Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to Describe a Sunset--or Not

If you go for a walk at sunset and you see the sunset and you want to write about how beautiful it is, what can you say?

In these days of lean writing, people don’t want to read about the sunset being “splendid” or “magnificent.” Too syrupy.

They don’t want to read about its colors--all the shades of pink and gold and yellow and purple and blue. Too inadequate.

And it’s not currently “good” to describe the brightness of the pinks and golds--how the clouds were outlined by the gleaming edge of gold and how the pink and blue lines radiated out in all directions for about one minute.

So how are you supposed to do it?

Should you just say something like “when I saw it, something in me welled up and felt tender, so I told God it was one of his very best” and just leave them to figure out all the rest?

That’s inadequate, too. And what if they can’t imagine it because they’ve never seen one just like it or maybe never noticed?!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anybody Listening?

Look up this story that came in my e-mail at Snopes, for verification:

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning. A young man with a violin plays six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people passed through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

Here's a link to the YouTube video of his performance; he is considered one of the world's greatest musicians.

4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin valued at $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the price of seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.. The questions raised: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made... what else are we missing?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Across to Life

Today’s entry (August 14) on my Mary Engelbreit calendar is a picture full of meaning. I tried to find it on the Internet so I could share it here, but alas, I could not. So I will have to tell you about it.

A little girl is standing on the edge of a sheer cliff that drops off down below into a lush green valley with hills, a river, and mountains. The side where she stands is completely barren, solid gray.

Her side is connected to a similar cliff not far away. The other side is grassy and covered with roses and three or four other kinds of flowers, some hanging over the edge; children, fairies, and elves wearing funny pointed hats; butterflies and dancing rabbits; ferns, mushrooms, a white picket fence, and tree full of fruit and other goodies.

The girl stands at the entrance to the rickety old rope-and-board bridge that she would have to cross to get to the other side--the full-of-life side. Her hands cover her mouth, and her eyes are wide with fear. Her shoulders are hunched.

At the top of the picture are these words by Grace Hansen: “Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid it will never begin.”

I don’t know how Mary Engelbreit would explain this girl’s predicament, but I am assuming that, like literature, her artwork is open to interpretation, and I may, therefore, do what I want to with it. This is what I think:

The girl stands on the barren, gray, empty side, which represents a life without the love of God. She is afraid to leave this way of life because it is all she knows. But she can look across and see the possibilities over there in a life filled with his love. Maybe she doesn’t realize that the joy and peace there can be hers, even in life’s difficulties. She would have problems there, too, of course, but through them all, she would have a rich and fulfilled sense in her spirit instead of that fear and emptiness she has now.

How can she get across the broken, sagging bridge? All she has to do is take the first step, be willing to leave behind her old ways, and go across in belief . As soon as she asks God to make the bridge to support her as she goes, he will touch it and make it new and strong. And there will be great rejoicing when she reaches the other side.

This image is from

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Writers and Readers

I read somewhere recently that more people than ever before are writing and trying like crazy to get their works published.

On the other hand, fewer people than ever are buying books and magazines.

Does that mean everybody is singing and nobody is listening?