Flute, Fermentation, and Farms (Photo Friday)

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It’s been a busy week–busy enough that I forgot I owed a blog post on Wednesday–so I’ll share some photos from the day trip I took yesterday.

I drove an hour and a half to the home of my college roommate to rehearse a flute-oboe duet for my recital next week. You know you have a treasure of a friend when you can get so busy, you don’t actually manage to talk for years, and yet when you manage to reconnect, you can pick up right where you left off.

KombuchaMy friend Elaine has been introducing me to the world of fermented foods, so the added bonus of visiting her was getting a primer on making kombucha and fermented vegetables–and a “mother” so I can start my own kombucha.

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On the way home, I needed to stop by my parents’ farm to pick up some paperwork. I decided to take the scenic route and drive past some of their fields on the way there. Almost as soon as I turned off the highway, in the distance I spotted the cloud of dust surrounding an enormous red combine that told me I had stumbled across my dad himself, starting the first day of corn harvest.  Even more improbably, he was unloading right by the road when I arrived.

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I took 10 minutes and pulled off to ride to the end of the field and back with him. It was a real spirit-lifter to spend a few minutes with him. We’ve gotten so busy in recent years, we haven’t gotten to spend much time riding tractors during planting and the combine during harvest.

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Then, of course, it was a flyby visit to the farm to grab the paperwork, and back on the highway. I rolled back into town just in time to pick up the carpool and come home to tuck my fermenting radishes into a corner and start a batch of crock pot yogurt. Today’s agenda: kombucha*!

*and laundry, and groceries, and IEP, and novels group critiques, and Jazzercise, and school event…

Funerals and Friendship

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Photo by aftab, via Flickr

I spent Saturday at the funeral of a friend.

It is sometimes a strange thing to be a pastoral musician. I have this gift, and I know—because I’ve been told so repeatedly—how much it means to families to offer it to them in the pivotal moments of their lives. It’s an honor and a privilege to sing or play for a funeral, and when it’s the funeral of a friend or loved one, all the more.

And yet frequently the only way I can do it it is by emotionally dissociating. I’m a cryer, see. I cry over movies, books, occasionally even a particularly affecting advertisement. (Though, to keep it real, it has to be a pretty darned good one, and I have to be in the right place in my cycle.) In any case, funerals, especially in the case of an untimely death, are inherently emotional. And you can’t sing when you’re crying.

This woman is the third of my peers to pass away in the last few years. When I got the news, my first reaction was to reach out to my college roommate, through whom I met her. The stupid thing is that my roommate and I live an hour and a half away from each other and routinely pass through each other’s towns, and we haven’t seen each other in, I don’t know. Years. I thought of her often but always forgot to email when I got back to the computer. There were books and songs and blog posts to write, kids to chauffeur and phone calls to return.

We started playing catchup by email and soon progressed to plotting a camping trip. As the signals shot back and forth, I shook my head, smiling as I thought that our mutual friend must be up in Heaven smiling at the way her passing had managed to reconnect two people who have loved each other since we first started practicing across the alcove from each other.

The pianist and I had already started playing when my friend and her family arrived at the church on Saturday, so I could only wave hello. At the Sign of Peace I went over to hug her and it was a shock to my system, how familiar was the feel of love and belonging that sprang from that embrace. It was like no time had passed at all, even though since we saw each other last we’ve both sprouted gray hairs and miniature wrinkles around the eyes.

Everything about that funeral was beautiful. The sanctuary, the acoustics, the music, the people, the family, the love. But most beautiful of all, for me, was spending a few hours with someone who used to be my best friend, and, I discovered, still is. I’ve always said I only have one close friend at a time. I can name them in consecutive order, starting with elementary school.

It is a beautiful thing to realize I’m wrong.

The Best House Guests Ever

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The doorbell rang at 5:15 p.m. on Friday. “Hey, guys, Mr. Kyle’s here!” I called, and went to open the door for my good friend from grad school. I’ve been looking forward to this visit for months, but I wasn’t prepared for my children’s enthusiasm. As I stepped back from greeting them with hugs, Nicholas pounded across the living room: “Aaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiyyy!” colliding with Kyle’s legs and hugging them tight. Julianna tore forward, her face split by a goofy grin, giggling as she threw herself into Beth’s arms.

It’s been two years since we saw Kyle, and Beth was a new acquaintance. And yet there are friends with whom somehow you can always pick up right where you left off—and with whom there is no awkward, formal getting-to-know-you stage. We didn’t stop talking all weekend. Completely geeked out about liturgy and faith (they both work for the Church), agriculture, families—barely touched on reminiscing about school days.

They were so good with the kids, too. So often when adults try to visit it’s like a wrestling match: who gets my attention, the kids or the guests? But the kids spent the entire weekend crawling all over the visitors, who by all appearances reveled in the chaos. My children multiplied their usual hyperactivity several times over. They were so excited. Every morning, when the guests came upstairs, the squeals of delight reprised. Sunday morning at breakfast, Kyle lifted his head. “What’s that sound?” he joked. “Is that quiet? I haven’t heard that all weekend!”

We went bike riding on Saturday, and the four adults spent Saturday evening crowded on and around the air mattress in the basement, snacking on popcorn and talking till our throats were raw, joking about how it felt like a sleepover. After Kyle played through some new music and critiqued it for me.

It’s rare to have the privilege of hosting people who are at home with you from the first moment. Who feel comfortable enough to help themselves to the M&M bag—and instead of being annoyed, you rejoice in the level of their comfort. I didn’t touch the dish sink all weekend, because by the time I got ready to start, they had the dishes well underway.

And they gave us a Shakespeare’s gift certificate.

Sunday morning, Kyle sang with the choir for Pentecost, and afterward we said our goodbyes and they headed home. “Did you enjoy their visit?” Christian asked Alex as he backed out of the parking spot at church.

“Yes, only…” And suddenly Alex wailed, “it wasn’t long enough!”

I agree, my boy. I agree.

Today I am grateful for…

The best house guests ever

a perfect day for a bike ride (except for the mosquitoes)

the beauty of the river

picking up where we left off

new friends

a grown-up “sleepover” (especially nice b/c at the end of it I got to sleep in my own bed, not in some uncomfortable sleeping bag!)

An amazing Monday morning sky as the clouds drift in:

     the air yellow and intimate

     cornflower blue sky dotted with salmon-colored clouds in the southwest

     smudgy gray clouds, almost disappearing into the sky, outlined in brilliant white-silver

     cotton ball blobs atop shimmering gray-yellow formations in the east

     the low grumble of thunder

My love for my sick child

The end being in sight for all my deadlines

An improvement in attitude