This is Summer: Season Six {Episode 33}

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I’m a good roadie

Sometimes I take his picture

Put that on Insta

~Natalia

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This is Summer: Season Six {Episode 17}

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Montrose Harbor Dock

They call him for this gig now

I come, walk the beach

~Natalia

The Valentine’s Gig

The bar is half full when we arrive; pushing through the door, trading the Chicago streets and swirling snow for the pounding swing of live jazz music. We move slowly, almost aimlessly, towards the cluster of small round tables just beyond the band. There’s a pause as we glance at one another, eyes vaguely questioning, before sitting down.

We’re barely seated when the band takes a break. They’re an hour on, thirty minutes off, and here in this thirty minutes, we’re greeting old friends, shaking hands all around, grinning nice to meet yous to acquaintances just made.

There’s a door in the wall behind us; the kind of half-door they have in church nurseries, with a menu fastened to the top half. We stand in the gap, scanning menu items, pondering between catfish, perch, wings, nuggets. The pizza puff, we’re told, is amazing, and I order one, standing there in that half-open door.

The food comes with three minutes left in the band’s break. Paper baskets of fries, fish, chicken, with little containers of homemade barbecue sauce, fill the tiny table in front of us. I’m hungry, and curious, and the pizza puff burns my tongue; the price of not waiting for the rest of the table to be served. The drummer, the bass player- the reasons we’re here, really- rush a bite or two before returning to their instruments, their own pizza puffs emitting steam from where they’ve been bitten.

The band’s leader, a man named Greg, grabs the microphone. We sit at our table, munch our fries, while Greg’s easy manner as an entertainer fills the darkened bar. He introduces the band again; the same titles, intonations we heard 30 minutes prior. He invites a guest musician- a bright-eyed woman holding a flute- to join the group on the stand, and stand catches my ear, because it’s not a stage, but the wooden floor, the border lines of black amp cords delineate the stand as their own place- the place where music is born.

The bar fills slowly, almost imperceptibly, as the next set unfolds. The opening ceremony for the All Star game plays soundlessly on the two TVs over the bar itself, and a small ring of men has formed there. Their eyes flick to the screens occasionally, but it’s their conversations that grip them; swapping words, nods, stories, over the drinks they grasp in crossed arms.

There are two couples at the bar, their backs to one another. One woman, the outline of her black sweater almost fading into the dark behind her, gazes calmly around her, her eyes most often falling on the screen beyond her man’s head. He faces her, his hands resting on her lap, and she holds them, gentle fingers curled into his. I can’t hear their voices over the roll of the band, but I watch her look at him, listen to him, nod, speak.

Behind her, another man sits at the bar with his love. Unlike the other’s crew cut, this man has long hair twisted into locs and pulled back, away from his face. His shirt is bright red, like the woman’s beside him, and holes that have the distressed look of intentionality fill both their jeans. They must speak, I know, but I don’t catch the movement of their mouths, or the flick of recognition in their eyes. Instead, this couple moves. Seated atop her bar stool, the woman swings her shoulders to the beat of the jazz, her movements sultry, loose. He moves, too, his hands swaying, beating the air in front of him with the same easy drive.

Beyond both couples, the bar has filled as night falls with the snow outside. Men drinking beer, watching the game above. Couples out for Valentine’s Day, leaning into one another over drinks, across the tiny clothed tables. Women in red, hair neatly coiffed, out with friends, sisters, aunts. The light is dim, yet not threateningly dark, and the music rises, consumes, but never overwhelms.

Later, I step into the bathroom only to be accosted by the shouts of an angry woman. She’s in the far stall, screaming into a phone at a man I can only assume to be her boyfriend.

Later still, the band stand empties and I stomp snow off my boots outside, haphazardly brushing snow off the drummer’s car while he loads a waist-high stack of equipment into the trunk.

Not much later, he pulls the car onto the snowy street, leaving the bar- with its dancing, laughing, shouting, listening, arguing, loving people- far behind.

~Natalia

 

Closest I’ve Been

I’ve music everywhere.

In the car, rotating through six presets, and all the options in between.

At home, surprisingly crisp from my computer’s seven-year-old speakers.

On my phone, melodies lilting from my pocket as I move about my day.

In 4th grade, I had been teaching for barely a week when I set up the speaker system I found at the back of the room.

Now, there’s a sign on the board that says Music = Working Quietly. But I’ve made no decree about singing along, and, to be honest, I love when little hands hold pencils, little minds work, and all the while, little mouths sing.

The music I surround myself with helps my mood, determines my mood, categorizes my mood. I use it to understand, to encourage, to erase.

Of course, for classroom use, when I’ve little ones balanced in the booster seats in the backseat, then it’s Christian music, Christian music only.

Other times, the music is louder, different, weaving stories and beats that neither talk about God nor sound like things He would say.

I’ve thought about those songs- music from my beloved country genre, as well as the ever-pervasive pop.

I’ve thought about giving them up, all those other stations, those other themes and values.

But I love them a little too much for that.

But today, yesterday, even this week, I’m so hungry, so desperate, for Christ in my life, for His voice and His strength and His guidance,

I really am the closest I’ve ever been to narrowing, to limiting, to specializing in Christian music,

because, at least today, I can’t seem to get enough.

~ Natalia

Shortest Ever Bullet Point Post

• Often I return to previous posts to remember what I’ve said, what I’ve done, what I’ve written, and what I’ve learned. Sometimes, I find a minor spelling or grammatical error, which I usually fix. Just now, I opened last night’s post and was surprised by its coherence and wide grasp of vocabulary and writing conventions; the rare posts that I’ve written while bobbing in and out of sleep are often surprising in that way.

• One of my favorite parts of the friendship between Mary and I is the ever-growing message thread that we share on Spotify. Sometimes songs with a brief typed message (love this, have you heard this? MAR.) but often it’s simply a song found, heard, enjoyed, and sent. Our friendship has grown through these Spotify song recommendations, whether they’re sent while sitting side by side in a downtown dorm room, or from miles away.

• 12:25, be it AM or PM, is hands down my favorite time. BECAUSE IT IS CHRISTMAS. I celebrate Christmas every day, thanks to the multiple digital clocks in my home, and sometimes even twice a day, when I happen to be especially time conscious. I recently sent a snapchat of a rather exuberant selfie with the time (12:25am) superimposed over my face and a caption reading, “Merry Christmas!” Perfecting the timing of the snap was an imperfect system of obsessively checking the time, clicking my phone on and off every twenty seconds, and then typing like the wind when it finally was 12:25, so as not to miss my twice-daily opportunity at festivity.

• Six minutes after sending the snap, my cousin David responded with a picture of his own. Living on the West Coast (I’m jealous. Very jealous.) for the summer, his clock is two hours behind mine, and the digital numbers over his grinning face read 10:31, the words beneath the time wishing me a Happy Halloween.

• I began (re)reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog this afternoon. It’s the first on my summer reading list, which is composed of both voluntary and compulsory reading. I might write more about the book here, or I might not. Or you could read the book and write your thoughts here, too.

• I’ve been listening to Spotify’s Top Songs playlist in the past several minutes that I’ve been writing and I am rather unsettled by the changes the Top List has been undergone since my last extended listening period. I hardly have a chance at remaining on the cutting edge of media developments when the Top Songs change at such a fast rate.

• But All of Me and Happy remain high on the list, and that is all I need to be happy, so I leave it at that.

~Natalia

Just Now

I’m sitting in Ellie Rose’s room, on the floor.

There’s a space between the dresser and the mini fridge.

Except there is a suitcase in front of the fridge

and the top drawers of the dresser are pulled out,

and sitting here on the floor

feels more like a tent than anything else.

I’ve been simultaneously skyping,

opening and closing blogs, Facebook, reading,

checking email,

and planning to blog

for the past hour.

But now Skype is closed, for the moment,

and I’ve logged out of gmail, off social media,

am sitting, thinking, pausing, for just a moment.

Then there are voices in the hall;

I know them instantly.

Mar, Di, Livi.

I slide my computer off my lap, pull the heavy door open,

lean into the hallway.

I shush them, ironically, loudly, and they laugh me off,

hushing me back, admonishing my attempt to curtail their fun.

Mar and Livi strut past me, down the hall,

laughing their way softly into their own darkened rooms.

Di follows me into Ellie’s room.

Ellie Rose gone for the night, Di’ll stay here tonight;

on arguably, easily, the most comfortable bed on this floor.

And now, it’s 12:30am and I’m still on the floor,

still between dresser, suitcase,

and Di’s choosing tomorrow’s outfit from Ellie’s closet,

pulling skirts, tops, off the rack,

twirling in front of the cracked mirror.

(I just realized that she’s wearing my sparkly black TOMS,

stolen by Ellie from my room last week.)

I’m tired, of course.

And 7am comes quickly, tomorrow. Tuesday, already.

But nights like this, skype and music and this little space on the floor,

then friends, sisters, in the hall, in this room.

And the music plays still and Di’s steps around the room

match the beat, she sings softly, as I type.

And I realize, slowly, that I don’t want to stop typing,

because I’d stop writing,

and I might stop remembering then, too.

~Natalia

Conductor

I waited all day to come here, waited all day to write and tell you all about… well, life, I suppose. But it’s 11pm now and The Roommate’s asleep on the other side of the room, and it all seems too very much to write.

I almost started with “I wish”, but I’ll not fall to that, because I wish is the antonym of content, and sometimes it feels like a very tender balance inside of this heart. I suppose it’s human nature to wish for. But contentment with the enough, the more than enough, that God has poured boundlessly over my life is not the only balance I’m trying to find.

There’s another balance between excitement and a deep, creeping fear. Being a teacher someday, a someday that will become today in an all-too-short blink of the eye, is an exciting concept when I’ve done my homework and the reading report is ready to turn in and I’m working right along on the paper. But I sat in the second row in class today, and I’m looking at the backs of heads that must know so much more than me. And we’re talking about education standards and curriculum and I’m so inadequate and overwhelmed pours oil on the fire of fear that’s building in my heart.

The president of our school preaches Chapel twice a month, and today was one of those treasured Tuesdays. And I was so very happy, relieved maybe a little, too, when there were mikes and guitars on stage, because my soul craves God time in worship with song, and after we’ve sung, this school president is a wise, wise speaker. He’s teaching on Esther and emphasizes decisions, and my notebook’s open on my lap, I wrote “God Orchestrates” in the front page, even as Dr. Nyquist spoke about a sovereign God whose ability to know and care and design far exceeds my own estimations of Him.

I’m sitting in bed now, feet perpetually cold tucked under my comforter, and writing brings back snapshots of a day still winding down. But without realizing it my eyebrows are sinking deeper and deeper, a frown taking shape in the light of my computer screen because I just can’t make sense of it all. There’s no way, really, just not a chance, that God could use every decision, every experience of this day that feels so fragmented, to work in my heart and bring truth to a plan that He set in motion when time began.

I know in my head that He’s wise and sovereign, and that His rule extends far beyond my ability to comprehend anything about Him, but my heart hesitates because I really just don’t see how. I have a little mind, and a little faith to go with it, and if I can’t conceive of how He could bring good from the small bits of chaos that chain together to form my life, then how could He?

But The Roommate prays first and God Orchestrates is on the wall now, cardboard reminder of truth I’m not sure I always believe. And The Roommate prays Conductor, because He gives cues when we need, not a second before, and He’s looking at the whole picture, the whole piece, and He knows where this melody is headed, and He’s doing exactly what’s needed to bring us exactly where He wants us, to turn this confusion into a concert.

And she doesn’t know, but feet away, tucked into her own bed, soft blue eyes closed, she’s praying peace and hope into a life, a day, a heart phase, that’s not terrible, but none too wonderful, either. I’m balancing on one leg between hope full of peace and chaos swirling confused, and with words she’s praying right back to Him, The Roommate pulls layers of doubt back from a life that He’s deemed for Him, and it’s pouring this is right, this is good, back into my life.

Because there’s a balance in life, that I’ll probably be seeking the rest of my life. But God doesn’t wobble over fear and trust, doesn’t raise eyebrows and question why that was necessary. He doesn’t doubt, doesn’t wander, doesn’t hem and haw and eventually just stop for a moment, because it all just feels a little off. He doesn’t do any of that.

Because He’s the Great Conductor and He knows it all and orchestrates it all, and His hands mold my life like they’ve molded history since time first blinked, and His plan is so incredibly rich.

~Natalia

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