31 December 2006

The Healing Power of Music

Writing a song doesn't heal things. Even if the song comes up with a solution, it's still only a theory. Going out and living my lyrics is a whole other deal. That takes courage.
~ Alanis Morissette

While music may not heal things per se, it certainly prepares the way for healing to take place. Especially for those of us not gifted with the ability to express our emotions and thoughts in ordinary conversation. Music allows one to be vulnerable yet still hidden. I can write a song about how I feel about someone ~ whether it be love, frustration or sadness ~ without being exposed. And composing a song helps jump start the healing process in me. If nothing else, it brings the emotion to light.
But Alanis is right. It cannot stop there. It is not true healing if it does. True healing takes place when things change in one's life. As a composer, I cannot be whole unless I take the lyrics of some of my songs and live them out. And that is frightening.
A couple of months ago, I composed a song about standing on the edge of love and being frightened at the prospect of rejection and the prospect of reciprecation. And I realized in the course of writing it, that in the end, what do I have to lose by jumping off and letting myself fall in love again?
More recently, I began composing a song about forgiveness and how difficult it is to forgive fully when you have been hurt by someone. It morphed into a love song along the same lines, with the conclusion being that I know I should be vulnerable and let myself feel and fall in love.
So have I jumped off the cliff yet? Have I allowed myself to finish the healing process and step out into the light and open my heart up? Of course not! :-P But at least I recognize that I need to and for the first time in over two years, I am ready to take the next step. And what better time to make a fresh start then then new year?
Here's to another year of growth, both spiritual and emotional. I pray that 2007 will be such a year for you as well.
In vulnerability,

19 December 2006

Tree Trimming Dinner for Six

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
~ Madam Benoit

Between an increased workload at my 9 to 5 job, organizing an average of a party a month and the onset of preparing for Christmas both at my house and the family home, my posting ability has been effectively derailed for the past couple of months.

Speaking of parties and Christmas, I spent this past Saturday evening at my parents' with a small group of friends. Sullivan had never been down to visit so he came early to help me cut down a tree. At first, I thought that we might be able to get away with cutting one down on our property, but they were either giants or dwarfs. So we ended up driving to a tree farm and getting an 8 foot by 5 foot white pine. Poor Sullivan saw the same stretch of Caroline County several times as yours truly tried to remember exactly where Shepherd’s Hill Tree Farm was! I think he shaved off some time in Purgatory. ;-)

Lynda and Forrest had just pulled in when we got back to the house, and the gentlemen worked on putting the tree in the stand while the ladies came inside to begin dinner. Tika and Yeshua came a little later and brought a walnut bundt cake ~ heavenly with coffee. It was a nice change of pace to make dinner for 6 instead of the 50 plus parties I normally host.

Dinner was maple sausage and garlic stuffed mushrooms, Idaho and sweet potato blend and pork chops in apple cream.

I have served this style of pork before: once as tenderloin in Calvados sauce. I couldn’t find the recipe and I didn’t have Calvados this time around. As some of my regular readers know, the lack of ingredients does not phase me in the least. In fact, I consider it a challenge. Epicurous has the original recipe I used. I highly recommend it, especially if you want to impress your friends’ palates. Here is my stripped down version. Amounts are approximate ~ I usually just eyeball it. Enjoy!

½ stick of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
10 boneless pork chops
3 to 4 cloves of fresh garlic
1 to 2 cups of apple juice
1 to 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
Garnish: Granny Smith apple slices (optional)

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together and dredge the pork chops in the mixture. Chop garlic and set aside. Cook pork chops until lightly browned on each side. Take out and set aside.

Add chopped garlic to the leftover butter and olive oil. Add more butter as necessary. Add apple juice and whipping cream and stir until almost boiling. Lower the flame and put the pork shops back in the pan until sauce is thick and bubbly. Garnish with apple slices.

18 September 2006

Self Titled

We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.
~ Jerry Garcia

Last night I got together with some friends to jam, compose and rehearse music for my CD project: Michael P. on guitar, Timothy D. on hammered dulcimer and Cindi K. on cello. Sullivan came over as well to act as sound man and recorded our musical shenanigans.

I had already played with all three of them individually. But none of them had played with each other before. I was praying they would “play nice” in more ways than one! Music isn’t just about hitting the right notes and getting the rhythm.

Music is about balance. Give and take. It’s about relationships and vulnerability. It’s about sharing your inner self. And you cannot be comfortable doing that without trust, acceptance, humour and a little repartee.

We had all of the above in abundance last night. Michael and Cindi played dueling strings and yes, fans, it was all caught in audio files and some of it will end up on the final product. When talented musicians duel, it’s sure to be a great show ~ both musically and conversationally!

Then Michael and Timothy decided to have a jam, with Cindi and I jumping in at different times. Three chords. That’s it. And the Muse whispered in my ear. I grabbed my notebook and began writing. Two verses and a chorus later, I asked them to play those chords again. This time I added two extra chords and some layering and a new song was born.
I love jam sessions!!! :-)

The song that received the most work and the most attention from the group was the Fado-esque piece. Part of our getting together was to get a feel for things and see which instruments sounded better on which songs and there were a couple where we didn’t use all of them. For this one, the interplay between all of us was just incredible. It’s a passionate piece and the cello is a passionate instrument, so it was a given. But the guitar and dulcimer really added texture and layers that made the song just blossom.

Not bad for our first (almost) full rehearsal. I cannot wait to hear what adding viola and violin will do.

Oremus pro invicem,

11 September 2006

Requiescat in Pace

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy power which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

My father remembers being liberated from a Nazi labor camp by the American Allies on Easter Sunday. My mother remembers being in class when the news that JFK had been assassinated filtered through her high school. I remember watching the Challenger explode when I was in middle school. And I remember hearing that a plane had run into the World Trade Center five years ago and thinking ~ what a terrible accident. And then hearing that a second one had struck and thinking ~ this is no accident, this is a terrorist attack.

I watched in horror as Tower Two collapsed. I sat glued to the television that night, watching every news show. In shock that yet another plane had slammed into the Pentagon no more than a five minute drive from my house and a fourth’s destructive path had been thwarted by its doomed but brave passengers. My feelings of grief for the families, fear for the souls of those not ready to go, shock at the audacity and the sheer magnitude of what had happened, anger at the terrorists and the religion that spawned them, and pride in the bravery, tenacity and will power of the troops, the president and my fellow Americans who banded together in grief and found hope amidst the pain and destruction.

Five years later, the memory that day is still as surreal as the day itself. Some say that true forgiveness lies in forgetting the wound. And I would agree that that is something to strive for in our personal relationships. But a nation cannot afford to forget. It is responsible for the safety of her citizens. And to forget ~ to pretend that it did not happen or to try to assign blame as to who knew what and when is to gift wrap victory to the enemy. And to disrespect the memory of those who lost their lives that day.

Remember…grieve…forgive. But remain vigilant.

Requiescat in pace.

Oremus pro invicem,

06 September 2006

Drop of Rain, Drop of Ink

The gathering in of the clouds with the last rush and dying breath of the wind, and then the regular dripping of twigs and leaves the country over, the impression of inward comfort…
~ Henry David Thoreau

It has been raining since Friday. Some days, a torrential downpour, its intensity scrubbing everything and everyone clean. Others, a playful light rain that places random, baby kisses on your face and then dances away. I like both kinds ~ the kettle drum and the violin. The sound of it as it pounds at the roof is thrilling. The peaceful tap-tap as it caresses the windows is soothing.

I was sitting at my desk, with the window open, the rain playing a sweet melody on the leaves of the oaks and maples, when I became aware of it. A light breeze that smelled like a memory: wet leaves, corn husks and hay. And pumpkins. The sensation was gone in an instant, but my senses were piqued. I had smelled autumn.

Each of the four seasons has a special place in my heart and my senses. Spring is hopeful, bringing color and new life to the spirit and to the ground; Summer is open, her laid back weather perfect for sweet tea and evenings on the porch with family and friends; but Autumn and Winter. Ah ~ they are extra special. Autumn is magical and full of promise and Winter is intimate and giving and mysterious.

I tucked my feet up under me and wrapped a light shawl around my shoulders as a delightful shiver ran through me. Definitely autumn in the air. It being Virginia, the weather is a bit of a tease and I am sure we will see an Indian Summer into October. For now, I would enjoy the moment, this first breath of fall. I took a sip of my tea, its warm, milky sweetness a foretaste of my favorite season.

In the past I have said that anywhere is a good place to write or compose or dream. But I think I said that when I was under the influence of a city summer. Oh no, my dears. Anywhere is a good place to write or dream, but autumn in the rain is the best place.

Oremus pro invicem,

25 August 2006

A Garden Farewell

My tongue is smiling.
~ Abigail Trillin

And it has good reason to. I picked the last cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden yesterday and they were worth the wait. The cucumber was crisp and fresh and tasted like a breezy summer day. The tomato was amazing. None of the other tomatoes from this year tasted as incredible fresh, sweet and pungent as this one.

Nothing says summer like a tomato and cheese sandwich and it will be sad for my taste buds to say goodbye to that summer treat as the tomato season winds down. I am not even going to suggest going to the produce section for those horrid hydroponic, genetically altered monsters that pass as tomatoes during the winter. Back away slowly.
They are an insult to summer’s memory.

Oremus pro invicem,

24 August 2006

Building Wings on the Way Down

If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
~ Annie Dillard
Today I wrote the lyrics for a song ~ I cannot wait to get my hands on the keyboard and compose the music ~ I can hear it in my head already. No title yet, but it deals with risk and vulnerability and how when one does not have all the answers and cannot see what lies ahead, it is frightening….but also freeing. Because if you believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything you experience is just another chance to grow, then you have nothing to lose.

Brave words indeed. I am a great talker of ideals and theories. But once reality is looking into my eyes, all words fail and I find I cannot hold its gaze. Whatever the reason (personality, temperament, environment, family of origin), matters of the heart are especially difficult to express. Even my poetry does not always speak the whole truth.

But not because I am afraid of the truth or believe in half-truths. Truth is messy. It is passionate, intense, earthy. It is personal, vulnerable, fragile. Soft and strong. It will walk through fire and rock your world. It is also, in the words of a friend, extremely enticing, enchanting, irresistible, and undeniable! Yet the merest breath of rejection at best and apathy at worst will crush its heart and bolt the door against you.

This song speaks to that fear ~ the fear of being swept away, of being frightened at losing control, of not knowing what lies down the road. And what is worse, not knowing what you want.

But after all is said and done ~ that is okay.
There’s an old cliché that says that if you name your fear, you will then have power over it. This song asks that even if the path before you ends up being not the one you want or need, what is there to lose in taking it? You will never know until you go down it.

Indeed. The question now is….will the gate at the beginning of that path swing open? Or remain closed.

Oremus pro invicem,

08 August 2006

The Tempest: Calm After the Storm

Why not say it? I'm bursting out of my cocoon. It was all too nice in the past - it never knocked anyone out. But last year... my first opening night at the Met - I looked out and heard all that cheering... for me... And I loved it.
~ Benita Valente

It was not quite my opening night, but it was definitely an experience to remember! As you can see, I had become so enmeshed in my own cocoon of creativity, that I did not have time to post anything of interest or substance. Now that The Tempest has passed – quite literally – hopefully life will get back to normal – whatever that means.

The girls of PALS did a fantastic job of interpreting Dorothy’s vision of Shakespeare. Especially the young girl who played Prospero. She delivered every line with passion and precision and she stayed in character throughout the play. Unfortunately, her name escapes me at the moment.

As for the chorus – they did superb job with the score. They ended up only using four songs: Storm Music, Full Fathom Five, Caliban’s Song and Ariel’s Song (Where the Bee Buzzes)*. The choral director, Anne Marie, decided at the last minute to not have me play the piano with the girls, since I had not been practicing with them the last five weeks – something I had suggested a few weeks ago and which I wholeheartedly endorsed. This was a good idea since they had not thought to make sure a piano - the main instrument - was available for the musical. Ahhh - the joys of working with a non-profit!
Not having to perform myself also freed me to play the snide and snippy composer who listens for mistakes and embellishments of their music during a performance. However, this being my first time composing an entire score and they being junior and senior high school students, I was inclined to be lenient. ;-)

Persephone played the guitar for Caliban’s Song and Ariel’s Song; Storm Music was played on CD (to my utter horror – it was only a rough demo) and Full Fathom Five* was done a capella.
Sullivan attended the performance, as well as a few friends and all declared it a hit. Most gratifying. However, I do not think I will be attempting another such undertaking anytime soon.
Unless it is another Gothic operetta.

Oremus pro invicem,

*All music (c) 2006 Silver Scroll Productions

06 July 2006

Adventures in Adversity: Part II

We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character
~ Henry David Thoreau

I did not think that my recent adverse adventures in Old Towne in June could be topped. However, the Fourth of July turned out to be a day for adventures, perils and discoveries that make my adventures on June 10 look tame. Beth and the Boy were in town for the Fourth of July weekend and after a long Monday afternoon visiting wineries in and around Middleburg, and evening spent enjoying the rehearsal of A Capitol Fourth on the west lawn of the Capitol, we lounged around Tuesday morning and just enjoyed the fine art of being.

As you know, Sullivan, Ann and I worked on the Tempest and other music for most of the afternoon. In between composing, I would periodically visit the kitchen and check on the fried chicken and potatoes I was making for our simple Fourth of July dinner.

I was actually disappointed when five o’clock rolled around and I had to get ready for the party we were all going to. It was one of the those typical DC area Catholic parties where you don’t necessarily know either the hosts or the guests but you get invited by at least one person that you do know. The big draw for this particular party was that there was going to be live music (and you know me, baby: it’s all about the music!) and then everyone was going to head to Key Bridge to watch the fireworks.

I had the bright idea that we would take a bus that stopped near our neighborhood to get to the party since parking would be non-existent. This is what we did and it was a great party and I actually did know almost everyone there (big shocker there!). After a glorious fireworks show, we went back to the house for about an hour and half of great live music played by four talented gentlemen: the Rickster (my favorite drummer), Dave (bass guitar), Tim (the host - guitar/vocals) and Brian (guitar/vocals). I know Rick and Dave, had only met Tim once and didn’t know Brian. Brian blew everyone there away ~ some great covers from each decade (60s to the 90s).

After the last song, Sullivan, Jeanette, Di, Beth and the Boy and me headed down to the metro to catch the bus back to my house. One piece of advice, never have a melancholic/phlegmatic plan out transportation. At least not this one. Music, cooking and entertaining – I’m the Queen. Anything else – fuhgitabouit! My previous adventure with transportation should have been a warning.

There was no bus back to the house. Metro was running on the weekend schedule. Joy and rapture. No problem. Trains were still running. We would take the train to the closest station and catch a bus from there.

We got out of the station and after about 10 minutes realized that the bus I thought would be there was not running any longer either. We approached a couple of Metro personnel ~ one of which was the station manager who said he didn’t know anything. Wonderful. This should have been the first clue that things could only go from bad to worse. We should have called a cab right then. But we decided to trust the other Metro guy.

We walked across the street to wait for another bus, which did show up. I asked the driver if he went to the two cross streets near us. He said yes, so we all climbed aboard. This was at 12:40 am. After dropping us off at the end of the line and saying that he was not going to the cross streets we needed, he went off duty. Welcome to DC and government run transportation. And yes, Sullivan, I concede that DC Metro should run more like the NYC subway system – at least in terms of running times.

Two cabs, $34 and over an hour later, we crawled out of two cabs and said bleary-eyed goodbyes to Jeanette, Sullivan and the Boy. Of course it would be the two melancholic-phlegmatic night owls that were the only ones who had to get up early for work the next day.

Definitely a Fourth of July to remember.

Happy Birthday, America! :-)

Oremus pro invicem,

Tempest Update

Music is a means of rapid transportation.
~ John Cage

Tuesday morning I didn’t feel like doing anything much except composing and playing the piano. Sullivan was heading over so we could work on the Tempest project and our friend Ann, whom we had also roped in help us compose. We had previously composed 4 songs and sent them along to Dorothy and the choral director: Full Fathom Five, Caliban’s Song, Three Men of Sin and Storm Music.*

The day before, Beth had pretended to play a one-fingered concerto ~ three notes of which triggered something in the Muse. I asked her play them again and then came up with bones of a song, the melody of which I could not remember the very next day! (One would think I would have learned by now to write everything down! Argh!)

Anyway, while waiting for Sullivan to arrive, I tried to remember the melody of the new song. It was very frustrating, but I finally had to let it go and re-write it. By the time I had resigned myself to re-writing it, Sullivan had come in and we then spent a good hour on this new composition, which for lack of a better descriptive title, we’re calling The Wall.* It’s a song that asks whether one is open to love. Everyone, including yours truly was surprised at how hopeful and relatively major it sounded. :-)

Ann had not made it in yet, so Sullivan left to go to the store. While he was gone, she arrived and we promptly wrote two more songs for the Tempest: The Marriage Blessing* and Ariel’s Song (Where the Bee Buzzes).* Both those pieces had been giving all three of us conniptions. Dorothy wanted the marriage piece written in a southern gospel style and Ariel’s Song written in a Broadway show tune style (think June is Bustin’ Out All Over). None of us had ever written anything in either style.

The Muse was working over time however, and we were able to compose both (although Broadway turned into Big Band). We sang them both over and over to make sure we liked them and once Sullivan came back, we recorded both of them. Ann then played a song she had written a couple of years ago, which we all thought would be perfect as the underscoring for Prospero’s Banishment* and we were done for the day.

7 songs down and about 4 to go! Woo hoo!

Oremus pro invicem,

*© 2006 Silver Scroll Productions. All Rights Reserved.

01 July 2006

Dappled Poetry

An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
~ Benjamin Disraeli

That being said, I am pleased as punch to announce that Dappled Things has once again deemed some of my poetry fit for the public eye. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the poem they published, “Meditation” was also quoted in their email announcement of the latest issue, which is filled with the talent of many young writers.

Oremus pro invicem,

26 June 2006

Sweet Tea on the Porch

The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word, then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation that you ever had.
~ Unknown

There is nothing quite so comforting and relaxing as a wide front porch with a few good friends scattered here and there in rocking chairs and on banisters. When that porch is facing the Potomac River and it is a glorious June afternoon, even better.

Yesterday was just such an occasion. The friends were a group from my adopted parish and the porch belonged to a priest friend. After he said Mass for us (ad orientem no less!), the gentlemen fired up the grill and we ate burgers and avocado salad (heavenly!) while Father regaled us with tales of rolling deacons, good ol’ boy golfers and the like (if he had not been accepted by the sem I am sure he would have made his mark in Vegas as a stand up). ;-)

As odd as it may seem for a die hard Southerner such as myself, I grew up without a breezy front porch. It is more a stoop or a portico then an honest to goodness sittin’ and rockin’ Southerner front porch. Being thus deprived has not tainted me too much. I have set up 6 course dinners in the orchard, picnicked on the patio and served tea under the tall, matronly maples.

A couple of visits ago, Mom had mentioned wanting to add an honest to goodness porch on the front of the house. At the time, the atheistic in me said no – that is not going to go with the façade of the house (Federal, although we traced its history back to the early 1900’s). But after yesterday, I long for a front porch on which to sip a tall glass of sweet tea, with a fan in one hand and the current favorite cookbook in the other. Now I wonder if there is some way of making that wish a reality without ruining the clean lines of the existing façade.

Until then, I will have to content myself with sitting with friends anywhere and everywhere we find a comfortable and inviting spot. And in the end, that is what a porch is for ~ a place for creating memories, sharing old ones and sipping sweet tea within the warm embrace of friendship and a warm Southern night.

Oremus pro invicem,

19 June 2006

Unanswered Questions

I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand.
~Leonardo da Vinci

…..and by the end of my sojourn, I had written a new song. In minor key (of course) and about forgetting the ones who love you the most and the need for forgiveness. At any speed, life enables us to just fly by, sometimes not connecting with those we love for perhaps days or weeks at a time.

For those of us who have a seemingly insurmountable difficulty in expressing the deep, passionate feelings we harbor for loved ones in the depths of our soul, this disconnect happens all too often. I think of friends and loved ones all the time but that rarely becomes translated to words ~ either written or spoken. If I am very blessed, it does flow out into lyrics and melody, but even then, can be shaded in metaphor, the depths remaining unplumbed.

How much of this is the result of the overwhelming weight of living life day to day? How much is the result of the heart’s reluctance to open itself up to being misunderstood at best or ridiculed at worst? It is very easy to say that a life lived in fear is a life half-lived. That it is better to open oneself up and risk it all for one taste of heaven then to live closed and never taste the rain….or the sun. But is the pain really worth it?

This new song provides no answers. Only asks more questions. And begs forgiveness.

Oremus pro invicem,

14 June 2006

Adventures in Adversity

Never shall I forget the time I spent with you.
Please continue to be my friend, as you will always find me yours.
~ Ludwig Van Beethoven

The test of a true friendship is adversity. And if that friend who rides through adversity with you can also turn that ride into an adventure, then surely his friendship is true.

My dear friend Sinjin was in town this past weekend for a mutual friend’s ordination. It had been almost a year since I saw him last and our correspondence has been at best sporadic and at worst non-existent. This is not too surprising considering that we are both very busy and happen to live two states apart. But we were thicker than tea leaves in a Royal Doulton tea cup in our undergrad days. So we were ecstatic that we would have at least a few hours here and there to go over old memories and make new ones.

We decided to leave the ordination reception fairly early and since we had about five hours to kill until the dinner reception that night, we went out for a somewhat more substantial lunch. I do not cater those receptions; ergo food is not made for Cox’s Army, but rather for their pet birds!

After driving around Arlington for a few blocks, we settled on Tara Thai on Fairfax Drive. If you have not been there, go. The décor is a tad bright and strange but the food is unbelievable. At one point, Sinjin pointed to the pendant lights, made to look like tiny jellyfish, saying that he first thought they were extremely dusty!

After a wonderful lunch (it was surprising we were able to eat anything we were laughing so much!), we headed to Old Towne Alexandria to kill time. We got quite a few stares as Sinjin was wearing his cassock. Too bad he didn’t have his biretta with him! Or even better, his cappello romano! :-)

We sat on the marina and continued to talk about our college escapades, absent college friends and his thoughts on Rome. We laughed quietly at PDAing couples who would glance over at him right after engaging in some very wet romantic clutches. In unison, we sighed, rolled our eyes and wondered aloud who they were trying to convince, us or themselves? People watching is such a hoot! Honestly, folks, put that mess away! ;-)

Realizing that it was almost time to be at the dinner reception, we walked quickly back to the car. And this is when our real adventure began. The dear Ukaristmobile would not start. Not after Sinjin blessed it. Nor after he cursed it. Nor after I prayed desperately to St. Joseph. Sinjin and I turned to stare at each other in dismay. This was not good.

After a few phone calls, Di and Scotti, two of my housemates, came to our rescue. First, we tried hooking the car up to automotive CPR. This did not work. Not even after running Di's engine for over thirty minutes. Several gentlemen came by and took a look under the hood, but to no avail. Scotti kindly called AAA for a tow and then we waited. And waited. And waited some more.
At this point I was on the verge of tears and a migraine. The inner workings of cars are beyond the ken of this damsal and I believe it is one of the many responsibilities that are best left to the stronger sex. On top of this feeling, I felt terrible that Sinjin was missing the reception. He however, proved his friendship by turning to me and saying, “Well, I am not terribly upset to be stuck here ~ at least it gives us more time to spend together, albeit not in the way we had planned!”

All in all, it was a glorious evening to be marooned in Old Towne ~ the weather was on its best behavior. The four of us took turns babysitting the car ~ Sinjin and I walked to Starbucks (have you tried the Blackberry Green Tea Frappacino? Decadent!) and Di and Scotti went to Ben and Jerry’s. With the car doors open to take advantage of a sweet June breeze off the Potomac and the CD player blasting opera, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for gift of friends ~ especially steadfast and true ones! They turn adversity into adventure. :-)

Oremus pro invicem,

24 May 2006

Flawed Wall Art

I like the fact that in ancient Chinese art the great painters always included a deliberate flaw in their work: human creation is never perfect.
~ Unknown

A flawed painting my dining room certainly is. In case you have not noticed yet, I love art in all its forms and the decoration of one’s home is definitely an art form. So I was thrilled when my landlady came over one day a few weeks ago and said she wanted to freshen up the walls in the dining room and living room with a new coat of paint. I enthusiastically offered my talents and hands in helping. This would be especially needed in the dining room where almost all four walls were plastered with hideous granny-floral wallpaper. This (we both agreed) would need to be stripped and the walls washed before painting began. I should have stripped it that night or the next day.

After a long day at work, I was greeted at the door by my housemates with the words: “Don’t be too upset.” The dining room was white ~ with patches of blue floral wallpaper bleeding through here and there. It was with great effort that I opened my eyes again and shut my mouth.

That was a few weeks ago and last night my housemate Mary and I talked about colour and flow and the weekend. Instead of going somewhere fun or relaxing, Mary and I are staying home this weekend and painting the dining room. If we are really ambitious we might even get to the living room, but it is the dining room that is in dire need of some serious paint TLC!

So today I visited Lowe’s on my lunch break and came away with a bag full of paint chips and pamphlets and a few plants for the garden. Mary and I had decided on a shade of cranberry. But after sleeping on it (in my cranberry painted boudoir) I was not as keen on painting the dining room the same colour. I am not afraid of colour, especially dark colours. I love them. But I want to do something different with this new canvas.

Hopefully, we can look at the paint chips tonight, choose a colour (or two) and then I will buy the paint tomorrow and we’ll be good to go.

Oremus pro invicem,

22 May 2006

Unleashing the Tempest

All I try to do is write music that feels meaningful to me,
that has commitment and passion behind it.
~ Bruce Springsteen

After this weekend, I’m either committed or I need to be committed. My friend Dotto is directing a production of The Tempest and needed a score written. A score consisting of an overture (naturally) and a few song and dance numbers in the styles of 1) Caribbean steel drums, 2) Hip-hop, 3) gospel and 4) melancholic ballad. I have only written melancholic ballads (aka funeral dirges as my mother calls them). I have never written 1), 2) or 3). For that matter, I have not written an overture, nor a full score for a play. So what do I do? I say yes of course! I think my Muse fainted.

This took place on Friday. Over an excellent grilled salmon, accompanied by grilled sweet potatoes and succulent green peppers, fresh mushrooms simmered in garlic butter and red-wine and a couple of Coronas, Dotto, Sullivan and I discussed ideas, script, feel and courage. And aptitude. I brought up those last two. It is the blessing/curse of the melancholic to be able to see the big picture and every little detail that can bring that big picture crashing to the ground. I think of everything that could go wrong.

As we enjoyed grilled pound cake with bananas and rum-kissed real whipped cream in the candlelit backyard, both Sullivan and Dotto (also both melancholics) endeavored to ease my fears. However, they were not completely put at ease until Saturday, when I talked to Ann S. at the wedding reception of our mutual friends and fellow Christendom grads, Kristy and Jeff E.
Ann also composes ~ a fact I forgot until I sat down to bring her up to speed on my current doings. Then I grabbed her by the shoulder and turned to Sullivan (who also knew the happy couple) and said – “Oh wow! That’s right ~ she composes ~ we must talk to her!” This we did. And now there are three composers. I hope this does not mean the same thing as three cooks in the kitchen.

However, in this case, I do not think there is any danger of that. The three of us bring different talents and it is not as scary to share the burden of a whole score with at least 5 major song and dance numbers with two other artists.

Fears and insecurities aside, Sunday afternoon (with absolutely glorious weather!) I sat down at the piano (which needs yet another tuning! Argh!!!) and after just brushing the keys with my fingertips for a couple of bars, came up with a partial tune for the overture/Ariel’s Song. My Muse must have recovered from her earlier shock. But this is only the beginning. We shall see whether the tune stands up to replay and other ears and whether the (royal) We will be able to withstand the pressure of her perfectionist self and looming deadlines.

To be continued….

Oremus pro invicem,

11 May 2006

The First Meeting

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading,
in order to write, a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
~ Samuel Johnson

The inaugural meeting of the American Inklings was a blast last night. There was perhaps a little more gab and less creative criticism than I would have liked. My dears, for me to read you my poems and for you to say “Well done! I love it!” is not to love me nor my work. So Sullivan (aka King Alfred) and I decided that we need to have a little more structure if the vision we have for the group is to become reality.

In order to get some true critiques going, we thought that for our next meeting, we would make it a rule that each member should pick something that they do not like about someone’s work. This forces the listener to listen closely to the words, meter, rhyme and flow of the work being discussed. So the first part of the meeting will be devoted to original works and their critique.

For the second half we decided that we would do a reading of a published writer. As all those present were fans of Shakespeare, Hamlet was unanimously chosen for our next meeting.

The second and fourth Wednesdays turned out to be in conflict with another meeting that most of our members and I myself attend. So the next meeting will not be until June 7 and from there on we will meet every first and third Wednesday. 7 o’clock seems to work well for everyone. The only other change we will make it the physical place we meet. There are a few who would need to be near a metro stop and most are closer to D.C. and Arlington then they are to Reston. So Sullivan and I will be prowling the pubs searching for a suitable place for the A. Inklings to gather.

Hope you can join us in June!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

08 May 2006

Of Steak and Friendship

You're to come away at once, out of danger. I've got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Chateau Peyraguey which isn't a wine you've ever tasted, so don't pretend. It's heaven with strawberries.
~ Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

Now that I have posted that quote (ahh the memories of my junior year of college that it evokes!), it strikes me as being wonderfully suited to the text of an invitation for an impromptu summer soiree. I will have to start planning one right away! But that is for another post on another evening….

Last Wednesday, I had a few friends help me move a couch I had just purchased (a beautiful piece to help formalize my living room) and I thanked them by grilling some beautiful sirloin steaks and frying up some potatoes with rosemary and mushrooms in a red wine sauce.

I had planned on feeding them, but the date and the menu were impromptu. And I must say, that a thrown together, intimate supper with friends is so satisfying to the soul. Anyone who knows me has become familiar with the large, fun and at times boisterous parties (ranging from 40 attendees to over 100) that I have thrown or enjoy attending.

But I am a melancholic-phlegmatic introvert. “Small is beautiful.” Really. Can you truly enter into the mystery that is your friend if there are 39 to 99 other people needing to be attended to, fed or any of the other services a hostess renders?

No. The mystery and sacredness of friendship demand a respectful quiet. Time to listen, to contemplate the countenance of one’s friend and to enter into the expression they are sharing with you in that moment. To be heard is to be known and respected. And to be known and respected is to be loved.

How wonderful to be able to pick up the phone and say, I have steaks and the grill is fired up. Come on over and set a spell. And let us enter into the mystery of each other. For by doing so, we become better men and women.

Thank you for sharing a little of your mystery with me, my friends. I treasure you.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

28 April 2006

American Inklings

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
~ C.S. Lewis
For all those in the D.C./Northern Virginia area:

Announcing the first meeting of the American Inklings

When: Wednesday, May 10, 7:00pm
and every 1st and 3rd Wednesday

Where: Cosi's, in the Reston Town Center
11909 Democracy Drive, Reston, VA

The original "Inklings" were a group of mostly university colleagues who got together to discuss literature and poetry--either things they'd read or things they'd written. Theirs were the first ears to hear original drafts of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, and theirs the first mouths to offer critique.

Modeled after that group, the American Inklings are artistic souls who meet twice a month to share, critique, and possibly collaborate on various creative projects: poems, stories, songs--whatever the Muse inspires!

There's no commitment: Come as you're able, share your writings or ideas, or just listen and be inspired!

For more on the original Inklings click here and here.

For more on my co-founder: King Alfred

See you on the 10th!

Oremus pro invicem,

Dining Out Discovery

A good meal soothes the soul as it regenerates the body.
From the abundance of it flows a benign benevolence.
~ Frederick W. Hackwood, Good Cheer

For Lent, one of the excursions I gave up was dining out. I thought this was going to be a great hardship. I like to try new dishes, sample different wines and pass a critical taste bud or two over exotic desserts.

And I did indeed miss it. I spent approximately 40 days and nights without setting foot in one restaurant. Once Easter arrived, I was sure that I would jump in the car and head over to one of my favorite gastronomic haunts.

Strangely, this did not happen. I think extreme fatigue from singing from Holy Thursday evening to Easter Sunday morning played a role in my reluctance to stray too far from the boudoir. But once I recovered, I wasted no time in making lunch dates with a couple of friends.

Nothing prepared me for the shock. I took one bite of a medium rare bit of happiness and it tasted like sawdust. This was very odd indeed. This strange state of affairs did not change when a week later, I joined another friend for dessert. In fact, it got much worse. What, you ask, could possibly be worse than filet mignon tasting like sawdust?! Flourless chocolate cake ~ tasting like the inside of a refrigerator that hasn’t been opened in a week. Or two. That is not simply unpalatable, it is just wrong.

I found myself thinking, ‘eating out is so over-rated! My cooking is much better!’ What can I say? Humility is acknowledging the truth. ;o)

Oremus pro invicem,

06 April 2006

Out of the Box

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.
If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.
~ Charlie Parker

A few deep, soul-searching conversations with friends over the past couple of weeks, together with near perfect weather, an afternoon spent planning out the garden and a considerable amount of time on the bench while a sweet breeze stirred the sheers at the bay window, produced a new song about stepping out of the old, pain-filled comfort zone and into the sunlight of emotional and spiritual freedom.

A pain-filled comfort zone? Oh yes. As much as it sounds like an oxymoron that is exactly what it is. You know the old saying: “Better the devil you know, then the devil you don’t.” There are many factors that come into play when a person stays in a painful situation. But the one I am talking about comes from a combination of a fear of the unknown and a lack of confidence or hope in yourself.

Perhaps the effect of talking things over with friends helped loosen the chains that kept that box shut. Or perhaps it was the fact that I simply had two full nights of silence, peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. Or the country air and the feel of the grass and the sight of the cherry blossoms in the orchard and lilacs just beginning to bloom.

Whatever it was, the chains are off, the box is open and the contents are being gone through and either thrown out or simply put in perspective.

Spring is here. Time to pull out old boxes and open them up to the warmth of the sun.

Oremus pro invicem,

05 April 2006

Jazzy Blues

The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous.
~ Shana Alexander

A couple of friends of mine, John Cropp and Maria “Pete” Durgan are in a great jazz/blues band called Novazanz. Pete is an incredible bass guitarist and John is…phenomenal. He is one of the best lead guitarists I have heard in quite awhile. I have now had the pleasure and privilege of improvising with both of them.

Last Friday night I got a chance to sing with them…in public…in front of strangers….you know, people I do not know, who have never heard me sing before…scary people. John and Pete had suggested that the next time they played somewhere, I should come and do a song with them ~ to get my feet wet and my nerves a shot in the arm ~ so to speak.

Reading into the above quote, I must have been at the top of my form because I was nervous as all get out! In fact, I sang with my eyes pretty much closed the whole time: harking back to days of old when yours truly walked down the aisle countless times as a shy flower girl…with her eyes closed. Some things never change.

I do not even remember if the five people in the bar clapped after my very nervous interpretation of Summertime. Sullivan had come along to cheer on both John and Pete (and talented drummer Kirby, who joins them off and on) and declared my debut a success. I think it was more the event of actually getting me up in front of *gasp* other people that was most exciting.

Sitting behind a piano opening my soul to people with every composition always carries a sense of nakedness ~ it is the nature of art. But singing a cover song, without a piano to hide behind engenders much more of a naked feeling. However, now my feet are wet and hopefully the next time I am asked (or made) to sing before strangers, it will not be as traumatic. ;o)

Novazanz is incredibly talented and the next time you have a chance, come enjoy an evening of bossa nova blues and jazz at one of their gigs. See ya soon John and Pete!

Oremus pro invicem,

04 April 2006

In Black and White

Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.
~ Mark Twain

Well, no one offered to pay me. And it hasn’t been three years yet. And I’m a girl. So I think I’ll hold off on sawing wood.

I’ve been published!! Yippee! One poem today, a whole novel tomorrow! Did I just say that? *looks into glass* Yes ~ my ice is decidedly lonely. I’m going to go for a re-fill and bask in the glory of being published.

Take a look and let me know what you think!

Oremus pro invicem,

30 March 2006

Of Pärt and Port II

As for sacred polyphony, there is no reason to be afraid of it.
~ Richard Morris

Yesterday's post about Sunday’s feast for ear and tastebuds was longer than I anticipated, so today I am posting the second half of my musings on that delightful evening: the St. Matthew’s Choir and Schola’s performance of Lenten vespers in general and Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat in particular.

Nobody else wanted to drive downtown and seeing as they were not aware of my great and grand ability for becoming hopelessly lost every time I drive there, we all piled into the Ukarist-mobile, with the CD player alternately blasting fado and Pärt selections. We had crossed the Potomac and were cruising down Constitution when I brought the flow of conversation to a halt with “Uh, people? We have a slight problem here…..I don’t know where we’re going!”

This announcement was followed by a chorus of “I don’t know either” and about 5 minutes driving in the general direction of K and M Streets. After expressing general dissatisfaction with every other driver on the road and the general low IQ of every pedestrian who waltzed and meandered and jay walked in front of me, I finally threw my cell phone at Sullivan and said “I know! Call information and ask for St. Matt’s.” Surprisingly, someone answered the phone and told us the cross streets. Halleluiah! (Oops! Not supposed to use that word for another 3 weeks!) Actually, I think I let fly a good Southern yeeha.

Anyway, after muttering prayers to St. Anthony for a really good, close parking space and being graced with one right behind the cathedral, the five of us walked in to St. Matthew’s and found a pew right near the front.

Now technically, to gain the full effect of a polyphonic performance in an acoustically ideal space, one should really sit in the middle, towards the rear. But Sunday night, sitting up front in no way detracted from the musical delight that awaited us.

The Choir and Schola, the men on the left and the women on the right, chanted the vespers as they are meant to be ~ alternating back and forth. The Latin was pronounced beautifully and the voices were clear and smooth. My companions and I sat back and let the peaceful rhythms and natural melody envelope our souls.

But as beautiful as the chant was, its elegant execution in no way prepared us for the ecstasy of hearing Pärt’s Magnificat.

Bill Culverhouse did an incredible job directing ~ the dynamics were breathtaking and perfectly matched to both the meaning of the words and the music. There is no other way to describe the experience: I closed my eyes and literally swooned in the pew. Sullivan later told me that he was equally moved ~ both by the piece itself and the near perfect performance of it. The only thing that was grating to the ears was Monsignor Jameson's butchering of the Latin texts. But even that could not hide the brilliant performance by Culverhouse and company.

The next time you’re in town and the St. Matthew’s Choir and Schola are performing (May 2006), definitely put it on your list of things to do.

Oremus pro invicem,

29 March 2006

Of Pärt and Port

Seating themselves on the greensward, they eat while the corks fly
and there is talk, laughter and merriment, and perfect freedom….
~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Sunday evening saw a feast for two of my favorite senses: taste and hearing. My good friend Janet had informed me that the St. Matthew’s Cathedral Choir and Schola were going to be performing Lenten Vespers, including a rendering of Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat.

Several of my friends are big time fans of Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony. So we decided to gather at my house for an early pre-concert dinner and then drive across the river to the Cathedral.

Dinner was at four o’clock, and knowing I would not have much cooking time after singing at the 10:45 low Mass, I enlisted the talents of both Janet and another friend, Leslie, one to bring salad and the other to bring dessert. A housemate was in charge of the green vegetable. I then went to work on the entrée: Roast Chicken with Maple Soy Glaze.

With my great love of cooking and feeding people, one would think I had roasted a whole chicken before. Sadly, this was not the case. The first task was to “Run hands under chicken skin to loosen.” You have got to be joking. I stared at the chicken. And stared at it some more. And then got out a thin, sharp knife.

The skin was now loosened. Also sliced through in a couple of places, but at least I did not have to actually touch the chicken. This bliss was not to last very long.

My next task was to take butter and rub it all over the chicken, including under the now loosened skin. Honestly, I do not know what it is about raw chicken that grosses me out. Red meat, bleeding all over the place doesn’t make me bat an eye. But raw chicken seems so….I don’t know….RAW.

Once my hand was lathered in sweet cream butter (margarine ~ so wrong on so many levels!) I was focused more how juicy and tender this would make the bird and not on the fact that I was touching raw chicken. I smashed fresh garlic and ginger and stuffed them into the cavity, then squeezed fresh orange over the outside and stuffed the pieces in as well. Next came my favorite part: adding the alcohol.

Cooking with alcohol adds so many wonderful flavors, depending on the recipe. This one called for sherry. I happily went down to the basement where I keep all my wines and spirits. Happily that is until I realized that I only thought I had sherry in stock. It was too late to run out and buy a bottle. There was no one left to call and the bird need to be doused and put in the oven soon or dinner would consist of salad, asparagus and dessert!
I searched among the bottles looking for a good substitute for sherry. My hand grasped a bottle of port. If my palate remembered correctly, port is sweet like sherry, and it was the same colour as sherry. Good enough for me! :-)

Placing the chicken in the roasting pan (after making it dance a jig – what?! Ok, so I also have a weird sense of humour!), and pouring port over it liberally, I popped it in the oven and turned my attention to making fresh French bread.

The recipe is an excellent one, straight out of Southern Living. I had made bread from that recipe several times before with glorious results. Sunday, something did not cooperate. The yeast expanded beautifully in the right temperature of water, the dough came together nicely in the mixer. But when it came time to knead it, it clung to my floured hands like the Swamp Thing. It had never done this before. Usually it was quite docile and smooth when I kneaded it. I finally managed to scrap most of it off my hands and placed the gooey lump in a greased bowl and set it aside to rise for an hour.

While waiting for the bread to take care of itself and get over its slump, I gathered the ingredients for the maple-soy glaze for the chicken. Generally, I have most ingredients ~ they are simply stock items that a cook always has on hand. However, I also like to cook on the fly, trying out different recipes or coming up with new ones based on the bare minimum of ingredients.

The glaze called for pure maple syrup, rice vinegar, soy sauce and hot sauce. I used soy sauce, Log Cabin syrup, apple vinegar and red pepper flakes. I basted the chicken in the glaze every few minutes. When it was done, the skin was a nice sweet crackly brown. This made up for the French bread, which never did rise, but I baked anyway and my friends declared it a success ~ not having tried my previous truly successful attempts at bread making.
A nice bottle of red wine, artful salad, tender young asparagus and a decadent chocolate mousse rounded out the gastronomic portion of the evening.

Next time: concert notes.

Oremus pro invicem,

27 March 2006

Fado Obssession

There is no doubt that the first requirement for a composer is to be dead.
~ Arthur Honegger

Call me obsessed. But when I am introduced to a new song or style of music, or when I have written a new song, that song or music style becomes my favorite and I cannot get enough of it. Of course, this is not to say that I do not have songs that never fall out of favor. But the new kid on the block is always big news for a long, long time.

The flavor of the month is fado. I am surprised the Dulce Pontes CD my friend generously lent me this weekend (after prying it from his own CD player) is not worn down already. It’s gone from car to house stereo back to car to office computer. I was playing it at home and one of my housemates who speaks Portuguese, burst into my room and said “Hey, that sounds like fado!” I said, “It is! Can you translate?” She could not. Not a big surprise, considering that like most English songs, you cannot always tell what the singer is singing. Unfortunate, because if you’re like me (and I know I am!) the lyrics are the most important element of the music.

Anyway, I have become so enthralled with the style, that when I sat down Saturday evening to compose Song Two of the MacBeth Project, I ended up with a tribute to fado instead. No title yet, and it is by no means the real deal. But the Portuguese-speaking housemate heard it and said that I had captured the feeling that fado conveys: waiting, loneliness, deep, soul sadness and melancholy.

Sullivan was over on Sunday and paid me a great compliment when he heard the new piece: “You just keep getting better! Every new song you compose is better than the last.”

Which proves Honegger correct: by the time I am dead, my music should be perfect. ;-)

Oremus pro invicem,

24 March 2006


It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness & of pain: of strength & freedom. The beauty of disappointment & never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature, & everlasting beauty of monotony.
~ Benjamin Britten

It is said of writers that the greatest part of their time is spent reading other books. It is part of what makes a talented writer ~ knowing where we have been literarily before being able to make a lasting mark on the literary future.

The same can be said of music. A musician is constantly adding to his music library and experimenting with different styles and forms of music.

This week, I added another style to my collection of favorite music to listen to: Portuguese fado. Listen once to this haunting, sea-inspired music and you will know why I have fallen in love with it: it is an earthy, dark and melancholic music, full of longing and “the beauty of loneliness & of pain.” As one article states: “a fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.”

My appreciation for this form of music is still new and so far, I have only listened to three albums by one artist: Dulce Pontes. I already had a great respect for her talent when she teamed up with Andrea Bocelli for O Mare e Tu on Sogno. And she was recommended to me as the best intro to fado.

My personal favorites:
1. Cancao Do Mar (Song Of The Sea)
2. Lagrima
3. Fado Portugues
4. Povo Que Lavas No Rio

As a musician, I am always looking for new melodies that touch the listener deep in their soul and elicit intense emotion. At a performance I gave in while I was in college, I remember telling the audience that I wanted them to sit back, relax and just feel. Fado does that ~ you can’t express it, you just feel it.

Here’s to moving more audiences to tears.

Oremus pro invicem,

23 March 2006

Expressing MacBeth

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
~ Aldous Huxley

A break through!

After months of racking my brain, pounding the keys, walking away from it for awhile and vacilitating between looks of anguished pleading and dark frustration, the Muse finally relented. Sullivan and I resurrected the MacBeth Project last night and worked on Song One. In roughly an hour and a half, we had a completed piece. Amazing! We were both floored. I think that is the fastest I have written any music.

Sullivan had already done an excellent job of writing the lyrics and he had some idea of what he wanted the piece to feel like. Once he walked me through it, I tried to execute that feeling. I must have succeeded for he declared it better than the last project, until I started playing the beginning notes of Song Three of the LOLAL. Then he groaned and said that perhaps this new one was a very close second as his favorite song. It certainly is much darker than any other songs I have composed. But then go figure, MacBeth is the subject material. :-)

One thing this song definitely needs is a cello. Anybody out there interested?

Oremus pro invicem,

21 March 2006

Not Your Ordinary Post

3/23/06 ~ I have revised some passages on this post, since some were not worded clearly. ~ MD

I do not usually post on politics, church or otherwise, not because I do not feel passionately about such things, rather I bow to other bloggers who are more eloquent or more learned about such things. This however, is occurring in my own backyard and therefore, I feel I must throw in my two cents….

The liturgical shot heard ‘round the world…..

Well, maybe the vibrations from today’s annual Bishop’s meeting with the priests of the Arlington Diocese here in Virginia will not reverberate quite as loudly as perhaps SF Catholic Charities faux pas, or the ongoing talks in Rome about liturgical reform; nonetheless for the faithful here the impact will be great.

A great divide that is. Bishop Loverde, wishing to appear truly liberal (i.e. do whatever you want, be it progressive or traditional) has stated that “Effective immediately, pastors in the diocese, after consultation with their parochial vicars, deacons and the parish pastoral councils, may decide on a parish-by-parish basis to include women and girls as altar servers.” and at the same time has designated two parishes (at either end of the beltway, I might add) as “indult parishes”, i.e. parishes were the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, or Tridentine Mass, may be celebrated.

For the most part, I believe things will remain status quo. Parishes such as St. John’s in McLean, St. Rita’s in Alexandria, and St. Andrew’s in Clifton, will opt to keep male-only acolytes. Queen of Peace, Nativity Parish and St. Thomas More Cathedral will opt to introduce them. But this should come as no surprise to anyone as the three former are all known to be more traditional and the three latter more progressive.

As I heard one local priest say, “This will only serve to further divide the clergy. And good people in the crazy parishes will leave and go to the more solid parishes. So if I get assigned to one of the whacko parishes, I won’t have the support of good, solid families, because they won’t be there!”

He has a point. And while I feel badly about it on the one hand, that very thing has been happening throughout the diocese way before this decision. This issue, however, will only serve to bleed more of the solid, traditional parishioners to other parishes. One fellow Catholic said that he had always stayed at his local parish (meaning he lived within its geographic boundaries) because he felt it was better to try and make a difference locally. Now?

I think Loverde, and other Princes of the church of his persuasion, will find that in trying to appease both sides, he will succeed. But at the end of the day, his pocket book will either stay at the same level or shrink. The Roman Catholic Church is not a democracy, but the laity are the ones who keep it running financially. And those who give generously over time are more likely to be traditional. And some have already told me, 1962 Missal or not, their money is not going to the annual Lenten appeal nor anywhere near the Chancery, but to those priests and Bishops who uphold all truth and not just parts of it.

Oremus pro invicem,

P.S. No worries, Padre ~ if you get sent to the wacky boons, there will always be a place set at our table for you.

13 March 2006

MacBeth Update

Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and particular skill.
~ Edmund Morrison
Perhaps it is spring fever. Perhaps the Muse has caught it too. Whatever it is, Sullivan has done a fine job with Song One of our MacBeth Project but I on the other hand, have done absolutely nothing with it!

In the LOLAL, there is one continuous melody threaded throughout all three pieces, connecting them together for the hearer. It works beautifully (if I may say) and I considered doing something similar with the MBP. But so far, nothing. Not one single note!

A weekend in the country would stir up the senses, I thought. But although the weather was perfect, I was relaxed and I did improvise some lovely instrumentals, MacBeth lay stubbornly silent and uninspired!

I need to bounce some ideas off of my music partner ~ Sullivan! Where are you?! Come out of retirement and call me!

Oremus pro invicem,

09 March 2006

Writer's Lent

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life…. (The writer) grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
~ Ernest Hemingway

This is most certainly the reason why I have not posted one drop of ink in quite a few days. I had extra work at my job to tend to, social functions to attend, a backache to heal, and stress to blame for it ~ I was swamped! The mere fact that I am writing now does not indicate that I am less swamped, but perhaps that it spite of being so, I have finally managed to raise my head and my hands out of the murky mess of life and grab on to a keyboard ~ both computer and piano.

Distractions are the bane of my writing existence. Actually, distractions are quite possibly the bane of my whole existence. There is always something else I could be doing, or that I am doing, or that is on my calendar to do. More to the point, there is always somewhere I could, am or will be going. Thus the quill lies forgotten, gathering dust and the pages yellow and curl and not a thought is captured for posterity.

Lent can be an ideal time then for a writer ~ at least for this writer. Days of fast and abstinence and reflection should provide ample solitude. A solitude which should hopefully result in many words upon many pages. Pray that it is so.

Oremus pro invicem,

13 February 2006

Literary Thyme

Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat.
~Fran Lebowitz

A good portion of my time last week was given to preparing for the Annual WCF Winter Ball ~ which almost wasn’t due to, well, winter weather! In the end, the Nor’easter only dusted the ground, making driving relatively painless ~ at least until midnight. Then Sunday morning we woke up to about 5-8 inches ~ finally! I was getting the winter blues - 50 degree weather in February is just wrong!

Amidst all the preparation, Sullivan and I did manage to meet for lunch to discuss our latest brainstorm (outside of MacBeth) ~ an American Inklings group. It had occurred to me that in essence, he and I were already doing what the original Inklings did: meet and critique each other’s writings. All that was missing was meeting over a superb European dinner (i.e. late and infinite) and a single malt Scotch ~ or a Brandy Alexander, girlie girl that I am! ;-)

Perhaps such a group already exists, but if it does, we have yet to find it. We’re not sure how we want the group to look, though we do know we want to keep it intimate enough to allow bonds of friendship to form and trust to develop in each other’s opinions. So last week, we met for lunch at one of several places I had researched to be our American “Bird and Baby.”

As Sullivan observed about Rosemary’s Thyme Bistro: “adding "bistro" to your name automatically entitles you to charge $15 for lunch!" We both had the Adana Kabob ~ a mixture of lamb and beef over jasmine rice, served with roasted vegetables and tzatziki sauce. It was delightfully spicy ~ just enough for the tzatziki sauce to refresh the palette between bites. For dessert, I ordered crème brulee (big shocker there!) while Sullivan decided to try the cappuccino flan. The crème brulee wasn’t bad ~ but I think they must have been talking while holding the torch over the sugar ~ it tasted a tad sooty. The cappuccino flan however was decadent and well worth the wait.
All told, we spent about $50 on lunch for two. Given the high price tag (call me thrifty), and the lack of a private space in which to read aloud and pontificate on all things literary, the American Inklings will continue searching for our version of a dark English pub for after dinner Scotch that would make Tolkien, Lewis, Williams and the other Inklings proud.

By the way, if you are a writer living in the general area of Northern Virginia and have at least some knowledge of Lewis and Tolkien and would love to have other amateur writers rip your masterpieces to shreds, drop Sullivan or I a line. ;-)
Oremus pro invicem,

09 February 2006


Not only have I been tagged, I have also been badgered for my answers! :P So here you go, your majesty. ;o)

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1) Jeni
2) Anastasia
3) Haligweorc
4) King Alfred
5) Mikaela D’Eigh

Next select five people to tag
1) Real Physics
2) Life is Romantic
3) Nobody Here
4) Veritas et Venustas
5) Laodicea

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Like King Alfred, I too remember the biggest ice storm in my memory in Virginia. It devastated acres and acres of trees, some very ancient ~ but it was also one of the most beautiful acts of nature I have seen in awhile. I hadn’t left yet for the spring semester and was still at home in the country. We went without power for a week, and one of my memories is of being bundled up by the kitchen fireplace, eating mac and cheese that tasted like soot. So much for the romance of cooking over a fire!

What were you doing 1 year ago?
January 2005: Shrine Crypt Keeper. ;o)

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Sweets and Beets (organic chips made out of sweet taters and beets)
2. Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates stuffed with Manchego or Parmesan Cheese – albeit a time consuming snack to make, but well worth the effort!
3. Pizza Rolls
4. Homemade bread right out of the oven
5. Crème brulee ~ not a snack, but truly a gift from God!

Five songs you know all the words to:
1. Latin Mass Propers
2. Almost anything written by Palestrina and Victoria
3. Almost anything written during WWII
4. Skellig - Loreena McKennitt
5. Too many to list

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Pay off debts
2. Pay for several seminarians’ formation and education
3. Save beautiful historic churches and homes slated for either the auction block, the wrecking ball or “wreckovation.”
4. Buy a Steinway concert grand
5. I’m with King Alfred on this one: Buy a heck of a lot of books, and house them in a cherry/mahogany library in the historic house that I bought at #3.

Five bad habits:
1. Not writing every day
2. Hitting the snooze button
3-5. What, you thought this was Oprah? With King A on this one too.

Five things you enjoy doing:
1. Holy Hours
2. Spending time with family and friends
3. Writing, composing and playing the piano
4. Hosting parties; cooking and decorating for said parties.
5. Anything cultural – esp if it has to do with anything ancient and beautiful.

Five things you would never wear again:
1. My favorite red shirt I had as a kid that I loved so much my mother made it into a pillow – complete with arms still attached.
2. The clunky shoes I wore in college.
3. Anything with Winnie the Pooh printed on it.
4. Can’t think of anything else.

Five favorite toys:
1. My baby grands – yep, 2 of them (and no Steinway yet!)
2. Pen and ink collection ~ more like an obsession
3. Book library
4. Music (vinyl and CD) collection
5. My rockin’, fire engine-red Kitchen Aid mixer. :o)

06 February 2006

Poetry & MacBeth II

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters.
~ Shakespeare, MacBeth, (1.5.63)

Work on the MacBeth collaboration has begun with a bang ~ I already have one song composed ~ both music and lyrics. I already see a pattern developing in my composition style: this is actually Song 3 or 4 (we have not yet decided how many we would like to write) in the series.

It had been my intention to attend a discussion group Saturday evening, but I decided that one trip into DC (to become certified as a Theology of the Body Study Group facilitator) was travel enough for one day. Now I am doubly glad I stayed in that night! I must have called Sullivan at least five times ~ every two verses that were written. By the fifth time, he answered the phone with “What’ve ya got?” Our plan is to get together this week and brainstorm. After our experience with LOLAL*, I am sure that this first poor little song will go through numerous re-writes.

Oremus pro invicem,

*© 2005 Silver Scroll Productions

03 February 2006

Femininity & Mantillas

"...on earth, the veil is a symbol of the metaphysical. It is likewise the symbol of womanhood, and all great forms of woman's life show her as a figure veiled. This makes it clear why the greatest mysteries of Christianity entered the world of creation not through the man, but by way of the woman. . . .In keeping with the veil motif, the unpretentious is pre-eminently proper to woman, which means all that belongs to the domain of love, of goodness, of compassion, everything that to do with care and protection, the hidden, the betrayed things of the earth. . . .The withdrawal of the veil, like the veil itself, is deeply symbolic. . . .To unveil her means to destroy her mystery."
~ Gertrude von le Fort, The Eternal Woman

At the end of noon Mass today, before the traditional blessing of the throats in honor of St. Blasé, the priest thanked all the ladies who were wearing mantillas, a beautiful outward sign of the gift of their femininity and hoped that many more would follow their example.

It was an awesome (and rare) thing for a priest to say ~ even in this diocese. Although yours truly was a tad embarrassed as I could not see if any other ladies were wearing mantillas, I was happy and grateful that it was said.

And no, Fathers S and W ~ I was not wearing the big acre mantilla that only comes out on Good Friday. ;o)

Have a blessed weekend!

Oremus pro invicem,

02 February 2006

Poetry, MacBeth & Late Night Coffee

If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favours nor your hate.
~ Shakespeare, MacBeth (1.3.58)

Last night, wrapping up a little earlier than we usually do (only because Starbucks was closing), Sullivan lent his fine editorial and language skills to two poems I am submitting to Dappled Things for the Lent/Easter issue. Both of them are related to A Lay of Life and Loss* that Sullivan and I collaborated on in the fall. Battle Cry** was one of the many discarded re-writes of Song One*. Weihnailiuþis or Song of Weihnai**, was written due to time constraints.
Sullivan had suggested I write an actual short story giving the background of ALOLAL. I began to write it and the opening paragraphs were promising. However, the deadline for submission ~ originally February 10 ~ seemed a little too close to do the story justice. So I decided to write a poem instead. The end result is fourteen verses long. God willing they publish it, I will be eager for feedback. Check back here at a later date.
After we finished working on my poems and talking about our social calendars, Sullivan asked me if I had any ideas for future collaborations. My brain and the Muse felt a little tired after concentrating on writing the last two poems, and I did not have anything at the top of my list.
Then I remembered that we had talked about MacBeth. At the time, I composed something very quickly and neither the words, nor the melody was flowing the way I wanted. So I walked away from it. Now, however, it was the only thing that came to mind. Once Sullivan and I began discussing ideas, we both became excited about the project again. So far, it is going to be longer than ALOLAL. Stay tuned! :o)

Oremus pro invicem,

*© 2005 Silver Scroll Productions
**© 2006 Mikaela D'Eigh

30 January 2006

Spring in January

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.
~ J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922

The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.
~Thalassa Cruso, To Everything There is a Season, 1973

Today is glorious, but exceedingly odd ~ even for a January in Virginia. The Sunday sky promises snow, but deliveres billowy white clouds instead, the temperature hovering around 58 degrees. Southern to the core I may be, but I still like to have snow in January!

As is my usual custom, I walk the property line, my footprints becoming squishy little bogs that filled up with water as I pass. Stopping by the old barn to survey the meadows and count how many of the neighbor’s cows had broken through the barbed wire fence, a slight yet strong breeze reaches playfully for wisps of my hair that have escaped their silver prison.

I close my eyes as the sweet smell of wet hay washes over me. In an instant, I am taken back in time. The sensations and emotions are so real, I fancy I feel a younger version of myself run breathlessly past, long hair full of hay and mouth stained purple with blackberries. I turn around, keeping my eyes closed, half expecting to open them and see the old swing set restored to its place between two ancient maples, the gardens newly plowed and ready for the first planting and a litter of lab or German shepherd puppies, their eyes only just beginning to open. I can almost hear tatus working away in his workshop and mom calling for my sisters and me to come help shuck corn for supper and snap green beans for canning.

The breeze dies down and the moment is gone. I open my eyes. The swing set departed while my sisters were still small, the blackberries disappeared years ago, the gardens made way for Christmas trees that are now a full grown forest. And tatus and mom are not as strong as they were and a little more careworn. So much has changed, but family and land remain just as beautiful.
I tuck the moment away and head back towards the house, my senses and memory refreshed and restored.
Oremus pro invicem,

23 January 2006

Deadlines v. Doubt

I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.
~ Douglas Adams

Deadlines. I have a love/hate relationship with them. Sometimes, the closer they get, the more the fires of creativity burn the Muse to a writing frenzy. I love deadlines. Other times, they freeze the ink in my veins and not one coherent paragraph comes out. I hate deadlines.

But perhaps deadlines are merely the symptom and not the disease. Perhaps it is more fear that has the power to still the pen in my hand and freeze the ink in my veins. Fear that I will not write anything worth reading. Fear that I am just fooling myself that I can write. Fear that once I submit my work, the editor, in a voice straight out of His Girl Friday, will say: “Kid, put away your pen and ink and take up plumbing. You’ll never be a writer.”

But I am a writer. I cannot not write. So what is there to be afraid of? If I do not write out of fear that I cannot write anything good, than nothing gets written and no one will ever know, most of all myself! But if I write, and revise and revise and revise again ~ then I have got something to work with. As do my editors.

Speaking of which, I heard from one of them today. Asking me where my essay was. It’s here. In my head. Simmering. This does not help my editor. She cannot read the essay in my head. Ergo ~ I must put it on paper. How mundane!

Oremus pro invicem,

17 January 2006

A Perfect Seven

It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.
~ Jane Austen
I promised a little explanation as to my newest composition, Seven and some of you have been nagging me to post about it. So here it is.

A while back, some girlfriends and I were chatting about ~ what else? ~ marriage in general and men in particular. After each of us listed our “perfect ten” (i.e. things like a strong faith, understanding, kindness and for some of us, earthiness) the question was asked, “Well, if that is a perfect ten, then what constitutes a seven?” At what point does one draw the line and say ~ I could never be happy married to someone who did not do X or does not have quality Y.

You might be tempted to think that we had had one too many margaritas (wait ~ is there such a thing?!) But we had all been betrayed or hurt in past relationships and these questions helped us to move beyond emotion and see what were essential qualities that under no circumstances should be compromised on and what were non-essentials that could be sacrificed. More than half of us had given in on certain non-essentials and essentials for the sake of “love” and peace. What most of us ended up with was a shadow of ourselves and with a person we no longer respected. We had settled for something less than we were capable of and had accepted treatment that we didn’t deserve.

Out of this conversation, came Seven ~ a song about fighting against falling in love with someone who doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of one’s ideal:
Though you’re not the one
I still come undone;
I can’t stop myself from falling.*
The singer is cautious, and questions whether what she is feeling is “love or loneliness” recognizing that “both are dangerous.” In the end however, she realizes that this person has many essential qualities and that perhaps he fits her best. He has proven himself a worthy match:
Nothing left unspoken;
Only the love in your eyes,
And your word unbroken.*

A “perfect seven” therefore, is someone unexpected. Someone that you never considered to balance you and suit you as a spouse. But since they have proven themselves worthy of your hand and their love has been tested, then they are better for you than any ten could be.

And no, I am not going to write a post defining exactly what I mean by earthiness. Only a perfect seven would know. ;o)
Oremus pro invicem,
*© 2006 Silver Scroll Productions

11 January 2006

The Year of Joy

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being
the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine
the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
~ Kahlil Gibran

For the past several years, it has become my habit to name the year when I begin a new spiritual journal ~ either with a virtue I wish to acquire or how I hope the year will unfold. 2000 was the Year of Grace…and so it was. 2004 was the Year of Hope…and so it was. This is not to say that I did not experience sadness, despair or intense suffering during that time ~ no year is without suffering and drama. Quite honestly, I think it would be boring if it were otherwise.

Each year brings with it new opportunities and moments for thanksgiving and creativity and yes, joy amidst deep pain. I believe it was Lord Byron who said that “a man can see further through a tear than a telescope.” I know that is true. Some of my best writing and composing has been born in times of great suffering. Perhaps it is because at that moment, you are defenseless and vulnerable. And vulnerability is a great Muse.

This means however, that one cannot simply endure the pain nor wallow in it for it’s own sake. Either falls short of the mark and does not stroke creativity. Rather, we should strive to embrace suffering through love ~ thus giving it meaning and taking away a good portion of the sting. And that means acquiring a good amount of joy in your life. Joy has nothing to do with monetary wealth or material possessions. You have joy if you can take pleasure in the small gifts that life is always dropping along the path: a moment shared with close friends; laughing until your sides hurt; freshly cut grass; the sound of cows mooing in the distance; the call of a whippoorwill; children’s voices; a Pre-Raphaelite painting; crème brulee (you know food was going to be in there somewhere!). The list could go on and each of us has a different one.

I have great hopes and dreams for this year ~ especially in terms of my family and friends (spending more time with them), my vocation (“I’m waiting!!”*) and my gifts (going back into the studio and finally getting published!)

This is the Year of Joy. I pray that it is joy-filled for you as well. Tomorrow I really will tell you about Seven. ;o)

*It is inconceivable if you did not get this quote!*

Oremus pro invicem,