Sunday, February 27, 2011

Isaiah, Springsteen, and Buechner call me out of darkness

Isaiah 49:9

saying to the prisoners, “Come out,” to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.” They shall feed along the ways, on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;

It was 1978 and I was in a light blue Chevy Monte Carlo. It was that time period when I was old enough to go into the examination room by myself, but not old enough to drive to the doctor's appointment.

My relationship with the urologist had started when I was four and lasted till I was 23 and so I can now sadly say that one of my most intimate relationships occurred at his office on Hamilton Street. Best practices of the day observed (but lots of pain, fear, sadness, anger, despair, embarassment). Nothing I would wish upon a nemesis.

I was 15 and growing up in Bruce Springsteen country (in this case defined by the radius of Philadelphia rock stations) and so I had to have heard his music. I must have. But I will swear it was that day, that moment, when Bruce showed up in my life. Soon after that drive home with my dad, I would buy Darkness on The Edge of Town.

This past week I have been listening to Bruce while flashing back to high school by working in Orange and Black. Back in 1978, I would have just begun my three years in the senior high school.

Well everybody's got a secret Sonny
Something that they just can't face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take
Till some day they just cut it loose
Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down
Where no one asks any questions, or looks too long in your face
In the darkness on the edge of town
In the darkness on the edge of town

Well, I had a secret all right. If I ever spoke of the urologist before my 20's, I don't recall the conversation. There have been times I have come close to telling my story here, but then stopped. But Friday night when I picked up the lyrics sheet, saw myself being driven in that car, and remembered how much I lacked in spirit, I decided it was time to cut the secret loose even further.

By the time I graduated I was spiraling downward and inward and my last memory is not of being handed a diploma, but of wanting to be lost and knowing of only one way to get my mind there.

I took month-long vacations in the stratosphere
and you know it's really hard to hold your breath.

Swear I lost everything I ever loved or feared,
I was the cosmic kid in full costume dress...

In my first year of college these lyrics (from Growing Up) inspired a friend to call me Stratozpheres which got shortened to Stratoz by the time I had lost my will to succeed and was asked to move on by the college. I left the college and the nickname, but kept my secret.

Lights out tonight,
Trouble in the heartland,
Got a head on collision,
Smashin' in my guts, man,
I'm caught in a cross fire,
That I don't understand,
I don't give a damn,
for the same old played out scenes,
I don't give a damn,
for just the in betweens,
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul,
I want control right now
Talk about a dream,
try to make it real
You wake up in the night,
with a fear so real,
Spend your life waiting,
for a moment that just don't come,
Well, don't waste your time waiting,

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you've gotta pay,
We'll keep pushin' till it's understood,
and these badlands start treating us good.

I believe in the love that you gave me,
I believe in the hope that can save me,
I believe in the faith
and I pray, that someday it may raise me,
Above these badlands

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you've gotta pay,
We'll keep pushin' till it's understood,
and these badlands start treating us good.

For the ones who had a notion,
A notion deep inside,
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive
I wanna find one face that ain't looking through me
I wanna find one place,
I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

Bruce bursts into the album with those lyrics to what would become my favorite song. Gradually people, places, and things can melt even my amazingly stoic heart. That is what this blog is about. Not a rant about things that bring about anger, despair, fear, sadness..., but a celebration of the things that raised me up: God, Mosaic Woman, Friends, Jazz, Birds, Gardening, Teaching Science, Photography, Doodling, Stained Glass...

But it all started when I released the secret into the world and with lots of time and hope and love; finally one day I realized: That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive ...

Moments of darkness await me. If there is one thing I have learned from this life is that healing can happen. Light can arrive. Darkness can linger, but more as a shadow than a cave that has entrapped us. No wonder I so agree with Frederick Buechner about the need to tell our stories, Darkness wants you to fear releasing what keeps it hidden. Trust allows you to tell your secrets.

"What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . " Buechner from Telling Secrets

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

tectonics part 2

Yesterday I spoke of tectonics.

I would love to say that the inner temperature of the Earth is constant which has created perfectly flowing convection currents which cause frictionless movement of perfectly delineated plates which cause no death or destruction when they move.

that ain't where we live. Peace to all those who had to deal with what can be quite a catastrophic planet.

This morning my students and I watched a news video of the minister of this church, who was hoping and praying but sadly doubting that no people would be found under the spire which is pictured above and was now in rubble on a street in New Zealand.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Science Mondays--- tectonic

Driving into the Fault Line
Driving Into the Fault Line
by Giant Ginko

I am going to venture into plate tectonics this week at which point I may say, since I have said it often before,

What happens when India met Asia? Instant Himalayas, geologically speaking.

What I want to happen of course is for my students to ponder the amazing planet on which we live and for them to know that if one wants to feel the earth quake or see it spew, it is best to stand upon on a boundary crack.

and as far as humans causing quakes: Here are the top 5 ways according to Wired Science.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

7 for the weekend--- Hope

1. A very special commission.

2. "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11: 1

3. Those who consider the history of language have suggested a connection to hop as in "leaping into expectation."

4. A recent blog post by my friend Robin: Extension, Strength and Beauty = Hope and Future.

5. Hope for the Earth can be fleeting if one reads environmental news/books/videos. I struggle with this as a teacher. I want my students to be educated about the needs for our planet, but don't want them left in despair. I want them filled with hope. One of my students introduced me to and I have found many a great video there related to what the current topic may be. Sometimes when we have an extra moment in the Social Science class we take a chance and stumble into something.

The other week I showed this and by the end I was leaping with the joy that can come when someone offers your spirit hope for this amazing planet. Do you have 13 minutes to lift your spirit?

6. Females seem to have a run on great names in my book: Faith, Joy, Grace (my mom's), and of course Hope. Hope in Spanish is Esperanza. Recently Esperanza Spalding became the first jazz musician to win a Grammy for best new artist. Jazz is not dead and or dieing. As I continue to explore my favorite genre of music, I keep coming across more and more names of people entering the field.

7. And then there is the hope that the past will not be forgotten. My blogger friend Curt introduced me to a trumpet player who died in 1997, Johnny Coles. Something resonated with that post so I explored a bit further and eventually bought a piece of music recorded two years before my birth. Here is the opening track to The Warm Sound:

Peace and Hope be with you


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lady Wisdom Shineth

Sophia has been keeping me a bit under control since I mentioned working and not working on this project.

at night in the bathroom, 10 minutes after completion:

and this morning:

and up close in day light:


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crafting On Thursday- Rising with Sophia

which comes first:

falling into an emotional funk or staying out of the studio?

I have felt riled up this week, letting things annoy me. Students, colleagues, friends, administrators, forms, stained glass artists who sell their pieces for dirt cheap, drivers, ...

I went 130 hours away from my studio, since Saturday when I cut and then ground 21 pieces to fill in a favored design.

For the last 90 minutes of commuting I have listened to one song over and over. A Canadian, singing a song written by a Canadian.

And a phrase resonates with my bitterness: it's a cold and broken hallelujah

and I think of Sophia. In the book of Wisdom, Sophia is given 21 attributes, one of which describes great swiftness. When I first read this I imagined the human need for God to flow into us as Wisdom before we say things we wish we hadn't said. And as I imagined myself a bit cold and a bit broken this week, I thought of my need for some Wisdom.

Today went better at work, so I returned to the studio to foil those 21 pieces. And what design has been waiting for me patiently, it would be my Sophia Mandala. The most recent to be completed welcomed you when you entered this blog post. The new one that is taking form is very verdant.

and it helped to read these words by Rumi at this blog.

There is a light seed grain inside.
You fill it with yourself, or it dies....
I'm caught in this curling energy. Your hair.
Whoever's calm and sensible is insane.

and it helped to ask this friend to pray for me.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jazz on Tuesdays--- Jazz in Detroit

Mosaic Woman and I don't watch much TV these years, but my love of sports can lead me to watch the Phillies in the World Series, or a Super Bowl Game. The two minute Chrysler commercial was so well made and so different from most of the nonsensical ads that it caught my eye. This blog post reminded me of the feelings it tried to evoke.

Of course if you read the comments under the video you will read all kinds of rants, but I was filled with hope for anyone or any place that has to rebuild after hard times. To remember that beauty remains in harsh moments is a fine lesson for all of us to remember. I showed the commercial to Mosaic Woman and she decided to explore Detroit's beauty in a blog post that features one amazing stained glass chandelier and mosaics (shocking). As she was creating her post I kept wanting to say, hey find some jazz in Detroit, but stopped myself knowing that was my post not hers...

Born In Detroit:

Kenny Burrell (born exactly 32 years before me) plays guitar with John Coltrane.

Jazz Radio:

Just like Philly, Detroit has a station that plays classical during the daytime and jazz at night. WRCJ, which is housed with in a public high school: The Detroit School of the Arts where students get amazing opportunities like this:

Detroit Jesuit Jazz:

now who would have thought I would find something like this:

The Detroit International Jazz Festival:

If you have never been to Detroit (like myself), here is a reason to get there.

and to where the commercial ends:

How cool would it be to see a Big Band make this place jump and jive?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

7 for the weekend--- seven new blog friends

47  193/365  My Church's Wall

I just had dinner with a large group of friends at my church. As I enter blogger land, I have decided to celebrate that I have been blessed to have stumbled upon some new blogs, so let me praise them:

1. Synch-ro-ni-zing--- Original poems, great photos, developing a love of jazz, a recent post on Detroit that is filled with hope... also check out her projects on Rumi and Rilke

2. Curt's Jazz Cafe--- I mentioned Curt back in July when I was talking about twitter and jazz, but failed to mention his blog. His recent take on obscure trumpet players has been quite educating and his end of the year best of list gives me a chance to catch up a bit on what I have missed.

3. Our Little Family--- I am so loving what happens here most Thursdays and that is all I have to say.

4. Art Propelled--- When Mosaic Woman's sister moved to South Africa, Mosaic Woman, hoped to find some interesting blogs from there. Just so happened I had just found a blog by a wood carver.

5. Sew On and On--- She has stormed from being a twitter follower to flickr contact to blog reader to facebook friend. Check out her Thankfulness Installation, which she has been highlighting for the past several weeks.

6. Snowcatcher--- OK, so I may not be planning a ride up Pike's Peak this summer, like she is, but her passion for bicycling has my heart aching for what used to bring it so much joy. Her photography like so many of these bloggers makes me humble.

7. Blue Lion Blog --- A science teacher with a passion for nature and photography. His relatively recent post on Yellowstone had me flashing back to when I was 13 years old.

these and a few others just got added to my blog roll today.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Fridays in PA---- East Branch of the Monocacy Creek

Back in the Day, Christmas time 1994

Every Wednesday I am to send an e-mail to the four people who are in my spirit group (see here). The first week I turned to a long favorite quote by Buechner. The second week I turned to a verse of scripture that jumped out at me a few days earlier. But, I had no plan and Wednesday was slipping away, so I grabbed Annie Dillard's A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and found this:

"My God. I look at the Creek"

By 1994 Mosaic Woman and I had ventured through our years in Massachusetts and Oregon. We were living in Illinois and came home to Pennsylvania for Christmas. I took my young nephew for a walk that I had made often as a teenager. We ended up at the East Branch of the Monocacy Creek. I love flowing water.

We need to keep in touch with what we love and over the years I have visited many a place where water runs. My visits these days are too far apart.

I made a list of hopes for 2011. Let me add another. I want to stand and look down at light bouncing off dancing water molecules and say:

"My God. I look at the Creek"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Science Mondays--- Hearts

"white old-fashioned" bleeding heart

as yesterday's post came to an end, I realized I had not ventured into the science of hearts

1. Bleeding Hearts: the above variety from my front yard is pure white, but they do come in red and pink. It is a symbol of undying love. I hope to remember that this spring when they emerge and greet me as I walk down my porch steps. advice on growing this perennial

2. the rapidly beating heart. Generally speaking birds beat mammals which beat all else. It has to be with our "warm-blooded" metabolism. Hummingbirds can exceed 1000 beats per minute. Shrews win out for mammals which can have 800 beats per minute at rest and an excited shrew was clocked in at 1,511. It is believed that large mammals live longer because they do not wear out their body parts as quickly. The elephant hearts weighs in at 50 pounds and beats 30 times a minute.

3. the hibernating heart: The chipmunk goes from 200 to 5 beats per minute when it heads into hibernation.

4. The future heart transplant: Doctors have ventured into what would make amazing science fiction. They have found a way to take an organ, strip away all the cells, but leaving the protein matrix. Then provide cells and the right conditions and a dead heart can become functional again. If they master this technique, organ transplants could be revolutionized. Waiting to receive a donor liver would be replaced with waiting for your cells to create a new new liver on the matrix of another one. Rejection concerns would plummet. Watch the second chapter of this Nova Now to learn more.

5. 36 interesting facts about the human heart

6. no heart? If trees have no heart then how do they pump water to those high branches. The water is pulled by the leaves using the water and the evaporation out of the leaves (transpiration) and it helps that water is excellent at adhesion and cohesion so that the molecules can form a column. If the column broke, it would be hard to pull the water up.

7. Heart Mountain in Wyoming consist of material 300,000,000 years older than the rocks at its base.

8. The Heart Nebula is a place where stars are emerging.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

7 for the weekend--- Hearts

47 189/365  a dark heart in need of some light

1. My Dark Heart: All the pieces can come together, but with out some light, our hearts can be dark.

2. My Foolish Heart:

3. The Purple Heart

Mosaic Woman
has been working hard on the decluttering process, which means our excess stuff has been flowing to those who can use it. One call to the good people at Purple Heart and a date is set. It goes on the porch in bags, it leaves in their vehicle.

What they do:

Through the sale of these tax deductible contributions, funds are raised which help support and train veterans and their dependents, help them receive VA benefits and provide direct financial assistance where qualified to our nation's veterans and their dependents.

4. John's Icy Blue Heart

To melt your icy blue heart
Should I start?
To turn what's been frozen for years
Into a river of tears

by John Hiatt

for all those who have experienced that river of tears, my blue hearts from this point on will always have some orange flames...

5. Mosaic Woman's Film Noir Heart:

6. The Unexpected Heart

You turn a corner, sign up for a class, sit at a counter, or start a blog; and if your heart is open, who knows what heart will show up into your life. A few days back I posted about making pieces while listening to Herbie Hancock. I also posted those photos on flickr, where friends pointed out what I had missed. The two with empty centers, were not empty after all. They were hearts. So this week, lets us point out the hearts our friends possess and which brighten our days.

so let me start the process:

7. Becky's Heart

I started this post with a dark heart, which I posted as my flickr photo of the day. A friend, who has been an amazing supporter of my attempt to post one photo a day for all the days of my 48th year had this to say: "Must be mine."

Well, I don't think her actions match that at all, so tomorrow I will post this photo of the above heart, and yes, I will call it Becky's Heart.

check out Becky's photos

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crafting On Thursday- A Snow Day with Herbie Hancock (b): The Herbie Hancock Trio

The other day I blogged about listening to Herbie Hancock while spending time in my studio. I wish I could say that I entered my studio planning to not make a mosaic, but that was my plan. I wish I could say that I planned to get 30 pieces of my doodling with glass design pattern out of the Youghiogheny glass scraps sitting on my sitting board and that I would plan to get 15 warm and 15 cool color pieces. And that I would plan to make three pieces 7-3 on the warm side, 7-3 on the cool side, and a 50/50 blend. But I didn't, it all stumbled into being as I listened to Herbie Hancock.

As Village Life played I glued what ended up being 30 pieces of paper onto the glass and began to grind out the pieces, which I finished grinding as I listened to Maiden Voyage. As Maiden Voyage closed out I realized the warm to cool possibilities and divided the glass into three sets of ten.

I grabbed the warm blend as Gershwin's World started and began to foil. I played with the pieces and soldered as the CD played on and created the piece that greeted you up above.

The sun was down, dinner gone, a snow day coming to an end, when I grabbed the cool 10 and put The Imagine Project on the stereo... again I foiled, played, and soldered:

I went to bed and awoke to a day of teaching. I entered my classroom, got a pot of tea brewing and listened to River: the joni letters (blogged about here). I threw the CD in my bag at the end of the day and the next morning, with no snow to shovel and no school to teach I entered my studio and listened to Herbie Hancock's amazing tribute to Joni Mitchell:

Oh, yes! The Herbie Hancock Trio:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jazz on Tuesdays: A Snow Day with Herbie Hancock (a)

Much light hearted snarky abuse is flying at work with the Daves because of my desire for no snow days so that a trip to Rochester can happen this spring. So I have been claiming that my love of jazz had been keeping the school opened, until last Thursday when nature rolled over me. However, I was young enough to shovel and have quite a day in my studio. I wish I could say that the results were part of some preordained plan, but no I stumbled upon it. From the sudden turn to veer away from making a mosaic to randomly pulling out the LP featured above.

The album came to be because Herbie Hancock was approached to make some music for the LA Olympics. Herbie stepped away from the piano and went electric so he could play in tune with the Gambian instruments played by Foday Musa Suso. The LP (Village Life) is duets. Here they are playing with a band:

Then I turned to our CD collection and I was quite glad to find that I only had one of them at the school. I keep about 50 jazz CD's rotating through my classroom.

May 17th 1965: Herbie Hancock recorded his fifth LP as a leader with quite a crew of folk about him: Maiden Voyage

I then leaped to 1998 to play some Gershwin, but also 4 tunes written by folk who influenced and were influenced by Gershwin: W.C. Handy, James P. Johnson, Duke Ellington, and Maurice Ravel. The latter refused to give Gershwin piano lessons because he feared it would damage Gershwin's talent. Here is the Ravel piece:

The day in the studio ended with a CD I had found at our last library trip. Hancock's most recent CD, The Imagine Project. Can't fully try to describe this collaboration (a review) that took place as Herbie Hancock travelled the world playing with many an artist who he admired. It was aproject about hope for our times and the future, and so I will end with this tune (come back Thursday to see the art that emerged)

Lisa Hannigan and the Chieftains join Herbie Hancock to play a Bob Dylan tune. How cool is that!