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Fall Musings 1.3 By Christine C. Cantrell

  • Posted on October 23, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Fall Musings 1.1 By Christine C. Cantrell, PhD

  • Posted on October 23, 2019 at 2:39 pm

  I spent the afternoon repotting geraniums in smaller pots to bring them in for the winter.  In Berkley, MI, a Detroit inner ring suburb, our first frost might come tonight.  As an avid gardener, I like to think I know how long the growing season is, and thinking of Global Warming, I thought this was a late date for a first frost.  However, October 12 appears to be an average date, using data from 1981 to the present.  That time period covers the 30 years I have lived in Michigan, so I guess I never really paid attention to when my nasturtiums, morning glories, petunias, begonias and sweet potato vines expired.  This week I took down some ratty looking morning glory vines, uncovering a praying mantis and 3 egg cases.  What is different this year is that we are still harvesting tomatoes, having had humid temps in the 80s this past week!  We have 3 large baskets filled with green to red cherry and grape tomatoes. Last year I brought in post of sweet potato vines with begonias and red, white and pink geraniums and 2 pots of citronella geraniums.  It smells great in the living room and bed…

Fall Musings 1.2 By Christine Cantrell

  • Posted on October 23, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Sunday Morning Meditation: by Christine Cantrell, PhD

  • Posted on March 14, 2017 at 10:53 am

Back Yard


But I’m stubborn, needing to create my own way even when there is a path available. I have read about meditation, but never formally practiced it. It dawns on me that I don’t have to sit in a lotus position repeating a mantra, or join a meditation group. Just be. Present. Aware. I do most often while drinking morning coffee. And today, sitting barefoot and wrapped only in my

Lady Dog

fluffy robe on the back deck in the almost Spring equinox sunshine, even if it is only 22 degrees.

First, I fill the bird feeder and scatter seed on the patio and the stepping stones under the small pergola covered in dead clematis vines. This is our daily rhythm. Open the garage and the birds start arriving, twittering (the original kind) to broadcast the news: breakfast! Lady, the neighbor German shepherd, whines at the fence for a treat, so still barefoot, I oblige.

I uncover and settle in on a comfy, cushioned chair, feet propped on a teak

Sierra on Blanket

bench. For the cats’ comfort, a western blanket in yellows, oranges and black and white bedecks the bench. The cats prefer softness and warmth under those icy paws. Sierra, a calico with colors matching the blanket, arranges herself on the blanket, paws and tail neatly tucked beneath her. She blinks sleepily in the vast sunshine. It’s almost the Spring Equinox and we are pretending spring is really here.

goldfinch dad

Pictures I take of this season look miserable when I review them in the young goldfinches green lushness of summer. What was I thinking? Those shots look like winter: brown branches, a little green grass, empty of life. The growing promise appears hidden in bare branches. In this case, it’s hard to capture the experience in a photo, even if it is worth a thousand words.

In the chill and light, my coffee radiates a stream of steam, curling and eddying

Back Yard in March

upward in the light breeze. I notice my breath condensing as I exhale. I wear a sunhat, grateful that I need to shade my eyes after months of dimness. Still, I sit and sip, watch and listen. I hear them first. A scout chickadee arrives to sample seed. Then sparrows and finches chirp, and grackles rasp, a chorus building.

 “Toodla, toodla!” A blue jay interrupts and the congregants

Blue Jay

quietly listen. I see the soloist perched at the apex of the largest wisteria begins a song battle for nesting territory and all others become silent. “Cheer! Cheer!” The blue jay cycles through a repertoire of 4 different sonorous calls, repeating each one, so everyone hears. “Mine, Mine, Mine” is the Google translation of his trills.  A second jay silently joins him, a few branches lower. A solo cardinal sings a two note call from the silver maple grove two yards south. They alternate like a church litany, call to life. It is Sunday! I’m in Eden and my congregation has gathered. The calls ended, the jays and cardinal fly off.


Grackles waited high up in the twisty locust tree, their black, sleek feathers warming in the sun, now swoop down on the path to feast. Starlings screech “chuck, chuck,” flocking to the seed, and sparrows follow. Two fluffed robins, with somber brown wings showing off orangey–red vests, patrol the grass. A grackle calls “bird–ee! bird–ee!”

Benny, the slender, sleek, black cat, begs me to come out of the house. I release him from the door wall. He transitions from indoors to out, from observer to participant. He purposefully walks the yard’s perimeter, updating and checking his “newsfeed” in this living Facebook. After rounds, I’m allowed the rare privilege of picking him up. My soft, fluffy robed lap, meets his approval and he kneads my thighs, purring. I am permitted to lightly stroke his short coat, now littered with dust and debris from his wake up morning wriggle on the

Squirrel on St. Francis

concrete step. Soon, he leaves chattering to himself, stalking a squirrel standing on the shoulders of St. Francis beyond the patio.

I don’t know how a flock of birds silently communicate, but abruptly, immediately, soundlessly, they all rush into dense foliage of the spruce tree or flee the yard completely. What triggered that? I don’t see a hawk, but I’m usually the last to notice. The Coopers hawks and Peregrine falcons are frequent customers to Christine’s Bird Feast and Hawk Hunting Training Ground.

I probably won’t see flamingos or polar bears in backyard Eden. But my morning coffee meditation reveals to me a diversity of birds I am amazed come so close, everything from finches, Baltimore orioles, Bobwhites to seagulls and screech owls. In fact, a neighbor saw a Bald Eagle last week 3 blocks away!


Parallel Universes, Proven by FaceBook

  • Posted on March 10, 2016 at 11:19 am

FB proves there are parallel universes. Every so often, I see a random post from an acquaintance from prior decades. That post gives me a glimpse of their life. I was on the same trajectory back when I knew that person. It is unnerving to see a flash of the life I was constructing then. But I steered in another direction and created this life. I had that dream of who I would be but am not. I discovered my true self and made peace with how that changed the course of my reality. But, it’s weird, unsettling and fascinating to see the post of a friend of a friend of a friend, who now is the woman pastor I used to be, married to a man I used to think was so attractive (who now is fat and bald!), who is the mother of three children that I didn’t have. Her parallel universe has all of the things I thought I was destined for. I am grateful I accepted the daunting challenges of my life to become my authentic self. I am not that woman, but I am me.  


  • Posted on December 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

I love being on vacation!  This break between winter holidays gives me opportunities to sleep in, cook some really good food, read and watch some weeknight TV that I otherwise never see.  Over the last 2 weeks, I stumbled upon “BBC 2:  The Choir:  Sing while you work, with Gareth Malone.”  I’m hooked!  I now realize I only saw the final 2 episodes in a series of 8.  I’m going to have to watch the rest on line!  I think I saw it on TVO, but online it’s listed as USA broadcast.

Gareth, a choir director of several years of choir programming on BBC, organized 5 choirs in disparate work places.  One is a City Council (Birmingham, UK), a Fire and Rescue Service (Chestershire, UK), Sainsbury, a supermarket giant, Citi, a bank, and P&O Ferries, a cross channel service with British and French employees.

These workplace choirs are unlikely gatherings, including some who haven’t sung before!  The series is a “reality TV” format, with competitions and eliminations over a 6 month period.  Finally, one choir wins the best choir title, singing at Ely Cathedral with a boys choir in front of a congregation of 1200 people.  The top three choirs sing a piece written especially for the occasion and composed by one of the three judges!  Talk about pressure!

I identified in different ways with each of the choirs and loved watching each one become a community, sharing challenges, music, overcoming fear, and pushing themselves to really connect with each other so that their sound reflected that unity.  In one episode, I was not surprised that the Fire and Rescue Service group was able to pull off being best choir, even though all the groups had to sing Classical (opera) music, unfamiliar to most of them.  The Fire and Rescue folks live and work together, giving their all, putting their life on the line for each other and for their community every day.  That sort of deep connection soared through their singing.  The Citi bankers had more experience with classical music, given their backgrounds, but they were stiff and disconnected from each other and their sound reflected that disjointedness.

I won’t give away the final winners, but the singing went from terrible and out of tune to glorious and magnificent.  One choir might do well with one challenge (pop music, gospel, classical) while another choir would succeed with a different genre. Each group grew so much through the experience.  One woman said she knows this sounds like a cliché, but  for her, this choir was life-changing, and she learned she really could sing, with confidence!

Sing Out Detroit has a similar sense of community.  Like Fire and Rescue Service, we have faced adversity both alone and together.  Our common experiences and concerns about being an LGBT&S (for straight!) choir, we excel in accepting other’s differences, blending together well, yet each of us has our uniqueness celebrated.  As I considered rejoining this choir last summer, Denise Joseph told me “this is a choir with a lot of love.”  And how!  I used to sing just for the experience of singing, but I look forward to the hugs and humor now.

Here’s to new members auditioning on January 19 and joining Sing Out Detroit.  New members will increase our numbers, but also the love, the sound and the talent of our wonderful choir.  To be properly inspired before we start up for the Spring 2016 season, check out up “The Choir, Sing While You Work” on the Internet or YouTube.  It’s great stuff!

Christine Cantrell


  • Posted on December 5, 2015 at 11:30 am

I sing because of how it makes me feel: happy, connected, energized, peaceful, focused, calm. Singing releases all kinds of emotions and grounds me as my soul soars. Music is central in my life and I have sung in various choirs and choruses in churches, in college, in Jerusalem, in Boston. I’m not a soloist, but joining the second sopranos in a pickup chorus to sing Handle’s Messiah in a December is satisfying beyond any professional concert I might attend.

I sing with Sing Out Detroit. It is a wonderful counterbalance to my work, listening. I love being part of the group, but there’s no pressure to talk, gossip or argue. We stretch individually and we give each other shoulder rubs as we warm up. We sit in rows, in sections, listening to each other, following the director Jeremy’s rhythm (with his new baton!). We breathe in unison, learning to feel the breath in our lungs, use our diaphragms for controlled exhales. We match sound quality and tone, first loud, then soft. We discover a oneness while singing parts! I am mesmerized as we sing a hypnotic song “Dinga Ding” where all four, and later eight parts, seamlessly intertwine in different rhythms and patterns. Being trained as a pianist, I am used to listening to interplay of all the parts and harmonies and dissonances. Others, trained as singers, teach me to listen only to my part and not be swayed by another part’s differences, intended or in error!

So, it is a bonus to read about Norwegian and Swedish researchers studying the benefits of singing. Their research demonstrates that benefits of singing in a choir include wellbeing, emotional release, social connectivity and sensitivity, but also heart health! Singing slows down and then synchronizes choir members’ heart beats to the tempo. Comparing choral singing to meditation and yoga, Musicologist Bjorn Vickhoff reports: “When you exhale (as you sing) you activate the vagus nerve, we think, that goes from the brain stem to the heart. And when it is activated, the heart beats slower.” (Ibid) Controlled breathing seems to have benefits for mental and emotional health. “Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states.” (Ibid)

So, there you have it. Good scientific reasons to sing in a group. And Sing Out Detroit is more than singing. It is a caring creative community that sings, dances, is silly and serious, laughs and cries together, and above all, we create beautiful music and healing bonds among participants and also with our listeners. Come hear us sing! No, better yet, come JOIN us in singing!

Christine Cantrell

Check out to join us for our December 13, 2015 concert at 4 pm at Groves High School, 20500 West Thirteen Mile Road, Beverly Hills, MI 48025.  Or join us to sing!