Bland Like Me

photo montageThe marvelous Diana of A Holistic Journey has been writing posts asking about the influences of race, culture, national origin, education, and so forth and the ways that they shape who we are and how we perceive ourselves. This series of hers is proving an outstanding eye-opening and thought-provoking exercise for me, too. I have spent most of my life living amid and being part of The Majority—middle-class, white, English speaking, native-born, educated, boringly predictable, etc, etc. There were a few touches of diversity around me here and there, of course, this country of the so-called United States being what it is, but those were relatively small and isolated, so mostly I grew up sheltered and unchallenged in nearly all ways.

Yet as an individual I came to know myself as being different in one way or another from most of what I thought of as the ‘norms’ of my own environs, and even learned over time that what I thought was my Majority milieu was mostly just my very narrow path through it in life. While a lot of my classmates, immediate neighbors and friends when I was a kid, for example, were also little pasty white critters like me, the friends I remember best as seeming most interesting to me were ones like Eha, the Estonian girl, or Karen, one of my few black classmates, or the Japanese friends who shared exotic treats from their lunches and who performed classical Japanese dance in a miniature celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival at school. I have hardly any memories so suffused with longing as that of watching the girls flutter their fans, while dressed in exquisite kimonos and dancing their stately, courtly dance to the strains of the tune ‘Sakura’, which melody in turn still fills me with delicately melancholy love.

My ideals of human physical beauty, as my husband and I have often noted musingly, are nearly all attached to non-whites or mixed-race people, not something I think of as a conscious or intentional choice but a persistent reality for me ever since I can remember. My superficial list of Most Beautiful People would probably have a paucity of caucasian members among its top fifty. While I have never been either very adventurous or flexible in my choices and tastes and experiences, I suppose I have always been fascinated by what seemed different or even exotic to me. I am a fantasist and a romantic in the cheap, popular versions of those ideas, I guess.

I have even wondered, in a broader sense, if part of my very nature is simply to feel like an outsider for no very specific reason. I was always shy, and learned as an adult that this expressed not only a naturally introverted character on my part but also demonstrated lifelong social anxiety and probably the incipient state of my developing depression that didn’t come to full fruition until later. Those, along with undiagnosed dyslexia, tremors, the dysphonia that came into play in my forties, and who knows what other quirks of my unique persona and biological makeup, could perhaps explain why I never felt I fit in with any particular group or was especially central to its character. But I still can’t say I felt consciously sad or was overtly unhappy or removed or, certainly, ostracized for any of this.

What was odder was that as I reached adulthood and gradually began to find a more comfortable sense of self and direction, I have a feeling I may have chosen to put myself into groups where it was plain that I didn’t quite match the norm, specifically because, if I knew there was no possibility of my being an exemplar in its midst of the highest standard, I might unconsciously feel safe from being expected to be so by anyone else. This might be complete nonsense, but it gives me pause. In any event, I spend a great deal of my ‘quality time’ nowadays in the company of people who are immersed in and even expert at music, pedagogy, administration, and a number of other topics in which I have no training whatsoever and only a very little observational knowledge, and I am very happy in this environment.

Conversely, I tend to keep my company of good visual artists and writers and others with training or knowledge more likely to be similar to mine at the seemingly safer arm’s-length of cyberspace, and that probably doesn’t reflect well on my personal fortitude. I never did, at least, make any claims of being any better than a big ol’ chicken. Being a scaredy-pants is probably not race-specific. Or attached with any particularity to culture, social stratum, nationality, educational accomplishment, religion, language, income level, or anything else in question. Being a scaredy-pants is just part of being myself, and the unique combination of qualities and characteristics that make up the wonderfulness of Me.

On the other hand, being attracted to, frightened by or otherwise connected to or dissociated from people who are Not Like Me is a central consideration of understanding how the human species works. Or doesn’t. And there’s no doubt that all of those things influenced by proximity (physical or metaphorical), the aforementioned race, culture, social strata, and so forth, are very potent indicators and influencers of how we will experience the concept of Self and Other at any level.

So what does that ‘solve’ about me, about how I feel about those who are or seem in any way different from me? I’m still not at all sure. Perhaps the best I can say is that my feeling of being, in a value-neutral way, unlike those around me makes me unwilling to assume much about them, in turn. I would generally rather let personalities and individuality be revealed to me and my understanding of my surroundings at the moment unfold in their own sweet time than that I jump in and make any precipitous assumptions. I’m perfectly capable of finding lots of other ways of being wrong and making a fool of myself without constantly worrying over whether I’m being judged, rightly or wrongly, as a stereotype of either the majority or the minority on hand.

Most of my blogging friends and acquaintances are significantly different from me in nearly all of the aforementioned identifying categories, and yet I feel remarkably at home among you. So I’ll let you decide if sameness or difference affects how you see me. I feel at home, and that’s good enough for my part of the bargain.photo montage

Meditation Medication

digital illustrationHealth is a wildly, weirdly, wonderfully complicated state. Both physical and mental health are astoundingly omnidirectional networks of intersecting matrices and random points; genetics, environmental influences, accidents, allergies and so much more come together and continue to change over the life of any one person. Furthermore, these meet in an intersection of the two networks (mental and physical) in every single person, that it’s nothing short of miraculous that any of us human conglomerations actually survive and have relatively good health.

It’s completely unsurprising, then, when something or other does break down or fail to be really perfect when it comes to health matters. Thank goodness there are more and more answers and helps for us when it comes to such moments of concern. But for every solution, there are shortcomings and side effects, and we still have to make choices and experiment, test and try and hope.

I’m one of those relatively rare creatures blessed with generally outstanding and reliable good health. I’ve never had a broken bone; I’ve had all of three stitches in my whole life, and I’ve never worn a cast or a brace unless you count the kinds I could buy in a neighborhood pharmacy for an achy hyper-extended knee or a fiddly fingertip whose little cut made a mockery of my hale-and-heartiness when I was whimpering over the pain every time I’d bump it. My various moles, cysts, and bumps have all thus far been benign and manageable. Even those more significant elements that might affect my function and longevity are so far pretty reasonable to deal with and don’t require enormous amounts of care just yet.

The essential tremor, noticeable since I was about ten or twelve, has never gotten so obtrusive that I have had to do anything for or about it. The mitral valve prolapse (heart murmur) is so mild that it went unnoticed until I had a regular physical exam from a person who, as pure chance had it, was conducting a study of that specific condition and so was attuned to its unlikely presence. Very minor hypothyroidism like mine is easily kept at bay with very little medicine (mostly pretty common ones at that) or monitoring. I am especially grateful that thus far there is no indication that the Parkinson’s Disease that poses as the only true black sheep of my family has not to date taken up residence in my body.

This is not to say that I have no inkling of any of the irksome and unpleasant effects of imperfect health. I’ve come to recognize the recurrent, and in some cases, chronic, annoyances and inconveniences that come with allergies. While mine have remained moderate and turn out to be treatable if not controllable, I figured out after getting some help that they had had a far greater control over my daily life and well-being before that time than I had realized. And as I’ve said here before, I have had my adventures with Spasmodic Dysphonia, clinical depression, and anxiety; these had larger influences on me and, therefore, those around me, by a magnitude of difference.

What arises every time I contemplate these things, all of which are in my own life more survivable and treatable than I know that they can be for others, is the notion that as a typically complicated human health exemplar, I still have to work continuously to discern what combination of the tangible and medical kinds of interventions and treatments with those more intangible approaches of meditation, activity, and trust—call it faith, hope, prayer, optimism, or attitude adjustment, it’s all fodder for feeling, and possibly, getting, better—will suffice to keep any of my anomalous conditions in check.

Thus far, the answer for me has been a shifting combination of the tangible and the intangible; I think that’s how it works for most people. My personal recipe for success is neither absolute nor permanent, any more than my personal state of being is fixed or unchangeable. Health, both physical and mental, changes rather constantly over a life span, and the longer one lives the more cycles and spikes of change are likely to occur during the stretch. What, then, can I do?

Keep trying. What combination of body-chemistry-altering substances serves my needs at the moment? They might well be outright commercially made and sold and officially, doctor- or nurse-administered drugs, but they can also easily be homeopathic or folk cures, foods or herbs or numerous other things that I’ve discovered through trial and error suit my physical and mental well-being. The same can be true of physical therapy: it might be specific exercises recommended to me by my doctor or other trusted medical and health experts, or as is often the case, it can be a set, series or group of activities that simply make me feel closer to my optimal conditioning. Nowadays, as always, I find myself using quite the mixture of these helpers to suit my specific needs and wishes for better health and happiness. For me, that means a full combination of what could be loosely classified as medication and meditation.

I can’t begin to tell you how that works or is explained scientifically. Some of it I’d bet good money can’t be clarified in scientific terms. But experientially, that I can tell you: I feel pretty good. I get the occasional sneezes or headaches, and there are times when it irritates me, yes, that my vocal cords are recalcitrant and unreliable. I’d definitely prefer if the shadow of Parkinson’s hied itself off my family’s shoulders, most especially Mom’s, and would never try to sneak up on me later despite any efforts on my part to ward it off if possible. But let’s be honest. Right now I feel pretty good, and that makes me happy. Whatever I’m doing or not doing, taking or not taking, it seems to be working.digital illustration

The ABCs of Me, Episode 2

The Awesome Blog Content Award, Courtesy of HRH ‘Nessa of the Stronghold, requires that I provide you with an entire alphabet of Me-itude in response, so in order to prevent your eyes from snapping back in your head like the cylinders in a slot machine and your brain going into hibernation, I have subdivided the alphabet into three parts. I will reiterate only the award rules–to get the rest of my response to it you should head back to Episode 1–and share the second series of letters in today’s post.

Rules of this award:

1. Pass this on to unlimited fellow bloggers.

2. Share some things about you, using the alphabet.

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K is for Krumhorn

not clues in Trivial Pursuit,
but instruments from ancient days–
I’ve newly learned to sing their praise.
Light, come clear the darkness, break impenetrable night
to let in day and sanity and set the wrong aright,
to open hopeful windows wide, to raise to higher station
these wond’ring, wand’ring souls of ours through your illumination.
Mute as the grave, voiceless and weak,
I haven’t a singular word to speak
when the signal fails and the synapse strays–
but only on my worst dysphonic of days.
Night calls to me. I love the velvet
darkness of its touch, its song,
its slowing breath, the way a well-met
dream can draw me right along . . .
Ossified as I can be,
a stuck and stubborn brute am I,
unwilling and unchanging–see?
I let the whole quatrain go by–
Peculiarity is my gift! My adoration for the weird
knows few bounds–I get a lift from thinking fish could grow a beard,
from dreaming idle silly dreams of lizards singing, candy socks,
electric sofas, grey ice-creamsand giving grown-ups nasty shocks.

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Q is for Quiver

Quiver full of arrows, yes? Here in my heart I quiver with glee
because in love I’m a quivering mess,’less Cupid comes to puncture me–
No, no!–the quiver, instead, should hold an armload of arrows of skill and wit
to set ye a-quiver, as though fell cold, in astonishment I had thought of it.

Into Tomorrow, Endlessly Singing

You all know by now that I am not a singer. I get asked all the time, since I’m married to a choral conductor (who happens to also be a lovely singer himself) and I hang out with an enormous cadre of the vocally talented. When I demur, I get asked what kind of musician I am, then, because after all, so many denizens populating the rest of our joint life are outstanding composers, instrumentalists, conductors, and all of the rest that, well, it just seems so obvious. In truth, I did take the obligatory childhood music lessons–about five years at the piano, if you remember–ending with a certain rueful amusement on my teachers’ part but no great skill on mine, plus a brief period of voice lessons from a well-meaning coach who’d heard my sisters and me sing and gave the elder two of us a go. Where again, my failure to learn to read music with any ease was further complicated by my inability to understand and make use of the very important concept of singing with a head voice. Having become accustomed over my earlier years to being mistaken for Dad on the phone, or for an older girl because I was extremely shy and therefore more reserved than many kids my age plus having a relatively deep voice for a girl, or for a more skilled singer than I really was because I was willing to sing any part–and did, at one point, sing in all four choral sections because that was how the need was distributed in my various school and church choirs–well, it all probably let me learn a whole array of bad vocal habits that pretty much put the kibosh on my becoming an actual skilled singer. The likely absence of a notable native vocal “instrument” wouldn’t’ve helped either, had I tried to force the issue, but by the time that I hit high school and time management demanded that I narrow down my interests a bit, choir fell off the list other than occasional singing at church. Who knew I’d end up partnered with this guy!

white pencil on black paper

Sketches from a Swedish Radio Choir rehearsal, my husband conducting (if you've seen him conduct enough, you can recognize even the rough sketch of his hand positions) . . .

But as I also pointed out some time ago, the influence of music and of singing remained large and happy in my life, even if I was not destined to be a producer of them. I continued to love listening, cultivated many musical friends who provided the sonic tapestry that was the backdrop of my happiness, and even collaborated with musicians on projects where they provided the aural elements of a performance and I the visual imagery to accompany it. For a few years, I served on the Concert Committee that produced a reasonably ambitious season of musical offerings at our church, which was conveniently located just across a university campus from the music department where many of my fine-musician friends happened to work. It must be added, in fairness, that the draw of being on said Committee was not purely musical but also deeply social, what with all of the musicians and music-lovers therein, and also exceedingly delicious, because most of the musicians I’ve known are committed eaters if not foodies and so the Committee’s meetings quickly evolved into elaborate gustatory events as well.

And that’s precisely why music has remained so largely writ in my life, if not burgeoned and positively exploded, over the years since: music is so intertwined with so many parts of what I love in life that I can’t separate one happiness from another. If music be the food of love, play on! What hasn’t followed for me is what followed for Duke Orsino, because I never found either that I became surfeited by listening to good music or that I became surfeited with love by loving life with musicians–one in particular. Tough luck, your Grace! So I am not dutifully following, wagging my tail obsequiously, as I go to a rehearsal and sit in the darkened hall while choirs work their repertoire into their voices and souls to prepare for performance; I am both absorbing the inner workings of music that don’t exist in me innately or by scholarly wisdom, so to appreciate and bathe in the final production all the more, and also having the beauty of the practice itself wash over me in waves that can inspire me to write, to draw or paint, to design my better garden bed or concoct a more delectable dish for dinner. Waves that, at their best, lift me out of myself and let me feel the singing pass through me as though I, non-musician-non-singer that I am, with spasmodic dysphonia that presumably means even if I ever figure out my head voice and/or learn to read music, I won’t become a great singer–as though I myself were singing.

So, though I may struggle to sing a simple ditty nowadays, I have this magnificent vicarious experience available to me that few are privileged to share, and in this rather out-of-body experiential way expect to sing my way through the rest of my very happy future. As I do the usual end of the year assessments and look ahead to what I imagine and hope for the year soon to come, the imagery is suffused in every possible way with music. I am immersed in song. I write lyrics because I cannot sing them. I listen to rehearsals because I cannot read music well and don’t know the inner workings of music preparation the way performers and conductors do. I attend concerts because the kinds of beauty and grief, daring and humor, poignancy and brilliance that come through well made music embrace, interweave and transcend all of the other parts of my life so that I feel transported, changed to a better self. As though I too am singing in a song that may never have to end.

white pencil on black paper

Conducting another Sparkling performance . . .

Sound Advice for the Voiceless

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Singing our little hearts out . . .

I have spoken about having Spasmodic Dysphonia. That in itself, when in the aural forum and not (as in yesterday’s blog post) just the printed format of the internet, is a fine thing in my estimation. It means that having SD hasn’t rendered me either mute or unwilling to let my sometimes goofy sounding voice be heard. It could conceivably be argued that it would be good if I would actually shut up occasionally, or at least not be quite so outlandishly talkative as I can get. I consider that other people’s problem. Egotistical, I know, and I’m not really exaggerating when I say that. What you hear is what you get.

Being fortunate enough to retain the power of speech, I prefer not to stop using it. SD has meant getting over any vanity I may have had about the sound or quality of my voice. Having been flattered by many in my younger years as a strong and clear and pleasant speaker and encouraged to take singing lessons, to consider radio work, to be a lector and to speak at public events, I now have a different sense of my voice and what I do and don’t trust it to do than I did then.

So I find it less comfortable both physically and psychologically to sing, and certainly have no desire to show off my resulting lack of confidence and practice publicly. I was always a nervous Nellie when it came to singing in any group smaller than a chamber choir (Yikes! Someone might hear me!), but even singing along with a crowd is not the same fun it once was. It has in no way diminished my delight in hearing others sing, however; quite the contrary, it transformed my understanding of what it means to be able to sing, and to do so with skill and fluidity and grace. Working on proper vocal technique will help me continue being able to speak, but my own sense of music has been shifted rather firmly into listening to and appreciating and being moved by others’ mastery of their instruments. My own musical endeavor now sits much more comfortably in the realm of written and spoken language and of trying to capture the marvels of rhythm and pattern and color and sound in the confined refinements of print and speech. The potential is perhaps equally profound and potent, but simply takes an entirely different route through the senses in some significant ways.

Just to be crystal clear on this, I say this without any sense of loss or privation. I’m not suffering! Indeed, I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I’m neither summarized by nor limited to a description of my anomalies any more than I am defined by the ways in which I conform to any norms. SD is something I have or experience, not who I am or what I’m capable of doing. I could go through the list of potentially problematic quirks that help to shape my daily experience and my present self and sound like either a professional victim or a hypochondriac, or I can find–as I most decidedly do–that while each of those oddities has enough effect on my health and capabilities to be worthy of treatment or accommodation of some sort, each brings awareness of deeper gifts and the drive to overcome not only the irksome ills themselves but anything else I might be letting hold me back.

Yes, I am a lily-livered scaredy-pants of the first order as well as a lollygagging and procrastinating and self-sabotaging ignoramus, able to match pretty much any other arguably normal person around in those foolish and unhealthy arts. But at the same time I am so gifted as to understand that my true limitations are all self-imposed and even self-created, and that not only do people with far greater difficulties and far fewer resources live far more impressive and productive lives than I, I can grow up and into a better version of myself by taking notes on how they do it. Being a somewhat lazy and under-motivated student, I have to actively counter the urge to hide behind the couch until all inspirations and moments of willing effort pass, but on certain miraculous occasions I find that, well, I actually get up and do something.

When I do manage to pull myself up by my nearly invisible bootstraps, I find that despite having familial tremor (mainly in my hands) since who-knows-when, I can draw a straight line or a pretty fine freehand circle when I’m focused enough to make art. When I’m not, I have learned to hold my drinking glass with both hands if need be, or to keep kettle and bowl nearly overlapping when ladling soup. When all else fails, spill cloths and laundry detergent are mighty handy things. I may chill easily, thanks to my slightly off-kilter thyroid, but I’ve got layered-clothing styles down to a -40 Edmontonian nine-layer art form that I can still pack in my carry-on baggage. Wanna learn how to do nearly any basic survival task without an inner compass? I have virtually every dyslexic and perceptually dysfunctional talent I’ve ever heard tell of, from the ever popular reading-related visual chaos to spatial, directional, numerical and probably even temporal displacement. So without even knowing or trying to do it, I learned most of the affected skills upside down, backwards and sideways, doing everything with my own inevitably inimitable flair. Once I started treatment for them, my clinical depression and anxiety stopped holding me back and instead informed more of my interaction with other people as well as with my art. My lack of physical stamina and athleticism may have prevented my becoming a famous basketball player or dancer or a three-meter platform diving star, but I figured out early that leverage and a little logical logistical ingenuity could make up for a largish quantity of strength and skill in things physically challenging. Blazing alternative trails isn’t glamorous work but it’s done useful things in my life, and gives me an appreciative slant on those whose achievements outshine mine.

And when it comes right down to it, my ‘substitute’ versions of reality have served me quite nicely. I don’t sing in the way of the magnificent-voiced soloists and choral artists whose offerings have so richly embellished my existence, but there’s nothing stopping me from using the alternate voice I have in words and images to sing in my own way, and mainly for sheer happiness.

spring green flora + text

There are so many ways — and so many reasons — to sing . . .

The Sound that Defeats Death

It is audition season. Living surrounded by musicians of all the possible performing and conducting and recording and just-because-I-can’t-help-it permutations, I am aware of the slight change in barometric pressure that in turn sets hearts and metronomes aflutter at this time of year. It’s connected to the academic calendar, to the symphonic season, and undoubtedly at this point in history, to the fiscal cycles that wax ever more weakly with every palpitation of the stock market and downgrade of company pension plans. The undercurrent of electric excitement and the frissons of impending artistic adventure so intertwined with the notion that one is about to embark on a new, or renewed, relationship–or is about to gird oneself in black bombazine and the hair-shirt vestments of the rejected–is giddying and tooth-chatteringly awful all at once.

How apropos that I find myself interviewing for new employment at this very time. I feel every bit the whispery, under-powered and imperfectly skilled performer when singled out for that one-on-one moment with the deities of HR. I want to open my mouth and hear sparkling coloratura, but am glad and relieved enough at being able to merely cough out a modestly coherent thought without accidentally spitting on the interviewer, falling off of my chair, or (the most likely misadventure in my repertoire) having my voice seize up on me and stop dead mid-word. I have Spasmodic Dysphonia. The term sounds both ominous and ridiculous, and in my life, the experience is both. Many people with SD have a far worse time than I do; I’m one of the lucky ones. SD is a subset of Focal Dystonia, as I understand it, and both names group together sets of symptoms and physical oddities that present differently in each patient, depending upon the collective group of expressions that person has combined in his or her experience. I use the word patient advisedly, knowing as I do that what is most needed in dealing with the condition, either as one’s own or as it affects another person, is patience. Not really something I was born with an abundance of, but there you have it.

To oversimplify, possibly at the risk of misstating, Focal Dystonia is a broad generic term for when a localized group of nerves stops talking to the muscles for which they’re responsible, or sends them incomplete or inappropriate messages, and the muscles respond by failing to do what the brain was signaling the nerves to tell the muscles to do. Playground chaos ensues. The fingers that used to so nimbly traverse the keyboard curl up into an angry stump and refuse to admit to ever having met this Mr Shostakovich person. [Know the amazing story of Leon Fleisher? Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Fleisher.%5D The arm that flexed in a perfect imitation of Diana-the-Huntress’s draw goes from sinewy and smoothly controlled elegance to a clenched and twisted limb that would rather drop the bow and go for a nice bit of hydrotherapy, thank you.

Spasmodic Dysphonia, as you’d guess from its title, is the version of neuro-recalcitrance in which the vocal cords or folds don’t get their nerve-transmitted memos correctly and so go off on their own merry tangents, usually by vibrating excessively. The outcome is an uncontrolled voice, a weakened voice, or, literally, no outcome. While many with SD have no apparent causative markers in the neurological system, obvious lesions on the brain, tell-tale medical historical events, or the like, most, like me, do find that certain elements can exacerbate ‘attacks’. My good luck is that my case is fairly mild and I can go for rather long stretches between my times of being worst affected. But like most of the other SD patients I know, any situation that puts stress on my voice increases both the likelihood and the severity of episodes; the longer the stresses last, the more effect they have. So being in a loud reception where I have to raise my voice to be heard for a couple of hours is a pretty good trigger; being in a loud classroom (whether it’s caused by the HVAC blowers or being near a busy airport or just having over-exuberant students) five days a week is definitely a tougher influence to resist.

Being depressed, being ill, going through any of the textbook-irritant life changes you can name: those are all potential villains in effecting recurrence or regression or whatever you like to call it. Since I’m generally a very happy and healthy person and most of the life stressors extant are surmountable with a little help from my circle of superhuman supporters, I’m more susceptible to common noise-environmental twinges than to emotional ones these days.

But sitting in an unfamiliar office in the Interviewee chair is a quick reminder that I have to activate my “manual controls” and not just talk on autopilot when the tension stakes are raised a little bit. If and when SD gets particularly persnickety I will lope back over to my kindly specialist and have Botox injected into my vocal cords. It sounds hideous, doesn’t it. It’s not exactly something I’d do for sheer fun, but it’s not the most gruesome or painful treatment imaginable and it beats the daylights out of having my voice stop unceremoniously on me three times in a single sentence. People that don’t know me very likely notice nothing wrong at all and just assume that I, like William Shatner, have developed my own distinctive style of delivery for artistic or dramatic purposes, but since the frustration of literally not being able to ‘spit it out’ until I regroup, retune and/or start over entirely is accompanied by a feeling of being gripped around the throat by a mugger, I’ll get in there and sit up and beg for the shots like a good little patient until some nice mad scientist discovers an actual cure for SD.

In the meantime, I am all the more cognizant of the plight of all those voice-dependent folk putting their hearts on the line as they stand up to the test these days. Dysphonics, wherever you are and whatever you do, I wrap you in my arms in an embrace of solidarity and hope. Teachers, returning to the classroom after a luxurious (if short and jam-packed with non-academic duties) respite from lecturing and verbally leading daily sessions: I salute you. Preachers faced with a re-filled nave after the relative quiet of the summer season: I will light a candle for you. Public speakers back on the circuit for the height of the season after the relatively fallow holidays of vacation time: I applaud you. And singers, you who transport us to different worlds with every flexion and inflection, to you most of all do I genuinely genuflect. It is the sonic wave of music on which I am borne to higher and deeper planes, transported to places of joy and despair, moved by otherwise indescribable anguish and awe and beauty. I may not sing along, but I am listening.

theatre lights and leaded glass and text

. . . and the echoes fade without ever ceasing . . .