Make a Joyful Noise

So fellow travelers, navigating major highways in heavy rain requires a kind of intense focus which you don’t realize is exhausting until you arrive at your destination.

It’s an apt metaphor for the level of focus and energy my job has required for several weeks now. Often at the end of the day I arrive home so thoroughly spent, a nap is required to take Delilah out for our afternoon walk. Bless her sweet soul, she has learned to be patient, curling up on the couch with me. She even developed the habit of gently nudging me awake after about half an hour which is about the longest I allow myself to rest so I won’t be up too late that night. When I wake, no matter how tired I still feel, we leash up and head out, whether on a brief patrol of the neighboring streets or a longer hike of a nearby trail to scout for birds (me) and woodland critters (Delilah) these walks help me hit the reset button. A sudden scattering of light through newly leafed trees, the bright call of a warbler, a sight of an osprey gliding high overhead on a lakeside trail, auditory and visual moments of joy and wonder. They serve as reminders that the failings of the educational system are not the be all and end all of my purpose.

As I drove through the rain I let a whirlwind of thoughts rattle around in my brain like raw stones in a tumbler, hoping some gems of wisdom or at least chips of sparkling insight might emerge.

They didn’t.

The drive took a bit longer than anticipated; I had just enough time to check in at my Air B&B, change for the concert and head to the venue where I found two of my friends had graciously saved me a seat. My mind was still a swirl of contradictory lines of thought so it was just as well we did not have much time to chat before the first somber measures of Verdi’s masterpiece drifted over us.

Choral music is rarely my first choice for musical repose, even when I am inclined to listen to classical music, which I do fairly often. Yet I have thoroughly enjoyed every concert I have had the good fortune to hear our friends perform in. This performance was a rare opportunity to see all three friends singing together. One sporano, one tenor and one alto tucked among over two hundred members of four diverse community choral groups, accompanied by talented student and long term musicians of the Putney Orchestra under the superb direction of Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson.  (rehearsal photo courtesy of The Keene Chorale.)

cailin

Seated just a few rows back on the ground level of Bennington College Greenwall Auditorium, we had a close-up view of all four star soloists. Cailin’s emotive movements did not “conduct” so much a conjure a vortex seeming to suspend the reality of space and time. Transfixed, we who listened were drawn into the swells of despair and hope as the music poured into every fiber of our presence. We felt the wrenching sorrow of Verdi’s grief, terror of final judgement and healing angelic blessing of grace as the words and music wound through the text of the Catholic Funeral Mass on which he based this tribute to his friend, Alessandro Manzoni, a much loved and publically revered writer of the time.

How significant to realize friendships had brought me to this moment even as friendship had driven a creative force so powerful and moving it was impossible to experience without feeling the Divine Presence behind Creation itself. I know I felt Grace and Healing completely enfold not only my own weary spirit but the entire performing space and every soul within it. Music affects me deeply, but rarely as profoundly as this performance. One week later I sense I am still absorbing the impact. My dreams have been intense and vivid, my sleep deeper and more restful than it has been in months and the fallout from continued chaos at work has rolled off my consciousness like wax dripping down the side of candles on an altar.

To remain under the grace of this experience for whatever time I am granted I remain profundly grateful for Verdi’s gift born from profund loss. I wish him Lux Eterna.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Birds Before Bennington

So fellow travelers, this weekend’s road trip planned so many weeks ago evolved into something much more than expected.

As I prepared for the concert road trip, birding reports of returning migrants long delayed by April’s record setting cold began showing up in my messages. Even though I did not register to bird for this year’s Birdathon event, I could feel the compelling pull of the annual challenge we had risen to for so many years. On our last Birdathon Favorite Youngest Daughter and I finally broke the 100 species mark. Last year, even flying solo, I tallied a respectable total count of 73 species and I only birded for seven hours in a half dozen favorite locations, about half the time and distance we would cover as a team.

Calculating the time I would need to get to the concert, I set my alarm for first light, tossed my birding notes and checklist in the front passenger seat (next to the bin which holds my binoculars and travel copy of All About Birds) and finished packing my car.

When that alarm went off Saturday morning I hit snooze and rolled over. Half an hour later the punctuated calls of our resident yard robins and cardinals roused me from a surrealistic dream clearly scripted from the nerve wracking events at work the day before. I had slept through three replays of that snoozed alarm. Damn.

Grateful my husband had thoughtfully set up the coffeemaker the night before, despite the stress induced foul mood I had been in, I hit brew now, threw on hiking boots, packed a cooler with water, snacks and fruit and, after glancing at the forecast for both home and my afternoon destination, grabbed a rain jacket. Even after sleeping through that alarm, I managed to head out so early, our dog did not wake up to follow me downstairs. Travel mug filled with warm life restoring java, I paused in my driveway to listen~

Robin
Cardinal
House Sparrow
Goldfinch
Mourning Dove
House Finch
Red-bellied woodpecker
Blue jay                                                                                                                                                      Crow
Chipping sparrow
and of course our newest tenant “Chester” the House Wren

Eleven birds and I hadn’t even left my driveway.

As I drove up our road a great blue heron sailed high overhead. Always a welcome sighting, I had been told decades ago this graceful flier was one of my totem spirit guides. Driving across the bridge in the village I spied a pair of ospreys fishing for breakfast among the cormorants. But dark clouds moving in from the west threatened to shut down the opportunities to catch early morning activity and calls, so rather than stop to watch as I sometimes do on my way to work, I drove on to my next location where I hoped migrating warblers would be sheltered.

By the time rain arrived I had managed to log thirty-eight species in about two hours. I checked two more hot spots but found only a few persistent residents whose species I had already tallied braving the intensifying rains.

It was time to head East for songs of a different nature. (to be continued)

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Verdi in the Woods

So fellow travelers, cool overcast conditions have not dampened the enthusiasm of songbirds this morning.

Sipping tea at the kitchen table of a favorite AirBnB I’m focused on the serenade echoing from the woods behind the cottage. It’s a glorious chorus of melodic phrases, punctuated by bright chirps and an occasional bass riff by a woodpecker somewhere deep in the forest.

Morning serenade
Woodland concert wakens me
Friendship sings again

This weekend’s road trip was set in motion when I received word of a choral concert which included three friends from our creative group. It was an opportunity not to be missed and well worth the seven hour round trip drive, which of course gave me the perfect reason to stay over at this favorite spot.

The only hitch in this plan was the schedule conflict of the concert date falling on the same weekend as the annual Birdathon marathon, an event I have participated in for twelve years, nine of them with Favorite Youngest Daughter.

Still this performance led by Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson would include a mulitude of choral and orchestral musicians taking on Verdi’s sweeping Requiem. It promised to be as rare as any of the unusual sightings popping up in my local birding reports (which so far this season have included an Avocet, a White pelican and a Western meadowlark.)

I reserved my ticket, booked my overnight accommodations and marked my calendar. Little did I know how crucial this respite would prove. (To be continued)

a little watercolor sketch of one of my morning greeters.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Seismic Shifts

So fellow travelers, five weeks to go in the final stretch of this school year.

Like marathon runners “hitting the wall” going into the last quarter of the run, our team is digging deep to find the energy and willpower to see this through. Resources depleted, we keep each other refueled and focused as best we can. Requests for additional support and questions we ask go unanswered but recent events may force some issues to a critical point. Time will tell and until it does, we forge on.

Cold wet weather was keeping me and my trusted four legged companion Delilah off the trails and slowed the return of spring migrants to a trickle. No hiking, sparse birding, minimal walks had me plodding along in a fog until a sudden tragedy jolted me back to awareness.

We received news a close friend suffered a tragic, unexpected loss leaving her family reeling in shock. Tragic news has a way of setting seismic shifts in motion. When a friend is in need, all concerns about other matters are dispersed by the call to be of assistance; it does not matter whether this assistance takes the form of action or the gift is simply being present to listen. To be silent and strong when someone feels their world shatter around them, to be the one who can take action when others are immobilized by shock, anger or grief is what it means to “be there” for someone reeling in disbelief at the chaos life has sudden thrown at them.

To be present for others requires us to shift our focus outside ourselves even as we reach within for strength and compassion.

As the priest spoke of departed souls being near in times of loss, three large turkey vultures swooped over the trees. The black messengers circled the graveside gathering of family and friends several times gracefully spiraling higher and higher into the air carrying with them the prayers of the grieving and heart broken.

I no longer pass off such moments as mere coincidence and in the instant of accepting the sign, comfort took form in these words.

Dark raptors soar high

Ancestral spirit blessing

One soul welcomed home

There can be lessons in times of loss. Healing and grace, forgiveness and awakenings, gifts embedded within grief.

Walk gently on the path my friends and  if you too are grieving a loss, may peace settle on your hearts.

Perspective

So fellow travelers, on the road this weekend again and I’m struck by the picturesque contrast of bright spring greens against stark hillsides.

Persistent rain and swaths of fog veiled the views in light too flat for decent photos but I did catch one image at a rest stop on the way to Philly for the weekend’s family brunch to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Cold wet yuck to some

Life giving rain to others

Perspective matters

I’m grateful to be spening the weeken with my Mom, even as I count the days until I can visit with my own daughters whom I miss so much when we gather as a family here. Yet some close to me are struggling with the heartache of loss as Mother’s Day arrives. Whether recent or over years a loss suffered in motherhood or from mothers now gone becomes more acute at times when so many are celebrating. If tears, like rain must come, my wish they bring healing to those whose hearts ache an this healing blesses the life still waiting to be lived.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Distant Light

So fellow travelers, much of what has come when writing has been a litany of complaints.

Cold, wet weather. Heavy grey skies. A dismal monotony of ongoing stress. Nothing to post because doing so would validate the dreadful waste of precious time my days at work have become.

Being required to attend yet do nothing while madness takes hold is proving to be almost beyond my capacity to maintain balance. We thought we had seen the pinnacle of senselessness last year; little did we know the demands yet to come.

 

There is light in the distance

So you just keep pushing towards it

One step at a time

I found this photo I took on New Years Day. It feels as if we have endured years rather than months since that moment.

Then, today for the first time in months, I ate dinner sitting by my pond as the setting sun tinted the sky with warm shades of rose gold.

A few fat bumblebees danced between clusters of just bloomed dandelions and violets.

Returning migrants sang from budding trees.

Joy, like Spring, too long delayed rose with their chatter.

An early evening star appeared, offering a promise to hold a born of sincere gratitude.

Grace to see this journey through to the end.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.