Rhythm and tempo: ride on!

Writing in the morning on a Saturday is challenging. Today it didn’t happen that way in the slightest, for example.

One part, which I wasn’t thinking about until now, is that Saturday is a collaborative day at my house, not a solo day or a day in slices. Unless advance planning blocks out solo time — such as the class I was supposed to teach this afternoon until it was canceled — all elements of Saturday are determined by consensus. Even waking up, to an extent. Call it stream-of-consensusness, because that’s fun, but I’m not skilled at plucking solo time out of that stream.

Though today I’d selected a moment to do so, and thought I was all set…
until I realized I was outside with a saw in my hand, assessing a tree branch.

I teetered between frustrated self-scolding and willed acceptance as I tackled a set of yard-chores I’d written down almost a month ago. Sawing branches on the ash tree, the cherry laurel, the Mexican plum. Getting distracted and weeding here and there. Wound-painting the raw spots; breaking down the limbs for the city recycling. Sprinkling rabbit deterrent. Pruning live oak suckers from our “dry creek” beds of stones lining our front walk.

During pruning, I saw myself and my day differently.

I had been musing over my predilection for choosing the next right step, which in the past had been a strange and wonderful gift for a network administrator to have. In this moment, though, I wasn’t accepting my semi-conscious choice of yardwork as more right than the writing I’d strictly told myself to tackle; I was more regretting that what had worked in my favor fifteen, ten, even five years ago wasn’t working now. Yet underneath it all, I felt a tug that my thinking was missing something — a tug I often feel when I’m wrestling with a creative schedule that’s not working.

I thought: I’m good at choosing the next thing, because I feel the rhythm of the task. Each task has its own rhythm, its own line, and I bring it in when it needs to come in. Which may not seem smooth, or orderly, in the moment but works beautifully in the end. I was listening to my memory of a work I performed called “Ride On, King Jesus” as arranged by L.L. Fleming. The trapeze-like thrill in performing this piece is that its coda is one melody, sung by each section…but the director brings each section in completely at random.

“All things work together for good… .” Yes. I conduct the tasks, bringing them in and quieting them down according to their internal line and rhythm. What else am I missing? Tempo. My energy sets the tempo. The work is fast, the work slows; the rhythms of the tasks move accordingly.

This holds the germ of its own kind of regular and reliable. “Ride On”‘s coda never starts the same way, never sounds quite the same, but with a flick of a wrist reliably snaps back into unity. To stand in the stream that is never actually chaos, and channel it-! It gives me goosebumps, even listening to my 40+-year-old memory.

Rhythm, and tempo. I’m going to stand here for a while, and listen to my days.
Maybe they’ll sound like jazz.


ps: That passage is in Romans 8:28. I gotta practice where it is; I keep using it!

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