Seagrove Orchids, meditation developments, and the Elias String Quartet

by Rob Tiller

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Last weekend I drove down to Seagrove, NC, and took some pictures at Seagrove Orchids.  Owner Linda Thorne had invited members of the Carolina Nature Photographers Association to visit her greenhouse with their cameras, tripods, and other gear.  Orchids are always fascinating, and seeing so many blooming at once was almost inebriating. The pictures here involved up to 30 exposures, each with slightly different focus points, which I later stitched together with Helicon Focus software and processed in Lightroom.  I was happy enough with some of the results to use them as wallpaper on my home screens.

 

Jocelyn called this week to catch up, and reported that she and Kyle were experimenting with mindfulness meditation.  They were trying the short practical instructions I’d pointed towards in the NY Times, which are here.  I was so happy to hear it! After several months of  practicing daily meditation, I’m persuaded that it can change us for the better. Just sitting still, breathing, and noticing what our minds do helps with many of our usual problems, like stress, anxiety, and distraction.  To be sure, not all of our problems are in our minds, but meditating reveals that a lot of them are, and with practice we can let those go. 

 

With less mental clutter and a lighter load of fears and anxieties, I find I can tune in better to the various joys of life, like friends, food, and music.  On Saturday we met up with friends in Durham for dinner at Mothers and Sons. It took several tries to get the reservation, but it was worth it; the food and service were excellent.  Afterwards, we all went to Duke’s Baldwin Auditorium to hear the Elias String Quartet play an interesting program of chamber music: Schumann’s Op. 41, No. 1, Sally Beamish’s String Quartet No. 4, and Schubert’s D. 804. 

 

The Schumann and Schubert are famous masterpieces, while the Beamish work was brand new, commissioned by Elias. Beamish (b. 1956) took fragments of the melodies and rhythms from the Schumann quartet and explored their tonal possibilities.  The short movements brought to mind the conciseness of Webern and the intensity of Bartok. I liked the idea of using the great music of Schumann in new ways, and enjoyed the piece, though Sally and our friends did not. I thought the Elias played with musicality and passion, though their tone quality was less rich and rounded than my ideal. In this performance, unlike the very greatest quartets, they did not completely gel into a single musical force. But they’re plainly very talented, and they seemed capable of doing so.