Sunday, December 9, 2007

Making a joyful noise

It feels like I've been away for days, even though I was just out of town yesterday. I think it's the lack of sleep and all the things that happened that make it seem longer.

Friday night was Rick's company party. It was...well...hmm...well, interesting. Yup, that's my word and I'm sticking to it. I guess I'm just not all that good at that sort of thing. I did enjoy the people we sat with. The dj was...well...also interesting. Think Tom Jones meets Mickey Dolenz. His suit was shiny. And I think that it was meant to be that way. He did impressions of Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and pretty much every stereotypical holiday song there is. Every time Rick and I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. At least it was funny. I wore my beautiful stole, which almost made up for it, even though I was among the unwashed, and no-one noticed it. I clearly needed some of my people around; knitters wouldn't have missed it for a second.

We got home at midnight, and I was up at 4:50 am to head to the airport. My friend and colleague Jill and I flew up to Sacramento and then drove to Clear Lake to start our new project, which is documenting the stories of the folks I work with, who are being disenrolled from their Tribe. We had thought that yesterday was just going to involve a couple of pilot interviews, to see whether there was a there there, you know? Whether people really wanted to tell their stories, what it would mean to document those stories, and what the implications might be of us doing the documentation as outsiders. When we got there, there was a house full of people who were dying to tell their stories, to whom it meant so much that someone would actually come from out of town to hear them talk about what they're going through. We interviewed for almost six hours straight. It was insane. By the end, neither of us could even think straight any more, and I'm not sure that we were very coherent. I think we'd both gone numb. There was so much pain and anger in that room, and we wanted so much for people to feel that they'd been heard. All thoughts of "proper" elicitation techniques (read: dispassionate, unemotional) were out the window. These people were hurting, and we were right there in it. It's not something I can talk about in much detail here, but I think that what we're hoping to do is important and I so hope that it will help someone somehow. But it's not going to be easy at all. Reading this over, I'm not sure how coherent I am, even yet; sorry.

We flew home that night (made it to the concourse as they were calling our names to board the plane -- everyone else had already gotten on), and I was back in the house by 9:30 pm, completely worn out and incoherent. I went to bed and slept until almost 9:00 this morning, when I got up and finished the first Marie Antoinette sock, pictures of which I'll post tomorrow, I promise; I even wet-blocked it, since it clearly deserved royal treatment. I think that Anne has the pattern up at her pattern shop now; I'll post the details tomorrow, too. I have decided that they are for my friend Jill (yup, the same one who went along on yesterday's wild ride with me), for her 40th birthday next weekend. Every woman needs Marie Antoinette socks to usher her into what I hear is an excellent decade of life.

Today Rick and I took the girls to hear the San Diego Symphony play Beethoven's 9th. I've never heard it played live before, although it is one of my very favorite symphonies. It was stunning. The opening movement of the symphony always gives me chills; I have no idea how Beethoven so perfectly captured the sense of order out of chaos that he did. Themes arise out of inchoate notes, fall away, and rise again. And the Ode to Joy just gives me chills. I cried. The woman next to me did, too. Younger Daughter, sitting on my lap, turned to me and whispered, "Mama, are you crying from happiness?" and I just nodded. I don't know if it's happiness, or awe, but that chorus is the ultimate instance of humans raising their voices in a joyful noise. It is glorious, and it is breathtaking. It makes me want to open my mouth and join in, and isn't that what music is all about? I needed that today, after yesterday. I needed to remember that there is joy, even as there is pain, and that either way, we need to make a noise about it.


Anne said...

Yes. But remember that your being present for the folks at Clear Lake is as important as bringing joy. Listening is hard and painful work, and it doesn't make beautiful noise, but it is necessary and community-building and sometimes even lifesaving.

Anonymous said...

Very emotional work, but you are doing something wonderful in allowing these people to be heard. It reminds me of a story my sister told me about--she's an artist and was hired to paint several murals in an African American church in Mansfield, Texas. The congregation wanted religious murals, of course, but they also wanted to tell the story of their own role in the civil rights movement in the paintings as well. Their story was haunting--a story of an attempt at school desegregation that ended in failure the year before Little Rock. Their stories have been largely forgotten, overshadowed by the events the next year in Little Rock. The shocking thing for me was that all of that happened just 20 miles away from where I grew up, and yet I never learned about it in a history book. These people had so many stories to tell, and my sister, in her small way, helped their voices be heard. You're doing that, too.

(By the way, I've moved my blog to a new address:

Anonymous said...

Without grief, we could not appreciate joy. And without joy, how would we recognize grief?


Bea said...

I'm sorry about the no one noticing your shawl at the party. I personally think its fabulous and would have told you so if I'd been there.

The stories sound painful but it will be so so wonderful when they are all recorded and all those voices are really heard. Who better to do that job then someone who cares and maybe understands a bit (well once you are coherent.)

I can't agree more about ode to joy. Its actually the only song I ever managed to learn to play on the piano (I'm tone deaf, but this actually sounded just fine to those who listened to me fail at piano.)

Carrie K said...

That sounds heavenly (the symphony.) The interviews sound depressingly familiar.

And what?? No one put the spotlight on you and your beautiful shawl? What kind of people attended that Christmas party? Philistines.

Sheepish Annie said...

The shiny suit sounds very interesting. But not nearly so much as your interviews. I think that, if you are going to document pain, you sort of have to live in it with people. I know it takes away from the clinical objectivity. But, you can't really understand it until you grab a hold of it to some degree.

And it surely makes the joyful experiences all the more powerful!