He who sings, prays twice: Cancer and faith

The last hour before you start a theater show looks crazy.  Everyone is getting into costume and doing their makeup in front of too few mirrors. People are making sure their props are in the right place.  Actors with mikes sing for the mike check.   The run crew makes sure the lighting, curtains, etc. are correct.  The orchestra and the singers warm up. Everyone is excited and rushing around.  The house opens and the audience starts to arrive.  Everything gets quieter backstage, but the excitement still simmers.  

Finally, the lights go down.  The orchestra starts the overture.  Everything quiets down backstage.  The actors get into place onstage and in the wings.  You focus on what you're about to do.  It's like you're suspended and waiting to move.

In that beautiful moment of suspension, focus, and anticipation, I often (okay, almost always) have some of my most focused prayers - that the show will go well for everyone, that the audience will enjoy it, that cast members who are sick or sad will be able to enjoy the show...

...and thanksgiving.  Those are some of my most thankful prayers - particularly during this summer's show since I wasn't even sure I'd be able to sing again last fall after my surgery.

I don't know that I've written about this before because... well, your best prayers are supposed to be at church, right?

After not being able to go to church for months after my partial thyroidectomy last year (post here), I embrace any way that I can worship.  I've always thought that one can encounter God all over, not just in church.  But after months of being too dizzy and exhausted to make it through a formal service, I now enthusiastically advocate meeting God anywhere and everywhere.

Otherwise, only the healthy can encounter God in a significant way!  If you can only meet God in a long church service after a drive which exhausts you, that leaves those with health problems out in the cold.  If you look at the stories about Jesus, leaving the sick out is not following Jesus! 

I've always liked physical expressions of faith - making the sign of the cross, kneeling for prayer (before I had knee surgery), genuflecting, etc.

During my long recovery from surgery, I started feeling like genuflecting at places other than in the Nave at church. 

At Ayr Mount in the spring...


...at family dinners, at choir rehearsals (I could go to rehearsals long before I could last through a formal service), while doing short hikes in the mountains, out in the gardens, etc. - anyplace I felt thankful and closer to God.

 At various churches, we've heard all sorts of things about how and why to pray to God:  To remind God of His promises (evangelical); adoration, petition, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession (Catholic), because the Bible tells you to, etc.

Since my surgery, pat answers about prayer seem even further away.  Petition?  Walk around the Duke Cancer Center and see the small,tired children with bald heads and large stuffed animals being wheeled around in strollers or wagons by their parents.  Why was my cancer solved by surgery, and their treatment goes on and on?  I don't know.  There are few prayers that are more fervent than the prayers of those parents.  

I still pray.  Mostly for other people, a bit for me, lots of thanksgiving.  I pray because... God.  

There's really nothing else to add.

Praying in a church at a service is nice - it's pretty and inspirational.  I no longer believe that it's essential - because anything that leaves out the sick can't be the only way to God.

I still believe the Eucharist is important, but - and here's the difficult part for me - I no longer believe that it's essential because anything that leaves out the sick can't be the most important way to God.

My faith at this point is expressed in two ways.  

First, by taking care of people.  After not being able to do much of that for months, it's so wonderful to be able to do.  Those of you who were in this year's musical saw that on overdrive this summer.  I recorded music to help people learn it, had the altos over to my house to work on music, hosted set painting work evenings in our garage, sewed, and I'm now going through the over 1,000 photos that my husband took at a dress rehearsal to edit the best ones for the cast.

Taking care of people - and almost all of that could be done at home because my energy isn't back to lots of running around yet.

Second, by singing to God.  That's where the title quote from St. Augustine comes in.  After the post-surgery possibility of totally losing my voice, singing is even more important that it was before.  Whenever I sing, and whatever I sing, I'm always singing to God.  It doesn't matter if it's an Alleluia, a choir anthem, a musical theater audition, blending my voice with others in the chorus of a show, or singing along with a song by P!nk.  I'm always singing to God.


[Note:  I wrote this a year ago, after I was in a local production of Li'l Abner.  After not being able to sing for four months the previous fall/winter because of my partial thyroidectomy, I actually got my first solo singing role in a theater production!  Being with my theater family that summer and being able to help out so much, was very healing for me after a long year of a slow recovery (and choir helped immensely over the spring, even though I wasn't well enough at that point to make it through a long Sunday morning).  A year later, after two more wonderful musical theater experiences (Ragtime and Annie), I've come back to this post, and it's still pretty much what I believe.  I'll be looking for a church closer to home (hopefully) in the next year or two.*  What I'm looking for in a church hasn't really changed from what I've always wanted, but I'm finally being really open about what I feel is what I should do with this time I have been given.  More on that in future posts, but, it's really all here in this one.  Singing and helping people.]

 * Younger son has one more year of homeschooling left so I'm not splitting my focus at this point.  Also, we've always rushed into joining churches, and I'd like to do things differently this time.  

"Flight of the Bumblebee" - Sandy Feat/Sir James Galway/Canadian Brass

Yesterday, younger son and I headed over to the West Point on the Eno park in Durham to see the sand sculpture from the Festival for the Eno.*  Every year, the sand sculpting group, Sandy Feat, makes a large sand sculpture about the yearly Festival theme.  This year, bees were the theme (click here).  


 The bees are launching one of their number with fireworks, bombs, and explosives.  

DSC09633This one is giving the rider a boost.

DSC09634The stinger of the rider.

DSC09636The other side

DSC09637Since they have four "arms," this one can light the explosives with one claw...

DSC09638...while covering its ears with two more.



I always enjoy the sand sculpture, but, this year, I really got a kick out of it because the name is from one of my favorite classical pieces to play on the flute.  

Back in 1981, as reported by the New York Times, the flutist, Sir James Galway, challenged the Canadian Brass to see which could play Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee the fastest:  

It all began last weekend at the Chautauqua Music Festival in upstate New York when James Galway, the Irish flutist, played ''The Flight of the Bumblebee'' in 52.45 seconds. Mr. Galway challenged the Canadian Brass to play the Rimsky-Korsakov piece faster.

''We were at a distinct disadvantage Tuesday night when we accepted the challenge,'' Chuck Daellenback, a tuba player with the Canadian Brass, said yesterday in Toronto.

''I play the piece on the tuba, and not only is the instrument unwieldy, but halfway through my hand gets cramped, and Ronnie Romm, our trumpeter, must continue the fingering while I continue to blow the horn.''

The Canadian Brass was clocked at 60.05 seconds, but Mr. Daellenback figured that because of all the problems involved playing ''The Flight of the Bumblebee'' on the tuba, ''we were entitled to an eight-second handicap and we declared ourselves the winners.''

Then, on Tuesday night in Toronto, the Canadian Brass tried harder and huffed and puffed its way through in 55 seconds. 

One of  Sir James Galway's Bumblebee videos:


Canadian Brass:



2007 Festival sand sculpture post


 * I'm still not really sweating (since my partial thyroidectomy) so, unfortunately, I wasn't up for going to the Festival in upper 80's & really humid weather this year.  

Ayr Mount: November 6, 2016

I hate it when we lose an hour of afternoon sunlight in the fall.  No more sunny evening walks with dear husband except on weekends.  We made the most of our late afternoon walk today by going to Ayr Mount.  The light was beautiful!

DSC04415saI'm so happy that we haven't had the first frost yet!




DSC04425saThe Eno River





DSC04444Brugmansia blooming in the garden behind the historic house.

Bass Lake - Cone Manor in Blowing Rock, NC: Part 1

We took a number of late afternoon hikes at the Bass Lake in the first two weeks of October.  We were there for our usual fall vacation.  The first two days were foggy and rainy because of the rain system the southeast had for two weeks.  After that, though, we had some of the most beautiful weather we've ever had there.  

 October 4, 2015


DSC08012They were rebuilding the heart ponds last year so it was great to see them this year.

DSC08017The stream was very full.


October 6, 2015


This was the first year we'd ever seen crayfish in the heart ponds.


DSC08158aThere were a lot of wonderful mushrooms after all the rain.

October 8, 2015




"A Drop in the Bucket: Big Dreams of Tiny Things" - Paperhand Puppet Intervention

A lot has happened the last few months* so I haven't been blogging.  However, a new, wonderful, Paperhand show can get me blogging again!

Here are some of my favorite photos from tonight's show.  Shows continue on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings at 7 pm (and some matinees) at the Forest Theater in Chapel Hill - through September 7 - with performances at the Art Museum in Raleigh the following weekend.  For more details, check their website.  

DSC07234sSome of the Tiny Things












* Having a wonderful time being a Hot Box Girl in a community theater production in July and a not wonderful time with a partial thyroidectomy two weeks ago.  I'm healing well, though (so far).  

The most wonderful idea

I always get excited by the first daffodils and crocuses of the spring - particularly after really cold winters like this last one.

DSC08490sDaffodils at the bottom of the back steps - March

When we get to the dogwoods and azaleas blooming, I want to squeeze every bit of bloomy goodness out of the season.


 Duke Gardens - last Wednesday

Things calm down a little bit in the later spring.  Not too much, though - I love the columbines all over the yard.  

Columbines in the front yard (all the rest of the photos are from this afternoon)


Forget-me-nots and columbines


Columbine and star of Bethlehem


Later-blooming azaleas in the backyard


I bought this 12 years ago as a 6" tall, pitiful, heavily discounted azalea.  It's happy where it is, and it spreads all over


Lily of the Valley is my favorite scent

We ate lunch outside today.  Every year, after the first rush of daffodil/dogwood/azaleas blooms is over, it always hits me that this will last until late October.  For the next six months, something will be in bloom somewhere in the yard!  

What a wonderful idea!

Ayr Mont - March 29, 2014

I love NCAA games!  Ayr Mont was so nice and peaceful this afternoon - hardly anybody else there!  I think they were all watching the game.


Bulbs are coming up all over the place.


Only a few more weeks to enjoy the tree skeletons




The trail


More bulbs in the woods






The pond (all those little dots in the water - about a third of the way up - are turtle heads)




Field pansies (dear husband took this photo)