Earth Day, Watershed Edition

I remember the first Earth Day as a teenager – I loved the idea then and all of these years later, it still seems a special day to celebrate. As I grow with my garden, I realize that creating a healthy place for all flora and fauna to flourish is my first ideal and goal. Lately, my time has been caught up in finishing the school semester, guiding my ensemble through its spring concert and tending my garden. Bill, my husband and creative partner, has been editing and mixing the studio recording of Watershed for cello and orchestra that was premiered in late February. The CD containing the piece will be released in late fall on Three Oranges Recordings but we are far enough in the mixing process to share a few of the highlights here in this montage, thanks to Bill’s talents and generosity. (see an earlier Watershed post here).

Adam Liu, the cellist for whom the piece was written, turned in a stunning and passionate performance and our Duquesne University Orchestra, inspired by masterful conductor Daniel Meyer, was at their best. How lucky can a composer be when the artists that bring a piece to life give their creative all? Adam began his musical career playing the erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument, and suggested that he play the second movement, Sunrise on Still Water, on the erhu rather than the cello. I agreed and I love the sound – it shimmers with unearthly beauty. I hope you enjoy this short montage of highlights from the 20 minute piece.

Spring is tentatively here, with mild days alternating with snowy winter days. The weeping cherry tree is in full bloom, but ironically its cultivar name ‘Snow Fountain’ became a reality when an overnight storm coated the blossoms with white snow.

The daffodils are coming into season, even as the early small bulbs continue to bloom.

The hellebores have shrugged off the snow and cold and continue to bloom in soft pastel shades.

Wherever you are, I hope spring is coming your way and your world is filled with color and beauty. And may every day become “earth day” in our hearts and minds.

Walk in a dream

You can walk in a dream while you are awake; just walk in the misty morning of a forest! ~Mehmet Murat Ildan

Yesterday was sunny and hot, a perfect August day. Then wild windy storms blew in, pouring rain over the hot earth –  wisps of steam rose into the air as the storm moved on. This morning, I awoke to clouds of fog and mist and felt as if I were still in a dream. Angel and I took a short walk but turned home sooner than usual, concerned about safety on the foggy road. foggyroad

The rain amplified the green of grass and trees along the shady woodland edges.

The fallen tree still hanging over the lower garden has kept me from working there, but the fog softened the shaggy edges and lent the garden an abandoned romantic quality.

The Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ was bowed down by the heavy rains, making the path under it impassible. limelightpath

A spider wasted no time spinning a beautiful web on the deck. spiderweb

Even the brightly colored hillside garden shimmered softly, subdued in the misty light. foggyhilltop

steelerstepsRudbeckia ‘Viette’s Little Suzy’ fell down the steps after the heavy rain but continues to bloom, unconcerned. littlesuzy

I have spent much of this summer composing a cello concerto that will be premiered next year. There is more work to do, but as I walked through the mist this morning, I thought of Benjamin Britten’s description of the process. “Composing is like driving down a foggy road toward a house. Slowly you see more details of the house – the color of the slates and bricks, the shape of the windows. The notes are the bricks and the mortar of the house.”  May you find clarity in the fog and enjoy the misty beauty of your dreams.

foggygate

moonlight disappears down the hills
mountains vanish into fog
and I vanish into poetry ~Sanober Kahn

 

Willy-nilly

“Willy-nilly” – in a haphazard or spontaneous manner  ~ The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’

Yesterday, the warmth and sunshine of a beautiful April day lingered into evening, a perfect time to work in the garden. I had an agenda, a list – prune the roses, rake the leaves, pull the weeds. I pruned the blackened branches of roses that were damaged by a harsh winter and was delighted to discover green growth at the roots. That was as far down the list as I got. I paused to smell the wind carrying the scent of spring, I watched a pair of robins argue over territory, and my feet wandered over the paths drawn to bits of green and blue and yellow arising from the ground.

Rose hellebore

Rose hellebore

The “to do” list was forgotten and I moved willy-nilly through the garden, meandering, clipping here and there as I went, without plan or order. At work, I am the planner, the doer, the architect of outcomes. But on entering the garden, the plan became a burden that I happily surrendered. I shilly-shallied through a garden lit by golden evening light, my ears open to bird song while my fingers stroked the tender new leaves emerging from the earth. I began to dream instead of plan, I began to imagine instead of control, I began to be instead of act.

Daffodil 'Verdant Meadow'

Daffodil ‘Verdant Meadow’

After a few hours of meandering with snippers in hand, caught up in the magic of a gentle spring evening, I discovered that my hands had pruned the hydrangeas, weeded the garden beds and cleared last year’s leaves from the stone steps. The garden was clear of debris and ready to grow. My orderly list of chores was somehow accomplished as part of a relaxed ramble, an afterthought to the real business of connecting with the magical world around me. Perhaps I need a little more willy-nilly time and allow myself to be a dreamer and a sillyheart more often.

“I don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart.” ~ Uncle Buck

Evensong

Evensong ~ 1. a daily service in the Anglican church, also called evening prayer; 2. a song sung in the evening

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’

This Easter Saturday, I spent most of the day in the garden. Early that morning, the bird chorus was joyous and noisy. The first day of true spring weather arrived with warmer temperatures and cloudless blue skies and the birds were celebrating.  It was the time for garden cleanup, pruning shrubs, raking leaves from the garden beds, and a general assessment of the state of the garden and its possibilities for the coming season. I grabbed the camera to record the few flowers in bloom – hellebores, crocus, Iris reticulata, and intense blue of a lonely Scilla siberica. The sun shifted through the sky throughout the day, guilding the garden with luminous golden light. I constantly refilled my water bottle and labored throughout the day interspersed with plenty of rest sessions, usually on a stone step facing south, absorbing the full face of the early spring sun.

Hellebore

As I finished my work for the day and strolled through a garden now ready for the season, I became aware of how different the garden sounded in the early evening. The raucous morning chorus had mellowed into the last songs of the fat robins sorting through the garden beds for an evening worm snack and the chirps of a chickadee who was exploring the beauty bush for a possible nest site. Their songs were separated by moments of quiet; a golden glow had descended and the song of evening matched it, relaxed and reflective.

snowdropsEvery culture and religion has a set of songs that matches the time of day.  Matins, vespers, compline, all music for a time of day. Indian musical culture has scales and songs, ragas, that are only to be used for specific times of days. I found myself wondering, as I wandered through the evening garden, if this tradition arose from gardeners, or at the least, those paying attention to nature, to the  rhythm and song of the natural world.  How different is morning song from evening song! One greets the day with joy and then later celebrates the work of the day and its attendant rest with song punctuated by moments of silence. Here is a lovely video of evening bird song in Vancouver that I discovered online that most closely resembles the sound of my garden last evening. 

Rose hellebore

Although I can capture a few blooms, I cannot possibly capture the feel of this day with my camera.  The slanting gold of evening skies, the winter sun shining on a few bold blooms, an ephemeral butterfly moving so quickly that I cannot capture it, all are etched in my mind’s eye. The camera might capture nothing more than the brown and gray landscape of an early spring garden but there was so much more, a garden of possibilities. The light shifting through the bare woods. Nascent buds swelling on shrubs and trees. The fresh smell of soil awakened from the frozen grip of winter. This day now only resides in my memory of a perfect span of time spent in the company of birds, sunlight, and the spirit of the garden. Spring has arrived quietly and nestled in my gardener’s heart. It may snow tomorrow or the next day, but for me, spring has come on an evening song and I treasure the moment.

Music From the Heart

Christina Aguilera’s voice captured my attention last night. I turned on the Telethon for Hurricane Sandy Relief broadcast from NBC across the nation and heard her sing as only Christina can sing, a powerful heart-felt voice singing “Beautiful” accompanied by a piano.  No dancing, no costumes, no stage extravaganza, just that voice.  I settled in, knowing suddenly that I was in for a rare musical treat.

Musicians, actors, comedians, newscasters – all gathered on an NBC New York soundstage in a simple and direct plea to help their fellow citizens so profoundly affected by the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Jon Bon Jovi toured his childhood neighborhood of Sayreville, New Jersey, speaking with old friends and neighbors, then sang “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with his guitar in hand, a second guitarist and violinist adding poignancy to the song.  And so the night went, from an acoustic trio of Aerosmith performing “Dream On” to Sting soloing on “Message in a Bottle.” A moving video of both destruction and hope was set to the Coldplay song “Fix You” – a combination that moved me to tears.  Many other musicians, actors, and entertainment luminaries from Jon Stewart to Billy Joel added their voices to an hour that was commercial free, just a plea for helping others.

The stars of the entertainment world often, to their credit, come together to raise money for important causes.  Why was I so profoundly moved by this particular broadcast? Yes, everyone on the stage had a personal connection to this tragedy, an intensity often missing from other efforts. But this is what I think that struck me and moved me.  The staging was minimal, no histrionics or big gestures, and a very small audience.  Just talented people standing or sitting simply, making music from their hearts and souls, the way they perhaps always intended to do before getting caught up in the world of big music business. These are the people I know as musicians, truly in love with what they do, and reaching deep inside themselves, not for effect, but for authenticity. I don’t know when I’ve witnessed a concert quite like this. This morning, I still get a bit weepy as I think of the power of music offered to help those in need.

If you missed the concert, NBC has made it available in its entirety here. Please consider giving money to the Red Cross for this effort – it is easy to text a $10 donation from your cell phone or make a donation online at iTunes or directly to the Red Cross. Here’s a full summary of the concert from Yahoo News.

Please don’t forget the victims with no voice, the pets and animals deeply affected by this tragedy.  The sight of National Guard loading the family pet into a truck was heartwarming but more animals and their families need our help.  The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is actively trying to rescue pets left behind or lost and reunite them with their families.  You can help with their Disaster Relief efforts here.

So today, I count my blessings once again and feel enormous pride and tenderness for all who stood simply yet powerfully on a small studio stage last night and sang to help others.