Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sometimes You Have To Go Looking For Your Joy

If you are a faithful follower of my blog (and I hear you are having your annual meeting in a phone booth, if one can be found!) you probably know my posts have tended toward the melancholy in recent months. I know, and I regret that because I don't think of myself as a melancholy person. So it is with great pleasure that I report a distinct elevation in my mood of the moment, not due to anything chemical! I will start from the most recent pleasure and work back.

Last night we ended the current season of concerts for the Santa Cruz Foundation for the Performing Arts with a performance by the stunning piano/violin duo of Ronald Lantz and Laura Kargul. I've come to expect extraordinary musical experiences at these concerts but each time my breath is taken away by the sheer wonder of the event. Here we are, 60+ music lovers (that's the number, not the average age) seated in this incredible venue (always a unique and wonderful place...this time at the historic Walker Ranch), often far off the beaten path, when suddenly a musician or a group, whose names are not familiar but who come with a distinguished reputation, begin to play. Last night it was the Brahms Violin Sonata #2. If I had to choose, and thankfully I do not, to hear only one sonata the rest of my life, it would be that one. I play it often on my Ipod  and it stops me in my tracks. When it was played last night I felt such deep gratitude that tears sprung to my eyes. It was so beautiful and I felt thankful that these two people were here to play it for the people gathered in this historic room; and to Christina Wilhelm whose tireless efforts have recreated this scenario over and over for six years, each event a brilliant musical surprise for those of us who love the idea of coming together with others who need it for their very souls!

Before they began to play, Laura Kargul spoke so warmly about how beautiful she thought this part of the country was (they are both from Maine where it snowed yesterday!) but also about how much they loved playing for this kind of audience...a chamber concert. Sadly, symphonies and opera audiences are fading (dying, along with budgets) and it is through the efforts of the true believers like Christina and the passionate people who can't live in a world without music that small concerts like these will keep the flame burning. I could have listened all evening but for the short time they played I felt enriched, uplifted and inspired!

Backing up to Friday and Saturday, I had enrolled some time ago in a Creative Writing Celebration at Cochise College in Sierra Vista (about 35 miles from home). Many of those who care for me have urged me to do some things for myself that nurture my spirit and fill my well. Caring for an Alzheimer's  patient, even one as highly functioning and good-spirited as Tom, is an energy-draining experience and I have seldom chosen to be away from him for more than a few hours. But I knew that this two-day workshop was calling my name, and I wanted very much to attend. In addition, we now have Dudley, a four-month old Goldendoodle puppy who we adore but who has changed life as we know it! All very complicated and I was becoming less committed to the idea of the workshop.

It was through reading some poems I had written and submitted to the workshop contest that I decided I would make it work. The woman who wrote those poems needed to get help! I could feel the hunger for some deep intellectual exchange and dialogue in every poem I had written and it was clear that this opportunity was there for a reason. So I arranged for Doggy Day Care for Dudley and convinced myself that Tom would be fine, and off I went.

It was great. I met terrific people, some writers like myself who had gotten late starts, others who have been writing and publishing for many years, and all who were generous with their time and talents and happily shared their love of the craft with me. At the end of the second day, winners of the contest were announced and, to my great surprise, I received honorable mention for one poem and second prize for another! Nice as the recognition was, however, it paled in comparison to the written critique each poem received by Charles Alexander, professor of poetry at University of Arizona and highly regarded and much-published poet. He reviewed each entry and offered comments and critique and for me, nothing could have been more exciting. He was so encouraging, and also suggested other poets whose work would be helpful to me. I take his comments with great appreciation.

So I came home feeling refreshed and refueled, ready to take on whatever is ahead for a while. Tom did fine; nothing bad happened and Dudley had a blast playing at Cate's with five dogs bigger than he is (which resulted in a very quiet evening and an early bedtime...a tired dog is a good dog!).

I have gone on and on, haven't I? Too long between blogs. Sorry! If you haven't been following my blogs on Mariashriver.com, please check them out. She is a wonderful advocate for women and for the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.