Fact: In Ireland, the number of families made newly homeless rose from 39 in January 2017 to 113 in August. A total of 1,698 families are now estimated to be living in emergency accommodation across the country, the vast majority of which were either evicted by private landlords or were unable to afford a rent rise.
Released in October of 2018, the film Rosie “tells the story of a young couple and their four children forced out of their home when their landlord decides to sell the property. Over 36 hours, we see Rosie glued to her phone, juggling normal family life while trying to find a room to sleep in.”
Based upon real life accounts, Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter Roddy Doyle put pen to paper giving voice to the increasing number of everyday lower/middle class families being squeezed out of their rental homes into homelessness.
“The potency of the film lies in showing us that the “homeless” are not a caste or tribe whose condition has been ordained at birth, and their situation is not a cosmic punishment for laziness – they are people like everyone else whose situation has been created by economic forces.” From review by Peter Bradshaw
Winter Solstice: a day with the least amount of sunshine potential; the shortest day and longest night; a time of reversals.
To me, the Winter Solstice feels more like the ending of the past year with the dawning of the true ‘new year.’ An organic New Year’s Eve, so to speak. What better time to reflect on the past year, letting go and easing into the ‘new year’ as each day from this point in time gains length.
With these reflections comes the announcement that this will be my final posting for 2018 with an undetermined first post date for the upcoming year. That’s just my convoluted way of saying I’m taking a blogging break!
That said, let us continue.
In reviewing my Morning Pages* over this past year I realized it has been a full and satisfying 12 months. No family or close friends died or declared any horrific medical diagnosis, the selling of my folks’ house went smoothly and the settling of their estate is almost completed, we visited and celebrated with family members and friends throughout the year and throughout the country, and the scary emergencies we did encounter were accompanied by His ‘peace that passes all understanding’ as we walked through those life-paths.
It seems we landed in a junction of respite from several years of elder care, personal pain, disappointments, grief and such.
Fielding the good with the bad, several themes** emerged as well – often revealing forward movement on goals, desires, hopes and dreams; working through the ups & downs of life; grappling with deeper issues in living a purposeful life.
Why then this lingering sense of sadness?
Is it the darkness? The longer nights and shorter days? Grey black skies, claustrophobic fog?
I relish this Winter Solstice evening – prolonged darkness, giving permission to hunker down, and delve into soul searching, validating this yearning to be still and listen to what the Lord through His creation and past events is speaking to me.
Then what is contributing to this heaviness, this disheartening sense of impotence in making a difference in life’s inequities?
Ah yes, of course. Events over this past year, worldwide and oh-too-to-close-to-home local happenings.
Never ending hordes of everyday people fleeing their beloved homeland for a safe place to stay alive…Syrians, Central Americans, Africans…
Governments killing their own citizens in the name of advancing their own personal agenda.
Free world border ‘wars’ using displaced, desperate persons, families & children as fodder for unwinnable negotiations.
Increased homelessness in the midst of hardworking middle class professionals – and all the ramifications of undeserved shame while struggling to continue to survive in an ever increasing hostile American society.
Constant bombardment of Trumpian Temper Tantrums affecting everyday Americans (sorry, I don’t normally specify political opinions…please give me latitude during this Winter’s Solstice)
And yet, this is all not new…the poor have always been with us, the rich and powerful have always manipulated laws to benefit themselves, increasing their wealth and opportunities, to the detriment of everyday people, and, what of the ever presence of war – always with us.
1968 was a bad year – Vietnam War, numerous assassinations, student protests…Decades earlier, WWII, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, the Holocaust…
The world’s suffering is so personal.
And yet, I am reminded:
“God wastes nothing – not even our darkness”
*from which I am taking an indeterminate break also, after 28+ years of faithful jottings!
**my music, hubby’s new business, finding home, strengthening relationships…
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him Psalms 34:8
Inside view of my ‘loaded brownies minus one ingredient’
This edition of the Virtual Brownie Sharing Circle answers the question presented in the first VBSC post: What exactly is the missing ingredient in my ‘loaded brownies minus one ingredient’?
In a word: Lavender. In a story?
—Ooo-La-La Lavender Brownies—
was the number one fav vignette of my little list* for 2012. Since then, I figured out the proportions to be 1/8 cup crushed dried lavender buds added to the Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix, using a large egg in the prep. (see recipe here)
Personally, if I eat more than two, I’ve found that they don’t settle so well on my tummy…kind of reminiscent of their alluded to ‘cousin’ edible. Continue reading
My blogger-poet-friend, Andy, is a native Mancunian. These are excerpts taken from his account of and reactions to this attack of the innocents. Around the time I went to bed the bomb went off.
I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.
There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.
The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep…
…Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted.
Sarah of Art Expedition graciously gave me permission to post her photo and essay on my Giving Voice series. We both stand united against the indifference towards those displaced populations within our respective countries (in addition to the wider world scenario) – and do what we can within our (he)art to Give Voice…
Sarah is a German artist and art historian whose creations delight my senses. As a guest artist for The Strix collective, the following is her interpretation of the given theme: ‘authentic’.
“Das eigene Haus” – “Your own Home”
~ Das eigene Haus – Your Own Home; photo by Sarah, street photography Berlin, 2016 ~
The meaning of art is slightly different in art than for instance what it means in philosophy. Everything I do is authentic, because it was me who did it. Therefore, all I create is authentic. The photograph I choose for this topic reflects what is, to me, authentic in society nowadays.
I took this photo last summer and it has disturbed me ever since. Continue reading
Like many others, I feel at a loss to shape words into coherent phrases expressing outrage, sorrow, compassion and balanced thinking in the midst of our current flood of events in today’s world.
In light of this, as always, my medium of choice is music…and music as protest/social statement has a long history. Yes indeed I, myself, did the singer-songwriter scene in my early adulthood. Coming of age in the midst of another time of social unrest – I still embrace that genre.
Life goes on and in today’s world, my own current brand of compositional expression tends towards instrumental music. Personally, I feel it allows for individual interpretation, un-dictated by lyrical suggestion.
Which leads me to Max Richter, a favorite contemporary composer of mine.
Some time ago I stumbled upon an interview-article with Max published on Fifteen Questions. This on-line journal engages “production experts, performers, journalists, scientists and composers to discuss what music means, how it’s made, where its limits lie, and why it affects us all so differently and yet remains universal” rather than discussing the private lives of artists or their latest releases.
Here are a few of his thoughts to which I relate and are relevant to the subject of this blog post. I encourage those of you interested in musical composition and the driving forces behind it to read the full interview.
Max Richter – interview excerpts and short musical clip
What do you usually start with when composing?
Music for me is storytelling, so I usually start with an intention or something I want to say. From there I kind of struggle around in the dark, trying to find ways to say that. Sometimes it’s a linear thing where I have an idea and then go about trying to find ways to express it. Other times I will discover things along the way and the idea ends up turning into something else altogether. It’s a mixture between intention and chance.
I think the reason I write music is because I’m trying to say things that I find difficult to encapsulate verbally. Music is its own kind of language and it’s very good at saying things that words struggle with, so that’s often the impulse for me.
The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Music is a social art, kind of like talking, but in a way, music as a vehicle for political critique has evaporated in the last 20 years and that’s disappointing.
I think if we’re talking about something in music, we should be talking about the big things that are worth talking about and those things are: the state of the world; how we live and how we spend our time. That’s something that really drives me. For example, the track The Shadow Journal on Blue Notebooks, for me, is a protest song. It was composed and recorded the week after the first big anti-Iraq war march in London. And even though Czeslaw Milosz’s words are actually describing the Second World War, the imagery he used resonated with me at that particular moment in time and so social comment was most definitely the primary motivation behind this piece of music.
Generally speaking though, people are not thinking about music in those terms anymore, not if you compare it to the counter-culture movement of the sixties, when social commentary was one the absolute driving forces of music. It’s a shame and a lost opportunity in many ways.
Herbie (and the Headhunters) Hancock – interview excerpts and musical clip
And then there’s Herbie. Rummaging through some of my paper files a few weeks ago, I came across a Music and Musicians (June 2010) article I kept on hand entitled, “Herbie Hancock: Imagining the future with a plan, a piano and a vision of peace.”
I first heard of him as Herbie and the Headhunters in 1973 during my second year of college (University of Colorado at Boulder, 1972-1977). I fell in love with his ‘new’ funk sound while listening to his Chameleon on the then ‘underground’ Denver radio station KLZ FM.
Give the piece a listen as you continue reading excerpts from that article.
What did you set out to do with this (The Imagine Project) record?
I wanted to make a global record. Although I’ve recorded with artists from other countries at various times, this truly was about emphasizing global collaboration as a path toward peace. I started thinking about America basically being an immigrant country.
Most of us have ancestors who were not from these shores. So we have these issues that are happening now about immigration and closing the borders and locking things down. I understand the motivation – the fear from 9/11 and terrorists. If you couple that with the insecurity that has come about because of the economic downturn, it’s drawing people into a state of chaos.
They’re trying to find ways to blame something, to put it on somebody. I think it’s time to stop looking outside for who to blame…now is the time to proactively begin the process of creating the kind of future we want for our children and for our children’s children. How did you translate those ideals into music?
The first thing you have to do is be willing to be open and to embrace cultures outside of our own. The second thing is respecting the cultures and the people of those cultures. What other ways can we show our respect for other cultures? One of them is through language. It’s why I decided that if I truly wanted a global record, the record couldn’t just be in English…
Today’s World – in conclusion
Max and Herbie’s comments reveal the motivation behind much of an (he)artist’s work.
Communication – whether of a personal social statement or expression of some inner emotional response to life’s experiences – is often the result of a composer’s work; intentional or not.
For most musicians, even if performing non-original pieces, interpretational nuances shape one’s own message to be received by the audience as a gift from the heart.
For myself, my Swimming with Swansproject is one such work…to give voice to the fact that those of us who have experienced or are currently in the midst of a period of displacement in a living situation or even state of mind, are not defined by that but live day-by-day and create works of beauty regardless. And share it with all who will listen.
That’s just who we are and what we do – we count, we matter and we make a difference.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV