Monday, August 24, 2015

Coral Castles

Froggy Friend

You are not as hidden as you think you are

Water is flowing again

Okay, I have a thing for purple and yellow

Waiting for the chipmunk 

This is called "Fairy Moss" 

Irish Moss, because Gertens didn't have "Czech Moss" 

It's okay, Mother, I'm gonna deadhead those chives and they won't go noxious
I promise I won't ask you to "dechive" the garden again

Endless Summer--doesn't seem to live out it's name

There is no pleasing this robin

Bunnies who don't steal from the garden

On another note. .. 

Even St. Francis can't protect the little creatures of THIS garden 

Of course you know Calvin made this with my dad

There are a few secrets here and there

Charlie could you stay on the path? 
Oh my goodness, it's fifty degrees this morning. Who pressed the Fall button?

I dreamed we were in a high rise hotel on the beach and we looked out the window and a tsunami was approaching and I starting tying my children to the furniture.

I dreamed I looked out the window and there was a tornado on the horizon and we just sat there and watched it approach.

I dreamed there were two weeks before school started and I was teaching 26 piano kids and accompanying and serving as president of SAM and the kids had marching band and ballet and piano and drums and clarinet and church stuff. . . oh wait.  That was when I woke up.

I'm freezing food. Been to Costco. There's enough meat in the freezer to make it through the great depression. We took an entire carload of stuff to Good Will yesterday. I'm almost done with my spark of joy year. I secured the Christmas clothes. There will be no running to Old Navy at midnight for black pants and a white shirt. All that is left is a big box of coffee filters and I'm set.

I told you my best read this summer was Richard Rohr's Breathing Under Water. "Alcoholics just have their powerlessness visible for all to see. The rest of us disguise it in different ways, and overcompensate for our more hidden and subtle addictions and attachments, especially our addiction to our way of thinking." (Page xviii)

My belief is that everybody's got something:
single parents
married people who are still single parents
people have depression and mental illness
and changes in their health and lifestyle
and some are just plain addicted to wanting it all--read--wife, mother, teacher, house, garden, yoga

Guilty as charged.
Please forgive me comparing my own personal addictions of thought to those with more serious issues--I'm just being honest about my own suburban shortcomings. 

If we are powerless over these situations then instead of drowning, when the tsunami comes we must build our coral castle. (Powerlessness is just a place to start. . . the proven first step. . .)

Here's Rohr's opening poem, each time I read this I love it a little more. It's written by Carol Bieleck:

Breathing Under Water

I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between. 

And then one day,
--and I still don't know how it happened--
the sea came. 
Without warning.

Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand
  like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood. 
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning
  and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it
  reached my door.
And I knew then, there was neither flight, nor death,
  nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling you stop being
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance, neighbors
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater. 

Here's to everyone in situations they cannot change.

For me? If the calendar is the sea approaching my house--I'm gonna build my coral castle amidst the iCal events and chances are very high that I will also be transplanting some ferns around the seaweed foundation and inviting the starfish in for coffee.

Friday, August 21, 2015

First Annual Recital at Little Pines Lodge

We had our first annual recital at the Little Pines Lodge. I think it was a great success. It was the hottest day of the summer, but there was a breeze, so it was that kind of hot that makes everybody want to jump in the lake--not sit and melt. Plus, this is Minnesota and Sunday it was back to sixty degrees and raining, we will take all the heat we can get.

We had eleven kids play. We had 29 guests. Three boats. Food for an army. Popsicles. More popsicles. Hamburgers. A bon fire.

Eighteen people spent the night. Folks slept in the boat house and the trailer. Two families pitched tents. We cooked pancakes for 25 Sunday morning. Bill's dad cooked bacon, a lot of bacon.

Thanks to Bill's folks and my mom and Mari and everyone else who spent more time in the kitchen than on the lake.

I'm also sending a giant thank you to Carly and Sam's dad, Travis, who brought his boat and gave 365,247 boat rides for a total of 1,000,000 hours. Travis you rock and the kids had an awesome time.

Seriously, the pedal was terrible for Lena's Debussy. Who knew that at 95 degrees and 80% humidity the 1905 Kohler and Campbell upright damper pedal would squeak? Who knew that last weekend we glued the bass F ivory back on? It's the piano that takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. It was happy to have the children play.

I don't think playing piano is what the kids are going to remember anyway. While it did keep us practicing over the summer, mostly the performance was an excuse to party.

Here's to old friends and new friends and a new tradition.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Love, Music, Fear and Rest

Mary and Sue--yes, theory can be fun! 

Britta, Wynn-Anne, and Mary after the composition recital. "There's short good compositions, and long good compositions. There's short bad compositions and long bad compositions" says Mary. "We love the short good ones!" Wynn-Anne says, they are all good. 

Me and Úna. I know, I have a tough job, but somebody has to teach these little angels. 

Mary and Fay--they are pretty fond of each other. 

My little friend from Houston. Again, tough job here. 

And what about this kid who is teaching me to see with different eyes? And laugh while doing it. 

Britta and Fay. Thank you Britta, for knowing what a two-note slur was in a public lesson. Whew!

And the young drum teacher will always win. And he eats really healthy. Like-avocado blueberry salads. Sigh. 
July. Breath in and breath out.

Two big cabin weekends with company
A big fun wedding to play for and celebrate
A week with my sister
Ballet and clarinet
Marching band boot camp and away camp
MacPhail institute as teacher and parent
Faculty and student recitals
One weekend in Iowa

And the first world problems. ..
House Air-conditioner broken twice
Boat motor broken twice
Fountain pump broken and rebuilt by 89 year-old Elmer

First the rest part: here at my mom's in Iowa, last night, in the basement guest room with the shades drawn, and ear-plugs in, I slept nine hours. My husband and I say that's when the little guys in our brain put up the scaffolding and do all the heavy maintenance. Rest.

Next the music part: let's talk about MacPhail. You can see from the photos that there is no lack of love in the Suzuki community. By Friday, I'm overwhelmed with the kids and the parents and my teaching friends, the old ones and the new ones. We had a great institute. The kids has master classes, composition, theory, group class, and bucket drumming. There was an honors recital, an ice cream trip, a faculty dinner, a faculty recital, composition demonstration and final student recital.

Where does the fear part come in? Well, one little girl from Portland was chosen to play Cuckoo on the honors recital. When the time came, all in her lovely dress, she couldn't do it. Can you tell the difference between true anxiety and manipulation? In a heartbeat. So folks, this is what you do and this is what we did. You don't make them play, but you don't make one ounce of a deal about it. They must not get any more attention from not playing than they would have gotten from playing. I saw the ten seconds away from throwing up look on her face. It was the real deal, but the next day in group, I publicly congratulated the girl who did have the courage to get up and play. She shouldn't lose out. You don't say nothing about the fear. Next step? Non-challently use Cuckoo as your rhythm activity. Patty-cake. Oh, who could play that for us today? Cuckoo girl marches up there in group and gets to play it ten times in a row while we all do our clapping and laughing. Incidentally she nailed it every time. Success leads to success. And Friday she marched up there onto the big Antonello stage and played her Cuckoo without incidence. And no one had to say nothing.

I played my Reverie on the faculty recital. Lots of compliments and Mary said it was perfect. But to me it was not a success because for four measures I was not there. For four measures that panic creeped in, like someone slipped you a drug, and no amount of mediation or breathing or listening or shaping the phrase can rescue you now. You are not there. You don't remember that it was a B-flat chord in second inversion with the ninth in the melody because-you are not there.

Why? I don't know. It's an easy piece and don't you wish you could just show one of the 100 perfect videos you have of yourself preparing it at home? Heck, gather round and I'll show you the one on my phone in my jammies.

It could be that the sole purpose for this anxiety is to help me maintain my compassion and respect and awe for every child who marches up there with their bare soul on the line and plays from the heart.

Success leads to success. As long as I only play solo piano from memory 2-3 times a year this will not improve. The kids play for each other in group nine times a year. That is mostly why I even have group. Maybe I should play for them nine times a year. That's what I would say to them. We will see. Maybe I should play Reverie for patty-cake.

Performance anxiety is a selfish thing. And there are mountains of books about it and imagery and psychology. When push comes to shove you got to either quit or keep going.

What might keep us going under these circumstances?

Love. It's the love part that keeps us going.

Love of the children and love of the music. That is the only reason. Love wraps itself around that fear and while it can't take it away, it makes everything okay. Love is stronger than fear.

Love is stronger than fear.

I tell the children their music is a gift to the audience.
Gifts don't have to be perfect.
They are gifts. Nobody is afraid of a gift.

Music is a gift. Children are a gift. Love is a gift. Rest is a gift.
May your August be filled with all these gifts!