Monday, September 7, 2009

Music at the threshold

I once heard that people aren't afraid of death, they're afraid of going through the process of dying alone. Once upon a time birth and death were events where the community gathered round. What has changed?

Luckily, I don't have to answer why we've moved away from a community centered society and I can be part of a caring community who surround loved ones at important life stages. I am honored to be a member of a hospice choir in my metro area called Morning Star Singers. At the request of families we send a small handful of volunteers to sing songs of comfort to those nearing the end of this life.

This weekend we sang twice for Shirley. The first time we sang for her she was curled up with her back to the window and clenched fists. Her family was there with her. Our first song was about Holy Angels that were holding her. By the end of the song, her breathing was deeper. We sang 5 or 6 more songs and by the last of them she was gently snoring. Ah, peace.

Another group went to her bedside the next day and it was amazing to see the change from one day to the next. She was lying spread out on the bed with her hands relaxed and open. This was surprising to me as her family was not there. Even in her sleep she looked ready for the next step, whatever that was. Her breathing was steady. She didn't acknowledge our presence consciously, but I think she knew we were there - her upper lip flicked a few times. It may be inconsequential, but I took it as a "thank you."

What happened in 24 hours to affect this change? I don't think the songs in and of themselves did it, but together with a loving family surrounding her Shirley was getting herself ready.

Some of the songs we sang were Holy Angels (first line: you are held by ...), There are angels hovering round, Surrounding you, Children of the Heavenly Father, Sleep my child, Swing low, Like a ship in the harbor, and We cannot follow you. These songs are essentially lullabies. Sung softly and gently like a parent lulling a child from wakefulness to sleep we ease some of the anxiety and fear of dying with our presence.

I'm interested in collecting more songs that could be used at bedsides. Do know some? Contact me at pointsoflightmusic@gmail.com.

Blessings on your labors and your rest.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dancing Ruminations

Dave Matthews, of the band with the same name, was asked about his dancing style in an interview with Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star Tribune ...
I don't do it very well, but I enjoy it. I don't think dancing should be
left up to the people that do it professionally or the people that think they're
really good at it. I think people that feel things in their hearts should
take it away from people who feel things with their brains. I like dancing
because it makes me feel good, and I can make a fool of myself. I like to
make a fool of myself because that's part of what the music in this band is -
being free, really free, away from the confines and conformities of fashion and
hipness and coolness and celebrity and the in clique. That's why I
dance. It feels like freedom.

His statement resonates with me a great deal. There is a place for structure and high art, but it should never upstage its roots. The arts at its most basic is a means for personal expression. Over the ages this has been lost, I think primarily because the wealthy or the church had the means to deem what was worth keeping.

So do as the African proverb says: If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Italy in retrospect

A post or two ago I made the assertion that Italy is life changing. I have since made the trip and am back in my humble abode. Posting only one entry while there must be evidence that it is life changing and it was. I did open my heart to be touched and recieved a waterfall of love from new friends and gave the same to others.

Marmore Falls in Umbria is a Roman-made cascade and our group was witness to one of the thrice daily opening of the gates of life-giving water. Here is before...




And this is after the floodgates are open ...
It is amusing to me that our needs are best filled when we allow God to work in whatever way seen fit. The results are most unusual and humorous and above all go beyond our expectations. When we let God out of the box we are privy to a most glorious display of joyful play. I don't believe he is full of judgement, only love and light.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oneness

At the Intl airport yesterday, my fancy noticed the people around me
looked like the people back home. Yet they talked in a different
language. Yet they seemed to have the same concerns as me.

I felt this way when I went to Cameroon, Africa. Although the vast
majority of people were colored darker than I, I never felt alienated.
Perhaps its because I've lost the fear of being different. I grew up
in a rural town where I was half like those around me but not fully.
Then I wanted so much to be accepted and didn't have the tools to do
so. As I moved away for college and have travelled more I see that
accepting oneself as a unique individual is the greatest gift back to
the world. One that I'm continually growing in understanding.

Amongst this onesness with my fellow travellers yesterday I also
noticed how individuals were dressed. Each seemed to have their own
style. In this Old World country where cookie cutter big box stores
and brand names have no space, the oneness of self is nurtured and
even expected. Hmm, I think I'm going to like this trip.

--
Sent from my mobile device

--
Work is love in action. ~Kahlil Gibran

The harmony you seek is less important than the harmony you bring. ~unknown

May blessings of love and hope rain on you, clearing the dust from
your sandals and refreshing you to welcome with open arms and heart
all the wonderful things in store for you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Italian freedom

I've heard that Italy has played host to many life changing events. I
plan to test that for the next week. Is it the wine? Is it the simple
food of Umbria? Is the rush, rush, hurry, hurry of my country of
origin not important here, trumped by a nurturing of ones
individuality, nursing the creator artist within? How will my heart be
broken open to feel abundance in love, joy, and peace? Hmmm. Stay
tuned ...

--
Sent from my mobile device

--
Work is love in action. ~Kahlil Gibran

The harmony you seek is less important than the harmony you bring. ~unknown

May blessings of love and hope rain on you, clearing the dust from
your sandals and refreshing you to welcome with open arms and heart
all the wonderful things in store for you.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vigil lyres

Did you know the instrument to play during a vigil is the lyre? I had
heard that singing wordless songs was helpful to the dying process,
but nothing about a vigil. I'll have to look into that.

--
Sent from my mobile device

--
Work is love in action. ~Kahlil Gibran

The harmony you seek is less important than the harmony you bring. ~unknown

May blessings of love and hope rain on you, clearing the dust from
your sandals and refreshing you to welcome with open arms and heart
all the wonderful things in store for you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Midweek sunshine music lunch

Maybe its because its been rainy and overcast for the last 6 days.
Maybe its because everyone's had a hard work week so far. Maybe its
because I missed breakfast this morning. Today's lunch is extra
special.

This afternoon I have 2 meetings dwtn Mpls so I decided to head over
early and grab lunch too. Peavey Plaza has music over the lunch hour
in June and food vendors are setup to feed the hungry who are escaping
from offices for awhile. I grabbed a generous pizza of spinach and
artichoke and with my bottle of water I headed down to find a spot to
listen to the soulful stylings of a singer/keys and guitarist doin'
covers.

What an escape it is! In the concrete construction jungle a green and
watery oasis is just below street level. Souls are grouped with others
to reconnect. Others are enjoying a little solitude. The music gives
this time a needed distraction for some and others, a muse to reflect
on or a voice to frustration. A place to be ourselves. An oasis.

--
Sent from my mobile device

--
Work is love in action. ~Kahlil Gibran

The harmony you seek is less important than the harmony you bring. ~unknown

May blessings of love and hope rain on you, clearing the dust from
your sandals and refreshing you to welcome with open arms and heart
all the wonderful things in store for you.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Basilica bells

I live in the Upper Midwest, the Twin Cities to be exact, and on occasion I can hear church bells pealing.  Not a recording of bells playing hymns (on different carillons no less):, but bells in real towers with ropes and someone pulling them from below.  When they get going, it's a joyful racket! 
 
Today was a lucky day in Minneapolis.  I was downtown and getting ready to leave when I started to hear them.  The irregular rhythm of larger bells oscillating slower than smaller bells.  It always causes me to pause and breathe -- to take note of what's around me.  In reflection, I imagine my European ancestors did the same and looked forward to the ringing of the bells as a means of telling time. 
 
Although today was a dreary wet day (and I'm not complaining -- we need the rain) hearing this peal added a little sunshine to my day.  At least it reminded me of the first time I had heard the bells of the Basilica.  It was in the Sculpture Garden a couple of years ago with a colleague of mine.  It was a warm sunny May day and late afternoon.  Even from across the highway its message was clear.  "Stop and smell the roses."
--

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tapping in

Today is Memorial Day and in cemeteries, city parks, VFW and Legion Halls in big cities and small towns a familiar and sober trumpet tune will sound in the midst of silence. Even though I did not attend a Memorial Day service today, I can easily recall this moment from my youth. For the length of these 30-some notes the gathered community is present in the moment and listening together. Many closed their eyes and shed a tear remembering with gratitude family, friends and countless unknown soldiers who gave their time, energy, and for many, their lives for a cause they believed in.

This haunting melody clears a path to the center of my being. I relax the tensions in my neck and back. My ears and soul drink from the rising and falling of 4 notes in the overtone series. For me, it is a touchstone. What am I doing here? Am I giving back to the world?

The end result is not absolutely clear to me. I do feel I'm on the right path though. When I sing
"When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die the world cries and you rejoiced" (Native American proverb)
I don't get the feeling that my actions are out of sync or avoiding my purpose on this earth.

How about you? What happens when you "Tap" in?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Here I am

Welcome to Points of Light Music.

I'm interested in how transformative music is and specifically the power of community singing. It changes people from the inside out. Gives expression to feelings when we cannot find words to say. Making and sharing music with others weaves us together for a unique and unchangeable moment.

There's more I could say, but this is just the beginning. And it's a very good place to start.

Come and visit. Share your insights, stories and songs if you wish. All are welcome here.