My church has a rather good choir. There are a lot of choirs with a few good singers while others "make a joyful noise". Most of our choir members have degrees in vocal performance. A few are featured performers in the local opera company, and sing in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Our congregational concerts are broadcast live on the local classical music station and its dozen or so affiliates. So a concert at the First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio is a pretty serious thing.

Twice a year they expand the choir a bit including people who "can't make the full 42 week commitment" expected of the full choir to what is called the Choral Society. These people are pretty good too, only schedule challenged or a trilfe aged. In March the church is putting on a program called "Music of the Mass'. It will feature music derived from the high mass by Maurice Duruflé, Gabriel Faure, Zoltan Kodaly, Wiliam Mathias, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina & Charles Villiers Stanford as well as a brand new piece commissioned to show off both honkin' big organs.

Now, I can carry a tune in a 55-gallon drum. I used to play guitar, taught myself songs by ear, and have even played a few gigs where I sang. My last church tried to recruit me for their choir. They had a wealth of sopranos but only one or two men to anchor the bottom end. One day one of them was walking by, noticed that I was actually on key and the next Sunday the full court press began.

So I started thinking I could sing. After I joined First Church I kept looking at the concert schedule. My brother Bryan sang in a very good choir. He and his partner Jim spent much of last Saturday trying to convince me to sing. I emailed our Minister of Music, and he told me to come down and try it.

I did. Afterwards I felt like a deer. Granted, i was sitting right in front of Kevin, one of our best soloists. He can hit notes that only dogs can hear. Any delusions of adequacy were wiped away while I tried to figure out those strange looking squiggles they call notes. My voice cracked like a coconut.

But at the end of the night the head of the tenor section told me "See you next week". Apparently i did not suck badly enough. The squiggles started to make more sense. I get the odd suspicion that masses from Duruflé, Faure, Kodaly, Mathias, Palestrina & Stanford are going to be spending a lot of time in my CD player. It's a good thing I have a honkin' big water heater because it looks like I'm going to be spending a lot of time in the shower.

For concert info see: http://www.first-church.org/concerts1.htm

::A Feral Minute::

Swatting the alarm to snooze twice successively, I surveyed the morning. I was no more starved for sleep than any other sunrise and survived those with a simple struggle. I quickly recalled the lack of compassion received at my depression the preceding night. Something had not yet quite settled, but I was satisfied with the sentiment of simply being conscious. Setting my sights on the shower, I persisted with my daily schedule. This instance refused to allow me the simple satisfaction of a slow shower, as I had stomped the snooze setting a second time (a single more than my standard.)

Five hours.

That’s the small section of sleep I was permissed following last sundown’s sinusoidal drama. A staggered sleepwalk towards my steed, and I was en route to my school. Once stopped, no consciousness was needed, as my standard sleepy stagger throughout my last school semester dragged me from my dated dwelling to my first devilish 8:00AM class. Staggering past the said residence, I slinked down the street simply scratching my way to my story of a class. Eyes shut to slits, my vision was restrained by my squinting eyelids, but that’s when the scent found its path to my nostrils.

Suppose it was simply my short sleep that sharpened my senses as such. After all it was not an exclusive smell, rather Victoria’s Secret’s “Love Spell.” A slightly more unique scent, the way it mingled stately with her skin. It personalized the smell ever so discretely, that I was certain of who I had stumbled upon strangely before I released my squinting eyelids. Strangely I suggested to myself I follow her sinewy stature for as stately a segment of time as possible without the cheating use of my eyes, nay I would single-file last my schnoz.

Simple memory struck my back to the days in which I first saw and spoke with her. Since, our paths have diverged, as we no longer speak. We no longer see each other (as even now I would not let myself.) A single silly night severed a fledgling yet surprisingly strong friendship. It was short of sex, but simple ego-stabbing of two under-sexed college students. I swiftly and secretly associated the Love Spell smell with soreness. Not soreness of the heart, as one would simply expect, yet soreness in a sore place I should never be sore in. My suggestion: if a silly girl thinks her silly knees are a sexual object, stop. She’s silly and you’re better off stopping your encounter.

But I digress.

As soon as it started, my sightless stalk ended, as she changed course swaying away from my stupid class. Secretly, I was happy, I was permissed to consider our past from a distance of smell without sight (maybe seventy seconds behind.) I accepted my senses on a level that is not standard in the struggle of the early sun. As she swayed away from my destined target, I did not even start; I simply sauntered to my seminar, took my seat and allowed myself to once again enlist in civilization.

Emotional overload.

With just four weeks remaining in my tour of duty in Orlando, Florida before returning to New Hampshire, things have entered a stage where all that must be resolved and put into perspective has entered the fast lane. In a way I am reminded of the cycle of things. Yesterday was The Muse's birthday and I could not be with her because I have not yet completed my mission here. Today I went to the cemetery to visit someone who remains very dear to me, someone who inspired me to find my way again at a time when I was lost. Christina died just over two years ago and I had never gone to her grave. At her funeral it was something I could not bear to do.

Christina helped me to realize that we cannot throw people away because they don't fit the mold we hoped they would fit. How many times do we become involved with another person romantically, find we do not work as a "couple" and then go our separate ways? At first we did, knowing we did not have the resources to meet each other's needs and knowing we weren't each other's "first choice" for a partner. Yet, I loved Christina very much and I believe she loved me, so why would we excommunicate each other because we weren't cut out to be some kind of husband and wife deal?

We went almost a year without seeing each other before we ran into each other in the same place we had met. We talked, we laughed, and we remembered how much we enjoyed each other's company and friendship. We forgave each other for the things we said and never meant when we parted and we vowed to always be there for each other. Although I know it was not what she would have wanted, a part of me wished I could have been there while she fought and lost her battle with cancer. She would never have wanted to see her like that. She wanted me to remember her as beautiful. She did not understand that I would have seen the same beauty in her no matter what, but we're cool. We talk more often these days than we did when she was alive.

I decided to trust her voice because I wasn't sure what cemetery she had been buried in. She directed me to the right one. She even directed me to her body's final resting place ("I'm finally catching up on my sleep," she told me when I started to choke up. She never used to sleep). Of course, as it was when we first met, I kept walking past her without realizing she was there. When I kept walking past her (she is in an above-ground plot due to her irrational fear of maggots), it was like old times. "Hello, dipshit, why don't you walk past a few more times without noticing me?"

She seems to be well known at the cemetery. The woman working in the office knew where she was off the top of her head, but Christina has many visitors. The collection of things gathered in front of the stone with her name and photograph on it consists of many of her favorite things, from a can of Dr. Pepper to angel figurines and flowers. I almost felt guilty about being empty handed and she laughed at me and told me, "See, nothing ever changes."

I went to your grave to tell you I was leaving Orlando, even though you already knew, but mostly I went because I promised I would one day when I was ready. I'm not sure I was ready, but the clock is ticking. You'll always live on in my heart and in the hearts of other people, Christina, because you had something few people had. For all your struggles, you believed, and you helped me to believe again and to find the path again. I trusted you to guide me to the right place today without doing any research and you did. This is what I needed to do. Thank you for bringing the light back into my life, helping me rediscover my faith and reminding me that we all matter to the people we meet and love on this road called life.

Rest in peace, my love. I'm going home. You told me not to give up on the great love of my life, and you were right about that as well. I'll always love you, Christina. Now, go back to sleep.

August 19, 1977 - December 30, 2002
The world was better for knowing you.

And thank you, Alice, for coming along and being there for me.

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