24 September 2000


24 September  2000

As the trees put on their fall colors, I am reminded that this is the traditional time of year for “stewardship campaigns” in the Episcopal Church. 

I grew up in a small-town church in Wyoming and so had a child's eye view of the Episcopal Church.  Stewardship drives happened every year and were mysterious things to my young self.  Notices would go up on the boards along a theme.  The one I remember in particular involved saddlebags being passed from one Stewardship lead to the next.  Depending on the year, there were either pledges, commitments, or goals. 

As I grew into an awkward teenager I realized there were two sub-texts to the steward ship campaigns.  The first message was that the church is a corporate structure with obligations.  The second message was that each person has gifts and is supposed to be a good steward of those gifts.  

Both of these messages have given me problems over the years.

The “corporate message” seemed hypocritical to me.  It takes a lot of money to build a church, maintain the buildings and grounds, and pay a priest.  And who benefits from having the building?  The congregation.  As a teenager I felt it would be more sensible to have a membership fee to support the budget.  Why not be honest with ourselves (one of my favorite phrases when I was sixteen) and admit that the  church is for our own benefit and plan accordingly?

The “gift message” was even more agonizing.  I remember talking to my mother and saying that I had no identifiable gifts.  I remember dreading stewardship campaigns that included asking me which of my gifts I would use for the church that year.  It was depressing to look at that blank page and not be able to think of a single thing to write down.  I felt poor in spirit and overlooked by god.

What I have realized by reflecting on my stewardship past, is that my whole notion of stewardship underwent a transformation as I walked the path to adulthood.

The stewardship that I claim as my own is much larger than just supporting the Episcopal Church financially.  My stewardship is acted out every day of my life.  It has influenced my choice of profession, encouraged me to value relationships, and motivated me to grow into myself by realizing that no one else can do the job of being uniquely myself.

Stewardship defines my relationship to god-because even on those days that I do not believe in god or cannot relate to the Christ figure-stewardship guides my feet on the path.

My name for stewardship is the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is with me all my days.

01 August 2000

By Its Nature, Art

1 August 2000

Artwork is often in danger of being 'overworked.' By that I mean, fussed over by the artist, artists, or community until the spontaneity and improvisation that is a part of all art is gone.

An example of this overworking was brought to my attention recently.

A while back two, nearly life-sized sculptures of horses were placed on a rise next to Ronald Bog near my home.  The first time I saw them I was driving and I thought for a moment that they were real horses.  Wild horses had just crested the rise and were looking down onto the street below.  They were beautiful and I was charmed by the breath of life they brought to a busy street in Shoreline.

Ever since their installation, I have enjoyed walking or driving by the horses and have looked forward to seeing them.

That all changed two months ago.  One day I looked at the horses and instead of the lively sculptures there was a framed portrait. 

Someone had landscaped around the horses and transformed a magical piece of art into a flower bed with lawn ornaments.  Instead of enhancing the artwork, the installation of flower beds and other landscaping froze the horses in place, removing them from flowing beauty of the natural setting and transforming them into two horses standing in a flowerbed.

A few days after noticing the change, I read in the local paper that it was to be considered an enhancement and had been planned for a while.

I'm not surprised.

There is a struggle between life and technique in art.  When an artist is a child— spontaneity dominates.  The art is about process—not the final product.  After a while the same artist might take or study other artists works.  Then technique and structure can surge to the fore and making art about product.  That structure can often lock the vision of the artist in a cage—holding it hostage to some preconceived notion of what the final work should look like.

The best art uses both life and technique to inform Vision.  For me—art is about what a friend calls ‘happy pencil moments.’  Moments of inspiration combine with hours of practice to make a work of art live.

For example, a lot of work and planning went into casting the horses in the first place.  Once they were complete. Their placement allowed for the interaction of structure and spontaneity to create a living work of art that drew the my eye and made me look forward to seeing that particular work over and over again.

Now the either the artist or the community has worked over the setting of the pieces.  By changing the frame they have removed the life from the art.

20 July 2000

A dream, realized

20 July 2000

I was on my way home the other day, thinking about my life, and realizing that I have accomplished one of my childhood goals.

I grew up in Lander, Wyoming.  Population 11,000 during the boom years of the 70's and 7,000 during the bust years of the 80's.  Both my father and my grandfather had what I considered to be huge record collections.  My grandfathers collection of classical music never drew me as much as my father's collection of operas.  

I don't exactly remember how I came to be listening to opera on my own (instead of just listening to whatever my dad had on).  Part of it was teenage rebellion-I wanted to be different than my peers who listened to insipid pop music.  I also loved Shakespeare from a young age and so part of the attraction to opera was the overlap in plots between some of the operas my father had and some of the works of Shakespeare I had read.  The final attraction, was the incredible range and power of the human voices in opera.  

I grew up as part of various choirs in grade school, junior high, high school, church, and community college.  I love singing.  I love to sing.  I don't have a powerful voice or much of a range but the feeling of standing in the center of a chorus and feeling the tide of voices rising around me always kept me coming back for more.  And knowing my own limitations as a singer only impressed on me more the amazing beauty of professional opera singers.

Growing up in Wyoming, my only chance to see opera was on the living-room television set when PBS would broadcast "Live from the Met" and seeing it on television was never as wonderful as lying on the couch listening to a record with the sound washing over me.  

I hoped one day to see opera live.

A few years ago I got my chance. My friend Ieva was working for the Seattle Opera Costume Shop and had a comp ticket available for dress rehearsal.  Since her dad (another opera fan) couldn't come she invited me.  I had a wonderful time.  Not only did I get to see opera live-I got to see my friend's hard work brought to life on stage.  Over the next year or so I went to several dress rehearsals with Ieva.  Sometimes she had to work while I watched the show but I always enjoyed myself.  Once in a while the Opera would be generous and Ieva's father or my husband could come with me-then, after the opera, we would take Ieva out for dessert.

In 1997 my husband and I realized that we were making enough money to be able to afford some planned extras and so we subscribed to three of the Seattle Opera Productions for 1997-98 season.  The next year we subscribed to the full season and now we find ourselves not only subscribed to the 2000-01 season but signing up for the 2001 Ring Cycle as well.

A round of thanks to my father for letting me explore the world of music through his collection, to Ieva for brining me into her world of dream creation, and to my husband David for supporting me in my love of opera (maybe some year we'll get that jig-saw).  Thanks to you all for creating and fulfilling dreams.