Why Spring Is My Favorite Season

Many people’s favorite season is autumn – that relief after the mid-year humidity, the release into a free flowing breeze carrying a hint of winter, yet with the fading warmth of the summer sun. For awhile, I thought autumn was my favorite season too. What’s not to like about comfy sweaters? Crunchy leaves? Apple cider and hayrides? But more recently, my spirit has begun to grow with a new perspective.

I still love fall. I love the balance between the warmth and the chill, the anticipation of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Fall is my mom’s favorite season. And I think my growing need to become independent of her, to become my own person, has resulted in a need to detach from my love for autumn. Perhaps it’s silly, but it’s just something I need to do in this stage of life.

Maybe it’s because my birthday is in the spring, but nothing invigorates me like the smell of wet earth, the sight of plants pushing through soil to greet the new sun. With the promise of fresh warmth on the wind, life emerges everywhere. I trade puffy coats for sweatshirts as I greet the morning with blissful abandon, allowing the early rays to engulf my body and awaken my soul.

In the midst of these thoughts, I beckon you to join me in the joy of nature’s nourishment. Breathe deeply, and drink the delight of the world around you. 

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Woolen and Wonderful

I have had the pleasure of rediscovering a favorite hobby of mine: spinning. After running out of my last batch of wool, I was hesitant to buy more (I do try to live frugally). However, when a friend of mine announced that she was going to a sheep and wool festival, I couldn’t resist asking her to get some wool for me.

That spurred a conversation about how fun it would be to create a blog series on the journey of the wool. As she lives hundreds of miles away from me, she had to send me the wool, after which I would spin it, send it back, and she would knit something from it.

The first adventure in this journey involved the festival itself, which I will link to here, my friend Dorian’s blog (she speaks of this specific wool toward the end of her post).

The second adventure rests with me, the spinner. I was overjoyed when I received the wool in the mail, and could not wait to begin spinning.

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She had sent me a bundle of both black wool and white, and I set out to work as soon as I could. I was fascinated by the different textures of the wool; the white was smooth and easy to spin rather quickly. The black wool felt a little more coarse, and it was more difficult to spin a consistent thread.

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The string that resulted is called single-ply yarn, meaning it is one strand. From here I took the black yarn and the white yarn and spun them together, creating two-ply yarn. Two-ply will be much easier to work with because it is less likely to twist back on itself, and it is also stronger than single-ply.

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I had some leftover white wool, so I spun a little bit of white two-ply yarn to finish it off. I am proud of how it turned out, and of how my little drop spindle has held up all these years. Now I get to send it to my friend to see what she makes with it. Back to you, Dorian.

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Theatre and the Internal Battle

Recently I have attended live theatre and loved it. Straight plays especially I am seeing these days contain challenging subject matter that beckons the audience to ask difficult questions. I love it when the art of live theatre serves a purpose in enriching people’s lives. However, recently I have discovered the changes in my taste for entertainment.

As many who know me are aware, I am passionate about emotional and mental health, especially my own. I have spent hours analyzing my emotions, habits, lifestyle, and childhood to determine why I think and feel certain ways, and how to improve those parts of my life that are unhealthy.

How does this affect my tastes for live theatre? I am realizing that the reason many shows are challenging is because the characters are not healthy. It is easy to see the unhealthy decisions of someone on a stage, but it is more difficult to identify those same issues in real life, which is what makes theatre so beautiful. An awareness or a call to attention of a character’s flaws creates a deeper awareness of our own flaws or the flaws of the world. This awareness in turn elicits a response from us, be it a call to action, or at least developing a unique perspective of an area in which one was previously oblivious.

The problem I have is that often I see elements of myself on stage played out in ways that do not allow for a resolution. At the conclusion of a given play, the audience is left to create their own resolution, their own determination to not turn out the way the characters might have. This can be a positive thing, especially if it motivates the audience to live healthier lives. Where I am in my own life, however, seeing dangerous life decisions played out onstage brings me pain because I am trying as hard as I can to avoid a similar fate.

In the midst of my daily anxieties, stressors, and irritants, during which I like to imagine the worst case scenario, I have thought that perhaps one day I will create short dramas to put on a stage to get them out of my head and out of my way in life. I think many people before me have already done that, as we hear stories of artists who lived tortured lives and wrote from dark places. It makes for great drama, because no one wants to watch a story in which everyone is perfectly happy the entire time. My hope is that the events I see onstage will not become a reality in my own life.

And so while I may need to take a break from live dramas to work on my own life, I hope one day I will learn to maintain a certain disconnect from people I watch in stories so as to enjoy them more.

The Irish Harp

Summer 2012

It was my dream to play a harp in Ireland. I had spent years learning how to play the Irish harp, but only in America. Now that I was in Ireland, I thought it would be fun to play a “real” Irish harp. To my surprise, it was more difficult to find a harp to play than I thought it would be. I explored the streets of Dublin, but I never found the harp store. I visited a music store in Limerick, but all they had were ornamental harps, having no more than 4-10 strings. I became discouraged, but I did not give up hope. I knew I would have one more chance to find a harp during the evening of music at Newport.

When we arrived at the school house which held the event, I stepped inside and eagerly scanned the room. I saw a multitude of children playing violins, accordions, whistles, and drums. Then it caught my eye. Standing off-center in the midst of the children’s ensemble was the instrument I had been looking for: the Irish harp. My body shook, partly from the chilly air and partly out of excitement. I desperately hoped for an opportunity to play before the night ended, but I was nervous too. What would everyone think of me, an American, playing Irish music on an Irish instrument? I hoped that I would do it justice.

When my name was called and I was asked if I wanted to play the harp, I nodded eagerly. Rising from my seat, I stepped toward the front of the room, where the harper from the ensemble set the instrument next to an empty chair. I sat down to get familiar with the harp while Denis Carey introduced the piece I was about to play, which was an original composition of his. I am glad he did the talking; I couldn’t have spoken if I wanted to, my voice being scratchy from my cold. While he spoke, I ran my fingers over the strings, feeling the sound. The tuning was slightly different from what I was used to, so I decided it would be easier to transpose the piece from its original key to the harp’s current tuning so I wouldn’t have to change it. The harp itself stood probably less than 4 1/2 feet tall –– shorter than my harp back home. It rested just beneath my right shoulder as I stretched my arms over the soundboard, ready to play. In a matter of seconds, the introduction was over; it was time to play.

I began to play the first chords of a sad, sweet farewell tune, and the magic melody resonated off the soundboard, reminding me of my harp back home. My fingers glided over the unfamiliar strings –– rougher than nylon, but smoother than gut –– I’m not sure what they were made of, but I enjoyed their timbre. In those few moments, my nervousness, the cold, and the people listening all disappeared as I became absorbed in playing. In those moments, nothing existed but the music and me. I played a few wrong notes, which I hoped I covered up smoothly enough, but it almost didn’t matter. The harp was playing itself, and I was along for an enchanting ride.

As the notes of the final chord drifted away into the air, the room erupted with applause. I stood, smiling, and began to walk back to my seat. I received several compliments on my playing from people on the way, but there was no greater compliment than the praise from the composer himself, Denis Carey. I hoped he hadn’t noticed the wrong notes I had struck, and he didn’t appear to. His smile was almost as wide as mine as he told me how much he enjoyed my playing.

I sank back into my seat, filled with a joy deeper than words. My dream had come true.

Things I Love: Books

I love books. Not the ones you get on a Kindle. I mean the real, yellowing-page-worn-spine books. Or even the newer ones that crackle when you open them for the first time. For me, nothing beats the satisfaction of watching the thickness of the remaining pages to be read dwindle, and being able to close the flap for the last time after having finished.

Last summer I read about nine books, so this summer I’ve made a goal to read ten. I recently became more active on my Goodreads account, which I would recommend to people who like to read or want to read more. It’s a great place to organize books you’ve read and books you want to read, as well as see what other people are reading and learn about new books.

So far this spring/summer I’ve read two books: The Guardian by Robbie Cheuvront and Erik Reed, and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Since I’ve already finished them, I won’t talk much about them here. However, I may talk about books I’m currently reading in future posts. And of course, I would welcome any suggestions for books to read in the future!

Things I Love: Quiet Time

I stepped outside onto the porch to sit and spin some yarn, and I was surprised with the silence that greeted me. After having spent months in an urban area, getting away to the middle of nowhere for a few days has been a refreshing change of pace.

All that lay before my eyes was a scene of green, with the grass and the trees reaching up to the overcast sky. Sometimes the sun peeked through, but then a gust of wind would cover it up again with clouds. It was the perfect temperature to sit and spin.

As I watched a blue jay and a woodpecker explore the nearby bird feeders, my mind wandered far away to more pressing issues on my mind. I allowed myself to reminisce about the past year, and thought about both happy and sad memories. I didn’t come up with any new conclusions, no solutions to the world’s problems, but it was peaceful. And the more peaceful one can be, I think the more enriched that person’s life is.

Things I Love: Sunday Afternoons

Sunday afternoon, the end of one week, beginning of another. Sometimes I don’t like it because it means that tomorrow is Monday. But it’s not so bad when I’m able to take just a little time to relax.

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One recent Sunday afternoon, I spun yarn while listening to Norah Jones and drinking green tea. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately; there’s a lot going on, but spinning and listening to music helps to clear my mind.

Yeah, I’m still thinking about things I need to get done, and things I want to get done, but stepping back and taking some quiet time really helps me to feel better.

Maybe you’re busy, but don’t forget to take time to do something you enjoy, something that relaxes you. It will help you be more productive in the long run.

Things I Love: Rainy Days

The world is taking a shower, and I’m trying to stay dry. It’s been raining all day, but I love it. I’m spending the evening inside sipping green tea while listening to jazz piano music.

Stuck indoors? No. The rain makes me feel free. Free at the end of the day to relax and not feel guilty for not spending time outside in sunny weather. Free to stretch the imagination to find an adventure in my immediate surroundings instead of searching long distance for something fun to do. Even free to be productive. Wait what’s productive?

Never mind. Excuse me, I have an adventure to discover.

Did You Feel That?

Performances light a flame in my soul that I don’t know how to explain in words. You just have to go through the experience to understand what I mean. I haven’t been able to understand why I come close to tears when watching or listening to a performance (musical or theatrical), and it frustrates me when I don’t get the sense that others are feeling what I’m feeling. The adrenaline rush in the midst of a chase, the heartbreak of death, the agony of loneliness, the warmth of a caress.

When I experience a performance, I feel a deep emotional connection to it. But I don’t want to just feel connected to it, I want to be part of it. To help others feel how I feel. It’s not enough for me to turn to the person next to me, grab their shoulders, and exclaim, “Did you feel that? Did it break your heart like it did mine? Didn’t you want to die with them, get married with them, run with them, breathe with them?” Because I can’t make a person feel something. They have to do that on their own. The best I can do is convey that feeling to them.

When I was younger, I had the privilege of singing in a children’s choir that performed in Philadelphia. We once performed a cantata entitled “The Long Bright,” along with a full orchestra and some amazing adult soloists. Provided the link works, I’ll let this website explain the story:
The Long Bright | Schola Cantorum on Hudson

Of course, reading about it and listening to recordings is not nearly the same as being there in the moment. I tend to think I got more out of it as a performer than the audience members did, because I was part of the family that understood the hard work that made that performance possible. But it’s not just about the family. I remember approaching the end of the piece and thinking, “This is it. It’s nearing the end. I’m not going to be able to experience this again.” I savored those last moments, and as the final melodies floated away I could see Anni in my mind, flying to heaven on those last notes. I hope the listeners saw the same thing, but I also think it was a secret that the performers and the writers shared, and could only be told in part to the audience.

This video pretty much sums up my thoughts on communicating through performing for others:

Things I Love: Coffee Shops

I was in a certain coffee shop last week, and I was thinking about how I love coffee shops. I knew I wanted to write a blog post about it, but I didn’t have my computer with me. All I had was some scrap paper in my purse, and so on that piece of paper I wrote the following thoughts:

If I had a journal or a computer with me here, I am almost certain I would write. But what I’d write I have no idea. There’s just something about this place that could inspire the least artistic person to feel artsy. I don’t know if it’s the creamy tan walls, though empty now, that are normally filled with the most interesting paintings by unknown artists, that inspire people; or maybe it’s the uniqueness of the tables, one decorated with pictures of doors, and on the side of which is written, “The doors are always open,” another adorned with a black bikini under glass. The only question is, what does this place inspire?

I’m sure I would feel inspired, but maybe only to do nothing but sit and enjoy the playful music in the background speakers and listen to the baristas call out orders while couples sit and talk about their everyday lives as if that was all that mattered. Kind of romantic, somewhat stereotypical, but lovely in the simplicity of small things. I don’t know if this is the place I want to leave so I can live my life, or the place I want to come to escape it.