Tuesday, March 30

just quiet

"collaborative silence is a lost art," said the reverend, softly — the crowd chuckled, politely.

thusly began a contemplative service for the church which hosts 110 singers for our weekly rehearsals — a musical gift of thanks. the provided bulletin informed us that it would be a service of readings, silence and music. that we should refrain from conversation and applause once the music had begun. that all cell phones should be turned off (not just silenced), and that after each reading, a bell would ring to mark the beginning and conclusion of five minutes of silence.

silence? silence.

most weekends around our household are pretty well booked solid. that's neither boast nor complaint, merely a statement of fact. most weekends involve rejuvenating time spent catching up with friends, cooking, or gardening. most sunday evenings, I survey the weekend and wonder at the things that can be accomplished in a 48 hour period. it's a rare weekend that the calendar is totally open. I was struck by the simple irony that without this scheduled obligation, I'd probably be too busy uploading video of our idiot cat to facebook, or gabbing with pals ... or gabbing with pals on facebook. I resented the obligation just a little. I could instead be planting beans, or pulling weeds, or doing a load of laundry. is silence that important? but it was on my calendar, so I went, though a nap tempted me as I peered under the couch, wondering where my shoes had been left.

"gather up
in the arms of your pity
the sick, the depraved
the desperate, the tired,
all the scum of our weary city
gather up in the arms of your pity
gather up
in the arms of your love
those who expect
no love from above"
~john musto
and then the bell rang. I fought the impulse to reach for my cell phone. silence, you say? silence. but what does one do, without something to listen to — or say? no response. five minutes is such a long time, when you're accustomed to near-constant outside stimulus. when you're just a little bit type-a. to the untrained mind, it's an eternity to be left alone — alone with just your own thoughts and a few carefully selected, meditative words.


requiem aeternam dona eis, domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis, te decet hymnus, deus in sion, et tibi reddetur votum in jerusalem; exaudi orationem meam, ad te omnis caro veniet.
requiem aeternam dona eis, domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

kyrie eleison, christe eleison, kyrie eleison.

{grant them eternal rest, lord, and let perpetual light shine on them. you are praised, god, in zion, and homage will be paid to you in jerusalem. hear my prayer, to you all flesh will come. grant them eternal rest, lord, and let perpetual light shine on them.

lord, have mercy on us. christ, have mercy on us. lord, have mercy on us.}

Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
~david foster wallace, from his 2005 commencement address at kenyon college

and the bell rang again. and I took a deep breath. five minutes? I reread the text before me, and wondered in the word "freedom," and the concept of consciousness. zen practice is focused on mastery of presence — being connected fully to the immediate moment, and the wood chopping or water carrying (or motorcycle maintenance) at hand. what about it is so challenging as to require a lifetime of study? a hum fills the atmosphere as the air-conditioner kicks in, and I notice there's less fidgeting and throat-clearing among the crowd (maybe this quiet thing isn't so hard after all!). reading the words again, I focused again on the concept of consciousness, and tears welled up in my eyes, considering man's innate ability to unconsciously adapt, for good or ill. we become our impatient surroundings so easily — it's both a biological advantage and tragic human frailty. I watched the light play along the walls, a merle reflected from passing cars, and before I was able to compose myself again, the bell rang.


mother mary, full of grace, awaken
all our homes are gone, our loved ones taken
taken by the sea
mother mary, calm our fears, have mercy
drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy
hear our mournful plea
our world has been shaken,
we wander our homelands forsaken
in the dark night of the soul
bring some comfort to us all,
o mother mary come and carry us in your embrace
that our sorrows may be faced
mary, fill the glass to overflowing
illuminate the path where we are going
have mercy on us all
in fun'ral fires burning
each flame to your myst'ry returning
in the dark night of the soul
your shattered dreamers, make them whole,
o mother mary find us where we've fallen out of grace,
lead us to a higher place
in the dark night of the soul
our broken hearts you can make whole,
o mother mary come and carry us in your embrace,
let us see your gentle face, mary
~ eliza gilkyson (hear the song here ... or here)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

~ Hebrews 4:12-16

the bell rang, and this time a comfortable silence fell upon the congregants almost immediately. I noticed it was a little easier not reaching for my iphone; that breathing was simpler. I noted the subtle perfume of a woman nearby — not in an obnoxious, sneezing way. not overpowering — in fact it had only just danced into my consciousness at all: a hint of jasmine and ginger. scraps of music and phrases resonated in my ears and I was moved to tears more than once — but not necessarily tears of grief. emotion overwhelmed me — gratitude, love, fear, happiness — and maybe a little sadness, too. it wasn't so much that I was apprehended by all the things constant movement suppressed, but that in unhitching from the runaway horse, so to speak, I might moor to more meaningful things. I vowed to make more time for reflection. and then the bell rang again.


come, thou fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
while the hope of endless glory
fills my heart with joy and love,
teach me ever to adore thee;
may I still thy goodness prove.

here I raise my ebenezer,
hither by thy help I’ve come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of god;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be;
let that grace now like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, lord, I feel it;
prone to leave the god I love.
here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
~robert robinson

and then, just as I prepared to settle into the quiet once more, it was past. we were excused to go.

descending the steps back into the warm evening sun, it made me a little bit sad restoring power to my phone.


Monday, March 29

weekend piccys ~ extended spring break edition

well, I've fallen behind again, so this may be an extended version of an already photo-heavy post. I took an extra-long spring break — only partly by design — to observe the local holiday called southby, and to visit family in colorado.

... only, we hadn't accounted for the noro virus ::scary music::, which swept through the house like wildfire. p3 was the only one who avoided "the vomits," and she was working some sort of mystical juju to keep her cool. it was amazing. and now I'm about as sick as a person can be ... of chicken-and-rice.

however, aside from the sick, there was much fun had, and it was wonderful getting a little extra time with the munchkins.

{we played with cascarones}

{~egg shells filled with confetti~}

{because who doesn't love confetti?}

{it may not actually have been a white-out, but it snowed as much as I've ever seen}

{so the kiddos did the only natural thing: they went swimming!}

{... and we looked at all the pretty snow}

{we played with trains ...}

{... and looked at all the pretty snow}

{we stomped around knee-deep in it ...}

{... and looked at all the pretty snow}

{pretty, no?}

{and we perused lots of old albums ...}

{... playing "where's juvenile daddy?"}

{there he is! ~ and I kinda' wish I still had that radass jumper}

{we just lay low until it was safe to venture out to the airport}

{and return home, to sunshine and ladybug season}

Sunday, March 21

all that's left is cleanup

to all the sxsw'ers reconsidering — following the temperature dip of 38 degrees in 3 hours — that condo purchase: you're welcome. you don't know it yet, but you would've hated august.

... now please deposit your empty cups in the receptacles on your way out.


Saturday, March 20

weekend piccys ~ southby edition

{a week-long party ~ registration booth encouraging artists to "be safe!"}

{ooo-wee-ooo we looked just like buddy holly ~ urban art near where we caught a bit of joe ely's parkinglot concert}

{perfect weather for an official (no, really!) festival-sanctioned back-alley show}

{and for spending a little time in line}

{a colorful weekend}

{with lots of genres represented ~ loving the accessories on this buckaroo}

{... and, strangely, lots of babies ~ properly accessorized with ear-protection, of course}

{... and loads of free beer}

{... and free music}

{the festival can be as charged-up or as relaxed as you please}

{you can choose to be as good (or bad) as you like}

{... just as long as you're on the cash economy}

{after just a few days we were thoroughly pooped}


Thursday, March 18

our favorite hipster ...

... of sxsw.

among all the ridiculous hipsters – from the artfully disheveled, the retro-mohawk'd and tattoo bedecked, to the spandex-clad wannabe models standing on line for hours in 6 inch heels – this gentleman and his dancing-companion were our favorites. we replicated his dance the rest of the weekend (and weeks later), with the addition of a dapper fingermustache (no tattoo necessary). breaking from b, a little, it must be said that I fully endorse the trend toward public dancing, after a decade (or two) of steadfast indie head-bobbing (hula-hooping in the dance area ... notasmuch).


music by the generationals, btw, could get almost anyone moving to their poppy hipster dance anthems. and um, yeah. they're not normally so bass-heavy. that's a combination of really terrific sound at club de ville, and really terrible production value (iphone video) on my part.


admittedly, a bit silly ... but don't they look like they're having more fun than these guys?


southby is like disneyland for musically inclined grownups, except instead of throwing hands in the air at the most exciting part of the roller coaster, folks just stand in place, arms crossed and head nodding.


Wednesday, March 17

Tuesday, March 16


well, not really. but we did find snow crab on sale for $6/lb! ... and to offset the heavy carbon footprint, a few (buckets of) snowpeas and a handful of herbs from the yard. super simple for a weeknight (heh. especially since b shelled the crab before I returned home from work).
based on bittman's recipe, almost everything should already be in your pantry. he even okays the use of pasteurized, canned crab. we used a fresh paprika and dill pappardelle from pasta & co., and combined steps, since the pasta took only about a minute to cook. keep processes separate if using dry pasta, as the garlic will burn the moment you walk away. and, well ... burnt garlic tastes pretty much like ass.

crab and snowpea pasta

adapted from bittman's recipe of the day

salt to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsps garlic, slivered or minced
2 dried red chilies, or to taste
2 - 3 handfuls snowpeas, washed and strings removed
1 pound pasta
1/2 pound crab meat, or more
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. in a saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, over med heat, add oil, garlic, chilies snowpeas, and a pinch of salt. cook, shaking pan (and adding a little pasta water), until garlic just begins to color and snowpeas turn bright green; turn off heat.

when water boils, cook pasta. when it is just about done, turn heat under oil back to low and add crab; stir once or twice. drain pasta (reserve a bit more of cooking water), and toss it in crab sauce to coat. if mixture seems a bit dry, add reserved cooking water or more olive oil. stir in parsley, adjust seasoning, and dust with grated parm.

postscript: some folks claim it's incorrect, adding parmesan to seafood, but I ask — how can it be wrong when it tastes so right?


Monday, March 15

weekend piccys ~

{harnessing my type-a ~ floral arranging for deb's big day}

{... so the weekend began a little early ~ value-added puzzles on the caps of "texas gatorade"}

{daffodil weather arrived just in time}

{lucky weather for a lucky bride}

{a spring in everyone's step}

{very few photos of the decorative details I created ~ b called this one "the mossy deathstar" ~ hopefully I'll post more later}

{the most involved floral arranging ~ a kissing ball for the flower girl}

{gorgeous gown for a gorgeous bride}

{and a gorgeous day ~ windows flung wide}

{all of them}


{the food was pretty spectacular, too ~ local goat cheeses. made by neighbor to the caterer}

{french picnic themed party ~ the bride and her pa enjoying the evening}

{b & I had a wonderful time, too}

{oh! and one more detail ~ the getaway car}

{and after all the work saturday, we did deliberately little, sunday ~ some weird kale in the garden, growing odd frills}

{some planning ~ many topics}

{t.kitten attempting to flatten himself for birdwatching}


{warm evening light has returned too ~ daylight savings rocks my world}