Tuesday, March 2, 2021

I Love Making Lists and Finding Them Years Later

Today I rearranged my little office/studio space in Spanaway.  I have to say that I am very lucky to have space to work.   

Even though it's a small space, every couple of years I like to give it a facelift by putting the furniture in a different place.   In the process this morning, I found a list from May 1, 2017 where I listed 18 things that make me happy.   

It made me laugh!  

Two of them I have already written about--my convertible, and a good cup of coffee--and the list served as a reminder of things I can continue to write about.  But ...  what struck me was how it made me feel.  I see how my love of things like "a cat in a window" or "winning a contest" are still true, and that I am still that person.  I like the person that made that list!!

Lists like these hold many truths and they seem to be seeds of my dreams and goals.  Many of them belong in a family of thought.  For example, "a clean floor" and "a beautifully-made bed" and "a beautiful cut flower arrangement"   make for "a good yoga practice" in my home practice while yoga studios are still closed or limited.   "A delicious cup of coffee" with "writing a good poem" or "finishing a song" that helps me in "winning a contest" also go together.   It's really quite fun to group them into meaningful experience.

With all this time alone or limited contact, I really do think that life is a series of moments, and it's what we do with them that counts.  These simple things "make me happy" and I am glad I have a record of them to encourage me to keep going.

Monday, March 1, 2021

I Love Jigsaw Puzzles

I put together a lot of jigsaw puzzles.  Even before C-19, I had a habit of putting them together ever since I fell in love with a 1000-piece puzzle of zebras.  It was so challenging, and it took me almost a month to put together.  That was 2012 ... and I loved it.    Now, I usually do a puzzle each month that celebrates the seasons or the month.  Depending on the difficulty of the puzzle, it will take anywhere between three days to a couple of weeks.  

Puzzles are funny things in that I find that I don't want to stop once I get started--especially if I love the picture.   When I like a puzzle, I will stay up until the wee hours of the morning (great for audiobook listening!)    

Over the years, I have noticed how puzzles help me figure things out.  I have also noticed that I have become a snob about the kinds of puzzles I put together.  I have to like the picture that I am working to see.  They have to have an artistic quality about them too, that will hold my interest, and that I believe I will enjoy seeing complete.   

Sometimes I think that these C-19 times are like a box of puzzle pieces.   Every day we seem to be trying to figure it all out. Only with time do I believe we will see the full picture.  

Saturday, February 27, 2021

I Love Ayurvedic Self-Care Practices

Ayurvedic practices started as oral tradition and then were recorded in Sanskrit about 5,000 years ago (1).   There are lots of websites that talk about it if you Google it, but at the Gaiam site, there is a compact section describing their top-ten self-care Ayurvedic practices.  

Some of these practices are instinctive like splashing water on your face first thing in the morning; some I have been using for years (yoga, meditation, tongue scraping), and some of them I have been trying to do, such as going to bed early and drinking lukewarm water in the morning first thing.   However, with C-19, there are two Ayurvedic self-care practices I decided to try: (1) using a neti pot, which is cleansing my nose, and (2) abhyanga, which is self-massage using warm oil.  

Both of these practices have helped me so much.   

With the neti pot practice, I find I breathe better, smell things better, and my food tastes better.   I notice I seldom have the sniffles.  And, as much as I hate to admit that I started snoring as I got older, the neti practice seems to have reduced the volume and/or almost eliminated this obnoxious habit too.  Who knew?

In March 2020, I started an abhyanga practice after I realized that I would be isolated and alone for a few months.   With no one around to give me a hug, a kiss, or hold my hand, I knew I was missing touch, so I ordered my bottle of organic sesame oil, and watched the video at Banyan Botanicals.  My daughter, who was quarantined in Austria at the time, roared with laughter when I told her I was "oiling myself."

But, it was amazing how "oiling myself" hydrated my skin, how it warmed and relaxed me, and how great my complexion looked.  And, while I have always had great skin, the addition of castor oil to the warm sesame oil seemed to push back time and wrinkles, which helped me combat the ravages of the alcohol I had been drinking.   Plus, I got to listen to great stories and podcasts as I applied the oil. .  What I noticed most, is that by deliberately taking time to take care of my body, it simultaneously helped my mental wellness: I felt better, slept better, ate better and I didn't drink as much.

What I know is that C-19 has altered the way I think and feel about things, how I think and feel about others, and how I think and feel about myself.  It's why I think I really MUST be deliberate in how I take care of my physical self--now more than ever!!  My body is essentially this entity that carries around my thoughts and feelings, and all of these thoughts and feelings are held in my cells.  More than anything, I want to feel good so I can feel good about the uncertainties ahead.  

Even though I have more one-on-one interaction with my family now, I know I will continue these practices.  I know that every time I take care of myself, I am taking care of who I will be in the future.   Besides, they work! they make me feel good, and I love them!!!


Friday, February 26, 2021

I Love Making Enchiladas

Ever since C-19, my consumption of vegan and vegetarian meals has increased.   To make it easy on myself, I roast a lot of vegetables and make enough grains to last the week.  

Most of the time, I eat bowls of grains and beans, with seasonal vegetables.  To make the bowls more interesting, I sprinkle nuts and add in some kind of pickle or maybe a little cheese.   After awhile, though, the bowls start tasting the same.  That's when I know my imagination needs a boost, and I turn to ethnic flavors.   

When I think about the world, I think how amazing it is that same ingredients become something else depending on the country and imagination.  Like I said I eat grains and vegetables  ... but with just a few additions, the bowls become Mexican enchiladas when I mix my grain (farro) with my beans (black beans) and seasonal vegetables (roasted potatoes and carrots) ... toss in some chopped onion and frozen corn ... which I might have in a bowl anyway ... 

These ingredients (essentially a bowl) transform as I add cumin and some salsa verde to the mixture and stuff into corn tortillas.  Taken a bit further, I cover them with a can of summer tomatoes and diced jalapeƱos, throw on some cheese and bake.   

Absolute magic!  Same ingredients ... and it satisfies everything! 



pre-cooked farro (cooked in vegetable stock-mostly onion/garlic)
black beans
a little bit of roasted vegetable (potato and carrot)
chopped onion
frozen corn
salsa verde
cumin and salt to taste

corn tortillas

chopped can of tomato
diced pickled jalapeƱo
or a jar of salsa

mexican cheese

375 to 400 until the cheese bubbles.
About 40 minutes.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

I Love Fairy Houses

In the last couple of years, I have become fascinated with fairy houses. My fascination initially started when I went to the Fairy Fest at Lakewold Gardens in Washington State about three years ago with my husband's grandchildren ... but perhaps even before, since I had installed a fairy door on my favorite tree in Rochester.    But, by seeing them in the gardens, it was magical, and I could imagine a tiny presence dwelling there.   

Since that time, my husband has built several and entered his houses into the Lakewold Gardens festival.  I love how he uses the natural materials he finds on the property--tree stumps, feathers, moss, fern, etc.--  to transform them into the magical houses.   

Now that the houses are here, they are becoming part of the experience of being here.   They delight; they inspire imagination ...  

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

I Love My Old Work Shirt

To anyone else, this shirt may look like a rag, but every stain, rip, and drop of paint on it tells a story.  It’s why I love this old denim work shirt, and why I pay tribute to it today.   


In the spring of 1998, one of the wholesale houses had a huge stack of 100% cotton denim shirts on sale, and I bought an XL one because I was pregnant with my daughter.   As my belly expanded and I became increasingly awkward, I found leggings to be comfortable, so the shirt became something I wore every day as a light overcoat because it was big enough to go over my t-shirts and around my middle, and long enough to cover my backside.  It was practical, easy to wash, and held my cell phone in the left pocket.   


After the birth, the shirt took on different responsibilities as it helped me keep my clothes clean from baby spills and burping, and the pocket became a place where I could store a small bottle of food.  It also became very useful in the garden, protecting me from the sun while keeping me cool.   During those years, I suppose I got so used to wearing it every day, that that’s why it became one of my go-to items of clothing.   When I look back over pictures, I can see I wore it often.   


As the shirt got older, it graduated to another job of protecting my clothes as I painted the house and tackled small home improvement projects.  It got a lot of different colors of paint on it over the years because I love to paint a room.  I love the way paint changes the feeling of a room, and I am always curious what a room will feel like when painted an odd color.  Most of my paint came off the ‘Oops’ clearance paints, and I learned a lot about color and light because of that.  Of course, my trusty work shirt was right there to support my painting habit.


When I see all the paint drops on the shirt today, it reminds me of all those happy times of painting. and I see how the shirt is a record of all the love and hard work I poured into making my home a place I love to be. 


Last year I found a couple of denim shirts to replace it, and this year, my lovely friend, Melissa sent me one she embroidered.   I love them just as much.   Eventually I will have to retire my old work shirt to my paint rags, but until then, it will remain in my closet, a faithful friend, and ready to help.  


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

I Love a Good Cup of Coffee

Coffee has been part of my life since the 1970s.  My coffee habit started with Sunday morning coffee hours after church services.  I would make a ridiculously sweet concoction with a scoop of Taster's Choice, 3 scoops of sugar and two scoops of coffee mate--then add the hot water.  Adults (not my parents) would scold me, "Coffee will stunt your growth!", but I didn't care because the taste of the coffee out-weighed my fear of being 'stunted', and my parents didn't seem to mind.  I loved watching the coffee crystals melt with dry ingredients as I stirred them with wooden stick, and I loved sipping that sweetness as I watched the adults enjoy each other's company with cups in hand.  It was happiness.

There is something wonderful about sharing a cup of coffee with someone.  Making coffee takes time and the experience of preparing it touches all the senses--the smell of the roasted beans, the whirr of the grinder and then pouring the coffee into the cup, the heat of the cup in hands, the sight of the beautiful, rich liquid in its various shades of brown, of course, the taste--and finally, knowing that the other person is experiencing a cup of coffee in a similar way.  

There are so many ways to make coffee, and there are so many kinds of coffee beans to choose from.  Everyone I know who drinks coffee has a preference (Starbuck's has capitalized on that!)  Of course, I want my coffee to taste good, but for me, the real point of making coffee is the  ritual of preparing it and drinking it with someone. 

Over the years, I have tried various ways of making coffee-- with percolators, Mr. Coffee machines, drip coffee, pour overs, cappuccino machines, but my favorite coffee maker is my husband, Doug.  He makes great French Roast coffee in a stainless steel French press.  Also, just as delicious are the cups of pumpkin lattes my daughter makes ... I also love it when someone surprises me with an oatmeal milk latte from a coffee shop!!  

When I think about it, a "good cup of coffee" is the moment I spend drinking a cup with a person I care about and love.  It seems to suspend time, and those moments are made special because with cup in hand, they encapsulate the conversations, laughter and sorrow, the sharing of stories, and dreams--all the stuff that life is made of.

Monday, February 8, 2021

I love Audiobooks

Hearing a good story seems to do my heart and mind a lot of good. With the isolation, I have found the voices of the readers to be good company, and through them, I have gotten to know writing styles, met amazing characters, and taken myself to new worlds with every story.    Even before C-19, I made a habit of listening to good stories--downloading them from my public library.  As a resident of New York, I am fortunate to have access to the Monroe County Library System as well as the New York Public Library.  Between the two, I can usually find a good book to listen to at any time.  With the online system, the library is always open.

As my daily artistic life moves from creating musical scores (both classical and theatrical) into the realm of the visual arts (drawing and illustrating), I often put on an audiobook while I am working.  It seems to go well with the activity.  Because of the audiobooks, it is interesting to observe the differences between the two creative disciplines.

When creating music, I actively listen to something from another realm.  I create that sound, and then make choices about the way it should be notated for its future re-creation.  The movements of my body and mind are working together with my hearing (both internal and external) and sight.  This process takes my full attention and I try to avoid any distraction that would take away that focus. 

With the visual arts, my mind is engaged in a completely different way.  My mind directs the hand as my eyes take in the information of what the hand creates.  Once a mark is made, my mind judges it and directs the process.  Like music, there is no outside auditory stimulation in its process, but still I am listening and hearing my inner thoughts.    

Visual arts require patience.  Often, I must make repeated brush strokes and layer color,.  The repetition takes time and my mind must wait for the strokes to happen; it is ahead of what my body can do.  While I am making marks, this leaves time for other thoughts to enter as I am working.   When this happens, one thought may wander into circles of thought, and if those circles of thought are positive ones, all is well.  If destructive, then I do myself harm. 

Audiobooks seem to solve the problem, and listening to stories seems to help me focus even more on the physical work at hand.   I find it's double the enjoyment--making beautiful art and listening to stories.  Over the months of listening, I also notice that my listening skills have improved.  I seem to pay more attention to what others are saying in real life, and it is easier to remember names and details.  

What amazes me even more is of the marvelous and varied talents of the great readers.  

Some of my favorite stories of late have been from Young Adult series.  I love the Phillip Pullman, Sally Lockhart mysteries.  Oh my goodness!!  The reader, Anton Lesser, is absolutely amazing!  I have never felt such fear as he takes on the voices of the evil characters, and I always wonder if Sally will survive.   It's great!  

Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series, read by Jayne Entwistle, is also excellent.   She recounts the inner thoughts and tales of a young English girl enamored with chemistry and solving mysteries.  The character is delightful and Entwistle is brilliant.

I also just finished and loved the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer.  Netflix made a recent movie of this character, but the story Netflix tells doesn't even come close to the wonderful stories of the books.  The books are intriguing and so smart, and anyone who liked the movie will probably enjoy the books even more.

All in all, audiobooks are wonderful.  My life is better because of them.  It makes me so glad I have my library card and this time to listen.   

Sunday, February 7, 2021

I Love a Fireplace in Winter

There is something about a fire on a cold, gray day makes the day less gloomy. I love to watch the flames dance, to hear the sound of wood burning, and to feel the heat on my face.
  I even love the smell of the wood and how it lingers in house after the fire has died. 

Growing up in the South, I didn’t have many chances to enjoy open fires except around campfires.  With the mild winters there, few homes had (or have) working fireplaces.  In Macon, Georgia, I don’t think fireplaces are seen as necessary to Southern life, and the people I knew who did (or do) have fireplaces, often didn’t (or don’t) use them. 


Regardless of where I have lived, most people I know who do have fireplaces often complain about the soot, the ash, the debris that comes in with the wood.  Due to the lack of interest in building fires, they also don’t seem to be interested in keeping their fireplaces in good working order. Growing up, I always wondered if that would be me or not.  As a teenager, I had always thought of a fireplace as something romantic, and therefore desirable to have in spite of the complaints.


When I moved to Rochester, NY, I bought a house that has a working fireplace.  For over twenty years, I too have experienced the ash, the soot, the debris that comes in with the wood … but I believe this is an integral part of the experience.  I have such respect for fire, the fireplace and its maintenance.   Over time, I see how my fireplace actually helps make me take better care of my home!   And so, for over twenty years I have enjoyed it so much, because I don’t seem to mind the not-so-welcome tasks that go with it. 


Over the years, I developed the habit of picking up sticks on my afternoon walks. and use them to start my fires.  The sticks are dried hardwood that fall from the trees in my neighborhood, and they make a fire crackle and pop more than without them.  The poet in me hears rhythms that the flames dance to.  


As an artist, I believe a fire contributes to my creative process.  I love to write and compose music as the fire burns.  The fire requires me to take care of it, which in turn, makes me take care of myself with breaks from sitting for long periods, thus giving me pause to ponder. 


To me, a fire is magical.  No two flames are ever the same.   As I sit in front of a fire tonight, I hope I will always be amazed by its beauty, the romance of it, and never imagine a winter without one.

Friday, February 5, 2021

I Love the Rochester Public Market


Saturday mornings are busy at the Rochester Public Market.  It is open year-round, and during the summer, stalls are filled with beautiful produce brought in by farmers fromall around the Upstate New York area.   During the winter, farmers also bring in their stored root crops, and other fresh vegetables that grow in their greenhouses.   Food wholesalers are also there.  The market is an amazing place, and I love it.


Last March, I started going to the market regularly on Saturday mornings.  I was inspired by Alice Waters, a chef who is passionate about food, and advocates for "buy local".  She claims that seasonal and local produce tastes best.  Because of the Rochester Public Market, I tried her idea, and I believe Alice Waters is right.

When I consistently began buying food that was grown within 50 miles of my home (and produce in season), At first, I noticed it all tasted so delicious, and I ate a tremendous amount.  Food was so satisfying and I stopped feeling guilty about eating.  After awhile, I noticed that I started eating less, and that the seasonal aspect started to meet my nutritional needs.   Food is beautiful.

Later, my goal each week became to find something I had never eaten, and I began to experiment with whatever was available--jerusalem artichoke, fiddlehead fern, celery root, scapes, trumpet mushrooms, etc. My meals transformed, and after a year, I find that I have become a food snob ... for several reasons.  Here are a few:

  • The produce is fresher--often within a few hours from having been in the earth.
  • The food is less expensive, 
  • and better quality than the grocery store.
  • There is less plastic packaging.
  • It supports local farmers and local businesses.
  • It contributes to the community of Rochester.

Every week, I photograph the bounty and the beauty of the food.  Every time I do, I feel the privilege of having such a wonderful place to go--even during a pandemic!!  It's why I love the Rochester Public Market.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

I Love Birds



In second grade, I drew a cardinal.  It was my first bird drawing, and I was so proud of it because I hadn’t traced it.  When looking through old pictures and past drawings, I notice many of my images are birds.  So, I think it is safe to say, I love birds.


In 2019, I started drawing them in earnest, simply because I wanted to get better at drawing.  Birds are a great subject, and I found a really wonderful bird artist on-line, John Muir Laws, who has a fantastic blog with all kinds of helpful information to improve bird drawing.  His tips are practical and easy to follow, and I noticed that my drawings get better every day that I practice.


During the first few months of the C-19 shutdowns, I was alone in my house in Rochester, and it was the birds who kept me company, so I drew them.  All kinds of birds came to my yard—a wood thrush, a dark-eyed junco, a hermit thrush, a rose-breasted grosbeak, even a woodcock and a wild turkey! 


All About Birds and the National Audubon Society were great resources that helped me identify the birds, and with the information in hand, I felt a deep connection to the bird I was drawing.  As the winter changed to the early spring, I observed that no matter what the weather, a bird is always energetic, alert and in the moment.   Every posture expresses something, and a bird changes and adapts to every condition and in every moment.


Sages tell us that our past is only a trail we leave behind, and that life is generated through the energy of our present moments.  If this is true, then birds are a good example of how to live.  


A bird doesn’t seem care if I see it; it flies away if I get too close.  A bird doesn’t have to have an audience, or have a need be admired when it sings, dances in the leaves, or flies. Instead, birds live their lives.  They simply do what they do: fly, look for food, feed, build their nests, have their babies, and teach their babies how to fly and sing.  It is through the process of living in present moments that they bring beauty to the world and with it, a simple by-product called joy.  


I wish the artist in me could be more like that … showing up and living in every moment of creation without expectation … and just like my drawings, maybe that takes practice too.  Until then, I will keep admiring these little creatures, keep being reminded, and keep saying: I love birds!




Wednesday, February 3, 2021

I Love a Convertible!


I love a convertible!  I really do, and I remember the exact moment I fell in love with them.

When I was a senior in high school in 1980, a not-so-popular girl came to school  in a 1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible.  It was bright red with white leather interior, and everyone was excited about it.  All the popular kids wanted a ride.    I remember thinking that when you have a convertible, it doesn't seem to matter what make or model it is -- or even what year it is, the car can be ten-years-old and it's still wonderful!  

I didn't buy my Sebring convertible until 2006, and I am so glad I did because it has given me years of pleasure.   Over the years that pleasure hasn't faded, and I find I can never be in a bad mood when I put the top down.  It's magic!  There's something about unlocking the top and pushing that button that makes all the worries of the day fade away.   

A lot of people might think that a convertible isn't practical, but I find it does more than a regular car.  Besides promoting happy thoughts and feelings, I often call it my bohemian pick-up truck because I can haul just about ANYTHING in it as long as it isn't raining.  

Winter with the top down is the most fun.  I loved it this year especially because we brought our Christmas tree home in it, and it made people smile to see the tree in the back.  That kind of thing brings joy into the world.  People laughed and waved.  They got it.

It has amazed shop owners to see how I have hauled beds and chairs and outdoor furniture, configuring it in all kinds of ways to make it fit ...  and I constantly amaze my husband with how many building supplies can be put into it.  My most impressive feat was a stack of 16-feet boards.  He bet me I couldn't do it ... and an old man at Lowe's watched me because it was so impressive; he even offered me help once he saw it could be done.  I kid you not!!  My husband bought the beer that night!

The greatest joys for me, though, are the long trips.  I have driven from Rochester, New York to Seattle, Washington (It's an amazing feeling to fly through Montana on I-90 with the top down.) From Tacoma, Washington to San Francisco, Rochester, NY to Macon, Georgia.   Every time, it's wonderful!     

For the rest of my life, I hope I will always drive a convertible.  Life is too short not to.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I Love the Bassoon!!

Until my daughter was three-years-old, I never paid much attention to the bassoon.  I liked it, of course.  As an orchestrator, I ­love every instrument, and believe the bassoon to be an unusual and misunderstood instrument—filled with character and often comic, color support for lower strings … but beautiful on its own—and essential to overall orchestral sound.  But until I took my child to ESSO (Eastman School Symphony Orchestra) concerts, I had never stopped to think about it as an instrument that ignites someone’s passions.

In picture books about the orchestra, she was instantly drawn to the bassoon, knew all the instruments by name, and what they sounded like because of my work.   At the concerts, we would look for the instruments, but what was amazing is that while the orchestra was warming up, she would pat my arm and say, “Mama!   Mama!  Do you hear the bassoon? Do you hear the bassoon?”   


No!  I didn’t.  


Honestly for me, it was hard to hear a bassoon in a mixture of orchestral warm-ups, although if you listen specifically for its timbre, you can hear it.   That’s why it was so amazing that she could hear it so easily and get so excited about it.   


When she was four-years-old, I was working on my post-baccalaureate music teacher certification, I studied woodwind methods and brought a bassoon home, which she LOVED!   She was enthralled when putting a bassoon together and loved to help me.  


It is quite the process, and she would lay the seat strap down, go get clean water for the reed, watch me put the bassoon together, and wait for me to practice.   She loved blowing into the reed.  She even loved helping me take it apart, clean it, and put it back into the case. 


For a long time, I thought she would become a bassoon player, but she chose to play the flute instead.  From elementary school through college she played ... until she went through an Immersion Program at Eastman three years ago.  


There, she checked out a bassoon during the Christmas break and started studying with a teacher through the Eastman Community School.  In the Spring, she bought a bassoon (expensive and no small feat) and took her bassoon to Austria during her Fulbright, and studied in a conservatory for two years.  Now, she is back in Rochester, studying again with a teacher, recently auditioned for the orchestra, and now plays in the University of Rochester Symphony Orchestra.   


To watch such growth in such a short period of time is remarkable, but seeing an instrument bring so much joy to someone is thrilling.  This is love in action, and I love the bassoon because of it.  I can’t help but reflect on that excited question of long ago: “Mama! Mama! Do you hear the bassoon?”


Yes!!  You bet I do! ... and I love the bassoon!!

Monday, February 1, 2021

I Love My Violin!

When I say “I love my violin!”, I am not only saying that I love the physical instrument, or only one violin.   I have several—one in my house in New York, one at my sister’s and two in Washington State.   While each came to me in various and odd ways, the convenience of having them gives me no excuse.  The violins are there wherever I go, and I must practice. 


My violin study has been a mish-mash of teachers over the years.  In 2002, I was introduced to violin playing when I did my post-baccalaureate music teacher certification at Nazareth College.  Nancy Hunt, who plays with the Rochester Philharmonic, was my teacher, and she was wonderful.  In her class, it amazed me how comfortable I felt with the violin.   I loved the power and openness of the violinist’s stance. I even liked the way the hard wood of the violin felt under my chin.  At times, I dreamed of continuing to play, and it was my father’s generosity that allowed me to buy a very nice instrument, an 1870 Silvestre, which I love very much.  


But … life got in the way, and I didn’t pick up the instrument until much later … in 2016, when I was inspired by Betsy Turner Sprague’s playing of my score of AUSTEN’S PRIDE.  What an amazing player and teacher!  Unfortunately, with my travel schedule, life again got in the way.


In 2019, I met another wonderful player and teacher in Washington State, Lynn Thompson.  She also played my score of AUSTEN’S PRIDE at the Seattle 5th Avenue Theater.   (It’s amazing how you get to know someone’s musicality and ability by the way they play your music.)  I love her too(!), and studied with her as my travel schedule allowed—enough to reclaim my knowledge of the instrument and begin shifting.  That is, until C-19 interrupted.   


For over a year, I have been without an in-person lesson, relying on myself, my musical training, and everything I can read about the violin and learn from my own practice.   For many reasons, I do not want to do a Skype or Zoom lesson during the shut-downs.  I don't know why exactly--I suppose it boils down to the fact that I am old-school--but! what this decision did was to make me really dig into my life as an artist in completely different ways.  

It has been extraordinary, and I often think about early settlers alone in their cabins who played violins: how did they learn to play?   I suspect, they picked up the instrument and kept practicing until they liked what they heard.  They had to experiment with their bowing and intonation and vibrato … so that means that much of playing an instrument is simply putting in the hours, learning to listen, observe, and try again.   Teachers get you there much faster, for sure.  They know many tricks of the trade, but ultimately the journey is the same, and it is a personal one.  


So, when I say “I love my violin!”, it is the sheer pleasure of learning to play another instrument—of being a beginner and growing into an intermediate player, and recognizing this accomplishment.  It makes me so grateful for my teachers; it helps me appreciate myself for being highly skilled as a pianist, composer and orchestrator.  My daily practice makes me less cynical, understanding of others, and vulnerable to the process, and in return, I receive the inexpressible joy of making music.   

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Slaying Monsters

Around Valentine's Day a few years ago, I decided to learn a little bit about archery.  I have always loved the romanticism associated with archery.  Perhaps it is Cupid, a god who can shoot a bullseye with a few feathers on a stick, straight into the heart with his little bow.   

From a physics standpoint, it’s amazing how an arrow flies through the air and into the target.  There is so much to consider: distance and wind, as well as the force with which the arrow leaves the string.   All sorts of things must be considered from the shooter too: stance, aim, angles, release, to name only a few.  But then, I don’t profess to be a great archer, nor have I ever aspired to be a scientist or a physicist, so perhaps my desire to shoot came the scene in the film of Edith Wharton’s “Age of Innocence”, where Winona Rider shoots perfectly, and wins a diamond archery pin.  


But who cares about reason?  Archery is fun.  


Looking around on the Internet, I found a Genesis Bow.  I love it!!  Mine is a compound bow, royal blue, and perfect for my level of shooting.   I also ordered bright colored arrows!  


Out in Spanaway, my husband, Awesome Doug, created a safe space for shooting, and we gathered all our plastic wrappers and stuffed them into a canvas bag to make a target.    Since I knew the target would be blank and wasn’t going to be round, I was inspired to paint something on the canvas to shoot.  


Thinking about what to paint, I knew I didn’t want it to be an animal.  I would hate to think of myself as killing an innocent animal.  But, what about monsters?  I don’t mind slaying a monster.  Monsters are figurative, and as we get older, we always seem to gather more and more of them into our lives—these emotional monsters of thought that torture us and make us unhappy with our regrets, our grief, our guilts and frustrations.   


Amazingly, by painting an enormous monster on the canvas and filling it full of holes, it became a satisfying and therapeutic practice.   Oddly, over time, I find that I love the monsters that I shoot.  It’s like I am making friends with them, and the monster serves a useful purpose.   


We had to retire our first blue monster; he was too full of holes, but I couldn’t throw him away.   Instead, he is hanging up down at the shooting range in a make-do Hall of Fame.  Perhaps, he will be a mentor to the next monster we will slay!