Saturday, January 23, 2010

Helping Haiti

Disasters always have a way of bringing the best and worst in people. I've been impressed this last week with the best. All kinds of people are helping in ways big and small. It's heartwarming really, despite the horror of the earthquake and the aftermath. Here are some sweet ways people I know are using their skills to hold benefits and raise money:

--a friend of Peter's, Emma, who is having a birthday party today asked that her friends not bring presents, but rather money to donate to Haiti relief.

--a chess playing kid named Luke Velotti is challenging other chess players to play him--he's a champion chess player. They pay for the challenge, and the money goes to Haiti relief.

--my brother Pat, who has a coffee roasting business, has found a supply of Haitian coffee beans that he can purchase. He's gathering donations from family and friends to buy the beans so he can roast them. All sales of these beans will benefit an orphanage that was damaged in the earthquake.

--my friend and fellow musician, Paul, is arranging a benefit concert at Cathedral of the Rockies on Feb. 14. All proceeds will be sent to help Haiti.

There are more like this. I hear of schools in the area holding bake sales, gathering coins, and more. Artists, musicians, writers are all doing what they can.

My question for everyone is this: (And this applies to myself as much as anybody. I fall way short of my ideals on a daily basis.) Why do we wait for disasters to spur us on to do what we should be doing all the time? It's not like we didn't know that Haiti is tragically poor, so much so that the people eat dirt patties because they have no food. It's not like other places on our planet don't suffer every moment. Every 15 seconds, a child dies in this world because of lack of clean drinking water.

I'm proud of all the people helping in this crisis. But there are crises times ten every single day in our world. Let's vow to keep working this hard all the time.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

15 Minutes of Fame

Today was an incredible day for me as a writer. So often, writers work in isolation, and mostly I prefer it that way. Although I like people--well, at least my friends--well enough, I really do enjoy as much alone time as I can get. I think that's part of why I write. Even when people do read my writing, I am not usually present. They are reading somewhere else, often months or years after I wrote the words they read. Very, very rarely (whoa, I just used three adverbs in a row!) someone will contact me and tell me they liked a piece I wrote. That is so gratifying. Of course, it's not why I write, but it is nice to hear from a reader that they liked it. At least I know someone read it.

Today, my words were sung by hundreds of choir members in front of thousands of people, and even broadcast on TV. And I was present. And I had to go up and take a bow.

The story behind this event starts several months ago. Our state capitol has been undergoing renovation, remodeling, and restoration for the past few years, under the direction of a special commission. Part of that commission had to put together a rededication ceremony, and they asked my friend Paul to compose a special musical work for it. Paul is an incredible composer, and will be conducting one of his new works at Carnegie Hall this May. He and I collaborated on a piece at summer camp this past summer. In 2008, organist Sam Porter commissioned a piece from Paul for Sam and me to play for Boise Music Week. (For those of you who don't know, I play flute.)I could go on and on about Paul and his talents, but maybe another time. Suffice it to say, when he called me to ask if I would like to write the lyrics for this work, I was honored and humbled. (Okay, the fact that I was going to get paid for it didn't hurt. Don't tell anyone, but I would have done it for free, just because it's Paul.)

I started writing a poem focusing on what I love about Idaho: sawtooth craggled peaks, canyons, lakes, rivers, wildlife, star garnets, and the strong, friendly people here. Paul and I sat down and worked that poem into some usable lyrics with a chorus. Then he composed the most amazing music around that.

Today was the rededication ceremony, and my words were coming out of the mouths of hundreds of singers as I looked on. Hearing it all with the incredible music and accompaniment of the 25th Army band was something I cannot really describe. I was in awe. Hardly able to believe that my words, the ones I wrote from my heart, about a place I love so much, were up there, in public. They were so beautiful coming out musically.

That was my 15 minutes of fame--which was really more like 5 minutes. But it was so cool. People told me several times today how much they liked the words. It made me feel great. But it really was a combination of those words with that music that made it so wonderful. I just have no words (ironically) to describe how it felt. So thank you to all who heard it. And thank you so much to Paul for asking me to be a part of this and for writing incredible music.