lessons in intervals

My mom doesn’t have time to write emails.

She juggles four schedules, a full-time job with teenagers, foster mom shenanigans, and now post-lymes disease syndrome is in the mix. She doesn’t really have time to read my blog or call me on the phone or listen to my heartsickness because she has a world that refuses to fit inside each day’s minutes.

I was standing on the subway platform waiting for the J train at the Crescent stop last week and the tracks made a very squeaky interval that sounded like West Side Story. It sounded like, “There’s a place for us…” and the phrase started accompanying the train’s song.

It took me back to all those nights with my mom in the piano room where we would practice listening for the “NBC” interval, the “happy birthday” interval and all those other intervals. She would play one and we would guess a fourth or fifth or seventh. I’m not sure why she had time to teach us things like that or how she had time to make them fun. We weren’t paying her for piano lessons and it wasn’t the easiest activity to undertake with five hooligans in a constant game of chase around the house.

But, I remember sitting there and sometimes rolling my eyes through my lesson. I remember her exasperation and her persistence. I remember thinking that she wanted me to learn intervals more than I wanted me to learn intervals.

“There’s a place for us…”

It’s like playing word association with melodies – like hearing fragments of stories sliding around on the breeze. And, anyway, hearing that interval from West Side Story was like comfort food. I was the only one standing there, looking at the sun going down and trying not to sigh into the New York commuter face. And I tasted the comfort in those notes – notes that took me back to the nights I learned intervals sitting next to my mom on that old, dented piano bench.

Yep, I thought. There is a place for me here, a place for us.

I got an email the other day from my mom.

Did you know that the color of the tree leaves in the fall is actually the ABSENCE of chlorophyll (which is required for photosynthesis)??

So let’s get this straight.  The leaves are more beautiful in color when they are empty of the thing that makes them green.  Hm..

Am I more beautiful when I’m empty?  Is this what 2 Cor 12:9 means?

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Leaves get empty and what is left behind are cold fireworks that float to the earth in friendly piles. Leaves get empty of what makes them alive and that is when leaves get beautiful.

Why did God make even death and absence beautiful? Why did He get so creative with the season that ushers in winter?

I imagine he could have done many other productive things, tended to many other beautiful endeavors. Why think to drain the leaves of life and replace them with cold, colorful flames?

Because even (and especially) in this detail God is loving us. He is gently and divinely displaying His glory. He is drawing us into wonder, into whimsy and wide eyes. He is painting his beauty in the emptiness of creation and (maybe) revealing that He can transform something dead.

It was an email like interval lessons and my mom doesn’t have time for any of it. She is weak, like all of us, and today I’m glad for the lesson on power in weakness because we both need it. She is probably taking a lymes-induced nap before powering through Sabbath evening while I warm by afternoon window sunlight and think about the beauty of emptiness.

The first part of the Sabbath felt smooshed and time empty. It felt a little restless and run hungry. I needed to hear that familiar interval – the sound of Scripture reminding me that I shouldn’t ever fight to be full. I needed to remember that God considers His creation a worthy investment – a fitting canvas to display His glory in nonsensical ways.

2 thoughts on “lessons in intervals

  1. I’ll always remember that about the leaves now. That late glory reminds me of the power in Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the final movement. It was his final piece of music written, and he was going deaf, but the glory in it moves me every single time I hear it.

  2. Yep. Lyme-induced nap then a walk into the darkness. Not everyone will read “interval” and think of music. “There’s a place for us” and minor 7th have no relative meaning for many people. That raises some interesting alternative interpretations of your very creative blog……

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