November 2006

The phoenix (a defining experience in my life)

November 26, 2006 00:43

My marriage was falling apart and so was I. I went for a walk at lunch time on a gorgeous Indian summer day in September (but it was November) and stumbled onto a typical scene from the 60s (but it was the 80s). A few people were sitting on the ground under a tree singing folksongs while one man played a guitar. I sat a few feet away from them and started singing along softly so that no one would hear me. They heard. They invited me to join them. I was hooked all over again. It was like the phoenix rising from the ashes within me.

Weeks and then months went by. I’ve got to find that man with the guitar and tell him to play it again, I thought. This time I’ll play my fiddle with him, if I can get up the nerve. It’s been so many years since I’ve done anything like this.

For months I sought him. I knew that he worked in the same building as I, and that was my only clue. Once I saw him running at lunchtime across the park from me. I wanted to call out to him, but I didn’t know his name. (You should have thrown a rock at me, he told me later.) Another time, I saw him at a seminar at work. I planned to speak to him afterwards, but he was sitting behind me and he sneaked out quietly before the seminar ended. I grew more determined. The next time I saw him at a seminar, I sat near him and kept my eyes on him. Success at last! I spoke to him and told him my mission.

That weekend I went to his home with my fiddle and we played. It was November, unusually cold and snowing. He had a fire roaring in his fireplace. We played and played and sang and played and played and… My fingertips are hurting, and I’ve got to stop playing soon, I told him. One more Tom Paxton song, was his response. We played and played some more. Hey, do you remember this one? I said…and on and on…When I finally stopped and put my instrument away, my fingertips were torn and bleeding. No matter. I had come home.

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 23, 2006 00:46


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One more miracle

November 19, 2006 12:42

The conductor of my community symphony orchestra, NIHCO, sent us this email after a recent rehearsal. He said so much so beautifully with so few words, that I just have to share it (with his permission).

“… great rehearsal on Wednesday. I spent a few minutes trying to step back and appreciate what was happening all around me. One thing I've never outgrown is a sense of awe at what happens in an orchestra when so many unique voices come together for one musical purpose and join together to produce something much greater than the sum of its parts. Given the daily headlines, it makes me wish a lot more people were able to experience that.”

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November 8, 2006 22:59

“Let’s start with something that will get your blood boiling,” said our conductor tonight. As I fumbled with my stand and sheet music, the rest of the orchestra launched into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. It was great! I had felt sick and spent most of the day in bed. I made it to rehearsal on sheer will power, and I’m so glad I did.

I really don’t enjoy the holiday season much. There’s too much pressure to have loved ones and spend plenty of money on gifts for them, and I know that the season is very stressful for many other people, as well. Playing The Messiah with the NIH Community Orchestra is a very welcome bright spot in the dark season. Sometimes I feel that this music is trite and overworked, but when I play or listen to it, it is born again. It is high drama and pageantry from an era long before the invention of TV. Being part of an ensemble that recreates the beauty of the music by playing it again is exciting, too. In more ways than one, The Messiah is a miracle.

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The abducted deer revisited

November 7, 2006 01:25

My previous blog, dated 11/2/06, contains a photo of a deer being abducted by an alien ray. (See discussion.) Now I shall wax philosophical on serendipity, intent, and Adobe Photoshop.

Jim said Photographers not only have to take a picture of what they want to, they also have to not take a picture of what they don't want to, or at least catch it later, an abduction for example. I guess it's an extension of the theme of not having a telephone pole sticking out of your portrait subject's head.

The history of this photo is more complicated than Jim knew.

I stood photographing a small herd of deer as they looked at me. They held still, their postures signaling alertness and, possibly, alarm. I decided that it would be fun to photograph them fleeing, so I took a few slow, deliberate steps towards them. My strategy worked. They turned and ran. I photographed them in flight, turning and snapping the shutter quickly several times without stopping for fine maneuvers such as using my polarizing lens. I took about 22 photographs of them, and I have proof, in case you doubt me. I took the photos facing directly into the sun, which was low on the horizon, because I had no control over the scene. When I looked at the photos on my computer, I was disappointed because of the haze behind the running deer. In fact, my favorite photo was way overexposed and had a shaft of sunlit haze over one of the deer. Photoshop to the rescue! I made the entire photo dark enough to see what was there. Then I sharpened the haze and let the colors shine brightly. Voila! Artistic effect and technical know-how by the photographer.

Deer on the alert

Red dogwood

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Fall on the Sassafras River in Maryland

November 2, 2006 13:25

I spent a few days last week at a retreat near the Sassafras River on Maryland's eastern shore. We had some cool weather, and I saw fall colors coming out. Here are some photos I took.

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