Friday, December 19, 2014

Family, Meteor Showers, and Community Chorus

Now that the dust has settled after the 40th Annual Groton Community Christmas Chorus, I can't resist writing one more article about it — for a few reasons… For starters, the picture below is one where you can actually see that I sing as a Baritone (back row) in the choir, because it was taken by a man on my team who came to see the "middle" concert — the one on Sunday night.

As strong as ever, about 100 of us from a dozen or more towns around Groton gave our Annual Christmas Gift to the Community — the usual three concerts at the UCC in Groton. And, as always, all 3 performances were to a packed house and the choirs all sang well. The instrumentalists we all fabulous, and as always The Treble Choir stole the show.

This year I felt more a part of the chorus; I think I just put more time and energy into getting to know the people behind the voices. And I was thrilled with how many new — especially younger and new — singers we had. We had a really simple piece for the GCCC men's number, but it was challenging enough because Edie had us sing it in an unusual configuration. The GCCC Women sang "Simple Gifts" and I did capture a video clip of that but only during the dress rehearsal, not the actual performance. Another thing that was different for me was that I got to be part of a quartet of men who joined the Treble choir while they sang "Little Drummer Boy" and we/the men were challenged (believe it or not!) to be the drums using our voices. Likewise, this isn't good video (because of where my camera was) but you get an excellent sense of what the Bell Choir sounded like from where I was.
The Saturday night before the concert we had a most-memorable extended-family bonfire cook-out in our yard. Both of my daughters were home, with their precsious men and several other friends, and we and had a fabulous time. Totally coincidentally, it was one of the peak evenings for shooting stars and we saw the "Geminid Meteor Showers" off and on over a period of about 3 hours. How appropriate it was for us to be watching "sharply bright dashes of light" (spirit!) on this particular evening — going into December 14th — because of the anniversary of a tragic family loss.

For fascinating details about these "Geminid Meteor Showers" you might want to check out this article and video. Likewise, click here for a selection of my blog articles about singing in the Groton Community Christmas Chorus over the years.

Wow — we were truly blessed on Saturday night, and I am truly blessed to be part of this community!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving in Groton; Christmas starts with the GCCC

This year in my GCCC article I also want to include the early morning sunrise picture that I took on Thanksgiving morning. Click on the image to the right to see the full-sized version of this year's early Thanksgiving morning snow on the trees in our yard.

The snow started to fall on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so early on Thanksgiving morning it was so beautiful and fluffy on the naked trees in our yard that I couldn't resist taking a number of pictures. Just the simple natural beauty of it put me immediately into a context of gratitude; it was the perfect way to start my Thanksgiving holidays.

And as I know from other years, once we get to Thanksgiving, the Groton Community Christmas Chorus is right around the corner. And this year Thanksgiving was so late in the month, that we're already just 2 weeks away from the three concerts we do in mid December. See flyer on the left for details.

So that's why I went out today and put out the first of the sandwich boards. But it was too dark out to get a picture, so here is what recent GCCC sandwich boards look like.

Keep in mind - 3 concerts:
  • Sunday, December 14th at 2.00 p.m.

  • Sunday, December 14th at 7.30 p.m.

  • Monday, December 15th at 7.30 p.m.
See you there !

Click here for a selection of my blog articles about GCCC - the Groton Community Christmas Chorus.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Breath of Sunshine on a bleak day in October

Recently when I had a little time to fill in between early-morning choir practice and our usual 10am Sunday morning service, I wandered out into our "UUC Memory Garden" and took the snapshot that you see, here, of "Gaye's Memory Brick". Click here for my blog article about Gaye's brick per se; here I tried more to capture the garden itself within the environment where it rests. You'd never know that this is right in the center of our town, Groton, Ma.

What a peaceful place it is — standing on and reading the 100s of bricks that memorialize loved ones from our congregation, looking out over the magnificent New England Fall, as you see it here, and listening to hear Gaye's voice in the wind, as I've written about before. This voice is not a lamentation; it's about everlasting joy — the joie de vivre that characterized the life she lived, albeit way too short.

Alas, I doubt that this view looks like that now because we've recently had three days of rain so I suspect most of the leaves have now fallen. But that's OK; it's perfectly appropriate. I actually like this view in every season, even on frigid cold days in Winter, or like today, a pretty bleak end-of-October day.

So where's that "Breath of Sunshine" ?

It's easy — just listen to the soundtrack from "The Sound of Music" and imagine living your life like that. Every day's an adventure. Every day the glass is always half full.

It was Gaye's lifetime context of "Climb Every Mountain" — with all of the UPs and DOWNs that entails — that taught me about why that's so important. It's all about embracing life as it is. Fully appreciating today, not waiting for something that might come… because this moment — right now — is all that any of us really has. It's about being truly happy with what is within your reach.

Climb every mountain…
— from "The Sound of Music" soundtrack

Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
'Till you find your dream.

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life,
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream.

Thank you, and I miss you, dear sweet sister Gaye. Thank you for the life you lived, and for what you continue to give to me by still being present in my life every day.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Community Holy Water and George Downey's Chalice Story

As per our annual UUC Groton tradition at the beginning of the Fall season… this week we had our "Gathering of Community Water" ritual during our first "big church" service of the Fall. As always, there was a huge turnout as everyone proudly told their story — I loved it. Moreover, this year that was especially great for me because it rained on The Day I took my US Citizenship Oath and I had gathered that rain water specifically for this ritual. So I proudly said “Dual Citizen” as my "word" that goes with the water and that was very meaningful for me.
On the right you see a picture of the huge "card" that everyone got to sign for George Downey's 90th birthday along with a recent picture of him. Below is the text from his story about his most generous gift to the UUC community sometime after the year 2000.
The Chalice Story ” — by George Downey
     Several years ago Jean and I arrived, joining with others in the congregation for Sunday worship at First Parish Church of Groton. Our Chalice then was a pewter vessel showing some dents, with a somewhat distorted rim, and sitting slightly askew on its base.
     Some place in Elea's sermon that morning my mind strayed to imagining a new Chalice vessel: what shape, how big, how wide, how high, what wood, what artistic presence? Well, my mind got back to Elea's sermon, but I took all of those fleeting thoughts home with me.
     First, it was to the drafting board: rough sketches, finally a satisfying idea, scale drawings, full-scale drawings, templates cut to the shape of the finished design. The wood should be mahogany, like the molding trim around the top of the box pews.
     It was time to go to my woodworking shop. I had a supply of leftover mahogany pieces. The pedestal is a stack of disks of diminishing diameters. These are glued and clamped. While the glue hardened for seven days it allowed time for me to re-sharpen all the lathe chisels to razor-sharp edges.
     The lathe will turn the pieces slowly at first. The pedestal and the bowl are shaped separately on the lathe. The speed is increased as the pieces are rounded, and increased more for shaping. The pieces are sanded on the rotating lathe. The pedestal and bowl must fit together precisely for the final assembly and gluing. The last step is a finish applied to bring out the beauty of the mahogany wood. To this point this is just a created object in my workshop.
     When the wooden vessel made its way from my workbench to our sanctuary and was placed on its stand, with a flaming candle, it was infused with new meaning as Our Chalice, truly a metamorphosis in wood!
     The flaming Chalice is the symbol of Unitarian Universalism, and it is a centering symbol of our gathered community.
     Our Chalice flame embraces all who come! - Sept 2014

George tells me the "he's not on-line", so I guess he won't likely see this. But I wanted to post it nevertheless because I very much value our heritage and believe firmly in doing whatever I can to help preserve it. As you can read in my blog articles about my UUC participation, I've been going to this Church for many years yet I had no idea of the story behind our beloved mahogany wooden chalice. Thank you so much, George !

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Proud to be an American — Citizen Pammett

At long last it finally happened — I made my way through all of the tedious steps and have just taken the final step — the pledge of allegiance to the USA. Yup. Citizen Pammett and I am Proud to be an American!

Never having seen such a naturalization ceremony, I didn't know much about what to expect, so it was pretty interesting. First lesson learned: When they say "it starts at 10:30", what that means is that some people will arrive by then, but they don't actually start the ceremony until after everyone who is going to arrive has had their paperwork checked, and they're all sitting in their seats. So in my case that meant that we actually got going just after 12:30.

Then the interesting part started. First up, they said that we were 643 applicants, from 95 different countries. Then they called out all of the countries in alphabetical order, encouraging everyone to stand up and cheer when their country was called. Not unlike the Olympics… it was an amazingly long time until they got to Canada at which point I did cheer loudly to make my presence known — as if it wasn't already obvious enough due to my Uncle Sam top hat and celebratory garb. Much to my surprise, it was the only such hat that I saw all day. The festive garb was the brainchild and birthday gift from my baby girl, shown with me on the left when we went out for lunch afterwards with my longtime friend, Austin.

The ceremony was actually more interesting than I expected, featuring a very inspirational "keynote" from the Judge — herself an immigrant — who presided over the ceremony. Her quote, which totally enrolled me, was [that I was] “Pledging myself to an enterprise in human freedom”. Yeah !   I totally get it. After the Oath, tears came to my eyes as I sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” for my first time as an American Citizen. I was also touched by the symbolism of it being such a rainy day (new life). When I got home I put out a container to catch rain drops and I will use that water as my "Citizenship" contribution this Fall when we do our UUC tradition of combining community water to make ritual water for the coming year.

For comparisson — on the right you see what I looked like when I got my green card in 1982, which was already 5 years after I'd come to the USA. Yea... things change. How many times have I had to explain that at border crossings?
Which brings me to answering the question everyone asks: Why did I do it ?
Basically, to me it was a mater of Integrity. Technically, I'll always be a Canadian. But I have lived and worked my entire life outside of Canada — years in France but mostly in the USA. And at this point in my life I want to "go home" when I retire — home to my country. And though I have lived elsewhere for almost half my life, deep down I feel like this is my home and always will be. So I just wanted to make the commitment officially and take my rightful place doing my part in “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it  !

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How much have you loved?

Last evening, just when my mind was turning to the next day — to today being the anniversary of my Mom's passing in the year 2000 — I was totally blind-sighted by the shocking news of the tragic passing of Robin Williams. I have long felt a kindred spirit with him, but didn't realize until I looked it up how close we really were on life's timeline: We were almost exactly the same age except that he was born on the 21st vs my birthday being the 24th of July, 1951.  

So today, rather than lament his unfortunate choice of leaving us, I choose to focus on one of the many of his quotes that I heard on TV today. In an interview where they were talking about the choices we all make as we go through life — what ultimately matters and what doesn't — RW said that the most important way we all can assess our own lives is to look back over it and ask the simple question: “How much have you loved ?”

Such a poignant and important question! I might prefer to generalize it a bit and rather ask a question about being in touch with your passion... What are you passionate about?   Or:   When was the last time you allowed yourself to really engage in something that you are passionate about?  Take a second, now, and answer that honestly. You may be inspired by what you discover.

If you know me you'll know that generally I have no shortage of answers to such questions. Most of that revolves around my connection to people and nature, which I guess is why I chose this picture for my R.I.P. statement about Robin Williams. But really it's a calling out to all people out there who can look deep down inside and find something they want to howl about. If you prefer poetry... check out my “Howling at the Moon” article.

If you're still unsure... go out tonight and marvel at the Perseid meteor showers. Tonight just happens to be when they will be at their peak. And if you're anywhere near Boston, Mass, check out this article for details on how to see this yearly marvel from the North East USA vantage.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Two Young Bucks in the Woods

I love living out in the sticks !

To the left is a young buck, taken from my fire circle in the woods early this morning in July. When I went into the woods to dump compost, there he was with his large but broken antlers... but of course he ran away immediately. So I followed his trail until I was in the team mtg site part of the woods, and I just sat still... and there he was - hiding quietly behind a tree about 30' away. So we both sat there for several minutes, inspecting one another until he decided to move beyond the next hill in the neighbors woods.

I feel privileged.

The picture below shows the fire circle, but in order to take it I had to step back from the circle and by the time I got to where I could get the view, the young deer had already disappeared behind the hill in the neighbour's woods. So I made a little inert to show where he had been.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Citizen Pammett → Declaration of Independence on July 4th

On this lovely day in July I just happen to stumble upon this really terrific video that I've embeded below.  

Of course, we've all heard about the vote that you see in that video clip — with the representatives from each of the 13 colonies when they voted to put their stake in the ground and founded this country. So that's not news. But what struck me when I watched this morning was how brave those people must have been → standing up to what had been the largest military force in the world. Of course it didn't come easy and imagine what it would be like doing that and knowing that people would die making this American Dream — this Dream of Freedom — come true.
So what does that challenge look like today — when we're facing a world that's so unimaginably different from even just a few decades ago? Click on the video, and as you watch it... think about what you are being called to stand up for in our new global economy, social-media dominated world.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Long and Winding Road - to US Citizenship

Another very important milestone on my journey towards becoming a "naturalized citizen" of the USA, today, so here's another selfie.

The selfie on the right is me outside USCIS → the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (formerly known as the INS) in Lawrence, Ma, after the long-awaited citizenship test, which I passed with flying colors on this lovely day in June.

And now I think there's an excellent chance that it will happen in time for me to vote in November → the USCIS interviewer said that the only remaining step would be the swearing in, and that could be with the July group, otherwise likely to be in August (though of course they can never promise anything).

If anyone is interested in the process, it's well explained here :

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fingerprinting Without Ink - USA Citizenship

This selfie represents me at a very important milestone in my 30-year journey from being a "landed immigrant" to a "naturalized citizen" of the USA.
On the left — my selfie — is me waiting at the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (the INS) in Lawrence, Ma, for my appointment to get my fingerprints taken for my official citizenship records. And they did it without using any ink, unless you wanna call a full-hand touchpad gizmo something like digital ink.
Of course this is not the long-awaited citizenship, yet. I don't know when that will clear. But I do think I have reached the point where it is inevitable. There is nothing left that I have to do that I have any big barriers around, which is way more than I can say about most of the other steps along this path. The only major thing left is the interview (which I think is the same thing as the citizenship test) so I will have to study up a bit for that.
So there is a chance that it could happen in time for me to vote in November... But I rather suspect more of a delay than that, even though I must admit that the INS folks did pretty good getting to the fingerprinting part already given that I didn't actually submit my citizenship application — finally — until mid-March, 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Man In Flight — Flying With Eagles

I don't normally write articles that mostly contain someone else work, but this morning when I sat back and watched the video that you see below, I was so inspired that I wanted to help others connect with it personally, just like I did.
To see the view that you can get from a hanglider; that's already amazing. But when you bring the Eagles into it — especially when it's so obvious that these powerful birds are willing to really connect with mankind — it really inspires me to connect even more than I usually do with Nature.

By all means… when you watch this video do it in full screen with your audio turned up. Click on the "Play" icon in the center of the picture on the right, and then click the "full screen" Icon [looks like an open square] on the bottom right of the viewing pane.

Thank You God!!
Thank you for bringing us into such a magical and marvelous world where we really can "Fly With The Birds".