Sometimes, you just have to go with your inner musician

Greeting the distanceI have a one-hour piano repertoire of well-rehearsed oldies which I perform at local retirement centers. Not wishing to lug around a stack of books and never having seen the need to purchase print music for old folk songs; I play by ear, make up my own arrangements – or perhaps put in a little research as to what a particular chord progression might be.  (FYI, Moon River is a bit of a doozy). Consequently, most pieces end up in my keys of choice: C and F.

The other day, I was absentmindedly idling my fingers about the ivories at home and letting my thoughts wander out the window and slide down a few clouds. Suddenly, I found myself in the middle of an Elvis Presley song and playing an E major chord.  (You know, the one that belongs deep in “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” as part of the harmonic cadence before the final phrase?)

“I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” has been a staple on my playlist for a couple of months. Yet, I could not remember camping out on an E major chord before. So I worked it around a few times, ferreted out the sequence to verify. Yes, that chord really belongs there. I was puzzled and played through the song again. Then palmed my forehead.  Duh.  “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” may be my well-worn standard, but “Love Me Tender Love Me True” had not been on my playlist – until that day.

That is how we discover new things.  We travel down a well-worn trail of routine, something new and different catches our eye.  We follow up on it, do a little research and experience and find we have a new hobby, a new favorite activity or a additional item on the bucket list. Sometimes you need to follow the inner musician. 

Writer’s Lament

DSCN4766journalsHe was always going to make an appearance in my book.  At first, the text was largely about him. But, people change over the years. With all the water under the bridge;  by the time I had scribbled my way through hundreds of pages, I had grown as thinker and writer.  He had morphed from hero to villain.  And She was still alone.


(Inspired in part by the writer button: Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel)

What was so delicious about last Tuesday at the symphony?

Unlike my short story posted on the tab above, this is truth.

I had a wonderful time at the symphony Tuesday night.  Like a three-year-old, I cannot resist asking, “why?”  Why did the evening play out so charmingly?  Was it the book I was reading, dinner, the weather, the setting, musical selections, the clothes I was wearing, the evoked memories, the people? Or did I finally step outside my introverted self and slay my fears?

The book I held in my left hand during dinner was “Persuasion“, by Jane Austen.  My evening had not much in common with the plot other than the habit of taking a long look back. For the book, eight years.  For me, at least 30; at times 40 years. Dinner itself was left-overs. The weather was mild to cold. The setting was the 1600 seat auditorium at GJHS.

A newcomer to both the Western Slope and the symphony asked, “Have you ever been up on that stage?” He was curious about the portable band shell, was it rigid?  What material was it made of? “What else would you like to know,” I thought, “the location of the light cage?  Whose names are inscribed on the bricks in the wings?  The smell of that hardwood floor after an astounding performance?  The gentle clink of the curtain as it closes for the final time? Is that too much information? Do you also want to know that I have spent more time on that stage and back stage than I have spent in these seats, excepting study hall?”

The lights dimmed, the concert master arrived and was applauded.  He is younger.  Not a part of my memories.  The maestro entered.  He is my age, but has only been here 25 years. He too has no place in my memories. Some old friends remain.  I single out a face from junior high band; and a violinist I met on the school bus in grade school.  Prominent is the now white-haired concert master emeritus who was all-schools orchestra director in my youth. Many of the faces are familiar.  I am used to seeing them in other hats; school band directors, choral directors, private teachers, university profs.

The concert began. Brahms’ “Tragic Overture“; played with a passion and overall finesse unexpected from a local orchestra.  My mind and heart snapped to attention and immediately fell through the wormhole of memory. When was the last time I heard music  like this from the GJSO?  Easy. That would be “Pictures at an Exhibition,” circa 1984.   There I applauded until my palms turned to pulp and my arm muscles gave out.  Still feeling I had not done enough, I wrote a rave review by way of a thank you note to the Symphony.  With some members of the orchestra, that earned me the nickname, Sweaty Palms. But tonight, I have no crush on the conductor, only the remembered feelings of being thirty and single.

If it is true that clothes make the man, perhaps my most important decision last Tuesday evening was in what to wear. The little black dress, of course.  When one has made the conscious decision to live as though given only 365 days, one wears the little black dress as often as possible.  I have two.  I donned my favorite. Continuing with William Borden’s fine guidelines: no reserves, no retreats, no regrets; I opted for the most stunning earrings and necklace, black tights, and my heeled hybrid wellington / cowboy boots. I made a conscious decision to be outgoing and friendly, to pursue conversation, so I joked with the strangers sitting in my row.

At intermission I enjoyed excellent conversation with my band director from seventh grade.   We go back.  His wife was my first trumpet teacher.  He was the man who made our 8th and 9th grade band the first junior high band ever to perform at CMEA convention.  We were also a marching band.  We were good. Sometimes, I need to remember that I was good once. In the intervening years, all I have done on my trumpet is raise the flag on Fridays at elementary schools, teach a handful of beginning players a C scale, and demo brass instruments to wide-eyed kindergartners. He went on to the university and saw years as head of the music department.

Our intermission chat was punctuated by greetings of passers by. It was here that my past collided with my present and my very private writer’s life. There are many whom I know well by name and not by face.  Former state representative and senator, Tillie Bishop is one such person. Mr. Schneider made our introduction whereupon I blurted, “Did your wife teach at Central High School?” I am talking to a man who served 24 years in the state assembly, administered at the local university and serves on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, and I ask if his wife taught at Central High School? I just as well have asked if his son shared my school bus – which he did. Such a conversationalist!  Sure, knowledge and education are often forefront in my mind, especially when paired with music; yet Mrs. Bishop is firmly lodged in my memory for another reason. She makes an appearance in my short story, “Eight Months and Five Men Well.”  Mr. Bishop kindly responded with the logical question, “Oh, were you a student of hers?”

To avoid frivolously taking up the time of two important men, I answered as succinctly and truthfully as possible.  “No,”  I said quickly, “I met her at a faculty reception – on a blind date with John Elliot.”

The men chuckled and continued their conversation. To not recognize the name Elliot would be not to have attended Grand Junction High School in the 70s, Central High School in the 80s, and never to have played tennis.

John makes an appearance in the short story, as does the resident symphony conductor of 1985, and a past president of the Grand Junction Symphony Guild.

The story, as told, is not gospel truth – it is fiction.  The names and details have been changed to protect the innocent – mostly, to protect me.

It is hard, so hard, for me to trot out the memories of the past, even in fiction. I shrink in  embarrassment that someone might find out who I really am. But those memories?  They will come out.  They refuse to remain unwritten.  I crossed a milestone Tuesday night. I learned to speak directly. To speak instead of remaining silent for fear of saying the wrong thing. Besides, I have resolved to confront the future and the memories as though I have only 365 days to live.  No reserves, No retreats, No regrets. This is truth.

Eight Months and Five Men Well,” was fiction.

Wherein I contemplate finances as a part of whole health

_MG_0157Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual – all parts of the whole of good health, of well-being. What do you think?  Is financial health so important as to be considered a part of the whole?  I have often been accused of thinking too much, becoming too analytical as I ruminate on relationships. Today, I am thinking about my relationship with money. 

Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual – four parts of personal health. Positive Psychology Daily News refers to these four as energies.  Other psychologists have included a Social category to arrive at five dimensions. Some cite seven components:  Emotional, Environmental,  Spiritual, Physical, Social, Occupational, Intellectual.

However you slice the pie, I believe it is not wise to try, nor is it possible to sever one from the other. I agree with Paul’s first century letter to a Corinthian team, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (verse 14a and 26, I Corinthians 12).

Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Financial – Rather than stick with my usual four, I propose five parts of whole health and well-being.

Over the years, I have enjoyed exceptional physical health; better than average mental and spiritual stability and variable but manageable emotional health. Recently, I hit my stride physically via outdoor walks and hikes and careful attention to eating and sleeping habits.  Optimum physical health has the happy effect of reawakening the mental, spiritual and emotional aspects.  But, what about the financial?

I have noticed that money makes me happy and lack thereof makes me anxious and sad.  Destitution wreaks havoc with my mental and emotional state as I strain my brain with the challenge of how to fix it.  As long as I maintain regular walks, my physical state is the least affected. Eventually, financial stress may take its toll on the physical.

Are finances an energy?  Is money one of the dimensions of my personality?  Must wealth be one of the legs on which whole health stands?

How about you?  Does your overall health and sense of well being hinge on financial health?