Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taking Stock for a New Year

Happy New Year!

Ok, I realize I've not been posting to any of my blogs for a while, and I apologize for this.

Catching up from the last few posts:

Music

My remaining concerts last semester went well, I think. I played silver flute with an orchestra accompanying a chorus, and this was a new experience for me: playing in an orchestra. Most of my playing has been top line in small ensembles, or solos. So I'm usually carrying a melody line -- it's like telling a story. Orchestral playing is very different. Your job is to weave colors into a tapestry of sound. Woodwind players may sit out for long periods of time, but then, suddenly, when they are on, they are often featured. This is stressful in whole new ways. Counting rests is surprisingly hard. If you lose count, how do you figure out when to come in?! My strategy was to listen to recordings of our pieces while looking at my music, to practice counting rests and to hear exactly where to come in. So I had back-up plans for if I lost count, such as, "when the trumpets come in, that's the second beat of measure 17 of my long 24-measure rest."

It was a new and different experience for me, but I enjoyed it. And picking up modern flute again inspired me to resurrect a long-abandoned dream: to play piccolo. I am finding it challenging and fun!

The next performances were my playing Irish flute at our big Christmas service on campus. This is a very popular event -- two services, one right after the other, during an evening in the last week of classes. Lots of people from the community come as well. My job was to arrive early enough to stake out a place right in the middle of the balcony, and, at the appointed time in the service, to play from there, so that the flute would waft down from on high.

I chose two pieces that blended well together -- the first reflective, even sad; the second lifting back to joy. I picked these up by ear, so I had no written score, which turned out to be good, because this was a candlelight service, and I was sitting in the dark.

As the service started, audience filled in tightly around me (many people not noticing that I had a flute, because, again, it was dark up there!) and the service started, and of course there was other music too, and I suddenly had a moment of panic: what if I forget how my pieces go? I had thought of this ahead of time, and trained my fingers to know how to start -- but would that really work? Fortunately, it turned out not to be a problem. During the Reading before I was to play, the music returned to my mind, and I was ready.

I stood up in response to the Reading, and played. I was shaking like a leaf, I think because it was intimidating being so closely surrounded by audience! But I was into the music, and I think it went well.

Then I realized I still had to do it all over again for the second service!

But that went well too. People afterward said that it was in fact an amazing effect -- they didn't know where I was. The music just filled the space. One person (a former student of mine) said she cried.

What a sacred opportunity, to be asked to offer music at such an event!

I am really glad that I had so many performance opportunities last semester! That was good for me in so many ways.

Teaching

My courses last semester were meaningful and good. This semester, my schedule is very full. I'm back to a full course load, with essentially three new preps, which means these are new courses. (In one case, it's actually a course I have taught before, but a long time ago, and I've completely revised it.) Oddly enough, all of my courses overfilled. In fact, I had to get new rooms for all three. And students are still asking to be let in! So, not only do I have three new preps, but my grading load is going to be large.

House

I still really love my house. There's a bit of a problem with part of the roof, so I have to pull the snow off that section of roof every time it snows, but I've mastered the technique and find myself enjoying adding this to my list of winter chores, along with shoveling the driveway and feeding the birds.

State of Being

Music has been good for me; my new house has been good for me; my teaching has been going well. And, yet, my state of being hasn't been great. I'm still struggling, at some deep level that I do not fully understand. A few years back, life was overwhelming me, which led to genuine burnout. Then I worked hard to simplify as much as I could, to allow for healing, and I felt some success in all of this. Life feels more manageable. I feel more confident in many ways, having come through all of that. Yet, I remain a little torn between competing interests, and a little frustrated at still not having as much time as I would like to have to write. Yet these frustrations do not in themselves seem significant enough to account for the current state of my soul.

So, I'm trying to figure that out.