Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The biggest kid there

This weekend I had the pleasure of performing on a student recital with a variety of learners. The instruments on the program included voice, piano, flute, saxophone, cello and harp.

I was the only adult on the program. This would be the second time that I played at this venue. The school director loves having me on the program because she can't get adult learners to participate.

This would be the first time I performed solo in public on the harp.

I'm practicing the personal disciplines of just showing up for things, no matter what, and letting go of ego/pride to the best of my ability. So this was great practice time.

However, I have to confess that I encouraged friends and family to stay home. Mostly, I didn't even tell them, afraid they would come and I'd just get nervous. Nothing is worse than trying to find the correct strings on a harp with shaking hands.

Like recitals that I grew up with, the kids were adorable. The little ones were so earnest. The handful of teenagers were serious looking.

I'd gotten to the school early to warm-up before the program started. It takes me 20 minutes or so to run through scales, chords, etc. to get my hands oriented to the harp. I'd be playing on my teacher's large pedal harp, not my own little lever harp.

Basically, I barely got to run through a few runs, before I was told to just go through the pieces. Time was running out.

The recital started.

The setting was beautiful with a huge window at the back of the stage where the view of the mountains and fields were shining through. The side doors were opened to a patio and a slight breeze cooled the hall.

Some teachers had their students identify themselves. Others had them say the song title and composer. One teacher had the students say what key the piece was in - A minor or C major.

As each kid stated their name, it felt like a 12-step program with children. Hi, my name is Mary and I'm playing March in A minor by Joseph. I had to catch myself and redirect my mind because it seemed wrong to mess with this innocence.

I was next to last on the program. The kids were getting better. Dang if that kid before me on the piano was really good.

And then time for the show.

As a kid doing recitals, I don't remember the awkward walk to the stage. But at 50 and none too graceful, I tried to pull my look together before marching off to the stage.

Once on the stage, I briefly had my back to the audience to set up the stand and bench while my teacher moved her harp. Quickly, I realized that was a bad idea. There is a reason performers face the audience. I certainly didn't want folks seeing my backside.

Sitting down and taking a few relaxing breaths, I started. The first song went by in a blink. I did fine. The second song was a series of 4 brief variations. I let the audience know to hold their applause until after the fourth ditty and to... enjoy themselves. And while I was aware of a few minor problems in the middle section, the last two variations were flawless.

As I stood up to bow, I was aware of my hot, flushed checks. My harp teacher looked really pleased. I felt it went better than I predicted.

Afterwards my teacher leaned over and said, "You know, with that rough warm-up, you really surprised me. It was great."

The best part: unlike all the little kids whose parents were hoovering over them, taking video, lining them up for photos, and dealing with grandparents, I got to get in my car and ride off. I love being a grown-up sometimes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

One-legged Birdy

This week in meditation near the very end of the discussion, someone brought up one of our favorite topics: synchronicity.

While sitting at the breakfast table talking to his wife, he was jarred by a loud WHAM on the window. Red feathers were stuck to the window. His wife went outside first to find two scarlet tanagers dead at the base of the window. They weren't knocked out, as people in the group offered upon hearing the story. No, the birds were completely lifeless.

Everyone in the room mulled this situation over. On first hearing the story, people were assuming that a male cardinal had hit the window because they are prevalent and known for attacking their reflection in glass, often ramming their heads repeatedly into windows. But our friend assured us that these were scarlet tanagers. He'd picked one up to check for life.

The person sharing the story talked about how many spiritual traditions suggest that the outer life is reflected in the inner life and vice versa; that in the cosmos, what we think of as reality is a dream but we get glimpses into this larger reality when reality knocks on our door. And it is always knocking on our door. The great spiritual leaders point to this in their teachings, if we just used our senses to take it in.

Not to be crass or insensitive to the reality of any situation, but he pointed out that metaphor is everywhere. Two birds smacked into the window and died this morning. But these are not common birds in the area. Is there a message? Was it for him? For the group? Just in his sharing, something stirred amongst us.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to talk about this a little more with him.

I shared my story of a little junco who'd been visiting my bird feeder outside my kitchen window throughout the winter. I was so happy that it had survived the winter and was able to find food at our feeder.

It would hop on one leg clumsily picking up seed on the ground, getting out of the way of larger or more dominant birds. It had to be pretty careful since hawks were known to visit the site for a meal of tinier birds. None the less, I found great joy is seeing this little grey bird show up each morning at our feeder.

The past two weeks it has been missing. I wondered what happened to it. I'd felt it had been on borrowed time ever since I saw it. We live in the woods with lots of predators. A fox has been showing up regularly about the same time I noticed the junco was no longer visiting.

We all have our own stories and sense of meaning. Humans are hardwired for meaning making and causality. However, I can only wonder what happened as I've found no little one-legged junco, dead or alive.

As I reflected on the mystery of the little junco who was hobbling on one leg on uneven ground, I couldn't help but associate it with the weak, the sick, the other as outlined in the Beatitudes. Then I thought about the two brightly colored birds my friend associates with the aggressive part of the male ego.

I can't help but watch the world stage and wonder what to make of our messenger friends, the birds.