all good things

Bloged in family by rod Friday November 26, 2004

What could be better than a hot bowl of chili with cornbread after a nasty cold morning horseback riding? Fun was had by all despite the temps, and the temp was quickly overcome by the chili.
The rest of the day was spent lazily with family, old friends, and another fleeting spectacular sunset. All day yesterday was cloudy with spitting snow, then at dusk, the sky cleared and the full moon and stars shown from a crystal sky. All day today was cloudy so that the sunset had something on which to project its colors. Here is a pic of tonight’s sky painting as seen from my parent’s back yard.
Then at dark, the sky cleared once again to show the gorgeous moon and stars. We spent the evening by the fire in my brother’s new log home.
Like waning moons and evening sky paintings, family visits must come to an end. Just as we stand there watching the sky darken and colors fade, hoping to wade in pastels a moment longer, so we linger into the final night, visiting, telling stories, remembering and laughing as the last logs’ flames shrink to a glow the color of the sunset in the darkening fireplace.

connections

Bloged in family by rod Thursday November 25, 2004

Twenty-six people for dinner. Many sadly missing. How wonderful to spend the day among extended family feasting, talking, laughing, remembering. Four generations represented in a single room with stories of many generations past. Today we looked at photographs of each father dating back to Wilson Lewis, born 1803 in Greenbrier county, Virginia. Wilson was the son of John Baptist Lewis whose picture I’ve not seen. Wilson’s son was George, born 1833, who lived 20 years and begat John Wesley Lewis and lived sixty more years. John Wesley lived 30 years and begat Griffeth Lewis and lived 53 more years. Griffeth lived 26 years and begat Leslie Lewis and lived 54 more years. Leslie Lewis lived 30 years and begat John Wilburn and lived 22 more years. John Wilburn lived 24 years and begat Rod and is still going strong these 40 years later. Rod lived 28 years and begat Jonathan, William and Molly who have yet to beget anyone.
I also saw a picture of John Calvin Lewis who’d have been of my great grandfather’s generation but not directly in my line. It is easy to see, then why I am less Calvinistic than Baptistic, with a tinge of Methodism. Can you imagine the debates at Thanksgiving dinner if John Wesley, John Calvin, and John Baptist had all been the same age?
This is a picture of John Wesley Lewis, my great-great grandfather. My roots run deep in these hills, and my children, though born in the Palmetto state, have hillbilly in their blood.
And for a bit of trivia, did you know that our hillbilly label comes from William of Orange, whose subjects, upon coming to America, settled in the Appalachians from New York, south. “Hillbilly” designated these from the potato famine Irish who stayed in the North East and were not a part of the same immigration. And whose colors can still be found from Syracuse to Tennessee, (yea, even Clemson) and in the evening sky over Fancy Gap Virginia at the end of a long day of driving.

obstacles

Bloged in apprenticeship, life by rod Wednesday November 24, 2004

Well I wonder if everyone traveling had similar stories today. Seems that the Inkslinger had trouble getting to New Mexico. We also had a harrowing trip. We were very slow getting away from home this morning. As a matter of fact, it was nearly 1:00pm when we pulled away from the house. Smooth sailing through misty rain until we hit the North Carolina line, at which point six lanes of traffic slowed to a crawl, and the sky opened up on us. I’m guessing that congestion is due to folks trying to get on and off I-85 and am discouraged that that means that we’ll be in it for another 15 miles or so. When we passed I-85 an hour later, the traffic crawl didn’t change. We continued to crawl through Statesville and finally at about the I-40 intersection, we slowed nearly to a stop while the road was invisible through the driving rain and mid afternoon fog. I began to worry that we wouldn’t make it up the mountain into Virginia before dark, and would be treated to pea soup fog there. I refused to stop and feed the starving wee ones for fear of the dark while climbing the mountain.
When finally we got to Virginia, there was no fog at all once we began climbing, though traffic was still thick and crawling. When we finally reached the top, at about 5:15, two hours behind schedule, I could see a faint glow in the clouds to the west. Another mile down the road and the setting sun broke through. The entire sky turned orange. Will saw a double rainbow out his window and when we all looked, it took our breath away. I quickly pulled over, grabbed my camera and stood beside the teeming interstate taking pictures and watching the sky change minute by minute. The sunset was not just in the sky, it was everywhere. Vivid color bathed everything. The kids inside the truck said, “dad, your skin is orange.” I wasn’t just watching the sunset, I was part of the sunset. Right up against the rainbow. I’ve never experienced color like that before. Being color-blind, I’ve only ever seen yellow in a rainbow. A long streak of single color highlighter stretched across the sky. But today, I saw strips of vivid separated color in two rainbows swiped across orange clouds. I think they were filtered just for my eyes.
As I stood there beside the road on top of the mountain, I thought about the stressful, crawling trip that brought me there. One fuel stop, one potty break, a 10 mile section of normal speed driving - any one of these things would have allowed us to miss this extraordinary moment. We needed to be over 200 miles from home at precisely 5:15pm, and it was all arranged to happen. There we were, a part of the sunset, projecting two rainbows on the opposite sky. Then it was over.
I got back into the truck and crawled another 15 miles to the junction of I-81, and traffic began to move and we drove normal speed the rest of the way to my parents. Go figure. Did you ever crawl into your car and hear the creator of the universe say, “come here, there’s something I want to show you?”
So this thanksgiving, I am thankful for things I hadn’t even know about this morning. I am thankful for a momentary reprieve from color-blindness. I am thankful for mountains, clouds, sunshine, traffic congestion, rain, fog, and all obstacles needed to govern my pace to put me precisely where I need to be precisely when I need to be there.

anna

Bloged in advent, worship by rod Tuesday November 23, 2004

Do you remember our resident arachnid? A couple months ago, I blogged about her position in front of our welcome sign on our front porch. At the time, she had been there for over a month - keeping her web clean and neat, and welcoming all who entered our abode. I affectionately named her Charlene as a nod to that wise and encouraging spider who ministered to Wilbur when he was desperately lonely and needed a friend.
Last week I noticed that her web was starting to look a lot like my office. Stacks of stuff piled on top of other stacks of stuff. That’s strange, I thought, she’s always been on top of maintenence. Then the next day, I noticed that she seemed to be in the same position as the day before - and more stray threads hanging. She’s gone, I thought. I reached up and patted her on the shoulder and she did not respond in any way. I kept meaning to bring her down and give her a proper burial, but stayed too busy.
Then, a couple days ago, I walked out the front door and saw her swing far beneath her orb. She was dropping a new support line to the porch rail. Within an hour she had remodeled her orb to new status. I don’t know what was going on last week. Sleeping off the cold, much needed rest… who knows? But she’s back. A very old spider.
Last night I sat on the front porch and worked on Sunday morning while it rained. Charlene was moving about busying herself with some important spider task. While I planned for the first Sunday of advent, I decided to change Charlene’s name to Anna. After all, Charlene, er, Anna is very old and has spent all this time in the same place, never leaving her web. What is she waiting on? She’s the only spider left in the yard, or even in the woods behind the house. What is keeping her here? I wondered if she’d been married eight years and widowed 84. I wondered if the cold night lack of insects represented her fasting. I began to look about the front porch for some crusty old lizard named Simeon.
All of a sudden the welcome sign in front of which Anna has been situated all these months took on a whole new meaning. I put down my PDA and decided to stop planning and start preparing.
I’m waiting.

welcome to the groove

Bloged in music by rod Saturday November 20, 2004

Sometimes a piece of music is more than a piece of music. But you have to know how to listen to it to hear what it is. That should be no surprise - the same thing is true of the spoken word. You’ve got to listen to hear it. Crazy thing is, even the speaker can say it without hearing it. Sometimes words are just so wonderful that they get in the way of what they mean. Some folks can coin a phrase so wonderfully that we don’t even notice that they aren’t saying anything.
With music, this is largely what we’ve come to expect. Does anybody really expect music to say anything? Sometimes though, you happen upon a piece of music that says exactly what you’ve been trying to say, and so, immediately understand it. It stands out from the chatter. You can hear it so well that it doesn’t really matter if no one else ever understands what you’re saying with it. But that is not what happens. People with ears will hear it and comprehend.
These past two days, I’ve spoken with lots of people without saying a word, and I feel like many of them heard.
On Thursday night, four of my guitar students played on a general student recital. Afterward, one of them came up to me and said, “do you remember how you told me about assigning each piece you play as a prayer for a specific person?’ “Of course,” I said. “Well the piece I played tonight was my prayer for you.”
It’s one thing to get past the notes to the guitar, and another to get past the guitar to the music. It’s still more elusive to get past the music. To help someone else to make these steps is a deeply satisfying thing.
Music, sweet music, such a funky thing – the closer you get, the deeper it means. (doug pinnick)

be careful little mouth

Bloged in apprenticeship, worship by rod Friday November 19, 2004

If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ll know that one of my greatest pet peeves is being identified by something that you aren’t or that you don’t do. I camped there in blog land back in the fall. I try with all my might to find identity in what it is rather than in what it’s not.
So everything I plan and create, attempts to be something rather than avoid something. Who wants to stoop to being an alternative?I spent the night last night preparing for a 25 minute set for today, in which I desire to move and motivate - to cause specific thoughts and outcomes. As I was creating visuals for it, I tossed a few images that I thought might not go over too well, despite the fact that the same element that was questionable was also what helped them make the point so strongly.

dressed gorillas du ritz

Bloged in random by rod Tuesday November 16, 2004

originally a comment to The Punk of Poetry

I dreamt this morning that I was having a conversation with James Taylor. I told him that Allison and I saw him in concert together before we were married and that evening stands out as a magic moment. I also told him that “New Moonshine” was one of my 5 favorite records ever. He asked me what were my others. I told him Kiss- “dressed to kill” and counting crows - “august and everything after”. who knew? I don’t know about the Kiss thing, but I just saw Adam Duritz interviewed on the Shrek 2 DVD. I do love that album, which explains why I would tell that to James Taylor.
James Taylor had hair, so I don’t think he’d experienced Counting Crows yet - he just looked at me kind of lost. In fact, he was bald when Al and I saw him in concert all those years ago, so surely he thought I was weird describing a concert that he’d not yet given. As for the “dressed to kill” reference - well, I haven’t heard that record in at least 25 years. Who knows what black and white images from your past lurk in the back of your mind ready to spring forth to James Taylor unsolicited? Maybe since JT had hair, I pictured him on the cover of Gorilla and thought his stance resembled that of Gene Simmons on dressed to kill. I don’t know. Anyway, realizing that I was having a conversation with a man who had not yet written “copperline”, I quickly jotted down a lead sheet and handed it to him. Perhaps now if you look at your liner notes, you’ll see my name. Maybe not.

the camera eye

Bloged in friends, life by rod Monday November 15, 2004

There’s a place on campus called “The Pointe”. It’s a place for lovers and dreamers and me. The Pointe is a knoll sitting high above the Broad River, looking due west across the river to flood plain farmland and the department of corrections complex. If you stand on The Pointe and look left, you can see the I-20 bridge about 2 miles away. From this distance, you can see cars and tractor-trailers crawling along the interstate, but you can’t hear a sound. About 4 miles past the interstate, on down the river, the Columbia skyline is visible. At night, all lit up with energy, but not a sound. The first time I stood there and looked out, I remembered an obscure Rush lyric (what’s new, you say?). “Pavements may teem with intense energy, but the city is calm in this violent sea.”
Years later, in a guitar lesson, when I had just played a piece for him by Roland Dyens, my teacher asked what images I had while I played the piece. Images? I didn’t need images, I was making music. He ruined it for me. Immediately, I said, “urban”. Actually, the scene I just described to you entered my mind. So it was a kind of “urban, detached.” I imagined all the hustle and energy, but as if observed from a distance. This time, though I was not on the point, looking miles down the river, but atop a building watching the traffic from above. Now and then, the noise of a car horn, or stray siren, but mostly noiseless movement. As I played, I wondered if I wanted to be down there in the chaos, or if all those people wanted to be up here in the quiet. Maybe I wanted to be down there in the energy, but experience it in peace. To be unaffected by the chaos, stress, the pace. I’ve seen video where someone is moving at normal speed while everything around them is speeding by at 10 times the speed of life. I think that is possible. Didn’t Einstein say that time isn’t real? Stress is probably not real either. How can we figure that out?
Tonight, Dan and I went out to The Pointe at sunset. I took my camera and shot dozens of yellows, oranges, and gradient blues. I shot the I-20 bridge and the Columbia skyline. Every time we’d hear some stray noise invade our space, I’d joke, “oh man, now that’s going to be in my picture.”
But tonight when I got home and looked at the pics I’d taken – not a single noise could be heard.

berceuse (compline 2.0)

Bloged in apprenticeship, poems, worship by rod Sunday November 14, 2004

Breathing in and breathing out. Inhale, exhale. What is uttered on the breath and what is absorbed when we breathe in?
We do it all day long. In. Out. In. Out. A gift and a thank you. A gift and a thank you. A gift and a thank you.
An endless conversation. All day long. As the sun is rising. As it climbs in the sky. In the heat of the day. At sunset. At bedtime. As we sleep and our side of the conversation quiets, the other side continues. He never slumbers, but sings over me through the night alullaby.

A promise to love me all day long and sing songs all through the night.
My life is God’s prayer.

vespers

Bloged in worship by rod Saturday November 13, 2004


let my prayer be like incense rising to you, my lifted hands are my evening prayers.

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