Crowded in Fields

8 04 2015

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I wrote a song called Masked Beauty about the things that pass us by each day that we fail to recognize. When I wrote it, I was awe-struck at a man I encountered on campus who I had never met before who offered me his umbrella on a rainy day. I, enchanted by the rain and enjoying running around barefoot, passed up the offer. But it made a mark on me that I have never forgotten.

If I were to apply this to our common day issues, I would recognize the importance of all that we are given each day. I recently had a conversation with my apartment neighbor about student debt. He has accrued quite a bit of debt after 8 years of college; he shared with me that he plans to pay it off in 5-10 years. I was struck by the position of privilege that he is in to be able to pay this debt off in such a short time. To him, it seemed a burden. Just like my loans have been feeling like a huge burden that I cannot dually take care of while also pursuing what I feel my heart needs, he saw his loans as a burden. If we are to see them as a gift, however, it is amazing how they are a reminder of what we invested in ourselves. It is a symbol of what we hope for our futures. If we can invest this much in ourselves throughout our lives, and if we invest in what we truly want to see growing into, then we can do a lot in the world.

Majora Carter emphasized the importance of doing work in the world that we feel is right; if we aren’t willing to invest in these projects, what will become of our earth? ourselves?

We will crumble…

Wendell Berry recognized the importance of paying attention to what the land we find ourselves in needs. If we can’t invest in our land, then we won’t have anything at all.

These two people present beautiful ways of engaging in our world (post-grad) that will be both fulfilling to ourselves and helpful to the world at large. Can we invest in that? Are we willing to take the risk that we’ll be able to pay back whatever debts later?

Are we willing to listen, to act, to respond? To be ourselves, in our true nature? If we never take the jump to invest in our dreams, we will never find out if they can come true.

I have not yet been willing to risk the familiarity and comfort of the life I have known growing up, in order to go in search of what I am truly longing for. The inspiration provided by Majora Carter, and the truth-finding exemplified by Wendell Berry, reaffirm for myself that I must go in the direction of these dreams, whether or not these will result in the simplest path to paying off my student loans. Economic hardship deferment, anyone?

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Reflections Upon the Moon

10 02 2015

Abby's Creative Flow

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How often are we fully present with the world around us? Annie Dillard shares a reflection that is quite poignant in the opening paragraphs of the chapter “Seeing” from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She reflected upon how as a child she would leave pennies on the sidewalk for strangers to pick up. She noticed that people may not recognize or appreciate something as supposedly tiny as a penny. To her, this may represent a phenomena in which people fail to recognize the little gifts that are left along the way. She states at some can become so impoverished that “he won’t stoop to pick up a penny.” In this case, the poverty Annie speaks about is not necessarily physical, but could be referring to a lack of spiritual nourishment–a lack of connection to the spirit in those things both inner and outward in this existence. I must admit, Annie’s magnificent…

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Inspiration at its Finest

6 06 2013

Check out my latest blog about inspiration, spoken word, and coming home to community!

Inspiration at its Finest.





Cultural Arts Review

27 05 2011

Abby Murray-Nikkel

Mr. Haning

Varsity Chorus 1b

May 27, 2011

“Dancing with Daddy”

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to the dance recital of Alpha and Omega Dance Academy at Methodist University. The recital’s theme was “Dancing with Daddy” and it featured boys and girls from ages three to eighteen. I have not seen a dance recital in years, so I was excited and curious to see what I would think of the show. The overall quality of the show varied widely with the age of the performers. They performed all types of dance, including lyrical, modern, hip hop, and jazz. I enjoyed seeing the contrast in different types of dance. Some were very upbeat and modern, while others were deep and thought provoking.

Seeing the very young children perform brought back many childhood memories of dancing. It surprised me how similar the dance moves these children were doing to the moves I learned fifteen or so years ago: holding hands and running in a circle, jumping in and out. I supposed that three and four year-olds are only capable of so much, so their routines don’t change much over time. It was cute to see all of these children on stage in their elaborate costumes, although most of the time they were not together in their movements. It was amazing, however, to observe the difference in performance by age group. The difference between a three-year-old and a five-year-old, or between a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, is more significant than one may think. Their ability to stay together and remember when to do which moves is the most obvious difference, but even more, I noticed a difference in confidence level and stage presence among the different age groups. It is worth noting that the dancers seemed more confident with age. This could stem from more experience with dance, or just from more self-confidence in general.

The age group I enjoyed watching most was the oldest group. They performed lyrical, modern, and jazz dances. Their precision and accuracy allowed me to observe things about dancing that I could not get from watching toddlers prance around the stage. I began to notice the difference of focus in each type of dance. In jazz, the dance was all about the music. The costumes and extravagant dance moves matched the song, and the dance was perfectly on beat. It is all about stage presence and putting on a show. Lyrical dance is unlike any other. I found that it emphasized the visual images perceived by the audience. The music had no words, as the visual became more important than the aural. It focused on the lines and angles formed by the dancers and tried to create a visually pleasing balance on stage. Not all of the dancers were dressed alike, and they often did different moves at once. Modern dance was in some ways, a cross between the two former types. All of the dancers were dressed alike and did the same moves throughout the dance, and the music had lyrics. However, modern dance, like lyrical, focused on the meaning of the song to each dancer, instead of putting on a show. The focus of modern dance was to interpret the music; it looked like a story to illustrate the music was unfolding before my eyes.





Cultural Arts Review

27 05 2011

Abby Murray-Nikkel

Mr. Haning

Varsity Chorus 1b

May 27, 2011

Our Town

Our Local Cape Fear Regional Theatre put on the play Our Town at Fayetteville State University this Spring. Our Town showed what life was like for Americans in the early twentieth century. It gave the audience thinking about love, fear, happiness, and life. It told the story of families living in a small town in New Hampshire in 1901.

The first act gave us a look into what daily life was like for the people of this town. The way they interacted was very typical of an American family from this time period. The fathers were the head of the house, the mothers were in charge of keeping up the house and frequently went to church, and the children went to school every day, not usually interacting with children of the other gender. The families did not communicate very well, and neither did the children with one another.

The second act was about love and marriage. The daughter of one family, Emily Webb, and the son of their neighbors, George Gibbs, fell in love. They had both been fond of one another for a time but had not admitted to it. They decided to get married, and soon left home. On the day of their wedding, they were both afraid of being away from their families and out on their own. This spoke to me because I will soon be out on my own just like them. They were scared but they trusted each other, and trusted that they could handle whatever would come. This was a very touching scene that I think could help many people get over similar fears.

The third act was about waiting for something eternal. It was sad but also very thought provoking. It took place in a cemetery. Several characters had died, and Emily Webb arrived in the place of the dead as well. The others who had died were happy to see her, but for Emily it was as if she did not know what to feel. She was happy to see her loved ones who had gone, but they she realized that she left George. Seeing her grief in this realization was difficult to watch. This made me think about how I should appreciate my loved ones more while I have time with them, because we never know what will happen in the future.

Overall, the quality of the performance of Our Town was impressive. The show was very well put together, and I enjoyed the many lessons about life that it expressed.





Cultural Arts Review

27 05 2011

Abby Murray-Nikkel

Mr. Haning

Varsity Chorus 1b

May 27, 2011

Long Day’s Journey into Night

The Gilbert Theater put on Long Day’s Journey into Night; the play was very emotional and heavy. It tells the story of the Tyrone family, who lived in Connecticut in 1912. The parents, James and Mary, have two sons, Edmund and Jamie. The play takes place completely in the Tyrone’s living room, and consists almost entirely of conversations and arguments between the family members. There is not a traditional plot; the focus of the story is on the mother, who is addicted to morphine.

There is obvious tension in the household from the start of the play. The mother has recently returned from being treated for her addiction, and has been clean, but it is obvious that she has started doing morphine again. She is very anxious, worried, and depressed at some moments, yet in other moments she is unrealistically happy and in a dreamlike trance. She often reflects back on her life before she was married. The rest of the family knows that she has started back on her drug, but they do not know how to deal with it. They are afraid to bring it up because they do not want to upset her, and when they do address the problem, she pretends as if she does not know what they are talking about.

Each character of the play has an extreme downfall that contributes to the failing family dynamics. The father is extremely cheap, which causes his sons to blame their mother’s problem on him because he sends her to cheap doctors. Jamie is seen as irresponsible and is always out drinking and going to brothels, and then asking for more money. Edmund is the baby of the family; he is innocent and sweet and wants everyone to be happy, but he is unfortunately diagnosed with tuberculosis. All of these combine with the mother’s drug addiction to create some tense moments and nasty arguments.

The family dynamics posited by the show were easily relatable to all, at least on some level. It was disheartening to watch the characters continue to put themselves in such terrible situations. However, at moments, their love for one another overcame all of the bad things that were going on; these tiny slivers of hope were the only things that kept me watching. The emotions expressed in the play were extreme and at times even difficult to witness, but is important to be exposed to this because many people still today have lives similar to that of the family in Long Day’s Journey into Night.





Cultural Arts Review

25 03 2011

Abby Murray-Nikkel

Mr. Haning

Varsity Chorus 1b

March 24, 2011

Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra

After living in Fayetteville for eight years, I finally had the chance to see the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra this past month. I have not attended many symphony concerts in the past, but I was extremelly impressed with the quality of the performance that our local orchestra put on. When the first notes sounded, I was astonished with the impeccable sound I was hearing. It was as if I were listening to a professionally recoreded CD, and it was hard for me to truly realize that I was hearing live music.

The first half of the performance was Symphony No. 6 in F Major by Beethoven. This was my favorite part of the show; it told the story of a homecoming to the countryside. The strings imitated water, the flute imitated water, and the timpani imitated thunder. The quick lively music evoked joyful feelings, and the increasing then decreasing tempo simulated the course of emotions throughout the homecoming.

I liked this one particularly for numerous reasons. Because it told a story, I was particularly intrigued, as each movement caught my attention. Furthermore, as a person who associates both nature and orchestral music with feelings of relaxation and joy, the pairing of these two was very enjoyable.

The second half of the show consisted of concerto No. I for Piano and Orchestra in B Flat Minor, Op. 23 by Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece as well. The pianist, Shai Wosner, was incredible, and made this difficult piece look easy to play. The thing I liked most abuot this piece was the interaction between piano and orchestra which drew the audience in and kept us engaged.

It is notable that this piece was initially rejected by the greatest virtuosi of Tchaikovsky’s country. Today, it is one of the most popular competition pieces of its type. This was obvious in hearing the piece, as it requires almost every artistic and technical resource possible.

Overall, I was very impressed by the performance that the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra put on, and I look forward to seeing them perform again.