Fear and My Jury Duty

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This month I had planned to write about fear and then jury duty happened to me. Again.

This is not my first jury duty rodeo.

Once when I was in my 20s, I got busy with school and did not read the newspapers or talk much with anyone about current events which made me the perfect candidate to sit on a jury for a murder case. I could probably write a blog series on that experience all by itself. Maybe someday I will.

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What I’d like to start with today, though, is how much I rely on and cherish my ability to speak freely. During that (blessedly short) trial in 1995, I was repeatedly instructed not to discuss or investigate the case. I did not until after we found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. (He was something of a small time Ted Bundy. Really.)

In this most recent superior court case, I was again instructed not to discuss the procedings so many times, I thought my eardrums might burst from repetition. Now the instructions included a mind numbing number of electronic ways we should not mess up our empty minds with researching the case or communicating about it.

We also could not discuss what we heard with our fellow jurors. It was almost comical to hear difficult testimony and then go back to our small room to talk about those Seahawks.

In addition to the judge of many words who gave us the instructions multiple times, I sat in the juror number three chair with my legs crossed in front of a laminated print out detailing all the ways I should not communicate and how I could be held in contempt if I did.

I kept my mouth shut until the case resolved, and I noticed something while I stayed mum.

I find it extraordinarily hard to write when someone is constantly telling me to keep my mouth shut.

I’m not saying I think jurors should blab. I’m saying I don’t want to be in a profession (like lawyering) where I feel constrained like that. I’m saying I treasure my ability to speak and write my experiences more than a good number of other things in my life.

And I’m explaining why my blog has been gathering dust on the web.

This month was supposed to be about trying things that scare me. I think I’ve done that by:

1. Passing through security checks multiple times a day at that towering courthouse (they took my lunch fork!).

2. Facing an intense voir dire with potential vocal jurors questioning the process while a prosecutor and pro se defendant asked us awkward personal questions.

3. Once again knowing I might have to make a decision that would affect others’ lives so deeply.

I spent a good deal of time praying for all the players in the stifling drama of the courtroom while fumbling around looking for my own center.

Maybe I need more than a month to write on it or think of what to say with my new found freedom.

For now I’m turning over how much of the story is mine to tell even after I am no longer facing that laminated sign telling me how many ways to hold my peace.

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How to Find Hidden Treasure in a Parking Lot (Without Squishing It)

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My surprise treasure for this week came from driving my mom to and from her cataract surgery.

I took a day off about a month ago to help her get a new eye lens surgically implanted. We both hope this will help her see colors again and do her work as an artist better.

I had waited at a coffee shop for an hour or so in town and was driving back to pick her up from the opthamologist for the drive home when I took a wrong turn into the nearby Fred Meyer parking lot.

I smacked my head with my hand and then told myself that she probably wasn’t ready yet and there really was no hurry. I am glad I reminded myself to slow down.

As I drove around the concrete island, a small fluffy waddling caught my eye just at the front corner of the driver’s side tire.

I stopped.

At first I couldn’t see the mother duck because she had, for some crazy reason, taken her charges directly in front of the wheels of my fat red mini-van.

Then I had the attack of cuteness-overload that comes with seeing baby ducks following their mother.

I jumped out and tried to get their picture without scaring the fluff off of them. While I don’t think I scared them too badly, my pictures are a little less than I would like.

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Still. The waddlers were a treasure.

Later, while waiting on mom for another appointment, my young son and I found an entire duck-filled park hiding behind the Fred Meyer that I had never seen before in all the years of visiting that parking lot. Apparently that was where the van-dodging mother duck was headed.

May you find your own surprises this week and notice them before you squash them.

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How to Find Hidden Treasure

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Most of the books I’ve read about creativity encourage a daily walk. Apparently this is how many of the greats get (or got) their inspiration, and a recent Stanford study even found a strong correlation between walking and creativity.

I usually prefer to run, pound the pavement, and fly along (granted a slow flight because of my rather short and un-runnerlike build). Running lets me escape, working off whatever ails me. I will always love it as long as I am able to do it.

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Legs for walking or running.

But this year my hip told me to forget it, so I’ve joined the walking masses and found, instead of an escape, a deeper connection to the world that lends itself to creating stories, music and pictures.

Walking, in fact, turned out to be a treasure hunt where the doubloons show up as surprises when I am least looking for them.

Inside I feel like this kid whenever I find something small but grand.

Inside I feel like this kid whenever I find something small but grand.

At times my treasure comes in the form of new and fresh ideas for a story or essay I’m working on. Much more often it comes in the form of some slice of beauty I find in a bit of nature or a person who catches my eye because they radiate joy.

Here is one of my most recent gold coins. I almost stepped on him but instead jumped back at his shape and swirling colors. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a snail like this before out of doors. He begged a picture the second I managed to avoid squashing him flat.

Not only do I find these hidden wonders on the road, but something about the act of moving my legs and going outside cracks open my mind and rewires it ever so slightly so that when I do sit down to my projects, I am ready to create.

I think those greats and the Stanford researchers are on to something with this walking idea. I might even rethink how often I run and add more walking as the hip (finally!) heals.

This month I’ll share some of my discoveries with you.

May you find treasures all your own-

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The Art/Prayer Intersection Part Four: The Spiritual Terror of Performance Art

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My hands freeze and I start shaking about 30 minutes before a performance.

Last weekend this nervous reaction came as I sat quaking at the back of a room filled with my dear friends in a women’s retreat in Port Orchard. My hands felt so stiff and cold I wondered if they would be able to move across the keys.

Gail saw me trying to warm my fingers and kindly offered to hold my hands in her toasty palms. That helped. A little.

“What in the name of everything holy was I thinking when I said I’d do this?” I asked myself.

But I knew what I was thinking before. I had wanted to play because I so enjoyed choosing the music and practicing it with my trumpet/piano playing son. I enjoyed picturing in my mind how I would play, and the way I might give a gift of music to those who heard me.

And as soon as I got up there to introduce my music the blood began to move back toward my fingers.

The playing was even better. It felt like singing out what was in my heart to touch others sitting nearby.

It was the first time I had chosen my own music for an audience. It was the first time anyone had cried when they heard me play. And it was the first time people had danced to my music. 

Those firsts were worth the cold fingers.

The terror of a performance art comes wrapped in the complete exposure to an audience. Unlike writing or drawing, I cannot revise or decide mid-way through this isn’t the piece I want to share.

Sometimes, though, that terror morphs into a joy that the other art forms cannot match. I connect with people in live time in a way that transcends all else. I experience a moment when the audience members wrap their hearts around me and warm my soul.

Because of this, playing my clarinet is one of the best prayers of all.

I did not record myself. That kind of internet terror I am not ready for yet, spiritual or not. Here, instead, are others playing the two pieces I chose.

May you know that these players, too, are receiving your gift of listening even as you hear the sounds of their music.

For the sorrows of life:

For the joys:

If you’d like to hear the terror live, I’ll be playing with the Puyallup Community Band on Friday, May 15th from 7:30-9:00pm at the First Christian Church in Puyallup near the fairgrounds.

I probably won’t have the cold fingers, though, because I’ll be tucked into a crowd of others singing their hearts into their instruments. The guy with cold fingers might be the spectacular tuba soloist Andrew Rink.

Here’s his picture and a link to his bio. His music is even better. 

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http://www.puyallupvalleycommunityband.org/student_soloist/2015.html

Art/Prayer Intersection Part Three: Fiber Arts

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For spring break last week I went with my mom and youngest son to Sequim,Washington out on the Olympic Peninsula. We had a marvelous time looking at where I lived until I was five, indulging in nostalgia and walking out on the Dungeness Spit where the waves crashed along over 5 miles of sand bar.

As we drove through the old downtown Sequin, my mom said those dangerous words:

“This looks like a place that has a knitting store!” 

Sure enough. We found A Dropped Stitch and the friendliest knit store owner ever (Really! I could tell she loved her job, wanted to be there and she even helped me entertain my kiddo so I could shop. 5 stars for her!!).

The moment I touched the chenille I knew I was lost to another project. The Bella Chenille is soft like those throw blankets you can find in the stores around Christmas – the ones my boys fight over when they want to lounge on the couch.

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Universal Bella Chenille Tropical Mix

When I work with yarn, I have an intense sense of calm connection. Perhaps it’s because of all the twisting and weaving and how each stitch combines to create a larger pattern. Transforming the yarn reminds me of that sweet (okay and sappy) song from the Prince of Egypt movie.

“A single thread in a tapestry
Through its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design.”

(‘Through Heaven’s Eyes’ by Brian Stokes Mitchell)

I can’t help but think of how we are all woven together as I click those needles and work the patterns in the varied and sundry places I go. 

At one point, I tried to write out for my niece all the locations I had been while crocheting a pink shell blanket for her. I struggled to explain the way I did a sort of extended praying in color for her while in the jury duty pool, of all places.

I don’t write these sorts of things out for people anymore. I simply hope they can feel my good wishes for them as they wear or use what I’ve made in study sessions, sitting at doctors’ offices and waiting in a coffee shop while my mother has cataract surgery. 

Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient in the handmade that we love so much and (hopefully) are willing to pay a bit more for: love.

May you find joy in making your gifts.

May you find the love wrapped in the gifts given to you.

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Still in the ripping and pulling stage of learning the pattern

Still in the ripping and pulling stage of learning the pattern

Art/Prayer Intersection Part Two: Knowing When to Call it Good

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by Sydney Zylstra

It wasn’t easy to get my mom to let me use her pictures and, looking at these, you might be surprised at the reason why.

“They aren’t right,” she said.

I could feel she meant they aren’t perfect. They aren’t the flawless beauty that she had in her imagination when she began the work.

I told her that of course they weren’t. Our creations are never as perfect as we imagined they would be or as we wish they were.

Then I assured her that my readers are not art critics (that I know of).

I pushed forward when I still heard her hesitate and told her of Iris Murdoch’s quote:

“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”

I could hear her relaxing at the thought of other artists with the same struggles. She decided to send them my way to share with you, imperfections and all.

And since I’m thinking about art and prayer this month, I started to turn over what God said about creation in the first chapter of the Genesis story.

Over and over there is this line:

“And God saw that it was good.”

No where does it say that it was perfect or even the best. Just good.

I am so grateful my mother decided to let you see these. They are not perfect. But they are good.   

May we all declare our work ‘good’ while knowing when it’s time to make it better.

May we also know when we should let it go out into the world for others to love or not while we move on to the next good work in front of us.

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