Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh, the dreadful wind and rain

Aah, June-uary! That's what they've been calling it, because, here in this city, it's cold out there! Cold, wet, and windy.

"And the only tune that it would play was--oh, the dreadful wind and rain." Whoever thought up that folk song never came here. Here, the dreadful rain--and sometimes wind--is a way of life. Even in June. A friend in Ohio was blissfully talking about the summer-y weather and I was tempted to write back: "Dear K--I went to the library and got soaked coming back; so I stayed home from my sister's gymnastics class and watched the wind blow. This is Seattle." But she didn't make a big deal about it. Interesting thing about my friends, they don't ask how the weather has been--except for Seattle friends, who ask Well, how do you like this stuff that we've been having? whether it's been exceptionally cold, hot, windy, dry, wet, or whatever.

Monday the wind was strong, stronger than I've seen it in a long time. I wasn't in the country for the big windstorm that happened a couple Decembers ago, but some friends of ours told us that the airport was running on emergency generators and so a lot of it was eerily dark. Ah, well...that was in the past. It was a strong southwest wind; sitting by my north window I saw a bird flying west. It was struggling, and a gust actually blew it back, its wings curving in an agonized attempt to buffer the storm; I was glad to see that it was able to turn around and fly east. Now, that is strong wind for you. I thought: "It's a wonder the power isn't off." As usual, I spoke too soon--about nine fifteen in the evening, the lights blew out, and we were left in total darkness 'til about 2:02 a.m.

  • My father went to bed early; he didn't really want to wait around for us to finish with the computer, and there was nothing else to do.
  • We lit candles, five wee little tea-lights, which we set upon phone books and read by.
  • I am--I admit it freely--afraid of the dark, so instead of sleeping alone downstairs, I slept on the couch, where the lights from far away in the city could come in through the picture windows and comfort me.
  • We saved our showers 'til the next morning.
It was a very chill night. The wind rolled through the trees and the darkness was sufficiently penetrating to be part of a horror movie. I read the last book in Deborah Ellis' Breadwinner trilogy; and while I enjoyed the first one and found the second one to be interesting, this was fairly ironic in tone and terribly depressing. Coupling that with the dark, silent world around me, I was so scared I could cry.

So where's the point in all this? Since I am a fiddling writer, did I get out the fiddle and crank out a few tunes? Ah, I might've--but Daddy was in bed. If he'd been up I might have gotten out an instrument. That is, after all, what they did in the old days.

But I didn't.

And the lights came on at 2 a.m.

And now I'm using all sorts of appliances and acting like the power outage never happened. It was a big one, too--all the way from 6th ave. to Lk. Washington; and the houses within a certain north-south boundary. That includes Charlie's house, I think. Also, I heard that there were power outages in areas that might be inhabited by other fiddle people I know; I told Mum that it was a sly attempt to get us to stop, by taking away our power. Actually, I don't know if anyone I know was affected by it, but it's possible.

Anyway, this is not the sort of thing you expect to happen on your first day of summer vacation, nor is it the sort of thing you really want to happen anytime. Thank God for candles--and fairly reliable electricity. I've been in places where it's a bigger danger (and I've seen houses with no electricity, too...).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

From one thing to another

Some friends of ours, an old extra-curricular teacher of mine and her husband, just had their first baby, yesterday! It's a girl! How wonderful!

So there's another birthday in June for our family and friends. My grandmother's birthday was on Tuesday and Mum's is tomorrow. If it's anything, my half-birthday is Monday. And what's funny is, all year I've been volunteering in a 2nd-grade public school classroom; and the teacher there has her birthday on Monday, too! Of course, I didn't ask how old she was turning. I, by the way, will be 15 1/2 if you're curious. I won't tell you how old either my mother or grandmother are.

Ah, speaking of my volunteering...I've been doing this all year, since September, and yesterday was my last day. It's always been the same class, too. It's been a very rewarding experience for me--I hope the kids got something out of it, too, though I sincerely doubt it. My mother wanted me to do this so that I could make sure that I really wanted to be a teacher and not something else. Being homeschooled does have its advantages...this is sometimes hard to explain to the various skeptics I have encountered. Actually, I love it--homeschooling and volunteering, I mean.

I've had some interesting experiences throughout the year--from being assigned to do phonics sheets with a little girl who can barely read (and I had no previous experience doing any sort of tutoring!) to standing around for fifteen minutes on a wild-run playground, stunned; I was attempting to do recess duty. But it's been a lot of fun. I worked under the regular teacher and three different subs. One was a slightly bewildered man who had to deal with a massive whale-puppet craft that involved a lot of grown-up helping (substitute and teenage volunteer running from table to table helping kids cut, gluing, assigning paper fasteners...whew!); one was a kind of tired-looking woman who got into a long discussion about college with me when she found out I was a high school student; and one was an older lady who blithely told me to "just do what you always do" and left me thinking, okay, except for working with little A. I've never had a strict schedule...better just wing it. The regular teacher is a young lady who is in her first full year at this school; she's good at it. She and I figured out each other's signals pretty quickly, I think--she was easy to read and she seemed to read me well. She's the one with the birthday. I'm going to miss her.

I'm going to miss the kids, too. They're so cute. There was one little boy who was incredibly bratty, but he was so sweet about it; there wasn't a grain of malevolence in him. He was assigned to do reading with me, and he grabbed his "book-box" and said: "Ms. Vi, can I toss these books around the room?" I said: "No. That's not a good idea." Another little girl was very smart and quick; she liked to help the teacher and the poor bewildered volunteer. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" she asked me. "Oh, I'm planning to be a teacher," I said. "So that's why you're here," she answered, chin in the air. Those are only two; several of the kids have great stories attached to them.

Of course, there are drawbacks. Like sitting there and listening patiently to the kid struggle through a book on snakes which is written at a low reading-level and basically consists of: "Some snakes have stripes. Some snakes have spots. Some snakes have baby snakes." I was thinking, this is incredibly boring, this is the downside of teaching; and then I saw the book's author. Or authors, I should say. That book, which wasn't much longer than what I just recounted, was written by a committee of six! What on earth were they doing, each writing one page?! Good grief!

And then there are joys. I have sat with a kid and helped her on her column addition, and I think that she actually understood a little bit better when I was through. I also got to give the spelling test once, and it seemed to work out okay. It was both a joy and a sorrow that when the teacher said it was time to say goodbye to me, that a lot of the kids wanted to give me hugs. It was a joy because it was nice to see that I hadn't made myself too repulsive; but it was a sorrow because this meant goodbye.

And now, summer! These kids don't get out for a week and a half. I got out yesterday, because my mother starts a grade in January, and works me on nonstop except for weekends for 22 weeks, at which point I get to take a break until after summer, when I finish the grade up. So what will the summer bring? Memories, I suppose. I'm going to a drama class the week after next; in August I might teach V.B.S. at church. And I'll fiddle, too. Charlie's thinking of doing a jam later this month; and a couple who lives in a different neighborhood has a monthly jam--it was cancelled this month, but for now July is ago. A week and a half ago, I fiddled outside to the sunset, playing both Irish tunes and old-timey stuff, too.

Whew! There's a post for you. Babies, birthdays, school, and summer. Still with me?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

One Yard of Outing Flannel...AND DON'T LAUGH!

CIrcle jam at Charlie Smith's last night. Charlie's a local fiddle teacher who teaches strictly old-time Northwestern fiddling; he lives eight or nine blocks away from me on the exact same street. We can't, at least at this point, afford lessons, but he's been very generous and allowed me to come to the jams that he holds for his students, as I'm a WOTFA junior, I believe.

All the talk was about the Northwest Folklife Festival, held at the Seattle Center every Memorial Day weekend. It boasts of all kinds of performances, from reggae to hip-hop to classical to folk music from around the world. Everyone was asking everyone else: "Did you go to Folklife? Oh, cool! What day? What'd you see?" or else they'd be saying: "I think I saw you on one of those walkways." We haven't been able to go to Folklife in two years; this year we went for two, Sunday and Monday. There was talk about busking (at least one of Charlie's students did) and a couple of us had seen Charlie's act as well.

Charlie's jam is full of kids, since it's a kids' jam, but their mothers often come and watch or play guitar; and so the grownups were full of...other news; the shooting that had happened on Saturday. Like, "What do you think about security? Don't you think we ought to have more security for the festival?" "Yeah, yeah, but there are so many gates; besides, Folklife's a free festival, it's easy to sneak in. It's not like Bumbershoot." "And that guy had a concealed weapons permit though he wasn't mentally stable!" (I was sitting in a room of Seattleites, who are quick to point out governmental corruption)

And one mother was a little slow on the uptake. "You're talking about the...incident?" (Ever notice how adroitly indirect parents are on troubling subjects?) The kids were fiddling away unnoticed. I was the oldest person under eighteen, and I said nothing--then in walks Lynn, a girl about two years older than myself. "Hi, everybody! Did you hear about the shooting at Folklife? Weird...!"

So much for indirectness, I thought, wondering whether to laugh or to cry.

It's been running through my head since Tuesday, when I first heard about it. Three people got shot at a festival that I've been going to for about seven years, a place where I've always felt safe! I mean, when I was a little girl I didn't know the meaning of the word unsafe, and I really still don't--but when I was a little girl I didn't notice how many police cars hang around in our neighborhood, and my mother didn't tell me that if a guy started doing things to me that it was okay to fight him and to scream, and when I was a little girl my biggest worry was that Osama bin Lauden would be hiding in the recycling bin, a depraved twin of my saintly uncle, and chase me around and around with wheels instead of legs. The worst he'd do to me would be lock me in a well-ventilated dumpster with three-meal service and a separate bathroom, and I'd have to sit around in there for three days while my parents searched all over for me and finally found me in the incredible dumpster, hiding in Afghanistan (which I was positive would become the 51st state). Nowadays, I know what there is to fear, but I also know what not to fear. But I'd felt so safe and happy at Folklife. I mean, some people there are oddballs (and why do they go around offering free hugs, anyways?) but it was so safe-feeling. It would be a bit after dark and I wouldn't be looking over my shoulder. Now three people got shot there in broad daylight.

"Satan works everywhere," my mother said sadly, reading the news online.

I have to remind myself that so does God. And He can bring good out of anything...recently I've been thinking about 9-11 and I have to remind myself then, too. And of course, being human and fallable, I cannot trust God the way I ought to. This is where forgiveness comes in, because of what Jesus did for humanity on the cross, letting us be reconciled to God, giving us a way to have our sins forgiven and forgotten. But it's still hard. I'm still a sinner.

And, anyway, I can't help just wishing that Folklife would be perfect in every way, like nothing can be on this earth. The website we looked at said that this was the first major violence the festival's had in the thirty-seven years it has been running. Well, I wish that it would never happen again; and, while we're at it, let's get rid of the minor violence. Let's get rid of the strange-looking cigarette I saw filled with little tiny leaves that a guy had unrolled and was licking with fevered intensity. And let's get rid of whatever made those two teenagers I saw coming out of the women's restroom, smoking similar-looking cigarettes and acting as though they'd just clinched a deal with someone they hardly knew. Basically, let's get rid of sin and depravity. Oh, don't I wish...!

Some days I feel like Charlie Brown, who can barely cope with the fallen world and has no way to turn. I remember that one Peanuts strip where he's watching Linus who is curled up with his security blanket, hearing about the properties of "outing flannel", which brings security, happiness, and hope. He runs to the store and asks for one yard of outing flannel...but this is early on in the strip's history, and the round-headed kid has to face more and more depravity. That is a tragic strip, to me. This outing flannel doesn't work.

But God is there, I know. It is good to trust in Him; it brings peace. It means that I can step away from the horrors of this shooting and still find enjoyment in life. It means that I can believe that, whatever happens, Someone all-powerful is watching over me and will, someday, in whatever way, take me to Him to live forever without worrying.

And so, I was able to have fun at the jam last night, murdering fiddle tunes to the enth degree, learning new ones and promptly forgetting them; laughing at tune titles and chatting with friends, ruefully rubbing my sore fingers. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's in a Name?

Oh, I could have chosen any number of names for this blog. There is so much in my life to write about--not just fiddling, but what I'm writing and what I'm reading and what I'm doing with my life, which is a lot...oh, and I'm a longwinded, psychological, philosophical sort of person, too, which accounts for a lot.

But I came back to "Fiddler in Tuning" because of something that happened on my 15th birthday, which (last year) coincided with the Washington Old-Time Fiddler's Association District 6 Christmas Party. I have been a member in good standing of WOTFA ever since October, 2007, I think. I'm not positive on that one...I just remember getting the little membership card and thinking: "As opposed to bad standing? What's bad standing?" And then I thought: "Oh, no. I know two people in the whole entire district and one doesn't even go to the meetings." However, since then, I have forged new friendships. But I digress.

At the Christmas party, we all had know, those little sticker-things that you write your name on with a sharpie and then stick on your sweater--late that night, after you remove the nametag, there are many bits of cloth stuck to the adhesive. Ah, well, such is life. don't know me well (yet), but I'm not the sort of person to write my name and have done with it. That is banal, boring, tedious, what-everybody-else-does, etc. So I took a pen and added "Fiddler in Tuning" underneath it. I went back to the table where my mother and father and sister were talking to my wonderful teacher, Lucy. They all looked up to see me, and my father shook his head and my mother gave me the look that clearly said: "Here we go again." My sister laughed, and so did Lucy, who said: "Fiddler-in-tuning. That's excellent." She, of all people, can tell that I'm in the tuning process. I can't play a double-stop in tune; I know no ornamentation; and I have a minimal repertoire. But I'm improving. Eventually we'll get this fiddler in tune and out! Well, maybe not. Writing is my thing. But fiddling is an important hobby of mine, and I would like to be in tune.

Quite frankly, I want to be in tune in all areas of my life, not just fiddling. I want to write better, to think better, to know and trust and love God better, to teach better, and to live better. So fiddling's just one facet of my life, like it is for anyone. So I suppose the title is appropriate.

So, who am I? Aside from a 15-year-old female resident of Seattle, Washington and a perpetrator of bad jokes, that is? Well...I'm somewhat anonymous. But I'm a thinker, and a dreamer, and a writer...a teenage girl who only got her ears pierced in January, a girl who wears her mother's dresses to church, who doesn't wear makeup. I am a Christian, a Lutheran at that, who is extremely into theology. And I am homeschooled and love it...both the "home" and the "school" part. My best friend is my mother, and my second-best friend is my sister. Is that a good enough introduction for you?

Well, I may be strange, but this I know for certain--like anyone, I am a human being in need of fine-tuning. And while I'll never be perfectly tuned, I certainly hope to fiddle with the knobs for a time.