Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Dark swallows the Light

Until the Light is reborn.


The Shortest Day of the Year

Crescent moon hangs low
Lakes birth black ice - nothing more
Solstice closes in.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love Me, Hate Me

My guitar taunts me.

It leans nonchalantly against the wall, behind my favorite chair by the stove and mocks my intentions.

When I approach, eager to pluck a tune or strum a melody, I can hear it laughing, in a silent smug way that only inanimate objects can do. While I tune the strings against themselves, turning the keys, humming the notes - we both know it's a joke, because once I start - well, best laid plans and all.

Nevertheless, I pick it up. This time will be different. The smooth, warm wood of the body is comforting. The neck is thick in my hand and the strings gleam in the light. Looming large in my lap, arms wrapped around, I lightly pin down the strings, moving my fingers against the frets in an attempt to recreate Iz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle", (yeah, you know the one). I begin to play.

Then I stop.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

I've played guitar since I was 10 years old. Wait, let me rephrase that.

I've "played" guitar since I was 10 years old.

I can still remember Alice, my guitar teacher, patiently teaching me the chords of A, D, E, Em, G, F, C in the sunken living room of her house, with the big black baby grand and velour covered chairs. Her husband, a man I had never actually met, kept an enormous stash of alcohol behind a mirrored bar, complete with stools, on the far side of this room. A gleaming, glittery promise of adult sophistication that both fascinated and distracted me during our lessons.

Did I mention I was ten?

I had asked Alice, after listening to her play in church, to teach me guitar. In exchange, I would sweep the sycamore leaves from her back patio and scoop them from the kidney bean shaped pool out back. She readily agreed.

Alice was a large woman, with tight graying curls set against her scalp and bright blue eyes sunk beneath the folds of skin and framed by the apples of her cheeks. Her demeanor was warm and joyful and she had a lovely alto voice that was all the lovelier listening to her pound out the hymn "Oh When the Saints" against the steel strings of her Yamaha. I was enchanted by the idea of making music when I heard her enthusiastic renditions of "Saving Grace" and "Jesus Loves Me" and I began to dream of a career in music, on a lit up stage, in a lovely dress, singing to a mass of fans who paid hundreds of dollars to listen to my music.

Alas, it was not to be.

Not three lessons into it, I began to get bored. Learning chords, practicing chords, strumming the strings and then doing it all over again while my fingers ached and the callouses couldn't possibly form fast enough. This isn't what I signed up for! This was stupid!

A - strum, strum, strum - E - strum, strum, strum - D - strum, strum, strum - A - strum, strum...

Gawd! No more!

I went home and asked my mother if I could stop the lessons.  

No, no stop. 

Please? I tried hard to make my brown eyes look big and pleading. Like a sad puppy.

No, Elena Sun, no stop. Sing for Jesus.

Dammit. She brought God into it. Again. 

At this time in my life I had some serious doubts about religion and God, but I was in no way prepared to go there. Remember, I was 10 and like most ten year olds, I did what my mother told me to do.

So, week after week, every Tuesday afternoon, I dutifully showed up to sweep the cement patio and scoop leaves from the water, feeling resentful of my mother for being so mean and resentful of my guitar, for being so big and cold and difficult to play. I sat in that 70's era sunken room, with it's gaudy bar and big Alice, playing my chords over and over and over, my distaste showing all over my face. Yep, I was a brat.

Eventually, over the course of the summer, I learned a few hymns and nursery rhymes. Not a one was close to the glorious songs I had originally envisioned and my mother, no doubt exhausted from having to fight with me week after week, finally let me off the hook.

You can imagine my mother's surprise, when one year later, I was still playing. Albeit, not very well as I lacked the discipline to practice, but I played because I liked to sing and how else was I going to accompany myself on stage?

Now, quite a few years later, in spite of my best efforts, I have finally admitted defeat. I still lack discipline, yes, but add onto that the fact that my desire for fame and fortune withered away when I decided I would grow up to be a veterinarian and it was a recipe for mediocre guitar playing for the foreseeable future.

But all of that is going to change. Tonight, I look at that curvy bit of wood and string, sitting in the corner, a play thing for my children and challenging company on cold nights by the fire, and I've come to a decision.

I'm going to find me a teacher and learn to play all over again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Early Morning Yoga + Wood Stove = Good Life

The full moon is setting into the western sky as the morning light begins to wash the dark in pale blue. It is a beautiful morning. Windless. Cold. The wood stove is hot and I am feeling satisfied after spending the better part of an hour, practicing poses in the dark.

Even so, as I write this, I must confess - I am really just watching the clock. I am anticipating the build-up of a typical Monday morning with sleepy kids who will be, inevitably, 5 minutes late, no matter what I do.

I will help the littlest one seek out her good wool socks that are hiding in a pant leg somewhere tricky. I will help the oldest by keeping the younger ones out of the bathroom for 10 minutes so she can do whatever mysterious, private thing she needs to do every single morning. I will help the middle-est throughout, redirecting him when he is distracted by a book or his Legos or by watching the wool carpet pill up on the edges. As the hands creep toward 8 o'clock, I will gather permission slips and homework, backpacks, instruments, lunches, jackets and boots, head out the door and over the hill to deposit my offspring, one by two, so that they may learn.

Then, and only then, will I let out my breath while I drive to work on the winding Route 14, watching for still waters and ice on the lake and replaying the morning in my mind.

Then, and only then, will I remember to appreciate the good life of early morning yoga in front of a wood stove followed by the joyful chaos of children and life.

Then, and only then, will I look forward to doing it all over again - tomorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Overheard Today (Burlington, VT)

1.   Walking from Church St. towards the waterfront. The view is amazing and L is inspired.
  • L: I want to be an adventurer when I grow up, that makes cookies and travels all over the world. And sings along the way. And people will give me lots of money for singing.
  • G: Why wait? You could do that now. Mom won't mind. She'll probably think that's cute.
2.   We are eating bagels for breakfast. G bites into hers and a glob of cream cheese drops onto the table. M is across the table, neatly eating his without mishap.
  • G: Oh no! My bagel pooped 
  • M: (laughing) Mine is potty trained! 
  • All of us are now laughing hysterically.
  • G: (laughing, then stops and looks at me) You're going to put this on Facebook, aren't you?
3.   While sipping hot drinks outside, we watched a small group of protesters walk down Church St. among the holiday shoppers. They bore signs about "Occupy Wall St", corporate influence on our government, financial inequality, etc. and were chanting something.

G asked me what was going on.
  • Me: Well, it's complicated, but you know how I talk about large corporations and politics and the importance of buying local? That's kind of what is going on. 
  • G: OK, but how does the homeless guy fit in? 
  • Me: What do you mean? 
  • G: Those guys are mad about other people having too much money, right? Well the homeless guy over there just asked them for money and they ignored him. Isn't that the same thing? 
  • Me: No, it's not really the same thing honey. It's more complicated than that.
  • G: Whatever Mom. No offense, but grown ups always make things complicated. I'm gonna give the homeless guy a dollar. He looks cold.