An American Elegy

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” — Albus Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Composer Frank Ticheli has said that his hope for “An American Elegy” is that it might serve as “one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.” Ticheli was commissioned to write the orchestral piece to remember those who died in the shooting at Columbine High School in April of 1999, and to honor the lives of those who survived.

One of my dearest friends, about whom I’ve written often, heard the music played by her son’s school orchestra and was moved beyond words by the power of it, the poetic strength coupled with such vulnerable emotional resonance. She tucked away the title just like she tucked away other other things that moved and inspired her, quotes from Emerson and St. Augustine among them. After she died from metastatic breast cancer, Ticheli’s piece was played at the beginning of her memorial service, an instruction she had left behind for her family. Whenever I hear the opening bars, the music never fails to take my breath for a moment, in goosebumps and tears, just like it did the first time I heard it at her service. (more…)

Summer in the Marsh

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

What began as an impulse last fall to go into the marsh to photograph the graceful movement of the withering cattails turned into an eight month project that now spans four seasons. I have appreciated the beauty of this marsh for years, but until I started to pay closer attention, I didn’t realize how many of its nuances and changes through the seasons that I had been missing. And I am sure there are countless more I have yet to catch, even now. (more…)

Spring Comes Slowly

‘Tis a month before the month of May, and the Spring comes slowly up this way. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Spring in the marsh is about patience and attention to details. While elsewhere, the crocus, daffodils, tulips, and crabapples are in colorful profusion, spring has a much more austere arrival in the marsh.

Over the last month, I made four treks into the same wetlands I filmed this past fall and winter. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the marsh, but have never paid as close attention to its chronology of changing seasons until I began this project. Looking for signs of new growth in early April felt like a needle-in-a-haystack search. I was sure that spring would mean the cattails would be bursting forth in green, or at least showing some bare signs of emerging from the ground anew. Silly me. Ironically, I found that this time of year, when everything is blooming outside the wetlands, the marsh cattails and grasses are actually more brittle and decayed than any other season I’ve witnessed yet.

I don’t know why I expected spring to burst forth from the center outwards, but I did. What I saw instead was that new growth seemed to be working its way in to the marsh from the fringes, from the treetops down and from the edges inward. Once again, Mother Nature showed me that what she can conjure up is far better than what I can imagine.

 Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored. ― Oscar Wilde

 

Filmed between April 12th and May 9th of this year in the marsh behind The Marsh health and wellness center in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Musical track, Hire Purchase [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0], written and performed by Irish guitarist, Cian Nugent, was made available through freemusicarchives.com. Sounds of marsh birds recorded by dobroide and nicStage and shared at freesound.org.

Shades of Change

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” — Hal Borland

Sitting on my front stoop in the early spring of 2009, I was playing my guitar on the first warm, sunny day of the season. Named “Little Girl,” my guitar is a far better instrument than I deserve. I had been sad when I discovered she had developed a long, narrow crack during the cold, dry months of winter, and I felt pretty negligent in tending to her properly. (more…)