Tag Archives: Standing in Awe

Taylor and Maria

See that guy in the video up there? His name is Taylor Cameron Carpenter.

If you Google him you find out he’s a “rock star organist”.

When he was about 14, he was our church organist while he attended Arts high school in the area. When I think about those years now it blows my mind to realize he was only 14. His technical skills at the organ, or piano, harpsichord, whatever, are exceptional. But what always amazed me was his ability to improvise. I’m not talking about a typical improv an organist would do to get from a hymn in one key and meter to another hymn in other key and/or meter.

In December 1995 a dear friend of ours died from a rare form of cancer. She and her family were ardent supporters of the arts. Her memorial service was not only a tribute to her life, but also a musical celebration of her life offered by Taylor. It was mentioned that our friend had a flair for the dramatic when it came to her artistic talent. She was a painter, sculptor, singer, decorator. Everything she did was uniquely her own, and sometimes got her into a teensy bit of trouble. Like the year she decorated the fellowship hall for Christmas by hanging the Christmas tree upside-down from the ceiling. It was a fad for a year or two, as I recall. But she embraced it! There was the tree, hanging down in all its glory, and people were talking! You would have thought she’d desecrated a sacred icon, instead of twisting an adapted pagan symbol into something completely different, as Monty Python would say.

So, in her memorial service our pastor compared her to “Maria” from “The Sound of Music”, and referred to the song “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” when speaking of her.

Once the memorial part of the service was complete, it was time for Taylor’s musical offering. I remember him playing “In the Bleak Mid-Winter”, which had been one of her favorite carols. There were a couple of other pieces that I can’t recall specifically. One was probably a hymn.

But THIS, I remember: As Taylor played, a simple melody was forming above the frenzy of notes flying from his hands and feet. It was familiar, but not quite above the threshold of recognizability. At first the notes were elongated, making it harder to pull them out of the mire. But as the tempo increased, and the melody rose from the bass line to the upper registers, there it was: How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Of course, my friend’s name wasn’t Maria. And now Taylor is world-famous and goes by Cameron.

But for that one moment in time, on a cold December afternoon, Taylor and Maria danced.

And it was magic.


’til death did they part

Way back in the 80’s when I first moved here, before Borders or Barnes and Noble ever sprang from the fertile ground surrounding the mall, there was a bookstore, Hinkle’s. It was a family business with a store downtown and another one at a strip mall just west of downtown. They sold books, of course, and office supplies, and gifts, cards, stationary etc. They did custom printing. When I was getting used to living and working here in the ‘city’, I used to walk to the bookstore during my lunch hour and browse. Over the years as the ‘burbs took over and businesses started leaving downtown, the downtown Hinkle’s closed. Not too many years later the strip mall store closed as well.

A Borders opened in the strip mall. The building downtown has been torn down and replaced with a shiny new office building, now in search of tenants. I sort of forgot about Hinkle’s until I was looking for a graduation gift for someone, I don’t even remember who, and I went to the strip mall with the intention of going to Hinkle’s, only to find that the store was gone. A couple of years ago a grandson in the family died tragically. He was friends with some of our students at church, and they took his death hard.

More time passed, until a couple of weeks ago when……

My neighbor went on a trip and I picked up her mail and newspapers while she was away. I was scanning the paper one morning and noticed an obituary for an elderly lady named Hinkle. She was in her 80’s and had lived a very full life. She was described as “not having a mean bone in her body, but she did have a disdain for crumbs.” All in all, a very sweet tribute to a life well-lived.

Then I noticed another obituary, for an elderly gentleman named Hinkle, printed immediately after hers. So I read it and found this:

On Aug. 8, 1941, he married Mildred, and never spent another day without her, maintaining his unwavering devotion to Mildred for 67 years; Mildred also passed on Sept. 16, giving new meaning to “‘ till death do us part.”

So I went back and read the first obituary more closely. Yes, it was Mildred. The obit said that she had been “persistently courted by a young office supplies salesman”. Then, this:

On August 8, 1941, Mildred married Pete, and the two spent every day for the next 67 years together as devoted husband and wife. Pete also passed on Sept. 16, giving new meaning to “‘ till death do us part.”

She had passed away early in the morning at a retirement community. He died later that day, at Hospice.

And I cried for these people I didn’t even know. Not tears of sadness, but what? Their story touched my heart in a deeply introspective way that I was not prepared for. I was crying out of respect for a love story I didn’t really know. There was sadness in that my parents had to be separated by death way too early, and honor in knowing that my parents had also lived a love story, ending in “til death did they part.”

This is what marriage is supposed to be. I pray that hubby and I will be so fortunate.

Summer Leaves

Dawn’s sunlight breaks across the mountain ridge

Illuminating the trees in the vale below.

Mist rises from the creek that flows under the bridge toward the pastures downstream.

Night’s coolness gives way to morning warmth

And summer leaves drift down


Orange and yellow, green, blue, brown and black

The leaves come to life, spreading their wings. Catching the morning breeze

They float from heights above

Down to the willows and weeds gathered at creek’s edge


Lilacs come to life as the butterflies seek out branches

Where they flit and flutter in the morning sun

Each delicate creature a masterpiece of design and beauty.

Wings of stained glass perfection

Slender bodies, strong legs able to grasp leaves as

Butterflies probe flower petals sipping the hidden nectar.


The sun makes its daily trek across the sky

As Earth makes its annual trek around the sun.

Days grow shorter; night’s dominance begins, and

The butterflies sip with urgency

The passage of time and season now visible in their bodies—faded colors; rough, tattered wings; broken or missing legs.


And yet


They continue to wander from flower to fern

Seeking nourishment to sustain them for the days and nights ahead

When the butterflies seek warmer climes

And summer leaves.

100 things

Well, CG challenged me to name 100 things growing in our little subdivision. Don’t know if I got 100 or not, but found all of these pretty quickly.

bermuda grass
wild violet
wild strawberry
poison ivy
virginia creeper
crepe myrtle
rose of sharon
wild pansy
black-eyed susan
grasshopper weed
queen anne’s lace
trumpet vine
morning glory
forsythia redbud
kudzu (EVERYBODY has this!)

Then we started thinking about the birds and wild animals that we see around here.

field mouse
wild turkey
blue jay
wild geese
grey heron (or crane or something)
barn swallow
hoot owl
screech owl

We live in a sub-division that used to be more rural than it is now. Development keeps getting closer and closer. And we still see this many plants and wild critters. Not too bad.

Green in Todd

An ordinary blade of grass

No different from thousands of others

Lining the bank of the creek where I sit

Surrounded by wild violets, mountain ferns, grasshopper weeds

–a field of green.


I reach out and touch the single, slender shoot

Pulling it up from amidst its neighbors,

Sacrificing its life for my curiosity.


It slides smoothly between my fingers

As I pull it from root to tip—

Then I pull it back

The texture changes from smooth to rough, jagged, sharp.


I bend it over my forfinger

The sun reflects off its surface,

Changing the color from green to shining silver

Highlighting the ridges that run

Vertically along its length

Unseen until that moment.


As I look more closely at the field of green around me

Notice the grass, violet leaves, ferns, weeds—

All are different shades of green.

The blades of grass-verdant green.

The violet leaves-green, yet subtly blue.

The mountain fern-green, tinged with yellow.

The grasshopper weeds-green topped in feathery brown.


And I see that green is more than color.


Green is life.

home again

Grand Canyon sunset, taken from Yaki Point, 6/26/08


I’m still trying to process everything we experienced on our trip to Grand Canyon. It’s hard to know where to start. I suppose if you’ve been there then you know what I’m saying, and if you haven’t then there’s no way I can explain it to you.

Things that will need to be internalized and then discussed in detail:

tears…seeing the canyon, hearing the wind in the Ponderosa pines, watching native Americans sharing their culture with the tourists who took time to stop and watch the dancing and listen to the songs, watching my husband’s tears as he watched the dances and listened to the singing, watching my daughter hug a stuffed animal (a mule, of course) as we flew through some turbulence on the way home and realizing that this trip was as much about her growing up as it was about her brother doing likewise.

solitude…how it can be so quiet 100 feet below the canyon rim when you know there are tons of tourists up there, finding Shoshone Point and being the only people there as sunset approached, riding a horse through the pine forest with my daughter and our guide.

perspective…how hard it is to find when seven miles down and fifty miles away look the same, when you feel so small and insignificant next to an agave plant with a 30 foot bloom that wasn’t there a week earlier, or when you stand next to a Ponderosa that was growing before Europeans “discovered” the canyon 400 years ago, or witness the growth of the forest that only comes after the fire.

awe…words are not sufficient, perhaps not even appropriate.

at the rim

This will have to be a short post, because my body clock says it’s 2:00 AM Friday while my watch says it’s 11:00 PM Thursday. We left home early Wednesday morning, heading for Arizona. Arrived in Phoenix right on time, drove through Sedona (beautiful except for the road construction) and arrived here at Tusayan around supper time Wednesday night.

So, this morning we got up, checked out the continental breakfast and headed into Grand Canyon National Park. As we pulled into the parking lot at Mather Point we decided to forgo the camera for the time being and just walk out to the rim to experience the, well, experience. I kept telling myself as I crossed the parking lot that I was a grown-up and I didn’t need to burst into tears at the sight of the canyon.

I burst into tears at the sight of the canyon.