyday life like dad did. Once he died, though, the promise of seeing him again became very precious to me, and made me think about what a precious promise that is.

I've also become more conscious of thanking God for the privilege of knowing and loving people, for the blessings they bring to my life and to the world around us. I often praise and thank God for my dad and for the way he parented me and my brothers and sister. I don't remember thinking to do that before he died.

Do we ever fully appreciate the people we love? Probably not. I still miss him so.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Music

After a little medical adventure yesterday morning, we decided to stay in and rest to celebrate the New Year.

After a bit of channel-surfing, we settled on a PBS special, Live from Lincoln Center: The New York Philharmonic Orchestra concert. Still a little dazed and doped up from adventuring, I couldn't tell you all the details of this wonderful program of music – I was just enjoying it, not studying it - except for the piece at the end of the concert: Bolero, by Ravel, I think.

If you aren't familiar with this piece, I encourage you to find a recording and listen.

It starts simply, with a snare drum, a flute, and a sinuous melody which is repeated, over and over again, by one instrument after another. All the while the snare drum plays the same rhythm – I'm sure I must be getting the terms of the music tangled up, but you get the idea, I hope – and soon this same melody is layered upon itself – the same notes, but with each instrument repeating and revealing a different emphasis, a different fluidity, a different beauty in the melody.

By the end of the piece, the whole orchestra plays together, triumphantly – but essentially the same melody line, only of course, it sounds so different, so rich - yet still recognizable as that sinuous dance between the flute and the snare drum.

My husband John can't hear this piece without thinking of Torvill and Dean, the ice skaters who danced a perfect Olympic routine to this music, but last night I thought of something else.

Most of us do the same basic things every day: prepare meals, wash the clothes, the dishes, the dog; discipline the kids, pick up the house, pay the bills.

Like the melody, the litany of responsibility doesn't change a lot from day to day. It's how we play the melody – how we carry out the responsibility – that makes the difference in the music.

Last night, I was caught by the expressions on the faces of each musician as they took their turn interpreting the melodic line of Bolero. The musicians revealed their feeling with a lifted eyebrow, a shrug of shoulder, or a twinkling eye, but also in the intonation of the instrument, the timing, the slurring – all the ways musicians have of infusing feeling into the music they play.

How do we infuse our daily routine with feeling? Each of us “plays our melodic line,” and our music -- the way we “play” our days -- builds itself into the whole of our community.

Each of us contributes to the whole in our attitude, in the way we carry out our responsibilities – we're all part of the music.

Madeline Bruser's observation is helpful, not just in music, but in life: “When you feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do, take a few moments to remember your love for the music, and let yourself enjoy it as much as you can.”

Not Quite a White Christmas . . .

But it was a lovely day . . .