A Globe-Trekker’s Offering 

It’s been over two months since my last entry on WordPress. Two months. A strange void lingers behind me. I consider looking back over my shoulder to ponder the “why” of the silence. I got nothing. It does not really feel like its been avoidance. More like exhaustion.  

It’s winter season. And during this time, in my line of work, the influx of inquiries would primarily seem to be beach bound sun seekers. And, yes. I have had my share of those. But for me, the exhaustion comes in doing what I do best: Europe with a little Asia thrown in for good measure. Just now wrapping up a family trip to Southeast Asia for parents and their sixteen year old child; their spring break will be filled with the Temples of Angkor Wat, the tunnels of Ho Chi Minh and a breathtaking overnight cruise in Halong Bay. An amazing trip in 8 short days. Lifetime moments and family memories will be hatched.
I love creating these adventures for people to enjoy and revel in as they explore the Globe. I really do. It’s the break neck speed within which I have to research, design and develop the flow and pace and services within budgets that has me catching my breath at every turn. In one day, yesterday is a good example, I brought people to the Fairy Pools in the Highlands of Scotland, to a resort in Austria where an avid equestrian client will have a chance to ride Lippizaner Horses in Austria, a solo-journey to Antarctica, South Georgia Island & The Falkland Islands- a cruise expedition for a widowed lady with a healthy bank account who is running through her bucket list at a fast pace and then rounded that out with discussions with prospective clients on how they can manage to fit in a kayaking  excursion through narrow inlets of the Sognefjord in Norway while also checking out Check Point Charlie in Berlin … before heading home. Whew.
It’s no wonder that my mind can’t stay quiet and that I awake typically around 3am. No more shut eye, I surrender.   
This morning, I woke up at about 3:25am and instead of fighting it, I turned on the light and started my day. Pulled out some writing journals and then made the mistake of turning on the TV. Some surfing brought me to an On Demand title I had been considering for awhile and had meant to watch long ago: Money Monster with Julia Roberts & George Clooney. So, I closed the writing journal, sat back on bunched up pillows against my headboard, swished my dog’s furry belly with my nails – she loves that lingering gentle scratch, and watched. What a movie. I was not expecting most of it; in fact, I had predicted the typical hostage type of movie and found myself wronged. It was pretty good. That took care of about two hours and then made my way to the shower to officially start my day.  
I thought of going in early. I have a client appointment at 10:30am for a couple heading to Germany to visit their son who is based there; on their way they are stopping in Amsterdam- planning to visit Anne Frank’s House and the Van Gogh Museum, then after their time with their son which includes a trip to Greece, I pick up their schedule again in Frankfurt and bring them to Paris & London where they have so many highlights scheduled to enjoy together- first timers to: the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum with Mona Lisa’s gentle and wry smile, Versailles Palace and then over to London via Eurostar to experience Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and then off to Bath & Stonehenge before heading home. I need to go in early because I want to provide those little tips I so enjoy sharing- like the best hot chocolate and pastry shop in Paris! And there is that incredible restaurant on the Left Bank- the one that has been in business for about two centuries and which served people like Napoleon, Robespierre and even Ben Franklin! Conversations that changed history took place there- in that restaurant that still serves the most amazing hearty stew and roasts. I have to tell them about that place- maybe make a reservation for them too! Or how about that Afternoon Tea in London I need to share with them… a few things to prepare for their visit, for sure. And I have to get that done quick, in time for their visit while still making time to invoice bookings for other clients and create final documents for others – some heading to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, others to Hawaii and still others- to Ireland & London. Still, whew.  
No time for lunch. No time for sleep. It’s busy season.

It’s what I do best.

So, does the writing stay on hold? Do I have time to dabble in this craft that draws me, pulls me and twists me into a wretched woman who often feels dissatisfied because she can’t do what she loves best. Not necessarily what she does best.
It’s a quandary. And I keep bobbing and swaying to and fro, twisting and reaching and tumbling along. And not really accomplishing anything except to know that I am still enchanted by the written word… and hope one day to come to a stop, to a place where I can breath- perhaps some fresh air, while I stand on a cliff and watch the birds sore overhead.
Maybe, one day- in my Globe-Trek adventures, I will find myself paused in such a way to offer respite from the daily work and perhaps then, I can unfold what’s inside and offer it to myself and others in a more intentional way. One. Day

Out of the rubble, there are words…

It’s November, and it occurs to me that last year at about this time I was half way through my first draft novel. I was on top of the world with excitement over the joy I was experiencing in finding my voice. I had this amazing rush over the 1800+ daily word count production that was flowing out of me uninhibited. This ease followed me through Spring and it was not until I placed myself in an actual writing class this Summer that I began to second guess myself.

The harsh reality was, I was a complete novice.

And, those 58,000 words I accomplished through the NANOWRIMO contest were just words. It was a hodge podge of characters and actions and plot that was more mishmash than anywhere near being bonafide story.

As the weeks went on in the writing class, I began to feel as if those words I had previously cherished and for which I had felt such refreshment had become the ruins of a bombed out shelter within which I had sought refuge and had placed my hope for a bright future. After my writing class, it felt as if I had used all the wrong tools in the arsenal and I was ill prepared for the battle.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all lost and it was not a waste of time. On the contrary, the contest last November was successful in that it pulled me out of an unproductive writing life of claiming I wanted to write but not writing and threw me into the world of daily pursuit of the big story. Combined with the writing class, I came to realize that I do have what it takes but that I can’t skip over the learning part, the technique exercises, the proper development of point of view and the full understanding of the scope of what makes a good story. What I have now is a bucket full of ideas with some interesting people, some who have passion. What I need is a way to figure out how to deliver this up in a format that is enjoyable to read, flows logically and satisfies my inner critic. Ok, well that last part is darn near impossible- for I do not believe that my inner critic will ever really shut up- but I can try to lower the volume a bit and then seek to drown it out with a boat load of hard work layered with some hope. I am not giving up!

When I first started this novel writing project, I proclaimed that this was a five year project to anyone to whom I revealed my dirty little secret (you, know …. pssst… that I write). So, the fact that it has now been one year and I have under my belt 58,000 words and a six week summer writing class to claim as done- well, I guess I am right on track. This is year two of the adventure and I am re-energized on where I am headed with the journey.

During the contest, I was somewhat careful with the disclosure of my novel writing project because the minute you tell anyone that you write, the immediate follow up is “what do you write?”. Up until November 2015, I didn’t really have a good answer. For the past thirty plus years, and yes it’s been that long, I just wrote in journals, nothing substantial. Now that I was tackling the notion of novel writing, saying it out loud was scary. It was almost embarrassing because saying it suggested that I was actually claiming to be a writer and well, I wasn’t really a writer. I just didn’t really believe I could claim or own that moniker. I wasn’t sure that if I shared my product, that anyone would recognize it for what it was.

So this November 16th, I pull out the words but this time, I take time within my writing days to study theory and the basic structure of story. As I head into 2017, I focus my attention on the craft and commit to progress not perfection. I retrieve some of my writing resource books including one titled: DIY MFA. Each of then offers excellent insights, exercises to build the writing muscles and excitement once again that I can do this!

One of the first concepts that I have encountered in this renewal of my writing passion includes the notion that if I resist writing on a particular topic, if it is hard to pursue… then very likely, it’s exactly this idea or project that I must nurture further.

I think about my “in progress” historical WW II occupation story of Norway, and the fear I have of getting the facts wrong or of trivializing this incredibly serious topic… the prospect of it all had me in knots. Doubting my ability to properly capture how the war affected people had me flailing in late summer. And in that self-doubt, I faltered and I simply stopped writing.

Now I regroup and I re-frame. I am not defeated. I will prevail and the story will be told.

An Independent Voter

Who do you plan to vote for?

In many instances, this is such a deeply personal question that one generally does not ask it. We leave this question alone when it comes to the work place. We maybe ask it of friends or relatives that are very close to us but generally understand when the response might be that they want to keep this a private matter. In many cases, we don’t need to ask, we know where people stand since they are so vocal.  
Early arrival to work allows me to eavesdrop on conversations for those other early arrivals that like to enjoy political banter over coffee. In my case, that banter has leaned toward the democratic side.

This morning, I am working off-site waiting for a client to show up for a Final Document appointment. Two ladies in their sixties heading to Vienna on November 30th in order to catch the David Garret concert; it’s been planned for over a year! This was a concert with this beef cake violinist that has these sexy eyes and straight long blond hair that whips around his head as he embraces his instrument and funnels all of his passionate energy from his shoulders into the violin’s strings. These women just had to see him; call it a bucket list experience. Sad that in the end, they learned recently he has a bit of a raunchy side where love is concerned- a fairly recent summer lawsuit against him tells the tale. They are still going but a little less enthused… poor girls.

Anyhow, I digress.

I am here at this coffee house for my client appointment and thus, miss the fall out conversations at work resulting from the end game victory of Donald J. Trump. I am sure there are a lot of exasperated sights emanating from offices and expressions of disdain for their fellow Americans. I guess in a way I am glad I am not in the office, just yet.  
Last night, I just couldn’t stay up for the final results. Even at 9:30pm it seemed he was braced for the win. I woke at just before 1:00am and pushed my iPhone’s home button to see the news feed on the screen- and there was still no victory. I turned on the TV briefly to see where they were at… too close to call on about four or five states. But he was in the lead. After a brief break and hitting the loo, I retired once again to wake at 6:30am. This time the phone showed me that The Donald was now my president.

Outrage, sadness, confusion and hope all mixed into one for me. The truth is that I lean more conservative. But, I was one of those swing voters that candidates work so hard to win over. And, neither of them won my vote. I voted independent because I just couldn’t stomach supporting candidates with whom I had a vitriolic dislike because of their record… on both sides. Both of them lacked a depth of human understanding or care- in my view. Both sought power. Both had engaged in a romance with the underbelly of our world, and in the case of Trump- he hid behind the laws created to allow him to be an ugly person- affecting people’s lives negatively … and this being OK as long as he was a successful entrepreneur. In her case, accepting millions of dollars from countries that have records for inhuman treatment of women and people in general. Corruption. Then back to him, vulgarity, a blatant disregard for women unless they look like super models, a coldness and a crass approach that I could not support. And, because of these issues and so many more, I simply did not feel that I could trust either one.  And I knew that in the end, it would be one of them.  With or without me.   

So, I went with Evan McMullin. I knew this meant my candidate would not win. And that was ok. I was casting my vote based on my conscience, whatever end result that would garner. I knew I was not backing the winning team. That perhaps my vote was meant more for communication and my hope is that McMullin or someone like him will come out in 2018 and try again. And further to that, my hope is that our country will open itself up to the possibility of moving away from a two party system. Because in my view, none of us can suggest that our options for candidates these last few elections – have been good ones. This is not the first election when I have heard: well, we have to pick the lesser of two evils. That should not be the case! Not here. Not in the USA. It has to change. At least, that is my hope. And, I put my money where my mouth was- voting for a candidate whose platform I believed in. Every single one of his talking points as noted on his website had me nodding and bobbing my head. Sure, he was young. But he was not inexperienced. He had so many vitally important first hand experiences within the context of finance (for our country), security (for our country) and our present enemies. He had values for family. He had decency. I just wish he had not shown up so late in the game- not much you can do by introducing yourself in August for a November election. Still, I am glad at least there was a name on the ballot that I felt good about backing. Whether the vote was wasted or not.

So here we are. Putin has already declared that he wants to be friends again. Other nation leaders are expressing their strong positions to ensure their country’s voice is factored into the global issues we face – whether security or prosperity based. What is going to happen in the first few months of his presidency? Will things tilt and change dramatically? Will there really be a wall? Is that a good or a bad thing? Will he really break families apart by shipping people back to their countries if they came in illegally? Will his temperament affect how he handles the nuclear codes? Are we in a state now of total devastation or is this a move in the right direction? It’s hard to tell.

I do know that when countries are soft on the enemy, or turn away and pretend things are not really going on- trouble happens. We need only to look to the two world wars in Europe. “No, he won’t come here, that’s can’t possibly happen? We are OK” …then, one country after the other was captured by a maniac. Trying to be loved by other countries so much does not necessarily ensure our security… being popular is not always the best choice. Our military is in deep trouble, we need to ramp up defenses not reduce them. We need to honor our veterans not disregard them.  And I do believe vetting immigrants is an important issue- making sure they have the proper references and sources to tell us whether they have been involved in anything that needs to remain outside our borders. And I don’t feel that the current president has done a good job. Not when it comes to national security. Smiling and shaking hands and being buddies with people, that he did well. People generally liked his demeanor.  Many will miss his smile and his ability to make good speeches.  But there were just smiles and words in my view.  The bottom line is that I just don’t think he has done enough to protect us from the crazies. It’s all a bit big and overwhelming for me. I confess I don’t know the full picture. I do get my news from many different sources and outlets …always listening, to all view points. And international news – Le Monde, BBC, Reuter’s, CNN and FOX, as well as various podcasts with pundits and pollsters. Liberal and conservative radio. I am interested. I am listening.   

And, I voted.

And, in a few minutes, I will discuss the details of a fun trip to Vienna and Prague for two women who want to enjoy a sex symbol violinist and the magical Christmas Markets in early December.  Life goes on. 

The  Newly Formed Crater In My Back

It started with a slight tickle. Then, an itch. Followed by a true bother. Half distracted by a conversation with my dog, letting her know what a sweetheart I thought she was, I reach back towards my right shoulder blade, my fingers stretching out towards the left side of my right bra strap. I swish my fingers around using them as a brush to blindly identify the culprit. That’s when I felt it… a ball of some sort that began to move and then I swatted at it, again blindly, trying to get rid of it… all the while screeching and jumping and then thump. I heard it hit the carpet. Looking I could not see where it had ended up. I rushed to the bathroom, pulling off my nightgown then turned so that my back faced the vanity mirror. There it was – an angry red back shoulder with a small bumpy flesh mound at its center. It must have been a fully fed tick.  

A bulbous parasite that had been clinging to my back for … how long? The recollection of its size by feel only, suggests it was big and the sound of it dropping to the carpet confirmed that- yes, big. Big is good because generally the more dangerous ticks are tiny, right? Yes. I believe so. Big is better than tiny.

And then a follow up thought.

One is meant to carefully remove the tick, not yank it out. Yanking it out could have adverse consequences. Infection. Disease. These thoughts race through my mind. I must find the bugger… I must find him or her. Her is worse than him. If it’s a her- more likely to dispense disease. And, if I can find her or him, well then I might be able to identify the type and that can make the difference between a bother and a real quandary.  

So back on my hands and knees I go, scurrying around the perimeter of the bed attempting to find the possible tick. On the Ivory Berber carpet, it should not be that hard to locate the insect. And sure enough, within less than a minute I find a Sunflower seed shape that is a bit more ballooned in size than most Sunflowers. It’s about a 1/4 of an inch in size total- counting the full bulb. The insect itself is actually quite tiny- tiny little legs and moving head. Hopefully, all its parts are with it and none still in my back. I retrieve a jar and relocate the bug on the carpet and then sweep it into the jar using the lid as an instrument of help. Jar sealed with a tight twist- it’s not going anywhere now. The tick begins its mobile exploration of the bottom of the jar, with the large bulb atop its body.   

And, I go to work on Google.  

All kinds of searches follow. In hindsight, I realize I have had the itch for a while. I just can’t remember how long. The internet helps me out with time frame because it shows the size of ticks as they grow. The size of mine suggests days- maybe almost a week. How is this possible? I have showered every day. I have toweled off every day. I have put clothes on and have taken them off. I have slept on my back, rolled to the side and back again. Again, how on Earth could that tick have hitchhiked its way onto my body for days and days without notice? It’s creepy and freaky all at the same time.

And then, there are the questions: Deer Tick or Wood Tick? Looking at internet pictures, it’s hard to tell at the stage this bug is in. Some deer ticks cover themselves up entirely of a gray brown bulb once having accomplished an almost weeklong feed. While some show the copper color body- others do not as they are covered in the bubble from the sucking of blood for days on end. All of this has me completely grossed out and frazzled.

I call the pharmacy, do I need to get seen right away? Can it wait?

After describing the insect, the pharmacist surmises it is likely an ordinary wood tick, and generally those are harmless. Tomorrow will be fine. I should go in just to be safe. It is possible they will put me on a course of antibiotics. Bring the tick with you.   

So, it’s back to the bedroom- new nighty and a quick wash of my back which I receive from my mother. And I wonder, if I had been living alone, I would have had no one to help me tend the newly formed crater on my back. A sad thought. Glad I am not yet in that predicament.

I recheck my dog for ticks, maybe she brought this enemy to me. More likely, I just got it from the trees outside. There are lots of ticks in these Minnesota woods. Sofie is fine- I apply her flea and tick preventative which was only a few days overdue.

As I lay in bed, I have weird itchy sensations in other parts of my body. I had done a thorough check but can’t quite bat away the gnawing tickles that now randomly make themselves known on my hip, in the small of my back, around my earlobe. Images of wavy legs and a mouth that wants to pierce my skin and hang on begin to form in my mind.  

It will be difficult to sleep. I have a long night ahead.

Hump Day Rabbit Hole

As I allow my mind to snap back a few months, a disturbing gnarl of bother settles into my gut. It’s been a tiring few weeks. It brings me back ten years, to a time when I felt that as a worker, as a widget used by the owners of a company to produce results, I was whipped and cracked. Not much has changed. I can remember back then feeling as if management were dog mushers, and I was the dog. The intensity with which I attempted to keep up with my pack and pull the heavy load remains with me today. Just a different pack, and a different musher. But basically same track, same destinations. And for the most part, it has felt that those around me have basically no clue at the break neck speed with which I attempt to run the race, at times avoiding any breaks (bathroom, food, water) in order to get to the finish line faster. How many tasks can I wrap up in one day and still deliver an exceptional product? That’s the trial. That’s the run. And, that’s my burden.

Of course I know intellectually that doing this kind of race without nourishment (body, mind and soul) will only result in a crash. There will be a time when my energy and stamina can’t take it. And in the meantime, I must pay close attention to that heaviness in my chest- the one that seems to live behind my breastbone. It really just lives there- this push, this ache that never seems to go away.

I have gone to the doctor about it and the doctor has done tests and then, the doctor has said it’s nothing. So, I can’t very well go back in and say it’s still there because essentially I have been told it’s not there, it’s just not. There. Not there. So, why can I feel it?

Women of middle age, overweight- have different symptoms for heart attacks. I read that the symptoms can be similar to heart burn. Well that sucks because I basically have heart burn all the time … I manage it with Tums. And Prilosec. And, I just keep plugging along. Sometimes, the heart burn feels different- like a pulling of flesh and sinew behind the breastbone – an annoying reminder that there is something there. Angst? Stress? But that’s it? Perhaps.

There is a lot of joy in what I do. I do enjoy some satisfaction along with a feeling of accomplishment which pours over me when I get those emails that say that the trip went off without a hitch and that the multiple stops on the trip throughout the UK and Scandinavia (for example) were all marvelous, lodging perfect, ground transport on time and guides charming, kind and so informative. It’s a great feeling. A small 1-2 sentence paragraph is all I need to propel myself further forward on to the next itinerary. These accolades; however, do not stop the overwhelming stress that accompanies me each and every day as I head into work.

As I face my desk at work, I sink into a pile of folders for a voluminous host of travelers going everywhere from Alaska, to Greece, to Hiroshima and Huntsville, Alabama. At times, in the middle of a complex booking with payments and vendor requests, I must drop everything and push all folders aside (more specifically, pile them all up and shove them into a drawer that may have some space)- make room and clean up fast as there is a person at the front desk who needs help with an air ticket. On my screen, the cursor waits for me to finalize the payment and if I don’t finish it- it will time out. But walk in traffic is a part of the business – so exit that screen, shove everything aside because someone needs an air ticket to Hawaii- right this second.

There are so many new requests – and thankfully lately these have mostly been repeats and referrals- combined with equally as many confirmed bookings that demand follow up tasks- many of which are critical to the success of the trip. And then there is also the recent administrative push to update our marketing database to ensure we have a full picture of who has done business with us in the past and what those folks may wish to hear about for future trips. There are the much belated trip reports which I have yet to finish from the last few months.

I feel as if I have been pulled down a rabbit hole and that I ended up in a maze of tunnels for which I have no idea where I might find the exit.

Escape is futile.

This is your reality.

My writing has been put on a brief sabbatical. Partly because in the very tiny pinch of off-time that I have these days, I sit down at my new keyboard to plunk away at old classical tunes from childhood. A few Sonatas, a handful of Adagios, some lilts of musical lace which cover me up in moments of bliss.

Last night when I arrived home, I walked in the door and put on an apron. Mom was having a dinner party. All the trimmings and all the courses. The guests would arrive in just about 2 minutes. Do I have time to pee? I rush downstairs, take care of business, run a comb through my hair and freshen my makeup. I come back up and they are already arriving in the hallway. Mom has been working on dinner all day and I can see she is fried. I will be hostess, drinks anyone? I go to the kitchen and the food is almost ready. I urge Mom to go into the living room to entertain her company while I finish cooking the food. I hear them chattering over wine and Brie and smoked salmon. About a half hour later, the food is ready for plating. I quickly fill glasses with ice water, light the candles and encourage them all to move to the dining room, where Mom has set a beautiful table. Tonight we are serving from the kitchen- plating the food for the guests- no passing of serving dishes tonight- an executive decision! The beef was tender, the noodles perfect. Oh my god! There is a smell- it’s the bread. Mom had placed croissants in the oven and I had not noticed. They are very crispy but not burned. I acknowledge the over-done croissants to the guests and recommend we skip it. No, no- we must have the croissants. So, I leave the table and gather the croissants into a basket with liner napkin and pass the bread. “Very crispy” says one guest. Ya, you think? I am sweating, exhausted and out of breath at this point. But we press on. Light dinner conversation. Then, it’s bus the table of the dinner plates and corresponding accoutrements, and make the coffee, cut the lemon cake and serve some more. Mom and Dad enjoy the break and entertain their guests. Finally- I pull emptied dessert plates and offer more coffee. No takers. It’s getting pretty late for a Tuesday night- my Mom offers me an out- ‘go down, honey- you have an early morning’. Indeed, I do. I wave to the guests- goodnight, great to see you- until next time. And, I take my leave.
The truth is, Mom entertained her whole adult life. Parties were her thing. Cooking culinary masterpieces and offering a full blown hospitality cornucopia is her speciality. Why should that change as she approaches 80? I only wish she would give me some warning – more than a couple of hours, so that I could brace myself for the second evening job that follows my full time job and two hour round trip commute: evening food server and host. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay I suppose for their enjoyment and happiness and – a feeling of continued full throttle involvement with society.

After that tiring evening, I woke this morning at 4:40am and couldn’t sleep. So, I pulled myself out of bed and rolled through my normal morning routine. Except this time I was out the door by 5:30am instead of 6:50am – heading towards the freeway and into work. I stopped at a local coffee house with my tote bag in tow. Time to write.

People have been asking about my novel. It’s on a short hiatus. Taking my head out of the narrative and characters could help me when I return to it once again; a fresh perspective.

As I write this, I wonder whether I should post it. It’s too much of a dear diary entry. Which on reflection, a lot of my posts are- diary entries. A hodgepodge of conversations with myself on my current – at the moment – state of affairs. And perhaps these are of interest to others. It’s what connects us, I suppose. Reading how other people’s lives unfold – well, it interests me. So maybe- this drivel will interest others?   Maybe?

For the most part, these writings are the way that I organize the chaos that exists in my head. And with several weeks absence, it’s a bit of a loose snake slithering here and there- seemingly without purpose. By writing it all down, I can have a better perspective on whether the noise is legitimate or if I just need to balance the speakers of my mind. Increase the treble, decrease the base. The path becomes clearer. I evaluate and I prioritize and I find ways to discard or reorder. I receive some grounding advice from my inner wise owl.

Ah, yes. Much better now.

It’s all relative.

Time to head in to take care of that trip to Spain for the family of four that plan to travel Madrid, San Sebastián & Barcelona over the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays- complete with a day trip to Toledo and El Escorial, a walking tour with Tapas, a visit to the Prado & Bilbao Museums, trains, guides, dinner reservations- much to do

A Variation on a Theme: Musical Imagery 

I suppose one of the observations I have had over the years with my own behavior and tendencies is that whatever subject or endeavor that I am interested in, my focus goes full boar. All in.

For example, I don’t just listen to classical music, I become engrossed in classical music. I listen to music daily and at times select a composer focus for the day. For a time, I kept my listening to the B’s: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms. Then, on another day, the Sonatas of Liszt and Chopin. Whoever the focus might be, I become fascinated by the carriage of their tunes, the push and the pull, the climbing and descending, the lilts and the hammers. When I listen, I want to hear the variations, consider the emphasis, play, or spirit of the music. Sometimes, I try to imagine what the composer might have been thinking at the time the music was created, what drama might have been playing out in his life, what imagery was he or she exposed to, what beauty or pain was he attempting to craft within the energy of the piece.

For me, that is what music offers. It’s an illustration of life’s moments. When I listen, it is hard for me to not consider these things because that is the very nature of music. I see pictures when I hear music.

A bird in flight.

A man walking a lane alone.

A dog lying on a beach with his tail swishing the sand and the waves as they come in while his owner is lying on a blanket nearby, shading his eyes from the sun. Then, the man’s arm comes back down because a cloud has formed overhead providing him with some relief from the glare. Now, the sun gone, the rain begins. Moments pass and then the waves begin to crash just a little more fervently than before and with each tumble up the beach towards the shore, the dog becomes more and more wet until finally, the dog rises and walks up towards his master lying nearby. The man on queue rises from his lying position, gathers up the blanket and calls the dog to join him back up the path towards the house. Afternoon siesta is over, time to run for cover. The sky has now fully opened up and the rain is pouring down in large sheets and the man moves his blanket to cover his head while running towards the house. The dog moves faster and faster as well, following his master up the path, now up the front stairs onto the porch and they end with their retreat into the homes’ safe walls.

This is not a scientific experience for me, necessarily. I guess I am just particularly driven to imagery. And, music helps me launch my writing to places I otherwise may not venture.

Today, I decided I wanted to experience some Schumann and I was delighted to have the benefit of hearing his music through the hands of Mitsuko Uchida, a pianist to whom I was recently introduced within the editorial page of International Piano magazine which I picked up at the local bookstore. Again, all in. I purchased a keyboard recently and I am relearning the piano, as an adult who has been away from the ivory keys for over thirty two years. In my return to the piano, I grab all the information I can get my hands on and find inspiration and motivation through talented offerings on my Spotify app and through my lessons on Udemy. All good stuff. And, as I listen to a new piece- a Piano Sonata No 11 in A- I hear a lullaby. A gentle piece that encourages a child to seek courage. To move beyond comfort, to walk towards hope. A story bubbles.

I imagine a time during the Victorian Era, a young boy of perhaps eight or nine years of age. He wears one of those blue sailor suits; a cotton combination with Bermuda length shorts. He sits on the floor of the parlor – his legs splayed wide as he bats his big blue ball from one hand to the other – back and forth in front of himself. Nearby, his mother is at the piano. The boy is bored. He wants to play outside. There are no children to play with. He continues batting the ball between his right and left hands and then pushes it at an angle so that ball rolls towards his black leather clad foot. He kicks it lightly and it rolls across the floor and gently hits his springer spaniel on the backside of his leg, as he lay sleeping nearby. The dog wakes and wags his tail at the image of the boy before him. This swishing action of his tail pushes the ball back towards the boy but not quite in a straight line. The ball stops and rests near the boy but somewhat out of reach. He will have to get up to retrieve the ball. The boy smiles at the dog. The dog’s tail wags some more. They’ve connected and that was exactly what the boy had in mind. The boy moves from his sitting position up to a standing position. He walks over and picks up the ball and pushes it under his arm pit, cradling it with his other arm. The dog gets up very slowly as well, exhibiting the ache in his extremities that come from his old age. This faithful friend has played many a game of fetch with the boy and although tired, he makes his way up to a full standing position and begins his sway back and forth as he manages to follow his master outside to play ball. The boy walks slowly to allow the dog to keep up. These are two soul mates that care deeply for one another.

They make their way together past the manicured gardens and out toward the open field, still in view of the home’s bay window where mother continues her scales up and down the keyboard. The sun is shining. The boy left the door open so that as he plays with his dog, he can still hear his mother’s measured tones and occasional high shrills as she now makes her way through Mozart’s Sonata Facile No 16 in C; a piece that is as well known in his system from the years of hearing it as it is in his mother’s fingers. The boy allows the ball to fall from his hands and bounce slightly. With his right foot he begins the gentle kick of the ball forward and catches it with his left foot as he steps forward. He does this again with the left foot and catches it as he lunges forward with his right foot. And he turns and faces the dog who has now sat down to take a break. “How are you, Sir Thomas?” The dog cocks his head in response and opens his mouth to bring in some fresh air and cool down. It’s as if he is smiling back at little Jack. Jack moves to the dog and kneels and places his arms around the dog “it’s Ok Sir Thomas, no need to work up a sweat today”. The dog immediately lays down on the grass in gratitude and shows his belly and looks up at Jack “Pet Me” he seems to be saying. And Jack obliges. And then finds himself laying down beside him, and moving onto his side, he pets Sir Thomas on the belly vigorously- as requested. Sir Thomas’ left leg begins a gentle beat of gratitude as Jack hits just the right spots. They linger in this way enjoying the sunshine together, cherishing these summer moment, which will soon be over since school starts in just a few days.

And there is the start of the story of a boy and his dog Sir Thomas. Thank you Schumann, Mozart & Mitsuko.

Mozart over, the music turns to Albinoni, the piece now is Adagio in G. As I listen, I experience the sorrow as it slowly moves from a high note to the depths of the keyboard into a dark area. In one moment there is hope and in another there is despair. I sense a quiet hollow sadness as if grief is in the air, there is a feeling of just having missed a critical opportunity or that something or someone has been lost. With this change in composer and piece, I thus find myself walking down a very different lane. On this path, there is a deep sense of loss and I imagine that an unexpected tragedy has befallen my heroine.

Daria sits in the bay window on a padded bench, her one hand holds the curtain up to gaze outside, in the hope that he will return at any moment. She tugs at her lower lip with her upper teeth, a small lesion forms there and blood appears. She had not realized she was cutting herself so harshly with her incisors. She sucks the blood into her mouth, licks her lip and tastes the salt. She gets up and paces. She is grateful that Gertrude is gone, she would only make matters worse. Yes, she is glad she is alone at least to bear this burden alone, with no background chatter. She couldn’t bear having to listen to a narrative about her silliness and self centered behavior. No, not today. Then she hears it, the thunder of hooves outside coming closer and closer to the front entrance of their family’s manor home. She rushes to the mirror to check her image and push some loose auburn strands back into her bun. She pinches her cheeks and smoothes her billowing skirts. She goes to the front door. She waits for his knock and then finally, it comes. She slowly opens the door and tightens her facial features so that they are as dead pan as possible. They must not call her out. Calm, cool and unaffected. This must be her demeanor if she is to save any face in this situation.
“Daria, forgive me” he utters in a barely audible tone. “I don’t know what came over me” Oskar looks at her with eyes of plight, as if to say – please Daria, please give me one more chance.
Daria keeps Oskar in suspense. She moves her eyes up and over his brow and looks over at the side chair in the foyer.

“I am not sure I can bear it, Oskar, all your nonsense”.
“What can I do to receive your forgiveness, what can I say?” He begs. He dips down to one knee and holds her delicate hand up to his lips “please tell me, please”.
She looks down at him and offers the slightest smile.
“Well, if I must – you can promise me that under no circumstance whatsoever, will you ever mistrust me again- or I daresay, I may never recover again.” She looks him deeply in the eye.  He returns her gaze and considers her ultimatum.
He kisses her hand “no, never, I will never underestimate you again my dearest, never again, you have my word.”
And with this he rises and kisses her fully on the lips, a long hungry kiss that lasts for many moments.
Then, when he withdraws from her and steps back “what happened to your lip, Daria- is it swollen?”.
“Oh, dear me” she responds “it must be the weather.”
They both smile and walk arm and arm through the foyer out towards the back door and down the garden steps, as if nothing had happened in the first place.  All is well again in paradise.
So it was not a tragedy after all, but rather a tease. A playful romantic exchange that offered a window into a somewhat superficial coupling laced in dishonesty and lack of integrity. A game that will likely end in hurt, someday. A relationship based on surface importance and one that misses deep purpose.
Indeed. Classic music. Instrumental fare. So much to consider, so many angles. So many settings and people and emotions and motivations. I could create a story of honor or one of frivolity. The beauty of writing is that I meet the players and experience the exchanges through each keystroke – both those typed and those heard. And, I will follow the keys and look forward to the next adventure and hope to share those along the way with others.
Thanks for stopping by, for reading and listening and hearing.

Chalkboard of Childhood

I remember the dusty black chalk board in my first grade classroom on the second floor of an asylum built in 1857 which had been converted to a private elementary school at the end of WW I. The blackboard was on the far right wall as one entered the classroom, the large windows faced forward on the building overlooking a walled courtyard with a beautiful maple tree at its center. Our desks faced the chalkboard so that our right sides were graced by the sunlight streaming from the windows. I remember mathematic equations on that board, grammatical exercises as well as the occasional art mural formed by placing a cardboard surface onto the chalkboard and covering it in tiny colored papers that had been rolled by our small fingers into little balls and pasted onto the hard paper. The images ranged from a winter scene to a floral display. My fingers were sticky with glue during those projects.

Our classroom was so close to the maple tree in the courtyard, that at times when I glanced out in a day dream during class, it felt as if I could touch its branches. It was as if when building the school, it had been built as part of the tree; a school treehouse. This was the back drop of my childhood for about five years in the early 1970s. Ecole Blanche de Louvencourt is situated at the cross roads of Rue Alexandre Dumas and Rue de Louvencourt in the small town of Marly-le-Roi, France. The school was at the periphery of Old Marly, where one found crooked cobblestoned streets with various slopes and gradients, offering small shops with curiosities and antiques, as well as basic provisions like the Charcuterie where we picked up our meats, or the Boulangerie where we ordered the best pastries and breads, and the small grocer where we could shop for other basics like milk, and cereal and various sundries. This was all found at the top of an incline street which led in the other direction down to the train station and post office, past my dentist and on the way towards the open air market which was my route home from school each day.

Thinking back, I wonder why I always took one route to school, and a different one home.

Each morning, I would walk that other street to school; the one that passed the public elementary school and library tucked into the center of our village’s public gardens, to the corner where one met the crossing guard and then walked the quiet side street leading to my school coming at it from the left side of the school. On my way home, I left the school courtyard by exiting the school taking a right and then an immediate second right turn down the residential street that had this somewhat steep incline and would find myself in the square that housed the post office, train station and a few shops including the bakery. After picking up a baguette of bread for Mother, I would continue my journey cradling the warm loaf in my arms and urging myself not to pull the hot dough out from its center; the smell of the bread taunting me with each step. I would continue by ducking through one of the small tunnels that went under the railroad tracks coming out next to some homes that led to the open air market which was in full swing once or twice a week. Otherwise that market was quiet and the surface of the lot would be littered with debris from the previous commerce transactions, interspersed with puddles of water from the workers having washed up after business was done.  At times, I would play a game of hopscotch in my mind, dancing through those puddles- hopping on one foot and balancing my bread for leverage.

From the market, I would continue a short distance until I came to Chemin du Bas des Ormes – where our family home was stacked into a modern apartment complex.  We had  the luxury of a separate building for our underground parking lot which had a gravel roof that was used for recreation. It was common on a Sunday to find many fathers playing Boules; a game of throwing colored heavy metal balls with the aim to get as close to the small red ball target as possible.  Children would be laughing and running and playing nearby and occasionally, one of the men would call out in a loud shush to make us quiet down during his turn, so that he could concentrate on the task at hand: throwing his heavy boule underhand and with great intention to bop another boule out of range of the small red ball and increase his own chance at a win.


Those are days of fond remembrance. I don’t recall having any heavy burdens back then, nor fears to speak of. It was a time before strains; prior to learning the ache of loss and uncertainty.