Monday, 30 April 2012

I'm ba-ack

Long time, no write.  To say life got in the way, would be true, but also a cop-out. This blog is cathartic for me, even if I haven't opened my soul much in the lists of authors, actors, and anything else from Mr. P's book.

I have started reading one of the books from the long list. For my birthday (plus 2 weeks for shipping), I was given, "Nonsense Novels." by Stephen Leacock. I'm almost done (it reminds me of the small-size books I read as a child).

What have I been doing the past month? My oldest son was in The Music Man at his high school. He was in the chorus and had a great time. There were many rehearsals, on the opposite nights of the younglings' Willy Wonka rehearsals. Mondays through Thursdays were gone.

I started reading "Nonsense Novels" during Willy Wonka practises, but I found out I need a book in my hands - to smell the paper, to smell the ink, to underline and dog ear (Sharon would be so mad at me!). I stopped reading until the book came in. I've read half the book twice now. I cannot wait to share it with my children. Seeing as Youth Arts Week begins tomorrow, the 'something new' I challenged people to do with youth everyday for the next 7 days, will be reading "Q" to them. It's quite a funny story about phantasms and brokering a deal between the 2 worlds.

I also (finally), made it to an Art of Time Ensemble performance, "Russia in Exile." I have been volunteering with them for 3 seasons now. It's the other 'cultural' thing I do outside Stratford Festival. Andrew Burashko is the genius behind this musical vision. His plan was to make classical music accessible to those who wouldn't usually attend such things. It was here where I was first introduced to Lucy Peacock (of Stratford fame), the music of Bernard Herrman, as part of their incredible, "War of the Worlds" evening - where they portrayed the play as a radio show, complete with a foley artist. All my kids saw that. I do believe that was the first 'cultural' even they have seen, on that scale (they went to Stratford last year, but that's on a much larger scale).

The first half of the show, my mind wandered. The film by Tess Girard was splendid, but still my mind wandered. I spent the rest of the first half thinking about why I like theatre better - it forces you to not think about yourself, to be involved with the emotions of the characters on stage. When 'just' listening to music, my mind wandered. Until the 2nd half.

It was very hard to hear the first of the two shows I volunteered for that weekend. There was one particular composer, Glinka that actually hurt to hear. Andrew, the first night, warned us that it was haunting.  That was an understatement. The chords sounded like nails on a chalkboard to me.

I wondered why, not in a mind-wandering way, but in a search the soul-of-the-music way. It really didn't take me long to discover, but I didn't want to agree. The music, the waltz that weaved itself in and out of that piece, kept me in check. That piece had 4 violins, piano, and clarinet. The clarinet was wistful, constant, and drove the piece.

The violins - there seemed to be no 'first' violin. They each took turns starting a phrase, with the others following suit, finishing, and bringing it back to the start. The piano's part was pushy, pushing, and angry at times. The whole piece seemed disjointed, but it was beautiful, but I fought hard to not let myself notice.

You see, in September we had a house fire. Then our car died. Then we separated. Then a flood at the new house. Then Jeff's dad died. Then another flood the day before the funeral. Our lives were disjointed - but we journeyed on.

I guess you could say I felt like the clarinet - springy, constant, the driving lines/force in the family. The violins were defintely the children - fighting each other, fighting me, fighting Jeff. Our community, the children's schools, our church, our larger community (including the Stratford Festival) were like the piano. It was their support that gave us our base, our hope when we had, literally, nothing but the clothes on our backs.

The song ended with a soulful melody, a hopeful melody, by the piano.

I wished I had a tissue. I was crying because of that ending; crying because I don't know if I'm there, sad because I don't know if I'll ever really get there; sad that we might be there and I not know it.

When I think of that composition, it is the clarinet's melody that stays with me, and the memory of hope at the end.

If we don't have hope, then what are we fighting for?

The second night, I brought Braeden (14) with me help with the merchandise table and listen to the magic of the music. Amy, another volunteer, told Braeden she knows someone who makes swords for a living...but that is a story for another time.

What does this have to do with, "In Spite of Myself?" Everything. The book is about the art around him - the art of words, the art of music, how the arts stir the soul, and make life worth living.

So, inspite of MY reading, my blog tonight is about the power of music. How, that even if you fight it, despite you fighting it, you can always get a message written just for you, by a composer decades ago.

I will get back to regular posting. There are stories from Mr. P's book I still need to discuss. There are hundreds of books I still need to read.

But tonight, I started with my heart. It has been disjointed. It has felt like I was the nail scratching down the chalkboard, or that I was the chalkboard being scratched. Does it matter? No. What matters is that we are still here. We are strong.

And, we have hope. I have hope of a life worth living - a life with culture because it is, as Kevin Spacey says, "culture is the magic of our experience." It's magical but you do the soulsearching to find their meaning.


  1. Make sure to close your eyes when you listen to the music. That is when you will truly be carried away by the magic that it contains. Then, when you think you are by yourself in your quiet place close your eyes and hear the music of nature, Then think to yourself, was the magic in the music or in the quiet between the notes? I have not yet figured the answer to this question but still enjoy the experience of both.

  2. Thanks for your wonderful words of advice. I will definitely try that. It sounds like a wonderful way to relax & meditate. My mind needs quieting sometimes. I'll let you know how I make out :-)