Back in the day when I used to watch American Idol, I saw this little country girl come out of nowhere and dominate the show from start to finish. No matter how many people cannot stand Simon Cowell, many of his predictions about talented people in show business are uncannily right on target. From the very start he said she would be one of the favorites to win, and after her performance during the top eleven finalist’s show he predicted that she would not only win but that she would go on to outsell all previous Idol winners.
I think one of the things that impressed me most about Carrie Underwood as I watched her rise to fame during and after Idol is her “sweetness”. To me she came across as this sweet girl with no false pretenses or airs. And then there was that voice! An amazing voice that allows her to cover a range of styles with no apparent effort.
Well, last week I was given the opportunity to see Carrie live in concert here in Jacksonville (Jax), Florida. What an unexpected treat that was. My friend Carol had secured two tickets way back in the spring of this year so that she and her daughter could go and see the show together. At the last minute Carol’s daughter could not attend and so she offered me the ticket – as long as I did the night driving in downtown Jax. Now that’s what I call a bargain!
So off we headed to grab a bite to eat and then on to the Jacksonville Memorial Arena. I have seen a couple of shows at this venue in the past few years and they were good but nothing spectacular. Little did I know that was about to change. There were two opening acts before Carrie: Sons of Sylvia (watch out for them in the future, they are three extremely talented young brothers who I believe will go BIG on the country scene), and Billy Currington (already well known in country circles). The stage setting for both was pretty simple and pretty standard for a basic opening act.
That all changed when Carrie took the stage. I was expecting a good show from her because I know she is talented and has made a real name for herself since winning Idol. However, I was totally unprepared for the next two hours. The stage settings were fabulous to say the least. Carrie literally exploded onto the stage with both her voice and her presence. She is such a class act. I was completely amazed by the show that she put on. The word “professional” just does not cover it. “Consummate professional” comes a little closer.
Her warmth and genuineness as she interacted with the audience was tangible. She puts her whole heart and soul into her singing and it’s obvious she is also having a lot of fun. Her style in both the clothes she wore and her comportment and attitudes was just top notch. It was very obvious that her band adores her and loves working with her. She is still the sweet country girl she always was but now she has a lot of polish with it. She carries no fancy airs and even openly yet appropriately talked about her faith and God. I came away from the evening somehow feeling a little better about myself.
If you ever get the opportunity to go see her live, please do so. I do not think you will be disappointed. I am not exactly a big fan of country music but my experience with Carrie last week may just have changed that.
I may not have written much in the last couple of months, but words have still been the centre of my life. They were not running off my fingertips through the computer but they were certainly filling my heart, soul, and mind. In the absence of writing I have been doing a lot of reading.
It’s as though words in some way, shape, or form have to be in my life. I love seeing them printed or written across the page. It fascinates me to think about what the words hold. It could be information about an object, a machine say, or it could be the description of a place.
Words have the power to fire our imagination. They can transport us to some magical landscape where we can "escape” for a few hours as we read. They can describe a character so that we think we can see them, smell them, hear them as they speak. The author Morris West (In The Shoes Of The Fisherman) has an incredible gift for this last talent, and this was what drew me to read all of his books.
In the latter part of 2009 I was introduced to the author Robert B. Parker. His style of writing attracted me immediately. He wrote a couple of series of books with different central characters; the Spenser novels, the Jesse Stone novels, and the Sunny Randall novels. They are all of the detective genre.
He used a short sharp yet easy flowing style of writing, especially when it came to conversations between people. Some of his sentences are just two words long! Yet everything is perfect in the moment. And he uses a form of dry, wry wit that appeals to my English sense of humour.
Over a period of about three months I think I read everything he wrote. Back in January 2010 I was devouring his last three or four books from the library shelf when I heard the news of his death. I remember my immediate thought was “Oh no, what will I read now!” as if he were the only writer producing books.
But he had very quickly become “my Robert B. Parker (RBP)”. He had entered my heart and my soul through his generously-shared talent. I thought of him as a friend who set out to entertain me with each of his books. The only positive thing that I can say about his passing is that he died at his typewriter doing what he loved most.
So having completed all his books I then had to find someone else. I love detective/spy books so I stayed in that genre. Checking along the shelves in the library I remember thinking, “I need to find a prolific author; someone who has as many books on the shelf as “my RBP”. And so Sue Grafton found her way into my book bag.
Her A,B,C books based on the character Kinsey Millhone are great. Her style is different yet just as interesting as RBP. Kinsey is a little off-beat, a little off-centre, and as a woman detective is just finding her way around the profession. I guess what attracts me to her is that there is a part of her that is organized and yet there is another great chunk of her that is delightfully, quirkily “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants”.
Her well-preserved and still very attractive octogenarian neighbour Henry and his other “just as old if not older” siblings add some unique interest to the story. But the spice is added, literally, by Rosie, of Hungarian origins, who runs a small restaurant/grill/bar down the road from Kinsey’s home. I can almost hear her speaking in her broken accent and can imagine the expressions on her face and in her voice the way Sue Grafton describes her.
So here I am having read the latest, U Is For Umbrella, and wondering who will be the next author that my eyes fall upon, that my nose smells out. One thing is for sure, I will not be without words in some way or another. They feed my soul and my mind. I will not go hungry!
No, I’m not going to do an Albert Einstein. I do not have that kind of analytical and scientific mind. But it struck me that any given situation will probably be viewed differently by each person involved in it. I just have to think about any normal, every day conversation between myself and my husband and how we sometimes struggle to understand exactly what the other is saying – and we’re both speaking English, and are relatively on the same page!
Just recently I read a phrase that really caught my attention. It said something like, “A mistake is just another way of doing something.” Yesterday I read another phrase which said, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.” And they both carry the same message as the old proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
I remember participating in a workshop some years ago. There were various projects and activities that we engaged in during the course of the workshop. One that I will always remember went something like this. We re-entered the classroom after a short break and in the middle of the chalk board was the word “track”.
The instructor asked us to just focus on that one word. Then she asked us not to talk among ourselves and to write a sentence using that word. As I recall, there were about twenty to twenty five of us in the class. There may have been a handful of sentences written that were similar. The rest were completely unique, each offering a different meaning and use of the word.
I’m sure that this creates problems from time to time. Going back to my husband and I, I can think of a few times when the discussion has become somewhat heated simply because of two completely different perspectives, understandings of, one word or phrase. (We’re probably not a good example because I’m British and he’s American, so the language barrier in and of itself sometimes is a bit of a beast!!!)
But different perspectives can also bring wonderful variety to our lives. Just think of art and architecture, and what about music? All the unique styles created by different people enrich our lives in all those areas. I absolutely love Modigliani and Monet and yet they create works at opposite ends of the spectrum. As do Degas and Dali and yet both have produced works of exquisite beauty.
I cannot imagine life without the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But there are days when all I want to hear is Dvorak or Beethoven. And when I’m in the mood, please get my toes a-tapping with some down-to-earth, boot-stomping Blue Grass.
On the news yesterday and today are the heart-wrenching stories and pictures from Samoa and Indonesia. People’s lives torn apart, wrecked by savage tsunami’s and earthquakes, forces of nature over which we have no control. Any “small stuff” problems that I may have been lamenting about dwindle into nothingness by comparison.
Probably the biggest example of perspective that I can remember in my own life happened back in the mid seventies. I was living in Sardinia at the time. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear August evening and the sky was littered with millions of stars forming the Milky Way. I remember standing on the patio of my little cottage and getting a cricked neck from staring upwards.
Then I had an idea. There was a six-foot long wooden picnic table on the patio which I covered with a sleeping bag. Then I lay on top and in wonderful comfort began to star gaze. It was an incredible experience. It looked as though someone had taken a dozen sacks full of diamonds and thrown them across the width and breadth of the sky.
It was only then, at the ripe old age of thirty something, that I began to get a clear idea of what the universe was about. As I lay on that picnic table I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just a flat dark blue background with “big stars, and little stars” painted all over it. I understood for the first time the significance of the word “infinity”.
I became aware that the “little stars’ were in fact probably just as “big” as the others seemed to me, but that they were further away and thus seemed “smaller”. And I also realized that if I squinted I could just barely see even “smaller” stars that were even further away. And in that one moment the full magnitude of “the universe” hit me.
In that one moment I was both terrified and also in total awe, and I realized just how insignificant I really was in the bigger scheme of things. And yet I also realized just how important I must be to my God that He has chosen to place me here in the bigger scheme of things.