Harmonic enlightenment, and then some

I glanced down at the open book of Hymns on my lap and pondered the fact that I’m clueless when it comes to music.  Oh, I quite enjoy listening to it, but I’m oblivious when it comes to the understanding of notes, composition, tune, rhythm, etc.

It wasn’t my intention to attend church services that morning.  I’m not normally a church goer, but I do occasionally get drawn in by architecture and every now and then the need for a little spiritual enlightenment.  It was a lovely morning, and I was out and about visiting a local historical landmark.  The Lamar, Texas, cemetery has gravestones dating back to the Civil War and all the local tourist brochures listed this as a site to visit.

So, there I was on a Sunday morning strolling through a cemetery when I realized the neighboring little Catholic Church’s’ doors were open.  My curiosity was such, that I found myself entering the Stella Maris Chapel and taking a seat in the second to the last row of pews.  I was a little music_clipart_notesearly and only the fifth person to arrive.  I glanced around taking in my surroundings and noting the Hymn numbers posted.  I turned to the appropriate page to glance at the first song to be sung.  I already knew I wouldn’t be singing out loud…..

My first real exposure to the education of music was somewhere around the seventh grade. It was a semester long, daily one-hour class exposing students to all aspects of music including singing.  This sounded like a fun class to me, especially since I could sing really well…. or so I thought.  After all, what teenager doesn’t like singing along with their favorite artist?

The first day of this new class, the teacher wanted to get to know the students and their abilities.  She had the left half of the class sing the first verse of a song and then she had the right half sing it.  She’d select different students to sing a line while the rest of us remained silent.   Recommendations were made and it was obvious these first few students that had attracted her attention were talented singers.

this little gal sings beautifully

this little gal sings beautifully

This process continued and when the teacher finally called my name, I proudly stood erect thinking she’d want me to sing by myself.  Instead, I was told to sing a little softer, which I did, but apparently not soft enough.  She stopped our group two more times to tell me to sing a little softer.  Once my volume was down to lip-synching level and not one vocal cord in my throat vibrated, I was given a big thumbs up… “That’s perfect, Ingrid.  Keep singing at that volume for the rest of class”.

gumby and poky“Seriously”, I thought?  “What did she know?”  I couldn’t wait to get home and sing my heart out into my little cassette player-recorder, proving that the music teacher didn’t know what she was talking about.  And sing I did, and in my head I sounded fantastic!

With a smile on my face and child-like exuberance, I rewound the cassette and hit play to hear my wonderful rendition of I Think I Love You.   Come on, who didn’t want to be Susan Day back then?  I even played an air piano while singing and had taken an iron to my unfashionable curly hair an hour earlier.

Alone in my room, I listened to the singer on the cassette player.  I didn’t recognize the voice, yet I knew it was mine.  I continued listening figuring it had to get better, because it couldn’t possibly get any worse.  Or could it?  My faced flushed with embarrassment at the realization I couldn’t sing…. or rather I shouldn’t sing.

Oh well, I never had any aspirations to be a musical performer, thus I focused on being the best lip singer in class.  Ever since discovering my inability to carry a tune, I rarely sing.  Even today when we’ve joined friends for karaoke, I won’t sing, but I will gladly get on stage to be a background dancer for a Robert Palmer song!

Vultures can't sing, but they do hiss

Vultures can’t sing, but they do hiss

Back to church….. After a little fire and brimstone which included why parishioners should sing out loud (egad, did the priest imply me?) services were over and I exited the church.  I immediately noticed a turkey vulture in a tree.  I first became intrigued with these unique birds a couple of years ago during a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  My fascination lead to a series of Google searches to learn about them.  Did you know, vultures lack a syrinx and are nearly silent?  Their vocalizations are limited to grunts and hisses; no harmonic singing from these birds.

We glance at each other knowing we share a common bond - we can't sing!

We glanced at each other knowing we share a common bond – we can’t sing!

As I approached the tree located between the church and the cemetery, Vivian Vulture hissed at me.  I hissed back, “Come on Viv…. we’re kindred spirits…. neither one of us can sing”.vulture

Vultures serve an important role in the circle of life.  Some may say they’re ugly.  I find them beautiful.  I shared my unusual infatuation with these birds before along with some intriguing facts.  If you’re interested in reading a few more tidbits about vultures and seeing more photos, you can read my post here.

I may not have felt any spiritual enlightenment from the church sermon, but I did experience a clarity that morning with my encounter with Vivian.  I was reminded that we are all created with a distinct purpose and rare beauty; created with special talents or gifts; created with uniqueness that should be embraced.  How boring would it be if we were all able to sing like Adele?  Or worse, what if we all sang like Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friends Wedding”?  Oh yikes, I do 😉

Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution – Deepak Chopra




86 thoughts on “Harmonic enlightenment, and then some

  1. A kindred spirit! I, too, recognized in grammar school that I wouldn’t be the next pop idol. Unlike you, it wasn’t any single event but the result was the same, nonetheless. Love your connection with vultures. I also find them fascinating, although I didn’t realize that they’re pretty much mute. Then again, if all of my friends hissed at me, I’d probably shut up, too. 🙂

    • Haha…. welcome to the club of tuneless folks. I do have a connection with those vultures. Fascinating creatures that serve an important role.

  2. I have a similar story. I tried out for our (Catholic) church (rock) band. I played guitar. When it came to singing, I was told I did a nice job, but could I just play and not sing? I just sing for me now! I like that little quote I read somewhere, “No, I can’t sing, but I will. And loudly too!”. Your pictures were beautiful as usual. I like all the detail in the vulture shots. Nice comparison.

  3. I always thought I could carry a tune, too…..until…
    I was driving drom Alabama to Arkansas to visit my daughter. I had bought a few Celine Dion CD’s to listen to along the way. Ten hours. I sang along with Celine to the top of my lungs. Ten hours.
    My voice never recovered. Guess I damaged my vocal cords. From that day on, my voice cracks and cuts out on me. And I definitely can’t carry a tune. Sad, because I always enjoyed singing along….
    Newbie here. We’re in Yuma.

    • Don’t you wonder how Celine does it? My husband likes listening to her. After spending a wonderful month along the Texas Gulf Coast, we’ll be heading back to the desert (Phoenix)next week to dry out. I’m just not used to the humidity anymore. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Enjoy the desert.

  4. Your post was exactly what I needed after a very difficult week. Not only did it make me laugh but I identified with it. I never thought I was an outstanding singer but I did think I could carry a tune as well as the next guy. One Sunday the choir director at our little country church was begging for members to consider joining the choir as the numbers had been steadily dwindling. My husband & youngest daughter decided to try out & were readily accepted. I thought, why not me? Rehearsals were on Sunday nights, 2 family members were already involved, our oldest daughter was involved in the youth group also on Sunday nights. Why stay home alone? Needless to say, I wasn’t asked to become a member of the choir but it was suggested I could better serve them in another capacity. I ended up providing childcare in the nursery so that other church members with small children could now join the choir.

    • Sorry to hear that it’s been a rough week and glad I could make you smile.
      This just goes to show you we all have our talents. Yours was with small children. I bet they didn’t notice whether or not you could carry a tune 🙂

  5. Another splendid post Ingrid. Good luck is when we make random decisions that have positive consequences on our lives. Unfortunitly the opposite holds true for bad luck. In your case your lucky number came up that day….beautiful photos!

    • Thank you – appreciate the compliment. I seem to be feeling a little more frustrated in the photo department these days. The camera and I aren’t seeing eye to eye LOL. Ah, all the more reason to practice and search out a little luck 🙂

  6. A most enjoyable share, Ingrid. I remember when I had a school choir, that I didn’t want to discourage any child from taking part, even if they couldn’t sing, so I did much the same as your teacher did, and then I gave the worst ones a few private lessons in our break time. It was amazing how they improved after a few lessons and a lot of encouragement. My hubby can’t sing in tune to save his life, and he’s not interested in trying to improve. He prefers playing percussion with his hammer and drills and band saw. Beautiful photos as always, Ingrid, and I love how Viv responded to hearing his name called, 🙂

    • Thanks and somehow I knew your musical talents went beyond the piano. I’m afraid there are some of us that lessons would even begin to help 😆

  7. I enjoyed reading your memories from music class. The only time I ever sang with a group was 9th grade chorus and believe me, they never asked me to do any solos! Now I sing out loud in the car when there is no one else around! Very interesting information about the vultures. Several years ago we were camped in a Florida state park and the turkey vultures were perched high up in many of the trees.

    • My neighbor and I went to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge yesterday and the vultures were drying their wings on the viewing platform rail. She was amazed how close they allowed us to get. Very cool experience and they didn’t even hiss at us 🙂

  8. Again, you drew me in. Now I miss summer – lazy afternoons at the family farm, laying on my back in the pasture and watching the vultures circling overhead, so striking against a blue sky. I can watching them for hours.

      • Sacramento Valley – the farm is about 30 miles south-east of the city, just has you are heading into the gold country. We have pastures (once raised our own beef, but Dad’s in his 80s now) still have sheep, goats, chickens & an occasional pig. Big vegetable garden and fruit trees.

    • Guess you and I won’t be forming a singing band, huh! Enjoy your time with our favorite blogging photographer. I’m bummed I’ll miss her visit.

  9. Finally someone else who likes vultures!

    This post had me reminiscing about Mrs Kring and Mr Goodrich my Jr. High music teachers. Why is it I can’t high school music? Did I not TAKE music in H.S.? Hmmmm…..

    • I am truly fascinated by vultures and can’t seem to stop taking photos of them 🙂 After that Junior High experience, I avoided music classes like the plague LOL. Sounds like you did as well.

      • 🙂

        Predators in general are fascinating. It would be a stinky and sickly world if there were none — but it’s a necessary part of nature and it’s fascinating. I think raptors rate a little higher in my book — but still… 🙂

        • Whenever you make it to AZ, you must visit the Desert Sonoran Museum in Tucson. The “Raptors in-Flight” demos are not to be missed. But do Turkey Vultures fall into the category of “predator”? They do NOT kill but merely clean up already dead. Hmm, I might need to Google again 😉

          • Well, I’ve never been good about categorizing things… and they eat flesh — so in MY book they are. But I’m not a scientist!!!!!

            I’m quite sure I have been to the Desert Sonoran Museum — in ’09 when I made a photo trip from Bosque, through Tucson, and on to San Diego. Saw a really interesting program there — I know it was W – SW of Tucson a little way and I’m thinking that was the name of it, but not sure. Anyway… I’ll make sure we do it together.

            We’re really hoping to do AZ next winter. If we can get out of WI by mid October the plan is to make only minimal plans and just spend the winter wandering, a little boondocking, a few quick stops at RV parks and get a chance to explore out there. Peg has only ever been THROUGH AZ quickly and has never been to Tucson — I kind of like Tucson and want to spend some time exploring for future options. Thanks for the suggestion.

  10. There is something about belting out a song when the music is turned up and you can be drowned out. I love to sing but I might be the only one in the room enjoying it. Keep it up!

    • Well, keep on singing then. Me? I can’t even stand to hear myself. Thus, like the vulture, I remain silent and sing in my head only 🙂

  11. Only a discerning eye such as you can see beauty in an otherwise ugly bird 🙂
    My family says I can’t sing a tune, but guess what I am a member of an award winning singing group and I can conduct a choir.
    Vultures are actually good models, they are not skittish like the Rosettes.

    • The rosettes have been quite elusive this season as are many other birds. There is so much standing water hidden, that it’s difficult to spot birds this year thus having me shift my focus over to Miss Vivian Vulture. I’ve been hitting up some of our favorite spots.

  12. What a fun post! Enjoyed reading it a lot, and it makes me miss all the music we used to have in our lives, especially with both of the kids. They both played piano, and both were all state band members on their respective band instruments… daughter her senior year and son all four years. I miss all that so much, along with all of my own years in choir.

    • Thanks D. My daughter played the violin and flute when she was younger but does neither any more. We have never been a musical family and I’ve always been envious of those that were. Sounds fun!

  13. I really enjoyed your post. The closing philosophy is one I have finally embraced at this stage of my life and I rejoice in the realization my unique contributions over the years have been much closer to the vulture’s than to the singer’s.
    Also, I try to never pass up an opportunity to take their photographs as not many folks care to.

  14. Vultures don’t attract you the way hummingbirds or bald eagles do, but they are such a crucial cog in the wheels of our eco system…Singing for me has been a life long embarrassment that I wish was not the case.

    • Ah, another member to our club of tuneless singers 😆 Vultures are indeed a crucial part of our eco system and their unique features for handling the task at hand is extremely interesting.

  15. We share the same appreciation of vultures, Ingrid. I’m glad you speak up in their behalf. Love what you said about embracing the unique beauty and gifts that we all have. :-))

    • I continue to have some interesting encounters with vultures and love watching them soar. Hopefully one day we’ll bump into each other and you’ll share your beautiful musical talent. Just don’t ask me to join in 😆

  16. Awesome post! Turkey vultures are one of the most misunderstood birds and are actually quite unique and beautiful. It takes a discerning eye to appreciate them.

    • I’ve had plenty of time and opportunity to observe them. They seem to be quite social and one would think them to be aggressive, but they aren’t. Interesting bird that I continue to be drawn to.

  17. What a darling post. You sure can keep my attention, Ingrid. We must be kindred spirits. I open my mouth to sing and everyone immediately yells…”Shut up, Marsha!” “But I haven’t even sang a note..yet.” Oh well, such is life.

    You just sing your heart out. The beauty of that area cries…Sing, sing, sing!

    • Haha…. yes, no one in the family even wants me to try and sing. Although it worked in my favor by embarrassing a teenage daughter more than once while she was growing up. Hope those dental appointments are behind you and that you’re able to enjoy south Texas.

  18. Whether you can carry a tune or not, I think you & everyone else should continue belting out your favourite tunes! It is such a great feeling, particularly when no one else is listening!😆

  19. You had me running down memory lane with most of this post and your singing abilities. Though my experience was slightly different as I was mistakenly deluded into thinking I could sing. I was too shy and could read notes and while I enjoyed singing, I would lip sync until I had memorized the song…one rarely heard me at all. Then one day, when I thought I was alone on stage I started singing mock opera style…belting it out across the rows of seats…as close as I could get to an Adele moment. Suddenly, I hear a shout from the back of the auditorium, my music instructor chiding me, “Why don’t you sing like that in class?” Completely mortified that someone had caught me…I ran out of the building. To this day, I can sing okay with a group…but singing solo sound just like it did the day I recorded it…horrible!

    Very poignant close…I was reminded that we are all created with a distinct purpose and rare beauty; created with special talents or gifts; created with uniqueness that should be embraced.

    • Glad you liked the post and could relate. At least you have some musical talent – I have zip, nada, none! Oh well, I have other strengths that I’m very grateful for. Thanks for sharing your tale down memory lane. I bet you’re a better singer than you think you are!

  20. Hahahaha! This post made me smile..I love to sing and actually did sing in a Triple Trio in high school..3 Sopranos, 3 Second Sopranos (me) and 3 Altos..and we won a first at Illinois State Vocal Contest..However, I do NOT sing alone..Love your spirit..Music is a huge part of life, keep on singing!!!!

    • Ah, a talented singer! Did you pass that gene down to the kids or grands? Al not only sang in the church choir but also the Navy choir and toured. I don’t think either one of our kids can sing, but daughter did play instruments. I’ll just keep focusing on other talents and leave the singing to those that can carry a tune 🙂

      • Yes, our granddaughter, Taylor, is in Madrigals and every musical possible in high school. I vaguely remember Al’s Dad had a very good voice too…Sometimes gene pools are a good thing…and fun to trace where a specific talent came from…

        • Yes, his dad was active in the choir, thus so were Al and Darla. Darla also sings nicely. I’m afraid I take after my mom in the singing dept. considering my dad could carry a tune but mom was another story 🙂

  21. Ingrid what a reflective post. I am no singer either and perhaps that’s why when you spoke of the teacher telling you to sing softer it tugged at my heart strings. You are indeed right we each bring unique qualities and abilities to this world .Your photo of the vultures so clear and crisp. We all need the janitors including in the animal world.

    • Thank you Sue. Those vultures are fascinating creatures and the first time one hissed at me, I was not only startled but slightly concerned. After learning a bunch of facts about vultures, I found myself endeared to them and routinely search them out now.

  22. So enjoyed your story of the seventh grade experience, I too cannot carry a tune, as I child I was asked if I could sing “far far away”…apparently that is the name of a song, but that was not really what I was being asked LOL We do have an annual Christmas tradition however….The family sings “the 12 days of Christmas” which nobody every gets right, but my job is to bolt out “5 GOLDEN RINGS” totally off key and loud…I do my part well!

    • I bet that’s always an entertaining Christmas and good for a few laughs. I do have a couple of songs that I’ll sing a line or two of just to have family members beg me to stop…. oh, and a little dancing always help 😆

  23. When biking or hiking and I get nervous on a trail, feeling it closing on me I sing. And not a good tone…maybe I should stay with a bell 🙂 Vultures can be so massive….cool insight on them!

    • I’ll sometimes hum when hiking but never sing. Quite frankly, I usually don’t remember words to songs. That’s another thing that awes me about entertainers; talent and the ability to remember. Good thing I found another calling 😆
      Always enjoy hearing from you, C.

  24. Do you sing at the top of your lungs in your vehicle on travel days? I hope so! 🙂

    We’ve been indoctrinated into the importance of vultures down here in Florida. They keep the beach clean! We also saw a Roseate Spoonbill at Kennedy Space Center and immediately thought of you. The bus driver didn’t stop, so I couldn’t get a photo.

    • Well, I hope you let that bus driver know the importance of stopping for photos – you have blog readers to entertain after all 😆 Isn’t that pink on the spoonbill eye catching? I’m not having much luck finding those pink beauties this year. So far, only once. I have one more week to find them, before we head back to the desert.

      • He stopped for the alligators and the launch pads, but not the rare spoonbills! Diana was saying “Jim! Look!!! ” as she had recognized it from your blog. They ARE beautiful! 🙂

  25. I love seeing turkey vultures! They are so calming to watch circle and glide in the sky. I think they are beautiful.
    I grew up in a musical family. My grandfather was a music teacher and could play most instruments. He was also a band leader at the Aragon Ballroom, back in the day. I can play flute, read music and sing. I still want to be a rock star!
    AND for the record. .. just because I can carry a tune, doesn’t mean folks want to listen to me sing. It drives my hubby nuts when I sing to the radio in the car. He doesn’t mind an a cappella song tho.

    • I could see you being a rock star…. you have the looks and personality for it and obviously the voice. I’ll be your backup dancer, even though I can’t dance. Yep, the performer gene eluded me big time. I can design and build you one heck of a house though 😆

  26. Amen! I can’t sing either but love all kinds of music. I’m listening to a Gregorian Chant as I write . . . and I love vultures, too. Plenty of vultures here in East Texas and elsewhere. They are a communal socialable bird and their size makes it difficult for them to find an appropriate place to nest, roost, and sit together, as they need alot of time, heat (during cold days) and space (huge wingspan) to get airborne. Slow down when you see them on the highway eating roadkill. They are a smart bird, too. When a flock took up residence on the large pine tree branches above my deck (very messy birds), all I had to do was fire a couple warning shots with my BB gun for a couple of late afternoons, and they decided not to come back. And when I screech at them like a hawk or eagle, they come flying over me to inspect me; they’re a very curious bird. They’re also a bird that loves roller coaster rides on windy days with lots of down and up drafts, have you noticed? I’ve never seen another bird fly like it was having so much fun!

    • Yes, I love watching them fly and soar and I’ve also noticed how social they are. It doesn’t surprise me that they are an intelligent bird. It’s great seeing them dry their wings. We always enjoy our Texas Gulf coast excursions. This years visit has whizzed by with only one more week to go. We’re even talking about extending for an additional week.

  27. I can’t sing a note, either! How embarrassing my daughter finally had the nerve to tell me to tone it down-in church while singing a favorite hymn. She was 22. How long had I butchered hymns?

    • Hahaha…. I know how much you enjoy attending church services, and for some reason, I just assumed you’d be a good singer and maybe even sing in the choir. I’m still chuckling at your daughter telling you otherwise. Oh well, it’s still fine to sing loud in our heads 🙂

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