Music, to me, is a mystery. Over the years, I tried my hand at the piano, the guitar, the flute, the violin and the harmonica... but I failed each one of these in turn without even a hint of talent to show for my efforts.
I can't read music. I clap on the off-beat (something I didn't know existed until the advent of Jonathan-the-Drummer in my life). And, what seems inexplicable to most, I find myself able to experience Tim McGraw, Rhianna, Tom Petty, Shakira and Julie Andrews with equal levels of enjoyment.
Jon hates my taste in music. He was raised on the classics and participated in the Livermore High School Orchestra and Drum Corps. The man has rhythm and, with the help of his Engineer's Brain, he can disect a song like a frog in freshman Biology (something else I couldn't do well). So, I trust his judgment. Music and I will never be best friends. But that doesn't stop it from speaking to my soul on occasion.
Today I am 25 years old.
Upon this quarter-of-a-century mark, I could do something cute like listing 25 things I love about my life. Or I could count my 25 favorite memories. But, having completed a weekend retreat with my Bible study group (10 young women in a cabin for 48 hours) I find that I'm all talked-out. I think I may only have energy for a bottom line idea...
At 25, I am content with my progress and proud of my place.
After all, I've accomplished many of the goals I'd hoped to reach by this point. I graduated from an excellent school, obtained a degree in an area I've always been passionate about, maintained a sound relationship with my immediate family, met and married an incredible guy, launched a career which challenges me daily. Life, as usual, is good.
No. Not in my mind. What I perceive as chaotic is just the random, splotchy corner piece to a puzzle for which I have no guide to build. The good news is that I am not meant to build this puzzle. I serve a much simpler need, something not beyond my capacity as a mortal.
If I step onto a bus and take a seat, there is a chance that my piece to the puzzle will lock perfectly with the person across the aisle from me.
A kiss on the forehead, my lips to a stranger's brow, might lock us together for an instant and set the puzzle on course to be built. It was intended. And I didn't need to see the beginning of her story or the outcome, because, after all, my life was impacted, too.
So, by some great rubric, I am perfect, but no mortal man represents the standard for perfection. And yet, we ought not sell ourselves (or anyone else) short of this ultimate goal.
On March 5, the president of the University of North Carolina student body, 22-year-old Eve Carson, was murdered in a residential neighborhood off campus. By all accounts, she was a motivated, personable young woman bubbling over with personal motivation. Today, the first day after that school's spring break, students stopped by a willow tree on campus to memorialize Carson with bundles of flowers, personal remembrances and poetry.
Happily, two men have already been arrested and indicted in connection with the murder. So why, then, does the mood on the UNC campus continue to be somber?
"It's just a tragedy," a fellow student body officer tells an NPR correspondent by way of explanation.
It's just a tragedy.
I know what he means. The brutal slaying of his friend and fellow student is nothing less than horrific and life-altering. But that's only one definition of the word just: an adverb meaning quite or very much so.
Let's twist the inflection a bit.
pursed white buds protruding from polyps
at the clenched ends of near-bare branches
like sweet nothings making unlikely exits
from the mouths of prudish spinsters
women disenchanted by a world's reckless spinning
deigning to allow the hope and peace they knew when young
shedding winter skin, though bloodless and long-rote
and the shallow, sallow slanting of the insubstantial sunlight
leave a hollow haunting pressure decaying in my chest
recognizing this as springtime and the pain of birth it brings
My be-denimed legs pumped, pushing the fragile night air out and away, back to the sky from whence God breathed. I hung back in the swing, considering the coldness of the chain links beneath my clenched fingers. It was Sunday night, and I was spending a few moments in prayer on a playground.
Jonathan and I had walked from our house to the little park around the corner. It is a small park which includes the round-edged, plastic equipment which now dominates the majority of playgrounds in America (since someone somewhere decided metal slides and tire swings were dangerous).
I slid down the fireman's pole like a pro. At one point in my life, I was a "pole-topper." Not only were we required to drag our lithe, boney bodies up twenty-foot poles in P.E. class, but my dad required the same feat (faster) from my brothers and me on a weekly basis. I loved locking my ankles around the pole and feeling the twinge of nerve pressed against my shin bone as I propelled myself up. With each tug I became stronger. It gave me strength. It gave me pride.
Those poles can no longer be found on elementary school campuses. Children today, battling obesity and, what I believe to be worse and perhaps the origin of the former, a pandemic of lethargy, are the poorer for it.
But the swings remain.
Swinging is an extraordinary pastime. As a child, I used it as a way to burn excess energy before the end of recess, or to compete with my peers to discover who could fly highest. But as an adult, I find that five minutes on the swings is simply soothing. It encourages meditation with each pendulumic movement. I ask a question on my way up and find my answer on the way down. It is the rhythm of my heart, my mind. A pulse.
My prayers take on the form a chant in my head. Thankfulness. Confession. Thoughtfulness. Requests. Amen.
I have many dreams. Some I have related here in past posts. Some I keep locked away in a secret spot in my brain. Some I am still deciphering, trying to make sense of thoughts that seem to be way beyond my talents, way beyond my maturity level. But even as I rise to the daily challenges of adult life, climbing the poles set before me in my career, my marriage, my walk with God, I discover that the most peaceful times are those spent like a child. It is why I still watch old, innocent, black & white films. Why Jon and I run off to Disneyland whenever possible. Why I drink Capri Sun. Why I don't mind when my brothers (and no one else) call me "Aud."
It is why I occasionally visit the local park at twilight and run headlong for the swings.