my heart in hiding

I’m probably in a pretty normal space for me on Monday of Holy Week. While the services went fine and it was encouraging that so many people were doing their best to make things work, I found myself just barely getting by mentally.

One woman confided to me that the Easter frontal (the cloth banner that covers the altar) always reminds her of her son’s funeral some 27 years ago. He was buried in a local Reformed church which did not allow palls (the thing that covers the casket). Her husband is now a retired teacher at the local Reformed seminary and dearly wanted a pall to cover their son’s casket.

“Of course the casket had to stay closed,” she said making me picture a death by mutilated car accident or something.  A young Episcopalian priest mentioned they were making a new Easter frontal. This priest managed to borrow it and they used it as a pall on their son’s casket.

This same piece of fabric was draped on the altar yesterday as it is every Easter at this church. The woman said it had a great meaning for her to see it as we celebrate the mystery of resurrection.

Resurrection is a prominent Christian theology of funerals.

She mentioned the first time she realized it was the same thing was at an Easter service when the lights came up at the Vigil. I asked her if this was a good memory and she said yes.

“How old was your son when he died?” “25”

I played a postlude by Helmut Walcha. He was my teacher’s teacher when he (my teacher Ray Ferguson) was a young man on a Fulbright scholarship to Germany. Ray taught me several things he learned from Walcha. One was how to play and conduct. I used this skill yesterday. I was expecting the children’s choir director to conduct one of the pieces yesterday. This didn’t happen so I ended up quickly learning to play and conduct the piece myself from the organ. And there was another anthem that I did in this manner as well.

A parishioner chatted me up after the postlude commenting that Walcha was a famous performer. I replied that he was not that famous actually. And the parishioner (godblesshim) said he is to music lovers.

This piece is an amazing work. It’s based on the Easter Hymn tune CHRIST IS ERSTANDEN (as was one of the choral anthems). In the second half of the piece the soprano voice in the right hand and the pedal were the hymn melody in canon at the octave. Walcha composed another melody for the alto and tenor line which was also played in canon at the octave. It was an amazing technical feat especially consider that the result sounded very cool to my ears.

After the last service a woman handed me a score of a Mozart flute trio she is playing next Sunday so I could put the information in the bulletin. As my wife commented this is very refreshing. I am always looking for ways to include people in the performing of music in this talented parish. So nice when they actually volunteer.

There was a glitch in planning this Holy week and it was very difficult for me to receive communion. At the Thursday service (which is pretty informal at this parish), my boss came by and left me some Jesus on the piano as I was playing.

Yesterday at both services I was busy playing and conducting throughout communion.  At the second service I spotted my boss about half way down the church giving a wheelchair person communion. I was just finishing one of the hymns and thought I would slip down and get some Jesus. But she turned away just before I stopped playing.

I don’t know why I receive communion being a nonbeliever and all.

Actually I do. The first Episcopalian priest I ever worked for told me to receive even if I didn’t believe. Since then I have struggled with belief but have continued to receive communion.

Catholics don’t like it when people not in the club receive communion. It’s actually against their rules. For the decades I worked in the Catholic church I only recall receiving communion twice, once at Gethsemani Kentucky in a Trappist Monastery and once with the staff from a church I was working at. It was the only two times I think I was invited.

I obviously like open communion. My boss has evolved in the time I have known her. In the first year or so of our work together she said she had decided we should open communion to anyone. I told her she would first have to explain to people that it was closed because most didn’t realize it. I turned out to call that one right.

Anyway, now she gives communion to  anyone. If there was a Jesus this seems more like how I figure he was.

I walked in on my boss madly trying to write Easter sermons this week. She told me she was having difficulty shaking South Park images from her mind. I told her that was a sign of sanity for me.

Sorry to be so dang religious today but I have sort of a religion hangover.

No drinky poo for steve yesterday. I have been cutting down on alcohol and calories and exercising more due to a warning from my doctor about blood pressure and cholesterol.

I had one martini last week. Skipped wine at the Holy Thursday meal. When I pointed out that there was a bar open in downtown Holland yesterday and that I could go have a martini, my lovely wife told me I had martinis on the brain. I replied that you bet your bippy I do.

Then I took my sorry ass into the kitchen and made tea.

I tried to revive my spirits with music by Telemann and Touzet (the cuban composer). Also played through some of my own compositions.

I dug out my batteries that I use when I busk outdoors with the electric piano and set them up to recharge. It looks like one of them is not taking the charge this morning.

I keep fantasizing about playing on the street.

Got up the this morning and read this poem online:

The Windhover
To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! 

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins [link to site where I found it]

I do find that poetry works on me like a good piece of music. According to the web, “sillion” is the “thick, voluminous, and shiny soil turned over by a plow.” I like the lines “No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,”

I also read a depressing poem by Georg Trakl this morning called “De Profundis” It seems to be a meditation on what it’s like to be dead on the top of a garbage heap. [link to beautiful depressing poem] “De Profundis” usually refers to Psalm 130, “Out of the deeps.” We did a setting of this text this Lent by John Rutter. It was kind of poppy and sort of missed the depth that this poem actually captures for me.

I found a temporary link to an entire Sci Fi novella that has been “short-listed” for upcoming Hugo Awards [link to site].The novel is Palimpsest by Charles Stross. This would be more impressive if the Hugo Awards had not also announced they were short listing the screenplays for Avatar and District 9. Both of these movies really struck me as poorly written. But there goes my hubris filled opinion again of something when it doesn’t seem to be that well done to me.

I think that phrase from Hopkins poem describes how I felt and continue to feel after Holy Week: “my heart in hiding.” Sometimes it best for me to hide my heart because I am so dam thin skinned and eccentric. I find myself caught up in giving a shit about things that I can’t control. At the same time I did have some good experiences this week.

In the words of T.S. Eliot “Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.”

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