Constance Ore is a retired Teacher, Choir Director, and Organist. And a formidable cook.

August 25, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 11:42 pm on Tuesday, August 25, 2009

School’s beginning signals summer’s end. This summer of 2009 is going to be placed into our record books by the wonderful organ composition created by Charles Ore, the composer. He began with the unlikely hymn “Rock of Ages”. I think the phrase “When I soar to worlds unknown” called to him because we had been in discussion about what happens after death, and this imagery evokes wonderful things. The poetry is attributed to Augustus Toplady who lived in the 1700’s, and the hymn also contains enough obtuse and tortured imagery that many of the pastors I worked with avoided using the hymn entirely. (i.e. “Foul, I to the fountain fly” . . . I always thought perhaps it should have read, “Fowl”, considering the flying part)

Charles has named his piece “Glory Rock” and divided it into five parts. The first, called “Rock” uses the familiar melody, but placed into a classic rock format. The second movement is titled “Could my zeal no respite know”, from the hymn text, but here presented with an ironic touch. Then comes “The double” (“Be of sin the double cure” is the poetry – the movement dances between melody and echo patterns). At the beginning of the fourth movement the piece adds melodic material from the Battle Hymn of the Republic; “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” and this part is called “The coming”. The composition concludes with “When I soar to worlds unknown” and this is the most extraordinary part of all. Here Charles uses a double pedal, right foot outlining “Rock of Ages”, and left foot playing “Glory, glory, hallelujah” while the hands are doing incredible fast patterns in the manner of French toccata material and reminiscent of Arthur Honegger’s symphonic poem “Pacific 2-3-1”. After he developed the piece, Charles invited me to come and hear him play it on the new organ that fills the front of the recital hall at Concordia. Since then, I have repeatedly asked him to play it for me because it is such a splendid experience. As I watch the Casavant making the music, I can see it responding to the man at the console. When the piece begins with powerful, large, low and strong chords, the organ plants its feet solidly and says, “I can do ROCK”. In the second movement, where the sounds are playful, it almost seems to smile, and then as the piece builds and builds, it truly seems to become one with the player. As the echo of the huge final chord dies away, the organ seems to settle back in contentment saying, “My, that was fun!”

(This composition should be recorded for sharing sometime this fall.)

August 18, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 6:43 pm on Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The best memory of last week’s celebration of our 49th wedding anniversary is the sight and sound of Heidi, Jon, Zoie and Kira all together in our walk-in shower talking, laughing, and shrieking (Kira) as they photographed a tree frog that Jon spotted on the roof deck of our house. The top of our house is thirty plus feet high, and seeing a frog up there was a great surprise. Jon caught it and brought it down into the living area, and to the sound of Charles’ “Don’t let that frog loose in the house!” took it into the shower area so he could open his hands and show it to the family – it was there they saw that the beautiful little creature had suction cup feet and was climbing up the tile walls. We identified it as a Cope’s gray treefrog, and because it is a night creature and hides itself well, it is rarely seen, and certainly not so close up and personal. After the adventure, the frog was carried outside to resume its reclusive life.

There was a feeling of sadness when the wrens departed last week leaving a much quieter space behind. The last swallow fledges left the nest also, and we didn’t see or hear them either. We thought they took flight immediately, and wondered how the young birds could begin to migrate so soon, but yesterday evening, after the sun had set behind the trees, I was out filling the bird feeders when I looked up to see the whole family swooping and dipping in every direction above the house. They were up high enough so that they were still in the sunlight, and the scene looked joyful and splendid. None of them have come back to sit upon the porch mobiles where they spent a lot of time all summer long – I thought perhaps they were saying goodbye before embarking on their very long journey southward to Argentina and beyond.

Life for me at this point might be compared to a vessel of water that has minute cracks in it from which the liquid seeps out. Some of the cracks are those brought about by aging, and the others are the disease slowly easing away the life force. My monthly blood readings indicate that this is the case. Our GP calls to visit about the readings and I am told that as one of the most vulnerable persons around, when the flu vaccines are made available I am at the very top of the list. “Just think” I say to Charles, “I have finally and at long last become Number One!” Here in Nebraska being No.1 is a big deal, but I do not anticipate acquiring the large Styrofoam hand with the pointer finger extended upward, nor the accompanying cap. I remain thankful for the good days as they come, always pleased that I have dear family, friends, and yes, also Alphie and Sanctuary with its abundant creatures to bring me laughter, music, good food, fine conversations, and beauty – all continuing reminders of what a blessed life God has given me.

August 11, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 10:16 am on Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mid-August is a time when most of the birds are completing their summer task of getting their fledges out and about, and there is not a lot of bird song to be heard because territories are no longer an issue. Our swallow family with its nest above the door to the second floor living area has outdone itself this year, with the rearing of three sets of offspring instead of the usual two. The last fledges are still sitting “at home” and making a huge mess on the floor below. As I write this, there are about eight swallows madly chittering and swirling around in and out the porch area, past my window, and past the nest. It looks as if the entire extended family is encouraging these last little ones to take flight so they all can go on their way.

There are thousands of reflections on “happiness”, but the one that has stayed in my mind is Allan Chalmers’ “The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for” changing the middle phrase to “someone to love”. It fits my present reality very nicely. In these days, I have a growing loss of energy and unease within the lungs and stomach. I am anemic, but I have not reached the point of needing blood transfusions. “Bone tired” seems to apply – it is an inner feeling of weariness that sleep cannot assuage. This means another reinvention of how life needs to be lived, and the “something to do” part of the happiness equation will need to take place sandwiched between chunks of resting time. The brain goes merrily onward, planning dinners, weeding flower beds, playing the piano, and taking Alphie about just for the fun of it while the physical self sits very quietly, resting. The gifts of having a good number of “someone(s) to love” and the faith that always defines “something to hope for” is why I am still here, living long past the medical community’s prognosis for this illness. I hope all who read this have “something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for” too, as summer grows tired and we begin to prepare for autumn and the changes that a new season will bring.

August 4, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 9:07 am on Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We came back to Sanctuary via Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park, accessed by driving through Yellowstone. The inevitable gathering of cars blocking off the road disgourging people running with cameras to capture the essence of a single moose occurred as it has every time we have driven through the park. We have never joined this group, though the day may come when we sit here on a winter’s evening and say, “If only we had gotten a picture of that moose last summer”. Perhaps not.

We have driven the Rockefeller Parkway through the Grand Teton Park a number of times, but we had not stopped before, and this time we wanted to spend a bit of time by one of the lakes and view those incredibly photogenic mountains. Looking at all the boats lined up and awaiting the travelers who would board them to either fish or go across the water to hike up into the valleys, I wished that we had come sooner in our life times when we might have put on backpacks and trekked forth to the snow lines. There were many warnings about the presence of bears, and the stores had classy mace containers with which one might spray a bear and then commence to flee should that be necessary. Before, when we went camping with the children in these sorts of places, we had bear bells that we could ring while walking and singing, sounding like demented monks and driving away all possible wildlife in the area – I have no recollections of meeting either bird or beast on those hikes.

Sanctuary remains green and dense with growth everywhere, presenting us with a very different place than the sweeping vistas of Montana, Wyoming and western Nebraska. We have also had humid and warm weather, another contrast to the cooler, dryer air of the mountains. Yet it is grand to be home with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini from the garden and a happy Alphie running ahead on the paths. The grasses and wild flowers in the meadow are full of many colors and textures, and they bear names that attest to their variety – Fleabane, Partridge Pea, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Blazing Star, Panic Grass, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, Side-Oats Grama and Indian Grass. This is not a complete list, but it does illustrate that a prairie land is anything but a simple green.

The trip was more tiring than I anticipated, with an intensification of the bone and muscle pain, and an ongoing unease about the possibility of infections that might come forth in unexpected ways. I wore the surgical mask whenever inside with gatherings of people, and we avoided nearly all restaurants with Charles becoming the king of carry-out. I was mostly able to tune out the inner sound track that would begin to complain when I would smile at a child only to be met with a look of caution because of my mask. Children in general had to be avoided because of their potential for communicable sicknesses. This is a loss to me since I do enjoy them with their nearly new brains, wonderful energy and capacity for delight.

August brings a shift in the focus of families; now it is time to gather the school supplies and prepare for the next year of educational activities. After teaching many years, this rhythm remains strong for me, and even in uncertain times, I anticipate the next season with gratitude for all the good things past and hope for the days ahead.