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Posts Tagged ‘Reflection’

Sacred Music – Ethereal and Sublime

November 15, 2011 37 comments

Sunrays

 

I just returned from another visit to Victoria’s blog, whereupon I was intrigued by this week’s Monday Morning Writing Prompt topic of Sacred Music.  Last week was quite extraordinary for me, two funerals and a wedding.  There was no shortage of Sacred Music to be heard and felt as a result.  This particular writing prompt captured my imagination, as I have been surrounded by music all my life, and I easily resonate with its raw beauty and power to transport my mind to another plane.

 

The word sacred evokes the notion of reverence, devotion, or veneration with regard to a higher order of a religious or spiritual nature.  For today’s prompt and reflection that follows, I selected two musical pieces that some may consider to be deeply religious in nature.  I am not, however, a particularly religious person although I do consider myself spiritual.  These musical pieces are excellent examples of what some call prayer, or others meditation; a conversation of a simple creature seeking and reaching out to some higher order power in a uniquely personal and private moment of serenity, tranquility, and beauty.  Inspirational, ethereal, and sublime.

 

I cannot simply put the musical pieces up without a set-up;  I am after all a musical geek.  Both pieces are commonly known as the Ave Maria.  First is my absolute favorite version, written by Charles Gounod in 1859 as a melody superimposed over J.S. Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major written in 1722.  The lyric is the Hail Mary prayer in Latin.

Ave Maria – C. Gounod (1859) sung by Jessye Norman

 

 

The second selection, also a personal favorite,  is commonly known as the Ave Maria, however it is actually Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen’s Third Song), written by Franz Schubert in 1825.  The song was part of a seven song Opus, a German translation of Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake epic poem.  The original lyrics of the song begin with Ellen praying to the Virgin Mary to protect her and her father from harm as they hid in exile in caves near Lake Katrine from their enemies.

Ellens dritter Gesang (Ave Maria) – F. Schubert (1825) sung by Barbara Bonney

 

 

I can be an incredibly long-winded person, almost never at a loss for words, but as I close my eyes to listen and reflect upon this sacred music, I am moved and filled with a simple thought:

 

Life is beautiful.

 

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Disconnecting and Reconnecting

October 18, 2011 24 comments

I.

No work papers

No personal mail

No laptop

No e-mail

No phone

No text messages

No television

No newspapers

No radio

No clock

No alarm

No signal to any device

No light in the wee hours of morn

No contact with the human world

No connection to things that oft govern my day

No shoes on my feet as I enter the solitary beach before the dawn

No plan in mind

No thoughts

No expectations

Nothing.  Nothing at all

Nothing and yet…

II.

The senses awaken, one by one

The sound of the ocean as waves crash ashore

Violent and powerful, yet rhythmically relaxing

Reach my ears in a haunting, familiar, and primal sound

Soothing, as I drop ever slowly into restful relaxation

Breathing in step to the cadence of those tidal sounds

I can smell the salt air from the sea water’s presence

The mist from the surf hitting hard on the rocks

Floats into the air, gently tickling my skin

The sand at my feet at first coarse now gets finer

And wetter, yet firmer as I near waters edge

As the water rolls over my feet it feels cool

As it rolls out to sea, wet sand envelopes my feet

I can feel a light breeze in my face from the water

Cool and quite chilly, blowing my hair all about

I can see the waning moon in the easternmost sky

Cast its eerie glow over the rippling seas,

A dappled line in the water points uniquely to me

The sky changes hue as the sun nears the edge

All at once it is bright as it peeks over water

Completely transforming the night into day

In the water ahead playful dolphins diving for food

On the sand in the distance, gulls hopping about

Other birds soar above as they chirp with delight

So I sit on the sand as I am warmed by the sun

Enjoying the performance around me, brought exclusively here

And while I had thought I unplugged from it all

It occurred to me now that the less that I brought

Left me open to receive all the world had to give

Reconnected in ways I had never imagined

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Or Is It Weakly Photo Challenged?

October 5, 2011 30 comments

Lavender Sunset

 

This morning I was reading a blog I frequently visit, Lorna’s Voice, and noticed a post of hers titled “The Day is Done, Sunset Challenge“, which is inspired from a blog she frequents, A Lighter Shade of Grey, which contains a post titled “Weekly Photo Challenge: Sunset“, which is in response to a weekly WordPress challenge on Fridays for Photos, all of which means I spend way too much time on the computer during my morning coffee break at work.  But I digress…

It seems the purpose of the photo challenge is to post a picture of a sunset and perhaps write something about it.

I love sunsets.  They are strikingly beautiful, and they are free.  Free and beautiful, what’s not to like?  The most extraordinary thing about sunsets, is their ability to be beautiful anywhere in the world.  Sure there are spectacular shots of the sun waning on the horizon in tropical paradises, pristine waters, glacier-topped mountains, and other exotic locations.  Yet a sunset has the ability to beautify even the most mundane place in the world.  Witness the above picture, taken around sunset a few weeks ago just outside my office where I work each and every day.  Nature and the heavens have a way of smiling down on the entire planet with no bias in latitude and longitude.

All you have to do is make an effort to notice.  Eureka!  There is a point to all this.  As we rush around to the hectic pace of our everyday lives, try to become more aware of all the beauty in your everyday world lying just beneath that conscious, distracted mind.  Pay attention!

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Happy Birthday Little Brother (2011)

September 28, 2011 13 comments
collecting ants

My little brother watching us do big boy stuff like collecting ants

 

Well little brother, just a quick note to let you know we were all thinking about you today.  I had a piece of cake at home, called mom and dad to chat a while, and looked through a few pictures of us when we were kids.  Jack sent me some pictures last year, and I thought you might like seeing one of us together on Jack’s front stoop.

Happy Birthday!

Your big brother,

Phil
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Written in 2009

Dear Anthony,

Another year has passed and here it is your birthday once again. Even though you are not here to celebrate it with us, I just wanted to let you know we were all thinking about you on this special day. Mama is doing fine, her heart is on the mend after some troubles earlier this summer. Pop is well too… Read More

via Random Thoughts

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I’m in a New York State of Mind…

September 11, 2011 12 comments
View of World Trade Center from Apartment 1984

View of lit Twin Towers at dusk from our living room window

 

I lived and worked in New York City for several years immediately after graduating college up until we left the City for good in 1984.  Tonight on the eve of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, my wife and I were going through the photo books, looking at pictures we had taken while we lived there.  As occurs whenever you live in a place long enough to take many things for granted, we had surprisingly few pictures of the World Trade Center itself.  Unlike many of our friends from out of town, who we took on tour whenever they would visit with camera in hand, most of our New York pictures were just ordinary ones with lots of friends and people celebrating various events, not of places.

Luckily, I managed to find a few pictures taken with the trusty old 35 mm back in the days of film.  Our apartment on 23rd Street had a southern exposure from the windows in our living room, and we were up high enough in our building to have an unobstructed view of downtown Manhattan with the Twin Towers dominating the skyline, day or night.  The above picture brought back a flood of memories to me. I worked in the Finance industry, and as a result, had walked around so many of the floors, offices and corridors of both towers countless times for business meetings and other business related errands.  Perhaps this is reason for my lack of fascination with it all as compared to tourists that were easily identified with their awe-struck gawking at the sheer size of each tower.

In May before we left New York City for good in 1984, both sets of grandparents came to visit our daughter and we spent a part of the day making our way to see the view from on top of the world.  I thought it would be neat to snap a few shots looking upward from the ground in the plaza between the buildings.  A favorite of mine is one with the camera perched up against the steel and glass frame looking straight up the side of the South Tower.  Below are the two photos taken that day.

 

World Trade Center #2 1984

Upward view of both towers from the plaza

 

World Trade Center 1984

View upward standing against the South Tower

 

Having lived in New York for quite some time before we eventually left, the events of 9/11 were deeply personal.  I lost a workplace friend that day.  I wrote about it in 2009 as my second entry to this blog.  Here is what thoughts came to mind that morning as I sipped on my coffee, reflecting on what that day meant to me:

I am sitting here having my morning cup of coffee, much as I can imagine you were doing that fateful morning as you were getting ready for work. It was a crisp, beautiful day. I would like to believe you kissed your lovely wife good bye and hugged your kids as you left for work, but the reality is, we sometimes fall into a routine and just take that kind of stuff for granted. I wonder, what were you thinking as you left your apartment for that subway ride to your office? Was it the wonderful weather, a work issue, maybe a family happening?

I remember working with you at another financial firm in mid-town back in the early 80’s. You were a few years older and were always helpful, showing me the ropes, assisting me as I learned my job. You were finishing up law school and I remember you telling me how you wanted to pursue that career path instead of the one laid out before us in mid-town. You dreamed of working on Wall Street. By 1984, when I moved out of New York to pursue a new career opportunity, you had already left the firm, chasing your dreams downtown. It would be poetic to say we were the best of friends, but in actuality we were merely work acquaintances who shared an occasional beer socially outside of work. We didn’t keep track of each other over the years; you went your way and I mine.

Seventeen years later, I recall waking up September 11, 2001 to an incredibly crisp, cool day. The weather was beautiful, so I decided to extend my early morning run. By the time I returned home from the run, my kids had all left for school and my wife for work. It seemed like an ordinary day. I showered and left to meet some bankers at an outdoor site we were looking to finance. I didn’t get back to the office until about 9:30, where I was immediately told of a horrible crash. Everyone was huddled in the conference room where the TV was on. I watched in stunned silence as buildings that I so often have been in and out of for the many years I lived and worked in New York were on fire. This was too personal for me – I had been inside those very same corridors countless times! I was appalled, and yet I just couldn’t look away. I watched the unthinkable happen, as the Towers gave way.  Feeling sick, I returned to my desk. All I could think about, all I could focus upon was who I might know and were they all OK. I frantically started calling my friends in New York; the lines were all busy. Busy, busy, busy. Every attempt busy. All day long busy. Nothing but that awful busy signal.

It took me three days to account for everyone I knew or had worked with. Everyone made it except for you.

Rest in peace, Stephen.

I need to go hug my wife and and call my kids right now and tell them I love them before I leave for work.

 

Much of my extended family lives in the New York and Connecticut area. My wife and I moved to Maryland in 1984 and we would drive up Interstate 95 through New York City and onward to New England to visit family on many holiday occasions. That first drive we made after that horrible day was during Thanksgiving of 2001. I will never forget the experience as we approached the city skyline from the New Jersey Turnpike; it was surreal. There was a hole in my heart as we drove by, my mind trying to find and locate a familiar landmark no longer there. There were no words then to describe the feelings swirling within me, and to this day, there still are none that can accurately describe that hole, that emptiness. The emotional wounds of that day have healed with the passage of time; the memory and love of those affected, however, does not fade.

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Morning Trails – Springtime at Lakefront

May 6, 2011 9 comments

 

I am fortunate to live in an area that has hundreds of miles of dedicated walking trails and a marvelous lake and wildlife preserve a few miles from my home. I enjoy an early morning walk or run on these trails, and when I have extra time and the weather is nice, I make my way to the lake, camera in hand. I’ve been snapping photos of the lake for almost a decade now, and the fascination and beauty of the place never fades. If you have a few moments, join me and see why I consider this waking part of my day to be so special. I’ll try not to bore you too much with commentary – the images tend to speak well for themselves.

 

 

A Blue Heron searching about for breakfast.

 

 

Sunrise making its presence known.

 

 

A young buck and his companion enjoying a morning drink. Personally, I prefer a nice strong cup of coffee.

 

 

Sometimes, all you really need to do is look upward for inspiration…

 

 

A favorite spot for me to reflect, and to journal those random thoughts that occasionally make their way to this blog.

 

 

Last year’s grasses yielding to this year’s new growth.

 

 

Full sunlight bathing the lake’s easternmost end.

 

 

Here we have a family of Expatriate Canadian Geese who have declared their preference for permanent residency in Maryland.

 

 

This pesky Egret was dodging me for quite some time before finally staring me down, probably wondering what the heck I was doing poking around his environs.

 

 

It is said that some men spend their time sitting in Church and dream about fishing, while other men spend their time fishing and dream about God. I believe this shot helps me understand the spirit of that saying.

As I made my way home, walking through the trails and eventually emerging to the streets leading to my home, I couldn’t help but notice the frenzied pace of cars whirring past me as people scurry about in their daily lives, completely oblivious to all that beauty lying just beneath the veneer of a world they are unconsciously rushing through.

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