29 December 2011

Dona Nobis Pacem


Lost in thought today I found myself humming a song I learned in 7th grade. Ms Renfro taught chorus and she was an amazing woman- a renaissance hippie of sorts- way ahead of her time. She had long hair that she would grab quickly into a pony tail, twist and put up with one of those leather hair holders that had a stick run through it. The end of her pony would flop into a fan above her head. It was some twenty-five years later that I noticed women wearing their hair that way on purpose. Ms. Renfro simply wanted hers out of her way. When she put it up like that she reminded me of the NBC peacock. She was young and wore eyeliner. Until her class I had teachers who were gray haired and named Hazel Pickard and Miss Irwin. They wore my grandmother's glasses. Ms Refro wore big sun glasses pushed up on her head when she was inside. She was beautiful in an earthy sort of a way. She taught us Dona Nobis Pacem. We sang it a cappella and when we did all the parts the acoustics in the chorus room made my ears and skin tingle.

Were you fortunate enough to have a teacher who actually liked students and teaching? Ms Renfro obviously did. She sang and played her guitar for us. Mostly folk songs, which was really pretty normative in the 70s, but instead of singing songs like Blowing in the Wind, she sang us Appalachian folk songs and songs full of history. I know that now that now that I live in the Appalachians and not the coastal hills of California. She captivated my imagination. We learned all the music from My Fair Lady and Hair. Somehow she got us to like both equally. As she would direct us she would close her eyes and get completely lost in the music we were singing. It was either that or she couldn't bear to both see and hear us while we were butchering the songs she loved so well.

Here I sit more than four decades later humming a tune with Latin words. I am pensive. Lost in a sort of kaleidoscopic contemplation. Considering the events of this year and the years of my life. Trying to make sense of the nonsense and looking for patterns and codes as though I believed everything written in a Dan Brown novel to be true. Each time I think I have the images figured out they change. I am watching the news, playing Words With Friends, thinking deep thoughts and writing this all at once. Multitasking limits intentionality and focus. So does aging.

I am old enough to have grown up when having a television was a novelty. Getting a color television meant your family had means, sort of like having braces meant you were well to do. Did I ever really envy kids with braces? You bet. What a curse to be born with straight teeth! How things have changed. There was a chair next to telephone table in every home. We dialed numbers on rotary phones. Telephone numbers were different then. Beacon 7-1482 and Union 9-2622 are the numbers I grew up with. One place I lived you only had to dial the last four digits of a phone number to reach the person you wanted and frugal folks could still have party lines. It all seems positively medieval now that I can watch TV on my cellular phone.

News travels at the speed of light now. We know too much too soon, in my opinion. We are inundated and react before the dust settles which sort of ensures the dust never will settle. Things that would have a way of working themselves out get made bigger than life and things we ought to pay attention to get buried beneath Kim Kardashian's 72 day marriage and Charlie Sheen's #winning!

Today on the news I heard Iran is threatening to shut down shipping lanes and the US threatening to retaliate if they do. Veiled threats of course. Iran says one of our aircraft carriers is there to intimidate/provoke them. We say it's there as support for the war in Afghanistan. Both are probably true.

Oh and Beyoncé's baby is due any day. I wish Beyoncé and her husband well as they start their family but really- why do I have to know their business?

God save us. Dona nobis pacem. Grant us peace.















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