Friday, May 16, 2014

Thank you, Meredith Willson

Three times, now, I've done The Music Man--once, as a nine-year-old, playing Amaryllis; eight years ago directing a cast of fifty, ages 7 to 70, in a Tuesday's Child production; and just now, directing The Music Man Jr. with a company of three dozen junior high students.

The Music Man brings out the best in people. Part of it is the affection the show has for its characters. Part of it is that every actor onstage is part of the grand action of the story--the transformation people undergo when they sing and dance and go around whistling the Minuet in G.

Life is more than everyday humdrum. The citizens of River City, Iowa, may be stubborn, but they're not stuck. When we work together we can hear the bells ringing, see the birds winging and experience the love that sings all around us. This love heals us, saves us, and makes life worth living—and even a con man knows this in his heart.

Bravo, Grace junior high! Thank you, Lisa and Brian and Janel.

And thank you, Meredith Willson. Like you, I always think there's a band.                                              

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The ache of May

An achingly beautiful May day, I said to myself this morning. Achingly beautiful.

We had blue skies this morning and sun, but it’s cool yet and the wind is blowing. The trees are in blossom or in bud. Some are tendering new leaves, still pink at the bud, growing, searching, but not yet chlorophylled (or chloro-filled). They’re not green, not yet ready for summer.

Summer will come—who but God could stop it?  But spring aches and grieves, because of everything in winter we must leave behind. We travel into summer. those of us who yet live. We belong to time, those of us still on this side of the grave.

I sang in the choir for a funeral today, and singing for that one kept me from attending another. The one for which I sang was for an eighty-year-old man with a full and wonderful life who died too soon. Cancer killed him and did not take long enough to do so. The other funeral, the one I avoided, was for a twenty-one-year-old young woman, a friend of my son’s, killed quickly in a car accident three weeks ago. I don’t know that I ever met her—perhaps I did in the flashing, picture-taking confusion of a pre-prom gathering, perhaps in a hasty introduction at graduation or in one of those embarrassed moments when parents suddenly intrude into high school students’ lives–when your kids’ friends mind their manners and seem genuinely glad to meet you, while your son or daughter melts into the floor, no longer sure of who he to be when his two worlds collide.

Two funerals. Death hid behind every corner today, beneath the ground, in the heart of trees. It filled in the shadows of friends. It rang in hymns and prayers. It lived in memory, it looked into the future.  

May has an edge. The spring we’ve waited for so long does not wipe away sadness. It’s still cold. The shade is thin, the future uncertain. 

As I waited for the funeral to begin this afternoon, through the organ prelude, as the mourners organized themselves for the processional into the sanctuary—as we waited, I read and re-read a quote my son had posted on his Facebook page:

And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch. 

Donna Tart, he says, is the source of the quote. Thinking of Rachel, he says, is the reason. 

May is the glory, I say, and the privilege, and love itself is what Death can not touch.