Dignity, Music, Worthy

There’s This One Song

There’s this one song, this one single song, that does everything for me that I could possibly need when I listen to it. It holds me like a lullaby. It serenades me like a lover. It moves me like a great work of art. It makes me smile and makes me sigh.

Is it not an incredible privilege that we are designed to experience art in such a manner? And not only that we can comprehend the beauty and genius in art while it inspires emotional reactions and provokes new thoughts, but also that we are each unique in our experiences of it. The song I speak of may have little effect on you. The painting or symphony or film you love dearly, I may not like. The favorite novel, the beloved play, the incredible sculpture, or the enthralling music – they are not the same from one to another. We each have our own “songs” that hold ineffable power over us.

Oh, the glory of such variety in both artists and recipients of art.

When I listen to that song I am thankful we are made in the image of the original Artist. We are His finest work, His masterpieces. In turn then every piece of beauty and creativity that comes forth from humanity is an offshoot of His artistry. I hope there is a piece of art, a reflection of His artwork, that has reached you like this song has me. We are each greater for the “songs” that reach our hearts.

Music, Personal Reflection

Missing Nickel Creek

“Others have excuses but I have my reasons why…”

Nickel Creek has been popping up on my Pandora mix. The songs are creating a nostalgic ache in me. How I miss them! I hope you won’t mind if I write a little ode to the band and their gorgeous music. I well remember the first time I discovered Nickel Creek. Channel flipping in the 4th floor lounge of the college dormitory, the sound I heard when I reached CMT (which used to play music videos most of the day instead of inane reality television) made me put down the remote. On the screen were three kids… well, not really kids. They looked to be my age. A guy with a guitar, a girl with a violin, and a guy with a mandolin. There they were, harmonizing on “When You Come Back Down,” and there I was, riveted. The sound created by their voices and instruments struck me as thrilling and soothing at the same time. I had to hear more! Based on half a music video, I bought their album. I knew every word by heart in a matter of days. I couldn’t get enough.

While falling in love with their music, I fell out of love with a lot of formerly enjoyable music. It dawned on me that musicians could do so much better; that songs could be more genuine, more clever; that I didn’t need to settle for the clear cut categories of ‘pop’ and ‘country’ that the radio stations hailed as all the best music. Listening to Nickel Creek at 19 years old changed the way I have listened to music ever since and it changed what sort of music I wanted to hear. I’d love to thank them for that.

The band turned out to consist of brother and sister, Sean and Sara Watkins and friend, Chris Thile. Before they wrapped up their Nickel Creek life, I saw them in concert four times, fell in love with each of their albums and introduced a wide range of folks to their music. Each album (only 3, sadly, not counting the hits collection or their pre-major label album) is astoundingly unique. Each stands on its own as a strong piece of art, carrying in it the band’s sound – bluegrass, folk, americana… a single name is not enough – as well as a particular style that shapes that whole album, and only that album. Songs with Chris in the lead, Sara in the lead, Sean in the lead; songs featuring Sean’s incredible guitar skills or Sara’s emotionally alive fiddle performances or Chris’s mandolin that he managed to make sound like a whole collection of mandolins playing together. And the harmonies! Needless to say, the concerts are among the best concerts I’ve every been privileged to enjoy. My first one, at Northwestern in Evanston, and the third one, in Green Bay at the Meyer Theater, are right up at the top with my favorite experiences in life.

A couple years ago, the members of Nickel Creek decided to call it a day. Who can blame them? Only in their mid to late 20s, the band had already been performing together for the majority of their lives. They’ve each continued making music through a variety of projects (Sean’s collaboration with Jon Foreman as “Fiction Family” and his solo “Blinders On”, Sara’s solo record released this year, and both “Deceiver” and “How to Grow a Woman From the Ground” by Chris are all ridiculously good) but I can’t deny that there are days that pop up when I only wish for new music from Nickel Creek. After the amazing album that was “Why Should the Fire Die,” I am fascinated by the question of what they’d have managed to do next!

The one that started it for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwkpihGwSj0

The one that’s in my head presently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lyZQB1H_Zw

A couple from the final album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylslcF-fUeE and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzJc_TrJN3U

And just because it’s loads of fun, Nickel Creek covers Britney Spears:

Faith, Music, Personal Reflection

Alive Again!

It’s new music Tuesday, ladies and gents. While I’m glad to see David Gray has a new release that I’ll be sure to check out, what really has me dancing in my chair is the arrival of Matt Maher’s new album, “Alive Again.”

Matt Maher inspires me to do all sorts of things, like get up to watch the sunrise more often, write my second book, believe that I’ll be published one day, sing at the top of my lungs in the car, read the Bible more frequently, humble myself, be authentically Catholic in every circumstance, declare my love… you know, things like that. He is a beautiful, holy instrument of Christ and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wishing to sneak out of the office and drive directly to Family Christian Stores to buy “Alive Again.” This afternoon will be a small lesson in patience.

Here’s a superb video of Matt expressing the heart of the new album. (I think superb is my new word of choice. That’s usage number two today.)

Catholicism, Faith, Music, Personal Reflection, Writing

Catching Up

Several days in a row, one thing or another has made me think, “I should put that in my blog.” Yet, it had to wait. So let’s see if I can catch this blog up with my thoughts.

First of all, if you like riesling even a little bit and you have the chance to try Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling (from the Chateau Grand Traverse winery on Old Mission Peninsula, MI), please do so. You will thank yourself for this treat. I tried it on Saturday night and it was by far the best riesling that has ever touched my lips. I could easily have consumed the whole bottle, but restricted myself to 2 glasses. It’s not really sold outside of lower Michigan so I wanted the chance to savor the taste more than once since it’ll be a while before I can purchase it again.

Last night was a historic night for me: I saw U2 in concert! Seeing a live show of U2 has been on my ‘do before I die’ list since the first time I put together said list. I finally can cross something off! The show was amazing. They played Soldier Field (while the Bears were away being beaten by the Packers). Everything about the night was fantastic. If the videos or pictures turned out alright on my humble little camera, I’ll post some here.

I keep meeting cute boys… and not dating the cute boys I meet. Oh the infuriating pattern of my singleness… But I continue thanking God for His reminders that there are some great men out there, even if so far they only come in the form of friends. Must be thankful in all things, must be thankful in all things, must be thankful…

The ball is rolling with this year of ministry. I’m already having to pray my way out of feeling overwhelmed. It’s all so exciting! I am officially the RCIA Coordinator at my parish; a role I hoped to eventually have since my junior year of college. The season of volunteering is beginning too, with Adult Faith Nights, 40 Days for Life vigil and Frassati Society topping the list. A few months ago, I was trying to give some concrete form to the extent of and ways in which I volunteer. Like most things I try to handle by myself, I actually needed to wait on God to direct me and place me in the situations in which He desired me to serve. I’m trying to roll with it and realize the goodness of not being in control; trying to have confidence in all the ways God reaches out, takes my hand and says “Go with me here.” Rolling with it requires a lot of fear-conquering prayer and trust. And some self-discipline in spending my time on the right things and not usually the easiest things. (Can I help it if I go into withdrawals when I can’t watch a few Brewer games each week? Or if I am hooked on CSI:NY reruns? …Yeah, I suppose I probably can help it… At least the baseball season is nearly over for the Crew.)

And the books. I have to write an update on the books, right? Right. Unfortunately nothing substantial to report. Still no final word from Moody Publishing. “How long, O Lord?” Yes, yes, I’m being overdramatic. It is endlessly difficult to patient though, as well as to not get caught up in the fearfulness of questioning what I should do next if Moody turns it down. At times, the only thing that keeps me going is to focus all my mental energy on writing the new book but everything else that has been going on has kept me from that endeavor lately. This leaves my mind to wander down paths of doubt that are both pointless and painful. I think I’ll need to get back into scheduling mode for my writing. I did that when I was in the home stretch of finishing Full of Days, writing blocks of time into my calendar that were set aside for the work instead of counting on finding time here and there in the course of the week. I’m nowhere near the home stretch of writing The Mercy Hour but the scheduling might be a must at this point. It either has to be a priority alongside of the other top priorities or it has to be set aside in favor of the others. Any time I consider setting it aside, my friend’s incredulous questioning of my honest dedication to being a writer ring yet again in my ears and I know I have to follow through.

Undeniably, I’ve become one of those girls who lives by her daily planner and yet strives to be open to the unexpected and spontaneous. It’s an adventure. Would it be possible to just plan on the unexpected and spontaneous? I do like to at least feel prepared, and like Tolkien pointed out, “It will not do to leave a live dragon out of your plans if you live near one.”