Friday, April 29, 2011

Well done, Will and Kate! (but it's probably a good thing we weren't invited!)

Let me begin by acknowledging that I'm an easy mark for pomp and circumstance, pageantry, marching bands, English boy choirs, organ music, gothic cathedrals and ceremony done with elegance, so you will not be surprised to learn that my DVR was enlisted to capture the royal wedding. I know it was overblown by the media (no big surprise there!) and I can argue the expense and the plethora of silly hats made it a bit nonsensical. I found it utterly charming in so many ways, however, and I feel happy for having indulged my shallow obsessions.

None of that, however, will be the moment I remember from this day. The DVR had been recording for four hours when we woke up at 5 a.m. I turned on the TV and rewound just to the moment that Kate stepped from the Rolls to enter Westminster and began her long walk down the magnificent center aisle. Now, I step back for a moment to ask if you have seen the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral." It's a favorite of ours and we have seen it many times, always helplessly giggling over Rowan Atkinson's bumbling officiating at the wedding ceremony. So when the Bishop asked William to say "I, William Arthur Philip Louis..." my husband and I almost fell out of bed laughing. I heard that Atkinson was an invited guest but no one in the Abbey seemed to be laughing uncontrollably, so I guess it was just us. We both agreed it was a good thing we were not present, as it took us several minutes to regain our dignified royal wedding decorum! Of course, Wills carried off the moment with great poise, as did Kate. Still, it was the best laugh we've had in a while.

I wish the couple every happiness. Given the shoddy and boorish behavior of his father, and the untimely and tragic death of his mother, I'd say no one deserves happiness more than William. And if you haven't seen 4 Weddings, it's worth a look.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today I Need To Smile

I have many favorite poets. Each has a particular and unique effect on me. When I read Mary Oliver, I want to take a walk outside or sit on the patio and watch the birds. When I read Elizabeth Bishop I look at the small, ordinary things of life with increased interest, even wonder. But when I read Billy Collins, I smile, and occasionally I laugh out loud. Today I needed a smile so I visited a few of Billy's poems predicted...I smiled. I thought maybe you could use one too.

by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

(You're smiling, aren't you?)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Night Breathing

waking in the night
I do not open my eyes
but listen for your breath.
in the dark you are whole,
deep of soul,
together we breathe
each other inward,
I pull the cover around me
like hope, sweet comfort
to my soul,
in the dark
where you are

from "Sip Wine, Drink Stars"

Monday, April 18, 2011

One Woman's Dream

We just returned from the last of this season’s concert offerings by the Santa Cruz Foundation for the Performing Arts. It was a program of flamenco guitar, song and dance by a trio of true artists, the Chris Burton Jacome Ensemble. I do not exaggerate when I call this a world class act. For nearly two hours, they performed with consummate skill and massive energy. It was beautiful, graceful and emotional. Even with the jack-hammering of heels on wood, it was clear that it was more than just folk dancing. It is a language with profound historic roots – one that communicates a sensual and deeply personal passion.
With the concert season at an end, I realize that I will miss these Sunday afternoon events, held for the most part in private homes and historic venues that have graciously accommodated us though not built for the express purpose of live musical performance. But I must acknowledge that it has really been one person who has created and nurtured a dream for this small county (Santa Cruz is Arizona’s smallest) to experience the same level of artistic performance that one might find in any big city.

Christina Wilhelm has not lived here all her life. She is the talented product of fine music schools and universities in the northeast, where she would not have to look very far to find programs that nurture young artists or bring innovative performances to eager audiences in the community. But after being transplanted to southeast Arizona from Boston, New York and Maine, she looked around and saw no sign of local (meaning closer than Tucson) top-quality music venues that could attract top-quality performers. And she could not imagine surviving here without great music!

She could have wondered why, but instead she asked herself “why not?” Christina has set the stage for an explosion of cultural opportunities in and around Santa Cruz County because she and husband, Fred, are dedicated to the creation of a state-of-the-art recital hall, that will be a crown jewel in this part of the state – a destination for tourists who will discover, along with our wonderful wineries, that there is something unique and engaging in this little-known, but beautiful, piece of Arizona.

In this tough economy, some would say it is a terrible time to be launching an ambitious fund raising campaign to build a recital hall. Painful budget realities are the rule rather than the exception in both governmental and personal finance. Yet, I suggest that we have never needed the arts more than we do in this rather grim time in America. If we treat live performance of music and theatre as incidental luxuries in our society, we risk a culture for whom music is defined by rappers who rise to fame overnight and disappear just as quickly, and “live” performance means going viral on YouTube!

Christina, at a time in life when most people are content to be spectators, has taken on a huge challenge and is risking everything to build an audience for the performing arts in a small, rural community. Though it is largely “off the beaten path” (and we do like it that way!) the attendance at the Foundation’s concerts shows that there are many music patrons in the area, and it is time to step up! The architect’s drawings are complete. We have the land, graciously donated, and a generous bequest from a caring benefactor. There are so many ways to help. If you would like to leave an enduring legacy that bears your name, you can “adopt” a portion of the hall. If you have influence in corporate America, suggest that a philanthropic gift would be an outstanding act of citizenship. If you can offer even a modest financial assist, please do so. The Wilhelms can offer many more ideas on how you can help take this building from a dream to a reality, and they will go anywhere (just about!) to discuss this project.

Most of my family and friends live in or near large metropolitan areas. I rarely envy them, except when I think of the myriad of art and music venues that they have within a few minutes of home. On almost any day, if they choose, there is a marvelous concert, theatre production or dance event available. I envision a time when, in this small corner of Arizona, we can point with pride to the increased economic health of our local merchants, the broad musical education available to our young people, and the visitors who flock to this beautiful area to enjoy the same quality of entertainment that they might find in the heart of a great metropolis.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clothes Don't Always Make the Man!

 A few years ago, my younger son (who has a strange attraction to shoes) told me about Crocs. He raved about how comfortable and how cheap they were, so I bought a pair. Ugly, yes, but they were comfortable as advertised. Then I bought Tom a pair of brown ones and he was immediately in love. That's where the story should end, but no. The following summer we were in Fairhope and he and his brother (the owner of a bright yellow pair of Crocs that led to him being called "Uncle Duck") were out together, probably laying in more Scotch, when Tom came across a beach shop where he purchased a pair of orange Crocs. To the best of my recollection, it is the only item of apparel or footwear that he has bought on his own (meaning without me to help him decide what he likes) in over 25 years of marriage.What followed was a couple of years of complete mortification as he elected to wear them EVERYWHERE! Doctor's offices, shopping trips, our local post office and hardware store where he is generally considered 'a real nice guy, a little know, the orange shoes guy!'

I made the mistake of snarking at him about the orange crocs so often that he began to wear them with an evil smile, enjoying his ability to annoy me so easily. Oh well, he's retired and this is Arizona. I haven't told him yet, but I've actually given up the just isn't worth the trouble. Maybe that's why he did not wear the orange crocs to a concert we went to last weekend. He wore the brown ones! Aaargh!

Oh, and about my son. He does have a lot of shoes for a guy, but they are mostly in manly colors and in very good taste. He got that from me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Life Well Lived

I had the distinct honor of being invited to sing for a memorial service yesterday. I did not know Bob Winchester long, and yet I think I knew all the important things about him. Let me tell you how we met. About two years ago, a fellow soprano and I, along with two wonderful accompanists, put together a program of song to present at the retirement home where her mother was a resident. We called it "Sopranos and Pianos" and we spent many weeks rehearsing operatic arias, sacred solos, old standards...a real variety that we thought would be well received by our audience of seniors. As we began the performance that Sunday afternoon, I noticed a gentleman sitting in the back who was not just attentive -- he was enthralled! Singers always love to perform for an audience who seems to be greatly enjoying it, and we played to him! But as we ended the program and took our bows, the man came rushing to the front, threw his arms around me and said in a loud voice "I HAVE to sing with you!" That was Bob Winchester, a tenor of some experience and of much enthusiasm. He was 83 or 84 at the time, and a cancer patient, but so robust and full of excitement that he lifted the energy of everyone around him. We did actually sing together a few times following that event and I always went away feeling that a force of nature had enveloped me. He wanted to know about me, my husband, my poetry...and I found myself willingly sharing. I hadn't seen him in quite a while and then learned a few weeks ago that Bob had died from his spreading cancer.

It is almost impossible to imagine him in any other way than the day we met but yesterday I sat in a Friends Meeting House in Tucson and listened to 50-60 people talk about Bob. The stories were remarkably similar, regardless of the context in which the speaker knew Bob. He was a WWII fighter pilot, and later a psychologist/counsellor who devoted the last years of his life to working with veterans with PTSD, but aside from his varied and interesting background, he was a loving, caring human being who always saw the best in everyone he met. Nearly everyone, including his daughters, told of him spontaneously bursting into an Italian aria in wildly inappropriate places (especially when they were teenagers) but that was part of who he was. If he loved you (and he loved everyone) he was likely to sing your name loudly when he saw you. And if you were hurting or sad, he would silently hold your hand or walk with you without expectation.

The love in that room, the shared tears and laughter, all made it very clear that Bob Winchester will never die in the hearts of the people who knew him. We can all picture him, arms spread wide, big smile, singing an Italian aria doesn't matter where. I do know that we left that memorial service hoping that, when it is our time, there will be such a gathering in our honor.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What? It's Spring? You're kidding...when did that happen?

Haven't been around much lately. Anywhere! Many naps and daytime TV. Yikes, I hope my body heals before my mind rots! I am beginning to emerge into real life, pretty much free of Percocet so that I can read and write again. I've decided it is dangerous for me to write while medicated. I tend to think it's all brilliant until the cold light of morning when I discover it is drivel! Have been working on this one for a while and, apart from whatever quality it may or may not possess, it describes my state of mind lately.
Maybe you've had thoughts like these...don't we all in our low times? I wish us all good cheer and hope!

Surviving April

And so it came on, relentless, oblivious
of my need for silence and dark in which to heal.
Spring’s euphoria will not be ignored.

I hoped for another month of winter, where
cocooned in down, I could escape attention, hidden
from curious glances and gestures of kindness.

I yearn to slip my skin and absorb my own shadow,
to turn into the wind with only my thin songs
of longing and let my healing occur in the blurred mist.

Waking early, I remember whale song in my sleep –
something to savor while I wait for the return
of cheer, some silver-edged promise of illumination.

I know I must tunnel out, emerge like the leaves
on the sycamore, too green, too tender, frail,
but pulsing, once again, with possibility.