Category Archives: Sunday Morning Meditation

Sequence: Bach Cantatas for Sunday

johann_sebastian_bach

As an artist, I love the idea of work made for a certain setting – installments in airports are meant to be viewed by the very tired, grand works are commissioned for a certain opera diva to sing, sculptures are built into a certain mountain.

About a year ago, I heard a concert of Cantatas by Bach.  Beautiful, rapturous things – short pieces meant to be sung by a church choir during Sunday services.  As the story goes, Bach got a gig writing choral works for the church, and churned out more than 200 in his lifetime, each written to be sung on a certain Sunday of the year. Of course, you can listen to it on the “wrong” day, but I like to think that by hearing it on the day it was written for, I am sharing something with the artist. Something small, maybe, like the way that the sunlight looks on a Sunday morning in February compared to the way it looks in a hot August morning.

The husband got me the boxed set for Christmas a few years ago.  It’s completely overwhelming – all of them in one place, ready to go.  So they’ve sat on the shelf, as I work myself into a tizzy about which Sunday is the “right” one to start on, whether or not it matters if I listen in the daytime or the evening. Crazy stuff. But you know how it goes – in the moment, this seems essential to The Art.

I think I’m over it. I think I’m ready to get started again, to put in the disc that has today’s cantata, to just listen, and love the moment it’s in.

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Meditation via Process

pasta images

At the end of a busy week, it’s easy to just keep up the pace and sweep past the details. Just trying to keep your head above the water seems like enough, all the little stuff can wait for another day. Eventually, I have to stop, pause, and catch my breath. It’s a bit much to expect someone to keep with the flow all the time, even if it’s yourself.

I’m finding that getting back into the kitchen gets me to slow down, pay attention, and re – calibrate the rate of everything. Making pasta is a good one for this. You can’t be in a hurry with making a batch of homemade pasta. If you rush, everything gets stiff and dense. If you don’t let it rest, it won’t have the right texture. But if you can take your time, do each step in the right order, at the right pace, you can have long, silky strands of fettuccine resting in nests in the refrigerator. It might take a few batches to hit the right groove. Thankfully, the ingredients are cheap, so if you flub a batch, you’re out about $2.50. Then you can start over, try again, and see if you can get any closer. You find your pace, slower than you thought, quicker than you’d feared, and everything becomes clear. All the little problems that you’d been stuck on in the week work themselves out. The rough spots of the day seem smoother. And the pasta? Delicious.

Photo via Joy The Baker.

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Poetry Sunday: Jennifer Boyden

They Have a Point
by Jennifer Boyden (via Orion Magazine)

When the gods gave us all the holes
leading into our darkness, they planned
on our needing a mystery. It amuses them
that what is inside the body
is more body. The same body, but different.
They first said the bodies should be mostly moss
inside. But they kept coming back to the mystery.
Moss, they said, can be seen outside,
and what is outside can be accountable.
Though they liked that moss would have kept
everyone soft and green, they decided it was best
to fill each thing with itself, which would then be hidden
within the other. Look at stones, they said.
Look at water, which is like the throat of water.

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On Freedom

flag

Now that the 4th of July is over, and all the fireworks have finished over downtown, and all the pop – its have been swept up out here in the suburbs, we can catch our breath for a moment before we head into the real Northwest summer.

In the pause before the rest of the week, I am struck by how precious our freedoms are. This week, millions of Americans won a battle in the struggle towards marriage equality with the Supreme Court decision about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It is only within the past century that my parents won the right to be married, that my friends won the right to be free from racial discrimination, that women won the right to vote.

The grip on our freedoms seems tenuous sometimes, with people and corporations around every corner trying to take them away. It seems like we have so far to go sometimes, that there is injustice, inequity, and hate everywhere. Yet, in the midst of the darkness, our freedom is so sweet.

Maybe this is how it’s supposed to work. Maybe the sweetness of what we have is what gives us the bravery to face the dark corners, ready to shed light on what we find, even if it isn’t easy. Maybe we’re supposed to remember the sweetness of what we seek, even if we’re surrounded by the bitterness of dreams unfilled. May we find gratitude for what we have won, may we keep hopeful for what is to come, and may we remember our resolve to fight for what we know is right and good.

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On learning to love what you do

These days, it seems like there is a whirlwind of things I should be doing to live a simpler life. Things that will save me money, save the planet, get me moving, and slow life down. Every new thing seems just as important as the last thing, and I get stuck trying to figure out what I should really focus on, and end up not doing anything.

Perhaps what would be better for me is to choose the option that I love. Do the things that bring me joy, just on their own merit, and see what happens. In the end, maybe it’s better for me to make my own bread because I love cooking, not because I want to save money. Better to carpool when I can because I love the conversations with my husband, instead of just because it’ll help my carbon footprint. Even the small things make a difference over time. I’ve been so busy convincing myself to do things because they’re good for me that I’d forgotten that learning to love them for what they are would work better in the long run.

Today, when I’m cooking dinner at home, and packing the leftovers into the freezer for lunches, I’ll be saving money. But really, I’ll be doing something I love because I love it.

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Covenant

Utah_25_2010 ed

Over the past few years, my church started a new experiment – to choose one topic per month for the church, its youth and adult groups, and its ministers to focus on. It’s been a grand success, and one I recommend for any team, family, or group of friends.

covenant: n. An agreement.

Summer is just getting started out here in the Northwest. Which means that it’s still gray and cloudy most of the time, but we’re getting enough dry sunny days to put away some of the polarfleece and go out into the world. Everything is waking up, sprouting parties and meetings and productions like crocuses.

And as everything gets more busy, it’s easy to forget what we have promised – those offhand comments that we’d help with that project, or do the publicity for another, or help run that meeting on Tuesday. Everything else always seems more important – something about how the newness of what’s popped in front of us is always more interesting than what we promised to do yesterday.

This is the hard work of keeping agreements, to notice the pull of something shiny (but out of scope), and to step towards what we’ve promised. To try and stay conscious enough to notice when things have gone astray, to choose to take stock of the situation, and then to choose to take a new action that might be less comfortable than what we were doing.

Today, I’m clearing house on promises over here. I’m going through it all, remembering what’s actually on my plate, what I want to add, and what I want to release to be dealt with another day. So far, it feels good, lighter. Just in time for summer.

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Unplugged Sundays

Orcas 11 2010 ed

Tonight, I’m unplugging the router, turning off my cell phone, and going to bed. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up when I am done sleeping. I’ll probably make breakfast for The Hubs, feed the guinea pigs, and see what happens from there. At our house, we started unplugging Sundays, and it’s been amazing to see what develops.

I cook more of the fabulous things I read about online. I fritter around in the studio, get a few projects started without worrying about meeting a deadline. I dig in the garden. I go for a walk. I sleep. I write. Maybe even on the computer.

But mostly, we reset the rhythm of our days. We turn everything back to zero, stop listening to all the buzzers and alarms and alerts, and listen for what emerges out of the silence. It takes the first hours of the day to get used to the idea. Then it takes an hour to get over not knowing what’s happening on Facebook, over missing a text message. After that, we’re too busy enjoying ourselves to know anything different.

What I am discovering is that there is something very simple, very clean, about listening to what you want or need, and then doing that. There is nothing more delicious than looking up, thinking that you are tired, and then toddling off to bed for a nap. Or remembering a scene from a book, and then spending the afternoon reading the whole thing. The rest of my life is so structured, by work, by home, by outings and errands, that this island of peace is very precious.

So I’ll see you all again soon. But not tomorrow. I’ll be busy out in the garden, or walking in the neighborhood, or sleeping. Yes. Definitely sleeping.

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Artisans

gallery-Crowd1 mead fest

This weekend, I’ve spent some time in the company of artisan mead and cider makers. In a tent in the middle of the farmer’s market, you can buy $20 worth of tickets that you trade for mouthfuls of delicious hard cider, mead, and fruit wines. It is extremely delicious.

There is something powerful about talking with an artisan maker. These are the people who care deeply about the details that the consumer never sees, the ones who stay up nights dreaming about the perfect way to make their product. These are the people that travel around the world to learn from the masters, and then come home to sink all their money into making art through doing.

In the middle of all the messages about making the things that the people want to hear/see/use, and in the middle of all the noise about marketing/market share, it is so good to sit in the quiet of making one thing really, really well. I visit their island, and I am refreshed, ready to return to the hard work of making better things than yesterday.

What refreshes you this week? What gives you the motivation to keep going in your own creative work?

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