K. came home for a bit. For me that means a whole extra pile of dirty dishes. No, I'm just being mean, it's great to have him here. :)


Today I'd like to introduce to you a magnificent Estonian contemporary composer. His name is Arvo Pärt, it's well worth remembering, this name. He's a bit like a national treasure for us. You know, Finns have Jean Sibelius, Norwegians have Edvard Grieg, Brits have Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar, we have Arvo Pärt. Just two facts here about how big of a name A. P. really is. First, he's been nominated for the Grammy of Best Classical Contemporary Composition for about ten times. And second, The Bachtrack Stats, which runs the worldwide statistics of classical music, has named A. P. as the most performed contemporary composer in the world for three (!) years in a row. Man, that's just about as far as anyone can get. Crazy. Big concert halls are full of his music these days...

Oh, and a third important fact. We've graduated from the same high school (you know what they say about great minds). Also, A. P. happens to have been named an honorary doctor or member of ten universities / academic societies. Including the University of St Andrews in Scotland, the one I'm going to study at soon. YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT GREAT MINDS, haha! :P Nah, don't take that seriously.

They had a whole course about his music and the philosophy behind it in Tartu University last semester. And the word got out about A. P. personally attending the last lecture and answering students' questions. Oh gosh, I was excited! I tried to list everything I would have liked to ask him. And then it turned out that I had my Leading Motifs exam EXACTLY the same time this lecture was taking place. My disappointment was immense. I called my mum that evening I found out about my Newbold exam time and I was like, 'Mum, life is so unfair! Can I just skip my exam and go see A. P.?' Haha, she didn't find it to be overtly clever choice... So let's just say meeting A. P. is still on my tick-list. And one fine day I'll tick that box (and not even Newbold can hold me back!).

So today's music comes from Arvo Pärt. I love many of his compositions but maybe one of the most heavenly pieces is his Für Alina. It was the first piece of music I was able to listen to after my mum's passing. And I want it to be played at my funeral. That says a lot.


-20°C. The world has frozen.
We were out the whole day yesterday. It was another Sabbath full of beautiful nature, extreme temperature (my camera stopped working after couple of shots - it was too cold for the poor thingy), birdwatching, good people, tea, fireplaces, laughter, a few tears, and my auntie's pancakes. My dad is back to work from February and I'll hit the road in a month's time, and in a strange way I will miss those Sabbath mornings when two of us could get in the car and go anywhere and do anything. I guess there's something beautiful and memorable even in the hardest of times.


There are only a few other things that leave me touched and humbled in a way my friends' words do. Over the past month or so a number of people have told me that they've been somehow blessed by my blog, my words and thoughts. It makes my heart so very glad to hear it. I'm glad I haven't had to go through hardship, alone and quiet. I'm glad I've been able to voice my feelings, share some of my experiences, and give meaning to things that might seem meaningless to bystanders. And mostly I'm thankful and glad for people who've taken time to hear some stories about my mum, stories that are so very dear and precious to my heart.

I received a message from K. two days ago (greetings to California!) and she put things into words in such a beautiful way I actually teared up, reading these lines. She shared Don Miller's quote (of course, haha) and reminded a story from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years about his Uncle Art's passing that I had already forgotten. “That night when my mother called, I stopped working. I closed my laptop and remembered Uncle Art standing at his father’s grave. I knew he wouldn’t die, because his life was like the roots of a tree that went into the soil and miles around its trunk and came up in my cousins, in their faces and their voice and their character. I didn’t think you could kill a tree that big. Not even God could kill a tree that big." And she said she sees my mum as a tree whose roots go further and stronger in a way that they strengthen other people's trees even now when hers has fallen. Exactly the words I needed to hear. Thank you, K., from the bottom of my heart.

So I'll keep telling my story and her stories as well as I can. And I love the idea that my friends can get to know her just a tiny bit that way. The last Sabbath I sat on her bed side I told her a lot of stories about my friends, especially my Newbold friends, and I saw how much she longed to meet them all in person. I'm terribly sorry for the fact that she only met a few of them on this side of Jordan. But I like the idea of my friends getting to know her through me so that when that long-awaited Day of Restoration dawns, there will be a whole bunch of people greeting her as if they knew her well. And then I'll be like, 'So, mum, you finally meet them, here's this person I told you about and there's that person I mentioned. And you wouldn't believe but they all know you already.'


So it's one month today. December 23rd. January 23rd. It has been by far the longest month of my life. And also in terms of knowledge - I don't think I've ever learned so many life lessons in such a short time. Life teaches. And I learn.


I've started translating a book. It's the first one for me, I've never done such a thing before. I find it quite interesting, even though I'm having to live on Google and Wikipedia all the time which makes me feel really unqualified for the job. It's kind of a popular-scientific book which the church is going to publish here in spring time. Hence the wikipeding. (See, I just made a verb!)

I listen to a lot of classical music and Amy Winehouse. Such an odd combination, I know.

I sing. On Friday nights.

I practice the piano.

I read and I write. I think I'll have to go to the local library soon and get some books. I hear Lev Tolstoy calling my name.

I cook.

I take pictures.

And yesterday I found a beautiful quote. It's quite amazing when it happens - there's something your guts tell you but you fail to put it into words. And then someone far wiser and cooler than you comes by and says it for you. So here it is. Kurt Vonnegut says, "Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something." Thank you, K. V.!


Brand new music.
When I think of the best and brightest moments from the past month or so, I realise they all have one thing in common - music. It's quite amazing. Music helps. Music heals.

We went to Tallinn yesterday afternoon. There was a concert in one of the big old churches in Tallinn's old town. The concert was put together of new organ pieces that were written for the Estonian Church Music's Association's competition last year. My dad happened to win two second prizes there so we sat in the pew and listen to his new pieces yesterday evening, alongside with other pieces from that competition. It was really really nice, I have to say. It's one thing to hear him play those melodies on our piano in the living room but it's quite a different matter to hear them being played by a professional organist in a big and beautiful church. This kind of thing lifts your spirit in a way only a few other things can. And on such an occasion you feel like going to a nice restaurant afterwards and for a short time you actually manage to feel like a normal person, a person who isn't only defined by grief and loss. We really had a lovely evening yesterday, me and my dad, S. and my sister-in-law. Music does help.

The other memory comes from last Friday evening. It's not a time for us to try to keep our traditions alive, it's a time for us to try to keep ourselves alive, but there are some family traditions that have found a way to survive, and that makes me really glad. Our Friday evening music making bashes seem to have survived our tragedies. Us making music together on Friday evenings have a long and embarrassing history. I think the root of it is found in us, kids, coming home for the weekend, and my mum finding it absolutely necessary that we would play something in the church at the Sabbath morning service. The scenario was always the same. We were like, No, mum, we haven't practised for ages and playing in the church is a serious thing, we can't, we won't. But despite all the protests, we always ended up finding our instruments and dusting them off. And then always a sheet of music was missing, and we had to dig ourselves into the endless piles of music found in our cupboards. My mum was the only one who could find her way in the midst of hundreds (if not thousands) of sheets of music. The rest of us were, and still very much are, completely lost. But after a long music sheet hunt we could start practising, but by that time my dad had lost it and was already playing something else, and K. was fooling around with his flute. And then I was the one shouting, C'mon, guys, it's late and I want to go to bed, could we please play the piece we're supposed to?!?! So after a major mess we could finally get down to practice. Mum would listen and comment and make us play again...

Of course, things are very-very different now, it's only me and my dad. Last Friday night he sat down and played the piano. And I sang. For a good couple of hours. It's only a shadow of the days when this house was filled with laughter and arguing and fooling around and a lot of music on Friday nights. But we still made music. And that counts for something. We still made music.


Oh. Yes. Tuesday's Tune. Ben Rector's Sailboat


As all pastors on leave would do, me and my dad quietly left the house before the morning service started today and took off. To the wild nature. We're faithfully sticking to our hobbies - he had his binoculars and I had my camera lenses with me. So we took a long trip, we almost made it to Latvia. And freezing in this bloody cold weather (it was well below -10°C) paid off - he saw some rare birds, I got some nice shots. So everyone was happy.

This is the Winter Wonderland in Pärnu county.

Pure ice.

Uhmm... a plant.

Magic of snow.

Nigula lake.

Hiking in the mire with my dad.

Chopsticks. :)

Icicles are made of light over here.

Early morning frost.

The sea is frozen.

Little Mervi in the upper right corner.


Throwback Thursday

The history reveals my pianist's career. Apparently I haven't played the piano for 10 days but for 25 years. Too bad I haven't been able to improve my hands' posture over that time.


Tuesday's Tune

One thing that I like about music and that makes it somehow magical for me is the fact that there are moments when you discover a song - usually an old song you've known for ages - and it suddenly starts speaking to you like never before. It's almost as if a revelation appears out of the blue.

I sure had a revelation last week. It's called Fix You. Coldplay. I hadn't thought much of this song this far, but for a week now it's a compulsory song for me. Every day. About 10 times a day.

Tell me about magic.


Now I'm warming up my piano playing skills. No, I should rather say - I've started playing the piano, I've never seriously done it before. I went downstairs to the church the other day and stole the organist's hymnal from there. Then I went through it to find the easiest pieces there are in it. You know, playing in my league... I picked two pieces (one of them being Nearer, Still Nearer), and now I'm practicing them faithfully. It's actually quite hilarious. The amount of torture my genius dad needs to endure is immense - I play really-really slowly, hitting wrong piano keys all the time. So it often happens that while I'm playing in the living room, he shouts from his room something like, 'It's F instead of G on your left hand!' or 'That chord doesn't sound right!' And I'm like, 'How on earth does he know?' Haha! Sometimes I do quite well (of course, I've played the piano for 5 days now), but as soon as he steps in the room, everything goes wrong. Too much pressure. That's the price I'm having to pay for sharing the home and last name with an extremely talented musician.


On more serious note, life sucks. I've never ever in my life felt such loneliness as I feel now. The wound goes very deep. I don't even know where or how the healing process should begin.


Throwback Thursday

I'm a lot like my mum. People have always said that. And I take great pride in it.

I remember those late evenings when my dad would come home from church, maybe from a tough church board meeting or from Sabbath evening service, after preaching three sermons that day. And he would go straight to his room, read news, and just be. My mum would be in the kitchen and she would warm up some food or maybe fry an egg, make some tea, put the food on a plate, and take it to my dad who'd be sitting and reading news in their bedroom. And I never understood it. Often I was like, 'Oh, come on, mum, why do you have to do this? If he really was hungry, he would find his way to the kitchen himself, why do you need to serve him like that?' And she would shake her head and look at me and say, 'I hope you'll understand it one day, Mervi.' Well, I sure didn't understand it back then. I didn't even try.

Yesterday evening I made toast, put some cheese and fish on it, cut a piece of strawberry cake, put it all on a plate, made some hot chocolate, and took it all to my father who was sitting in his room and playing chess on his computer.

And one day my mister husband will come home after a rough day at work (maybe from a church board meeting too, who knows). And I'll put some food on a plate and take it to him, and one of my children would watch it, bewildered. And he/she would be like, 'Oh, mum, that's so 19th century, why on earth do you need to fix the dinner for dad, he's a grown-up and could do it all himself.' And I'd look at him/her and shake my head and be like, 'Oh, kids, what do you know about life? What do you know about love? I hope you'll get it one day.'

And then I'll probably add, 'I wish you had known your grandmother. She knew a thing or two about love. And she taught me, too. Maybe even more than she ever knew.'


Music is coming back to my life. Slowly. But surely.

Rosi Golan, Been A Long Day.

It's been a long week
And all the lines come down heavy on me
It's been a long week
I'm finally feeling like it's okay to break

Into a thousand pieces
No one can replace
Only I can find my way
It's been long day
And I just want to hide away


So it's two weeks now. And a week since the funeral. To be honest, I still don't have anything sensible to say. Time drags on extremely slowly, sometimes it seems to stop altogether. I seem to be in an empty space and empty time gap - the past has been taken from me, and the future has not yet been given. The whole life is made of little loosely-connected fractions, some of them are nice and cheerful, some extremely sad, most of them just dark and empty. Here are some of them:

I took all her winter coats up to the attic last week. But I don't know how systematically or quickly I should remove her things - dad's desk is still full of her hand-written notes with dates and phone numbers and things to remember (she was his faithful secretary for all these decades). The edge of my book shelf is still full of her painkillers. Should I chuck them out?

I made some bread last week. I was very happy to realise that I remember her recipe and that it almost tastes like hers.

I just came from town, I took her ring to the jeweller for it to be made smaller so that it could fit my finger. There are only very few of her things that I've taken - her ring, her golden cross, and her little mirror.

My dad has started playing the piano again.

I read. Finally, after a few failed attempts, I've got to Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince is waiting. And then Eugene Peterson's Working The Angles.

I've booked my plane tickets to Norway and UK.

Walks on the seaside do good to me.

This terrible hospital smell still haunts me.

All my nights are full of dreams - I guess my poor subconsciousness is trying to make some sense out of this mess of life. Sometimes she's alive, sometimes she isn't, in either way I'm tired by morning.

I keep a little light on over night.

We visited my uncle and auntie this past Sabbath. He told us stories, she made pancakes.


Hazy memory of a Christmas.

[This is my 100th blog post. Who could have thought I'd make it this far.]


From New Year's Eve.
I've been thinking about light and darkness a lot lately. Not just lately lately but for a year or so. And the more I think about it the more I realise that the whole life is a struggle between light and darkness. We Adventists like the metaphor of a 'great controversy between good and evil', I'm starting to like the metaphor of a 'great clash between light and darkness' more. In essence they are the same thing. But I like the idea of keeping your little light shining more than the idea of fighting evil forces. Sometimes we are truly powerless in the face of force majeure and evil, I've lived long enough and experienced enough to say that. But there is always a way to keep your light alive, or even let others keep it alive for you, should you break down for a moment.

I just read from our church's website that there were two congregations in Estonia who took my Shoebox Presents' idea and made Christmas presents for kids in need over the holiday season. I was surprised and humbled and touched. There were people who took the baton from me, so to speak, and carried it forward. There were people who kept shining a light when I was lost in darkness. One day there will be light in my life again and we'll make another Shoebox Presents' project happen (and I'm hoping it to happen rather sooner than later), but until I'm down, others will carry on. My heart is in peace when I think of it.

So, friends, let your light shine.

Let it shine also for me.