The Alchemist

My daughter, looking a little vulnerable to my maternal eye, greeted me with a hug despite my warnings about a nasty virus I’d given refuge for the past week. We’d met for a bite to eat before the show, and talked a little about the mountain weighing heavily upon her, and for a moment I feared her sorrow might take away from her evening. But an hour later, less than thirty seconds into the show, she reached her arm around me to squeeze my shoulder. I squeezed her hand in response, she smiled widely, and then Brandi Carlile, as always, gave us her soul.

How do I describe the experience of her voice and guitar-playing and foot-stomping alongside the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra? I thought nothing would top the acoustic experience she gave us last year, but I was wrong. Almost immediately, her honesty tapped into something deep inside, and she seemed more grown-up somehow, and then she was no longer just singing, she was soaring miles above an entire symphony orchestra. She takes you with her, and then she drops you and you’re surfing a giant ocean swell about to break on the shore, and she’s laughing, and pouring out all this love, her voice magically soothing one minute and then shredding both the song and your heart in the next, and it’s much more than entertainment.

It’s wild, and primal, and a deeply spiritual ride.

With or without amplified sound (their unplugged acoustic piece sent chills down my back again), and with or without the twins’ voices and guitars, and with or without the entire symphony orchestra, she filled the auditorium and those of us present to overflowing. She can out-sing a thousand cellos, and she did, and I just have to put my thank-you out there to the universe. We’re born for connection and joy; they are deeply spiritual and sacred experiences.

Nights like these change nothing, and yet in deep unseen ways, they change everything again.


Determination, and Convocation

English: A publicity photo of the Davis Concer...

This morning at the gorgeous Winspear Centre, which was practically bursting with the majesty of the pipe organ and the excitement of those gathered, I eagerly watched the procession for the face of my sister.

Somehow, in the face of full time work, a busy family life, friends, her husband’s triple bypass surgery, and having to put it all on hold for many months to recover from a serious bleed on her brain a few years ago, she managed to rally the determination to recover fully, sacrifice her weekends for writing papers, and earn a degree from Grant MacEwan University.

She was smiling when I spotted her under her cap.

I was deeply moved from the first second of the ceremony. The vulnerable and terrifying months after the hospital came back to me for a moment, and then made room for relief and pride and joy. And awe. Like my sister, many of those graduating didn’t party their way through university at someone else’s expense; they worked hard to clear all kinds of hurdles, big hurdles. One young woman had earned her certificate in the face of an obvious developmental disability.

Being there to witness this moment made me proud to be a human being.

You did good, little sister, earning this now, after all these years, and all these reasons not to persevere.

Afterwards, my brother-in-law took us all out to the Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse, where we imbibed a little more abandon than we normally might on a Tuesday afternoon, and then we went back to our ordinary lives, the reality of rubbing along with family, co-workers, friends, domestics. But the memory of the morning will linger.