Thursday, June 29, 2006


I got my body out of storage in the last few weeks and propped it up on my old red Schwinn. Unfortunately the time it spent in storage left quite a bit of superfluous pork stored inside it. This 24-year-old, 200 pound (yes, I admit it – I blame it on being married somehow) body can still pedal like an Amish boy not yet 18, but the hills leave it gasping.

It’s worth it. To see Central Park asleep under the glaring lights of the half awake and still very proud (we are the center of the universe. watch us leave 50 floors [un]conscious [of the electricity we waste] all night) towers of Midtown when I wheeze into the Metropolitan Museum at East 80th Street for my night shift.

The morning ride shows me a different city. Sweaty bodies trundling under very green trees, the scent of jasmine (?) in the air. The margins of the Hudson River Park bike path are populated by weed-whackers and Cub Cadets which bring back the very Midwestern scent of grass freshly-cut. The mixing of the tide with upstate flood waters to my left fills the air with a brackish freshness which is incongruent with the traffic jam on the Henry Hudson to my right. No matter. The cathedral at 125th Street looms in front than behind. A duck that looks like a loon ducks it head for a fish. The sail of a yacht under the George Washington is reflected white in the river like Monet’s Sailboats at Argenteuil. I move faster than an upstream barge which is losing ground to a tugboat. And I am cruising – downhill to Dyckman Street in the classic “look ma no hands” pose of a tired but elated New Yorker home from work.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Wenger Releases New Recording

When Did They Go?

When did they go far away from me?
When did they go far away, far away from me?
Life and love, ah . . .
Far distant wind I feel

When did they go far away from me?
When did they go far away, far away from me?
Hope and sight, ah . . .
Far distant wind I feel

Matthew Wenger says that pleasure in the process is what gave him the courage to put together his latest recording of folky, multi-layered yet minimal rhythms and harmonies. Yet the pleasure does not remain only in the experience of the artist alone; When Did They Go? offers an interesting and at times mesmerizing experience in sensible listening. That is to say it speaks to the senses by bridging gaps between sound and metaphor, abstract feeling and real life.

Thinking in this vein, the title track When Did They Go? is of particular importance. The song, which Matthew writes in the liner notes was his “first attempt to write a song about the experience of depression,” gives one the feeling of wistful nostalgia, painful regret, yet a trace of something to come. The song evokes movement in and out of time as it moves across the landscape of memory, the ebb and flow of emotion. Matthew’s tenor in the main is clean and uninhibited yet wanders at times, hesitating on the phrasing of “life and love” for instance. This does nothing to diminish the listening experience, rather it enhances the song by manipulating the tonal nuance and thereby increasing the listener’s sensitivity to the subject of the song, the medium through which it is expressed and the artist himself. The essential quality of the work is both brave and persuasive.

The first song, Traveler, a cover of a Fernando Ortega song is another of my favorites. Matthew says he dedicates the song to his sister Shannon, who is currently living in Russia. By compiling these recordings, it seems to me that Matthew is living out for his sisters Shannon and Dawn, who live half way around the globe, the last line of Ortega’s lyric on the slippage of time and place: “I long for my family and friends to remind me of where I have been and where I am going and where I come from.”

Finally I’m thoroughly enamored with the vocals of the Amish-Mennonite Irishwoman whom Matthew recruited for his rendition of Tread Softly by the folk group Grada. Olivia sings straight through with a clarity that does nothing to disguise her meaning. Thought of in the context in which she and Matthew work, Oscar Wilde’s lyric on life both above and “under the snow” is profound.

When Did They Go? is an artful, thought provoking and sensitive foray into the soul of Matthew and the place he inhabits. Lyric’s “excellent musicality” assures us that it will not be the last compilation Matthew puts together. In the future, we will need another recording to tell us Where They Went Next.

Authors note: When Did They Go? is not available for anyone to purchase as far as I know. You’ll either have to come over to our place or Matt and Olivia’s if you want to hear it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Thoughts on the marriage of Brent and Dawn Miller

I remember a discussion I had with Brent and his little brother Derrick about 14 years ago in the parking lot of Son Light Chapel. We were in the back seat of their gray minivan on a gray night – it looked like it could rain. Zeb and Zach had just started coming to our church. And we were not yet friends with them. So after making fun of the Yoder boys, our thoughts turned to the topic of “who is the best person in the world.” I put the question to Brent, who after some thought, said “well, after God and Mom+Dad, I think it’s Ryne Sandberg.”

Perhaps after what we witnessed today it’s safe to say that Dawn has replaced Ryne Sandberg on the top of Brent’s list of Best People.

Who is Brent?

Star little league pitcher, collector of Ryne Sandberg baseball cards, Pennsylvania Dutch speaker, fierce competitor, weight lifter, shortstop or second baseman, frustrated golfer, hutch maker, willing worker, easy going volley-ball player, purveyor of world socio-politics, loyal friend, husband of Dawn.

I grew up with Brent. I’ve seen him grow and change over time. I’ve seen him with his face smashed in by a softball that took a bad hop. I’ve seen him limp around wounded after a surgery to straighten out a hernia somewhere near his stomach. I’ve heard him describe wrecking a dark blue Probe on a gravel-strewn, rain-swept road outside of Mt. Hope on his way to Wes Miller’s old place. I remember the time 12-year-old Brent thought that jumping off our 12-foot-high balcony onto our old dark-red bean bag wouldn’t hurt. I’m not sure the bean bag or Brent were ever the same.

Maybe becoming married is bit like jumping off a balcony onto a bean-bag. It might knock the wind out of you. Being with someone other than yourself everyday, every night, and every moment in between can leave a person gasping for air. You might have to learn to breathe all over again. Sharing your soul with someone else is hard; it takes guts. But I wouldn’t trade the security, confidence and love I share with my wife for any of the brief moments of exalted manliness I’ve experienced before when winning a debate, beating the other team, climbing a mountain, or jumping off a balcony. Sharing love and life with someone else is not an achievement in as much as it is a state of being. Becoming married is in its essence becoming a different person. To use the Biblical terminology “becoming one flesh” is the merging of two people into a new and different mode of being.

I don’t know your wife well Brent, but based on my travels with her and others in the backwoods of Laos a few years ago – she doesn’t complain much. It seems to me that if you want to continue jumping off balconies and the like, she might just jump with you.

But your identity is no longer yours to shape alone. Almost every decision you make in the future will be colored by her opinion. You’re not free to merely be the guy who loans-his-Lexus-to-friends-from-New York when they need some wheels and you feel like being generous. Not only are your things no longer yours alone; your time is not longer yours either. Now you’re the husband of a woman, another person, another soul.

Speaking from a year of experience, you better not treat being/becoming married like you did jumping of the balcony – it probably will hurt sometimes. And you definitely better not treat your wife like you did our old bean bag.

Friday, June 09, 2006

We Hear Tuvans!

(LISTEN TO TUVANS HERE) Love Will Tear Us Apart

Jennifer says: "look, there go the Tuvans (pause) I can't believe we heard them."

there go the Tuvans

Albert Kuvezin started the South-Siberian Tuvan throat singing band, Yat-Kha, many moons ago. He is the guitarist and singer of Kanzat, his special style of kargiraa khoomei. When he was a little boy he was thrown out of the choir and told never ever to sing again. But he decided to get a guitar and start singing again anyway despite objections from the ideology department of the Russian communist party.

Nobody else in Tuva can sing like Albert, perhaps it is because his style is closer to some of the singing in the Khakass, just north of Tuva. His father, Budachy (he who likes soup) Kuvenzin, took Tuva to the quarter-finals as a coach and player in the all-Russia volleyball competition. He is the best Tuvan volleyballer of all time.
His mother's family came from the Tuvan/Khakass border high in the narrow gorges of the Sayani mountains where the river Ust-Usa meets the storming river Yenisei. But when he was 7 years old the Soviets built the greatest hydro-electric Dam in the world - Sayano-Shushinskoye - and the whole of this area was flooded forever.

Now there is a huge lake (but only in summer - not in winter and spring when you can still see the old drowned towns). His family moved to Shagonar (or Rio de Shagoneiro as they like to call it). This is where he grew up in the long hot summer months playing down by the waterside where there are many interesting plants.
From the lake you can see "Hairukn" - the great bear mountain which sticks up out of the steppe and which is sacred to all Tuvans. From here the Yenisei flows north to the cold wastes of the tundra and the Arctic Ocean.

this event was made possible by:

Friday, June 02, 2006

Portrait of a Man, ca. 1590–1600 El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Greek, 1541–1614)Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1924 (24.197.1) Metropolitan Musuem of Art, New York
Imagining the soul of a person

jaedon mast - 05.31.2006

chad meyers - 03.21.2006

great uncle paul, ca. 1910s

How does the soul of a person look? Through it’s eyes? It seems as though the eyes of a person are the closest we can get to seeing the neurons of the brain, the seat of the mind, the center of consciousness, the origin of the individual soul. Honesty is found in the eyes. “Look into my eyes,” we say, “and tell me that you love me.” We see the souls of others by looking into their eyes.
Thomas Merton speaks of seeing “with the eyes of my soul wide open.” It is in this state that he realizes he is in the paradise of “simplicity, self-awareness—and self-forgetfulness—liberty, peace.” We become conscious of our souls when we permit (and we are permitted to allow) our souls to be awakened and attuned to the voice of God—to the “inexplicable, quite definite inner certitude of one’s call to obey Him, to hear Him, to worship Him here, now, today, in silence and alone, this is the whole reason for one’s existence, this makes one’s existence fruitful and gives fruitfulness to all one’s other good acts.” This is the ransom and purification of one’s soul, which has been blind, deaf, dead, in sin. This is the joy of imagining, of seeing, the solitary soul.
I realize that a picture is a distortion of a thousand words—a sequence of space-time, but it can also be a framing of an individual world, the freezing of an individual clock. It can allow the subjective self to hover outside of the temporal and the spatial—an eternal moment. These three images were captured within the last three months. The last one however, is an image of an artist’s rendering of the soul of Great Uncle Paul after his body was no longer embodied.