Thursday, August 30, 2007

denn alles fleisch, es ist wie gras

Originally uploaded by rod lewis
I've been a concert goer all my life, and over the years, I've had gazillions of important musical experiences. But there are a few that either I knew in the moment stood above the rest or have emerged as seminal musical moments that have had huge impact on me in various ways.
One such happened when I first moved to Pennsylvania just before Allison and I were married. I attended a Sunday afternoon performance of the Brahm's Requiem given by a community chorus and Maryland Symphony members in the Chapel at Mercersburg Academy. When we arrived, the place was packed except the balcony, so that's where we sat.
I couldn't see anyone on stage, choir, orchestra, conductor, but was seated directly over their heads with perfectly balanced sound rising up all around me. I sat immersed in soul-engulfing music and stared at the only thing in my sight-line, the window in this photo.
I took this photo last week when Molly and I sneeked into the empty chapel in the dark. I sat in the same seat I did that afternoon 21 years ago to get this photo. I could still hear, "Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras" wafting through the rafters.
If you're at all interested, you can read about a few other musical moments here and here


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


suh weeeeet
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
I bet if I made my living in auto repair, the criteria by which I assess the value, reliability, and usefulness of cars and trucks would quite the opposite of most other people.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
For a relatively short period of our lives, we watch the family transform around us, not fully aware of the impact of losses and gains. We are certainly not aware of the impact we have already made on the family, or of our current place and importance.
But at some point, often early on, reality hits suddenly, and we feel the irreplaceable loss of a family member. Most often, we retroactively understand what we vaguely remember and we feel losses long gone and feel the weight that was borne around us by others.
Or else, we feel the unfathomable joy of a new life brought to the family and we retroactively feel the joy of births we vaguely remember others smiling about. At that point, we have a greater sense of our own place, of what we brought to the family, and of our importance to those around us.
Maybe it seems odd to contemplate death during the joy of a birth. But both are equally natural and necessary. Death causes us to draw together and hang to life. Birth makes us long to share the joy with those who are no longer with us. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a funeral at which I didn’t hear someone remembering and marking time by the birth or childhood of another family member. Likewise, when families gather around new life, I’ve often heard someone express the desire that someone long gone was still around to share in this joy.
I believe that it is only natural that upon experiencing for the first time, the intensity of the joy of new birth, an understanding of the gravity of grief would be awakened. A new life awakens a tighter knit that allows one to understand backward and revisit grief with great intensity. If one’s leap of understanding comes through grief, he is poised to feel more deeply the joy of life in the future. Perhaps it takes each, regardless of the time lapsed between the two, to fully develop the other.
Perhaps a baby is only cute, until we feel loss. Perhaps an elder is merely old until we experience birth. But each measures the other, and the baby represents hope, promise, future, eternity, and the elder represents roots, history, strength, wisdom, backstory and heritage on which our hopes, promises and futures are built.

This weekend I witnessed a quiet, peaceful joyous pride well inside my boys as they basked in the first birth in the family in the era of their understanding. I believe they felt more a part of the family by the addition of a new member.
As we drove up the street to head home on Sunday afternoon, Will asked if we could go see uncle Bill. I pulled the truck over to the side and Will climbed out and walked into the cemetery. He headed straight for Uncle Bill’s grave a couple hundred yards ahead of Jack and me. When we arrived, I saw him standing looking at the headstone.
I was looking at a picture Will had drawn sometime after Uncle Bill’s funeral. I realized that the picture was more than a sad little boy, empathizing with the grief of his family. This was a picture of a boy who for the first time felt what the family felt. He felt the void left by a family member’s passing. That moment of realization was etched into his being. His drawing depicted details of trees, neighboring headstones, fences, and names. But most of all, an emotion, empathy and belonging were etched into his being. It was an understanding that would come to full fruit as he held Carleigh Ryan in his arms and sung to her in his heart.
She whispered to him, “I am everything that never was, the dreams yet unfulfilled, the promises yet to be kept.” And he whispered back to her, “You are here because of who has been, dreams strived for, promises made in the past, in the deep true roots of our tree. You are boundless and free and full of promise because generations have dreamt you to be.”
This was the wisdom and truth exchanged between silent admiring and trusting cousins on a warm, sunny, Saturday afternoon.

We walked back down the hill and climbed in the truck. I drove them to another quiet patch beside the road. – one they’d never seen before, - and got out and sat beside a headstone. Without a word the boys followed me and sat down. After a few minutes of silence, Jack whispered to me, “this is your Papaw and Mamaw,” and he remembered sadness for loss that occurred 20 years before he was born.
He felt the severe fragility and brevity of life in the realization that his great-grandmother had been only 6 years older than I am now. He saw that his Mawmaw was once his age, and felt and understood with his own feelings and understandings, and he caught a glimpse of the events that have helped to shape who she is now. “I’ll be only 21 when you’re that age.”
sovineA few steps away, Will saw his own name on the stone of his great-great-grandfather, 1875-1944, a name that 3 of Walter Cade’s great-great-grandchildren bear.
Families breathe. When a baby is born, her first matter of business is to inhale. Breathe in the breath of life. To breathe out is our last requirement.
When one of our own moves on, the family exhales a sigh of loss and loneliness. We empty a part of ourselves and create a vacuum that we can’t imagine could ever be occupied. When a baby is born, the family inhales the baby-fresh scent of life, the fragrance of hope. The songs of our grandfathers are born again in the hearts of our children.
And we sing.
We choose to sing.
We can’t keep from singing.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

a lettter to the father of my niece

dad and daughter
Originally uploaded by rod lewis

she is beautiful. Truly gorgeous. perfect. miraculous. and I know you feel it.
Anything I ever said about the births of my three pales in comparison to what you're feeling now, because you understand something you never understood.
Like arrows in the hand of the archer, children are a reward from the Lord. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full. Congratulations on your full quiver. You are truly blessed.
Perhaps nothing is as much a nod of affirmation from God than His willingness to entrust you with the care of one of his own.
I beg you to stare at her and don't blink. Dance with her before she ever understands what you're doing. Swing her to sleep while you sing, "black is the color of my true love's hair," and stare deep in her eyes. Attempt to fathom the magnitude of trust and vulnerability that she has in you and pray that you will not betray it even for a moment.
There are equal parts you and Cindy contained in this child. There is physical and spiritual beauty that has obviously come from the mixture of the two of you - of deep love and struggle and grappling and overcoming.
There is also, enshrouding it all, a beauty that can't be understood. That can't be inherited. That you don't recognize, for you haven't seen until today. Each day it will be new and strange and fresh. You had nothing to do with it. It is a beauty that is instilled, that is stamped on her being by her maker and owner, but is entrusted to you to nurture, massage, frame, and protect. To encourage, affirm, praise and pray for. To admire, give thanks, be humbled and learn from.
Don't forget that she understands what you have forgotten. Now is your chance to remember and relearn.
All the confidence in your wisdom, experience, perseverance and fortitude is out the window as you will be humbled at every turn and taught with every diaper how to surrender and give and become selfless.
Love her with everything you've got, because it is from you that she will learn to love.
Hang on every moment.
Live in her understanding of time - the eternal wait until christmas morning, the years that seem to pass for her between August 1 and August 22. Understand that time is relative and that it crawls for her. Then live in that crawling time. Life slows and each moment tastes like ambrosia, and you can experience her wonder. Don't be so quick to teach her the tough lessons of life, but instead learn from her the expectation that all is good and perfect and that all hope will be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, teach her what is right to hope for.
blessings beyond understanding to you my brother.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

have you met carleigh ryan?

meet carleigh ryan
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
I'm an uncle for the first time kids. I've had nieces-in-law for years and years, and I dearly love them. Though I was the first of my sibs to have kids, I was the last to have a niece (I've yet to have a nephew - even nephew-in-law, ahem).

Carleigh Ryan Lewis was born August 22, 2007 at 2:49pm. She was 6lbs 3oz, 19". She is the daughter of Scott and Cindy Lewis, my brother and sister-in-law.
Allison had to work this weekend, of course, and Molly had to dance, so the boys and I drove up to WV to bring her hugs, songs, and a soft, cuddly, stuffed Golden Retriever.

She's almost 3 days old in this photo, but decided to open her eyes to see whose song she was receiving.

Children are a reward from the Lord. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

metro(sexual) transit stop

metro(sexual) transit stop
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
One of those old Greek thinker guys said, (and I paraphrase) that athletics only causes a man to become barbaric, and art only causes a man to become too effeminate.
That knowledge allows society to counterbalance such tendencies. For example, it is always helpful to make the name of an otherwise ordinary, rough-hewn, diesel-smelling, testosterone-soaked truckstop possessive by using the rather more friendly, kindly, welcoming, mature, and dare I say(?), effeminate valentine cartoon heart rather than the old-fashioned, impersonal, grammatically boring, barbaric, male-centric apostrophe.
I really don't understand this. It seems to me that the word "apostrophe" itself is somewhat effeminate, if not downright, seductive.
Each time I scratch an apostrophe, it is not Aristotle or Plato, or even Pitgor, that I think of, but rather Aphrodite, or Persephone, and occasionally Aristophones. I make it a point never to think of Mephistopheles.
I'm telling you grammar is a slippery slope. We'd all be better off if we used cartoon hearts for all forms of punctuation, including but not limited to possession, exclamation, dotted i, umlaut, heartcetera.

(there, is that better /sp?)