Thursday, September 15, 2005

More Updates

Some more updates: Yes, the lock on my front door is fixed now. Everything is smoothly functioning now -- this is nice. Well, I'm trying to convince myself that it is okay for me to relax and enjoy it all, because it is hard for me not to uneasily wonder "what next?" But even so, I do fully enjoy it, because of the recent memories of what it's like not to have things fully functioning, and because of the humbling realization that so many people have lost so much or are still living in limbo wondering whether they will ever be able to go back to homes they once knew and loved.

It is good to live in the present and appreciate what you have.

My students have been amazing so far this semester. They all seem more consistently alert and engaged than I've ever experienced. I cannot help but wonder if the drama of world events has affected everyone's consciousness. I do get the sense that my students, too, are appreciating what they have, and are feeling motivated to make good use of their time here.

Classes have been thoughtful, meaningful, focused, and often powerful.

Other updates: my musical friends might be wondering how my musical life is going. My Early Music group has started up again. Because it is a college group (consisting of students, community members, and faculty and staff), the people in our ensemble change from semester to semester. So, it is different this year. It is a bigger group. There's a lot of promise. But it is different.

And the early part of the semester always feels to me somewhat chaotic. We play through a lot of music. The specific arrangements can change quite a lot until we settle on specific plans for our concert. So, for example, I can play one line on one instrument one week, and find myself playing a different line on a different instrument the next. This, of course, is very good for me musically. But it is sometimes stressful. I tend to develop preferences for "favorite" lines, and I certainly have favorite instruments, and so I sometimes feel a little blue when that's not what I get to play. But we try to work out what is best for the whole group. And so it is a good experience to sacrifice personal preference for the good of the whole.

Realizing that the group needs me to be confident and steady no matter which line and instrument I play has been really good for me. I settle in and do my best with whatever is given to me, and the concentration and focus this requires is deeply spiritually cleansing. If things start to get tense, the other role I play is to interject disarming bursts of humor to defuse the tension, and then later, quietly, behind the scenes, be encouraging to anyone who had seemed to be getting stressed.

It's an intense, communal, spiritual journey.

In my own private practice time, I focus more on my Irish flute than anything else, because it is the most "high-maintenance" instrument to play. When I have that going well, the rest is easier, by comparison. The Irish flute is more physically demanding than any other flute I have ever played. You need to be "there" with it -- having consistently strong breath support, lots of air (compared to almost any other wind instrument), and a well-focused embouchure. Your fingers have to move very quickly and accurately, but they must be relaxed too. I'm feeling really happy with my progress on this instrument, but I'm still not where I really want to be with it. It's time, though, for me to find others to play this kind of music with. I'd like to pull together a small but really good group to play Irish (and other Celtic) traditional music. But I'm not quite sure how to do this.

And one final update: I do feel that I'm moving to a deeper place spiritually. It feels like something new is stirring, and I'm just being patient and giving it time. It will be interesting to watch what unfolds.

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