Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Morgenlich leuchtend in rosigen Schein"

I was out walking this evening, pounding along to the jazz trio on my iPhone. The playlist ran out. I stopped. What to listen to next?

It's not an easy decision. The wrong music at the wrong time irritates me. No, not those Bach cello suites again. (And I love Bach cello suites--at certain moments.) Ella Fitzgerald? Good for walking fast. When she sings Cole Porter, man, it takes energy to listen. Good for a burst of speed in the middle of a walk, but not for the winding-down stretch.

I tapped W and went to Wagner. Yes, I have the Solti "Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg" on my iPhone. I don't think the whole thing is there--one of those syncs where I'm not really sure what happens. I looked at the lines of German dialogue in the playlist and tapped something I thought would be from Act IV.  I was hoping for Walter's prize song, but I didn't get it. What I heard, I think, was Beckmesser's rather pedantic effort. The beautiful voice was persuasive, not unpleasant to listen to, but the music did not go anywhere.

I kept listening, kept walking, and about four blocks from home, there it was. Three still, shining tonic chords to establish the tonality, and then a big ringing romantic tenor (literally big--Ben Heppner) at center stage singing "Morgenlich leuchtend . . . "  Finishes the first stanza, the crowd reacts--cautiously. He sings another, there's a buzz. He keeps going, the crowd is swept up in the music.

Here is Ben Heppner in a concert version. Or listen and watch Johan Botha here.  He sings beautiful phrases, although he looks kind of silly standing on that box. I liked the reaction shots of the crowd, everyone listening thoughtfully. But the staging doesn't show the crowd's excitement, which Wagner wrote so vividly into the music. To do justice to Wagner's music for the  townspeople I suppose you'd have to have a movie set with cameras zooming in from up high, quick cuts, a swirl of pleasure and discovery.

There was a big smile on my face as I walked that last quarter mile tonight. I came back in the house with my heart sitting six inches higher in my chest.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eighth Grade Confirmation

I agreed to co-teach Sunday morning eighth-grade confirmation class. From now until mid-April it's a merry chase through half the catchism: the commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. The teacher's guide provides eight times as much activity as a sane, middle-aged adult could possibly want to tackle with 20-plus kids in 55 minutes. I could drink more coffee on Sunday mornings, but the result of that would not be pretty.

Still, this will be interesting, especially the commandments. How do they hook up with the grace and love of God that young teens need to experience? What's good about being shown your sin? And what are these sins in today's world. I spent this afternoon shopping for new pants--remembering the sabbath? How do you judge if someone purporting to speak for God is using God's name in truth or in vain?

I sat in on this morning's class, taught by the other teacher. A reality bath. Eighth graders are restless, wary, self-conscious, and oh, so very hard to engage. One young man suggested something was a metaphor for God, which led me to be hopeful--someone understands that God is more than the words in which we try to describe something both immanent and unknowable. Other kids searched for "right" answers--some for the ones the teacher was looking for, some for the ones that seemed right to them. Some wanted to be noticed. Some wanted to escape.  They were all acutely aware of one another.

Yeah. I'm either gonna like this or be very frustrated.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I am approximately thirty pounds lighter than I was at the end of May. Thirty years ago I would have expected this to change my life. I would have expected to get great parts on stage. I would have expected to be much more attractive to men. I would have expected to be happier.

This time, I am simply thinner. I am eating better. I'm approaching the normal range for BMI, so presumably I'm healthier. I am fascinated by the whole process. If you limit yourself to about a thousand calories a day, the red numbers in the LED display on the bathroom scale go down as the weeks go by. Relentlessly. And skirts and pants and t-shirts that used to be tight hang low on my hips, flap around my middle.

People ask, so I have to tell them what I did. It's seems odd to be discussing this with others--it's not that interesting to me. No sugar. Only fruits and vegetables for snacks, not boxes of crackers or bags of chips. And I eat when my body needs nourishment. I don't eat because I'm unhappy or lonely. I'm still unhappy and lonely and stressed-out. But it's not a reason to eat a bowl of cereal, much less to open a bag of potato chips. Celebrating is no excuse either.

I'm thinner, but I'm not younger. My face is thinner, and that makes the sags and bags more obvious. I walk lighter. I do feel better about how I look and I want to wear younger-looking clothes, but without looking ridiculous. I still don't know how a person my age is supposed to act.

It's all pretty superficial. Yet we judge people by their weight. Hmm.