This morning, in Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World, I am reading about the importance of paying attention. Which is fun, because that's one of the gifts of being a photographer -- we notice things; we pay attention. So here's a little story about the gift of noticing.
Background: when we went to New England in September for all those family birthdays, our daughter drove us to New Jersey and back. Since it was her car, we listened to her music, which, at that point in time, was Paul Simon's Graceland album. I had loved it, too, when it first came out, so -- no hardship there!
Fast forward a couple of months -- though perhaps I should mention that our flight to New Orleans took us to the Memphis airport, where we spent time in the Elvis store learning about -- you guessed it -- Graceland...
So on our first night in New Orleans, we ate in a little pizza place, and there was some terrific photography on the walls. One piece in particular -- a photo of an old guitar and a hand, nothing else -- caught my eye. I liked it so much I took a picture of it. Just a record shot, because I loved it. Two days later we were walking down the street, a couple of blocks from our hotel, and there was a terrific street band playing. Our daughter was very taken with them, and borrowed money to purchase one of their CD's. I was very taken with the guitarist; I loved the intensity of his work, the angle of his head, his hat, his hands, his guitar -- so I took several pictures.
Processing the photos later, I realized the guitar in this picture was the same guitar whose photo had appeared on the wall of the restaurant: the curious perforations and the odd splashes of paint were unmistakably the same. So I sent a copy of my picture to a guitarist friend, and he wrote back to tell me it was a "National brand resophonic guitar," created out of metal with a resonator to enhance the sound.
So I went online to look up these guitars, and they're mostly very shiny; they don't have the glorious texture of this one. So it's still clear it's the same one I saw in the restaurant photo. But here's what brings this story to a circle: as an afterthought in his note, my guitarist friend wrote this: "From Paul Simon's "Graceland": "The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar."
And suddenly I could hear the song and see the Mississippi Delta -- which was of course where we had just been -- and it all came together for me in a burst of joy; it just felt like the whole experience of New Orleans was peaceful, and right. It was, I believe, an experience of Grace.
In her curator's statement for the new ECVA Exhibition for Advent, gifted musician Ana Hernandez begins with a quote from pianist Glenn Gould (to whom my mother listened extensively when I was growing up): “The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline, but is, rather, the lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”
I think both Gould and Hernandez are talking about Grace -- and that's certainly what I'm feeling, both in this story, and in this GORGEOUS exhibit. So in the time-honored tradition of re-gifting (and in case Graceland isn't a familiar song for you), here's a video of Graceland; those key lines are right at the beginning.
And for a final dessert helping of Grace, I invite you to visit ECVA's new Advent exhibition, entitled "Imaging the Sacred Art of Chant." Drink in the grace of these glorious images (you might even want Ana's music playing in the background as you browse through them). I feel certain they will feed your soul.