A quiet season

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. ~Mary Oliver, Snowy Night

Late last night, Angel and I ventured outside into the deep snow. It had been snowing for two days, a wet heavy snow not easily moved aside with a broom.  As we stepped away from the porch lights, the world glowed in the dark, everything covered with a thick white coat that gleamed in the starlight. It was the quiet that struck me, though. There was not a sound to be heard, no distant cars, no breeze moving the trees, no voices. As we stood there drinking in the silence, a Great Horned Owl sang his deep hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo in the woods behind us. It was just me and Angel and the owl, sharing the silent night. 

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~Lewis Carroll

My life has been quiet for the past several months. Retiring in August triggered a need to turn inward, to catch up on years of lost sleep and the energy drain of too many projects. Instead of writing, I began reading. Instead of pushing through the mid-afternoon slump with coffee, I took long naps. As I drifted through the days and weeks and months, I was content to stay home and spend my days in quiet introspection. 

Winter is a season of recovery and preparation. ~Paul Theroux

As Mother Nature moves into her quiet season here in western Pennsylvania, I finally find myself refreshed and slowly turning back to the world. I sent out Christmas cards for the first time in years. Decorating the house was a pleasure instead of a chore. I’m wrapping up my Watershed CD project and will be making the music available publicly in a week or two.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The snow continues to fall here, creating a winter wonderland that is all the more welcome since I have no place I need to go. Whichever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you peace and joy. Stay safe, have hope, and enjoy the quiet of the season.

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. ~Terri Guillemets

New beginnings

Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings. ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

This week, and the last few months, have been about endings and beginnings. I am nearing the end of the mixing and mastering of my Watershed CD , a three year effort. We hope to send it for duplication in a week, thanks to the engineering wizardry of my husband/sound engineer Bill. We spent the last half of the spring semester teaching from home because of COVID restrictions and realized how much we liked being home all of the time. I spent hours at the piano, sketching new ideas while looking into the green woods.

piano

Angel was delighted to have us home 24/7; we snuggle a lot on the sofa.

The garden got some extra attention too – early summer was beautiful, in spite of  the late hard frosts.

Heat and drought were hard on the garden in June and July; although some plants bloomed, the flowers were short lived. It rained last night, with loud thunderstorms and heavy downpours – this morning the trees and plants are green and glowing and the garden looks lush again. gardenafterrain

We liked being at home so much these past several months that when the chance came to retire earlier than expected, we both took it.  Bill and I are now officially retired from our teaching jobs of 30+ years. We have been celebrating with cake, cake

with wine,

pianowine

and with mornings on the deck complete with guitar music. billgtr copy

All the things I love the most are here – the sound of the wind in the trees, the dance of a hummingbird at the flowers, the ebb and flow of the seasons, my piano, a house full of books and of course my husband and Angel. I am leaving a large part of my life behind with no regrets – it was a good ending – and now I am ready to begin the third act. I am still a composer, a gardener, a writer, a photographer – but now I have time to reflect, to explore, and to be more present on this page.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. ~ Steve Jobs

whiteoak

I hope that you are all well in these most difficult times and that you are able to stay safe, full of hope and surrounded by love.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

So loud and clear

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer. ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

Spring has suddenly unfolded herself, transforming from a few bright flowers lost in a brown sea of last year’s leaves to a rich tapestry of green punctuated by full bouquets.colorfulhillside

Green leaves of every size and shape have sprung up, fresh and new.

New flowers open every day, making the morning stroll through the garden a journey of discovery.

gardenarch

The earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

springgl

After a long winter of dreary days and muted colors, the textures and forms of spring make me feel as if I’ve stepped into the land of Oz, from a black and white world into a land of vibrant color.

Near a birdbath set into the ground,greenbirdbath

I found a tiny bird nest – it may have blown out of a tree during yesterday’s wild winds. tinynest

On May 1, two of my compositions will be featured on our university’s weekly A Little Friday Night Music concert series on YouTube. If you are free on Friday, May 1 at 7:30 P.M. (eastern daylight time), please tune in and enjoy the concert performance of selections from Watershed and Arcadian Tone Poems, both pieces inspired by my love of nature. I will be there in the live chat to answer questions and comments during the concert. The video will remain on YouTube thereafter, so you can tune in anytime.

May you enjoy the sights and sounds of spring, wherever you find yourself. Stay safe, stay well, stay strong.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. ~Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Clay

This morning, the Independence Day holiday in the United States, was quiet, serene, and full of life. As I walked through the garden soon after dawn, there was no noise from traffic, no conversations trailing from the homes of neighbors. Angel and I moved through the flowers, listening to bird song and witnessing the flight of butterflies and bees. Such an oasis of quiet in an otherwise noisy holiday punctuated by fireworks and noisemakers. I noted the rich beautiful blossoms of daylily (Hemerocallis) ‘American Revolution’ – striking in its dark color and defined form still dotted with  morning dew.

AmericanRevolution

Daylily ‘Tiger Eye Spider’ looked like a silent explosion of color, a floral fireworks fitting to the day.

tigereyespider

In a few weeks, we will submit the final mixes of my CD Watershed for duplication, with a scheduled fall release. While listening to Bill editing the music today, it felt right to share a preview of the third movement of one of the pieces on the CD, Sketches of America. In a time of tumult in our country, I am reminded of the main theme of this piece, the melody of “America the Beautiful” and how I love the beauty of this country and its highest ideals.

Sketches of America was inspired by my travels through the American landscape as well as an exploration of uniquely American musical forms, specifically minimalism and the blues. The orchestral piece has three main sections and features solo trumpet and trombone in various ways.  The final section is a chorale adapted from a solo song that I wrote entitled Clay. Struggling to create a new garden on solid clay soil, I responded by writing an ode to clay, exploring its dual nature and potential symbolism for life.

Clay, so full of life to be released
through fork and spade and shredded leaf,
the solid ground beneath our feet,
Clay.

Trumpeter Sean Jones and trombonist Ed Kocher soar in a beautiful and poignant manner in this section. The hymn like song Clay seemed a fitting end for “Sketches of America,” the solid ground beneath our feet and a reminder of the melody of America the Beautiful. I dedicated this piece to my father, whose birthday was on the 4th of July. Enjoy.

Special thanks to Bill Purse, sound engineer and producer extraordinaire, and Jim Cunningham of WQED-FM for sharing the live concert recording of Sketches of America as broadcast on WQED-FM.

All music, text, and images ©2019 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

The Inner Garden: Father’s Day Edition

Baby Lynn at pianoYears ago, in the 1990’s, I created my first video entitled The Inner Garden. In those days, it took over 20 hours to render a small low resolution video in Adobe Premiere. Nevertheless, I wrote, filmed and edited a series of short stories about making a garden into a 20 minute film, including reminiscences about childhood garden experiences. This week, I thought of one of the scenes – Planting Onions: Sage Advice – when considering Father’s Day. My father passed away several years ago and my best memories of him are about sharing music and gardening. He was my first music teacher, teaching me the mysteries of notes on the piano and leading family music sessions of everything from brass choirs for church to jazzy jam sessions.

Even though the resolution is low, I hope you enjoy this little video of family garden memories from my younger self  🙂  Happy Father’s Day to all fathers everywhere – be sure to take time to share yourself with your children – it will build a lifetime of  memories.

All music, text, and media ©2019 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved