I had four lessons in a row today for a family who is leaving on Saturday, marking the beginning of their summer break. What do you do in a final thirty-minute space when none of them practiced, and a long, practice-free summer awaits? We had a good deal of chit-chat between business, and in the late afternoon, all of us began to feel drowsy and feverish (Spring fever, that is).
The fourth lesson began, and my little "Morgan" and I played around with intervals, picking out tunes by ear and chatting about the summer to come. Her grandfather in Minnesota is dying from cancer, which is why they will be gone for my end-of-the-year recital. Sometimes, I feel like being a clown of sorts, someone who could cheer anyone up and make their day a bit brighter. I was thinking about how I could make this last lesson before summer a memorable one.
Suddenly, I heard rattling and vibrating sounds. We looked at the drawers of my filing cabinet, which were shaking visibly. Hmm, the whole room was shaking. Morgan and I looked at each other, around the room, then back at each other. Do we head outside? Should we take our violins? Would standing in a doorway help? I hear that you're supposed to stand in a doorway in the event of an earthquake, but when do you know it's time to do such a thing?
In my dreams, I usually jump out of a second story window and run for a field. There, in the field, the ground usually opens up and tilts from horizontal to vertical. I struggle to remain on top of the heaving mass, but usually I slip into the bottomless cavern and come out somewhere between two sheets and my pillow.
The 5.5 quake lasted just long enough to be awkward and worrisome, and then it subsided. After walking about the house in confusion, we returned to finish the lesson. We talked about the fact that my dog barked once, two minutes before the quake had occurred. Animals can tell these things long before we have a clue. Ben never barks, and I had been offended at his sudden outburst. Now, I'm mystified, thinking about his uncanny senses.
The worry left us both mentally shaken, so I began to tell a story. "Please, don't tell a bad earthquake story!" I stopped my sentence and noticed for the first time how frightened she really was. She said she was glad to be leaving for Minnesota, where there are no earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornados. I laughed and remembered my own tornado experiences in Oklahoma, taking cover and singing by lantern-light in a basement for a summer camp chapel service, admiring the echoing accoustics, which lent a Gregorian feel to the ambiance. We were having such an uplifting experience, while unbeknownst to me, a tornado was tracking through the hills, directly toward our service. It skipped over the creek, passed over our roof, and continued its journey on the other side.
Morgan, also raised in a Christian family, shared an opinion. "You know sometimes, things happen, and people make such a big deal out of it, saying what a miracle it was, what a divine act of God, when sometimes, things just happen."
I wonder. "Morgan, you're right. As a matter of fact, I think every little thing that goes on is directed by God, and it's difficult to point to any one incident and mark it as more special than the others. Sometimes, a basement full of praying kids is spared from a tornado. Sometimes a church bus wrecks, and none are spared. Good and bad things are happening all the time, and it has nothing to do with the amount of love He has for us."
You never know which moments are the life-changing ones.
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