Music Conquers Fear!

The Creswell

Community Choir

Sings for Us All!

The Creswell Community Choir posts enthusiastically for their portrait as I click away!

Fear’s a funny thing.  A year into the mind warp that is trying to be a professional photographer/creative (more on that later, probably), I am happy to report that 2020 finds my creative vibe gestational (but maybe not quite birthed) and with a strong pulse.

The fear thing, though: fear of failure or success, they are both terrifying: fear of change or non-change: fear of disappointing: fear of not disappointing and having to live up to competency.  The list goes on as long as the little grey cells are percolating, blood flowing through arteries coursing with anxiety-rich, oxygen-saturated plasma.  Without it breaking a sweat, fear can send me looking for my belly-button, going deep to distract, to find other less reachable issues to grapple with than the one peeking from behind the tree showing just enough form at the edge of my night-darkened interior forest to freak me out.  It costs me time, peace, opportunity.  It convinces me that my skills and abilities are those of an impostor; that the truth is a big “I can’t.”

Well, until the beginning of this decade, at least.  Change is a gift, and I’ve challenged myself to welcome and embrace whatever change and knowledge I’ve been holding at arm’s length for however long.  We all have our stuff.  I’m done fighting whatever truth I feel, and to accept that there is truth in whatever I am afraid of suddenly disempowers the threat – not empowers it!  Why do I have to get to old age to learn this stuff, dang it!?!

There are still fears, of course, bogey creatures of my own creation and attachment, mistakes that I am in the process of making, solutions I have yet to find.  To no small degree I wander clueless without a map within the confines of the house I grew up in.  It’s weird to be rootless in situ, but here I am, living out one of the many dichotomies that makes me unique and wondrously-made.  Outgoing but aspiring to active agoraphobia; creative but nerdy about public policy and science-ey things; loud and quiet; confident but a puddle of goo…I could keep on going, and so could you, I bet, dear reader.  My guess is that you’ve started considering your own list of coin sides, each equally authentic even as they oppose each other.

A recent fear-destroying adventure was the taking of a picture of the Creswell Community Choir, a group in town that performs a lot locally and practices with enthusiasm and diligence.  They provide music to the community like a food kitchen for the heart, music feeding souls and bolstering hearts for challenges to come. It’s a huge community asset, and I am honored to get to make an image of the choir!

The choir is led by Mrs. Mary Ellen Yost, who is also my first music teacher.  Retired now, Mary Ellen (eek, no more “Mrs. Yost” for me!) started teaching in 1972.  I was in 3rd grade.  I remember little of those years, but I remember her and the music lessons, and I was so excited to get to junior high and learn the recorder, a precursor to picking an instrument (trumpet).  Music/band literally got me through school.  I hauled the trumpet around for years in adulthood until donating it to the school district, and today have three accordions that I enjoy playing loudly in private.  It brings me great joy, and Mary Ellen was an important part of nurturing that seed in me.

It was Mary Ellen that called for the choir portrait, offering me paid work, an opportunity to do what I say I want to do.  Soooooo scary.  I really am at the beginning enough here that everything feels like it is the first time.  Each project a new experience in adulting, each proposal the work of Professional Martha, a woman I remember from my halcyon days as a Staff Scientist with an environmental services firm.  I wasexcited to be asked and super-ready to give it a try and then…then…all of the scary thoughts started.  I won’t list them here, as I bet you can come up with a list yourself of the creeping negative voice’s undermining notions. 

And then I remembered something.  I’d already taken the photo before; same group, same church sanctuary in the daytime, same camera even!  Several years earlier I was there for our local paper, and I can’t remember if I was there as an employee of the paper or a volunteer (things overlap), but a photo was needed and I ran out and got it.  No sweat, no fear, less than an hour of work, no big deal.  Not even worth remembering, even for the photographer!  What was I afraid now?

Mary Ellen was a joy to work with, as she knows her mind and communicates clearly, kindly, and we came to an agreement easily regarding her plan for the following week.  Choir practice was informal but focused, as Mary Ellen stood in front addressing the pew-seated choristers.  OMG, it was such a flashback to childhood!  She’s retired now, but clearly enjoyed being in her director’s position and it was a delight to me to be sitting amongst the choir, listening politely, remembering being less than 10 years old and watching Mary Ellen, eagerly awaiting the information she was presenting. 

Populating the pews were a woman I’d babysat for when I was in high school (they called me “Marshy” and I kinda loved it) whose husband I was trying to reach (done!) for a city park project, several strangers with kind smiles and a bunch of my church family, including another childhood music mentor, Barbara Few. 

Barbara served as the little kid’s choir director in our church for decades as her husband, Norm (“Otto”) Few tended his flock as pastor for 54 years.  I was in the Ambassador Choir (fine, no “little kid’s choir” moniker) for eight years, until I was too tall and tenor-voiced to stand among the wee red-robed ones.  I sang in the adult church choir briefly, and to this day love singing hymns in church on Sundays.  Makes my heart soar. 

Musically then, I was under Mary Ellen and Barbara’s musical tutelage as a youngster at the same time, and here we were, decades later, singing our hearts out like it was a normal, every-day thing!  And it kinda is!

Sitting behind the choir taking warm-up shots, I enjoyed singing along, trying not to distract from their real work or attract unwanted attention to myself.  I was equally at risk of being told to quiet down from lack of appropriate tuneage to being invited to join (I am notoriously unwilling to commit, and this is a choir for retired and/or independently wealthy folks, not someone still out making their living, like me).

Looking at the choir’s twinkly-wrinkly faces and appreciating how many of them I loved and didn’t remember ever not knowing, I realized that several of them probably didn’t remember not knowing each other.  As they sang and I clicked away, I saw looks of encouragement and friendship that spoke of lives spent in the same town, same church sometimes. 

Part of the charm of being geographically attached to a place and spending large chunks, if not all of your life, in a rural area is the knowing of each other.  We serve as museums for each other, as retainers of treasured, or not, past stories and knowledge.  We remember each other’s long-gone parents, maybe spouses, adventures, low/high points, children/grand-children/great-grandchildren/puppies, and keep secrets for multiple decades, the delicate strings connecting everyone knitting together over the years into a mat upon which worlds are lofted in a sort of a magic carpet of love, if my imagery holds up.  In that space, it did feel magical that afternoon. 

At the appointed time, Mary Ellen grouped the choir together as posed in the final image, above.  She had the positioning all planned out, the raised arms, and when she asked the choir to go for it, they did, smiling and stretching their arms out.  Off-off-off-Broadway, indeed!  The best image was selected and post-processed immediately, and emailed later, and I understand that the board of the choir liked the image!  Yahoo!

Not everyone gets to witness or even wet their toes in something like this connectedness, and maybe I have taken it for granted that this sweetness exists and is extended to my crusty self.  Sitting there among these beloveds, I focused on inhaling the moment, absorbing the goodness, the love, the musical healing offered as we lifted up our voices in praise and hope, singing songs of which most of us would know at least the first verse and chorus. 

The gentleness of the melodies, the harmonies of the different tonalities as Mary Ellen sought to help each find their roles, high to low, the ease of sitting in the airy, wide-open church sanctuary on an early-spring day with shocking blue sky, the main doors left open welcomingly, informally, as if to allow some of their musical goodness to flow out and into the world, unbidden but much-needed, all were a balm to my soul.  Fear was not a part of this very real experience.  There were even cookies afterwards.

Sitting in that choir practice, I saw the safety net that offers itself in the dear hearts rooting me on, in Mary Ellen hiring me to do a real photography job, in the kind words afterwards.  I felt membership, worthiness, encouragement, acceptance and love, and creative appreciation.  Fear would like to have kept all of that from me, the wimpy scamp.  No longer, but I’m still wrapping my head and heart around being on the receiving end of such support without fear.  My hope  2020 will be the year of easy learning and a deeper savoring of this deliciously connected little world we have here.  Lucky, lucky us. And I finally get it: lucky, lucky me.

There is so very much to be said for growing up.  Is 56 too late?

{Written with deep appreciation for the kind support of Mary Ellen Yost and the Creswell Community Choir.  Thank you very much. – Marsha/Marshy/Martha Jr.}

Callie Cat, my new feline overlordess, turns out to like getting her picture taken! Goody!

Author: Martha in the Moment

Just another human navigating this crazy era, trying to make sense of the lightning-fast changes that keep coming at all of us. Benedictions, all.

2 thoughts on “Music Conquers Fear!”

  1. Great. Oh I do so love cats. T is allergic. When I’ll be better, please let me come over to make friends with your feline boarder 😘

    On Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 8:08 PM Photography by Martha McReynolds Jr. wrote:

    > Photos by Martha McReynolds Jr. posted: ” The Creswell Community Choir > Sings for Us All! The Creswell Community Choir posts enthusiastically for > their portrait as I click away! Fear’s a funny thing. A year into the mind > warp that is trying to be a professional photographer/” >


    1. Callie (Kali to me!) is eager to make friends with you, Deanna! She is outgoing like a puppy, and feeling comfortable enough to play “kill the furniture” hardball with me yesterday when I wouldn’t give her the chair she wanted! “The hostage must bleed,” was her point, as she bunny kicked a pillow into submission, staring at me like a laser. She knows things. She’d cuddly and sweet, otherwise!! Honest!


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