It’s starting to be the time of year when salads sound good again. After Christmas, all the magazines push leafy greens like they’re the magic elixir of life, pandering to all of those weight loss resolutions everyone is supposed to have made. But salad doesn’t sound good in January. Stew sounds good. Soup, risotto, anything thick and warm that requires a spoon to eat sounds good. And while the cold winds howl around the houses bereft of Christmas decorations, that’s pretty much how it stays. Grilled cheese, braised meats, any kind of chili variation- that’s what I want to eat.
But right about Valentine’s Day, things start to change. I don’t know if it’s the gradually lengthening days, or the knowledge that spring is creeping closer and closer, but I start thinking about how nice it is to crunch into a lovely fork full of salad greens, or tomato slices gleaming on a plate, or the particular moist crackle when you break apart a ripe pepper. Then sometimes the winter weather falters a little, letting a little breath of spring-ish warmth through (you know, one of those days when you don’t have to button your coat), and I start thinking about new spring greens, and pea shoots, and wondering whether or not it really is too early to start radishes. And it is too early. I know it is. Even if next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Really you should wait until St. Patrick’s Day at least. But still.
Among other signs that the seasons are changing, our choir director distributed two songs at last night’s practice for us to start rehearsing for the Easter Vigil. We started working on the music for Lent as soon as Christmas was over. Choir has continued to be a joy for me. I started cantoring last month, and now my director has started asking me to work on special pieces. I can’t remember the last time I sang solo in front of an audience before this. Maybe when I was part of the choir at Corpus Christi probably some 15 years ago? I had forgotten how terrifying it is to get up all by yourself in front of a bunch of people and sing. It’s funny – I can speak in front of any number of people, no problem. I’ve gotten up and told bad jokes to entire bleachers full of high school students, and didn’t break a sweat. But singing? That’s a whole different story. My hope is that the more I do it, the more I’ll get used to it, and maybe by this time next year I won’t even bat an eyelash.
The biggest piece I’m learning is He Was Despised from Handel’s Messiah, which I will sing as the prologue music before Sunday Mass on March 8th. It’s been lovely to work on it, though my version of working on it is mostly singing along to the recording (my favorite is Elizabeth Shammash singing with Apollo’s Fire) over and over again as I drive back and forth to work. The entire song is musical variations on the words: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.” It is such a song of grief, and if I could sing it the way it is in my head, it would go from incredulity at the fact that this loved one could possibly be despised, to righteous anger that this should be so, to utter heartbreak, the kind that comes when someone is yelling because they do not want to cry, and then dissolves into weeping. I’m not that good. But I’m going to see what I can do. We’ll see how it goes.
And in the meantime, I think I’m going to make some salad for dinner.
Today I am praying for Margret Watsai