At one of my many church gigs this month I heard a message that caught my ear. A message of hope. A blessing to raise us out of the darkness. I was struck by the universality of the words. The context was obviously sacred yet there was also a clear secular interpretation. Winter solstice--the ancient ritual welcoming the light. Later I googled the author and discovered the piece was written by Jan Richardson
, a writer, artist and Methodist minister.
Her poem is titled How the Light Comes: A Blessing For Christmas Day. Contemplate her words this Winter Solstice. And take whatever meaning you may find into your heart.
I cannot tell you
how the light comes.
What I know
is that it is more ancient
That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.
That it loves
what is hidden
what is lost
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.
That it has a fondness
for the body
for finding its way
for tracing the edges
for shining forth
through the eye,
I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still
to the blessed light
I have some exciting news to share: I’m 2 months away from launching a new ezine! Outlet Zine was conceived in April 2012 as an inspirational zine for creative empowerment--the zine of self-fulfillment. It’s inspired by the visually stimulating art zines, “Play” and “Art and Life” from Teesha Moore, by the unique and arty quarterly of interiors, “Nest” and by the cutting edge ezine, “Rookie” created by the style blogging wunderkind, Tavi Gevinson. Mix that together with articles, photos and videos about pursuing physical, spiritual and creative outlets and you have Outlet Zine. I’m just agog over the world of possibilities of an online publication!
There is a certain life-cycle of a vision. The initial stages are thrilling, exciting and full of creative energy. The planning part is fun. Then reality sets in. If this thing is really going to work there has to be a mission and a business plan. There are a lot of nuts and bolts that can turn to questions and doubts.
But now that I made it past that clarifying work I’ve arrived at another exciting point: it’s actually becoming real. Now it’s more like teamwork which is really invigorating. Some fantastic friends are contributing and my talented stepson is illustrating the cover. It's an exciting new path--who knows where it will lead?
Of course there’s more work to do like contacting additional contributors, writing, layouts and meeting my own deadlines. The preview issue will be available mid-November. The best news? The preview issue is free! Share this post with your friends. Retweet to your followers. And follow my new Tumblr Blog so you can read about my progress. Most importantly, sign up for the preview issue here or below--I need your help with feedback (and submissions!) for future issues.
I can’t wait to share the preview with you!
I’m a big fan of cooking shows. Why you could even say I’m a (ahem) connoisseur. Restaurant reviews, cooking techniques, chef competitions--I love them all. They’re my chill-out escape of choice. Late one night I was cruising through the dial and landed on Cooking Channel TV. My eyes popped out of my head when I saw a kitchen decorated with animal prints and skulls. But it didn’t stop there. The host strutted around the kitchen in a body-con leopard dress and stilettos. Her lipstick matched her hot red appliances. I rubbed my eyes--what in the world was I seeing? I’d stumbled into a new world of culinary adventure.
Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen. Have you seen this show? It’s now in season 3 so apparently I’m quite late to the party. I’m catching up as fast as I can. Nadia Giosia is a comedian who writes, creates and hosts the show. A product of the web, Bitchin’ Kitchen started small, developed a huge internet following and now has made the leap to a U.S. cable channel with an even bigger audience. In a similar vein is another new Cooking Channel offering, The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia. This one also was born on the internet in the form of video podcasts created by underground filmmaker Justin Fornal. Ambrosia is...”the culinary ambassador to the world, who chases after authentic cuisine in the name of flavor...and passion.” ~ Cooking Channel TV. All the while cruising around in his purple roadster--awesome!
I bring up these examples more for the inspiration than their content. Justin and Nadia are outrageous, funny and over-the-top. They are a couple of folks having a raucously good time doing what they love--that much is certain. I’ll bet they started the same way. I can picture them dreaming up sets and costumes and scripts. They both had ideas and they took the time to play with them. It reminds me of a game I played with my brother. My bedroom window was covered with floor length pinch pleat drapes hung from a traverse rod complete with a pull cord. Voila! A stage and curtains for the silliest show on earth. “The Hilarious Babe Show” was our all-doll review. We were outrageous, funny and over-the-top. Hmm....that reminds me of some late night shows on the Cooking Channel. Child's Play. I don't see a reason to ever stop playing.
Maybe quirky humor and outrageous style aren’t your thing. That’s ok. I picked a fairly outrageous example to make a point--give yourself permission to have some over-the-top dreams. Do you define yourself by your job or by what you love to do? Take a tip from Justin and Nadia and take the time to play--every day.
We are on the road in New Mexico. On our way to Carlsbad caverns we decided to stop off in Roswell to see the UFO museum. The cluster of booths inside a warehouse suggest the government's cover-up of an alien crash. This story is told in a series of newspaper articles, photos and conflicting eye-witness accounts. About half of the museum is a gallery of art inspired by UFOs. It's been on my destination list for a long time. I might have enjoyed it more if I had entered into the spirit of fun like the high school group who sported alien helmets crafted from aluminum foil. At least I can say I've been there. Truthfully the alien-head street lamps lining main street were my favorite part of the visit.
We were lucky to discover a gem in this hot desert town--The Roswell Museum and Art Center
which featured an exhibit and an entire wing devoted to Dr. Robert Goddard. Had my husband not been a flight buff we would have kept right on driving. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry was fascinated at an early age with the idea of space travel. His work began in his home state of Massachusetts. His first rocket launched in 1926.
I was intrigued with the museum's display because of the recreation of Goddard's workroom. The opportunity to see a creator's workspace is a favorite subject of mine
. Two walls of the large space were lined with workbenches containing rocket parts. Above the tables were orderly rows of tools. The other side of the room stored sheets of metal and a metal cutting machine. It was a fascinating look inside the working mind of a genius.
In the adjoining hallway examples of his many rocket designs are displayed behind glass. In this collection of rockets I was surprised they noted the failures. It's easy to see the end result--"the success" and forget how much work went into the outcome. "During World War II, Goddard offered his work to the military, but lack of interest in rocket development led to his closing down the Roswell establishment and participating in the war effort through a small Navy contract for work at Annapolis, MD, on the development of a jet-thrust booster for seaplane takeoff." ~ Encyclopedia Britannica
In 1960, fifteen years after his death, the more than 200 patents held by Goddard and his heirs were transferred to the United States for a settlement of $1,000,000. He studied and experimented for years in his tidy workshop, was initially ridiculed by the media, had his work rejected by the government and died before he ever saw his research come into use. A plaque next to the rocket displays described his life and work with an interesting word--"tinkerer". Did he think all those years, all that effort was a waste? Picture a seven-year-old Robert Goddard in 1899 as"... he climbed a cherry tree in his backyard and “imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars…when I descended the tree,” he wrote in his diary, “existence at last seemed very purposive.” ~ Encyclopedia Britannica A waste?
No way. I think he was just having fun.
I played one of the best concerts of my career the other night. It was amazing--a sold-out audience, inspiring conductor, top-notch orchestra, exciting music and thrilling soloists. It was one of those experiences that come along once in a great while. It capped off a pretty amazing month.
The end of the concert season brought an abundance of great musical moments. First, there was Beethoven's Ninth with our Music Director Emeritus, Lawrence Leighton Smith. The very next week brought our new Music Director, Josep Caballe'-Domenech to conduct Bruckner's 7th Symphony. A week later I subbed with the Colorado Symphony and played Mahler's Ninth.
The musicians reading this will appreciate what goes into preparing and performing these works. Orchestral playing requires a very specific tool set. We must learn our music, read our music, watch the conductor, watch the concertmaster, play with our stand partner, play with our section and listen to the rest of the orchestra in order to blend sound, volume and tuning. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is performed more frequently than the other two symphonies but still has to be practiced every time. All three works are more than an hour long. They are technically and physically wrought with challenges. Electrifying, while at the same time exhausting. All this is done in a concert hall with an audience that is expected to sit quietly until all the movements are complete. Then they may clap and/or leap to their feet.
Maybe it sounds like I'm complaining. On the contrary, performing works like these keep me inspired. They make me look forward to next season. Masterworks are worth every bit of the effort it takes to play them. These pieces remind me of the training and practice I invested in myself and are infinitely rewarding to study.
In spite of all that great, inspiring music, there are times when a girl just wants to have fun. No Beethoven, Bruckner or Mahler were performed on my favorite concert of the season. In fact, this show couldn't have been further from the Viennese masters. When I told my friends, neighbors and children that I was playing Mahler some might have nodded with understanding. It's quite a different reaction when you tell folks you're playing with Earth, Wind and Fire. Honest to gosh. The band came into town two weeks ago and hired a 31-piece string section for their concert at Red Rocks
. It was carefree and joyful and just about the most fun I've had with a viola in my hands. We danced in our seats, we laughed, we cheered, we took pictures. Never have I seen a bunch of orchestral musicians so happy. I'm going to remember this one for a long time. Yep, Shining Stars for one night, we danced our cares away in Boogie Wonderland.
We got away last week. It was a wonderful, welcome campout although slightly different than our typical active vacations. Due to my foot injury, hiking was not an option. Afraid to stop moving I wondered, "What will it be like to camp for fours days with no hiking?" Pre-departure I anticipated boredom, frustration and weight-gain and had a really bad attitude. Knowing this was our only opportunity to recharge, I decided to pack as many journaling supplies as I could and optimistically envisioned hours of time to play.
I packed a quilted, fabric journal that I made during an Artfest
retreat. The smaller size fit nicely in my tackle box along with the rest of my journaling kit. I hadn't used this journal for more than 10 years. When I made it my creative life was focused on art. Due to a car accident I hadn't played my viola for nearly 3 years. Depressed, suffering and living in a musical void I longed for happier times. In the first dozen pages of my journal I sketched dreams of health and happiness and musical goals. And then I put it away for a decade. A funny thing happened during that wait. I stumbled across my journal last year, opened it and was astonished to see my dreams on paper. As I turned each page I was more and more amazed--my dreams had all come true!
It seems like this is a magic journal. But I think every journal is magical. Fill one with your dreams and watch them come true. Work through your challenges. Sketch your hopes. Doodle your fantasies. Then watch them come to life. Like Harold and the Purple Crayon, you may be surprised and delighted by what comes out of your pen!
I just read What it Is
by Lynda Barry and fell in love. Read this book! It is a fascinating creative journey; a "how to write" manual in journal form. She journals her artistic journey beginning with childhood. We see the dreaming, the questions the self-doubt and eventual confidence played out in her journal. We see her become an artist. During our trip I practiced one of her ideas, "keep your pen moving." I sat under a tree to draw. I drew all afternoon. I refrained from judging my pages; I just drew. It felt good. I experimented with new styles and techniques and had a ball. Barry talks about children's art, "when kids draw they make sound effects or start talking out a story that seems to be happening live." The adult version of this is doodling. "Doodles can be called mindless drawing. It's one of the last places drawing still exists in a person who gave up on art long ago. A place where one line can still follow another without plan."
It turned out to be one of our better camping trips. My take away from this vacation was I didn't have to be in constant motion. It was enough for my pen to be in motion. The last morning of our trip I remarked to my husband, "I've been so content and placid on this trip. I think it's because of all the journaling." His reply? "Don't stop."
Do you journal? If so, share your thoughts. If not, head over to Creative Playground to find out more.
I had planned to write about Being Gentle today. It hasn't felt like a gentle day. The harder I try to put together cohesive thoughts, the more fragmented I feel. Shattered.
Grief punched me in the stomach in the middle of the night. It's been in knots ever since. Subconsciously I pushed the heartache down into my belly to avoid the pain. I know the vice grip I feel is really me trying to hold the lid on my feelings. My mind is saying I don't have time for this now. And my body is saying oh yes, you do.
So how do I follow my own advice? How can I Be Gentle when there's a raging storm inside me? How can I cope when I need to keep going? I've tried all kinds of things today--my entire list of Coping Strategies--except Be Gentle. Today I just can't figure out how to Be Gentle and that's the one I need the most.
Logically, I know it would help to let go. Years ago I went to a book signing by the inspirational writer, SARK
. She had us write our worst fear on a piece of paper, fold it up and hand it to the person next to us. Then we all said, "will you throw this away for me? I don't need it anymore." It was a simple, yet powerful demonstration of letti
What am I holding onto? What's keeping me from processing my grief? The fear that I'll cry at the performance tonight? The fear that I won't be prepared for rehearsal tomorrow? The fear that I won't be ready for the youth orchestra concert this weekend? Many questions; many fears. I need your
help. With these keystrokes, I'm putting my fears down on a piece of paper. Will you throw this away for me? I don't need it anymore.
Every February I display my collection of vintage Valentine's Day Cards. I love the precious designs. They are colorful, tiny treasures--a glimpse into a charming tradition. This year I feel quite nostalgic as I tuck them into my ribbon board. My thoughts drift to the people behind these tokens of affection. I think about some of the special ones who influenced my musical life and I think about the love notes I'd like to send.
To Mom Mom, my maternal grandmother: I love to talk about your amazing job playing the piano for silent movies. If I only knew more about that! I'm grateful that you shared your talents by teaching piano lessons--particularly to your daughters. I wish we hadn't lived so far from each other. Luckily my mom shared such lovely memories about you that never fail to make me smile.
To my sweet Grandmother: I miss you! You gave me one of the best gifts I've every received-- a 78 rpm record you made for me when I was 6! It was like magic for a young girl. There you were on my portable record player, singing songs to me and telling me how much you loved me. I still play that record nearly 45 years later. And yes, it is still just like magic.
To my aunt: You were a music mentor to me from the very start. I'm astonished to realize the depth of your influence. When I first wanted to join the school orchestra you were the one who suggested the viola. You watched me grow and supported my dreams from afar. When it was clear that I needed to upgrade to a better quality viola you helped me go instrument shopping in Philadelphia. You encouraged me to attend a summer quartet program that had a profound influence on my selection of private teacher and college. And now that I think about it I'll bet you even convinced my parents you'd watch over me while I was so far from home. Thank you for being an angel in disguise!
To my dear Mother: Thank you for always singing! It feels so good when your songs pop in and out of my head and I think of you. I have vivid memories of Saturday afternoons when you had every radio in the house tuned to the Metropolitan Opera. I was enthralled to hear you tell the opera stories. You showed me your passion for music and taught me its healing power. And even though it meant I moved far away, you encouraged me to follow my dreams. I'm only beginning to understand how hard that was.
These are my love notes to four wonderful women who inspired me and encouraged me and allowed me to dream. They all played a significant part in my musical life and for that I hold them close to my heart. I wish I could let them know how grateful I am for their unlimited support. Putting my thanks into writing feels somewhat inadequate when really, I want to hug them and tell them how much I miss them. For only one is left to thank in person. I think I'll call her today.
Last Saturday my youth orchestra took the stage for our annual Side by Side Concert. It's an inspiring concert for me because all of my students, from the 7-year-old beginner to the accomplished high school violinist have the opportunity to perform seated next to professional musicians. And my colleagues feel privileged to mentor aspiring young musicians in a way that transcends the traditional teacher/student format. They perform together as equals joined by a common objective--making music. It is magical!
What is it about music that unites us? A mother's lullaby, a hymn of worship, even a wail of pain--all of us connect to the shared vibrations. We come into this world cooing and crying. I wonder if it's better to think of language as an extension, rather than an alternative, to our primal tones? It's no mystery that music has such soothing vibrations; it's a tonic for our souls. Even though our differences seem vast we share a deep, wordless connection.
I was honored to play a memorable concert with the Colorado Springs Symphony on September 11th, 2001. Despite the terrible attack, management decided to go ahead with the previously scheduled season-opening concert. Our program was changed to offer a moving and reverent memorial to a people in need. The great cellist, Yo Yo Ma was on hand to perform the Elgar Cello Concerto. Reflecting on this concert he said, "The most extraordinary thing was having the community gather in the hall. The music never felt more powerful to me than it did then, drawing people together and giving them solace in a time of crisis."*
Yo Yo Ma began the concert as a soloist in front of the orchestra. After he finished the concerto, the musicians on stage were startled to see the famous artist slip in the back to humbly share a stand with the last-chair cellist. They performed the rest of the concert together as equals joined by a common objective--offering comfort. Dissolving barriers; connecting lives through music. Side by Side with Yo Yo Ma.
My mission is to teach that life offers us limitless possibilities. The first step is to eliminate the barriers that separate and confine us. What better way to start than a youth orchestra side by side concert featuring beginners to well-seasoned pros playing Mozart and Jimi Hendrix? Together, in concert, the waves of sound dissolve our barriers.