Saturday, November 8, 2014


this girl is so beautiful.
Eliza and I attended a concert in May given by the local feminist choir.  She kept commenting on how beauuutiful everyone was, and I sat there with tears streaming down my face pretty much the whole time. It was the first time we'd gone, though people had been telling me about it for years, and I realize now that it was because I can be a real music snob.  Surely they were going to sing gimmicky songs about peace, love and understanding and I knew they were going to wear purple, and I really didn't think I wanted to go. We went because our dear friend Sarah was singing with them and we wanted to support her.  

When they came out onto the risers, we realized we knew so many of the women up there: Margie, who sells apples at market, and Evelyn, who runs the taco truck with her husband, and our neighbor Alisa, whose dogs Eliza sometimes walks! Laura, from dance class, and Gueneviere, from new moon circle, and that woman I see walking all over town, walking walking walking, she was there too. I got shivery seeing all of these women from the community up there together. Already it was powerful.

And yes, they were wearing purple, every possible shade of purple, and Eliza was right: they were all beautiful.

Then they started singing, and it was a rendition of a song the Indigo Girls sing about Virginia Woolf, and I remembered it from my college days and I heard these lines and I started to cry:

They published your diary
And that's how I got to know you
The key to the room of your own
And a mind without end
And here's a young girl
On a kind of a telephone line through time
And the voice at the other end
Comes like a long lost friend

So I know I'm alright
Life will come and life will go
Still I feel it's alright
'Cause I just got a letter to my soul
And when my whole life is on the tip of my tongue
Empty pages for the no longer young
The apathy of time laughs in my face
You say "Each life has it's place"

Clearly, I do not get out very often, but I felt raw and vulnerable hearing their music, and yes, some alto with a rough voice was standing too close to the microphone and it was throwing off their balance and someone else in the sopranos was a little sharp, but they had these beatific smiles on their faces, they were just glowing. 

As if this weren't enough, they wove statements and messages throughout the concert - this is really an uppity group of women, they are fiesty and opinionated, and they had a lot to say about inequality and war and then a mom and daughter came up to the microphone and read aloud a letter they'd written about the Nigerian schoolgirls who had just been abducted.  I so appreciated that their messages were about something, that we weren't just enjoying an evening of music together, we were also holding thoughts about real people and real struggles in our hearts, together.

I've been thinking about this moment lately, because there will be times when I will be alone in my car - once every week, on my way to clean someone's house - and I will listen to the radio on my way there, and every time I am astounded by the depth of sorrow and trouble in the world.  I spent a whole two hours cleaning a few weeks ago with my mind spinning that those girls - those girls they talked about at the concert in May - are still not with their families.  I sometimes have trouble knowing how to carry these thoughts about people who are suffering, while having to go about my daily tasks. It feels wrong somehow that my life should be trucking along while someone else's has been completely torn apart. It is sometimes too heavy to carry.

In September Eliza and I joined the choir, she singing soprano and me in the second sopranos, and tonight we had our first concert.  It was a fundraiser for an organization in town that is the hub of the peace and justice activity for the students and the community, and we were there as entertainment before the auction. It was so much fun, and we were a mind-boggling swirl of purple up there, singing away. 

One of the songs our director had picked out for us to sing talks exactly about my struggle to carry knowledge of suffering in the same brain that is making out a shopping list.  Dan heard it today while Eliza and I were practicing and recognized is as a Lou and Peter Berryman song, from Wisconsin.

Holes in the ozone the size of Brazil
Barges of trash in the chewable breeze
Pools of industrial wasteland pate
Sulfur dioxide dissolving the trees - 
pretty soon it will all end with a boom!
And here I am painting the living room!
(chorus: Why am I painting the living room?)

Indeed.  With humor and wit, the imbalance is acknowledged and the heaviness becomes something easier to carry, because we are all carrying it.  

Tonight while we sang fired up, ain't gonna take it no more! I was singing to a woman at the table in front, who usually sings with us but tonight had only learned one of the songs and so sat out for the rest.  The reason she and her enormous smile weren't up with us the whole time is that she and her family - the ones that run the taco truck - have made room in their lives at a moment's notice to take in a five year old boy from Guatemala who was separated from his father when they were caught trying to enter our country illegally.  His father is in prison and this boy has a guardian angel because there is no one with a bigger heart than this woman, and how she entered his story, I don't know, but he is here, with no english, but a new big brother and parents.  This woman is never without a smile, and I know she carries some deeply dark stuff around with her, doing that balancing act, and singing "first seven years creates a child's foundation, mandatory for a healthy nation",  I was feeling so thankful that she and her boy found each other.

So. This was to be a story of singing with my girl, of finding enough purple to clothe my body, of starting something new and becoming a fiesty woman myself.  It all reminds me of my gramma who loved to wear purple socks and speak her mind and not worry a whole lot about what other people might say about it.  I'm glad to be joining the ranks...

Please tell me that is a "rock star" sign I'm making. 
I'm really trying hard to write a post every day in far so good!


merry said...

I don't know - in my day, that was a very dirty sign!
You both look beautiful in your purple. I feel honored to have been at one of your rehearsals and yes, I caught the meaning of that awesome song. With all that is happening to our friends in Palestine, and the war in Gaza, I have often felt the same way. And now, after that intense conference, I wonder how I can continue to worry about unimportant things while people have had their homes demolished and multiple family members killed and there is no light at the end of their tunnels. The message is important and I hope many in your audience heard it. Knowing who they were, I'm sure they did! Keep up the good work you and Eliza are doing.

alissa said...

You are both beautiful and yes, that is a total metal head rock sign. You rock. Thanks for not talking about your zazoos again.