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Music Poetry Writing

On When My Daughter Cuts the Roses

The Advent Candle for Week ONE:  Hope 

Blog_2014_Rose_CandlesPHOTO

 I sat quietly in my living room as I watched a Christmas program on television. The focus of the program was on Advent since this day marked the first day of Advent in the Christian calendar.  A priest lit the first candle.  “This first candle stands for hope,” he said.  Traditionally, one candle will be lighted for each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day.  There will be one candle that is different in color than the other four. That one candle will be lit last – it will symbolize the arrival of Christmas.

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We know that the German Lutheran’s were using a wreath with candles to celebrate each day of Advent at least 300 years ago.  However, in northern Germany, long before the Christians began using this symbol, the early northern Germanic people thought of the ring, wheel, and evergreens as part of rituals that signified the love of God.   The circle or wheel has no beginning and no end.  This is a cyclical world view embraced by pre-Christian people.  In this way, they symbolized their HOPE of survival through the long, difficult and dark winter months.  This hope pointed their attention to the coming of Spring, life, and light. And, even before this time, the Greco-Romans celebrated this season as well, looking forward to the light of spring. It was a reminder that life is fleeting and flows by quickly and so  they marked  the passing seasons.

Blog_2014_Rose_AdventCandlesWreath***

On the  weekend of the first day of Advent, our youngest daughter, Ilsa, arrived in the late afternoon. She and her husband drove the 6 hour trip from Kentucky to Pennsylvania for a short holiday visit.    This visit was just for one day because   she had to be at her job on Monday morning.

The old, round table in the dining room has listened in on family conversations and provided a comfortable,  familiar gathering place for talking and eating. The warm, spicy aroma of fresh coffee drifted from the kitchen. As the late autumn light outside the northern window was nearing its lowest indigo hue, we drank coffee from sturdy pottery mugs.  Our hands clasped around the steaming cups and we forgot about anything beyond the room we were in as we laughed   together and shared family gossip and our passing thoughts.

I gave Ilsa a small present. It was  two new chapbooks of poetry, wrapped carefully in thin white translucent paper.  Ilsa unwrapped the books, looked them over and she began turning the pages slowly.   She read a few poems from each book. She read them aloud to me, and we enjoyed them together – we spoke about some images in the poems.  we discovered unexpected humor and profound sadness; the poems held life and death on the pages.  How good it felt to negotiate the poems together!  We both love literature and books and have enjoyable conversations about the things we love.

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When the first Christians wanted to depict faith and hope in the next world, Paradise, they chose to use the symbol of flowers; the most depicted flower was the rose, and, sometimes lilies. A rose has been a symbol that leads us to think about love.

Blog_2014_RosesPhoto

The rose is an elegant flower, so soft to the touch, ;ike the most delicate velvet and exquisite  symmetry. Rose petals form around a center, in a tight bud. As it grows, a rose bud expands and opens eventually to expose a halo of tiny, delicate flowers that encircle a center ring. When one looks deeply into the center of a rose, mystery is there to be found – like  a hidden treasure.  The most precious and spectacular part of the rose, lies in the center.

Blog_2014_Dec_PhotoRoseCenter

A rose has sparked the imagination of poets, writers, artists, and lovers. In 1913, the avantgarde poet, Gertrude Stein wrote this sentence,  “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”The line appears in her 1922 book Mention of a Rose.

Clearly, Gertrude Stein realized there  is simply no other word that can describe a rose, except that it is a rose. Everything else fails miserably in our attempts to portray  the most recognized flower in the world, and it carries a universal message to people of all cultures. Research will disclose that the garden variety of roses  have been cultivated  for over 5,000 years.  One can  find roses in the gardens that were tended by the people who lived in the Roman Empire. Today, visitors to Italy can walk in  glorious rose gardens that were created during the days of the Empire.

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Every year  my sister, Patti, tends her flower gardens from early spring  to the first frosts of late autumn.  As she took me on a tour of her flower beds  one afternoon, she grinned with pride when she pointed out her roses.  Every flower gardener I have ever known has loved their rose bushes and each one has shown tremendous pride in the beauty of the flowers on a rose bush. Last  August, Patti  brought me a birthday bouquet she had created from her flower beds – and the prize flower in the bouquet was a very stunning pink  rose! I think no matter how much a gardener loves all the flowers they have blooming, it is the rose bushes that seem to elicit the most pride and happiness to them.  Roses are the dazzling queens of the flower bids.  They  seems to be the proverbial “icing on the cake.”

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Ah, yes, I contend that the rose is Queen of all Flowers! I am certain of it! As you begin doing some research on the “rose” as an iconic image,  you will soon   find references to Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is often depicted with a rose in her hand, or surrounded by roses.  Roses are used as garlands in art and sculpture and roses are used to encircle  the Queen of Heaven. Roses are a halo at times in Christian lore as well as in pre-Christian mythology.   Mary’s  son, Jesus Christ, is  symbolized as a rose.  King Solomon described Jesus  as  “the rose of Sharon.” You can find this particular reference in The Song of Solomon, 2:1. There are many other such references as well.

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 In a popular  German Christmas song, these  words are from an Eighteenth Century  poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe;  “es ist ein Ros entsprungen.”  This can be translated in English to “A Rose has sprung.”

You may recognize this Christmas song as “Lo, How a Rose E’er  Blooming”  or “A Spotless Rose.”  This song is a Protestant  Christmas  Carol and a Catholic Marian hymn that originated in Germany.  I remember it from my childhood  when we all stood to sing carols together at the small  Methodist Church  in my village.

Cllick here to listen to this song in English:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyuOIYCERc

Click here to hear the song in German:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA4pBDNZDx0

I sat down to consider the pleasure of a visit with my daughter. Below you will read a  poem about her visit and something we did together. Sometimes, it is unusual when we think of a child teaching a parent a lesson of some sort.  But, here in my poem, a daughter teaches  me a lesson  in a unique way.

This poem, “When My Daughter Cuts the Roses,”  marks the beginning of Advent in our home.  The bouquet of flowers on my dining room table today  reminds me  that now is the Season of Hope.  As I listen to the latest news from around the world, it feels like the  whole world is longing for hope right now – Oh, I know! It does appear the the entire planet is in deep distress.   The EARTH could be laboring  for the birth of HOPE.  Perhaps there is a longing for hope   in the souls of Earth’s people and all of NATURE.

On this First Week of Advent we can choose to keep our thoughts  and our  eyes focused on HOPE as we light that first candle.  There is great beauty in the  symbols  of the weekly lighting of the Advent candles.   This week,  we pause to embrace the message  of the ROSE  and the  coming of the LIGHT, who  is promised from ancient times.   Ah, yes!  As  I complete the writing of this essay, I am hearing a tune in my mind.

” This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.” (Final stanza of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

***

  “When my Daughter Cuts the Roses”

My daughter looked

At the bouquet of fresh roses

noticed two of them were drooping.

“Let me show you how to trim the roses

so they stay fresh and strong.” she said.

Her hands held the roses firmly

one-by-one, trimmed off extra leaves

“These will make the water stink,” she said.

She found scissors in the drawer

put the roses in a bowl of tepid water

held each stem under water

sliced them all, diagonally –

“As I cut the rose under the water,

little bubbles of air come to the surface.

Now, when the rose inhales

it will only breathe water into it,

it won’t fill up with air.

The living water inside the stems

gives longer life to each rose.”

She carried the freshened flowers

In the tall glass vase

back to the center of the dining room table

darkest crimson buds, sunny yellow petals,

deep green fern leaves

and a frilly white carnation.

 ***

Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Categories
art Music

When I Begin my Day with Mozart


On which I Begin my Day with Mozart...

Today:

I put the morning coffee on to brew and then reached   for a CD of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat. After I carefully placed it in the CD player.  pushed the  “play” button on the remote  and my Bose player began filling  the kitchen with music. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo – Allegro began. I listened.  A piano and a violin began to gracefully move  me to listen closely  to this  composition, written  centuries ago. The lyrical melody  begins and I close my eyes  awhile before I continue writing my essay. There is something compelling about Mozart’s music; it gently  urges  me to stop whatever I am doing.  The music  takes me back in time – but not the time in the Eighteenth century when the music was first performed for a royal audience.  It is  my own time,  near the end of the Twentieth century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal  life. While listening to this music,  my mind is taken on a journey far away from this present  chilly, gray November day. My  musings  create layers of memories.

As I begin writing the opening thoughts of this essay,  I enjoy  my  cup of fresh coffee. I spiced it up with some hazelnut creamer. The days and years of past times  come visiting me  once again as I slowly recall  my first exciting days in Austria.  Yes! It  was just  Mozart and me.

Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg, Austria

When Mozart first performed this original composition on April 29, 1784, in Vienna, there was a surprising bit of information that came out of the  original  performance.   It’s  a  unique story  that lies behind the music I am listening to today.   In the audience, that day was  Emperor Joseph II.  As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking discovery.  He had eventually  noticed that  Mozart was actually looking at blank sheets of “music” instead of the traditional written music that a musician would use.    It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind. He had to play it from his memory and did not want the audience to  know he had no actual sheet music. Therefore, He put the blank sheets on the piano and began to play that day. You can read about this and other interesting facts about Mozart by visiting this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Sonata_No._32_(Mozart)

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My first trip to Europe was  in the summer of 1991. The trip was a gift I gave myself  to celebrate a goal I had completed in May.  I  finished my MFA degree  at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Soon after my graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning. My arrival  was  just in time to join in the celebration festivities  for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. My month-long visit was filled with special art exhibitions in palaces and museums, all focused on  some aspect of Mozart’s life or his music.   I attended as many concerts as I could, and viewed special exhibits of art that month. OH, I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and  death house, and stood  inside the churches where he performed for masses.  I attended the Mozart Mass at the Dom du Salzburg and basked in the sweet aroma of swirling,  smoky incense as the priests entered the sanctuary.  I even found the grave sites of  his family members and his wife, Costanza.   Like most tourists, I purchased the famous   Mozart candy, Mozart t-shirts and sent out lots of  Mozart post cards to all my friends and family.

I know you must want to know what took me there that month.  I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by a former professor. We students  were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings.  I was so excited to be there and was prolific in my art adventure.  I created a  body of work on the theme of Mozart’s death and  music.  I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made many ink sketches on white paper. I chose to do all the artworks black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport  them back to the US.  After I returned  back home, I put my  work together and it became a traveling art exhibition. The mixed-media works on paper appeared in museums and galleries.  I called my show,“Memory of a Requiem.”

Blog_2014_SalzburgFireworks

     Ten years after my first trip,  some of my poems, sketches,  and reflections from that experience were crafted into a book, “Concerti:  Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book was published by KotaPress.

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Prior to the  trip to Austria, I was in graduate school pursuing my MFA degree.  I worked diligently during those two intense years doing  research, creating art,  and teaching. At times, I  was so  exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest and some meals, I often  refreshed  my mind by listening to Mozart’s music. I was particularly  drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness.   My visit to the city of  Mozart’s  birth and death was a natural choice.

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While in Austria, I made an intention for my own life.  I realized that I fell in love with Austria, the artworks,  architecture,  the people I met, and the music of the masterful composers who lived in Austria over the centuries. I intended to order my life in such a way that I would spend my summers there every year. Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I would choose to live.

Eventually, my own professional teaching career began when I  accepted  a tenure-track position at Geneva College,  a private college in western Pennsylvania.  This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time as a student myself. As a new  Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, I  quickly realized there was no study program for  students that provided the opportunity to study in  Austria or Germany.   I proposed to create such a course and the following year I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I would have the joy of bringing students to Austria every summer. I taught a course called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”

My students came from  across America

to work in a studio in a small village in the Alps.

Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at  the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. I had the joy of sharing this magnificent country with my students every summer for a  month-long sojourn. On  long weekends, we traveled together through  Germany, Czech Republic, and  Italy.  We climbed mountains; we  stood on a mountain peak and gazed  down in amazement at the eagles lying beneath us.  On one such sunny afternoon,  I  locked  arms with one of the students and we  skipped down a high   Alpine path.  We stopped only when we ran out of energy and we bent over double,  laughing together,  gasping for breath.   We wrote poems and stories  in our  journals; we wrote about our own experiences.  Art was the focus of all we did. We  created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our sketchbooks and journals to the  streets and mountain pathways. Together, we trekked our way through the new places we found. Later,  our sketchbooks and journals would provide us with information and memories to work with once we were back home and working on new projects.

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Gradually, over the years,  I began to realize that the seeds of what we love become the life we live when we set our intentions in that direction.   On that first visit, I had set something in motion that would become my life journey at a later time.  It would be years, though, before I would understand it all. 

Now, sitting here in my office typing up this essay, I listen closely as the final piece of music comes to a conclusion. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other – they are a good match!

If you would like to enjoy this lovely work of art by Mozart, you can listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-KDzAYOroI

The Violin Sonata continues  and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving of playfully  through the house in what seems like a race with the violin.  I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow.  At other moments, the violin and piano seem to me to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. . At times, if sounds like the piano takes the lead, yet, this is not the case. The violin weaves through the many notes and in the end they are one.  I listen as applause breaks out immediately as the piano and violin strike the final note together.

This day will take me on other, more mundane  journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, take my husband to the hospital for a check-up, and edit this essay tonight. At special moments throughout my day, I just might hear a few bars of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat  Oh, . I hope so!  Oh, I hope…at the end of this day the music and I are on the same note.

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