14 December 2009

Tacoma at 4 months

The transition from one side of the country to the other brings with it a change in landscape, in people and also in ourselves. Out East, when certain things dried up, I had to move on; I couldn't go back to doing anything the way I'd done it before, even if I'd wanted to. God wants to keep our lives interesting, perhaps, shutting doors behind us that we may not be willing to close ourselves. I wouldn't have thought to work as a substitute music teacher back there, or to play pass-the-hat venues; it would have felt "beneath me" [such limiting notions]. But out here, where everything feels new -- I regain some of that try-anything energy I had in my 20s. Engaging in some of the same activities I did then will probably take me in a different direction anyway because I am wiser now, more skilled and contented; a new region -- my first urban one in 20 years -- along with this being a new period in history, will yield different results, too. And I don't get judgmental looks from anyone either ["Really, still doing this at your age?"]

I've filled in for enough teachers that I already getting a better sense of the music education scene in this area than I had on the North Shore. Judging from the quality of the junior high choirs I've gotten to work with thus far, I'd hazard an opinion that singing has been better supported in Northwestern schools (and perhaps families) than what I saw back East. The St Leo's community has been quite welcoming, offering us a lot while showing lots of appreciation for what we each have to offer. When my mother visited, she was quite moved by the liturgies here, with their level of inclusion and participation. The two Jesuit priests [who generally prefer to have us address them by their first names] are a twinkling mix of warmth and intellect. While I haven't been involved in any of the ministries apart from music [Monica has me playing there quite a bit -- which might seem like nepotism, except that it has been so well received], we take pride in the St Leo's Food Connection -- which provides meals and groceries to the needy. Most recently, I have been rehearsing the children who will be playing strings and singing for Christmas. (I've also been getting to lead string ensembles as a sub -- wonderful children to work with all 'round). Here is a photo taken by one of the choir members.
St Leo's, taken by Beatrice

Much of the area strikes this easterner as a moon colony: many square miles of characterless chain stores bordered by sublime mountain ranges. Streets and roads are numbered far more often than they are named for something. If they take a rare turn, their number has to change to fit the scheme. Another thing I never saw back East, when a street's course is interrupted (by an industrial park or whatever) you'll find it pick up again with the same number, even if a mile further on. It's as though the whole place was crafted by an architect in a week, rather than reflect centuries of haphazard humanity. Were it not for the general level of friendliness, the technological infrastructure would make living here something out of 1984[remember when that was the future?]: trash picked up by mechanical arms, traffic violations issued by cameras. This time of year, the sun sets shortly after lunchtime. Seems that many of the people we meet arrived during the last generation from another part of the country, which must make for less xenophobia. Whatever the weather does, people tell me, you'll end up grateful when it doesn't rain 30 days in a row.

Although I need to secure more income for us to swing it here, we're doing our best to enjoy the moment and the people sharing it with us. Saw an impressive community production of "Guys & Dolls" and had the choir over for a pot-luck afterwards. I got them to sing through my Missa Nova -- the first time I've heard it from start to finish; bless them. Let me add that I treasure every moment spent with my sweet wife. While there are certainly places and people I miss from back East, there is already much I would miss about the NW were I to suddenly return.