Monthly Archives: September 2007

Moment of truth

I’ve been carrying around my violin for a couple of weeks, preparing for yesterday’s audition.

Today, when there was finally a free moment, I started to reach for my violin and then realized that I didn’t need to practice … no more audition, no obligation.

So then I took it out and played … for myself … for my own pleasure … for the music itself … for no reason at all.

GRS sub list audition

I took the day off today to audition for the Grand Rapids Symphony substitute violin list. When I was in high school, I played nearly every classical and pops concert with the GRS, and I really enjoy playing with the ensemble (I enjoy playing it more than listening to it, in fact).

So now that I’m starting to get music back in my life, to play the violin again, I naturally wanted to play in a good ensemble. It only made sense to play in the Grand Rapids Symphony. There’s just one little detail … I haven’t practiced regularly for more than six years. And as you may have heard me mention, my job is a tad challenging, so it was a bit of a reach to think I could get my chops back in the allotted time. I decided to do the audition maybe 5 weeks ago and started practicing about 2 weeks ago. I even skipped a few days, which is kind of embarrassing to admit.

I almost canceled the audition, since I wasn’t exactly prepared well enough to get on the list. But no, I said I was going to do it, so I wanted to do it. My only concern was insulting the jury with my playing. That would be bad.

So I played … it was pretty dodgy, but I don’t think I reached the point of insulting the jury. Close, though. More specifically, they probably could tell that I used to be very good and might even have been vaguely irritated that I didn’t prepare well enough to get on the list, because I’m sure they can always use another good player.

Ultimately, however, the audition was good for me. It gave me something to shoot for, gave me a bit of a kick start to get playing again. It feels good to play again, even if I don’t sound very good yet. The audition also "measured" me; it showed very clearly the level of my playing right now – and it ain’t what it used to be.

I want to keep playing, and I want my chops back. If I can manage to play about 30 minutes/day 5 days/week, I figure I’ll have 80% of my chops back within a couple of months or so (I’d say I’m at about 60% right now). That’s pretty good, actually. And if I started practicing for an audition like the GRS sub list 8 weeks before the audition, I’d probably be ready. So maybe I’ll try again next year (unless I did in fact insult them with my playing this year!).

Right now I’m also thinking about talent and responsibility. Thanks to innate talent and lots of hard work as a kid, I have the ability to play the violin very well; however, I haven’t nurtured that ability in several years. It began to feel like an obligation, and so I pulled away from it. But now I miss it … so was I spiting myself by wandering away? Maybe once you develop a talent you DO also acquire some sense of responsibility to nurture that talent. I don’t know. I just know that I miss playing, and I’m happy to be playing again.

For right now, I’m playing for myself, but I recognize that maybe I do have some responsibility to nurture my talents and ultimately to share them. It’s simply something I can do – it’s one of my assets. It just seems a shame to let it completely go to waste.

Flying home from New Jersey

Flying Northwest … bit of a crap shoot whether or not I’ll make it home reasonably on time.

I downloaded a whole bunch of beta software from last night (9/14), including Live Writer, an offline blog editor. Have to say – it’s very pleasant to be able to write when I’m disconnected. That’s when I most want to write!

What have a learned this week? Well, I am trying to do a bit more than I am physically capable of doing. There are some positives …

For one, I’m starting to practice my violin again – turns out it’s not such a big deal to travel with it after all. Only negative is that I have to check luggage, but I can cope with that. Now, I’m no where close to being back in the rhythm of practicing – I’d like to get there, but it’s going to take a while. I guess right now, I’m in a stage where I’m carrying my violin around a lot – at least I’m reminded that I want to play, but I’m not actually setting up my life to remember to play every day, yet.

Similar deal with running – I’m still running but not quite as much as I would like. I’d really like to run 15-20 miles per week, and right now, I’m probably getting in 5-8 miles. I need to simplify some other aspects of my life to get that in.

And then there’s work. I had a good work week, but there are still so many to-do items that I didn’t get to. Something’s gotta give. I have to simplify things somehow.

I see two opportunities – one is simply quitting caffeine again. I allowed myself to start drinking coffee a few weeks ago, and it’s just diminishing returns for me. I have to get my sleep in, so caffeine isn’t going to allow me to get in a longer day. It ends up just making higher highs and lower lows. I don’t like it. Gotta get off it again. Simple.

The second thing is Internet browsing. I watch very little TV, but I haven’t really paid attention to how much time I spend following threads online. This is part of what I get paid for (researching technology), but if I look at the time I spend each day/evening, I lose more personal time to browsing than I would like. Gotta cut that down.

All of this is part of trying to get more of a rhythm to my life. My life is complicated, and I don’t necessarily want that to change. But if I am to find some kind of peace within my complicated life, then I need to find a rhythm, get used to the craziness, feel "right" about whatever I am doing at any given moment.

Lots of work to do.

On haiku

When I did a Live Search (yes, Live Search … … you don’t really think I would use Google, do you???) to confirm that the plural of haiku is indeed haiku, I discovered that I was missing some key aspects of this type of verse:

a major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons.
Hey! I should be saying something about nature. Maybe even doing the allusion thing.
I’ll have to work on that.
Here’s some quick practice:
A drop of water
Piercing lake’s surface, once still
Now undulating
The middle line is challenging. Maybe it would be be better
The glass lake’s surface, once still
More allusive but redundant. Maybe
Piercing the glass lake surface
But then the element of time is gone, making the last line awkward. I kind of like it, though, so I’ll change the last line, and then I have to get back to work.
A drop of water
Piercing the glass lake surface

Wavy reflections

Didn’t quite make it, but hey, it’s just practice. Haiku is fun! It’s poetry that can be completed in 5 minutes …

Haiku for world travelers

I reach out to you
Seeking more than you can give
And find a mirror
Searching for ourselves
We peer through the looking glass
And find each other
Hand in hand in hand
Let’s walk this beautiful earth
Loving fearlessly

Humor is the great tie-breaker

Woody Allen has a new movie, Cassandra’s Dream. In an interview, the director talks about his view of life as a "tremendously tragic event." He says, "I do have a bleak, pessimistic view of life and man’s fate, the human condition, but I do feel there are some extremely amusing oases in that morass."
I don’t have a "bleak, pessimistic" view. I guess I have a balanced view. Kharmically, it would seem to me that an approximately equal number of good things and bad things will happen to anybody in this life. But you can have a sense of humor about anything, good or bad. I think that’s why there are so many images of the Buddha laughing … humor is the great tie-breaker of life. If you laugh through life, if you stay bemused, you can handle anything – and you’ll have some sense of enjoyment about the whole thing.