When the weather is tropical and everywhere you look you see green, life starts to feel like an epic poem written by Mother Nature. There’s so much happening around us with things growing and water puddling and smells that define a season – flowers, bar-b-q and chlorine. I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to sit and walk and run and just appreciate these things. I take the responsibility of being an observer pretty seriously and know it’s an incredible luxury.
I’m generally not much of a pray-er, other than to give thanks, but I’ve been working the prayer thing a little harder as my kids continue to extend their reach. Health and safety. No cobras. Safe driving. That sort of thing.
Promises? What do I know about those? Hmmm…I’d have to go with that they’re important and meaningful and should not be made lightly. Like that promise I made a few days ago to share some impressions from recent live music shows I’ve seen.
First up are some pics from the concert Liam and I attended in Vienna. We bought the tickets from a guy selling them near a park and I was pretty convinced he was going to steal my credit card information and cost me a bundle, but happily it was legit and he was a total professional.
The show, at Schoenbrunn Palace, was a “fine selection of masterful music by Mozart and Strauss…” it lasted about 90 minutes with an intermission and it was lovely. I didn’t grab a video because they asked guests not to and that’s a rule I can respect, even with my regret at not sneaking a single photo at the Sistine Chapel.
My son and I also attended a classical concert in a gorgeous chapel in Prague. I did take a video there and I’m sharing it
I love Vivaldi (not that I know sh*t about classical music) and I felt quite moved by the experience. Wonderful.
Also wonderful in a different and much closer to home way are the Monday night jazz offerings at Lucas Confectionary. I’ve been twice so far, once on the back terrace and once indoors and air-conditioned, and have loved it. Great wine choices (A Pigato?! A gruner from Oregon?! Wow!), a cool vibe indoors or out, and a capable and into it band really makes for an excellent way to start the week.
As for what I’m sharing below – my youngest listens to music that I can usually really respect. Recently he’s been on a John Denver kick, which I find pretty amusing. While doing a little searching online, this song came up and it spoke to me. Do you think it reads as more a poem, a prayer or promise?
I’ve been lately thinking
About my life’s time
All the things I’ve done
And how it’s been
And I can’t help believing
In my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end
I’ve seen a lot of sunshine
Slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures
Had myself some friends
And spent a time or two in my own home
And I have to say it now
It’s been a good life all in all
It’s really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share
The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do…
Filed under aging, Albany, art, Austria, beauty, concerts, Czech Republic, DelSo, Europe, Events, favorites, love, Music, musings, Observations, poetry, Summer, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation
J is for…
- June and what an unexpectedly fantastic month it turned out to be.
- Joy and the way it comes back into your life when you let go of what’s been taking it’s place for far too long.
- Jarred by how hard it is to get your feet back under yourself after learning that not everything is what you believed, but more importantly, that sometimes surprises can be an unexpected delight, instead of a disappointment.
- Jaded a bit, but committed to putting the focus on what’s ahead rather than what has been left behind.
- Just thrilled to be looking ahead to July and another month of hot days, bike rides, concerts, meals with friends, hours on a paddle board and cold wine.
Filed under biking, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, friends, love, musings, Observations, relationships, secrets, Summer, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine
For months I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook promoting the Front Parlor Series – public storytelling in the Capital Region. The group hosts an event every third Monday of the month at The Olde English and describes them as being “like The Moth radio hour…” Hmmm, doesn’t that sound interesting?
Needless to say, I’ve been wanting to get down there for some time and when I saw that June’s theme was “Dads,” I knew I had to go. The event began at 7:30 and I rolled in solo some time after 8:00. The upstairs room at The Olde English was steamy hot which provided the perfect excuse for my flushed face and general sweaty-with-nerves appearance. I missed the first group of storytellers and had arrived at intermission. Never having done an open mic thing before, I looked around for a sign-up sheet, but learned quickly that it was more casual than that – just leave your name and they’ll let you know when it’s your turn.
There were three people in front of me and they each told stories which were unique in both content and conveyance. The first man seemed to be responding to an earlier participant (his daughter?) and tended to wander a bit, while the second man had a more focused tale that he shared, gathering laughs along the way. The woman immediately before me told a sweet, but alarmingly brief, story that had a distinctly poetic sound to it. I would have enjoyed hearing more from her, but suddenly it was my turn.
The rules stated no notes, so I didn’t have anything beyond a mental outline of what I was going to share. Participants are limited to 5-7 minutes, but I had no sense of how long it would take to tell my story. There had been a timer which had actually sounded during one of the previous stories, but no one really paid any attention to it from what I could see. Maybe it would have been an issue had there been more participants, but on this particular night it wasn’t a problem. That took some pressure off and I made a note to speak slowly and take my time collecting my thoughts and words.
So – my story was about how I found my father. I brought a prop for inspiration (and a shot of confidence), the 30+ year old page from the Dublin phone directory which led to me locating my first ever relative on either side of my family. It’s a story that can take significantly longer to tell than 7 minutes, but I hit the most important parts while purposefully keeping the story focused on my father and his our family.
The response from the audience was encouraging. They laughed and sighed at the right times and afterwards a few were kind enough to compliment me on my story. I recognize that I tell stories here, but standing in front of a roomful of strangers and actually seeing their reaction was a whole new experience for me. I’d definitely consider doing this again, if only as an exercise in pushing myself beyond my comfort level.
Maybe you have some stories to tell, too?
Last week, author Adam Gidwitz visited my school and spent the day doing presentations and hanging out with kids, and it was incredible. I haven’t read everything he’s written, but last year’s The Inquisitor’s Tale was one of my favorite recent reads. It’s a book that is difficult to sort into a definitive genre, but it has historic fiction, fantasy and adventure elements that combine beautifully into a wonderful story told in multiple voices a la The Canterbury Tales. Except that, unlike my high school experience suffering through Chaucer, this book was a joy from start to finish.
Adam did three separate presentations for my students and each was slightly tweaked to meet the population, in this case, our school’s grades of sixth, seventh and eighth. I was totally impressed with his comfort level with our students and his genuine interest in them. For instance, as students were filing in to the auditorium he made a point of introducing himself to those already seated with an easy “Hi, I’m Adam. What’s your name?” His past career as “the worst teacher in NYC,”* was proven impossible to believe. He gets kids.
We had lunch as a group of about 25 and it was relaxed and fun. I know the kids who were present won’t ever forget the experience. It was so cool. The last presentation was with our sixth graders and it was magic to see him wrangle that group of pre-pubescent kids, on the last Friday afternoon of the school year, with just four words: Once upon a time…
Read his books and see him speak, if you have the chance. There’s a possibility that he might pop up in the area next year and I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything.
*laughingly self-defined as such
Some people find it odd that “my” library is at the end of the wing where the music department has some of their classrooms. When the air conditioning is on we close the doors, but for much of the year sounds from the band room make their way to my desk and I love it. Wednesday afternoons the jazz band plays and it’s my favorite day of the week to listen. Our teachers are so good at what they do – exposing students to music, cultivating their talents, inspiring their efforts. It truly never ceases to amaze me.
This time of year, our students are working hard to prepare for various concerts and performances and the song selections include graduation favorites such as Pomp and Circumstance, a tune that never fails to make me feel nostalgic. Hearing this song is an audible reminder that the school year is almost over, that it’s time to mark both an ending and a beginning, and it is music to my ears.
The clear delineation of the calendar is one the greatest perks of teaching for me. I’m the kind of person who appreciates a new academic year, a new semester, a new quarter, a new week and a new day because each of these milestones comes with an opportunity to start anew. I’ve always loved flipping a calendar to an entirely new month of days and a brand new notebook never failed to inspire me to attempt to do my best work. There’s always a fresh beginning for which to look forward, something different coming our way.
In the past couple of days two people whom I’ve admired and been inspired by, found themselves unable to survive the thought of another day of living. They were in a place so dark and so sad that they couldn’t see that the next day, or even the very next moment, provided another chance to start again.
As we get ready to witness the commencement of another class of students and send them off to their next life chapter, I worry that we’re creating a culture where music and books aren’t thought to belong together, but success, depression and suicide are. What are we teaching these kids? When do they get to connect – with one another and not the WiFi network? We have dozens of devices designed to facilitate conversation but no one’s really communicating.
We need to slow it down and start listening better. This is a health crisis and we can do better. Listen.
Filed under aging, beauty, Education, Europe, Events, favorites, France, friends, musings, NYC, Observations, politics
Photo from Lost and Found
The first outdoor yoga class I took left me unimpressed with the experience. I recall it being a little annoying – there were all kinds of bugs, my mat wasn’t even on the bumpy and lumpy ground and grass got all over everything. Instead of the setting enhancing the experience, for me, it was a distraction. No bueno.
I didn’t unroll my mat again outdoors for a long time. When I finally felt ready again to take my practice outdoors, I went in a different direction – on my own deck, on a paddle board, on the streets of downtown Albany. Each of those opportunities provided more satisfaction than that initial foray into the great outdoors, so when I saw that Lost and Found in Albany’s Warehouse District was offering a free Sunday morning class, I decided to give it a shot.
While I had originally intended to ride my bike downtown, my Sunday morning speed nixed that plan. I was able to assuage my guilt at being a slacker by offering to pick up a friend on my way and we arrived at our destination a few minutes before the scheduled 10:00 start time. Parking was plentiful and we made our way to the end of the second row of yogis.
The morning sun felt wonderful and I quickly shed my long-sleeved shirt in favor of just a tank. The grassy lot was fairly flat and whenever I found myself face down on my mat, I couldn’t help but inhale deeply. The clover sprinkled grass just smelled great. The two instructors co-taught the class effectively, helping participants adjust poses, modifying and offering options and clearly communicating throughout the practice. It was a wonderful way to spend an hour outdoors and I’ll definitely keep an eye on Lost and Found’s Facebook page for future classes.
Note – class participants are given a 20% discount on any brunch entree following class and, while the class is free, donations were accepted to benefit Out of the Pits, a pit bull rescue organization. Cool, right?
Three days post-race and I’m thinking I may have peaked in terms of muscle soreness. Since I can’t really run for another couple of days, I’ve got a little time to share my first relay race experience from an event I participated in the last weekend in April. You know, that spring weekend when it legitimately snowed…
The Seneca Seven is a seven-member team relay race with a course that goes completely around Seneca Lake. The race is divided into 21 legs with each runner taking 3 legs. I was runner 4 with a total mileage of just about 9 miles. I had requested hills and my generous teammates indulged me by giving me a terrific climb of approximately 300 ft over 3.5 miles for my second leg. Honestly, it really wasn’t that bad but don’t tell my teammates!
Before I got there, though, there were a lot of group messages on Facebook and far too many details to be communicated and managed. Seriously, organizing 14 women is truly like herding cats and there’s a reason that this sort of event is one that I’ve not experienced before – it’s too much work for too little running. Not taking into account any of the time prior to our departure for Geneva, N.Y., the race absorbed 36 hours of my weekend and I ran less than 10 miles. That’s negative math for me.
But, the positives? There definitely were some. I really enjoyed riding in the van and getting to know the women who were on my team. We had some fun for sure and I’d happily hang out with any of them again. The course was beautiful, even in the snow/rain mix with which we had to contend. I haven’t been to the Finger Lakes in years and Geneva looked like a perfect spot for a summer weekend spent enjoying the outdoors as well checking out some of the restaurants and shops that line the charming streets of town.
There are also tons of wineries and breweries that I’d be happy to explore, maybe even on bike. The roads generally have wide shoulders and I think the riding would be awesome.
One of the best things about the race came after the 12 hours we spent on the course. Apparently, there was some controversy about this year’s race shirts. It seems that some folks were offended by one of the images on the shirt, an image one of my teammates had questioned because we didn’t understand what it was depicting. The image, a swoop of yellow hair with a line drawn through it represented Donald Trump and was included, according to race officials, because of his lack of support of environmental issues.
While some might say that politics don’t belong in races, I disagree. Personally, I hesitated before committing to the Shape Half Marathon last month because I’m not a fan of the event’s media sponsor. Choosing to participate in an activity can be interpreted as supporting a cause or endorsing a person and I don’t generally do that lightly. I’m not sure that I’ll do this particular race again, but I will proudly wear my new shirt.