Three summer days

IMG-0970Antelope Island, UT. The littlest bison are prone to sudden scampers and the birdsong is glorious.

IMG-1076Hood Canal, WA on the Kitsap side. Early in the morning, I couldn’t see or hear another soul. Good place for walking and thinking.

IMG-1080Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill was a really lovely setting for the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s free concert; Borodin’s String Quintet in f minor with cellist Edward Arron was intense and lyrical.

 

 

Prom 2017

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Heading out for BHS prom (K lent me a dress, so even though she wasn’t there, her sparkle was).

Dinner at Cafe Paloma with P and D beforehand was such a treat that I was tempted to stay and talk much longer. We did stay until closing once, with R and her brother J when she was here on a rare visit to Seattle.

I love Seattle in the summer–when we left the restaurant after 8 pm, the light was still glorious against the downtown buildings while we walked north to the art museum. As a prom venue, the Seattle Art Museum has some cons: required catering service so pricey that the food for the evening was ice water; echoing space=few smaller rooms in which to congregate and talk. It also has some pros; the art collections on the third floor are very cool, especially their Northwestern Native American collection.

I was struck by the hi-low atmosphere of young adults in formal dress wandering through the galleries while rock music surged through the museum. It’s representative of late adolescence, which embraces contradictions and is extraordinarily open to multiple ways of seeing things. I’m really going to miss this graduating class–In Don DeLillo’s words, “it is not possible to see too much in them.”

Two happy things

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Christmas Corgi! Tasha got one of her Christmas presents early, a super-soft coat she’s not entirely sure about; she sits still in it, and minces carefully rather than running. It cracks me up–she’s like a little girl in a new fancy dress, afraid to move and spoil the effect.

The Seattle Sounders won the MLS cup! It was quite a game, decided in the end by penalty kicks, which amps the tension and subsequent yells of pride and disappointment. I even had a proxy cheering in the stands there in Toronto, student J. Someone should make a documentary on this season–there’s a lot of dramatic possibility. At one point, the Sounders were second to last in the Western conference, star player Clint Dempsey had an irregular heartbeat and couldn’t play the rest of the season, new star player Nico Lodeiro came on board, head coach Sigi Schmid was fired, the team rallied under new head coach Brian Schmetzer, they turned the season around, and in the end, won the Major League Soccer cup for 2016. It’s been called “the wildest season in MLS soccer” (Will Parchman).

I like the way the team is a microcosm of social liberal values in action; a confirmation that individual liberty requires a level of social justice, in which the good of the community is directly increased by supporting the individual.

We see this in the way the team is comprised of players from many different countries, working together in the service of something bigger than national identity.

MLS regulations permit teams to name eight players from outside of the United States in their rosters. However, this limit can be exceeded by trading international slots with another MLS team, or if one or more of the overseas players is a refugee or has permanent residency rights in the USA.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Seattle_Sounders_FC_players

International players regularly on the Sounders’ field include: Osvaldo Alonso from Cuba, Alvaro Fernandez and Nicolas Lodeiro from Uruguay, Oneil Fisher from Jamaica, Eric Friberg from Sweden, Andreas Ivanschitz from Austria, Joevin Jones from Trinidad and Tobago, Tyrone Mears from England, Roman Torres from Panama, Nelson Valdez from Paraguay, and keeper Stefan Frei from Switzerland.

When helping international players adjust to life in the US, “There is kind of a standard of care you could say,” said FC Dallas technical director Fernando Blavijo.

“Teams realize that players are their biggest asset,” said Richard Motzkin, an agent. “You should take care of your most important assets and in that vein, setting up systems to help facilitate those transitions are important.”

And so we see that this is not bleeding-heart liberalism; this is action steered by compassion that is ultimately good for the organization–it is liberalism in the sense of largeness of vision, an understanding that putting resources toward individuals who need those resources will, in the end, benefit the large organization.

 

 

Safe

“After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system” (53).

K avoided tragedy today but not trauma. Between classes a person in the same hallway had an assault rifle, at first concealed in a guitar case. As campus police shouted at everyone to get down and stay still, the person began running toward K’s end of the hall.

The suspect was arrested before anyone was directly threatened, and K was ushered out of the building safely.

As I talked with K this evening, I drew from a book I’ve recently finished: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, published in 2014. (You can read a terrific review here.)

It was lent to me by my colleague BH, and it’s a fascinating investigation into interpersonal neurobiology: “the study of how our behavior influences the emotions, biology, and mind-sets of those around us” (2).

On trauma:“Traumatized people have a tendency to superimpose their trauma on everything around them and have trouble deciphering whatever is going on around them” (17).

On how trauma affects the imagination: It curtails the ability to let our minds play and demolishes the mental flexibility that is the hallmark of imagination. (17)

Paradoxically, that seems to be one of the very things that can most help in overcoming trauma: as van der Kolk calls it, restructuring our inner maps. He explains, “It’s as if you could go back into the movie of your life and rewrite the crucial scenes. You can direct the role-players to do things they failed to do in the past” (301). Drawing pictures, writing stories, acting it out, recounting, “reexperiencing the past in the present and then reworking it in a safe and supportive ‘container’ can be powerful enough to create new, supplemental memories [that]…do not erase bad memories” (302).

He tells us that we stay traumatized until we can integrate the trauma into our lives and greet new experiences without outsized fear.

As for me, I’m so very glad K and everyone else on campus is safe. This is yet another incident that confirms the urgent need for vast reforms in gun laws. Washington’s attorney general is on the right track.

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.  is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Mass, as well as a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

November Happenings

Early in the month, we took the girls to see Portuguese Fado singer Mariza. This is the second time B, K, and I have seen her perform here in Seattle, and we found that Mariza’s style and substance has evolved.

This interview  partially explains her evolution to include quieter, intensely emotional songs. I was strongly reminded of Jacques Brel, whose “songs were written not to be sung but to be performed. He delivered them with such pained and profound emotion that he, famously, ended each concert dripping with sweat.” Fado expresses disquiet, longing, loss, and as sung by Mariza, it was a prescient expression of many of us in late November.

20161112_193953K won her category at the Puget Sound chapter Fall competition of NATS! We are so proud of her.

2016-11-17-19-00-2013 years old! A. recently read or heard about the concoction called Ambrosia Salad, and asked for that instead of birthday cake. 🙂

2016-11-20-13-16-15Opening gifts at his party here.

2016-11-24-09-35-01This year’s Turkey Trot was sloshy, muddy, rainy, and cold but our times were better than last year! S continues to be an encouraging and inspiring personal trainer–I’m so grateful for her positive attitude.

2016-11-24-14-02-45Peaceful, quiet, calm Thanksgiving afternoon with the nuclear family, including Tasha.

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Everyone (but Tasha dog) soaking up the beauty at the Bloedel Reserve.

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2016-11-25-12-47-32Gratitude when I wake, gratitude as I eat, gratitude as I walk, read, talk, write, ruminate, run, sleep. This is the way.

 

 

Identity

Personal identity: a concept worth investigating in nearly every work of literature and art.

The etymology of the word is an interesting angle; identity (from Latin idem) means “the same”, so I suppose maintaining the same characteristics over time gives us our identity.

The Picture of Dorian Gray raises the issue of exerting influence over others’ identities and being open to influence. K’s character, Sibyl Vane, undergoes a radical shift in her personal identity–from actress/chanteuse to beloved and lover of Dorian. This is the important take-away: In the first identity, she is an independent agent. In the second, she is dependent on someone else to help her maintain that identity. Therein lies the tragedy.

Look: K on the cover! The article inside neglects to mention Scott Breitbarth, the musical director and choreographer for the show, so this is my shout-out to the brilliant work he’s done!

2016-10-30-09-57-21We went to the 5th Avenue’s production of Man of La Mancha last night, and this was the question the play raised for me:

How does a person’s commitment to their personal identity play out for tragedy or triumph?

A truth about life: change is all there ever is. So does someone inflexible in their personal identity suffer? Similarly, does someone too malleable or changeable suffer?

Man of LaMancha reminded me of 1984, which I’m re-reading right now. The scene with the Knight of the Mirrors who disabuses Quixote of his illusions is strikingly similar to the later O’Brien scenes with Winston Smith. Smith, who looks in a mirror and has a difficult time coming to terms with the person he is, or was, or will be.

 

 

Spring Break 2016

K turned 18!

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Here we are on our way to hear Stile Antico, a UK vocal ensemble specializing in Renaissance music. It was luminous, rich, precise, enchanting; deserving of every laudatory review I’d seen beforehand. The group comes from Cambridge and Oxford; having begun their training in the choral programs there, the 12 singers perform with no accompaniment and no director. The program focused on the music of Shakespeare’s era–very little Shakespearean text was contemporaneously set to music, so the singers wove spoken-word history lessons on William Byrd, the death of Prince Henry Stuart and the subsequent flood of music composed in requiem, and other items of interest in between their numbers.

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A. created a hidden fairy house in the wild corner of the back yard.

All three kids had dog-sitting or dog-walking jobs during spring break.

I took Tolstoy to heart:  “Rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”

 

So proud!

Last night, K won her category (female, junior year in high school, classical) in the Puget Sound chapter competition for NATS.

NATS: The National Association of Teachers of Singing, with members in the U.S. and in more than 30 other countries.

Today, she sang in the honors recital held at Seattle Pacific University.

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She sang Marcello’s “Quella Fiamma”, “Strings in the Earth and Air” (music by Samuel Barber, text by James Joyce), and Debussy’s “Nuit d’étoiles”.

Music

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A’s 6th grade winter percussion performance. My favorite part of these Sakai music nights is when the teacher shows the audience how to create a specific rhythm in order to become part of the performance.

Humans like to percuss; clapping our hands, our homegrown schlagzeugs, is a “remarkably stable” cultural phenomenon.

Last week Devotchka and the Seattle Symphony played to a sold-out, rapt audience that joined in whenever we could: during “The Clockwise Witness” there was a magical moment when the audience’s clockwork clapping melted into silence like we were one gorgeous and sensitive organism.

Lead singer Nick Urata cooly pours his heart out to an audience–in complete control and completely present. That’s irresistible. You can see some of his stage presence even in his KEXP studio recording. It reminds me of what Teller has said about the role of a teacher in generating love for the subject: create astonishment and romance.

Especially in their “Undone“, you can see one source of the magic: they understand dynamics. They know how to shape every phrase.

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It’s a rainy Saturday: perfect for playing along with Devotchka (I’m making some awful sounds but it’s awfully fun).